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Inspiring Reading & Writing with the Gilda Joyce Mysteries

Gilda fans at the Spy Museum Workshop

© Jennifer Allison

Discussion questions, writing prompts, projects, and creative writing activities for your students! Feel free to print and share these projects, but please keep the copyright attribution to Jennifer Allison. Contact me at Jennifer@gildajoyce.com to discuss how I can inspire the readers and writers at your school with an author visit!

Gilda Prompts for Writing

1. To what degree is Gilda actually psychic? How does her interest in psychic phenomena help or hinder her investigation?

2. Do you believe that real psychics exist? Could it ever be possible for an “ordinary” person to become psychic through ongoing practice and hard work?

3. Have you ever had a spooky or psychic experience that you couldn’t quite explain? (A common example might be a friend calling you on the phone right at the moment you were thinking about him or her.) Do you think your experience was a coincidence, something you imagined, or something truly supernatural?

4. Consider the main characters in Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator. What does Gilda want to accomplish in the story? Why do you think Gilda is so interested in becoming a psychic?

5. How does Gilda use writing to help cope with the challenges in her life? Do you have any hobbies or activities that help you feel better when life is difficult? If so, reflect on how and when these activities are helpful to you.

6. Consider Gilda’s approach to writing and the writing environment she creates for herself. Have you ever used a manual typewriter like the one Gilda uses? If so, what was it like compared with the experience of using a pencil or a computer to write? How do you prefer to write?

7. What is Juliet’s biggest problem in this story? What does she learn about herself by the end of the novel?

8. Describe the friendship between Gilda and Juliet. How are these two girls similar and different as characters?


Learning about Literature with the Gilda Joyce Mysteries


Lesson focus: How visual artists interpret plot and character

Using poster board & art supplies or computer graphics, create an alternate cover for a new edition of Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator or another Gilda Joyce novel. How does your cover differ from the original edition? Does Gilda look different in this picture? Did you decide to leave her off the cover altogether? Write a paragraph explaining the choices you made and the details you selected when creating your book cover.



Lesson focus: How plot and scene are linked with setting

Create a collage of visual images from magazines, computer printouts, or images you have created depicting as many aspects of the setting of Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator as possible. Using pen or marker, make notes about the specific scenes and plot points that happen in each location.



Lesson focus: The importance of detail in describing setting. Learning about literary genres.

Make a list of the various settings in which different scenes take place in the novel Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator. (Example: The Splinter Mansion – Juliet’s bedroom.) Now pretend you’re a director or set designer working on a live theater performance of Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator. For each scene, describe as many details as possible about the set design you will use to stage the story. Consider: props, lighting, painted backdrops, special effects.

Inspiring creative writing with Gilda Joyce


Tell students to pretend that, like Gilda in THE LADIES OF THE LAKE, they have suddenly found themselves in a new school – as the “new kid” in an unfamiliar environment. Have students take a 10-minute walk through the hallways (supervised) during which they observe as many details of their surroundings as possible. Then return to the classroom for a 10-minute “freewriting” exercise in which they record their observations through fresh eyes.

Write an additional chapter for Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator – the next chapter in Juliet’s life. What happens to Juliet Splinter after Gilda leaves San Francisco and Juliet starts school in the fall?



  • Place Gilda Joyce in a new setting, with a new mystery to solve.
  • Draw a map or create a collage of images to explore your setting.
  • Write a list of character traits to describe the other characters Gilda will meet. You might find photographs in magazines to help inspire your ideas about other characters.
  • Describe the haunting or unsolved crime that is at the heart of your mystery. If you need ideas for a mystery, sources that might inspire you include traditional ghost stories or newspapers and magazines that feature stories about investigations.
  • Write a series of journal entries in Gilda’s voice describing the setting and the mystery she's exploring.



Retell your favorite ghost story. Now tell your favorite ghost story again, but with a twist – write the narrative from the GHOST’S perspective. Before writing, create a list of character traits describing your spooky main character.
For the ambitious mystery writer: now place Gilda Joyce in the role of investigating this ghoulish creature. Have your investigator take notes as he or she trails the mystery.

HAVE FUN WITH YOUR FIRST DRAFTS. Be like Gilda Joyce, and make writing fun by using a new, colorful journal, a pen with glittery gel ink, or a typewriter instead of a computer. Try writing in a different place – a coffee shop, outside on a balcony, up in the branches of a tree, by the beach. You might begin your story with a sketch or an “inspiration collage” of images that inspire you. When you need a new idea, look at the pictures.


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