Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Toni's Perfect Day

Author Toni Buzzeo (Maine) steps in to share the first post in a new series I'm calling THE PERFECT AUTHOR VISIT. The series is featured on my companion website, AUTHOR VISITS BY STATE, a state-by-state listing of children's book authors & illustrators who visit schools to do presentations. (The site now has nearly 400 listings!)

The first few posts in the series will describe perfect visits from the author's perspective. We'll hear from Dr. Fred Bortz, (Pennsylvania); Alex Flinn, (Florida); Rukhsana Kahn,(Canada); Marianne Mitchell, (Colorado); and Jane Yolen, (New York). Later, I hope to add similar posts from an educator's perspective. Here's Toni:

This visit happened in New York state in April. It was so wonderful, so much like the visits I used to have at my school when I was the host and when NCLB hadn't darkened the door of the educational landscape.

1. I was hired a year in advance (possibly more).
2. The librarian kept in touch with me during the intervening months, but not needlessly so, just with important questions.
3. She and the other librarians took me out to dinner and we had a fun and relaxing time BEFORE the day of her school, so I felt like I already knew her.
4. When I arrived, I had some time to get set up and make sure the technology was working (and plenty of people to help me with that).
5. The sessions were held in a very comfortable auditorium with excellent acoustics and a good wireless mic.
6. The faculty had a wonderful breakfast for me and the SUPERINTENDENT came and stayed.
7. I had some one-on-one time to chat with the SUPERINTENDENT after the breakfast.
8. Four fifth graders arrived to take me on a tour of the school to show me ALL OF THE STUDENT PROJECTS ABOUT MY BOOKS DISPLAYED ON BOTH FLOORS OF THE ENTIRE SCHOOL!!

Jacket Art ©2008 by Sachiko Yoshikawa
9. The superintendent stayed for my K session and then spoke to me afterwards.
10. The PRINCIPAL attended two of my sessions and joined us for a lunch of spinach salad the kitchen had made especially for us.
11. The PR DIRECTOR for the district came to hear the entire session for 1-2 grade.
12. EVERY fifth grader had done a research essay on ME!! They asked the most interesting and intelligent questions during Q&A.
13. The books for signing were well-organized and there were LOTS of them.
14. One of the third grade teachers made me Mrs. Skorupski glasses and my host librarian bought me a beautiful lighthouse charm.
15. Kids wrote me letters both before and after my visit.

What an amazing school and an amazing day in this era of "No Child Left Behind." When I told them how rare it was to find a school that felt it had this sort of time for author visit preparations, the principal and the librarian were astounded. They'd always done it this way and say they always will. A year long focus on literacy and learning via an indepth author study! Woooohoooo! Everything Jane Kurtz and I espoused in TERRIFIC CONNECTIONS!

And now moi, (Kim Norman), butting in to add:

So everybody, here is another component to a perfect author visit: Be sure you're following Toni Buzzeo or Jane Kurtz. LOL! (Because my Hampton, Virginia visit following Toni's visit last year went well, too.) Obviously, Jane & Toni are good leaders, encouraging a reading of their how-to book, TERRIFIC CONNECTIONS, before they come.

Coincidentally, at a school I visited a few weeks ago, Jane Kurtz had been there the year before. So at my "Follow-Jane-Kurtz" visit, the principal sat in on both presentations. That has never, ever happened before. Sometimes the principals don't even pop in to meet me. (Generally, I've found that visits go better when they do. That seems to indicate a higher level of involvement from the whole staff, although I understand that sometimes schedules don't allow time for the principal to get away from his/her obligations.)

Also at this school, the book sale & signing was very organized, and they had sold more books in advance than any school the whole year.

So, thanks to Toni and Jane, I had a near perfect visit, too!
If you'd like to see my author visit video, click HERE. It will give you an idea of my presentation style. I generally like to close my presentations for the younger students with "The Storytime Boogie," a song that encourages bedtime reading. Music video of "The Storytime Boogie" HERE.

Kim Norman