Monica Graham is a Nova Scotia-based freelance journalist, columnist, and the author of ten books of non-fiction. The most recent, Senior Moment - Navigating the Challenges of Caring for Mom, was published in 2021 by Nimbus. Monica served as 2008 Writer in Residence at Berton House in Dawson City, and as the 2011-12 writer-in-residence at Pictou Antigonish Regional Library. She is currently has multiple projects underway: an historical novel with no deadline in sight, a collection of the short stories that she dreams up in the middle of the night, and she is trying her hand at writing for children. Her work as a journalist has appeared regularly in newspapers and magazines across Atlantic Canada, and her short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies. She is a member of The Writers Union of Canada, the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia, Pictou Historical Photograph Society, and the Nova Scotia Writers in the Schools program (when she gets students of all ages pumped about reading, writing and storytelling). In her spare time, Monica co-manages a woodlot; grows a huge vegetable garden; helps organize the Read by the Sea literary festival in River John, NS.; and enjoys singing, photography, murder mysteries, and outdoor activities like swimming, hiking and kayaking.
Introduce myself, my work, read a passage, tell stories - often funny - about how the books came into being, mistakes I made, adventures in writing. Ask attendees to share their writing and/or reading experiences.
If applicable, lead writing exercises in non-fiction writing: types of non-fiction, the five Ws, research, privacy issues, and so on. With smaller children we write a story together. With older children and adults, they write short individual or small group stories. Read them and discuss how to make the stories better. Take audience questions, chat. Autograph books or pieces of paper if desired.
For younger writers (children): play games with varying words plugged into the 5 Ws: Who, what, when, where and why. (Think of the TV show "Whose Line is it Anyway?") Then fill in the blanks for a story written together or individually. Adults and older children identify those five elements in their stories and are encouraged to flesh them out. They generally leave with at least an outline of a story, if they are interested in writing. Reluctant participants get some understanding of writing as a useful skill. All exercises are adjusted to participants' abilities and interests. Time is spent writing and sharing. Discussion touches on spelling, grammar, and punctuation; opening "hooks," tools and tricks of the trade, and publication..
I have worked with kindergarten children (who compile a collective story on a flip chart); seniors wanting to share their life stories; adult literacy classes wanting to learn how to write effective letters or to share their ideas and experiences; university students interested in a particular topic; emerging authors seeking encouragement and advice; and others who just want help. (A rising tide floats all the boats)
Introduce myself and my work, tell stories - often funny - about how the books came into being.
If desired, I lead workshops as described above. If it's purely a presentation, I read a passage, talk some more. Maybe read some more. Ask for questions, answer them. I listen to their stories and encourage them to write them down.
At the end, I sign autographs - kids are great!
(Story: during a presentation at a high school, I thought I was wasting my time - the kids all seemed to be asleep, with their heads on their desks. But I underestimated their need to be "read to!" When I stopped reading, the heads popped up, the hands shot up, and they peppered me with questions. So now I read to them, regardless of my perceived level of their interest.)