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.