Come Spring, school visit season begins in earnest, and my schedule becomes sprinkled with weekly visits to both far- and near-flung locales. I’m grateful for the work and the opportunity to promote my books, meet with students and teachers, and hopefully inspire somebody along the way. At the same time, it’s a fish-out-of-water experience. Writers work in solitude, clicking on keyboards in lonely rooms, trying to resist the sirens’ call from the Girl Scout cookies in the cupboard: “Take a break, have a seat, chillax, eat a cookie. Have two or three!”
On the day of a school visit, we are plunked amidst dozens, even hundreds, of squirming school children and treated as celebrities. Suddenly we are entertainers, expected to be delightful, clever, wise, and talented. We even have to comb our hair. The irony is that we are placed in this role because we are good at being alone, unkempt, semi-successfully fending off cookies.
Still, I really do enjoy it, and sometimes even love it. But wow, that’s hard work.
Anyway, as some of you know, I was recently in Dublin, Ohio, visiting Bailey Elementary as the invited guest of Bill and Karen, the considerable brainpower behind the Literature Lives blog. They’ve been writing about the experience, and I think it’s a worthwhile read for any educator involved in author visits. In one particular post, Bill offers some excellent tips for a successful author visit. And believe me, every author I know wishes they could be treated as well on a visit. I’d like to take all the credit for its success, but honestly, I think the specific author contributes something less than 25% toward the overall outcome. The rest is up to the schools, the PTO, the teachers involved. The more you put into it, the more you get out; the more students bring to the session/s, the more they take away. It’s that simple.
We loved having you, even if you didn’t comb your hair!
I’m in Malta Ave School. My teacher chose me to have lunch with you! I love Jigsaw Jones! Keep writing!
Great Ania, can I have one of your cookies? See you on Thursday!
My son goes to Malta Ave school and was very excited to see you today. He decided recently that he wants to be a writer when he grows up and got the chance to tell you today.
As a Mom, I want to thank you for visiting with the schools, it is very inspiring for the kids to see the face behind their favorite books!
That’s very nice of you, Barbara. The people who deserve the thanks are librarian Colleen Leclair, Patricia Chakas and all the teachers, the principal (I’m groggy and blanking on her name), and the members of the PTA who made it all possible. They did all the heavy lifting. The kids were great and it was my pleasure.
Dear Mr Preller, I am a third grader at Woodlands Elementary School in Longwood, Florida. I LOVE reading Jigsaw Jones books so much! It’s my favorite book series ever. I am wondering if you are writing any more Jigsaw Jones books?
You came to visit our school, Edgewood Elementary in Scarsdale and told my students that if they wrote to you about an idea for your next pirate book, you would write back to them. Their letters are ready but need the best address to send them to for you.
Thank you and your visit was inspirational to all of us.
2nd grade teacher