A fabulous new children’s novel, Forget me not … great characters, fine plot, historical, edge-of-seat reading as we, young Evelyn, Thomas and the Titanic travel through icy seas towards the last moments of that mighty ship. 

Yes, it’s another excellent read from Australian author, the lovely Sue Lawson.
(For a chance to win a copy of the book, leave a comment.)

I’m thrilled to have Sue drop in on my blog on her Forget Me Not blog tour. There’ll be lots of reviews of the book later in the tour, so I asked Sue to pass on some of her wealth of knowledge about school author visits.

Welcome Sue!

It’s fantastic to spend time today, as part of the Forget Me Not Blog Tour, with a friend and fellow writer, Sheryl Gwyther.

 Thanks so much Sheryl for asking me to visit and for making me feel so welcome.

 Workshops and Author Sessions

 Workshops and author sessions are not always easy for writers. Some prefer writing to talking about it, others aren’t comfortable in front of crowds and feel the time in schools intrudes on their writing time. 

 I believe school visits, while time consuming, are important for a number of reasons. 

1. They help inspire kids and so encourage reading.
2.  Keep writers in touch with their audience.
3. Help spark new ideas and new approaches.
4. Students are generous and give much to speakers.

 I’m lucky in that my past two careers, a 12 year stint in radio and many years in the classroom as a teacher, make workshops a delight for me. (Plus according to friends and family, I’m a born show off!)

 While every school visit and author session has its own challenges, I find the rewards far outweigh any issues. I think the key to successful workshops particularly if you aren’t comfortable with the idea or aren’t experienced with crowds, is to prepare thoroughly. And as with all things in life, it’s about finding the right balance for you. 

 Initial Contact

 Okay, so I’m a planning weirdo, but careful preparation makes for successful school visits. From initial contact make sure you and the teacher or librarian are completely clear on all the details. After discussing details, I send an email to the school confirming;

Date and time of visit
Number of workshops
Year levels to be visited
Topic/book to be featured
Cost and who to invoice
What equipment will be available (do I need to bring my iPad or usb?)

 I also attach a ‘How To Make the Most of Your Author Visit flyer I’ve written, which covers material I may need and the number of students permitted to attend workshops versus talks.  I limit workshops to 30 so each child receives the maximum benefit, but have no ceiling on the numbers at a talk as long as I have sufficient teacher support for ‘crowd control’. (Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the kids are brilliant and crowd control isn’t needed.)

Taking time to detail arrangements provides both parties with a record of what is planned. 

 Two Weeks Prior

 I contact the school again to double check details and most importantly, ask about parking.

Trust me, it can be a huge issue! Once I arrived at a school, 45 minutes early, as I do, and spent the entire 45 minutes cutting laps, searching for a park. Now I ALWAYS ask about car parking before I arrive!

 One Week Prior

I prepare the details of my session, noting points I want to cover, preparing a PowerPoint to support the session and print out the invoice and feedback forms. A word on PowerPoints, remember they are to SUPPORT your talk. Less is more. Too much fuss or writing will drown your message.

 Another tip – always over-prepare. It’s better to have too much material than not enough and be floundering around trying to fill time.  

 The night before I check a map – yes I have a GPS, but things still go wrong. A few years ago my GPS charger blew up and of course the GPS was flat. I had to call my husband, who was four hours away, and ask him to look up the school on Google maps and guide me on the phone. Tense times indeed – but I did make it with five minutes to spare!

 Last of all, I pack my bag with:

The most recent book I’ve written, suitable for the age group.
A manuscript – preferably one covered in my editing scrawl.
My planning book – I have one for each book I write.
Bookmarks, posters etc as promotional material to leave with the school.
A white board marker (you’d be surprised how many schools don’t have one ready!)
iPad AND usb – just in case!
A water bottle. 

 On the Day:

I know, it’s obvious, but turn up early. I’d rather set up and hang out in the staffroom reading the paper, than be panicked about time. I aim for half an hour before the start time.

  Once you arrive, ask to see the room you’ll be in, check your technology works and lay out your books etc so they are within easy reach.

 As the students arrive, make small talk with them – this breaks the ice and gives you a feel for the audience.  And once the kids are quiet and settled – start! But don’t begin until everyone is paying attention. (Teachers included!) You can’t afford to lose them before you begin! (I have heard stories of presenters asking teachers to stop talking during the session – I’m not that brave, but you are well within your rights to do so! Manners!!)

 There’s so much I could say about school visits, but that’s about enough. School visits are terrific fun, but the key to success, like so many other parts of writing, is preparation and communication! Most of all – be yourself!

 Thanks so much for having me, Sheryl.
Tomorrow I’m visiting Tara Calaby at to talk about writing regimes, research and the Titanic.

 REMEMBER TO LEAVE a comment on Sheryl’s blog for the chance to win a copy of FORGET ME NOT (i.e. competition only for Australians, postage being what it is!…Sheryl)  




  1. Wow Sue, always generous and helpful with advice for a writer. You should write a book on this.
    Can’t wait to read “Forget me Not’. I’ve always been obsessed by what happened to the Titanic. I have no doubts that this book will be as captivating, page turning and brilliant as all your other books. Congrats my lovely.

    Tracey Hawkins


  2. Hi Rachna and Kat. Thank you for your wishes – and Kat – cough lollies – always have a stash! It’s not you – then again, I do talk alot!! 😉


  3. Congratulations on your upcoming book Sue. And thanks to you and Sheryl, for today’s blog sharing your experience with us. I would add cough lollies in my list of things to pack, on the day. I think that’s the teacher-syndrome coming out… Or maybe it’s just me, with a susceptible throat. Or maybe I just talk too much!! 😛

    One of the poets involved in the Madness Poetry Tournament ( has just released a book of sonnets, about the Titanic. He’s another very talented writer, (Allan Wolf) and I’m sure you’d enjoy the read, with your shared interested/knowledge.


  4. My goodness! I’ve been teaching today (my other job) and have just sat at the computer. Thank you so much for all your comments and for your wishes about Forget Me Not. I really do appreciate it!
    Jeff, good luck and enjoy. Above all else be yourself with the kids!
    Carole – as if you need help!! On the off chance you do, you know where I am!
    Sally – ahh the marking teacher! You should see the fuss I make of visitors to our school and the attention I pay to them – think I may unnerve them a little! The worst gig I’ve had to do was in a corridor near a tuck shop at lunchtime. True!!
    Dimity – my comfort zone is Grade 5/6 but I do love all ages.
    Lorraine – thank you! I always find it odd when kids turn up without pen and paper to a workshop! Surprising how often it happens!
    Kaz, Karen, Peter – thank you. The whole Titanic saga is fascinating – and addictive!
    Sheryl – thank you so much for such a fabulous question that has sparked such interest!
    love Sue


  5. Thanks for an interesting article. Yes – the paying attention thing is awkward. I’ve done talks with teachers (a) marking, (b) holding mini-staff meetings two metres from me, (c) absent and (d) talking at one end of a ginormous hall while the kids (despite my request for them to come up one end), sat, lounged and rambled around the perimeter with those crying dolls. I’ve also done talks with renovations going on at the other end of the room and with a maths lesson in progress at the other black board. On the other hand… if teachers pay attention, the kids almost always do too.

    I love school talks, because they’re always spontaneous. Only downside is nowadays I have to take my reading glasses.


  6. Marvellous tour Sheryl. Fantastic post Sue. My fave tip was note about crowd control. I agree with your points on why school visits are important…primarily they are also fun! I always get a gigantic buzz during and afterwards (once you’ve secured your car park 🙂 ) Thanks for sharing your experience with us and best of luck with your new book Sue. I can’t wait to step aboard and set sail with Evelyn and Thomas.


  7. Sue I love your advice- I like to be super-organised too- I do forget about the invoice part sometimes and a white board marker is essential and sometimes pencils and paper- LOL, even though it’s a writing workshop! Well done with your new book too and all the best for the blog tour!


  8. Thanks Sue and Sheryl for this comprehensive guide to Author visits.

    Sue, I always love your books and I can’t wait to read this one.

    All the best with your new book baby.



  9. Thanks for inviting, Sue, Sheryl.
    Great list, and great information, Sue! I could have kept reading on and on. School visits are something we all do, but I am always fascinated to read how others approach them. Like you, I am a born show-person, so have no nerves about ‘performing’ but I always get a bit hung up on what the school expects – so I guess it’s worrying about not living up to expectation that can get me in a knot.

    Reading this makes me think we’re all pretty similar and just bring our own personality and style to the day… Thank you.

    Good luck with your latest book. I sincerely hope it sells a trillion.


  10. Many thanks for this, Sue and Sheryl. I always arrive very early, even if I have to wander down the road to waste some time – but I’d never thought of asking about parking. I’ll add that to my own list.

    All best wishes for mega sales of your new book Sue …and all your other books – and yours too, Sheryl.

    Peter Taylor


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