Last month I wrote a post about what an author can do to prepare for a school visit. Here are six things a school can do to get the most out of an author visit.
1. Share with the author your hopes for your student’s experience.
Authors revise all the time. Most will be willing to emphasize which ever aspects of their work best supports the curriculum. Have you got a state writing exam coming up and you want to inspire kids to believe they have something worthwhile to say? Speak up. Authors understand deadlines and the pressure to perform well. Do you have a particular writing skill you want to emphasize? Characterization? Plotting? Details? Your author wants to support your teaching, so let her know what you need the most.
2. Prepare your students by reading part of an authors work.
Students have no reason to pay attention to a complete stranger who comes to talk about a book they’ve never heard of. They should at a minimum have read at least part of one of the authors books. Additionally you might research on line as a class and see if there is a video book trailer for the book, or an interview on a blog, or some reviews of the book on Amazon or Goodreads. Some author websites have bonus materials on them–coloring pages for younger readers, playlists for teens, puzzles, games, even recipes that relate to an author’s books. If students know a little bit about the author ahead of time, they are going to get far more out of what the author brings to the visit.
3. Name tags
Remember your author does not know a single person at your school. If your author is doing workshops or visiting individual classrooms, nametags help the conversation go much more smoothly, especially when the names are written large enough to be read from the front of the room. Students respond so much more positively to being addressed by name.
4. A Map of the building, a class schedule, technology back ups.
A page with the map and a schedule is extremely helpful. Make sure you have been clear about what technology is available and that you have a back up in case a projector doesn’t work. It may even be helpful to have the author email the power point so you can test the machine ahead of time.
5. Support in interacting with students.
You know your own students. The author needs your help in making sure there are minimal distractions. None of us expect students to act like adults, but discipline procedures and expectations vary a lot from school to school. We are counting on you to take the lead in managing classroom behavior. I am especially grateful when a teacher steps in when I’ve misheard a student or misunderstood their question.
6. Remember your support makes literary fiction possible.
Most authors will make less than half of a first year teacher’s salary for a novel they spent several years writing. School visits are an important source of income for most authors. For many, it is what makes continued writing possible. Schools and libraries play a key role in the market for literary fiction. Many books that get starred reviews and show up on award lists are not carried in chain bookstores, because the stores prefer to stick with blockbuster titles. But kids deserve better choices than the various clones of Fancy Nancy, Wimpy Kid and Twilight. Your willingness to bring literary fiction to the attention of your student’s and their families makes it possible for publishers to continue to publish work of strong literary quality. It’s real power in the marketplace and I am grateful for all that schools and libraries do bring attention to quality books including the author visit, which supports the author of today and inspires the author of the future.