January 9, 2014

The Skinny on School Author Visits

Tis the season to get inquiries about author visits! Some of these inquiries come in the form of requests to donate books and/or school visits to annual fund raising auctions. Other inquiries are from folks with a budget, (albeit typically a limited budget!), such as professional development conference coordinators, library media specialists, and/or PTO/PTA volunteers.

I thought it might be helpful to summarize commonly requested information to provide folks with a starting point. Please feel free to ask additional questions in the comments section below, or get in touch with me directly.

My author visits typically fall into one of the following areas:

Young Writer's Workshops
Sign Language Story Times
Family Literacy Nights and/or Parent/Teacher Education/Outreach

I have a more complete listing of program offerings here, and I regularly customize my visits to meet the specific learning targets requested by the school/organization.

For local visits (in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon), my standard consulting rate is $125/hour (or $100/hour for four or more consecutive hours, $600 for a full school-day visit, or $100 for two full school-day visits). If there are additional expenses  associated with visiting your location (e.g. travel expenses, extra fees I will be charged for working in your town, or lots and lots of paperwork required by your grand poo-bahs, then additional fees will be negotiated accordingly).

If your school visit spans more than one classroom or grade level, (e.g. it involves most or all of the school community) and if a school-wide book sale is facilitated/promoted by your school, then I gift a teacher in-service or a family literacy night to supplement my visit.  This "extra" programming does not need to take place on the same date as my visit, but it should be coordinated/packaged as an extension of (or a preview to) the author visit experience.

Whenever pricing is a barrier, I do my best to be flexible and creative. I never want a motivated learning community to miss out on an author visit experience because of budgetary issues. I'm typically able to find a way to work within budgetary constraints to create an author experience that is meaningful and educational for students, teachers, and families. For example, I will waive one hour of instructional fees for every 24 books that are pre-ordered directly from me at the $19.95 school/library price, (and I'll happily autograph those books at no additional charge!).

I'm regularly asked if I can donate my books and/or time to local school/organization auctions. I do honor several such requests a year in the form of classroom author visits. It's important to me that this donation of time and expertise is valued and valuable. By this I mean that I want the school/ organization to benefit financially from my gift (in the form of strong auction bids), and I want the learning community to know about (and even compete for!) the author visit opportunity.

In my experience, the best way to increase interest, bidding, and value is to have one or more teachers, librarians, or key volunteers vocally championing the classroom author visit. When teachers/librarians/ administrators let parents know that they want to "win" a classroom-based writing workshop and/or sign language story time, parents are more inclined to bid on the item(s) at the auction. It can also work to have one or more teachers "co-host" the event (e.g. "Enjoy an After School Story Time and Tea Party with Mrs. Smith and children's author Dawn Babb Prochovnic"), and then families can sign up for a "slot" at the auction as a "Pay-to-Play" type of event).

In addition to auction-based donations, each year I gift several "sign language story times" directly to classroom teachers/school libraries that have actively supported and/or promoted my work. For these visits I do ask that a book order form be sent home with students prior to or directly after my visit, (but I do not have any required minimum orders). I also offer complimentary 20-30 minute SKYPE (or FaceTime) Q and A sessions, as well as Email Q and A sessions.

For the complimentary "E-Visits" I do request that students are familiar with at least one of my books before the visit (which is easy to accomplish, since all 16 of my books in the Story Time Series are widely available in public libraries). I do not "prepare" a presentation for complimentary SKYPE/FaceTime visits. For these visits, I ask teachers (or homeschool groups) to prepare students with questions ahead of time (typically ranging from my writing process, to the names of my pets ; ), and then we engage in a back and forth exchange during our time "together." For Email "visits," I ask that the teacher summarize up to ten questions from the students, and then compile them in one email. I make every effort to respond within two weeks (and generally sooner).

I'm also currently offering free in-person author visits to local groups that are able to provide me a group/subset of students/families that are willing to participate in/assist with a filmed sign language story time (with appropriate photo/video releases signed, so the experience can be posted/shared on YouTube and/or SchoolTube). Here is a video from one such visit.

I've pasted a summary of some of my most popular young writer's workshops below. As I mentioned earlier, I have a more complete listing of overall program offerings here, and I regularly customize my visits to meet the specific learning targets requested by the school/organization. Please get in touch directly (you can use the contact form at the left, or the links at SmallTalk Learning). I hope to visit with you and your students someday soon!

Young Writers’ Workshops:

Gotcha! How to Find and Capture Great Writing Ideas: In this “how-to” workshop, Dawn discusses how to think like a writer by doing things like reading, remembering, watching and listening to the things going on around you.

Revision Rocks!: A workshop that explores some of the actual revisions Dawn made over time in her picture book, "The Nest Where I Like to Rest," (a 2011 Oregon Book Awards Finalist) and provides participants with an opportunity to suggest revisions to one of Dawn’s current works-in-progress.

Your Pencil is Magic: A hands-on workshop that demonstrates how writing props and prompts can help you unlock the creative ideas hiding inside of you.  This workshop is based on a popular class Dawn teaches at the Oregon Writing Festival.

You’re a Poet and Didn’t Know It: How to Write Poetry When You Think You Can’t: In this workshop, Dawn shares a not-yet-published book about finding inspirations for poetry in nature, and facilitates age-appropriate poetry-writing exercises.

Write On! An Author’s Perspective on Why Writing is (Possibly) the Most Important Thing You’ll

Ever Do”: In this workshop Dawn reads her book, "There's a Story in Your Head" and shares with students why she writes and some of the rich experiences she’s had in her life because she writes. The workshop (like the book) concludes with an invitation for students to get busy writing the stories that are in their own heads.

Anatomy of a Picture Book: An informational workshop that provides a behind-the-scenes look at how picture books are made and the opportunity to have an informal Q & A with a published children's author.

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