Sunday, November 5, 2023

Virtual Author Visits from Our Scottish Barn


My virtual author visits are in full swing for the 2023-24 school year. It has been fantastic to chat with classes in New York, Ohio, and New Jersey so far. And Mariemont Schools were the FIRST to virtually visit my new hayloft studio in Scotland last week.

If you look closely at the photo, you can probably spot the little window above the glass archway--that's my hayloft writer's studio. Our new/old house in Scotland is a former barn from the late 1700s. It has been a hayloft, a henhouse, a stable for horses...and now, an author's house. As you can probably tell, the walls are made of stone. (Yes, I'll confess that I like to imagine the space as a castle...) This part of Scotland once had large granite quarries, and many of the buildings are made of granite. In fact, granite from here was shipped all over the world.

Although I'm based in Scotland, never fear...I'm still scheduling virtual visits with US-based schools. Remember that if your school is doing an all-school read of one of my books, you can get a free virtual visit after your school has completed the book. 

I also have a brand-new Author Mentorship program for individual classrooms where I'll present a virtual writing workshop, a Q&A session, and then, every student can get personal, written feedback on a piece of writing from me. If your students are reading The Seventh Most Important Thing, I also have a new workshop called "Hampton's Throne Speaks" where we create a character from the artwork itself. A great lesson in personification and brainstorming! 

You can find out more details about both of these programs on the school visits page of my website: Shelley Pearsall School Visits

Thank you for reading my books, whether you are near...or far away. Feel free to reach out through my website if you have any questions. 

Thursday, June 29, 2023


There is no doubt that the last three years have changed all of us. Made us face our own mortality. Made us realize what really matters...and what doesn't. Made us discover new sides of who we are -- while, at the same time, pushing us to the limits of what we thought we could endure. Speaking for myself, the last three years have also made me realize it was time for a change. A big change.

I'm not unfamiliar with changing my life. I did it quite often in my twenties and thirties. I moved a half-dozen times. Tried out multiple jobs. Went back to school to become a teacher. Quit teaching and sold everything I owned in order to have an uninterrupted year to write a book (which became Trouble Don't Last)...

But in recent years, it became easier not to change. To stay put. To keep doing what was working. To drive the same roads. To look at the same familiar scenery. 

However, creativity doesn't thrive in the familiar or the routine. Ideas don't sprout from the roadsides you've driven on a thousand times before. It needs adventure, inspiration, interaction, challenge, serendipity, magic...

And so, earlier this year, my husband Mike and I decided to move to a new place. Well, not just a new place...but a new COUNTRY. A place where we would have to learn everything all over again, except the language. A place where we'd be forced to make new friends and try new things. 

In May, we moved to a renovated stone barn, with eaves full of swallows and hillsides dotted with sheep, in southwest Scotland. 

Why Scotland? Although it is a place that has inspired countless artists and writers over the centuries...and given birth to wizards named Harry Potter and fictional islands of reasons for landing here were more personal... 

I chose to move to Scotland because this was the place where I found the magic and the words again, the ones I feared the pandemic had erased forever. There was magic in the tiny striped snail living in my crooked doorway. The small and delicate deer that somehow sailed over four foot stone walls into the garden. The mysterious cat who would appear and disappear in an eye-blink. The waterfalls that burbled out of nowhere in the mossy-green woods.  For all those reasons and more.

I hope you'll enjoy this next chapter with me. Stay tuned. (And yes -- I will be making return visits to Ohio, my home state.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2022


In early November, I traveled virtually to Queens, NY to meet a class of 8th graders at Irwin Altman MS 172 who read my novel, The Seventh Most Important Thing (ALA Notable selection).

A central theme of the book is the healing power of art and its ability to transform darkness into light, hopelessness into possibility...messages that resonate with many of us these days. 

The novel was originally inspired by "Hampton's Throne," a work of art in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. The sculpture depicts artist James Hampton's view of a heavenly throne room made of discarded objects wrapped in metallic foil. The story follows what happens when a thirteen year old boy, dealing with anger and grief, is sentenced to work for the artist after injuring him.

Whenever I talk with aspiring writers, I always tell them to write from the heart because if you do that, your readers will respond with gifts from their own hearts...however, it still amazes me and humbles me each time it happens. 

After reading the novel, the students at MS 172 created their own artwork from discarded objects, just like James Hampton. They made purses from paper scraps. Stars from cardboard. Flower arrangements from newspapers and magazines. In posters and visual displays, they depicted "light" vs. the "darkness" in their own worlds. And after reading about Mr. Hampton's favorite words, they brought to life the sayings and messages that are most meaningful to them. [You can see examples of their work in the photos shared with this post.]

However, their thank you notes to me after the virtual visit truly brought home the heart-to-heart power of books and reading. I'll share just a few below:

"Your book helped me and so many people find light in even the darkest of times and helped them find gratitude for the small things in life." -- M

"I could relate to wanting to let go of my own worries and putting them behind me just like Arthur does." -- J

"The way Arthur grieved the loss of his father helped me cope with the grief about the loss of my grandfather." -- J

"I hope in the future I could become someone like Mr. Hampton in creating a masterpiece." - S

That's the heart power of stories. And a special thank you to MS 172's awesome teacher, Catherine Guilz-Feldman for making this experience a reality.  

The ninth most important thing? Teachers.


Sunday, July 24, 2022

 Writing for the Magic

There was a time when I thought winning the prestigious Newbery Medal or having one of my books named a New York Times Bestseller would be the absolute pinnacle of writing achievement.   As an aspiring young author, I used to tell myself that even if I never wrote another word, I would be blissfully happy if I could achieve (just!) one of those dreams in my career.

However, over the past twenty years, my thinking has shifted.  After the publication of my seventh book in 2020, I came to the realization that there is something better to set my sights on as an author. Something more real and more enduring.  

I like to call it: writing for the magic.

What do I mean by writing for the magic?   I mean valuing those moments when your writing causes something unexplainable or rare or coincidental…or yes, magical to happen.  

Here's a recent example: just a few days ago, I met a young reader named Amira and her family from Senegal who happened to be visiting my hometown of Akron, Ohio.  The family reached out to me after I did a virtual author visit in Rome, Italy where Amira attends school. We were all strangers to each other until that very moment...until a book brought us together from around the world.  Senegal. Italy. Ohio.  That’s book magic.   

And I’ll never forget the moment during an author visit in Michigan when 400 middle schoolers suddenly stood up, mid-program, and did a surprise dance routine inspired by my Elvis novel “All Shook Up.” The dance was the brainchild of their school custodian and planned on the spur-of-the-moment. That’s book magic.

And I can still recall the spine-tingling moment that happened during the research for my novel “Crooked River” when I suddenly realized that a real historical event and an ancient Ojibway legend matched…exactly. That’s book magic.

No matter what you write, my advice is to watch and wait for the magic. It’s always there.  Hidden among the words you write. Carried by your readers.  It may even fly around the world to find you.

Sunday, March 28, 2021


True Confessions:  I didn't write the title of this blog post.  It was the slogan of a group of 4th and 5th grade readers in Traverse City, Michigan.  In March, I was the virtual author for their virtual Battle of the Books Grand Traverse competition.  An amazing SIXTY teams competed in this year's battle which was anything but typical.  Teams read nine novels.  They practiced virtually and competed on-screen in a battle that tested their knowledge of all of the novels...and their skills with the mute button!

Each team had a name -- and trust me, these were NOT ordinary names.  How about "Book, Line, and Sinker?" or "Where the Wild Books Are" or "Little Readers in the Big Books."  The kids had creative costumes and slogans.  And they created the big snow art designs you see below, inspired by my new novel, THINGS SEEN FROM ABOVE which was a battle book.

It was an epic experience for me and an epic example of the power of books. When I think about the things that have helped us get through the pandemic -- these are the moments and experiences that come to mind.  Enjoy these photos of book joy!


Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Two years ago, it was the hopeful faces online that kept me going. 

When my entire speaking schedule in Spring 2018 was cancelled by my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, I went virtual instead.  A screen became my audience. Skype replaced the cafeteria stage.

To keep things simple, I donated the virtual visits.  Schools knew that if my hair fell out from chemo…or if I had an unexpected doctor’s appointment…or if I just wasn’t up to talking—their visit wouldn’t happen.  Everything was “subject to change without notice.”  They were okay with that.
Fortunately, my hair stayed intact, and the virtual visits saved my sanity.  They gave me a schedule and a reason to get up every day.  Kids wore pink t-shirts.  They held up signs of hope and encouragement.  They made me believe that life would get better someday—and it did. 

One of the biggest surprises was the realization that I could still reach readers through a screen.  With a little practice and creativity, it was possible to keep being the interactive, thoughtful (and slightly random) author/presenter that I am. 

Then came Spring 2020 and the COVID outbreak demolished everything again.  I’ll admit that it felt like an awful kind of déjà vu.

But this time it wasn’t just me sitting at home worrying that I might die from a dread disease – it was the kids too.   I spread the word that I would donate virtual visits to any school group anywhere in April and May. 

I’ll never forget those first Zooms and Google Meets. Kids joined from living rooms, unfinished attics, closets, stairwells, and kitchen tables.  They appeared with homemade slime, family pets, and screaming siblings.  Some kids floated in blue galaxies or tropical forest backgrounds.  Others had their family seated around them like a solemn portrait.

Despite the challenges, these impromptu visits actually worked.  (A ton of credit goes to the parents, librarians, and teachers who made them happen.)  I was able to chat with kids about books and brainstorm characters with them. Virtual classes “toured” my office. We shared what we were going through and the various ways we were coping.  As I’d discovered two years earlier, there is something to be said for being there for each other in tough times. 

And as the school year starts at home again for many kids, I’m determined to keep stretching the virtual learning limits: Can we compose poetry on Zoom? Can we use our closets/attics/kitchens for writing inspiration? Can we create fictional characters from shoes?  Can we build stuff onscreen? (Tetrahedron pyramids for All of the Above? Mini-sculptures for The Seventh Most Important Thing?)

I believe that creativity and joy, even the virtual kind, will keep us going. 

I’m proof of that.

Teachers, librarians, and parents: If you are interested in finding out more about my 2020-21 virtual programs (some free and some fee-based) for your students, please check them out on my website or reach out to me at