Griffin Middle School.JPG

Winner of the North Carolina Excellence in Teaching Award

North Carolina Piedmont Laureate for Children's Literature 


With more than 12 years classroom teaching experience, John knows how to get your students excited for writing and reading.  Bring him in to your school for assembly presentations or writing workshops.

“John brought his books and aspects of folklore alive for our students with a lively and entertaining program and did what has become increasingly difficult in our video age, inspired them to read!”              ~ Dr. Rhonda Zayas-Palmer, media specialist 
“I continue to see and hear the impact of Mr. Bemis’ visit with our students and teachers.”       ~ Donna Cook, principal at Rea View Elementary
“John’s perspective helped my kids make so many connections with their reading and writing!”                ~ Bethany Baker, teacher at Burlington Day School
"Innovative and compelling teaching."  ~ Bill McDiarmid, Dean of UNC Chapel Hill's School of Education


A typical full-day school visit is 3 - 4 presentations. You pick out any combination of the programs from the list below. For example, John could start the day with a large assembly presentation for the entire school of the "Igniting Writing" program followed by 2 or 3 "Writing Workshops" with combined classes in a particular grade-level. If you're an elementary school, you might want John to do "Igniting Writing" for a combined assembly of  3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, followed by "Everyday Life in Africa" for Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd together, and round out the day visiting a class (or combined classes) that are reading one of his books. Middle schools might have 3 assembly programs, one for 6th, one for 7th, and one for 8th, as well as a lunch-talk for the Battle of the Books team. 

Not sure what you want? Contact John to discuss possibilities. He wants to fit what he's doing with what your teachers need. And when John comes to your school, he likes to stay busy and make the most of your day together. He promises, it'll be loads of fun.

(recommend 3-4 for full-day program)

IGNITING WRITING        Grades: 3 – 12   Audience size: up to 500              Length: 45 minutes

John shares about his books and how reading, learning, and developing personal passions have ignited his love for writing. Learn more about his creative process and what authors do to dream up exciting stories. A dynamic and interactive program that will leave students inspired to read and write!


AMERICAN FOLKLORE AND THE NINE POUND HAMMER            Grades: 3—12           Audience size: up to 500          Length: 45 minutes

For classes that are reading The Nine Pound Hammer, John has a special program where he uses music and interactive performance to share how he drew on Southern folklore, Tall Tales, and American history to create his debut novel. Along the way, John offers young writers advice about how to create engaging stories based on personal passions and interests. Students come on-stage to act out a musical version of the legend of John Henry. This presentation is great for assemblies and can be adapted to fit the grade-level of the audience. 


DEEP DIVE Q & A            Grades: 3—12           Audience size: up to 50         Length: 45—60 minutes

John always make time at the end of all his programs for students to ask questions, but sometimes students learn the most by driving the discussion. With this program, students have the opportunity in a more informal setting to ask questions: about John's process as a writer, about specifics in one of his books, how he comes up with ideas, the nuts and bolts of getting published. . . anything the kids want to know. This program is especially great when a group has read one of his books and wants a real "behind the scenes" look at how the story was created.


WRITING WORKSHOPS            Grades: 3—12           Audience size: up to 50         Length: 45—60 minutes

Through John’s engaging lessons, students will learn the process writers follow to create interesting stories. John leads the students through exciting exercises that will help young writers come up with ideas and get stories started.  He shares how he uses story maps, the importance of revising, and what to do when you get writer’s block.  John is happy to adapt his workshops to support the lessons of classroom teachers.


EVERYDAY LIFE IN AFRICA         Grades: K—5           Audience size: up to 50     Length: 30—45 minutes

John’s picture book Flora and the Runaway Rooster tells how gifts of animals can transform the lives of school children in rural Africa. John reads his book and shares photos and stories from his trip to Rwanda where he visited schools and families benefitting from Heifer International’s model of “Passing on the Gift” to help end hunger and poverty.


John is also available for:

Battle of the Book Team Lunches   ·   Week-long Writing Residencies   ·   Inspiring Keynote Addresses     

Book Fair Kick-offs   ·   Book Club Talks   ·    Teacher In-Services    ·     Young Author Celebrations 



Read aloud from John’s books to your students. This familiarizes your students with John and gets them excited for his visit.

Share video and other content from his website.

Have students prepare questions in advance. When students have thought about what they want to ask, it makes the Q&A much more interesting.

Request the teacher guide for The Nine Pound Hammer. If you're using this book in your class, you might enjoy these lessons and discussion guides.



Many schools want to offer their students the opportunity to get personalized books. This is a great way to get students excited about reading! If so, John is happy to make arrangements with his hometown bookstore Purple Crow Books to provide books. He has a ready-made flyer you can send home to parents to advertise the author visit and explain how to order books. He tries to make it as easy as possible for you! 



$900 per day, plus travel. Discounts on week-long programs.

Travel includes mileage from Hillsborough, NC as well as a hotel if the visit requires an overnight stay.

John tries to keep his rates as affordable as possible. If however you need help covering his visit, consider partnering with another school or your local library. Many schools have also had success writing arts council grants or contacting local service organization who might be able to help.

If you don’t have the budget for bringing John to you this year (yes, budgets are tight!), consider scheduling a Skype visit. They’re free!