In 2017, Andrea Loney attended our Crafting Successful Author & Illustrator Visits workshop. She was later a special guest for the course; and is now on the faculty. Thank you, Andrea, for this guest post!
Before attending the workshop at Highlights for the first time, I’d already done some author events at bookstores and schools with my picture books Bunnybear and Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! I’d taken some great workshops on school visits. I’d also been a teacher, a story time reader, and a standup comedian. I’d had practice being entertaining, engaging, and occasionally inspiring, but it was during the Highlights workshop that I finally put together an effective school visit. Here are three powerful tips I learned in the workshop:
1. Be Prepared:
For many authors, the very idea of standing before of an auditorium full of strangers (even kid-sized strangers) and talking about our creative process for 30-40 minutes can be terrifying. But I’ve found that the more thoroughly I’ve prepared my presentation, the more comfortable, confident, and connected I feel during the visit. So I clarify my intention for each visit, I learn about the audience beforehand in order to share relevant information, I carefully choose my words, images, and props for each visit, and I practice, practice, practice my presentation.
2. Be Flexible:
But even as I prepare for an awesome author visit, I also prepare for the unexpected. Sometimes there are unforeseen delays and I may need to deliver a longer or shorter presentation than I’d anticipated. Sometimes I create a presentation for curious elementary school kids and instead the audience is filled with wiggly preschoolers or toddlers. Sometimes the projector malfunctions before or during my presentation, and I have to switch to a low-tech solution to continue the program. No matter what happens, I try to stay flexible, adapt to the situation, and keep the visit rolling.
3. Be Yourself:
When I first decided to do author visits, I spent lots of time watching others.
I wanted to speak like this author, make people laugh like that author, or live-draw something fun like that illustrator. (I even temporarily forgot that I don’t draw!)
But at the Highlights Foundation, I finally learned how to deliver a moving, effective, and authentic school visit to audiences of all ages. And I did it by having the confidence to be myself.
Sharing my passions and opening my heart during presentations has really helped me to connect with audiences of all ages. One of my favorite memories of the Crafting Successful Author & Illustrator Visits workshop was first seeing how the participants each crafted unique experiences based on their own gifts, strengths, and personalities, and then watching the children joyfully engage with each author’s presentation during the school visits. It was simply magical.
Being prepared, being flexible, and just being myself have helped me to create fun and memorable author visits for my books. And every time I publish, I am so excited to share the love, the joy, and the message of that new story through visits. I hope that with these tips will help you create and present your own awesome author visits, and I hope that you’ll consider joining us at the workshop.