Teaching and Speaking


Teaching has to do
with the soul of the teacher.
—Ken Hause

Talks and workshops for:
Adults and Teens
Primary and secondary schools

Writing and art are solitary play. Teaching, workshopping, and speaking, in English or Spanish or both, balance that solitude with a dose of this lively and contradictory world.

We all speak. We crave to speak; we long to tell each other funny stories and frightening stories and serious stories and really awful jokes. To teach writing and illustrating and art—words and images—is to help get stories shared.

It’s fascinating to lead a loud crowd of kids and/or adults into the invention of a short graphic novel, to field questions about prose structure with driven writer-wannabes.

Some of my favorite places to teach have been:

Chopping wood at Zuni Pueblo. A'acho!
Chopping wood at Zuni Pueblo. A’acho!

Zuni Pueblo, in western New Mexico. Where sometimes there’s a roast sheep’s head for breakfast, and you don’t whistle at night because it draws ghosts. (I don’t believe in ghosts, but I don’t whistle anyway because maybe the ghosts believe it.) Naturally, if you hang with third-grade boys you’ll learn a few bad words in Zuni…after they’ve coaxed you to say them out loud, of course. And some wonderful regular words, like ch’aba’adi, the sound of a skinny person falling on the floor; or dunu’adi, the sound of a heavy person falling on the floor. And A’acho!, which means, more or less, “Cool!”

In the Sierra of Oaxaca, Mexico
In the Sierra of Oaxaca, Mexico

Mexico—where todo, hasta el amor, es mejor con limón y sal. (Everything, even love, is better with lime juice and salt.) Teaching in Mexico may mean a beat-up pickup on a washboard road into the Sierras and sleeping on a rural schoolroom floor. I was disconcerted to find that, in Zapotec, “Betsy” means “head louse.” (Why were those children laughing? Please, call me Elizabeth!) It’s a pleasure to bring the lessons of Oaxaca, Morelos, and Guanajuato home to share with kids and adults in this country, especially those who are working hard to learn English as their second language.

Drawing my pet ground squirrel...
Drawing my pet ground squirrel…

Schools everywhere, in English or Spanish or both. For children and teens and adults. I give talks and presentations, workshops and classes, and, in special cases, individual critique.

Teaching and speaking, like writing and art, are connection.


What do educators say about my sessions?

Needs and Fees

What will I need when I come to your school or your group?

To contact me
for teaching and speaking:


All material on this site, both text and graphics, is ©Betsy James, and may not be used commercially without her permission.

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Betsy James on Writing, Art, and Walking in the Desert

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