Guest post by Teresa Funke
When I first started getting invited to speak at schools, I would just go in and chat with the kids or answer questions, but when two different classes opted to skip recess to hear me keeping talking, I knew I had a message kids wanted to hear.
So I made a point to learn about the standards for each grade and created writing workshops that would support those standards. I also hired a teacher to help me create lesson plans for my books and other resources.
In time, teachers noticed that I’m a professional writer’s coach and had great rapport with their kids. They asked me to meet one-on-one with skilled or reluctant writers. So I started offering an all-day visit that includes my writing workshops, assemblies, one-on-one coaching, parent talks, even teacher workshops. The school can request any or all of those options for a flat fee or do a shorter visit for less.
I’ve been offering visits since 2003. When the recession ended, I thought budgets would bounce back. They have, but the thinking about the value that authors bring has not. I’ve had educators say to me, “We’ve had authors before, but they weren’t good speakers and their books were boring.” When I ask what they paid, they confess they got those newbie authors for free or low fee.
I have several talented writer friends who offer school visits. Their testimonials, like mine, are stellar, but we charge more for our time than newer authors. Here’s why: we professional writers have businesses to run or other jobs to fulfill. We have deadlines to meet and marketing chores to complete. And school visits are never simple. I exchange seven to ten communications with an educator in order to set up a visit, and more to cement final details or deal with follow-up. I also prep for each school visit and factor in travel time. My business coach has begged me to drop school visits all together. “It’s too much work for not enough pay,” he says. And he’s right. Compared to staying focused on my coaching and speaking business, school visits do not compare. Up to this point, I have refused to drop them, though. And here’s why:
The other day, I visited a fifth grade classroom. The teacher had each student read their work aloud. As one little girl tripped over her wording, she started to cry. I explained to the class why she was tripping and why the story was actually right on track. As the other kids left for recess, she ran back and gave me a huge hug. “You have NO idea what you just did for her,” the teacher said. Ah, but I do. But I couldn’t do it if I hadn’t spent the time to learn to do it right. I did so because the kids matter. The teachers matter. You deserve the best. You deserve a professional. It’s been an honor to serve you.
Teresa R. Funke is an author, speaker, and nationwide writer’s coach. She has written six award-winning works of fiction, including her multi-cultural, middle-grade series, The Home-Front Heroes, based on true stories from World War II. You can learn more about Teresa’s books and her work with schools at: http://www.teresafunke.com/author/teachers