Why?Why do authors make visits to schools and libraries?
Why are they invited?
Who?Where can teachers and resource center directors find authors?
What are some recommended strategies to be assured of good speakers?
When?Practical scheduling considerations: what are they in making arrangements for an author visit?
How Much?What is the range of honorariums schools/libraries can expect to pay for author visits?
What additional author expenses can schools/libraries be expected to pick up?
What?What kinds of brainstorming should take place among teachers prior to the author's visit? Why is it important that authors know why they have been invited?
Where to find funding?What are some possible sources for funding an author visit? What are some strategies to consider?
How are arrangements made?What is a practical checklist to facilitate planning prior to the visit?
Children need to know that authors are people -- black,
white, male, female, fat, skinny, old, young, tall, and short. By
meeting an author in person, they make the connection that the book
they enjoyed reading was written by a real person. A visit by an author
to a school also helps children make a larger connection. They realize
that every book has an author. If empowered to think of
themselves as authors, children can make the next leap. They are part
of an extended community of writers all over the world.
With enough time to ask questions and share ideas with an author,
children gain a first-hand appreciation of everything from frustration
to satisfaction. Children discover there's nothing magical about
writing books -- something they probably already guessed. It's work.
It's craft. It's a willingness to take risks and follow the
imagination. The goal of an author's visit should not be to convince
every child in the room that he or she should grow up and become a
professional published writer. As children's author Betty Miles
explained during a symposium sponsored by The
Author's Guild, "I would like every kid to feel that reading is a
little more fun ... (that they might think) 'because I have met an
author, and I could write a little better than I do now., and working
at that is really possible.'"
The experience of meeting an author should be joyful. It should make
children excited about their own writing and reading. An author who
really cares about writing generates enthusiasm that has lasting impact
in a school long after the last good-by.
The Author's perspective:
Authors use school visits as a way to
let more people -- young and old -- know about their books. A comment
from a school librarian that is music to an author's ears is: "Every
since your visit, I can't keep you books in the library. Someone is
always checking them out."
Momentum from national reading initiatives and the whole language
movement has encouraged more schools to invite authors into the
classroom. One elementary teacher in Geneva, Illinois told me "I'm so
glad you came. Everything you said backed up all that we've been trying
to do in my class this year to help make the children feel like real
Teachers often admit that one area they find difficult to transmit
effectively is the importance of revising. Having an author describe
the revision process he or she goes through sometimes comes as a big
surprise to kids. Seeing an author's series of marked-up manuscripts
helps children understand that the same process they face in improving
their stories is not so different from the editing that every published
Teachers often make great pains to introduce "star" writing pupils to
visiting authors. Sharing their work can be a very rewarding
experience. However, there are also students, who, sometimes unknown to
the teacher, look upon an author's visit as a chance to reveal their
hidden writing talents. "I am glad you came to my school," a
third-grader from Iowa confided to me in a letter, "because I like to
write stories too. But I don't show them. Maybe I will try."
Sources and strategies to locate children's authors:
- Society of Children's Book Writers Membership Booklet, PO Box 296, Mar Vista Station, Los Angeles, CA 90066.
- Writing or calling the publisher of a favorite author's book is
another place to start. At the publishing company, a publicist or
promotion director's job is to make available updated information on
authors and books in the form of "bio" brochures and catalogs.
- Some publishers actually handle all author visit arrangements,
including honorarium negotiations. It's a good idea to ask the
promotion director about his/her procedure. In general, publishers are
helpful in forwarding your inquiry directly to the author.
- Attending author evens at libraries or at professional conferences
is a good way to view an author in a speaking role. But keep in mind
that a dining room of six-hundred adults is different from a mediate
center filled with fifteen children. Interpersonal skills with students
- Word of mouth from librarians and other teachers is probably the
best method to find out about which authors have had successful visits
in schools. You might want to seek more than one recommendation.
- Don't forget to inquire from authors you contact about names of fellow writers who enjoy going into schools.
- Contacting professional organizations: American Library
Association, the International Reading Association, the National
Council of Teachers of English. These groups may be willing to
recommend children's authors they have had as speakers, in the past.
- Local and state organizations: Search out local cultural affairs
committees, state humanities organizations affiliated with the National
Council for the Humanities, arts councils, and so forth.
- Keep your eyes open in local newspapers for book reviews or
interviews about authors in your area. Making a local connection is
helpful in reducing the expenses involved in an author visit.
Consider bringing in an author that represents a diverse culture -- a culture that is not a majority in your school population.
Illustrators are also an interesting approach. To contact these individuals, the suggestions above are equally helpful.
When?Because school visits take away
from time devoted to writing, many children's authors limit the number
of appearances they will make during a school year. It is not uncommon
for authors' calendars to be quite filled twelve to eighteen months
before the coming school year. It is unreasonable to assume that you
will be able to locate a willing author one week before Children's Book
Week. Contact authors as soon as a set of dates has been identified.
Due to the amount of planning, pre-writing, and reading that
should go on prior to the author's visit, you probably won't want to
schedule an author two weeks into the school year. Also consider your
audience. Having an author visit the day after spring break or your
winter holiday may not be extremely productive. don't select a time
when you now the children will be extremely preoccupied with vacations,
state-wide testing, or the school talent show production.
When you contact an author, be prepared to offer several possible dates
and see what you can work out that seems comfortable for both of you.
Try to be flexible.
Another word of caution: do not over schedule the author you have
invited under the false assumption that you will be "getting your
money's worth." You won't. If you plan for seven talks in the course of
one school day you are guaranteed one limp author at the beginning of
the afternoon (Note from web keeper: Many authors and illustrators
include three to four presentations as part of one day's visit.
Additional presentations can sometimes be negotiated for an additional
fee -- such as an evening PTA presentation). Schedule the class visits
the way you would want to set up a teaching schedule. Authors need time
to sit down, put their feet up, drink a cup of coffee, and remain
silent -- just like any other human being. If you put your author
through the wringer, you can be guaranteed that that particular author
will never come back. Writers know where they will be treated well and
where they will be "worked."
If autographing is to be part of the day, be sure to allow enough time.
For many children, it is a very personal experience to be one-on-one
with the author. It does not work well to schedule book signing in
between individual class visits when everything is very rushed.
Invariably, the signing takes longer than expected. And when it does,
it cuts into the time and energy that should be devoted to he next
group of children the author is supposed to visit.
How Much?Fees depend on the number of
books an author has written and how well known an author is.
Honorariums range anywhere from $250.00 a day up to $2,000 a day. Some
authors will visit on the basis of a half-day rate. Others will not. If
an author has to travel out of town, the entire day (or more) has been
devoted to a particular visit. Under these circumstances, an author
probably will not negotiate a half-day rate.
There are schools and Young Author Day events that many writers will
visit on a sliding scale basis - -depending on the situation.
When calculating the entire cost of an author's visit, don't forget to
include all expenses: travel (plane fare or auto mileage) and other
dining and lodging accommodations. Authors appreciate having their
honorariums ready the day they visit. Like all working people, they do
not appreciate hearing that their "check will be in the mail." Expenses
reported should also be paid promptly -- preferably with a thank-you
What?In an informal survey of Chicago area authors, the topic that received the strongest reaction had to do with the quality of preparation
of the children. Speaking before an audience that has read an author's
books makes all the difference in the world. "Meeting with blank stares
when you mention the titles of your work is about the most awful
experience I can think of," one children's author confided.
To facilitate this process even further, teachers need to brainstorm
with their colleagues long before the author visit in order to think
about expectations and rationale
Where to Find Funding?Schools often
fund author visits through PTA grants or by applying for special
district-wide arts funding. Two or three schools may share expenses of
having an author visit. Schools and the local library often work in
partnership with a local business, which has donated "good will" money,
to make a combination school visits and community-wide lecture and book
sale part of the school visit day. Many state arts councils and
humanities councils offer matching grants for visiting writers. The
cost of having a visiting author can be offset in part through the sale
of books. Books can normally be obtained from the publisher at a 40%
reduction of list price. Those books ordered in conjunction with an
author visit may be returned (you pay the postage). The profit from
selling the books at list price will help defray costs of the author
There are other "non-financial" offerings that can make all the
difference in convincing an author to return to a particular school.
Common (and uncommon) courtesies are often cherished by road-weary
writers. Lovely home-made cooking at a special luncheon with teachers,
in the principal's office; a handmade book box, flowers, a delightful
tour guide - -all go far beyond the honorarium.
How are arrangements made? A Planning ChecklistCareful
planning is essential for a worthwhile author visit. Plan on contacting
and keeping in touch not only with the author, but with the publicist
from the publisher as well. Make sure everything is written down and
agreed upon prior to the author's arrival.
Important topics to discuss prior to the author's visit: