How authors prepare for author visits

As I’m getting ready today for my visit to the 5th grade class at EPCS tomorrow, it occurred to me that a lot of people might not know what’s involved when an author gets ready to visit a school. Over the years, I have sensed that some educators see author visits as something extraneous, or simple entertainment, or something we do off the cuff. The truth is, like writing a good story, or planning a good lesson, a good author visit takes a lot of preparation.

Here’s what I do to prepare for an author visit.

1) I like to talk with the teachers ahead of time to get a sense of what their personality is like, and what their students are like.

2) I try to find out what they want to accomplish with this visit. This will determine how I structure my presentaion.

3) I start preparing a slide show for my presentation. I do a new presentation for every single class. This is because I have found that no two classes are alike and teachers want different things. Yes, I re-use slides from other presentations, but putting together a new slide show is still time-consuming.

4) I gather some additional props that I will pass around during the presentation. No one wants to just stare at a screen forever. Not even the best video-game player.

5) I practice the slide presentation, and what message I want to convey with each slide. This takes some time. Standing up in front of a bunch of people to do a presentation that goes smoothly and presents exactly the point you want to present requires a LOT of practice.

6) I choose a passage from one of my books that I think would appeal that particular group, and practice reading it aloud. Reading to a large audience is not like reading to your kid at night before bed. It’s a performance, and having slip-ups can ruin the mood. I will re-read aloud several times until I feel I have the meter and breathing and facial expressions comfortable and smooth.

7) I do a dry run with my computer and slide projector to make sure everything’s working fine. I also check the timing to make sure that I don’t go over my alloted time. This may require going back and tweaking the presentation, or doing a shorter or longer reading selection.

8 ) I’f I’m going to a book club, I read through my book again to make sure I remember everything that’s in there. It’s no good having someone ask me about something in the book that I don’t remember.

9) I check the weather, and then go to my closet to pick out what I’m going to wear. I want to look professional because no one is impressed by a sloppy author. I also need to be comfortable. If I’m going to be lugging a laptop and projector from class to class, I will not want to wear heels or a dress. If I’m presenting in an auditorium and I can be on a stage, then I might wear a dress. And heels.

And that’s what I do.

So when you’re thinking about having an author come in for an author visit, consider the kind of preparation that is being done on their part to make your day a success. Please make sure that there is preparation on your part as well. When I go into a school, I expect the students to know that I’m coming, who I am, what my books are, what I will be doing in their school, and be prepared with questions. Interacting with students makes it a much more enjoyable and engaging presentation for them when they know what’s going on and feel comfortable enough to talk to me.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post and would like to have one of these awesome Author Visits for your school, send an email to Tracey @ TraceyBaptiste dot com.