|Author/Illustrator Bruce Hale|
Reading Bruce's latest newsletter, I was impressed by this article, and with his kind permission, share it here:
3 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SCHOOL VISITS
Ah, school visits -- the bread and butter of a working children's
book author. We all know the basics, right? You stand up in front
of a room full of kids, read from your work, and answer questions.
But if you want to take your school visit from good to great, here
are three things to bear in mind:
1. It's not about you
Say what? Aren't they paying me to talk about myself? Well, yes
and no. Yes, they want to hear something of your life story and
how you came to write your marvelous book. But no, they don't want
to hear the "me, me, me" song all day long. That can turn off your
audience quicker than anything.
If it's not about you, then who IS it about? Your listeners. Just
like adult audiences, kids are tuned into one radio station:
WII-FM, or What's In It For ME? If you're going to talk about
yourself, find a way to let them know you're thinking of them
first. Use humor. Frame your talk from their point of view. Draw
parallels between your life and theirs. Find lessons that can help
them from all the mistakes you made along the way. And above all,
encourage and empower them.
2. Fun is king
Even if you're not Joe or Josephine Public Speaker, school visits
can be a blast. You have license to make things fun, for yourself
and your audience. Use it. Tell appropriate jokes, show
embarrassing photos, break out the goofy props, sing, dance, or
draw. If you appeal to as many senses as possible, you'll capture
What if you can't sing or dance? Review the contents of your
stories and your own native abilities to find something different
and enjoyable to share with kids. At the very least, you can dress
colorfully and give them something to look at.
As authors, we're not just talking heads, we're entertainers. And
the more you embrace that, not just in your writing, but in your
speaking, the more positively your audiences will respond. Yes, we
do often convey serious messages, but there's no reason they can't
be conveyed with a dash of silliness or panache.
3. Interactivity rules
The more active and engaged your audience, the better. Ask
questions with clear answers that kids can respond to as a group.
Get them to raise their hands with broadly applicable queries like,
"Who's ever had trouble coming up with an ending for their story?"
Bring up volunteers to draw, participate in reader's theater, or
write something on the board for you. Even if you only call on two
or three students, they will serve as surrogates for the rest of
the group, and the audience will feel more involved.
There's a reason that call-and-response figures strongly in both
sermons and storytelling. Use it wherever you can. If your
picture book has a refrain, get the kids to say it with you. Every
time they say something or do something that relates to your
presentation, you raise the level of energy and engagement in the
And if you can do that, schools will keep coming back for more.
Bruce Hale is the author-illustrator of nearly 30 seriously funny books for young readers, including the award-winning Chet Gecko Mysteries, SNORING BEAUTY, and his newest series, SCHOOL FOR S.P.I.E.S. You can learn more about his books online at www.brucehale.com, and subscribe to his e-newsletter of writing tips at www.brucehalewritingtips.com.