Archive for School Visits

That’s So Dumb: Tales from the School Bureaucracy

Here’s a true story that’s hard to believe. Unless, of course, you work in a bureaucracy. I gather that teachers could tell this kind of story all day long (and I’m all ears, folks!). The crazy, confounding things that happen at school because of goofy rules and red tape. 

Here’s one I can share. I’m in a library in Tennessee, a visiting author setting up for a morning presentation. The students are due to arrive any minute. I look at the wall to check the time. “Um? What’s up with the clocks?”

The librarian explains the situation with a mixture of bemusement and resigned frustration. The work order came in over the summer to install the new clock. However, the work order made no mention of removing the old clock. So the technicians drilled new holes in the walls, rewired things, and put in the new clock. At some point, some figure in the building asked, “What about the old clock?” The men (I assume, from how the story was told to me) examined the work orders — every word, period, and comma —  and concluded, “Sorry, there’s no mention of removing anything. That will require a separate work order.”

End of story.

I stood there, blinking. “Seriously?”

“Yes,” the librarian told me. “It’s going to be another year before they come back and remove all the old clocks.”

“Wait. You mean it’s not just . . . ?”

“Yes, there are two clocks in every single room in the elementary school.” 

I studied the clocks once more. “Do we know which one’s right?”


Student Artwork: 2 Wonderful Notes Handed to Me!

“I love you visiting author.”

“You me.”

Oreos with the Author

For years on school visits, I’ve often enjoyed lunch with small groups of students. Problem is, I never get to eat. These days I’ve tried to shift that to a shorter, very loose Q & A session (25 minutes). I usually explain it as “Cookies and Conversation.” Last week one librarian gave it a fresh twist. Nice! They come for the Oreos . . . and stay for the conversation.


This Kid

Usually on school visits, there’s at least one student who is particularly vivid. A singular personality and a sharp mind. He arrived dressed as a detective, armed with a fine idea. 

He let me try them on and everything.

Second grade going on seventeen.


Fan Mail Wednesday #283: Madalyn’s Note


It happens fairly often on school visits. After a day of presentations, somebody hands me a note. In this case, a friend delivered it for a friend. I said thanks and tucked the folded page into my bag. My reply is below.




I totally remember you. 

You asked a question — and you wore a Hufflepuff sweatshirt. Is that right? You self-identified as a huge Harry Potter “maniac.” I noticed you when I gave my presentation. You were present, listening, involved, soaking it all up. That is, in other words, you were perfect. And impressive. Thank you. I’ve had kids fall asleep, you know! Teachers, too!

Anyway, hey, thanks for going the extra yard and writing that kind note. 

I know you are a big reader. And I’m sorry to report I have not written any books that are 10,000 pages long. To me, reading and writing have always been connected. One feeds the other in a long, beautiful, continuous loop. Every writer is different, but we are all readers. Book lovers. 

Like you.

Get yourself a journal. A place to go with your thoughts. If you go to a movie, tape the ticket into it. Write about what makes you mad, or sad, or causes you to laugh out loud. Maybe start a story one day. Or not. It’s okay. There’s no hurry.

Oh: I forgot to tell you! I have a picture book coming out next year, ALL WELCOME HERE, that’s illustrated by Mary GrandPre. Yes, the incredible artist who did the art in all the original Harry Potter books. So I guess I have a Harry Potter connection, too. Isn’t that cool? I thought you’d appreciate it, as a Harry Potter fan. At least Madalyn will understand my excitement. After all, she’s a maniac.

     Love your self-portrait with the manga eyes. Stylish and hip.

Be well & keep reading, my friend,

James Preller