I spend all day cooped up with my computer, and I love nothing more than getting a chance to talk to someone besides the cat. Ideally, I’d get to come to your school in person, but funding doesn’t always allow for that to happen. A Virtual Visit is a low-cost alternative. Using Skype, I can visit your classmate without leaving my computer (drat!) and invite your students into my office to learn a little bit about my writing life and maybe even meet my cat.

What I Do:

Virtual Visits work best with small groups – a single class of kids. Rather than doing the kind of interactive performance/presentation I do when I come to schools in person, I use Virtual Visits as a chance to show children a bit about my writing life and to answer their questions. They’re visiting me in my office and so it’s a chance for a more intimate conversation. Virtual Visits are typically 30-45 minutes depending on the age of the children. I start by introducing myself and telling them something about whatever I’m working on at the time. Often I show something related to my latest project, whether it’s a stack of books I’m reading on a topic I’m writing about or a toy I’m playing with in search of inspiration. Sometimes I give them a little tour of my office, which gives me a chance to tell them something about how I work. Because I work both as a journalist and as a children’s book author, I will usually share something about both kinds of writing. Because I started writing when I was very young, I also tell them a little bit about my life as a young author. I have lots of fun show and tell, including some of my early stories and pictures (which will help them understand why I don’t illustrate my own books).

Then they get to ask me their questions. This only works if they’ve read my books ahead of time and have had a chance to think about what they want to ask. Unprepared kids tend to ask the same questions over and over – questions like “How many books have you written?” I’m pretty good at answering unusual questions – in fact, that’s one of my favorite parts of writing for kids – but it’s hard to come up with five or six different answers to the same question.

What You Do:

If you’re interested in having me Virtually Visit your classroom, here are the steps you’ll need to take.

  1. Determine if you have the technology. You’ll need a computer, a web camera and a microphone and you’ll need to have Skype installed. You also need a high-speed connection. If at all possible, the computer should be connected to a projector so that all the students can easily see what’s happening on the screen. If there’s a technology expert at your school, by all means rope them into this project.
  2. Contact me to plan the visit and schedule a trial run. We’ll do a quick Skype chat to make sure that everything’s working as it should.
  3. Decide if you want to order books [link], which can help cover the cost of the visit or raise money for the school. I can send signed bookplates for each book.
  4. Prepare your students by having them read at least one of my books and think up some questions in advance. Ideally, you’ll pre-select the students who ask questions and send me their questions before the visit, so that I can tailor my presentation to their questions and – most importantly – don’t have to worry about being able to hear the shy ones. I’ll ask the students to come up to the screen to ask their questions individually, but it makes things run more smoothly if the selection has happened in advance.
  5. Tell the kids I can’t wait to meet them!

If you have questions about Virtual Visits, feel free to contact me.

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