Public Speaking

Martha Speaks

To book an appearance: or (619)796-5455

Whether it’s a keynote, conference, lecture, commencement, graduation, or private gathering, I tailor my presentation to your needs.

Want to entertain, enlighten, and inspire your audience? Check out the possibilities!

  • The Joy of Lex: Falling in Love with Language
  • Improv for Writers: Using the Secrets of Improv Comedy to Silence Your Inner Critic
  • The St8 of English 2day? Gr8!: The English Language Is Healthier Than Ever
  • Buff Up Your Brain!: A Fun and Interactive Presentation on Maximizing Your Memory
  • You Say Pop, I Say Soda: A Talking Tour of Regional Dialects in America
  • A Garden of Words: How Flowers Got Their Names
  • Putting Words in Your Mouth: How Foods Got Their Names
  • Dog Days and Cats’ Pajamas: Animals In Words and Phrases
  • Libraries: Your Key to Lifelong Learning
  • Teachers Change Lives: Appreciating Our Educators

Hear from happy clients.

Selected Upcoming Appearances in 2023

“An Evening with Martha Barnette”– Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts, Fairbanks, Alaska. March 21, 2023

“The Joy of Lex” – Vermont Humanities First Wednesdays, Brattleboro, Vermont, October 4, 2023

Selected Recent In-Person and Virtual Appearances 

A Way with Words – Back in Huntsville! National Geographic Theater at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Presentation with Grant Barrett, Huntsville, Alabama. September 13, 2022.

“Lead with Literacy” – Featured entertainment at an Adult & Family Literacy COVID Relief fundraiser for Literacy Texas, sponsored by the Moody Foundation. April 22, 2021.

Casa de Mañana – Featured entertainment at annual holiday party and outreach. December 9, 2021.

American Academy of Neurology (podcast) “Language, Words, and Neurology.” November 17, 2020

A Way with Words Live! Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, La Jolla, California. November 6, 2019.

Word by Word Fourth Annual gala to support Wayword, Inc. Hilton Mission Bay, San Diego. September 24, 2019

Garden Communicators International. Conference Keynote, “Getting Your Word’s Worth,” Salt Lake City, Utah. September 5, 2019.

Dorothy Marie Lowry Distinguished Lecture Series. Saddleback College, Mission Viejo, California. April 26, 2019.

The A Way with Words 2018-2019 tour! Portland, Oregon; Dallas, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; San Diego, California; Washington, DC.; Brooklyn, New York; Arcata, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Madison, Wisconsin. 

Literacy Texas statewide conference, Keynote, Waco, Texas. August 6, 2018.

A Way with Words in San Antonio, St. Philips CollegePresentation with Grant Barrett benefiting San Antonio Youth Literacy. San Antonio, Texas. June 21, 2018.

A Way with Words in Huntsville!, US Space and Rocket Center, Presentation with Grant Barrett, Huntsville, Alabama. May 10, 2018.

University of San Diego. “The Idea of Beauty Series: Language of Beauty.” Reflections and panel discussion. San Diego, California, April 10, 2018.

Word of South, A Festival of Music and Literature. “The Joy of Lex.” Presentation, Tallahassee, Florida. April 14, 2018.

California Association of Teachers of English (CATE), Keynote and improv workshop, annual state conference, San Diego, California, March 9, 2018.

San Miguel Writers Conference/Festival Internacional de Escritores en San Miguel. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Improv Workshop. “Unlock Your Creativity with Improv!” February 2018.

Special Libraries Association, Southern California Chapter, holiday party, Los Angeles, California. December 7, 2017.

Indiana State University. “A Way with Words: Celebrating the Cordell Collection and the Schick Lecture Series.” November 9, 2017.

Visiting with WKYU radio colleagues after speaking at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green

University of San Diego. Moderator, “Restoring Respect” conference, Institute for Civil Civic Engagement, April 18, 2017.

San Diego Center for Jewish Culture (CJC). “An Evening with Martha and Grant.” April 27, 2017.

California State University San Marcos. Interview with bestselling author Sara Pennypacker and illustrator Jon Klassen, sponsored by Art=Opportunity and the Stuart Foundation, San Marcos, California, March 1, 2017.

Butler University, Keynote, College of Communication Symposium. “Communicating Differences.” Indianapolis, Indiana, March 2, 2017.

Indiana University, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Grand Rounds. “Lily Livers, Brain Freeze, and Kidney Warmers: An Entertaining Look at the Science of Language.” Indianapolis, Indiana, March 3, 2017

National Association for Interpretation, Keynote, regional conference, “Roots and the Land,” Shepherdsville, Kentucky, March 8, 2017.

Western Kentucky University. Lecture. “The St8 of English? Gr8!” Bowling Green, Kentucky. March 9, 2017.

“Improv for Writers” workshop

San Miguel Writers Conference/Festival Internacional de Escritores en San Miguel. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Improv Workshop. “Unlock Your Creativity with Improv!” February 2017.

Interviewer, a conversation with the groundbreaking musical duo Black Violin for educators and students, California Center for the Arts, Escondido, sponsored by Art=OpportunityFebruary 2, 2016.

California State University San Marcos. “Improv and Literacy.” October 12, 2016.

San Diego Unified School District. Title I Boot Camp, “Learning Through The Arts.” September 22, 2016.

Community College of Vermont. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Winooski, Vermont. September 15, 2016.

Burlington Book Festival. “You Have a A Way with Words.” University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont. September 17, 2016.

San Miguel Writers Conference/Festival Internacional de Escritores en San Miguel. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. “Improv for Writers.” February 15, 2016.

Keynote: National Conference, Community College Humanities Association. Phoenix, Arizona.  November 5, 2015.

Majestic Theatre. Dallas, Texas. “An Intimate Evening with Martha and Grant,” to benefit the Aberg Center for Literacy. April 23, 2015.

Tarrant County College. Fort Worth, Texas. Lecture, “Civil Discourse in a Diverse Society.” April 24, 2015.

CareFusion Global Headquarters. San Diego, California. “Do You Hear What I Hear?,” an interactive workshop on language and diversity in the workplace. June 5, 2014.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, University of California San Diego. “Buff Up Your Brain and Maximize Your Memory.” May 30, 2014.

San Diego Central Public Library, “A Way with Language.” May 17, 2014

MOXIE Theatre, San Diego. Dramatic reading (well, a tongue-in-cheek dramatic reading) as one of several celebrity guests as part of a fundraiser for this theater. March 22, 2014


Appearing in Dallas to benefit Aberg Center for Literacy

Emcee, national conference of the National Association for Bilingual Education, San Diego. February 13, 2014.

Emcee and Auctioneer. Buena Vista Audubon Society annual fundraiser, Oceanside, California. February 22, 2014.

 Sidestage Improv. “Cacchinate.” San Diego. February 23, 2014.

Interviewer/moderator. A conversation with bestselling author Alice Hoffman (Practical Magic, The Dovekeepers), for Words Alive! literacy organization. La Jolla, California. November 12, 2013.

Interviewer/moderator. A conversation with bestselling author of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, onstage at the Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, California. June 26, 2013.

“An Evening with Martha and Grant,” a sellout appearance to benefit the Aberg Center for Literacy. We also emceed a Jeopardy!-style quiz for local celebrities, including Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings. Dallas, Texas. May 16, 2013.

Panelist. “Restoring Respect,” Second Annual Conference on Civility in Public Dialogue, at the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, University of San Diego. February 20, 2013.

With Congressman Marty Block and San Diego Union-Tribune editor Jeff Light

Conference on Civility, University of San Diego

Celebrity designated speller alongside my radio partner Grant BarrettSan Diego Council on Literacy Adult Spelling Bee. Hall of Champions, San Diego. February 27, 2014.

Luncheon speaker. Community College Humanities Association (CCHA) Pacific-Western Division Conference, “Exploring Histories in the Humanities.” Portland, Oregon. October 26, 2012.

Interviewer/moderator.  Words Alive! annual Authors Luncheon and fundraiser for this San Diego literacy organization. An onstage conversation with New York Times bestselling author Vanessa Diffenbaugh about the language of flowers,  November 13, 2012.

Lecturer, with my co-host, Grant Barrett. “Three Centuries of American English,” in conjunction with the Behold America exhibit, San Diego Museum of Art. November 15, 2012.

Selected Past Speaking Events

Recent media appearances, and:

• Keynote speaker and workshop leader with my co-host Grant Barrett. Writers’ Forum, Intuit Corporate Headquarters. Mountain View, California. September 12, 2012.

• Keynote speaker, Diversity Summit, Sempra Energy, Downey, CA. July 12, 2012.

• Commencement Address, National University graduation ceremony, Sacramento Civic Center, Sacramento, California. April 22, 2012. More about the event here.

• Keynote Speaker, Women’s Leadership Conference, Ferrum College, Ferrum, Virginia. March 13, 2012 (See a recommendation from the College Provost. Watch the speech here.)

• Co-host of the Words Alive! Annual Authors’ Luncheon with my radio partner Grant Barrett. The benefit and fundraiser grossed more than $90,000. November 1, 2011. (See a recommendation from the Executive Director.)

• Courtside Announcer for the Mercury Insurance Open, a professional tennis tournament, at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California. July 30-31, 2011.

• Lecture, Congregation Beth Israel. “The Joy of Lex.” March 17, 2011.

• Women’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Emceed a collaboration among the Women’s Museum of California, the Women’s Studies Department at San Diego State University, The Women’s Center at the University of California San Diego, and the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women. March 12, 2011. (See a recommendation.)

• Sunday-morning Speaker, Chalice Unitarian Universalist Congregation, a church in Escondido, California. “Pursuing Your Passion.” February 20, 2011.

• Luncheon featured speaker, the Wednesday Club, the venerable women’s artistic and cultural organization founded in 1895. This a holiday-themed presentation was titled “Unwrapping the Gift of Words.” December 1, 2010.

• Luncheon featured speaker, Brandeis University National Women’s Committee, North County Chapter of San Dieguito. This organization philanthropic arm of the University raising money for scholarships as well as support of campus libraries. “Why I Love Libraries.” Morgan Run Club & Resort, Rancho Santa Fe, California. May 24, 2010.

• Lecture. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, University of California San Diego Extension. “The Joy of Lex.” April 13, 2010.

• Featured Speaker, La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary. December 4, 2009.

• Featured Speaker, Family Health Centers of San Diego Annual Luncheon. November 21, 2008. • Closing Keynote Speaker for the training conference of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR). Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada. “Getting Your Words’ Worth: Improve Your Business Communication and Email Efficiency.” October 22, 2008. (See a recommendation from the organizer.)

• Writing seminar, Baker & McKenzie LLP. My talk to attorneys and paralegals at this law firm was called “Get Your Words’ Worth!”: Increase Your Word Power and Improve Your Email Efficiency.” San Diego, California. July 29, 2008. (See a recommendation from the organizer.)

Graduation address at National University’s 2012 Commencement

• Emcee, Annual San Diego Book & Writing Awards. May 17, 2008

• Speaker, Marion County Public Library, “A Garden of Words.” Indianapolis, Indiana. April 13, 2008.

• Guest Host and Speaker with my radio partner Grant Barrett for “Alphabet Affair,” a fundraiser for the Indianapolis literacy organization, Indy Reads. Hyatt Regency, Indianapolis, Indiana. April 12, 2008.

• Awards presenter at the 31st Annual American Crossword Tournament in Brooklyn, New York. This is the big event organized by our friend NPR Puzzlemaster Will Shortz. March 28, 2008.

• Emcee for fundraising gala with sports legends Maria Sharapova and Pam Shriver at the Acura Classic Tennis Tournament. This event raised $256,000 for the Scripps Polster Breast Care Center to support breast care prevention, treatment, and early detection. La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California. August 2, 2007.