Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


big and small

My first school visit was as a volunteer to my daughter's class. I learned quickly by watching faces what was interesting and what was boring. I dropped the boring bits and added more interesting bits.

The first school I visited where I was paid was the small town of Long Prairie, Minnesota. I asked students if they'd ever worked with an author. All of them raised their hands and described the piece they had written. I was amazed because they were high school seniors and the writer had come when they were in third grade. I realized then what a strong impression an author visit can have on students and know it's not always clear at the time which students are impacted the most.

I've done hundreds of author visits since then and I love going new places big and small. Yesterday I was in Decorah, Iowa and had a great time with 400 middle school students. Tomorrow, I am going to a high school specially designed for recent immigrants. Each school or library is an opportunity for me to learn more about where I am.

The people whose school and library visits I admire all love doing them. Each author or illustrator presents in a different way, but this love shows through. I also connect with students by letting them know that writing is hard work and that I struggle with some of the same things they do. They love seeing messy first drafts and rejection notes and I love showing them.

For me, school and library visits are one of the great joys of being a writer.


Edie Hemingway said...

It sounds as if you've had a wonderful variety of school visits, and how amazing to find a sign in the middle of the road, advertising your visit!

David LaRochelle said...

I have long admired the wide range of schools and populations you have visited, John. You are so very right about the impact that an author visit can have, and you don't always know which students will be impacted the most. I like the fact that as a visitor, I don't know which are the "good" students and the "bad" students, and so I don't have the same expectations that teachers have. I love it when a teacher tells me that a student who is usually unresponsive "blooms" during an author visit; an outsider can have that sort of impact on a class.

john said...

David, I agree totally. Recently I was told that a particular grade would have challenges paying attention and they turned out to be the most engaged group I had all day. I also love it when kids ask questions who usually don't raise their hands to participate.

Lauren said...

John, you are such a gift to all the different kinds of schools you visit. And I agree about the impact of an author's visit. Growing up, I never had an author visit, but when I think back to my years of elementary school, it is the string quartet that played, then explained about their instruments that I remember the most. Imagine the impact of an author's visit!

john said...

I totally agree Lauren.

Mark said...

A bit late in commenting, but I just want to say how cool it is that you are obviously following what Joseph Campbell called your "bliss." You're living your passion and making a profound difference in so many lives. Kudos to you, John.

And how weird is it that in 3rd grade Wilson Rawls came to my school to talk about Where the Red Fern Grows -- a seminal event in my life, and the one and only author visit of my youth!