Thursday, March 24, 2011

Author Visit Ease

There's nothing easy about planning an author visit, but here are some tips I have learned through trial and error. Please leave comments about ideas that have worked for you!

Toni Buzzeo reads her book "No T-Rex in the Library!"
Planning the visit:
Be clear in your purpose: Why are you inviting this person? Do you want the author because he/she is popular with students? Or do you want him/her to entertain? To teach a skill? To connect with a particular unit or school-wide theme?

Once you know why the author is coming, it will be easier to communicate your expectations. 
        If you want the author to tie into a unit/theme, ask for an outline of the talking points in advance to be sure they are on track.
        If you want the author to teach something (writing workshop, for example) ask for specific evidence that he/she uses various methods to keep students engaged. A power point may not be enough; ask for other visual aids, ice-breakers, activities in which students are doing something.
        If you want the author to entertain, be sure your reference check from other schools supports his/her ability to keep the audience glued to their seats.

Agree on terms. Exactly what is covered in each visit? Ask about large group presentations, classroom workshops, an evening event, professional development meeting with teachers. What free time does the author require during the day?

Agree on payment. Consider daily fee, hotel reimbursement, transportation costs. If a flight is involved, get area schools to share the cost by each paying a fixed amount. Anticipate other costs such as transportation to/from the school, lunches, coffee breaks and quote a fixed price to be given as cash spending money upon arrival.  Agree on the form of payment: cash, check, transfer, preferred currency?

Plan backwards: Assess how familiar you want teachers/students to be with the author's work and plan backwards to be sure they are prepared in advance.  If the author is there mainly to entertain, little preparation may be needed. If the author is there to connect with a unit or school-wide event, it may take up to two months of preparation in library classes and classrooms to lay the groundwork for the visit. Make a time line/calendar to keep track of when to order books, begin lessons, and start advertising.

Nuts and Bolts preparation at your school:
Allow students to pre-order the author's books so they arrive in time for the visit. On the order form, include a line for each title ordered that tells the name of the person to whom the book should be inscribed. The author can sign the books during the visit between sessions, using the information from the order forms. (Toni Buzzeo's idea)

Allow students to order the books after the visit, too. Ask the author to sign his/her name on clear labels that can be placed inside each book when they arrive. (Toni Buzzeo's idea)

Order as many titles for your library as possible, using your own shipping time line to be sure they arrive before your pre-teaching needs to begin. Share these titles with teachers explicitly - they may ask for extra copies or integrate them into their instruction once they see the books.

Advertise by putting notices in the weekly newsletter, sending home flyers, posting to your library facebook page, linking to the author's website on your library or school homepage. Include a visual display in the library and as many other areas in the school as possible.

Ken Derby, "Top 10 Ways to Ruin the First Day of School
Nuts and Bolts preparation for the author:
Communicate contact information, hotel, taxi/transportation information ahead of time and give as a print-out when the author arrives. Include restaurant and sightseeing ideas if there will be down time.

Evening plans. Ask your author if s/he would like to have dinner(s) with interested faculty. Some may prefer to have alone time, while others may enjoy meeting teachers. If you have a budget for a dinner out, tell the author you will be treating; if you don't have a budget for dinners, be clear about whether the evening will be your treat or dutch treat before asking him/her to decide to attend.

During the visit:
Announce the name of the author (especially if it's unusual) over the intercom before the visit, and tell students how to address him/her. For example, "Be sure to welcome our author by saying, 'Hi, John Coy!'" (find out ahead of time how s/he wants to be addressed)

Get a substitute for yourself if possible, especially if the author will be traveling to various locations in the school. It's wonderful to be able to introduce him/her at each session and see first-hand what happens each time. Sometimes, you can suggest tweaks along the way and the author will love to hear your feedback after each session.

Structure the logistics so the author can be as independent as possible. If you can, provide a pay-as-you-go cell phone, loaded with your number, the school's number, the taxi company, the hotel, a pizza place... Give a fixed amount of money for transportation and lunches. Buy him/her a water bottle and show where the fountains are located for refills, show where to make tea or buy coffee, and where the bathrooms are!

Courtney Campbell
I have loved our visits from authors Marc Levitt, John Coy, Ken Derby, and Toni Buzzeo; as well as with singer/songwriter Courtney Campbell. However, I'm always looking to improve my planning to make each event as smooth and meaningful as possible.

1 comment:

  1. Great tips for hosting any visiting person of note! Thanks so much for sharing!