Fifteen years ago, in my 20’s, I was a bartender and an occasional evening writer. One afternoon, I wrote a story and sent it in to about 30 different publishers. One of them liked it and turned it into the book Enemy Pie. Almost overnight, I went from being a bartender and part-time writer, to a published author and “expert” on writing.
That made me uncomfortable. It didn’t seem right, and it wasn’t. But then schools started inviting me to speak as a visiting author, so I put together a presentation and nervously jumped in.
For the first 2 years, things were rough. It was obvious I wasn’t a teacher, but I was trying. And then, in a presentation for a group of primary students, I completely bombed my writing lesson. I went home incredibly frustrated, and started to explore a question I should have been asking all along.
What do schools expect to gain from an author visit?
I eventually came to believe this:
An author visit should inspire teachers and students alike, cultivating a love for writing in a fun, engaging way.
There are tons of successful authors out there who consistently make this happen. The following, I believe, are some basic things to consider when bringing an author to your school:
- A visiting author isn’t a teacher. I mean they aren’t there to teach. Deep learning requires repetition, and authors usually only visit a school for one day. No matter how engaging s/he might be, an author visit should inspire and even augment or celebrate what students are learning in class, not necessarily improve test scores. Inspiration is the best content.
- Look for an author who can connect with your students. Bring in authors who help create positive emotions in your students. By connecting positive emotions with writing (or any subject), you will increase their love of the subject. Author Ben Mikaelsen does a great job of this in his presentations. I’ve watched him captivate a ballroom of people with stories from his amazing life.
- Inspiration for everyone. Teachers need a lift too, especially when they’ll be working with these kids for the rest of the school year. Make sure your teachers walk away inspired as well.
- A map for the future. An author’s impact should last longer than a day. S/he should provide tools for both students and teachers, helping develop a school environment where writing is celebrated and young writers thrive.
Have a blast!
About Derek Munson
Derek Munson works as a writer, speaker, and all-around daydreamer. His current hobbies include playing with his kids, avoiding his household responsibilities, and crashing on his mountain bike. He lives in Bellingham, Washington with his wife Suzanne, his daughter Abby, his son Zack, and Roger the family dog.
With his award winning first book, Enemy Pie, Derek has presented to more than 100,000 students at elementary schools around the world. For information on hosting an author visit, please visit enemypie.com.