Meet Marie

Marie Sontag loves to bring history to life through historical fiction.

With a BA in Social Science and an MA and Ph.D. in education, she says teaching middle school for over 15 years has kept her young. Her middle-grade series, Ancient Elements, takes place in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Bronze Dagger, The Alabaster Jar, and The Silver Coin.

When on author visits, Dr. Sontag is always accompanied by her authenticated 3,500-year-old bronze dagger and alabaster jar, as well as her 2,300–old Phoenician coin.  Her YA historical fiction book, Rising Hope, places readers alongside Polish Boy Scouts and Girl Guides who helped the Polish Underground fight the Germans during WWII.

Born in Milwaukee, WI, and having lived FOREVER in San Jose, CA, she currently makes her home North Richland Hills, TX where her favorite activities are attending concerts and musicals with her husband, and playing trains with her grandson.

Marie is an active member of the following professional associations: National Council for the Social Studies, Texas Council for the Social StudiesSCBWIACFW, and the California Pioneers of Santa Clara County.

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Interested in hearing Marie speak?

Below is a sample of topics Marie shares with students

  • Dreams Are Like Hard Boiled Eggs

    - How I pursued my childhood dream to become an author
    - Help for students to identify their dreams
    - Motivation for students to pursue their dreams

  • The Writing Process – Like Baking a Cake!

    - What’s involved in the fiction writing process
    - Personal writing-process examples
    - Tips for students on fiction writing

  • Inspiration and Motivation – How Do We Find Them?

    - Example of Ryan Murphy, Three-time Olympic gold medalist
    - What inspiration and motivation mean; how I find them for writing
    - How students can find and keep them

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    Below is a list of topics Marie has addressed with writers

    • Setting: Support Your Theme and Advance Your Plot 

      This presentation includes a PowerPoint to illustrate concepts presented in the workshop. Handouts and prompts will be provided, allowing writers time to process and practice the items discussed. Length: approximately 60 minutes

    • Shallow vs. Deep Point of View 

      This presentation includes a PowerPoint to illustrate concepts presented. Handouts and prompts will be provided, allowing writers time to process and practice the items discussed. 
Length: approximately 60 minutes

    • Wrapping Your Head Around Theme and Plot 

      Through discussion and a PowerPoint, this presentation will illustrate the Moral Premise and how it relates to a story's theme and plot structure. Discussions and links regarding the Hero's Journey, The Virgin's Promise, and The W Plot will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each plotting method. Links to planning sheets for each structure will be provided, as well as Character Arc Plot Charts. Length: approximately 60-90 minutes

    • Research: How to Write Believable Fiction

      This presentation discusses how background research for fiction can either pull you into a story making it more compelling and believable, or throw you out of a story when it's not properly conducted and/or presented. Potential research pitfalls will be illustrated and discussed, as well as suggested places to investigate when conducting research for a story. Interactive research exercises will be explored providing authors with time and practice to discover helpful background information needed for their specific genre and story ideas. Length: approximately 60-90 minutes 

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Questions & Answers with Dr. Marie

  • What advice do you have for young authors?

    Write about things you’re interested in, get feedback on your writing from others of all ages, polish your writing, take classes on creative writing, join a writer’s group for young authors, such as the young inklings, look online for information for young authors and places you can enter a writing contest or submit work for publication. Here are a few suggestions:

  • How many words is the average book?

    The two categories of books for students ages 8-18 are middle grade fiction (ages 8-12) and young adult, ages 13-18. Middle grade books are usually 30,000-50,000 words. Young adult books are usually 50,000-75,000 words.

  • Do you recommend writing at a young age?

    Yes, I definitely recommend writing at a young age.

  • How did you get a publishing company?

    Usually, you have to write what is called a query letter to many publishers before you get one to publish your work, or you find an agent who will find you a publisher. For me, a friend owned a publishing company and she read The Bronze Dagger while I was still working on it, and had it published with her company. Then a slightly larger publishing company saw the book and bought it from her company so they could publish it. This company was the publisher I now work with, Sunbury Press.

  • Were there any special people who motivated you?

    My mom always supported me in my writing endeavors, especially when I was young. She always motivated me to pursue my dreams and to never give up. I’ve also been motivated by creative authors such as C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L’Engle.

  • How long does it take you to write a book?

    It depends on how much research I need to do, and on what else is going on in my life at the time. The Bronze Dagger took about five years to write because I was still teaching at the time and my boys were involved I a lot of activities. The Alabaster Jar took about two years, and The Silver Coin took about one year.Rising Hope took about three years.

  • What inspired you to write about these kinds of books?

    Honestly, the lack of good historical fiction books (good, in my mind, means adventurous yet as factual as possible, where important things about history can be learned in a fun way!) was and is my main motivation in writing my books.

  • Have a question? Send Dr. Marie a message

Resources