Anatomy of a School Visit
School visits are a great way to reach student readers and to provide an experience for them that will have a lasting, positive impact on their lives—especially if they aspire to be authors themselves. It’s also a great way to supplement your income as a writer if you get paid for the visit or have a chance to sell your books as part of the deal. But don’t overlook what it can do for you as an author. A recent visit I had at a local middle school was one of the most exciting and fun experiences I’ve had since my award-winning historical fiction novel, Freedom for Me: A Chinese Yankee, was published in November 2017.
I know the prospect of planning for school visits can be a bit daunting, so I’m happy to share what worked for me. First, I reached out to schools. I did a front-and-back flyer that included my photo, bio, book information and book cover and sent it with an email offering my services. I built my list a little at a time, starting with local middle schools. (Many school websites include teacher emails—I focused on English and Social Studies teachers).
Next, I wrote a presentation after consulting with the teacher via email. She offered suggestions and then I tailored the presentation to meet her students’ needs. My presentation covered the following topics:
• Background about me (3 minutes) • My author journey (6 minutes) • My writing process (6 minutes) • A Writer’s Workshop & Exercise (25 minutes) • Questions & Answers (20 minutes)
I was booked for one hour and ended up staying about 15 minutes longer for photos and to sign the student’ books. For this particular visit, a parent benefactor offered to purchase a specific quantity of my book for the classroom to use and the students read my book as part of their coursework prior to my visit. This was an awesome part of the visit—the students’ questions were amazing!
For the Writer’s Workshop portion of the presentation, I focused on slides on: • “Show versus tell” • How to use all five senses • Active versus passive verbs • Figurative language examples of metaphor, similes, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and comparison directly from my novel.
Finally, I ended with a professional photo (purchased from Shutterstock) from which the students were to write a flash fiction story. (They used their Chromebooks to do this but could have also used paper and pencil). I didn’t give them a word count but asked them to write for 25 minutes. As they did this, I took the occasional question from a student and reminded them to use all their senses. I also offered to read all the stories after the visit and offer feedback. As far as what I charged, I am mostly concerned with book sales at my visits. With this one in particular, they ordered more than 20 of my books. That would have been enough, but I was also paid a small amount for my visit as well. The dividends from the visit weren’t financial, however. It reminded me of how impactful our books can be and what our expertise as authors can offer students looking for inspiration. If you have the opportunity, go and do one!