I’m presenting an Author Visit at Northlake Middle School today. So, what does an Author Visit look like at a school? Usually, I present to two or three groups of students for about 90-minutes. Most of my visits are to kids in middle school (grades 6th-8th), so I tend to focus the most on STAINED GLASS SUMMER rather than YA, WEAVING MAGIC. The high school author visits tend to be more group visits with other YA authors and we speak on panels to the teens. The exception to this is when a high school specifically hires me to do a poetry workshop with a group of kids.
The school librarian, who sets up the visit with me, will select kids across all grade levels to attend the workshops. If a teacher sets up the visit, most likely, I present only to her/his classes. In this case it was the middle school librarian who set up the visit. Besides from the workshops, there will also be ten kids selected to have “lunch with an author.” At the lunch, they can bring their writing and/or ask me anything about writing or being a writer.
During the school visit, I show my powerpoint slide show. The pictures include me as a child with the emphasis on reading and writing as well as pictures about my books. I show the kids the glass art pieces which inspired STAINED GLASS SUMMER (you can read and see those pictures here), and I show the kids the stained glass I made in the class I took while researching the book.
This is the suncatcher I made–just like the ones which hang in the window of the library on the Island in STAINED GLASS SUMMER. The second picture is the more advanced piece I made.
I also show the kids the progression of the cover art for STAINED GLASS SUMMER. I show how the cover art was uploaded to Musa’s Delphi system and then the editors, cover artist, and I all discussed what worked and what didn’t work. The cover art had three versions, and I show the kids all three versions. I handout bookmarks of STAINED GLASS SUMMER and we discuss the final cover compared to the earlier versions.
Then, I end the last twenty minutes with writing exercises. It’s Fall and so these writing exercises are focusing on writing “scary, suspenseful, stories).
1. Mysterious Place: Think of a place you know well. This can be your house, your family’s cabin or cottage, or your school. Is there somewhere in that place which is a little “mysterious?” Write about that place. Describe using the five senses. I give the kids an example of my house growing up which had a manhole leading to the basement cellar. We accessed the manhole in the garage. It was a good way to get into the house when you got locked out–as long as the cellar downstairs was unlocked!
2. Building Suspense:
Part One: Imagine that your character is in a place they know well. Maybe they are swimming or hiking. Maybe they are in an art studio. Everything is peaceful and calm. Describe the scene from the point of view of your character. Be sure to include all the five senses.
Part Two: Imagine your character still in this place, but one little detail is out of place. What is that detail? Describe the scene now that it’s changed.
At the end of the author visit, we do a drawing and prizes with the kids. The librarians usually ask the kids to familiarize themselves with my website, blog, and books before I arrive. During the visit, the librarian hands out raffle tickets to kids who answer questions correctly. At the end of the workshop, we do a drawing for various prizes. Most of the time, the PTSA funds the prizes and they can include anything from gift cards to art supplies. This time, I had extra chalkboard doodle clipboards and a couple art journals left over from the summer workshops, so I’ll toss those into the giveaway prize as well as a copy of ebooks STAINED GLASS SUMMER and WEAVING MAGIC.