April 11, 2016

School Visits: How I Love Thee

One of the supreme delights in my work is being invited to schools and libraries as a visiting author.

Early last month, I had the pleasure of visiting four elementary schools in The Dalles, Oregon. The visits were coordinated by Jim Tindall, the District Librarian for the North Wasco County School District. He hosted the day in such a way that I felt genuinely welcome and appreciated in each school I visited. Not only did he coordinate the school visits, but he also arranged a radio interview, book store stop, and an interview over lunch with a reporter from The Dalles Chronicle, the local newspaper. It was great fun to receive a copy of the article in the mail the following week. (If you visit The Dalles Chronicle website and search on "prochovnic," you can read the article. )

Late last month, I had the pleasure of visiting three second grade classrooms at Raleigh Park Elementary to deliver a presentation called "Write On!" about why I write and some of the amazing experiences I've had because I'm an author. One of my favorite parts of school visits is receiving letters and pictures from the children. The image to the right provides a sampling of the artwork that arrived in my mail box last week. Isn't it lovely?

I thought it might be fun to share one of the letters I wrote back to one of the classrooms that sent notes and letters. Here goes:

Dear Mrs. Baumgartner’s Class,

Thank you for taking the time to write and for letting me know what you learned when I visited your school.  I have read and re-read each of your letters, and I have greatly enjoyed your artwork. I especially liked how many of you included pictures or mention of my chicken hat, my reading trophy, and Pickle the Cat in your notes! Pickle is sitting right next to me as I write to you today.

I’m delighted that so many of you are excited about writing and sharing your own stories, and I’m happy that you enjoyed learning some sign language.  I hope you continue to read, write, and sign regularly and with enthusiasm!  

Many of you had additional comments and questions.  My responses are below:

Cole: Thank you illustrating the cover of your class book. Pickle especially likes it.

Makena: I’m glad you love my cat. She’s very lovable!

Max: I’m glad you like my chicken hat. It’s fun to wear.  

Amara: You asked if I liked being an author. I LOVE being an author and I LOVE visiting schools. You also asked if I know the person who did the pictures. I do. Her name is Stephanie Bauer. You can see more of her work at her website.

Benicio: You asked if I’ve ever written a book that teaches the planets in sign language. I haven’t, but you sparked my curiosity. The sign for planet is really cool! You can look it up here.

Alejandro: I agree with you. Pickle is indeed funny!

Banyan (I may have spelled your name wrong. I’m sorry if I did): I enjoyed your picture of Pickle wearing my chicken hat. I wouldn’t be surprised if she tries to wear my chicken hat some day!

Lane: You asked where I got Pickle. We have had Pickle since she was a kitten. She and her sister, Noodle, were stray kittens without a mama cat to take care of them. Our family gave them a safe foster home until they got big enough and strong enough to take care of themselves, but then we decided to adopt them and give them a permanent home.  That was seven years ago. You also asked if I have met the illustrator of my books. Yes, I have met Stephanie Bauer, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit her art studio. You asked if I have had lots of illustrators. So far, Stephanie Bauer has illustrated all of my published books. That will change this fall when an anthology called, “Oregon Reads Aloud,” is published. Abigail Marble illustrated the story I contributed to this anthology. You can see examples of her work on her website. Lastly, you asked how I get the titles for my books. I write what is called a “working title” for each of my stories. Sometimes, but not always, an editor or someone from the publisher’s sales and marketing department might ask an author to change the title of a book, because they have an idea for a title that they think readers will like better.

Adriana: I’m glad you are starting to learn sign language, and I’m glad you enjoyed my visit with your class. If Pickle tries on my chicken hat some day, I will definitely take a picture and share it with you!

Jaden: I’m glad you liked my reading trophy. It is very special to me.

Mohamed: You asked if I have any problems. I’m guessing you are wondering if I have any problems when I sit down to write my stories.  Sometimes I get distracted from a particular writing project I should be working on. When I’m having difficulty focusing, sometimes I take a break. Other times, I do a writing exercise to help my creativity start flowing. I make writing goals for myself each week and I share those goals with a writing buddy. That seems to be the best thing that helps me stay on track.

Garrett: I really enjoyed your picture of Pickle wearing my chicken hat.

Ian: You asked if I ever get to meet my publisher. I have met several sales people that work for my publisher, but I’ve never met the editor that worked on all 16 of my books. (The editor is the person at the publisher’s office that helps turn stories from manuscripts into books). Here is a fun fact: I actually have never even spoken to my editor. Everything we’ve worked on together has happened in writing. We’ve written many, many email messages to each other, but we’ve never spoken on the phone or met in person. I’m working with a new editor for my new book that will be published this fall, and so far the same is true: We’ve written emails back and forth, but so far we’ve never spoken. I’m glad you like my saying, “Life = Stories.” I like it, too.

Lyla: I’m glad you loved learning more about writing and that you liked my chicken hat. You also had a question about my illustrator. See my notes to Amara and Lane for my answer.

Milo: You asked how many years I have been writing. I have been writing since I was in elementary school. I published my first book when I was in middle school.  It was a poetry book that I wrote for my mom as a Mother’s Day gift.  When I was in college, I wrote a book called a thesis.  I started writing my Story Time with Signs & Rhymes books about 14 years ago. My first books in that series were published in 2009.

Tylar: You asked what I do when I am not working. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, going on hikes and walks, traveling to new places, and spending time with my friends and family. You also asked why I do sign language. I first learned about sign language before I started elementary school. I watched Sesame Street on television and learned about sign language from Linda Bove. When I started elementary school, I volunteered to help students with disabilities, and many of those students used sign language. Many years later, when my daughter (who is now in high school) was born, I taught her how to use sign language before she could talk. Eventually, I started teaching classes and writing books that incorporated sign language. So far I have written16 books that have been published, and I have a new book that will be published this fall. I have written many, many other stories that have not yet been published; too many to count! You also asked how long I’ve had Pickle. See my note to Lane for my answer.
Jackson: You asked if I have ever put a cucumber next to Pickle when she wasn’t expecting it. I have not, but I have seen some videos of other people who have tried that with their own cat. I’m not sure Pickle would appreciate me playing a trick like that on her.

Malin: You asked if I still write poetry. I do still write poetry. One of my unpublished stories is called, “There Once Was a Poet.” I hope it will be published some day.  

Scarlett: You asked if Pickle was all black or if she has a tiny bit of white. Pickle is all black except for her eyes, which are deep green. (I see you remembered that when you drew her picture!)

Kylie: I’m so glad to hear that you also love books and that you plan to be an author someday, too. I will look forward to reading your books some day. You asked why I named my cat, Pickle. From the time Pickle was a kitten she liked to get into mischief. In fact, we almost named her Mischief. When she would do something mischievous (like get on the kitchen table, or try to sneak outside, or hop up on someone’s shoulders), we would say, “You are such a Pickle.” Pretty soon the name stuck. It fits her well.

Julian: I had fun meeting you, too. You asked if Pickle was a boy or a girl. She is a girl.

Jasmine: You asked many questions. Good for you! Some of your questions I have answered in my notes to other students in your class, so you might want to read those, too. One of the questions you asked is why I didn’t make the pictures for my books. Publishers decide who will make the pictures for the books they publish. My publisher wanted to make books with my words and with Stephanie Bauer’s pictures. I love her pictures, so I’m happy with how it all turned out. You also asked if I’m still going to write books with sign language. I am still writing books that incorporate sign language, but I’m also working on other books that do not incorporate any sign language.

Oilli (I may have spelled your name wrong. I’m sorry if I did): Thank you for your nice note and picture. I enjoyed visiting your classroom.

Ariana: Thank you for drawing such a nice picture of me sitting at my desk. You asked many questions. Good for you! Some of your questions I have answered in my notes to other students in your class, so you might want to read those, too. One of the questions you asked was how I became an author. I have a detailed answer to that question here.

Dylan: I enjoyed your picture of Pickle taking a bite out of my manuscript! I think it’s great that you can spell your name in sign language. If you’re interested in more alphabet-related sign language activities, you can find some here (and there are free, printable materials on my publisher’s website.

Thank you again for all of your letters and pictures, and thank you to Mrs. Baumgartner for inviting me to visit.  I hope I get to visit your school again in the future.


Dawn Babb Prochovnic

I'd love to visit your school, too! If you'd like more information about author visits, click here, or send me a message using the contact form to the left.

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