Workshop Transcript

Terrific School Visits

with Toni Buzzeo


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Log file opened at: 3/20/01

**** Verla has set the topic on channel #kidlit to Terrific School Visits workshop here TONIGHT

DeniP: I'm so excited. I'm actually at a workshop!!

Verla: You ARE, Deni! And we start in about 15 minutes

SusetteW: I'm here...sort of

Verla: I have my fancy yellow dress & hat on tonight...

DeniP: I've wanted to be on before, but husband wouldn't get off the computer.

Harazin: Hey, we have Toni tonight (for a workshop leader)

ToniB: RIGHT!! We have TONI!

Verla: Yes, *WE* have TONI.

BGLit: Yea, you have TONI!

Verla: na na na NAAAAAAA na

elsbet: Toni! toni! Toni!!! Ra ra ra!!!

Riada: Hi! Am I in the right place for Verla's workshop?

BGLit: yup

Verla: yes, are

Riada: Yea!

Verla: We will be starting the workshop in about 12 minutes. :-)

NOTE: :-) = a sideways happy face

Verla bows, then looks at the time and SHRIEKS!

Verla: I have to go get Toni's bio!

ToniB: LOL, my bio.

ToniB: :>

NOTE: another kind of "sideways" face.

Chasjord: who's leading the workshop tonight?

ToniB: Moi

^Libby: Hi, everyone! I'm so excited about this workshop!

Verla: brb. off to get Toni's Bio

NOTE: brb = Be Right Back

Chasjord: When does the workshop in here start, how long does it last?

Verla: begins in about six minutes, charles...and it lasts one hour. It's going to be on giving school visits.

^Libby: There's a message from Holly H. on CW list saying she couldn't find anyone in here. I told her to try again; maybe she got in a ghost room.

NOTE: CW list is an email list for Children's Writers. A ghost room is when you enter a room and it's not the "real" chat room - but a "clone" of the chat room. They often look exactly like the real room, but there will not be anyone there, and often the "topic line" will be missing - that's the line above or below the chat screen where the subject of the chat is listed. On normal chat days it will read something like: Writers & Illustrators of Children's Literature Meet Here Nightly. On workshop nights, it will have the topic of the workshop listed.

Hols: I have a confession.

elsbet: ohoh- a confession!!

Verla races back to the chat room in time to hear hols' CONFESSION!

Hols: I'd completely forgotten there was a workshop tonight. :) I just wanted to come chat. But, I'll behave.

Harazin: Hols, we always chat afterward

Hols: Good!

Chasjord: Hols, you can sit in the back with me

Verla: no talking back there, Charles and Hols. Keep it down to a whisper, now!

Hols: Sounds good Chas. I'm not a front row kind of person.

Verla: once the workshop starts, I mean

Hols: oooo sorry

Chasjord: we'll sit next to the coffee and doughnuts

^Libby: I just put the dog out to go potty, and I'm ready to settle in for this workshop :o)

Verla: lyra is in the 4th row back, I see. That's her favorite row

elsbet: hey- can I sit with you guys? I have a bullfrog we can let loose in the middle of the workshop to watch everyone scream

Verla: Toni might not LIKE that, els

ToniB: Els!

SusetteW: Doesn't our workshop begin soon?

Hols: Sounds good Els.

elsbet: aw shucks

Hols: How bout a snake?

Verla brings in Donn's pythons and turns them loose in the room to catch the bullfrog

elsbet: hehe

Verla: two minutes, sus

Riada: Estar, want to sit next to me?

elsbet: hey!!! my poor baby bullfrog

Deets: it's neck and neck, toni.

^Libby: Poor Toni will think she IS in a classroom of kids instead of talking about being in a classroom! <G>

NOTE: G = A Big Grin

Estar: Oh thanks. Did you save me a seat?

Verla: LOL libby

Riada: Of course!

Verla: there's few empty seats over there, estar...on that side of the room. Right next to the potted palm

Hols: This is a classroom of kids, isn't it? Or did I come to the wrong place? ;)

ToniB: Let me tell you, I'm GREAT with classes full of unruly kids. Years of practice.

Chasjord: you might need some more virtual folding chairs soon, verla

_Lyra: We're an unruly classroom of kid-writers -- close, Hols

^Libby: WOAH! Look out els!

Estar: Hi Verla. Nice to see you again.

Verla taps the microphone and says, Okay, gang...this is it! We are about to begin

Verla waves to Estar

elsbet: oh darn, an experienced substitute!

Hols: I see, Lyra. Then I'm in the right place.

^Libby: Hey, Gail's not here!


*** Verla has set the topic on channel #kidlit to Terrific School Visits workshop IN PROGRESS

Verla: Hello Everyone, Here are the "rules" for tonight. First, welcome to our monthly Kidlit Workshop. We ask that you hold all personal chit-chat until the hour is up, but please feel free to join in the topic currently under discussion.

Verla: Tonight, we have a WONDERFUL workshop leader... Toni Buzzeo!

Verla: <whistle whistle STOMP STOMP STOMP!>

elsbet: Yayyyyyyy!

Riada: applause!

^Libby: WOOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

DeniP: clap,clap,clap,clap,clap

Verla: Toni is going to talk to us about doing Terrific School Visits. Even if you aren't published yet, this information will help you, so I hope you will stick around and stick your two cents into the discussion, too!

Verla: And now, I'd like to introduce Toni to you.

Verla: Toni Buzzeo is both an author and a school library media specialist. She considers it the perfect blend of careers--if only each day had 38 hours! She is the co-author, with Jane Kurtz, of two professional books, Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers: Real Space and Virtual Links (Libraries Unlimited 1999) and Read Novels Across America (Scholastic Professional 2001) as well as the author of two upcoming books on Teacher-Librarian collaborations.

Verla: Best of all, she has recently sold her first picture book, The Sea Chest, to be illustrated by Mary GrandPre. The book, which won the 2000 Barbara Karlin Grant, will be published by Dial, fall 2002.

Verla: As a librarian, Toni is passionate about connecting kids with the authors and illustrators of the books that they read. For the past several years, she has sponsored 4-6 visits (both real space and virtual) annually at Longfellow School in Portland, Maine. She is committed to creating connections that are meaningful for bookpeople and for students and to helping authors and illustrators to get the most from the visits they make to schools and libraries.

Verla: And now, it is my GREAT pleasure to give you -- TONI!

ToniB: Hi All!

Verla: Hi, Toni!

Verla: Thank you for coming...

elsbet: yes- thank you toni!

ToniB: Verla, would you like me to begin by talking about author visits and my thoughts a bit?

Verla: That sounds wonderful, Toni

Verla: The floor is yours... we will go where you lead, Oh Fearless and Wonderful Leader ...

ToniB: Let me begin by telling you why I think author/illustrator visits are important in schools and libraries...

ToniB: Good role models

ToniB: understand and appreciate style of writing

ToniB: gets kids excited about reading

ToniB: helps them understand how a book is made and published

ToniB: better understand the art of writing

ToniB: broaden childrens knowledge

ToniB: understand writing and re-writing

ToniB: identify more with literature

ToniB: children really respond

ToniB: library circulation increases dramatically

ToniB: As you can see...

ToniB: that's a list I compiled for SCHOOLS

ToniB: who are wondering about the value

ToniB: of author & illustrator visits.

ToniB: I think that it is one of the most useful and profoundly affecting things.

ToniB: It's one of the most important parts of my role as a library media specialist.

Verla: They are also good because they make everyone feel GOOD, Toni! The kids feel important because they have someone "special" coming to spend time with them, the teachers feel good because they get a break in their routine and the kids get stimulus from someone else for a change, and the author feels good because they get treated like royalty!

ToniB: Right, Verla!

ToniB: So, what's in it for YOU?

Verla raises her hand!

ToniB: First, EXPOSURE of you and your work.

ToniB: Second, $$$

ToniB: Third, connection with your audience.

ToniB: Verla?

Verla: They sold over 500 of my books at the three day school visit I just did in Fresno!

Verla: that was great for promoting my books, too

Verla: although that is NOT what I've usually experienced in book sales

ToniB: Right. It's a way to market your books DIRECTLY to the consumer.

ToniB: The $$$ is in your fee AND in your sales.

elsbet: (wow!!!)

ToniB: In general, at a full school visit at Longfellow, we sell 100 books (school is 340)

ToniB: At a half school visit for K-2, generally 60-70 books.

Riada: Do you bring the books with you, or do they order them from you?

Verla: Usually, I don't sell but just a few books, Toni. But the exposure to the kids is great.

ToniB: Are we ready for questions?

Verla: And folks...please stick your comments and questions in any time...yes, toni. Any time you are

ToniB: If we are, it would help me if we did one or two at a time.

ToniB: Let me start with Riada's question...

Verla: sounds good toni

ToniB: It is BEST for the a/i if the school is responsible for selling the books.

NOTE: a/i = Author or Illustrator

ToniB: In fact, I recommend this highly in TERRIFIC CONNECTIONS.

NOTE: Terrific Connections is a wonderful book to assist in planning school visits. It's co-authored by Toni Buzzeo and Jane Kurtz. The ISBN # of the book is 1-56308-744-8

ToniB: Many schools don't know how to go about doing that, and may need advice.

ToniB: TC (Terrific Connections from now on :>) gives that information.

ToniB: By the way, you should all visit my website if you're interested in this topic!

ToniB: And from there you can e-mail me and request a discount flyer for the book.

Verla: I have Toni's book, folks, and I HIGHLY recommend it. It's a wonderful book, absolutely full of terrific information

ToniB: Okay, I have four questions. Let's hold off on more until I can answer those.

NOTE: Several people just asked questions in quick succession. Those questions have been moved down in this transcript in order to put them next to the answers.

Verla: don't worry about the questions, Toni...I'll repost any you might miss

ToniB: Thanks, Verla.

^Libby: I would be interested in doing school visits for K-3 grade only. Would I get many invitations to speak with only speaking to younger children?

ToniB: Libby you WOULD get visits for K-3 only. I have many authors I only hire for the youngest set.

elsbet: What Kind of things can I do besides just read the book that will help interest the kids and break the ice?

ToniB: Els, I would NOT read a book at a visit, unless you are sure the kids haven't heard it.

ToniB: Els...

elsbet: yes?

ToniB: Kids love to hear about your inspiration for the book. They love to hear about your research, if any...

ToniB: They love to see the illustrations in process...

ToniB: They are totally engrossed in visual images of your life and the things you draw from.

elsbet: thank you Toni!

Estar: Maybe I'm missing something here. You get paid a fee for speaking to a school?

Verla: yes, Estar

ToniB: Yes, Estar, you DO get paid for your time presenting.

LindaSue: Toni--what is the best way to ensure that as many children as possible have read your book before your visit--if you write NOVELS, not picture books?

ToniB: LS, if you are a novelist, it is imperative that you ask that teachers read your book ALOUD to the kids. This means they have to plan ahead.

ToniB: I insist on that, LS.

ToniB: In fact, I'd have it in my contract.

LindaSue: Contract, ah, good. :-)

Verla: Ah.. so you also use a written agreement form, Toni. I highly recommend that, too! That way, both you AND the school know how much you are to be paid, when, what your presentation will be (how many sessions, how big they will, what your topics will be for them) and you all come away happy because you all got what you expected

ToniB: I would NEVER hire an a/i or be hired as a visiting author WITHOUT a written agreement.

NOTE: a/i = Author/Illustrator

ToniB: It should be signed by the person who hires you (the librarian, PTO/PTA person, whomever) and the principal.

ToniB: There should be TWO copies, one for you to keep and one for them. And you, of course, should sign it too.

LindaSue: Toni--does your book include examples of standard contracts?

ToniB: LS, my article in the new Children's Writer's Guide does have one.

LindaSue: Children's Writers Guide, the one coming out in the fall, or the one out now?

NOTE: This question was not answered at this time

Verla: I keep revising my agreement to keep pace with my visits

ToniB: You will want to have...

ToniB: a standard fee that you negotiate from.

Riada: How do you decide what fee to charge? How do you find the schools to contact?

Riada: Do the schools pay traveling expenses, too?

Verla: I have it in my contract that out of my local area (I have the towns listed that are local on my brochure) that I require travel fees

ToniB: The first thing to do, Riada, is to find out the going rate in your area.

Riada: How?

ToniB: The librarian's association can help you to spread the word.

ToniB: And yes, schools pay expenses, and that is negotiated.

_Lyra: I don't do as many schools, mostly because my books are for older kids. I do some career days for free.

LindaSue: Toni--I would like to do some schools pro bono. Someone suggested to me that I charge them a fee, or they won't take me seriously, and then I can donate it back to them again. Is this what you would recommend?

NOTE: pro bono is a free author talk, one where you do not expect payment for your services

ToniB: No, ls. I wouldn't.

ToniB: I would simply decide that I will do 5 pro bono visits a year...

ToniB: or whatever...

ToniB: and then make it clear that that is what this visit is.

^Libby: Verla, do you raise your rates with each book you publish? How do you know when to raise it?

Verla: I raised my rates as my presentations got better, smoother, more professional, Libby

Verla: I started by doing a couple of local schools for free, Toni...before my first book ever came out. Just to start working the kinks out of my presentations

ToniB: Yes, always do a few for FREE to practice.

Verla: then I moved up to $50 a visit, then $100

Verla: then $250 - $300

Verla: and now I'm up to $500

Verla: Talk to other authors in your area via SCBWI gatherings, to find out the going rate in your area!

NOTE: SCBWI is the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators

Verla: Toni... would you like to mention the basic fees?

ToniB: Here in Maine, new a/i's charge $300 and the most experienced charge $800 a day

ToniB: This is a full day, of from 3-5 sessions.

elsbet: wow

ToniB: I prefer SMALL sessions with fewer kids but more of them.

Estar: Toni/Verla When you approach the schools with a willingness to speak do they already know you will be charging a fee and expect a written agreement?

ToniB: Not always, Estar.

Verla: I am very clear that they will be paying for my services, from the very first contact, Estar. (and I think that is one of the hardest parts of the whole thing... learning to value yourself enough to feel comfortable charging for your services)

ToniB: Rather than approach schools, Estar, I would get my name out to schools who WANT an a/i.

_Lyra: Toni--how do you approach a school? What have you offered them for a program?

ToniB: Lyra, I wouldn't approach a school...

ToniB: rather, I would find schools looking for A/I's.

Riada: How?

_Lyra: So the librarian connection is really helpful?

ToniB: The librarian connection is HUGE, Lyra, Riada.

ToniB: The thing to do is to network!

Estar: I'm still trying to understand how you learn what schools may be looking for an A/I

ToniB: We share names here, both as authors and as librarians.

ToniB: I am a history/culture buff, and all of my writing has those ties, so I do a lot with the history behind my books or the culture from which they arise. BTW, I've done this for unpubbed mss.

NOTE: BTW = by the way

unpubbed mss = unpublished manuscripts

LindaSue: Toni--would you have suggestions for locating/contacting the schools that would most benefit from a pro bono visit? Does ALA have such a list, or maybe the state school library associations?

NOTE: ALA = the American Library Association

ToniB: LS, I'm not sure about that.

LindaSue: OK, thanks anyway Toni. :-)

_Lyra: I enjoy attending librarian conferences -- Verla & I will go to one in November, otherwise I don't have library contacts

ToniB: Lyra, Librarian Conferences are a GREAT Way to meet lots of librarians.

_Lyra: I haven't been paid for any library visits, just school visits & conferences

Riada: So, you contact a local public librarian, or the school's librarian?

ToniB: I think that I would be likely to simply listen closely to schools who contact you and are seeming needy.

ToniB: I would talk to both local and school librarians, R.

ToniB: Tell them that you want to do library visits and pick their brains.

ToniB: I suggest approaching the conference committee about forming a panel. You'll get lots of gigs that way.

ToniB: And it's a growing thing. Word SPREADS if you do a good job!

^Libby: What do you mean, a panel?

ToniB: Libby, a group of Maine children's authors did a 'getting to know us' panel at last year's ME libraries conference and then signed. It was a great way for librarians (school and public) to get to know local authors.

_Lyra: Toni--that panel sounds very nice & a great idea

Verla: I got a lot of my visits by attending (and offering to speak pro bono) at local state reading association conferences

ToniB: Yes, Verla's right. The reading conferences too!

LindaSue: Toni--if I had to pick between a librarian's conference and a state reading association (IRA) conference, which would you recommend?

ToniB: Ack! LS, both! :>

Verla: The Reading Conferences were bigger, so my "impact" on the educators was smaller, LS... I found I had better luck at the Library conferences

ToniB: LS, I think that the library conferences are a good place to start if you can SPEAK.

LindaSue: OK, thanks both of you :-)

_Lyra: I'm curious about your presentations

^Libby: What does a really great visiting author DO at a great visit?

Verla: I pan for gold for the kids at some of my sessions, Libby. :-)

ToniB: Libby, I'll talk about that a bit, but please be sure to read TERRIFIC CONNECTIONS...

ToniB: for lots of in depth discussion.

^Libby: I will definitely read it, Toni!

_Lyra: So Toni, I'm curious how you've used your unpubbed books toward school talks

ToniB: Lyra, what I meant was that because my children's books aren't pubbed yet, I was sharing the text in ms. form and my research and my experiences in researching and writing the stories.

Estar: If, after you talk with a school librarian and she does want you to speak, who approves the 'gig'. Who do you get to sign your agreement?

ToniB: If the librarian hires you, she will write the contract, or sign yours, along with the principal.

Estar: Does a librarian have the authority to agree to your fee? Doesn't your fee get paid through the school board?

Verla: I have had my contracts just signed by the principals, toni. Is that bad?

ToniB: Is it the principal HIRING you?

Verla: yes, in each case the principal has been the one authorizing my visit, toni

ToniB: Because if it's the librarian running the visit, he/she needs to know what the contract says.

Verla: hmmm. good point. I always send the contract TO the person (librarian, etc) who is hiring me, then they have the principal sign it

^Libby: Do they pay you on the day of the visit?

ToniB: THAT should be in the contract Libby!!!!!

ToniB: Insist on it.

ToniB: I have a friend who was paid for three days of speaking at the end with a bag of cookies. Honest.

^Libby: She didn't have a contract?

elsbet: aack toni!!!

Verla: AWK! a bag of cookies for three days of work? AAAAWK!

Verla: I have a clause in my contract that says they have to pay the day of the visit unless other arrangements are made and there is a place right under that for the alternate arrangements. Then I added a $50 late fee if they don't pay according to the contract (also printed on it) after I had to wait about three months for payment on one visit that was supposed to be paid the day of my visit

ToniB: That's a good idea, Verla. No, the friend didn't have a contract, just a spoken agreement. DON'T do it!!!!

elsbet: ((at least she had depression munchies...))

^Libby: LOL, els!

Amishka: I hope they were good cookies at least

Amishka: not some no name brand of stale biscuits

Riada: How do you tailor your visits with different age groups to the same topic?

ToniB: Riada, it is important to understand the developmental ages of kids.

ToniB: You MUST have something active and participatory for K and 1. They just can't simply listen.

Riada: Like?

ToniB: I think it's important to know who long each age group CAN sit still and how complicated you can be with them :>

^Libby: Do K and 1 graders want to hear how we get our ideas, etc.?

ToniB: Libby, not so much...they want to be actively involved.

Riada: Any examples of how to involve them in activities or what to do with them?

ToniB: Riada, I would need to know your books in order to suggest things.

Verla: If you are animated when you talk, K-1 kids will listen.

_Lyra: I do older kids, but once did have younger kids and they are funny. They raise their hands and ask like a question, "I got a dog" or "I'm six."

ToniB: Lyra, it's important to start by talking to the little ones about the diffence between a QUESTION and a COMMENT.

_Lyra: When I first started with a chapter book (very out of print, now) I made paper dolls to show the twins in my story

_Lyra: Toni--now I leave any grade younger than 4th to Verla & other picture book authors. I'm best with 4-high

JenniferJ: I know a bunch of finger plays in case anyone ever needs that

Verla: I do an action song with the little kids when they get wiggly, Riada. We all sing, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. (An historical old song that kind of "fits" the time period of some of my books) and each time we sing a word beginning with a B, if they sitting/squatting, they stand, and if they are standing, they sit/squat. Try it some time. It's a RIOT when you get to the Bring Back my Bonnie parts! They are bouncing up and down like mad... they love it and it gets rid of some of the "wiggles," too.

_Lyra: Verla is GREAT with younger kids

LindaSue: Oh Verla that sounds *wonderful*!

Riada: Can I hire Verla to go with me and charge for the 2 of us? <G>

NOTE: This question wasn't answered at the time, but Verla thinks it's a great idea!

LindaSue: Toni--who are some of the best school-visit novelists, in your experience? How do they overcome the limitations novelists face of having little or no visual aids to go with their books (unlike picture-book authors)?

ToniB: Franny Billingsley is FABULOUS, ls.

ToniB: She talks about how she creates character.

ToniB: It's amazing.

ToniB: And she also does writing workshops.

ToniB: Alice Mead talks about the social issues in her book and engages the kids in discussion.

_Lyra: Now what I do for older kids is play an interaction clone-question game

Riada: What is an interaction clone-question game?

NOTE: This question was not answered at the time by Lyra. She plays a game in the format of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, using questions about cloning. The game compliments her REGENERATION series books about five teens that discover they are clones.

LindaSue: I want to bring a Korean seesaw with me...but I'm afraid that might be asking for trouble...injury liability etc!

ToniB: LS. LOL!

ToniB: Could two kids at a time participate?

Amishka: that would be cool LS. Just make sure they have gym mats

Riada: How about a miniature Korean seesaw that could be passed around to the kids, LS?

ToniB: Riada, good idea!

LindaSue: Riada--that would be cool except that a miniature one wouldn't be very impressive...looks just like a regular seesaw.

Amishka: so shoot playdough off it instead of kids LS

LindaSue: LOL, good idea, Ami ;-)

_Lyra: Another thing I learned last year was the difference from being an "author" to being hired as a "teaching-author"

^Libby: Will you explain the difference, Lyra?

_Lyra: What happened was that I was hired for a "creative writing" session for some off-track kids

_Lyra: Only when I got there, I found out there was no teacher -- I was it. With a group of kids let loose in a cafeteria.

^Libby: YIKES, Lyra! LOL

ToniB: Lyra, maybe that's something to put in a contract!!!

JenniferJ: Big yikes, Lyra

_Lyra: Teaching and controlling kids are different skills from entertaining as an author -- I ended up using my "Mommy" skills

tem2: Yeep

JenniferJ: It's not legal for you to be alone w/kids unless you are licenced and maybe that is only my state

ToniB: It is unconscionable that a visitor would be left alone with kids--BUT IT IS ALSO ILLEGAL!

_Lyra: Not totally alone -- another teacher was with a different group

_Lyra: It was like a summer school program

JenniferJ: I started out being a guest writer in schools and became a teacher

Verla: Actually, Toni, lyra had to get fingerprinted and everything, so I think she WAS legal....

Verla: right, lyra?

ToniB: No, unless she was a school employee for that school, she wasn't.

Verla: Wow. I didn't know that, Toni. Thanks for telling us.

Estar: ToniB care to talk about your first experience speaking at a school? Age of kids, surprises, etc.

ToniB: Estar, my biggest problem was that I had planned two hours worth of material for a one hour slot!!!

ToniB: They were just so fascinated, they asked a ton of questions, and of course, I stayed over...

Estar: I would expect my problem to be the opposite. That I'd think I had plenty of material planned then in 12 minutes be wondering what to say/do next.

Riada: LOL Estar!

ToniB: I find that all of my visitors have more to say than time to say it, which is great!

MaryP: Hi Toni, what about visits with older teens--do schools or libraries do this often, and how are they different?

ToniB: Yes, schools and libraries both sponsor YA authors.

ToniB: High schools and middle schools do.

ToniB: They will often invite you to speak...

ToniB: to particular classes (writing classes, for instance)...

ToniB: or to groups of kids involved in the subject matter of the book in some way.

MaryP: thanks Toni

ToniB: Nancy Werlin has done a FEW visits with kids in schools and libraries and they've been fabulous.

Riada: What makes Nancy's visits fabulous?

ToniB: Riada, I meant that the schools/libraries provided great groups of kids who were very interested.

elsbet: are the authors responsible for keeping order with the kids, or is that up to the teachers?

JenniferJ: elsbet, teacher should always be there

ToniB: Well, the teacher will be there...

ToniB: BUT--it is really YOU who sets the tone.

ToniB: I have seen many teachers not want to get involved.

JenniferJ: Teachers can do a lot to set the tone too

ToniB: Yes, they can. But you can't plan on that :>

^Libby: What can authors do to maintain the right tone?

JenniferJ: Libby, the program I was in had us plan with the teachers and that helped a lot

ToniB: I think that it's important to explain that you will be calling on one student at a time, that you will let them know when you are ready for questions, etc.

ToniB: You need to be friendly but structured.

JenniferJ: Also, a rule of thumb is, their attention span is age plus two minutes

^Libby: So six year olds have attention spans of 8 minutes?

JenniferJ: Yes Libby, in general

^Libby: What do we do with the other thirty minutes?

JenniferJ: change activities

elsbet: ok- I have done spinning demos before and the teachers let the kids run all over everything- practically destroyed my wheel, and I didn't know what on earth to do, lol

JenniferJ: els, that's so unfair!!

^Libby: LOL, els--I know EXACTLY what you mean

ToniB: See, that's the thing. You have to lay down GROUND RULES, els.

elsbet: thanks!

ToniB: And you don't begin until the kids are complying.

ToniB: You can do that in a friendly way.

Riada: Kind of like being a firm babysitter who is in control?

elsbet: you mean I have to get backbone, oh bother

^Libby: Ah

ToniB: Ideally, and ALWAYS if you can make it happen, the kids...will be familiar with your books and thus fully engaged in your visit.

Verla: yes, that really helps, if the kids are excited about you coming and if they have read your books, they respect you more!

ToniB: If the kids have read your work, they'll have lots of questions, too.

Verla: Okay, here's a question sent to me via email from Holly because she couldn't get here, Toni: "If you have written a picture book (fiction) on a serious subject like alcoholism, abuse, drug use, etc..., when you do school visits are you expected to speak about that subject or do you just talk about writing and the publishing process, etc.? Sorry if this is a silly question, but I've never even been to an author visit so I don't really know what they are like."

ToniB: Oh dear. That's hard, Verla.

ToniB: I wouldn't presume to discuss such things without first discussing it with the teachers.

ToniB: There are many kids in these classes touched by such issues.

ToniB: I think it would be very difficult to speak to children you don't know about a subject that can touch them deeply in negative ways, perhaps.

Verla: I think I would simply talk about the writing of the book, and not the content if it were me, Toni (Unless I was specificially asked to discuss the subject itself.)

ToniB: But Verla, then you wouldn't expect them to read the book aloud, and the kids would want to know what it was about...

ToniB: You know?

Verla: That's true, toni. I hadn't thought about that.

Estar: ToniB; about Holly's question... do you think there's any danger of negative parental reaction if your book's subject is 'serious' and you do talk about it. Subjects perhaps like death or illness etc.?

ToniB: It's VERY sticky.

ToniB: Death or illness, not so much...

ToniB: but alcoholism, drugs, etc, with young children (not YA's), yes.

MaryP: But if the school has invited you, knowing what you write, wouldn't they be prepared for the "stickiness"?

ToniB: Mary, they might. I'd just discuss with the hiring person AND the teachers, how they want to handle it. Then you'll be comfortable with your presentation!

Estar: I was thinking particularly about Alzheimer's disease and the possibility of ones grandparent becoming its victim.

Amishka: that would be a good thing to talk about then Estar

Riada: Estar, I think that would be an excellent topic to discuss with kids!

Estar: Thanks Riada. I agree. I'm just wondering about whether parents might not want a child to 'worry'. Some people seem to think that not talking about something helps it not happen.

elsbet: I would think that things like that, Estar, would be best suited to groups meeting who are dealing with that tragedy, not for kids who haven't had to worry about it, but I could be wrong

Verla: I think it would be very important to talk to them about what you will be sharing at the presentations if you have a "hard" subject

ToniB: One thing you have to know is that for hard subjects, you have to give kids lots of room to share, because they will want to.

DeniP: Don't you have trouble, especially with the younger children, with everyone wanting to have a turn to say something?

Verla: I don't let them talk, deni. I try to leave time for questions at the end... and when we are out of time, I stop calling on the kids.

^Libby: How many visits do you think an average author might do each year?

ToniB: Many of my friends do one to two trips away each month, and then other local visits.

Verla: I think that depends on the author, Libby. Some, like Paula Danziger, speak ALL the time (although she speaks almost entirely at conferences, not schools these days.) Other authors never speak. Most of us are in between.

^Libby: What's in between?

tem2: Libby: Aim somewhere between Paula Danziger and J.D. Salinger.

^Libby: LOL, tem!

Verla: I am doing between one and three school visits, plus one or two conference talks each month right now, Libby. But that's all I want to do right now.

^Libby: That seems like a lot, Verla!

Verla: it is, Libby. I do that every other month! LOL

Verla: and when summer comes, I don't do much at all

^Libby: Do you pretty much repeat the same presentation at each school?

ToniB: Libby, I think it's important to know WHY the school is inviting you.

ToniB: The more you can play to their particular curriculum and themes, the better.

ToniB: But yes, you also want to have some standard offerings, or you'll spend your life preparing.

Verla: I do, libby. But I "tailor" each one for what the school wants. Like, one school just wanted me to talk about being an author. Another wanted me to share that AND a little about how books are created. The third school last week wanted me to talk mostly about what makes a good picture book. So even though I did a lot of the same stuff, each one was slanted in a specific direction for that school's needs.

LindaSue: I do activities with my talks. A Korean board game for Seesaw Girl, and make your own kite for Kite Fighters. haven't thought of an activity for the new book yet...

ToniB: That's FABULOUS, LS.

ToniB: I have a friend, Mary Beth Owens, who has made wonderful puppets and written some songs...

Riada: puppets are a great idea!

Amishka: that sounds like a great idea

ToniB: These tie into one of her books.

ToniB: The kids (all ages) were WILD about them.

ToniB: Like Verla says, it's possible to slant your standard presentation to the school's needs.

elsbet: But I probably shouldn't bring my sheep along to talks on my sheep book, Toni?

JenniferJ: No els! LOL

ToniB: Oh sure, els, but bring a drop cloth :>

elsbet: the lambs wear diapers, lol

Verla: OH! I found that using transparancies is a WONDERFUL way to share with both large and small groups. I put copies of my manuscript pages all marked up with revisions on them.... the actual pages of the picture books, pictures of me as a child (they LOVE seeing those!) my house, etc.

ToniB: Yes, transparencies are ESSENTIAL!

ToniB: Absolutely, Verla.

ToniB: What I do and many others, too.

Amishka: Not pictures of your desk I hope Verla! Those might scare the children.

Amishka: all piled high with who knows what

JenniferJ: Sounds like my desk kia!!

NOTE: this was not answered at the time of the workshop. Verla does not show photos of her messy office/desk. She doesn't want to "blow" her image... LOL!

^Libby: Are transparencies better than slides?

ToniB: Yes, Libby, unless you bring your own slide projector...

ToniB: Many schools don't have a working one, and they require a very dark room.

JenniferJ: Transparencies are easy to do, too

ToniB: You can even show transparencies in a somewhat light gym.

ToniB: It's really important to TRY to make sure the school knows what your space and equipment requirements are.

ToniB: Ask in a hundred different ways to get the info.

Verla: I have those requirements on my contract, Toni. I just circle the ones I'll need at that school

Estar: What about a word-search paper with subjects that corespond with your topic?

JenniferJ: That's a good idea too Estar

ToniB: Estar, a word search is good to leave for the kids to do later, I think.

Verla: I made a word search type puzzle for one of my books, Estar. I have a whole packet I give to each school of reproducible things they can give to the kids after I'm gone

ToniB: Right, Verla.

_Lyra: Verla convinced me to use transparencies -- someday I'll buy an overhead projector like she has.

^Libby: Do you bring your own projector for the transparencies, Verla?

Verla: I have an overhead that I bought at Staples for about $300, Libby. It's GREAT! Only 8 pounds, collapsible, and came in a light weight carrying case. I take it along (with a 50 foot heavy duty contruction-type extention cord) "just in case." It's literally "saved my life" a couple of times.

Verla: Transparencies are really easy to work with, too, because you can put "sets" of them together for different presentations, and even though you are basically covering some of the same things, the different pictures make them each a unique presentation

ToniB: Good idea Verla.

ToniB: I do that for my professional speaking too.

JenniferJ: And most schools have overhead projectors

ToniB: Right JJ.

Verla: I think Transparencies are easier than slides

ToniB: Schools will have overheads.

JenniferJ: We teachers live by the light of overheads

Paige_Turn: Another great aspect of a school presentation is to get the teachers involved with you. Once we invited David Small to our school for a day. I asked several other teachers to join me and we role-played some of the characters from his books. We had already read the books to the kids before his presentation. He then introduced ideas of an upcoming book to the kids and let two kids role play with him to show how plot can develop. It was wonderful!

ToniB: It is a good idea to get the SCHEDULE hammered out before the contract and to get them to write the schedule in the contract, or do it yourself if you are writing the contract.

JenniferJ: And try to have a contact teacher if possible

ToniB: BEST OF ALL is to have a contact in the LIBRARIAN.

ToniB: A single teacher might not ...

ToniB: have contact with all of the others in the same way that a librarian does.

JenniferJ: And remember, teachers only teach 5 classes a day so don't do more presenting than that!

Verla: yeeks! We are OUT of time! WAAAAH!

ToniB: I can stay for a few more minutes if people have questions.

Verla: Actually, Toni will be back again NEXT MONTH, folks!

Verla: When we have a panel on More Self Promotion with Toni, Linda Joy Singleton (aka lyra) and myself.

^Libby: It was a great workshop

Verla: Ah... it was an excellent workshop!

^Libby: It really was, Verla!

Harazin: It was very good.

Harazin: I think I'll order her book.

elsbet: that was great!!! I have to get Toni's book, now!

Verla: If you haven't seen this awesome book Toni co-wrote, you should. It's really a GREAT book

PamelaRoss: Toni's book is truly terrific. And helpful.

^Libby: How can we buy your book, Toni? Order it at Barnes and Noble?

BGLit: Ack, she said the B&N word!

ToniB: Libby,'s better to order it direct.

ToniB: Go to my site,

ToniB: Then e-mail me and ask for the discount flyer (for TERRIFIC CONNECTIONS.)

ToniB: No shipping and you'll get it quick with a 20% discount.

^Libby: Do we order it from you, toni?

ToniB: Libby, ask me for a discount flyer by e-mail!

^Libby: I will, Toni! Thanks!

Verla: Okay folks... this workshop is now officially over. THANK YOU TONI!!!!!!

LindaSue: Wonderful, Toni! Terrific workshop!

elsbet: Toni- great talk! I owe you a cup of tea for all the advice!

DeniP: Thank you so much Toni!

Riada: Thanks for a great talk, Toni!

tem2: Thanks, Toni. Good one.

Riada: Applause! Applause!

Estar: ToniB Thanks for all the help and encouragement.

BGLit: <---cheering for Toni, even (though) he missed the performance

Riada: Gotta go! Hope to see you all next time!

^Libby: Thank you so much, Toni!! This was wonderful!

JenniferJ: Thanks toni sorry I could not be here for all of it

Windy2u: Thank you Toni and Verla. Goodnight.

Chasjord: Toni, this has been a great workshop, thanks, I'll be heading to your website when I leave here

Estar: Verla thanks for posting about this workshop on CCWG. I enjoyed being here.

NOTE: CCWG = the Christian Children's Writers email Group :

CCWG Christian Children's Writers Group is a mailing list for those writers interested in writing Christian and crossover material for children and young adults. It's purpose is to critique those manuscripts, share marketing info and, of course, prayer requests. Anyone interested in joining this list should send an email to the moderator at:

JenniferJ: There were a lot of folks here tonight toni

ToniB: True, I had a fab audience.

JenniferJ: ( :

JenniferJ: The best

Verla: you did a terrific job, too, toni!

elsbet: you are a fab speaker, toni!

Estar: I counted at least 23 tonight. Thanks again. I have to do.

^Libby: We were very enthusiastic and peppered Toni with questions!

_Lyra: great job, toni ... applause

Chasjord: You did great Toni..Verla owes you a bag of cookies

Verla: Har har har, Charles. Very funny.

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