Host an Author
According to some Year 3 students, an author visit is “better than Santa Claus. Because Santa only comes once a year, but when you pick up a book by someone you have met you get a good feeling every time.” So why not directly connect the author and the students by organising a visit by an author (or an illustrator) to your school?
Organising a visit does involve some preparation and planning but consider involving and delegating to the students themselves, providing invaluable in-context learning.
Most authors and illustrators have agents to handle their bookings while others prefer to handle their bookings themselves so check their websites to find out personal preferences. If nothing is offered, send the person an email to find out. The Australian Society of Children’s Book writers and Illustrators has a speakers’ directory page.
Some of the key Australian booking agencies are
The Australian Society of Children’s Book writers and Illustrators recommends its members to use the rates set by the Australian Publishers Association as a minimum.
Consider your options for meeting the costs:
· Sharing the author with neighbouring schools
· Involving your local public library
· Investigate if a video link via Skype is an alternative enabling cheaper costs particularly if the desired guest is interstate or international.
Be clear about the costs involved:
· Are payments to be made directly to the presenter or to their agency?
· Who will meet the costs for meals and accommodation?
· Costs of travel involved?
Payment is part of the deal and it is better to have everything sorted up front so the memory of the visit is not soured by an unexpected expense.
Preparing for the visit
Ensure that you and the students have a thorough knowledge of the author’s works so the conversations can be informed and informative. Develop a program that not only focuses on the purpose of the visit but which generates excitement and anticipation. Have the students create posters, book trailers, quizzes, almost anything apart from ‘read-and-review’ so they begin to feel a real sense of occasion. Have them create a display of both these and the author’s works in the library or wherever the visit is to be held so there is a sense of expectation and familiarity.
Most authors allow time for a Q&A session so have students prepare some questions in advance. Have them imagine they are allowed to interview the author but they can only ask three questions, so they have to be questions that have never been asked before.
Author Visit checklist
confirming dates, addresses and contact details
identifying and understanding the content of the author’s presentation
clarifying amount of and responsibility for expenses
providing maps and parking details or pick-up arrangements
identifying needs such as a whiteboard, computer, screen, microphone and ensure these are provided and working efficiently before the presentation
ensuring that your network runs the software the author may use and that any websites they may visit are unblocked
providing a table, a jug of water and a clean glass
having hosts to greet the guest and introduce him/her to the principal and the TL
ensuring your guest knows where the bathroom is and has time to use it
taking them to the staffroom, introducing them to the staff and ensuring they get a cup of tea/coffee
having hosts to show the media and other guests to the venue
having students prepare a thank-you speech and present an appropriate gift
writing a formal letter of thanks within a day or two of the visit
confirm if there will be book sales and signings, and advertise to parents
invite the media or prepare your own media reports for the school newsletter, website and local outlets. (and the QSLA newsletter!)
Ensure that your guest takes away the best impression of your school and looks forward to coming again.
Barbara Braxton August 2011
Other useful links include
Carolyn Mock has shared this file which has more ideas and which she says "may be used & adapted for your school. I just ask that I am credited as original author in footer."
PETAA has produced a guide advising authors and illustrators of how they can offer a quality school visit. It includes requirements for each jurisdiction's requirements for Working with Children documentation. It also includes a link to PETAA Authors and Illustrators websites.