Ester de Boer (illustrator) and I were very privileged to be asked do a whole school Author/Illustrator visit during Education Week on the 17th of May, by our good friend and fellow writer’s group member, Jacqui. She is a teacher at Kosciuszko Street Primary School. Bonus!
Ester had already done a few Illustrator talks, so she was quite comfortable. She knew what she wanted to do and what to expect.
As for me, I had to put my thinking cap on for a while. I asked myself, ‘What do I want to achieve during this visit?’
Being in schools and, mixing with children was not foreign to me. I had helped out in schools for years as a parent helper. I also have a Diploma in Education Support and I spent may hours in various schools on placement. In the past, I had run a youth group for teens for about ten years. I figured that I could do this. The only thing that I was concerned about was how my body was going to hold up for the day. (I have fibromyalgia).
The day dawned cool and gusty. The wind nearly whipped my display out of my hands on the way to the office. I was shown to the library where I set up my display. The bell rang and an excited group of preps were ushered in and were seated on the floor. This was it. Sink or swim.
I was a little nervous at first. But then I got into the swing of things and I was on a roll. To every class I announced that they were the first children to hear the story that I had written and was sharing with them that day - that no other child on the face of the planet had heard it.
The kids seem to listen intently as I shared my story growing up with Dyslexia. I told them about the books I loved then. I encouraged them not to give up even if it is hard to read and write.
I shared my story for 4-8 year olds, Saving Sophie. It is about two dogs that go missing, and it is based on a true story. The preps loved it. As they were little, and I didn’t have an illustrated book, for those that are more visual, I found photos off the net that I used throughout the story. Some were of the original dogs.
I had made copies for them, as well as a copy of the manuscript, so that they could have an activity to do when they got back to class. We then looked at where ideas for stories can come from. Then we brainstormed an outline for a story...with hilarious results. (I think that a story about a dancing elephant and some chickens going for a picnic on the beach maybe in the future).
Onto the 2/3 and 3/4 grades. I shared my story growing up. Then I shared a story that I had written 5-8 year olds, Riley and the Fear Monster, about overcoming fear, which got applause and thumbs up from all. Then onto the writing of stories and, ‘Stories are everywhere’ workshop. The kids were keen to take back to class with the story outline that they had completed.
Next up were three grades of 1/2 classes which followed the same pattern as the last class.
After recess, two grade 5/6 classes. I read them my story for 7-11 year olds about overcoming fear, Raymund and the Fear Monster.
You can read more about why I wrote Raymund and the Fear Monster here.
Raymund came before Riley. Riley I wrote after I did the Picture Book course through the Australian Writers Centre late 2015. It was my attempt to make Raymund fit the rules that I had learned. Riley works. Raymund needed to be written in a different way, and the grade 5/6 classes loved it. (Insert Happy Dance! here.)
There was a great deal of excitement in the air - a lot of questions about my other stories. One of my favourites was, ‘I like your writing. Have you written chapter books?’ When I said no, he looked disappointed. When I said that I have a couple that I am working on, he was happy again. Another was, ‘I really like your stories, especially the one that you just read. When will it be a book?’
So that is how the day continued. Each followed the outline, the plan - yet each was different, especially in the responses, and the stories that each group came up with. I loved the look of surprise and astonishment when I announced that they had just created an outline for a story. At the end of each session they would take what we had worked on back to class as an activity, with a reminder that the outline was just a place to start. You can change things if your story needs it.
I finished off the day with another 5/6 class. Rather than be quiet (which is why Jacqui gave me these guys at the end of the day because she thought that I would be exhausted), they got so super excited during the workshop, they kept forgetting to put their hands up. They were talking to each other about ideas for setting, characters and plot scenarios. It was not a quiet room. Buzzing with excitement and lots of questions. Brilliant! Loved every minute!
By the end of the day I was exhausted, and could barely walk, but walking on Cloud Nine.
Was it worth it? You bet! Why?
From my experience:
Feedback from the school:
Michelle Hibbert: Principal
Jacqui Johnson: teacher grade 2/3
Cameron Tingay: teacher grade 5/6
So this was a wrap-up about my visit. In the next couple of weeks I will share about the prep as well as for some useful sites that I found during my prep. I do like research. Fun! Fun! Fun! But not everyone does, so I hope that this will help someone out.
Here is the main site that I used. The website Primary Education and Teaching Association Australia has some great hints and tips for authors preparing to do author visits.
If you are one of the students, a parent of a student, or teacher from Kosciuszko Street Primary School, feel free to leave a comment.
If you are an author and have had a successful author visit, feel free to share your experience as I love hearing other peoples stories.
UPDATE: 7 Tips to Ace Your School Author Visit
Everyone else, feel free to share or comment. I love hearing from you.
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