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.


Traveling Tips from a Picture Book Maker

Michigan School and Library Welcome!
Like many other Spuds on this blog, I travel to schools and libraries, books in tow, along with art supplies for making small picture books, folding origami, and cutting out snowflakes, depending on which books of mine are being featured.

Presenting at The American School of Bombay
Mostly I drive to schools or conferences in the Midwest area, but once in awhile I fly, going further afield. The farthest I have traveled was for a week in Mumbai, India. The closest I have traveled was just five blocks away at our neighborhood elementary school. I have presented in large gyms and theatres with plenty of room to spare and I have presented to five classes squished into a small library or even a hallway. I am adaptable.

Presenting in a school library in Minnesota
Before becoming a children's book author/illustrator, I lived in places where I did not need a car. Everywhere I needed to go I could easily hop a subway, a bus, Amtrak, ride my bike, or walk. But when I moved to Minnesota, suddenly a car was necessary and learning to drive again became a must, especially when I began to visit schools outside the Twin Cities. Before my first week-long school residency, I conferred with a friend about what to bring. Here is her advise, which I still follow to this day:
~ Bring a string or two of twinkly lights to hang around the hotel room. This warms it up and makes it inviting after a long day of presenting.
~ Bring a favorite blanket or quilt to put on the bed instead of the hotel bed coverlet. Again, a sure-fire way to make the room feel more like home after a long day's work. I also wear a lot of scarves, so I have a set of scarves that I wear, but also drape about the room, making it my own haven.
~ Candles make for a lovely way to light the evening alone, along with a glass of wine and a good book or bring a favorite DVD. (I always travel with the six-part "Pride and Prejudice" BBC series.)
~ Another friend of mine always calls the local florist and has flowers delivered to her room before arriving. Flowers brighten a room and take away the hotel smell. 
~ I like David LaRochelle's idea (see previous post) of checking out the local dining options, but I also check out the local grocery stores. Usually my room has a small fridge and microwave, making it easy to prepare my own meals. After a long day of workshops and large presentations, I enjoy a swim in the hotel pool and a "homemade" meal in my room. 

This spring I am working on such a heated deadline for a book that I have not visited any schools or libraries. As I read the posts of my fellow Potatoes and write my own, I feel my traveling shoes itching. With two new books coming out in the coming academic year, I think I will be ready to hit the road!