Following is a general outline of the author talks I give which focus on  The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate and the play Paper Candles: How Courage and Goodness Triumphed In An American Town.  Presentations are modified to meet the needs and interests of each audience.

 

  • I ask students:  Has anything ever happened to you – or have you heard of anything that ever happened to anyone else – that made you think about things in a different way?  Think about yourself in a different way?
     

  • I give background information about the Billings, Montana, events and ask students:
     

    • What happens when a community says and does nothing to try to stop haters and/or bullies?  I emphasize that a “community” can be a town, a neighborhood, a club or a classroom. 
       

  • I talk about seeing the original article in The New York Times about Billings and recount calling Chief Inman on the phone and:
     

    • Realizing I wanted to write about what happened and trying to figure out the best way to do that 
       

    • Speaking with Tammie Schnitzer (one of the book’s characters) on the phone and deciding I wanted to write a book especially for children 
       

  • I describe visiting the town of Billings and: 

    • Meeting Isaac and Teresa, hearing their story, and listening to what they hoped the book would do for other young people 
       

    • Finding out how the other children in the town were affected by the events 
       

  • I talk about coming home and thinking about what would be the best way of writing the book and:

    • Going to schools to read early versions of the book to different classes
       

    • Hearing students critique the book chapters and use their own experiences to offer suggestions about what to include in the book
       

  • I talk about the process of transforming the book into a play and working with a lyricist and composer. 
     

  • I talk with students about their own writing experiences, i.e.:

    • What kind of things excite and interest them – and make them want to write?
       

    • Have they ever experienced – or witnessed – prejudice and/or injustice?  Have they ever witnessed bullying?  How did that make them feel?  How can they use words to fight back? 
       

    • Have they every wanted to write (or have written) a book, play, poem, etc.?  What about other art forms?