Tag Archives: Middle Grades

All About Author Visits

Standard
All About Author Visits

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.

author visit; Jeff Kinney

Author Jeff Kinney visits Malcolm X School; photo by Mark Coplan; used under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. The author reads and/or talks about his book.
  2. The author talks about his process of writing, where he gets his ideas, his pathway to getting the book published.
  3. The author conducts a workshop to help the students write stories or poetry.
  4. A large scale presentation in an auditorium for several grade levels.
  5. 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:

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.

Was this article helpful to you? Please click the “Like” button and share on all your social media.

Guest Post: Interview with Jo Knowles on Writing Process, Writer Advice, and See You at Harry’s by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Standard

Thank you to author and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi for this fascinating interview with author Jo Knowles. This article previously appeared on Debbie’s website, Inkygirl.

Knowles+HeadshotI’ve been a fan of Jo Knowles ever since reading Lessons From A Dead Girl and even more so after See You At Harry’s (Candlewick, 2012) plus I love her fun and positive tweets from @JoKnowles on Twitter. I’ve also heard great things about Jo’s Pearl and Jumping Off Swings, so am looking forward to reading those next!

 Jo has a master’s degree in children’s literature and taught writing for children in the MFA program at Simmons College for several years. Some of her awards include a New York Times Notable Book of 2012, Amazon’s Best Middle Grade Books of 2012, An International Reading Association Favorite 2012 Book, an SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, the PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Award, and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. Jo lives in Vermont with her husband and son. Her next book, Living With Jackie Chan, a companion to Jumping Off Swings, will be available September 2013.

Q: What’s your writing process? What was your writing process for SEE YOU AT HARRY’S?

So far for all of my books, I’ve just started writing and discovered the book as I went. Not surprisingly, my first drafts are big messes. After I clean things up a bit and have a basic rough draft, I create a storyboard to help me get organized and figure out the themes, plot and rhythm of the book.

Storyboard from Jumping Off Swings.

The storyboard process I use I learned at a workshop with Carolyn Coman. Basically, you get a sheet of paper that’s large enough to fit enough squares to represent each chapter of the book. Then you follow these steps:

1. Think of a scene with the strongest image that best represents that chapter. Draw it as best you can in the first box.

 

Part of a storyboard series from READ BETWEEN THE LINES, Jo’s newest project.

 

2. Write a very brief phrase that describes the point of that chapter and write it in the bottom of the box.

3. Think of the strongest emotion conveyed in the chapter and write it at the top of the box.

Repeat for each chapter, one per box.

 

Part of a storyboard series from READ BETWEEN THE LINES, Jo’s newest project.

 

This leaves you with a big visual that illustrates the movement of the book both actively and emotionally.

 

SB-4

Part of a storyboard series from READ BETWEEN THE LINES, Jo’s newest project.

 

Since my books tend to be less action driven and more emotionally driven, seeing the book this way is a big help. I can see the spikes of emotion and how they play out in the text, and where I need to insert more or less action, or emotional peeks.

Seeing the images also helps me to think about how stagnant certain chapters or groups of chapters might be, and helps me pinpoint where I need to move my character around more. (For example, in PEARL, Bean spent way too much time on the roof, which was her place to escape. I don’t know that I would have realized this if I hadn’t drawn a storyboard and had that visual.)

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Remember that getting published is not a race. I recently read a blog post by someone who had taken three years to sell her first book, referring to her journey as “The Long Road to Publication.” Long road? Three years?? Oh my.

In reality, I think the average time it takes most people going the traditional publishing route is more like ten. I think people tend to measure success on how quickly they can sell their first book. This is a shame because speed has nothing to do with it. I think longevity AFTER you sell your book would be a better marker.

 

Childhood restaurant that inspired Harry’s in SEE YOU AT HARRY’S

If you want to be an author, you need to take time to learn the craft and learn it well. Read a thousand picture books. Study the rhythms of your favorites. Type out the text and close- read it without the pictures. Pay attention to the types of details that are in the text versus the ones that are implied or easily and more effectively shown in the illustrations. 

The next step is to learn how to revise. To learn how to listen to feedback and make the best use of it. I can’t tell you how many aspiring writers I’ve met who have told me they didn’t want feedback because they felt their work was as polished as it could get. But they hadn’t shared it with anyone but family members!

One of the hard lessons I learned when I first started out was that I really didn’t understand what revision meant. When an editor suggested a revision without a contract, I happily addressed the changes she proposed, but not to the degree I should have. I tweaked, I didn’t revise. There is a very big difference.

Revising is rewriting. Not rearranging. Not fixing typos. Not deleting a sentence here and there. That’s what you do at the copyediting stage. Better to learn this with critique partners guiding you than with an editor who doesn’t have the time or patience to teach you him- or herself.

There is just so much to learn and so many early mistakes to be made when you’re first starting out. It’s worth it to take your time and get lots of feedback from other writers (and make those mistakes with them, not an agent or editor). Not only that, you will develop some wonderful relationships and create a community–a support network–which will be invaluable when you DO start submitting.

I am as impatient as the next person, but for new writers, I can’t emphasize this enough: Please don’t treat the time it takes you to get published as a race, or measure your journey against someone else’s and use that as a marker for success and failure. Instead, think of your journey to publication as a travel experience to savor. The more you learn, the more people you connect with, the better prepared you will be for your final destination. And the more people you will have to celebrate your success with!

Q. What are you working on now? Any other upcoming events or other info you’d like to share?

I’m currently working on two projects. One is a contemporary YA novel called READ BETWEEN THE LINES. After writing JUMPING OFF SWINGS I swore I’d never write another book with multiple points of view, so naturally this book has ten. It’s kind of a “day in the life” sort of story about how each character’s actions affect the next. While I wait for my editor’s comments on that, I’ve started a humorous middle grade/tween novel tentatively called FROM THE COMPLAINT BOX, about a boy who goes to a funky independent school and the adventures/mischief he gets into with his two best friends. When I told my agent I was writing something funny he said, “That’s how you described SEE YOU AT HARRY’S and it made everyone weep!” So, he’s suspicious. We’ll see!

Where can find out more about Jo Knowles:

Jo Knowles website – Jo Knowles blog – Twitter (@JoKnowles)Facebook

SEE YOU AT HARRY’S book page

TWEETABLES:

Don’t compare w/someone else’s progress as your success/fail marker. Savor the journey. @JoKnowles bit.ly/11UDU4K (Tweet this)

Writers: Remember that getting published is not a race. – @JoKnowles: bit.ly/11UDU4K (Tweet this)

==========

Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.

Weekend Writing Warriors: Snippet #76

Standard
Weekend Writing Warriors: Snippet #76

Every Sunday, the Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday participants share 8-10-sentence snippets from their works-in-progress on their blogs for others to read and comment on. Join the fun! Click on the links to see the full lists.

Today I’m sharing the opening of the Middle Grades novel I outlined at the writers’ retreat I went on the other weekend. Titled Amanda in Chief, it’s about a girl starting the year at her sixth school in six years. Her strategy for making friends will be running for class president.

As the story opens, Amanda Fanta’s older brother, Jake, drives her to Anderson Elementary, where she will spend sixth grade. Amanda says:

“I don’t know how you can be so happy. It’s your senior year, and you’re starting over again.” wewriwa2

Jake glanced over from the driver’s seat. “Actually, I’m looking forward to it. It’s kind of fun. Nobody knows you, so you can be whoever you want to be. You can put on a new persona. Who do you want to be this year?”

“Someone popular. It sucks to be invisible and have no friends.”

I know it’s short (10-sentence limit), but what do you think of this snippet? Any suggestions on how I can make it better? Please comment below.