Tag Archive for Preller Skype

Now Scheduling Free Skype Visits

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To be honest, I haven’t fully embraced Skype visits in the past. I’m not great at technology and I’ve had some headaches with it. I’m kind of an “old guy” in that respect. But at the same time, I’ve had some really nice experiences, too.

So I’ve decided: Yes.

However, there are stipulations . . .

I will agree to a 20-minute, book-specific Q & A session with any classroom where the students have all read the same book. For example, the class reads The Courage Test, or Bystander, or Better Off Undead, or The Case from Outer Space. That kind of thing.

If you are all in, if you have enthusiasm for sharing a particular book, then I’d love to Skype with your students, answer questions, connect. I’ve decided not to charge anything in the hope that schools might use that money, if they have it, to purchase books for the classroom.

Please email me at jamespreller@aol.com, type “SKYPE” in the subject heading, and we can figure out the next step.

Or not!


9780312547967   CourageTestFrontCvr

Outer Space_FC   9781250090546.IN01

paperback-cover-six-innings   OneEyedDoll_cvr_lorez

Author Skype Visits: Three Perspectives

Last week I posted about doing a couple of Skype visits, complete with follow-up comments from a teacher-librarian. Because Skyping is a relatively new (and powerful, and affordable) educational tool, I thought I’d recap my experiences in more detail. To that end, I decided to share a couple of different comments that came out of one post-visit debriefing. As background, Skyping is new to me as an author; this year I’ve been dipping my toe into the water, testing the temperature.

For the visit under discussion, I met with a combined classroom of two 6th-grade classes from the region of my parents’ old stomping grounds, Queens, NY. The students had all read my book, Bystander, and came prepared to ask questions — essential ingredients for a successful visit.

After the event, I received a note from the teacher, Adam, who was most instrumental in making the visit happen. He wrote:


Today was fantastic — hands down one of my career highlights. I am proud of the work that the students have done on this topic and I am so impressed with how today’s Skype conference went. You certainly were able to capture and hold the attention of everyone who was in the Media Center today. Their insightful questions about specific characters along with your humor and honesty made the experience something that I will look back on for a long time to come as a moment in their lives that actually came alive. It was a perfect moment in the school day that makes it all worth everything that we do.

In a separate exchange, I heard from another event organizer, a parent. Liza wrote:

Great presentation today. I was sitting off to the side and could tell the kids really loved it. So much energy in the room! Great topic and technology.

I replied with a confession:

Skyping is a little weird, there’s a strange disconnect to it, so I find it hard to read the audience (whereas I think, live, that’s one of my strengths — I can tell when they are bored, when it’s time to stir them up or settle them down).

Liza responded with this observation:

Regarding Skype, the funny thing is that although you were experiencing “a disconnect,” the opposite was happening in the classroom. With your enlarged face on the whiteboard, it created the illusion that you were speaking/connecting with the audience and the energy level was palpable. I might even go so far as to say that the “gee-whiz factor” related to use of this technology make the experience more exciting to the kids than if you’d actually been in the room. From the audience’s standpoint, Skype/whiteboard is a wonderful and surprisingly intimate experience.

The origin of Skype, from The Wizard of Oz. Who knew?

Conclusion: Well, I think Liza said it, and I can only trust her opinion — a Skype visit can be an exciting, oddly intimate experience. As an author, and a 50-year-old guy dealing with (scary) new technology, it takes some getting used to. I appreciate the magic of it, the pure thrill of seeing those faces — from Kentucky or Queens, California or Maine — and answering their questions directly. Admittedly, I still feel a little removed, still feel like I’m alone in my office, voice echoing, the cats looking at me weird, but amazingly that doesn’t seem to be what happens on the other end.

I think it works well for an interactive, book-specific, Q & A session not more than 30 minutes in length. I know that it doesn’t replace the impact of a live author visit. That’s as far as I’ll go right now. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in exploring this new technology together. My fee for next year will be what appears as the industry standard, $150.

Fan Mail Wednesday #113: Skype & Teaching in the 21st Century

Preamble: My friend, talented author/illustrator Matt McElligott, is a frequent presenter at schools. I saw him when he came to my local elementary school and he was spectacular. A total pro, funny, informative, and kind. For info on his author visits, read this. See what I mean about being a pro? He makes me feel like a dirtbag, a rank amateur getting by on shaggy charm. I learn things from Matt every time we speak (twice a year if I’m lucky).

The Point: Matt recently told a good story. A few days after a visit, a librarian called Matt to convey a conversation she had just had with the mother of a young child in the school.

The Joke: The girl came home and said, “Mom, guess what!? We had an author visit our school . . . AND HE WAS ALIVE!”

Maybe you’d find that funnier if, like me, you’d been introduced as a “real, live” author dozens of times over the years. Or maybe you find it hysterical already. I don’t know how you feel. What am I? A mind-reader??!! So just . . . BACK UP, PEOPLE. BACK — IT — UP!

Ah, so. This morning I did a couple of Skype visits. I’m relatively new to Skype and still figuring it out. It’s like we’re in the first few dates of our relationship, where I’m still dressing nice and pretending that hey, no, I actually love Julia Roberts movies. The first visit this AM was with an 8th-grade class from Duxbury, MA. They had all read Bystander as part of an anti-bullying initiative and had a lot of insightful questions. It was a cool way to connect directly with readers without putting on socks and shoes. And come to think of it, that might be the right word for it: Skyping is cool.

I got the nicest note shortly thereafter . . .

Dear James,

Thank you so much for the skype session this morning. It was a great experience for me and for my students to virtually talk to a real author. We all found your answers interesting and personal. The kids said they were surprised that you were “so normal and such a regular guy.” You were so personable, honest and down to earth with them. A few students wanted to ask some other questions and I said maybe they could send you an email sometime??? It was such a great example to the kids about teaching and learning in the 21st century.

Thanks again, Martha.

I replied:

The invoice is in the mail. Please remit within 30 days.

No, kidding!

I actually replied:

Thanks, Martha. When I first started author visits, back in the way back, I was a little uncomfortable with the star treatment. Sometimes I’d get put on a pedestal, the famous author! Well, that wasn’t me; I couldn’t live up to it. I soon realized that if I had anything of value to share, maybe that was it — that I was a (relatively) normal, average, everyday guy who happened to write books for a living. I was no more special than the neighborhood architect, doctor, midwife, lawyer, or . . . um, wait, actually I am more special than lawyers. But anyway!

The Irish have an expression, “Flowers for the living.” (Meaning: You don’t have to wait until someone dies to say something nice about them.) I appreciate your kind words. And I had a good time visiting with your bright, lively students. I’d be happy to answer their email.

My best,



NOTE: I realize that I’ve been bad, bad, bad when it comes to Fan Mail Wednesday. I’ve got a huge backlog and I’m seriously in trouble. I’m going to start digging out asap. I mean it.