Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.
ALEXIS O’NEILL spends a good portion of the year visiting students in schools all around the country. She is the author of LOUD EMILY (Simon & Schuster), THE RECESS QUEEN (Scholastic), THE WORST BEST FRIEND (Scholastic), ESTELA’S SWAP (Lee & Low) and fiction and nonfiction for Cricket, Spider, Cobblestone, Calliope, Faces, and Odyssey. A writing teacher for UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program, she is also a Regional Advisor for SCBWI in California. A popular presenter, she writes a column for the SCBWI Bulletin called, “The Truth About School Visits.”
I was so pleased when Alexis–my SCBWI regional advisor, mentor and friend–agreed to share some of her expertise with us.
What piece of advice you would offer to an author who is preparing for his/her first school visit(s)?
First, identify the strongest ways your book and your presentation connect with current the educational standards. Make sure that your brochure and marketing materials spell out these connections. This helps schools see that your visit complements their efforts to achieve standards and is not just a frill.
Next, no matter the age of the audience – from kindergarten to high school, think “interactive” when planning your presentation. Audiences like to be engaged. Get them to respond in more ways than just through a question & answer session. Use lots of visuals. Switch your delivery modes within your session so that it’s not just Author-talking and Audience-listening. (For example, clapping, singing, chanting, figuring out a mystery or puzzle, acting in readers theater, being involved in demonstrations all engage audiences.) Leave the audience with advice or tips that empower them to do something better when they leave your assembly than when they came into your assembly.
What have you found is the most effective way to get bookings for school visits (besides writing a great book)?
Most people hate to hear this (because they think there is a simple, quick, magic formula), but almost all school visits come from word-of-mouth recommendations. To become known to audiences so that word can spread, beginners should first appear at as many local events as possible where they may come in contact with teachers, librarians and parents. It means getting to know – and observing – other authors & illustrators who do presentations to learn from them and network with them. (For more details, see my article, ”How to Get Gigs,” on page 7 in the July/August 2007 SCBWI Bulletin.)
What is your favorite children’s joke?
Q: What happened to the pirate with the lame sense of humor?
A: He had to walk the prank.
Thanks so much, Alexis!