Author school visit tips

Today’s guest blogger, Leonardo Ramirez, writes science fiction and fantasy for all ages. The author of Haven, a graphic novel, as well as the upcoming Haven of Dante, a young adult prose novel, Lennie is also working on a new steampunk-genre children’s series called Jupiter Chronicles. For more information, go to http://www.leonardoverse.com.

Author school visit tips

By Leonardo Ramirez

The kids that come to your reading or talk (I prefer to think of it as “hanging out” with them) are always wide-eyed and eager to have someone from the outside come in and change things up a little. They come from all walks of life and from different households, but for the 50 minutes or so that they are your audience, they are truly yours and there for one thing only . . .

. . . to have fun.

If you haven’t visited your local school as an author and given a talk, you’re missing out.  Yes, you are missing out.

I’ve been asked a few times by authors who are just venturing out after the release of their first book if I have any advice as to how to conduct an author school visit. These are by far my absolute favorite type of events to do because quite frankly, adults can be harder to entertain than kids (at least for me). Don’t get me wrong, I love meeting folks in general, but let’s face it: Adults have much higher expectations.

Here’s what I tell those first-timers who contact me for advice:

  1. Don’t be afraid to be silly. When was the last time you had a gut-wrenching belly laugh? You know, the kind that brings a tear to your eye! Kids love a good laugh and so should we as adults. For a reading I did for Dr. Seuss’ birthday, I wore a Seuss hat and we posed for pictures making goofy faces.  I read Mo Willem’s Leonardo the Terrible Monster, and in the part of the book that called for it, I pretended to quietly sneak up on the class and speak softly. When it came time to scare the tuna salad out of the little boy, I gave it all I had. The class roared in laughter and I had a blast.
  2. Be yourself. They’ve got your number. Kids are by nature intuitive and can spot a phony a mile away, while hardships that accumulate in our lifetimes can sometimes skew our perceptions as adults. As a side note we really should be ourselves in any setting, be it an author event or talking a stroll.  I’m simply stressing that we should not try to be someone we’re not when we’re around kids.
  3. Remember, it’s not about you. Try to focus on the reason you’re there – the kids. You’re not there to sell books or gain publicity, even though the latter can sometimes be a natural result. Folks can always gauge motive, and we as authors should keep ours pure. We’re there for them. Ask yourself if you would still go if it meant you were not allowed to mention your book. I’m not saying that you should not take your book. That would be silly, but if you can honestly answer “yes,” then your heart is in the right place. Take your book, read it with glee, and remember who you’re there for.
  4. Be open. You might actually learn something. Yes, it’s true that you’re there to share with them (and yes, you are in charge), but you can also learn a little something about how you deal with different personalities.  Teachers know that when it comes to getting a student to learn something, every child is different and has a different learning style. What might work for one child (scaring the tuna salad out of them) might not work for another.
  5. When we give, our problems move farther and farther away. You might be having a tough time until you come across a child who could be suffering a worse fate. You might not know what the problem is, but you can more than likely (if you look closely enough) see the pain in their eyes. Giving of ourselves somehow helps us remember to be grateful for what we have and can help a wounded child – at least for a moment. That brings me to my last point . . . .
  6. Show them that you care. To me, this is paramount. Don’t simply pretend that you do because kids know. When a child asks you a question, look him in the eye and speak to him as if he is the only child in the room. Be real. Be genuine. It goes without saying that kids may get rowdy from time to time and that there will be a time where order will have to be called, but keep in mind that you’re only there for a short time and as an author, you can leave a lasting mark on a child you might never see again. For some kids, this might be the only seal of approval they get outside of their awesome teacher.

Reading to kids has always made a lasting mark on me, but only when I’m able to be open, honest, and most of all, fun. Enjoy the reading just as much as they do.

What’s your best school visit tip for authors?


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Sandra Beckwith is an award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to market their books. Three groups have recognized her BuildBookBuzz.com site as an outstanding resource for authors, so you know her advice is author-tested.

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9 Responses to Author school visit tips
  1. Vivian Kirkfield
    February 1, 2012 | 5:23 am

    Sandy, thank you for an informative post by Mr. Ramirez. I love his tips and agree with all of them. Wearing a funny hat when reading Dr. Seuss is such a great idea! I’ve also done many school programs and the kids absolutely LOVE having someone come in…just for them! Yes, of course, it is nice to sell the books…but Mr. Ramirez is correct…it is not about the books…it is about the kids.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      February 1, 2012 | 8:33 pm

      Thanks, Vivian. You’ve reminded me of something…I’ve done a lot of guest lecturers at colleges and those students have the same attitude — they love outside guests!

  2. Barbara Techel
    February 1, 2012 | 2:58 pm

    What a fantastic article! Mr. Ramirez is right on with all his delightful tips. As an author who has done over 325 appearances, I can say without a doubt that having fun, being yourself, and having passion for your story, as well as for helping kids learn will get you far.
    Every time I visit a school, I leave with my heart having grown ten times in size knowing I had a positive impact on at least one child. It is such a great feeling!

    • Sandra Beckwith
      February 1, 2012 | 8:34 pm

      Barbara, that means so much coming from you! I know you’re the author of “Class Act: Sell More Books Through School and Library Author Appearances,” so you really know what you’re talking about! Thanks for the kind words for Leonardo.

  3. Joe Radosti
    February 1, 2012 | 3:18 pm

    Awesome! Love it!

    • Sandra Beckwith
      February 1, 2012 | 8:35 pm

      Thanks, Joe! I’m grateful Leonardo agreed to write a guest column.

  4. Dicy McCullough
    February 9, 2012 | 2:23 am

    I agree with Leonardo that it is important to be yourself when speaking to children during a school presentation. One of the neatest things ever is to see a child’s eyes light up during a presentation, or laugh at the funny part of a story. Children, indeed, keep a person young.

  5. Sandra Beckwith
    February 9, 2012 | 2:33 am

    You’re so right, Dicy. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Kim Bidias
    March 15, 2012 | 3:58 am

    Thank you, for the wonderful suggestions.

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