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.
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.
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.)
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 http://www.taracalaby.com/ 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)