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Whether you admit it or not, choosing an author to visit your school is fraught with potential peril.
Will the author be interesting? Write fun books that appeal to all ages? Be interesting? Work with teachers? Come highly recommended? Come on time? Make you look good? Be interesting?
To help with this crucial decision, I’ve provided a handy checklist of at least Seven Important Rules for Picking an Author. There is a prize for reading to the end.
The right author will perk up the school, hold everyone’s attention, and encourage a wide range of students to laugh while they learn secrets of writing. The wrong choice might be dismally dull, set back the cause of literacy, and maybe even possibly harpoon verbal test scores for years to come.
How many of these Things to Consider will your next visiting author bring to school?
Whether or not you invite me, and of course you should, this is sound advice.
1) Do the books author
Is the author relevant to a broad range of ages? Will there be something for every reading level? For every taste? If you don't know who I am, you’ll know my books. I have written popular nonfiction, picture books, teen novels, preschool books you put your fingers through, TV tie-ins, and even a title for James Patterson. I reach kids at every level, whatever their level. Convinced? Not convinced? Either way, come check out my web site: (www.MarkShulman.info)
2) Offer great books that kids love
Has the author written books that kids really want to snatch up? Are the books fun, interesting, and nutritionally sound? My150+ books are bright and shiny catnip to kids. Not only that, they’re published by National Geographic, Time for Kids, Scholastic, Chronicle Books, Simon & Schuster, Discovery Channel, and boatloads of other top publishers. Will kids want to meet me? Show my list of books to your kids and let’s see.
3) Get a genuine presenter
Does the author recite stiffly from a canned presentation? Make eye contact? Mumble? Can they actually work a room, connecting with the students in real time? Does being entertaining mean there’s no substance? No! I’ve been in front of crowds for a long time. Before writing books and speaking in hundreds of schools, my checkered career has included being a NYC tour guide, a radio broadcaster, a camp counselor, an advertising creative guy, a maitre’d near Lincoln Center… and it shows. My presentations are spontaneous (no PowerPoint). My energy is contagious (no monologues). And my previous schools have loved me (no fooling -- click here)
4) Give age-appropriate presentations
What happens when presentations are the same for every grade? Somebody’s going to be confused, and somebody else is going to be bored. My talks are as varied as my books. K-1 get lively picture book readings… and clues about writing. 4-6 get gross nonfiction and straight-up homework & journaling insights. The parents and teachers who spend the day with me watch me change with every group. Also, they don’t have to hear the same lines over and over. Just ask them.
5) Encourage everyone as writers
No joke – I’m very focused on demystifying the writing process. Storytelling is a skill everyone has. The rest is practice (plus typing). Using common sense, wit, wisdom, and my own lively work to draw examples from, I bring concrete advice and memorable workshop techniques to help students (and teachers) see themselves as creative writers with something interesting to say. Because my wife is a public school reading specialist and literacy coach, you can bet I’ve got a wonderful tutor.
6) Support the current teaching
How can an author be helpful if they don’t know what’s going on at school? Tell me what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. I’ll roll that into a lively, on-key presentation which will reinforce messages in the classroom...with a few new methods schools often borrow. Once we set a date, I’ll be in touch with your school’s principal, media specialist, or language art administrators to discuss your school’s teaching so I can hone my messages to your population.
Here’s my individualized approach to an author visit.
7) Find someone who thinks like a kid
You don’t write this many kids’ books without having a kids’ point of view, as well as a bit of ADHD. That why my books are so energetically different. I’m a dad, and a teacher’s husband, and I was even an uncle at eight years old.
8) Have fun.
Lots of fun. All day long. Why not? 10 out of 10 students prefer it. Librarians, too.
9) Keep it affordable
I’m aware that an author visit is a big outlay for a school. The costs almost always come to under five dollars per student. What’s more, I make special arrangements for districts which schedule more than one day, which helps defray cost even more. I’m located in New York City, which minimizes travel expenses as well. So many schools
10) Let’s Book
It don’t mean a thing if you can’t get an autographed book out of the deal. I have several books which can be made available to students if you want, which are effortlessly arranged through my publishers. Here they are.
Plan an unforgettable day
What's the best outcome from an author visit? Your students will be energized, entertained, and motivated to start using what they learned. Your teachers feel supported, appreciated, and are equally entertained. Your school feels like something special just happened. And best of all, the excitement is all about reading, writing, and books. Once again, here are just a few of the testimonials from a few of the schools he’s visited.
Please get in touch right away
Here’s the part where I ask you to “please get in touch right away.”
If you have read this far, you’ll probably want to get in touch with Pat Miller. Click on this link and she’ll answer any questions you might have. Including “what’s the prize you offered me at the beginning of the letter?”
Here’s the prize. If you schedule a visit with me at your school, Pat will send along some of my books to your school as a gift for the teachers or library. Just mention it and it’ll happen.
If this sounds right for your school, please write back soon.
Thanks for reading.
I believe, being an ex-kid and a dad, that students will pay attention to
-- Mark Shulman