Teachers & Librarians

Penguin Young Readers

Author Access Polly Shulman

POLLY SHULMAN is also the author of The Grimm Legacy (a Bank Street Best Book and Mythopeic Fantasy Award Finalist) and Enthusiasm. She has written for the New York Times, Discover, Newsday, Salon, Slate, Scientific American Archaeology, and the Village Voice, among others, and editors news stories for Science magazine. She is an alumna of Yale University, where she majored in math. She lives in New York City.

You can learn more about the The Wells Bequest here.

If you are interested in hosting an appearance by Polly Shulman at your school, library, or conference, please use the online request form, send an email to authorvisits[at]us.penguingroup.com with possible dates, your school name, location, details about the day, and your contact information.


Author Appearance Q&A with Polly Shulman

What can a school, library, or conference expect when you are making an appearance? What do you do differently with audiences of varying sizes, ages, and interests?

They can expect a warm, encouraging, creative session—and they can expect to use their brains. I was a math major in college and a science journalist for years before I began writing fantasy adventures for middle-grade readers, which helps me connect with kids who love science as well as fiction fans. As far as specifics go, it depends on what's needed.

With large groups, I like to give a presentation, break up into small groups for writing exercises, then come together again to share what we've created. For smaller groups, I will often start with questions and answers; then we will work on exercises together with props or prompts, spinning ideas, setting scenes, or creating characters.

Older kids and adults are often writing a novel themselves. These groups often want me to discuss the writing process and the road to publication.

What makes your author appearances unique?

I bring an unusual mix of gravity and goofiness. As a fantasy novelist, I see my job as describing the wildest flights of fancy as precisely and concretely as possible. In our session, we will discuss my books, the writing life, and the students' work, share advice about how to write, and—with any luck—laugh our heads off.

Do you enjoy making appearances for adult audiences? What do you do when presenting to adults?

I do! I find that adult audiences tend to want to hear about the nuts and bolts of writing and getting published. I talk to them about how to aim their work at the right age level, how to stay motivated, how to interact with agents, how to work with an editor to craft a manuscript, and other details of taking a book from imaginative spark to bound copy.

What can schools and libraries do to ensure a successful appearance?

Planning is key. Tell me as early as you can how many people you're expecting in what age groups, so I'll know what talk or activities to prepare and how many props to bring.

Do you enjoy traveling to other parts of the country for appearances?

Yes! I love seeing new places and meeting new people.

Do you ever make appearances at more than one school in an area? Could schools and libraries from one area join together to bring you to their institution?

Yes, that's a great way to make the most of a visit.

What do you hope your audience will come away with from your presentation?

I hope they will come away feeling excited about books and bursting with ideas for their own writing.

What was your favorite/most interesting/most memorable appearance experience?

One of my favorite exercises involves magical objects. I hand out small, sturdy objects (a button, a pine cone, a pencil), and I ask the kids to imagine that their object has magical powers, describe its powers, and tell a story about how they would use it. I remember one visit where the kids came up with five distinct uses for a magical magnifying glass: To make things bigger and smaller, to see what's going on in distant lands, to start magical fires that burned with a bright light but no heat, to see through walls, and to see what's going on in someone's mind.


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