Tag Archive for Preller Skype Visits

An Author’s Adventures in Skype

Okay, this is pretty terrifying in a Mothra kind of way . . .
Yes, that’s my giant gob projected on a viewing screen. The picture was taken during a recent Skype visit. Quick, here’s a couple of other shots:
I’m still in the early stages of figuring out this Skype business. I’m not even sure how I feel about it yet, or whether I can (or should) fit them into my schedule. That said: It is undeniably cool to connect with kids from far-away places, schools I’d never visit if not for this amazing technology. So I’m leaning yes.
And it is amazing, as tired and cliched as that word sounds. Suddenly we’re looking at each other, waving, laughing, talking, snorting. It’s craziness and I think students really do feel a thrill.
The photos are from my first-ever Skype visit. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, just fumbling around, I didn’t charge a fee. And I still don’t. Though that might change down the road if I decide to pursue this in any kind of organized fashion. The visit was a result of an enterprising teacher, Tyler Samler, who reached out to me after reading Bystander with his class. We decided on a 20-minute Q and A session. I enjoyed it, despite having to comb my hair. However, I found it difficult to read the audience. In person I’m pretty good at glancing around the room, recognizing when I’ve got their full attention or when, perhaps, it’s slipping away. With Skype, I was less certain. Hopefully I’ll get better at that with practice.
Tyler wrote to me after the session:
The Skype session was awesome!  You’ve acquired some life long fans here at Hyde Park Elementary School. After the session we went around and had each student give imput and share their opinions.  It was a really good response. They enjoyed your sense of humor and your kindness. I think they were greatly enriched to have this opportunity. You’re a wonderful storyteller!
Thank you so much.
NOTE: I reached out to gifted author (and swell all-around person) Mitali Perkins for advice on Skyping and she directed me to author/teacher Kate Messner, because “Kate is the real expert.” After a few seconds digging, I found this excellent blog post by Kate, which is a pretty good primer on Skyping from both the school and author perspective. If you’re a teacher, you should check it out.
For authors, Darcy Pattison wrote an impressive primer. She offers a lot of great tips, from lighting, to looking at the camera, all the way to suggestions for bathroom breaks. Darcy thinks of everything. The truth is, I would have never dreamed of putting on lipstick if it weren’t for Darcy.
Really. I mean it. I just have naturally rosy lips.

Dipping My Big Toe Into the Cool Pool of Skype (does that sound too gross?)

I’ve been thinking about Skyping lately, you know, video conferencing with schools. My first reaction to Skype was negative — because that’s how I react to any new technology. At heart, I am a Caveman. Fire? Oh, please. It’s a passing fad.

It’s perfectly normal for me to say things like this:

“Hey, baby, don’t mess with my Eight-Tracks!”

Seriously, Skype just felt like another way of talking on the phone and I have certain, um, phobias about phone calls. I don’t like them. But I recently participated in an event for Banned Books Week that featured a Skype visit from author Lauren Myracle. She was wonderful; I loved her and came away sold on the potential of the medium.

My middle child, Gavin, 11, set me up with Skype last week. I need to practice, figure it out, and eventually I think I’ll offer 20-minute Q & A sessions to schools (for a modest fee, including book sales). I’ll need to think about the ins and outs before moving forward. But if anyone out there wants to help me practice with their classroom, for free, with extremely low expectations, please write and let me know.  I know that a Skype visit can never replace the impact of this . . .


. . . but it does offer an interesting alternative. Feel free to contact me via the “contact” icon up top. Label your email, “Free Skype Visit,” and we’ll take it from there. It would be a plus if you’ve done this before, because, as I said, I have not. It could be fun and that’s what we’re all about here at jamespreller.com.