I’m happy to engage in Q&A sessions (in person, or via Skype/FaceTime) with groups who’ve read at least one of my books. I've also worked with teenagers in a leadership setting for more than ten years and offer the creative writing programs described below. Scroll further down for testimonials from teachers and librarians I’ve worked with. And then keep scrolling for a ROOTLESS study guide, suitable for any class, reading group, or book club.
Chris talks about how starting out on a story is like setting off on a quest: you don’t need to know how it’s going to end, but you need to know what you hope to achieve! Bring your characters to life by imagining them on the adventure with you; treat obstacles as part of the journey; grow stronger through challenges; and have fun along the way. For all-day workshops, Chris works with students to visualize their own work as an adventure, and helps them create goals and a story structure that sets them up for success.
Being a teenager can be a confusing time of life: dealing with questions of identity and a myriad of external influences. Chris draws on his eight years of experience leading wilderness trips for teens, as well as his experiences as an author, and encourages students to use the power of myth to create their own internal compass. By identifying recurring themes and archetypes in religious stories, legends, classic literature and contemporary fiction, students will learn to view their own life as a journey, and recognize the tools they possess as well as the obstacles that stand in their way.
Chris draws from his background in ecology to engage students in a discussion about the science and history of Genetically Modified Organisms, and the threat they pose to our economy, environment, and health. Students will learn about the ecological importance of bio-diversity, and how they can relate it to the importance of diversity in their own lives.
Chris builds stories from scraps of experiences and inspiration, just as the tree builders of his novel ROOTLESS use salvaged junk to create their beautiful forests. In this workshop, Chris encourages students to think about how their creativity transforms the world around them, and they spend the day using salvaged recycled materials to build trees or other new works of art together. Project examples include metal trees designed to collect rainwater in areas of drought, and permanent art installations for school grounds.
Chris helps focus students on developing characters and conflicts to create the bones of a story. Tools learned will help students find a powerful enough purpose behind what they’re writing that they’ll often feel the story is writing itself. Chris explores how internal conflict can drive external conflict, and thus propel a plot to its climax.
“Chris Howard, author of Rootless, would be a wonderful author guest for any library or school. He has a way with the teens. They trust him and engage. When I hosted him at Highlands Ranch Library, it was the first teen author event we'd had in ages. One of the mother's came into the library the next day saying that Chris had changed her daughter's life. The young woman who is shy and keeps to herself, talked with Chris and he listened. She likes to write and he offered encouragement. The girl went home so happy and ready to write the mom literally broke down into tears. She said authors like Chris Howard are so important to young writers. She is right. Engaging teenagers is difficult, but Chris is so genuine, kind and knowledgeable, he pulls them into the world of books and writing. I recommend him highly all the time to other libraries and to school teachers.“ - Lisa Casper, Program Liaison, Highlands Ranch Library
“Chris Howard’s visit to our school was a major highlight of the fall term! He has a wonderful ability to connect with and inspire young people, and his discussion of the creative process offered true depth and practicality as well as sheer fun. His flexibility and marvelous instinct for working with groups showed as he effortlessly made the transition from high school to middle school audiences—and back again! We look forward to having Chris back for a longer school residency. It’s wonderful when a talented writer can bring such excitement and substance into the classroom. He’s a natural!” - Susan Lilley, Maher Chair in English, Trinity Preparatory School, Winter Park, Florida
“Chris Howard's visit about his book Rootless has been the programming highlight at the Bear Valley Branch Library so far this year. The community enthusiastically anticipated his visit and demonstrated their excitement by filling the meeting room well before his arrival. At our branch, less than one third of the teens attending the visit had read the book in advance. However, Chris Howard inspired attendees not only to read his novel, but also to find ways to bring positive changes to their existing environment and in their own lives. Indeed, after the visit one teen applied to be a Outdoor Lab (CO) summer intern, and was accepted into the program! Prior to his visit, Chris Howard was exceptionally easy to work with. His laid back demeanor and lack of demands made scheduling and promotion a breeze. I certainly hope to host repeat events as his next novels are published, and community feedback indicates these would be as well received as the first.” - Kristin Grabarek Roper, Denver Public Library
“Chris's visit to our school was phenomenal. Even before he arrived here, he was keeping our students' best interests in minds by working with me to design sessions that would be meaningful for everyone involved. Chris was approachable and the students enjoyed asking questions and learning from his experiences. His creative writing workshop was stellar and many students remarked that Chris's tips and exercises had helped them work through some issues they'd had with their own writing.” - Jolene Gutiérrez, M.L.S. Denver Academy Librarian
“Chris Howard’s entertaining and inspirational visit about his book “Rootless” has been a real highlight of the teen programs we’ve offered at the newly opened Sam Gary Branch Library. Chris Howard oozes modesty and charm, and does a fabulous job of connecting with his audience. The teens who attended either already loved the book, or left the visit eager to begin. With his easy going manner and extreme talent, I would highly recommend Chris Howard’s presentation to any library or school." - Kelly Wright, Denver Public Library
The following is a Study Guide for my first book, Rootless, prepared by a wonderful teacher who said I could share it. If you'd like to share a study guide you've prepared for any of my other books, then please let me know.
Study Guide for Rootless - recommended for students, book clubs & all curious minds:
1) Banyan's trees are in high-demand - why do you think the elite of this future world would pay for Banyan's metal forests? What purpose do his sculptures serve?
2) What do you think is symbolic about Banyan's name? What about other characters such as Alpha, Crow and Frost? Fo you think the names help shape the characters?
3) On page 22 Banyan receives a photo of trees. What type of trees do you think they are? What are you basing your guess off?
4) Where do you think the photo might have come from, and what could it mean?
5) On page 33 we find that Zee has problems with her lungs, even though she is one of the elite. Why might this be true?
6) Zee seems to know that Banyan is going to come for her. Why do you think she is so certain of this?
7) What might the numbers on the leaves of the tattoo be for?
8) In chapter 6 they talk about Zion. What is Zion? Have you ever heard the term used before, and if so what do you know about it?
9) Zee believes in Zion, while Banyan does not. Why might they have differing opinions?
10) What do you think Zee means when she says, “I want to get my mother back.”? (Chapter 10)
11) Describe the setting of the story?
12) Sketch a design of a tree made from scrap/trash. Explain what materials you would use in your sculpture.
1) In chapter 16 they talk about bootlegging. What do you associate bootlegging with? What are they bootlegging in Rootless?
2) Why do you think the author chose to end part one where he did? How was it a good place to transition into part two?
3) Why would there be a statue of Zee’s mother? What might be so special about her? What may have caused her to end up in the place she is now?
4) How is the “Ark” an appropriate name for Harvest’s vehicle? How is it also inappropriate?
5) As Banyan entered the Ark what were your feelings? Was he making the correct decision? Explain.
6) Why might Banyan be so attracted to Alpha that he would risk his life for her? Think of reasons other than her physical appearance.
1) Why does Sal float so well when Banyan sinks?
2) In chapter 34 do you agree with Banyan’s decision to leave the photograph of Zee behind? Explain your reasoning.
3) Why do you think the author killed off Hina just as she was beginning to remember information that would be useful to Banyan?
4) Describe how GenTech's corn is able to grow despite the harsh conditions described in the book?
1) Do you think the "trash island" that Banyan reaches could form in a lake or ocean? Do you think anything similar already exists?
2) Were you surprised to find out Zee is alive? Explain.
3) Were there any early clues that led you to believe Hina and Zee were related to Banyan, or was this a complete surprise to you? Explain.
4) What kind of trees do you believe are mentioned on page 265? What context clues led you to your conclusion?
Chapters 50-End of Book
1) Do you think the Creator truly believes she is doing good? If so, how could she feel this way? If not, then why does she continue her work? Do you think she can be justified in what she is trying to achieve?
2) Should Banyan have shaken hands with Frost? Is it okay to be dishonest/deceitful for a greater cause?
3) Do you see Banyan's alliance with Frost as a similar compromise to the one the Creator has made with GenTech? Or how do you think it's different?
4) Do you think Banyan should have told Zee his plan and trusted her? Explain.
5) Why might Banyan feel so attached to a sister he barely knows?
6) How does Banyan's decision to build a tree in the middle of the stand reflect the beginning of the book and Frost's plans for the forest he originally asked Banyan to build?
7) Do you agree with what Banyan decides to do in the final three chapters? What do you think he is sacrificing, and to what end? Were you surprised by the decisions he made?
8) If you lived in this society who would you fit in with? Explain.
9) Why do you think the author chose the title Rootless?
10) What are some of the loose ends you would like to see addressed in Book 2?
11) Create a list of questions for the author.