Tag Archives: author visit

What do teachers want from an author visit?

SchoolVisitWhat do teachers want from a school visit?

I’ve been visiting schools for years now, telling stories, sharing my writing strategies, showing how to draw things and, I hope, inspiring the odd child here and there.

I’ve never been a teacher. I’ve not trained as a teacher. In staff room conversations, it’s clear that many teachers think I’m an ex-teacher that has escaped! But I’m not. I started as an illustrator and was pretty much taught to write by my editors. I don’t think of myself as a writer, because I’m dyslexic and have my own peculiar ways of planning, plotting and writing stories. I’ve worked very hard to find my own way of doing it. If I had to do it the way the National Curriculum suggests, I would never have written anything. But I think my experience is useful for those kids, like me, who just don’t get it.

My focus is on dreaming up stories and characters, writing them down and drawing the illustrations. Schools and teachers have a very different focus, and the system makes them change that focus all the time. There’s a whole new curriculum coming along. It’s hard to keep up as a teacher – harder if you are not in the system very day.

Some schools I go to are happy just to have a day of fun, celebrating stories. I feel that others want “measurable outcomes”, a phrase that makes my heart sink, but I appreciate the world we live in and know that teachers are under huge pressure to deliver and much work can be achieved during and following an author visit.

No one teaches authors how to do school visits. We write a book and are thrown in at the deep end, complete innocents thrown to the crocodiles, and we have to work something out – quick!. My sessions are like Jazz. I have a whole load of riffs that I can call on from years of experience. I modulate my delivery according to the age the group and the life experience they have. I sense the level of the audience and play what I feel will be the right note. Sometimes its spectacularly right and at other times… less so!

And then I’m gone and never quite get time to talk to the teachers to get some feedback or know what they would have preferred. They are far too polite to make suggestions, but sometimes I’ll see follow on work at the end of the day, and that gives me new ideas for how I can tailor what I do, so the next group can take my characters and situations and draw or write their own stories.

If you were planning a perfect author visit to school, (you’d want J K Rowling, I know!) what would you really like an author – like me – to do? It would be good to know!

World Book Day and School Author Visits

wbdSmall Every year I get requests to visit schools for World Book Day. Every year I get requests the week before when someone realises they were meant to organise something for World Book Day! I know the same often happens to other authors too. So, I thought I’d write this a memory jogger.

Next year World Book Day is on Thursday March 6th.

If you are planning on having an event the week of World Book Day, then now is the time to get planning and approaching authors and illustrators to see if they are free. Some are booked up at least a year in advance for World Book Day itself.

The easy way to avoid disappointment is to have an author visit at another time of year. Sometimes an author visit can get lost in the general kerfuffle of World Book Day, especially if you are having a dressing up day too. Dressing-up days and author visits don’t generally mix that well. Children are so hyped up with the dressing up that they find it hard to sit still and take anything in.

World book Day is about books, a product that education is slowly moving away from. Maybe that day is best spent considering the history of books and their relevance in a digital age. Deciding what a book does best and what is best delivered on a screen.

The act of writing, of being an author, of inventing and organising, storytelling and editing is relevant to both books and screens, and the lessons learned by authors, who all work in their own, individual way, can be passed on at any time of year, so maybe author visits shouldn’t be crammed into the first week of March every year?

For World Book Day, start planning now!

For a great author visit at any other time of year, without the added pressure of World Book Day, click here.