Successful Author or Illustrator Visits

Few things generate more bookish excitement than having a real live author interact with your students.  Read on for some FAQ.

How do I get started?

Plan the visit well in advance.  Writers’ calendars fill up, and you need time to get your students ready and excited.

Authors’ websites usually link to visit info.  Most writers do a variety of presentations.  Find one suited to the ages and interests of your students.  How long a program do you want?  Are you talking large group or small?  How many presentations will the author make over the course of one day? Do you want to tie into a specific theme, like African American History Month?

And let’s not forget: decide what you can afford!

How much does it cost and how do I pay for it?

Writers’ honoraria range from hundreds to several thousand.  If the author is traveling, you’re also responsible for travel, lodging and food expenses.

Local writers are a bargain!  As a bonus, they let kids see that real live authors grow in their own backyard.

To afford an expensive visit, partner with other near-by districts.  Writers are often happy to combine visits to other locales, if you arrange transportation.

Fund-raisers and grants are other ways to defray cost.

Should we have a written contract?

Highly recommended! The author or her publisher will help work this out.

How do I ensure my students get the most from the visit?

Make your kids think of the writer as a rock star!

Read her work to them, and make her books available for kids to read on their own.  Explore her biography, finding points relevant to your students.  Some publishers will provide packets of free author materials.

Have students make posters to welcome her, and lists of questions they want to ask.

Arrange a contest.  The prize: lunch or snack with the author (clear this with your visitor first).

What else?

Publicize the visit in local media and school/library newsletters.

Make sure your author receives a printed schedule of her events.

Find out ahead of time what she needs (besides a bottle of water and a warm welcome). A digital projector for a PowerPoint presentation?  An easel for drawing?

Most writers hope to sell books, and are happy to have a signing.  Arrange this well in advance with the publisher or your local book store.

More tips…

Many publisher websites offer advice on planning visits.  Some of the best are Random House, Scholastic, and Simon and Schuster.

Also check out:

Mixed-Up Author Bobbie Pyron’s post, The Care and Feeding of Your Visiting Author

Cynthia Leitich Smith, collection of articles and advice on school visits.

The American Library Association, www.ala.org

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