Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Plan for a FABULOUS AUTHOR VISIT at Your School

1. Consider possible authors your students might enjoy having for a visit. Think about the books the students at your school love, current best sellers or reading trends, your literacy theme, etc. Has a school in your district had a successful author visit recently, and would they recommend that author? Do a little research. Most authors have websites you can find by doing an internet search for the name of the author or the title of their book series or character. Find the section on their website about “author visits” or “school visits.” Locate the contact information. To book Kristyn Crow, click here.

2. Make an inquiry. Email the author and request information on fees and what the presentation will entail, length of time, etc. Ask for references – unless the author is such a big celebrity it would be silly. In some cases you’ll need to arrange a school visit through the author’s agent or editor. This information should also be available on the author’s website.

3. Check your school budget. What are the author’s fees and what can your school afford? You can often save money by a) selecting an author that isn’t in terribly high demand…J.K. Rowling is gonna be expensive…gulp… b) selecting an author that happens to be local or at least within your state c) doing a fundraiser—which also gets students excited about the event, d) joining with a local business to fund the event. Businesses are often more than willing to make a donation to help children in the community, and there are tax incentives for them to do it. e) Let the author know if your school is Title 1 or in a low-income area. Authors are sometimes willing to negotiate fees or donate vists to schools in need. Don’t be afraid to ask.

4. Schedule the Visit. Contact the author and come up with a date that works for both of you. Be sure you’ve clearly communicated the details--how long the presentation needs to be, whether he/she will be visiting individual classes, the age range of the audience, etc. In most cases the author will follow your lead. But some authors have a particular way they like to present at every school.

5. Determine whether you will have a book sale. Do you plan to distribute order forms prior to the event so students can order the author’s books? A signed book is a souvenir that can make a lifelong impression on a child. Or, would you rather have a book sale after the assembly, or in the evening along with a Literacy Night? You’ll need to advertise a book sale to parents, since children don’t carry spare money for books. Work out these details now. Ask the author if he/she will be bringing his/her own books or if you should order them. The easiest way to have a book sale is to contact a local book store, such as the closest Barnes and Noble. Ask to speak to the “Community Relations Manager.” Tell him/her about your event and ask if they can send a rep to handle book sales at the school. Sometimes the book store can even donate a portion of sales earnings to the school. Typically the book seller will handle the books and money entirely—the book ordering, cash transactions, and the returns of any books not purchased. It’s a mutually-beneficial arrangement, because the book store gets the sales and the school avoids the work involved with selling the books.

6. Generate payment for the author. Often the process of generating the author’s payment takes several weeks. Get the paperwork started, and email or fax the author any tax documents to sign. You should plan to pay the author’s fee at the conclusion of the visit. If you cannot pay on the day of the visit, give the author ample notice. It’s impolite to send the author away that day without payment because “it usually takes our district two or three weeks to cut a check.” If this is indeed the case for your district, you need to get things started in advance.

7. Arrange travel for the author. If your author is traveling out of state, you’ll need to book airfare and a hotel. You’ll also need to arrange transportation to and from the hotel and school. Either designate an administrator as a driver, or provide a rental car. Forward the author the travel itinerary and all arrangements you’ve made. Again, selecting a local author will save you this hassle and expense.

8. Get students familiar with the author’s books. In the weeks leading up to the visit, encourage teachers to read at least one of the books aloud in their individual classes. Make a bulletin board with the author’s books displayed. The difference this will make in your author visit is enormous. Students will ask more educated, appropriate questions if they are familiar with the author’s books. They’ll be more interested in the connection between writer and story when they know the story. Having an author travel to your school only to be met by students who don’t have a clue who he/she is--and don’t really care--is a waste of everyone’s time.

9. Generate enthusiasm for the event. Make some excited announcements over the intercom, create a sign or banner, purchase some of the author’s books in advance which can be raffle prizes for students, send flyers home, etc. This is NOT to boost the ego of the author. It’s to generate enthusiasm about reading for your students. If the school is excited about an author visit, students will follow that lead. Also, authors can act as role models because they represent ordinary people who worked hard to achieve a literary goal. It’s good for children to learn that stories are written by real people. Meeting an author can motivate kids to write their own stories. It can encourage reluctant readers to read. An author visit can be the fuel for a school’s “literacy engine.”

10. Confirm your event with the author at least three or four days prior. Make sure to find out whether the author needs equipment set-up, such as a microphone or LCD projector. Email directions to the author and a map. Provide the school’s phone number and a personal cell phone number to contact you if he/she is lost or has a question or emergency.

11. Consider whether the author will need lunch. If your author is staying the entire school day, he or she will need to have some kind of plan for lunch. Arranging a lunch in the staff room is often a nice way for teachers to meet the author individually. Or, some schools will choose a handful of students randomly or based on behavior/merit to have a special lunch with the author. If lunch isn’t feasible at the school, join the author for lunch at a local lunch spot, or offer the author the option of venturing to a nearby lunch spot alone. Say, “We thought you might appreciate a break—some time on your own.”

12. Complete as much technical set-up as possible prior to the author’s arrival. If you’re scrambling at the last minute to find an extension cord for the microphone, or if the sound system is buzzing and you don’t know why, you’ll create a stressful situation at the start of the assembly.

13. Have a wonderful author visit!

14. Take a photograph of your students with the author. This can be displayed on a bulletin board later on, to keep the enthusiasm for reading going.

15. Have a follow up activity with your students, where they explore what the event taught them about authors and books. Let them try their hand at writing a story or book. Or have students choose their own favorite books and complete a book report on it. Perhaps students could write to the authors of their favorite books.

If you'd like information about booking Kristyn Crow for a school visit, click here.