Today’s article is for teachers and librarians and media specialists as well as for authors of books for children and teens.
When my children were in school, occasionally a form came home explaining that an author was visiting the school and my child could purchase a book which would be signed by the author.
We never bought the books. We were on a budget. Most of my childrens’ books came from the library or the Scholastic book club flyers. I didn’t really get what author visits were all about.
The next time I heard about author visits was in 2004 when I attended the Maui Writers’ Conference. I heard a talk by Christopher Paolini, who wrote Eragon when he was a home-schooled 15-year-old. His family originally self-published the book, and they traveled around to Renaissance festivals to market it, often standing in the rain all day to sell two books. Somehow he stumbled on the idea of offering to do a presentation at a school. His appearance was a success, and word spread among school librarians, who were happy to have him come to talk to kids about writing fantasy in exchange for book sales. The audience for his book multiplied, buzz got out, and Alfred A. Knopf snatched up Eragon and gave Paolini a contract for three more books.
After I returned to teaching, I got to attend some fabulous author visits at my elementary school. Now I understand what a win-win-win enterprise author visits are for students, teachers, and writers.
The best author visits are the ones where a large portion of the students have already read at least one of the author’s books (which are especially beloved by children of all ages and their teachers and the media specialists because they are so well-written and relevant), and the teachers have read at least portions of a book to or with their classes, and the author is prepared with an engaging educational presentation and activities that tie in to the state standards.
Author visits can be arranged through several different avenues:
- Through publishers. Most large publishers maintain lists of their authors who are willing to visit schools and libraries. There is a cost for this service: an honorarium for the author (somewhere between $200-$5000), plus travel expenses, including mileage or transportation, lodging, and meals, depending on the distance the author travels and the length of the visit.
- Through bookstores. When publishers send well-known authors on book tours, each bookstore they come to for a signing has the option of arranging school visits. Since the publisher is paying the author’s expenses, no honorarium or expenses are paid by the school, but they must order a certain number of books. These can be bought by the students to be signed by the author, or purchased for the library, or for classroom sets, or any combination therof.
- Directly through the author. Many authors are published through small houses which do not have the resources to set up visits, or are self-published. These authors may seek out schools and libraries that they are willing to visit, or list their availability on their author website or other websites and publications. They determine their own requirements and rates for honorariums and expenses.
Author visits can take a variety of forms:
- The author reads and/or talks about his book.
- The author talks about his process of writing, where he gets his ideas, his pathway to getting the book published.
- The author conducts a workshop to help the students write stories or poetry.
- A large scale presentation in an auditorium for several grade levels.
- A small scale presentation for a single class.
One of the best author visits I’ve ever seen was a presentation by Jack Gantos, who wrote the Rotten Ralph and Joey Pigza books. He’s kind of nerdy-looking in his narrow tie and eyeglasses. He had a slide show with illustrations on his computer that was projected on a screen while he told stories like this one. He had our students rolling on the floor laughing.
Author visits are excellent avenues for authors who write for children and teens to promote their books. They’re great for students, especially those who have already read the books, to see that ordinary people can write meaningful stories that touch people deeply. And they’re worthwhile for teachers, because they support and enhance the teachers’ writing and literature instruction.
Author visit resources:
- Some publishers who set up author visits:
- Examples of visit pages on author blogs:
- Some bookstores that set up author visits:
- A list of authors who do school visits (see left-hand column, listed by state).
- Most comprehensive list of authors who do school visits; you can choose an author, an illustrator, or a translator; a particular region, or a certain radius from your zipcode; or select by the age of the students you wish to serve.
- What teachers and schools can do to make the author visit more meaningful to students.
- An author/teacher’s advice to schools.
- Tips for authors and teachers concerning author visits.
- Tips for authors:
- Should an author speak for free?
Do you know of an author who does wonderful presentations at schools? Do you do school visits? Have any tips? Please share in the comments below.
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One of my favorite poet/illustrators is Shel Silverstein (1930-1999). I find his rhymes and accompanying drawings delightful. They were enjoyed by my husband’s elementary school students and by our five kids, and adults and children alike.
Not only did he write poems and draw illustrations and cartoons, he also composed songs and wrote plays.
Preparing to write this article, I could only find two volumes of his in my well-organized (—not!) library: The Giving Tree and A Light in the Attic. I’m sure we had more; who knows where they went.
The Giving Tree is a picture book. It tells the story of a tree who loves a boy and over the years gives herself to him completely. I interpret it as a metaphor for mothering.
A Light in the Attic is a collection of poetry. I’m sure we also had Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. As someone who writes poetry and most often defaults to free verse, I am impressed by the quality of Silverstein’s rhymes. Sometimes he takes liberties (like rhyming water with oughtter), but the rhymes never feel forced or contrived.
Silverstein’s whimsical illustrations remind me a bit of Dr. Suess, in that they are in turns amusing and a little nightmarish.
I remember three of his songs in particular, though I forgot (if I ever even knew) that he wrote them. “A Boy Named Sue” earned him a Grammy.
That one and this one, “The Unicorn,” got way too much airtime during my high school years. (Enough to almost make me think unicorns are dorky. Almost, but not quite.)
One song I love and that I sang with my kindergarten students when I taught music:
His work remains popular today. The Shel Silverstein website has resources for teachers to inspire their student poets, writers, and artists.
As a former music educator, I am so grateful that Sarah McLachlan started three music schools in Canada.
Spend the weekend reading to inspire your art.
- Beautiful paintings.
- Photo essay about Nara, Japan.
- Beautiful tangles.
- I love reading an artist’s story.
- Quotes about reading and thinking. When was the last time you read an article that included the work peradventure twice?
- An encounter with gorillas.
- Lessons in creativity.
- We all have bad days. We need to develop resiliency to hang on during difficulties, learn the life lessons therein, and move on to the next thing with a little more wisdom.
- Someday I’m going to take some of these free online courses from Ivy League universities.
- What it’s like to be a graphic designer.
- Pre-drone aerial photographs taken by German pigeons in World War I.
- Ways to prod your creativity.
For beautiful minds:
- Beautiful tangles.
- The Alba Madonna.
- Award-winning landscape photographs.
- Want to piece a sampler quilt? Free patterns. (Limited time.)
- Sculptures rising from the Thames.
- Poem about music read out loud.
- This flamingo goes to school.
- I love books that make you laugh out loud. These sound great.
- Easter quilts!
- What a good education should include. (Hint: you’re probably not going to get it in college.)
- A widow’s love.
- Want to be a writer? Try this strategy.
Articles to inspire you.
- My husband doesn’t have the board game gene. I have no one to play with. Sigh.
- Why we will miss Sue Grafton—what she did to the mystery genre.
- Mount Fugi seen from the air with clouds streaming by.
- Quilt guild show and tell.
- Do you want to keep your resolutions this year?
- 16 thoughts for creatives.
- 50 interesting books.
- It’s not too late to join this daily art challenge for 2018.
- Are you still making the same old fried eggs for breakfast?
- Beautiful photographs of animals, people, and exotic locations.
- I am so jealous of this artist’s journal. She’s so talented.
- I dislike big box churches. Why aren’t there more churches like this one in the United States? A church should be beautiful. Give me arches any day.