Speeches & Workshops

Upcoming Talks, Speeches and Appearances

Like everything else in the known universe, the pandemic has pretty much done a 52 pick-up on life as we know it.  However, the show must go on so to speak,  with some upcoming live and/or virtual programs this fall. 

FALL 2021

Miami University (Oxford, OH).  Rowan Hall Takeover: 50th anniversary roundtable of the Vietnam student protest on campus (postponed from April 2020). Thursday, Oct. 28, 5-6:30 Armstrong Student Center, Room 166, 550 E Spring St, Oxford, OH 45056. Email me for additional details. More information on Rowan Hall.

Miami University (Oxford, OH).  Put on your party hats! October is National Archives Month!  I will be discussing the importance of archives, various archival research methods and how I use archival materials in writing history and/or gathering information. Friday, Oct. 29, noon-1 p.m., King Library, 151 S. Campus Ave, Oxford, OH 45056.  Email me for more information.

Manatee County Public Library (Bradenton, FL).  Fiction and/or Nonfiction: Writing One, the Other, or Both! Saturday, Nov. 6, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 1301 Barcarrota Blvd. W., Bradenton, FL 34205 and virtually.  Register for in-person program or sign up virtually.

Westerwood, (Columbus OH), Myth and Mysteries of Ohio. Tuesday, Dec. 28, 3:30-5 p.m., Westerwood, 5800 Forest Hills Blvd, Columbus, OH 43231. Email me for more information.

Please contact me if you have questions or want me to participate in your book fair, library event or other literary happening!


Workshop Topics and Venues

I have given dozens of presentations on writing and my book topics at libraries, colleges, writers’ conferences, and other groups. Click here for a partial list of venues. Below are brief descriptions of some of the latest offerings:

Fiction and/or Nonfiction? Writing One, the Other or Both. (NEW!) Do you write fiction, nonfiction or both?  Do you want to switch from one genre to another?  Too often, writers pigeonhole themselves into a specific genre, even if they feel the call to write something completely different. Trying anything new can be intimidating and overwhelming, even if  you’ve been writing for decades.

This workshop will help overcome hesitation in several ways – by clearly differentiating, fiction, nonfiction and memoir/essay as well as explaining the similarities among the various genres.  While different “rules” may apply to each (they will also be discussed), the underlying logic is the same – the work must be authentically researched, original and true to the author’s vision. Participants will get a chance to write a brief story or anecdote in their new genre of choice to get a sense what each requires. They may not be as unlike as they initially appear!

Note: The process of consecutively writing a nonfiction book, THREE RING(LING) CIRCUS: THE CIRCUS, THE RINGLING BROTHERS AND SARASOTA (Pineapple/Rowman,2022) and a novel, DOING HARD TIME IN GEEZERVILLE (Hydra, nd),  the first in a series of three contemporary satires set in The Villages, inspired this workshop. I’ll be happy to share this experience as well!

111 Places in Columbus that You Must Not Miss (NEW!). New to Columbus, visiting or just wanting to explore your own backyard? With 111 listings and another 111 tips, it’s a pretty sure bet that you’ll discover something that you may not have known about. Or more likely, several somethings, as I did during my “travels” in the town I lived in for over 40 years. These include the first African-American country club; “Jeff” the dinosaur at OSU; arguably the most annoying earworm ever composed in Westerville; the “Cheetah dog” program at the Columbus Zoo; a $5,000 bathtub and many more. Other aspects of Columbus including restaurants, sports, shopping, museums, historical sights and more will be covered. Also includes the amazing photos of the book’s photographer Mitch Geiser as well as few unpublished oddities that I took while researching the book.

Myths and Mysteries of Ohio. Why would the people of Sabina embalm the corpse of a random black man and put him on display for the entire world to see? What was the real story behind Johnny Appleseed’s fascination with teenage girls? And what was it about Marietta, Athens/Ohio University and the Golden Lamb in Lebanon that made these places such as ghost magnets? And where are the dead aliens at Wright Patterson AFB? MYTHS AND MYSTERIES OF OHIO dissects these and other urban and perhaps not-so-much legends. Through a PowerPoint presentation, discussion and a brief reading, explore the new abnormal with author Sandra Gurvis. Prizes may also be involved.

Country Club Wives. Before the “Real Housewives” and “Desperate Housewives” there was….COUNTRY CLUB WIVES, a satire about women, money, and homeless animals set in “New Albany, oops New Wellington” Ohio. And now it’s been optioned as a TV show! Come hear Sandra talk about the genesis of the book, the controversy it caused and questions it raised, and how it has taken on a life of its own. Participants can also play “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me: Country Club Wives Edition” and separate the fiction from the facts!

Good News and Challenges of Creating a Book. While self and “indie” publishing has opened up a world of possibilities for writers, there are also pitfalls and pratfalls. The good news is that now, with the right blend of talent, ability, and market sense, you can put your written vision into words — and not only have artistic control but also earn a higher percentage of royalties. The trick is in doing it correctly, and there are plenty of challenges along the way, from cover design to editing/proofreading to understanding the potential audience to the biggest hurdles of all — getting publicity, readers, and sales. With millions of books out there, and many more being published, how can you make yours stand out from the thundering herd? This workshop will provide not only an overview of the process but also a step-by-step guide of what to expect (and avoid). Along with writing and overall vision of the book, it will cover editing, proofing, cover design as well as suggestions for marketing. The process of putting together a book can be complex and intimidating but with time and effort it can be professional and appealing, even if it’s your first project. Please note: this is not a “how to” about the mechanics of self-publishing but rather how to create the best book possible and then decide where to take it.

Turning Personal Experiences into Viable Prose. “Everything is material” or so the saying goes. But how can you turn life experiences into salable writing that readers can enjoy and relate to? This workshop will focus on using anecdotes, memories, and observations to craft salable stories as well as how to distance yourself to avoid losing perspective and to protect yourself legally as well as the privacy of others. Properly executed, personal experiences in writing can add dimension to description, characterization, dialogue and setting and greatly increase your chances for publication.

Inventing (and Re-Inventing) Yourself as a Writer. No matter how many years you’ve been at it, writing is a continual process of discovery. Aimed at both novice and experienced writers, this workshop helps explore the many ways you can use your skills and experiences to boost your career. Participants will get a chance to evaluate their present and future aspirations, along with finding new ways to earn income as a freelancer. Versatility and risk-taking ability, along with other traits and requirements to help grow your writing career will be discussed and brainstorming and idea-sharing will help define goals.

The Art of Book Promotion. Today’s authors need to be more than good writers, they also must learn how to sell themselves and their ideas, be they fiction or nonfiction. This workshop focuses on: getting your book reviewed by newspapers and magazines, using conventions and other special interest groups as marketing opportunities, contacting and talking to people who will help spread the word about your book, snagging television and radio interviews, promoting your work over the Internet, persuading bookstores to feature your book, utilizing book signings to their maximum effect, and working with publishers to achieve the greatest exposure. A list of promotion and Internet resources will be provided, along with suggestions as to organizing such efforts to fit into a regular work schedule.

The Pipe Dreamers/Where Have All the Flower Children Gone? (REPURPOSED!) 2020 put the kabosh on many things, including the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam student protests and the Kent State shootings. But it also provided a new perspective and chance to look back at an era that shaped so many lives.  Originally released in 2001 by Olmstead, THE PIPE DREAMERS was republished by Hydra in 2020 to commemorate these events.  Set mostly at Hayes University, in the small town of Hampton, Ohio,the story concentrates on a naive sorority girl, Julia Brandon, and the charming and seemingly carefree boy she loves, Randall “Win” Winfield, who is running from a troubled past and the inevitable draft and follows historical and personal events from the the year 1969-70 until the 1990s.  WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWER CHILDREN GONE? (University Press of Mississippi) examines the fate of former “flower children” and “damn hippies” through interviews, narratives, and photos.  Chapters cover the origins of the student protest movement; the conservative backlash; draft evaders, expatriates, and conscientious objectors; communes and alternative lifestyles; and more. Several presentation formats for these books are available:  A reading of THE PIPE DREAMERS and discussion of the era and its impact; a more historically focused multimedia presentation involving photos of the era and material from the book WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWER CHILDREN GONE?; and a “Flashing Back to the ’60s” coffeehouse format, involving myself and/or other authors and/or musicians who play tunes of the era. Email sjgurvis@gmail.com for more information. 


CONFERENCES/VENUES (partial list)*

  • Allen Correctional Institution
  • American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)
    • Writers’ Conference (New York City)**
  • Beachwood Library
  • Cleveland State Writers’ Conference
  • Columbus Metropolitan Library**
  • Columbus Writers’ Conference**
  • Chicago Public Library
  • Creative Adult Program (Ohio State)**
  • Featured speaker at:
    • UC Berkeley
    • Louisville Chamber of Commerce
    • Miami University
    • Ohio Library Council**
    • Ohio State University
    • Rollins College (Winter Park, FL)
    • University of Dayton
    • University of Louisville**
    • University of Florida
    • Vanderbilt College
  • Erma Bombeck Conference on American Humor (Dayton)
  • Granville (Ohio) Writers’ Conference (co-coordinator, 1991-98)
  • Houston Writers’ Conference
  • Imagination Writers’ Conference (Cleveland)
  • Johnson County Writers’ Conference (Kansas City)
  • Kentucky Book Fair**
  • Midwest Writers’ Conference**
  • Ohio Professional Writers (Columbus, Ohio)
  • Open U (Minneapolis)
  • Sinclair Writers’ Conference (Dayton, Ohio)
  • Southern Festival of Books (Nashville)**
  • Thurber House (speaker)
  • Virginia Festival of the Book
  • Youngstown State University Writers’ Conference**

**Denotes more than one occasion References available upon request