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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: author visits, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. What’s Your Biggest Question About Doing School Visits?

sticky note mind map with questions on a blackboardI’m putting the final touches on School Visit Wizard, a step-by-step, customizable kit to help authors book, plan and deliver A+ author visits in schools.

I want to make sure I’ve covered everything, so if you’re willing to help by answering one quick question, I’ll send you a FREE report outlining The 7 Essential Documents Every Author MUST Have in Their School Visit Kit. (What’s a School Visit Kit? Don’t worry – this report answers that, too!)

Just click on the link below, fill out the form and click submit – and you’ll receive the report immediately.

Thank you!


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2. A successful author event!

Roland Smith 2015 photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Roland Smith 2015
photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Last week, the Deschutes Public Library hosted author Roland Smith.  He visited middle schools throughout Central Oregon and I loved spending the day with him, traveling to different schools and hearing about his writing experiences, his popular books and his amazing animal adventures!

“Writing is revision”  —Roland Smith

Smith was inspiring as he shared his history and expertise with animals, how he became a writer and then highlighted his twenty-five books. They asked curious and a few silly questions.  One of the most popular questions asked was, what is your favorite book?  Smith’s favorite book is To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee.  He’s read and listened to it over and over.

Writing  photo by Roland Smith

photo by Roland Smith

Another favorite question was, “Do you write in first or third person?”  He said it depends on the story.  “First person is more personal.  Beneath is written in first person but not really.  It’s an epistolary story so it has newspaper articles, tape recorder conversations, emails,” replied Smith.  He wrote one of my favorite books, Tentacles, on a cruise ship, working through the rough draft from Rome to the United States.  He said, “A cruise ship is the perfect place for writing.”

A question I always ask authors and illustrators is, what odd or unusual object is in your office?  Smith’s answer was an Elephant Bell. What’s an Elephant Bell?

Elephant Bell (top right corner)  photo by Roland Smith

Elephant Bell (top right corner)
photo by Roland Smith

“The bell is made out of teak by the Burmese oozies (mahouts) deep in the Burmese jungle. The timber elephants are let go in the afternoon after work to wander freely. Early the next morning the oozies go out to find their elephants for another day of work. They find their elephants by the sound of the bell. Each bell has its own unique tone. The rope attached to the bell is made by the oozies out of tree bark. There’s no hardware store where they live. I spent several weeks in elephant camps doing research for Elephant Run,” said Smith.

Roland Smith welcome sign photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

Roland Smith welcome sign
photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

School librarians and teachers were so involved in getting their students excited about the author visit.  (Thank you teachers and librarians!) By reading his books aloud in class, creating displays in the halls, and painting and drawing his book covers for a welcome sign, it all made for a successful visit! I visited each school with book talks and asked them what kinds of questions they would ask Smith.  I even brought my typewriter! (Roland Smith collects and writes with typewriters.)

paintings and drawings photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

paintings and drawings
photo by Paige Bentley-Flannery

After one of his visits, Becky, a sixth grade teacher at Sisters Middle School said, “The kids raved about him… if I had 100 copies of Beneath, they’d all be checked out!”

What is our favorite Roland Smith book?  Have you read Beneath?

For more information about Roland Smith, his writing adventures, and his latest books please explore his website. www.rolandsmith.com
Follow him on twitter @RolandCSmith or hang out with him on facebook.com/Roland.Smith

Paige Bentley-Flannery is a Community Librarian at Deschutes Public Library. For over fifteen years–from Seattle Art Museum to the New York Public Library to the Deschutes Public Library-Paige’s passion and creative style for art, poetry and literature have been combined with instructing, planning, and providing information. Paige is currently serving on the ALSC Notable Children’s Book Committee, 2015 – 2017. She is a former Chair of the ALSC Digital Content Task Force and member of the ALSC Great Websites Committee.

The post A successful author event! appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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3. Bartography on Pinterest

Pinterest_Badge_RedJust a reminder, for those of you on Pinterest, that I’ve got pages there for each of my books:

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet
Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities
Shark Vs. Train
The Day-Glo Brothers

You can also see which books I’ll be giving away in coming months to Bartography Express subscribers (if you liked Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s One for the Murphys, you’ll love the February giveaway!), as well as images from my school visits and other appearances.

And you guys, the art I’ve seen from Cathy Gendron for our fall 2015 book, ‘The Nutcracker’ Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition, is flat-out gorgeous. I can’t wait to start pinning images from that, so keep an eye out, OK?

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4. How to Have a Successful Author Visit

In December, my library was very fortunate to be selected as one of the stops on Jan Brett’s tour for her latest release The Animals’ Santa. We’ve hosted author’s before at the library, but never anything this large. We had around 800 people show up for the event and people drove from Kansas City, Arkansas and across Missouri to here Ms. Brett speak and get books signed. We had a lot of fun and the event was fantastic and we couldn’t have been happier with the way everything turned out. But I learned a few things along the way on how to ensure a successful author visit.


Photo Credit: Springfield-Greene County Library
  • Create a schedule of events for staff as well as listed job duties and descriptions of what is expected. This was incredibly helpful since we had numerous staff involved in the event from various branches and departments.
  • Use a ticketing system for the signing line. We used tickets created by our Community Relations department that also doubled as bookmarks. These were passed out as families came into the library the day of the event. During the signing, we called groups of 25 into the auditorium and had the crowd organized so the signing line went smoothly-and there were no mad dashes to get in line.
  • Have activities while people are waiting. Expect a long line and a lot of waiting. We turned our story hour room into an activity room with crafts, trivia, and games based on Jan Brett’s books to entertain children why they waited.
  • Limit the number of items to be signed. Ms. Brett was very gracious and signed numerous items for our patrons, but the line was just too long for her to continue the amount that she started with. We had to cut down the number of items signed by the end to keep things moving along. Next time I would have a set number to start with and advertise that so everyone knows what to expect.
  • If possible, check in with previous tour stops for tips and advice. We were able to talk to the previous tour stop about how many people they had, how they handled the lines, and any other tips. This helped us prepare and give us an idea of what to expect.
  • Think about parking! We thought we had everything planned-until we talked to the previous tour stop and realized the day of the event we didn’t know what we were going to with parking! Next time I think signage for parking and even someone directing traffic would be very helpful.
  • Make sure you have food and water for your visiting author-and your staff. We had a break room with snacks and water for staff and made sure we had a stash of water bottles for Ms. Brett as well. We tried to give staff managing the lines short breaks to get something to eat or drink as needed. I would make sure you have someone on your schedule that can give breaks to staff along the way!
  • People don’t understand what “personalization” means. We offered two books to be personalized and had post it notes for the names to be written on for Ms. Brett to see. What I realized in line is that people didn’t understand the difference between just getting a book signed and getting it signed with a name to someone specific. They also didn’t understand that they couldn’t write out a long inscription such as “To Mrs. Nelson’s class-you’re a great group of readers”. I think more explanation on what it means to get a book personalized from the line managers and book seller table would be helpful.
  • Expect a few grumps and complaints. Not everyone will be satisfied with everything-and that’s OK-you can’t please everyone no matter how hard you try. I would say 95% of the feedback we received about the event was how smoothly everything ran, how friendly the staff was, and how happy they were the library was offering this event. There were a few minor complaints along the way-the lines were long, they couldn’t get a large stack of books signed, but these were largely out of our control. Once we explained that we had a large crowd and we needed to move everyone through the line, people were understanding. And the positive comments outweighed the negatives and we focused on that!
  • Celebrate a job well done. Make sure you thank the author, any tour assistants they may have, the publisher, and your staff on a job well done. Send the publisher feedback on your event and pictures if you have them-they love to know how events turned out!

Have you hosted an author event at your library? Any tips you have for making it successful?

The post How to Have a Successful Author Visit appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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5. Diversity Authors and Illustrations Guest Posting on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Blog!!

As everyone may already know, plans are in full swing for our second Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 27th! Created by myself and the amazing Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom and myself, event has a goal of not only shing the spotlight on all of the amazing diverse and multicultural children books, authors and illustrators, but also to get these very books into the hands of the children who need them.

We are so excited to announce our line up of 25 diversity authors and illustrations starting January 1st and running through Janaury 25th at the Multicultural Children’s Book Day blog!

multicultural children's book day January 27 2015

As we mentioned, we are collaboring with the Children’s Book Council who reached out to its members to highlight the authors and illustrators of multicultural children’s books!

Children's Book Council

Please welcome (in alphabetical order):

Tracey Baptiste was born in Trinidad, where she grew up on jumbie stories and fairy tales. Her debut, a young adult novel titled Angel’s Grace, was named one of the 100 best books for reading and sharing by New York City librarians. Tracey is a former teacher, textbook editor, ballerina, and amateur librarian who once started up a library in her house in the hope that everyone would bring their books back late and she would be rich! You know, like other librarians. She is now a wife and mom and lives in New Jersey, where she writes and edits books for kids from a very cozy office in her house that is filled with more toys than she can count. The Jumbies is her second novel.

Kathleen Benson is the coauthor of many picture books, including John Lewis in the Lead, which was illustrated by Benny Andrews. She lives in New York, New York.

Tonya Bolden’s work has garnered many accolades, including the Coretta Scott King Honor Award, James Madison Book Award, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, YALSA Best Book of the Year, and CCBC Best Book of the Year. She lives in New York City.

Tricia Brown is an author, editor, and book developer. She travels often and is a popular speaker in schools, libraries, and events in Alaska as well as the Lower 48. Her multimedia presentations, which include lessons on Alaska natural history and culture, regularly receive high praise from educators and parents. She loves to get kids excited about reading, writing, and art.

Andrea Cheng is the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. She writes picture books and middle grade and young adult novels, and also teaches English as a Second Language and children’s literature. She walks daily near her Ohio home. She writes the Anna Wang series (The Year of the Three Sisters).

Kris Dinnison has spent nearly two decades as a teacher and librarian. Nowadays, she helps run the retail and café businesses she owns with her husband, hikes, and spins classic vinyl. This is her debut YA novel. She lives in Spokane, Washington.

Sharon M. Draper is a New York Times bestselling author who has received the Coretta Scott King Award for both Copper Sun and Forged by Fire. Her Out of My Mind has won multiple awards and has been a New York Times bestseller for more than a year. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years and was named National Teacher of the Year.

Matt de la Peña is the author of five critically-acclaimed young adult novels: Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, I Will Save You and The Living. He’s also the author of the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. de la Peña currently lives in Brooklyn NY. He teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country.

Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome are a husband-wife team who have collaborated on many award-winning picture books for children. These include Satchel Paige, which was an ALA Best Book for Children and a Booklist Top Ten Sports Book for Youth, and Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass, which received starred reviews in Booklist and School Library Journal. The Quilt Alphabet was praised as “a blue-ribbon ABC book that combines bright, folksy oil paintings and lilting riddle-poems” in a starred review in Publishers Weekly and called “a feast for the eyes” in School Library Journal.

JaNay Brown-Wood dreams big. Ever since she was a little girl, she’s wanted to become a published author. Her determination has paid off. Imani’s Moon is her first book for children. JaNay is also a professor of early childhood education. She lives in California.

Karen English is a Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winning author who lives in Los Angeles, California. Her books have been praised for their accessible writing, authentic characters, and satisfying story lines. Karen is a retired elementary school teacher, and she wrote these stories with her students in mind.

Desirae Foston is a designer and artist based in Brooklyn, NY.

Rachel Isadora received a Caldecott Honor for Ben’s Trumpet, and has written and illustrated numerous other books for children, including Bea at Ballet, Jake at Gymnastics, Say Hello!, Peekaboo Bedtime, the Lili at Ballet series, and several classic tales set in Africa (including Old Mikamba Had a Farm, There was a Tree, The Night Before Christmas, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, and The Princess and the Pea). She lives in New York City.

Kekla Magoon is an award-winning author of many young adult novels, including The Rock and the River, for which she received the 2010 Coretta Scott King–John Steptoe Award for New Talent. Kekla Magoon lives in New York City.

Meg Medina is the author of The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind and the picture book Tía Isa Wants a Car, illustrated by Claudio Muñoz, which won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. Her most recent young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, is the winner of the 2014 Pura Belpré Author Award. The daughter of Cuban immigrants, she grew up in Queens, New York, and now lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Jason Reynolds is crazy. About stories. After earning a BA in English from The University of Maryland, College Park, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where you can often find him walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment talking to himself. Well, not really talking to himself, but just repeating character names and plot lines he thought of on the train, over and over again, because he’s afraid he’ll forget it all before he gets home. He is the author of the critically acclaimed When I Was the Greatest and The Boy in the Black Suit.

Kashmira Sheth was four years old at the first Indian wedding she remembers, and she still cherishes the memory of the festivities in her grandparents’ house. Since then she has attended many weddings but, unlike Sona, has never successfully stolen a groom’s shoes. She is the author of many acclaimed books, including Tiger in My Soup, My Dadima Wears a Sari, and Monsoon Afternoon. Sheth teaches at Pine Manor College, in their Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program.

Conrad J. Storad is an award-winning author and editor of more than 50 science and nature books for children, Conrad J. Storad is committed to helping students better understand and appreciate the natural world. Conrad visits many schools to teach and entertain children and is now approaching his visit with his millionth student. In 2006, Don’t Call Me Pig! (A Javelina Story) was selected by Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to promote reading, and more than 93,000 first-graders received a special edition copy. In 2012, Storad’s Arizona Way Out West & Witty, coauthored with Lynda Exley, was selected to represent Arizona as part of the “52 Great Reads” program run annually at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

Eric Velasquez was born in Spanish Harlem in New York City. The awards he has won include a Pura Belpré and the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award. He lives in New York State with his family.

Laura Rose Wagner has a PhD in anthropology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She lived in Port-au-Prince from 2009 to 2012, and survived the earthquake. She travels to Haiti often, and founded a creative writing group for young people there.

Brenda Woods was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, raised in southern California, and attended California State University, Northridge. She is the award-winning author of several books for young readers: Coretta Scott King Honor winner The Red Rose Box, The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, Saint Louis Armstrong Beach, Voya Top Shelf Fiction selection Emako Blue, My Name is Sally Little Song, and A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her numerous awards and honors include the Judy Lopez Memorial Award, FOCAL award, Pen Center USA’s Literary Award finalist, IRA Children’s Choice Young Adult Fiction Award, and ALA Quick Pick. She lives in the Los Angeles area.

Natasha Yim was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At ten, her family moved to Hong Kong, where Natasha attended a very Harry Potter-esque secondary school. This is where she was turned on to writing. She moved to the United States to attend college where she studied Psychology and English Literature. Natasha is the author of Sacajawea of the Shoshone, Cixi: “The Dragon Empress”, and Otto’s Rainy Day. She lives in Ukiah, California.

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

25 diversity authors and illustrators highlighted

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The post Diversity Authors and Illustrations Guest Posting on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Blog!! appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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6. Would Your Child’s Teacher Enjoy Free Books?

This month, I am giving away Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore. Twenty-four autographed books will go to one special PK or K-5 teacher and her classroom. All you have to do is write individually on my Author’s Page on Facebook- not here in this post – why “your” teacher deserves the gift of books in his or her classroom. The story with the most likes on my wall gets the books. Contest ends 12/31. Who knows, I might even pay that class a visit sometime in 2015. Approximate retail value of the books is $500. Happy Holidays!



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7. Planting Seeds of Change Around the World

Guest bloggerThis is a guest post by Jen Cullerton Johnson, author of Seeds of ChangeJohnson is a writer, educator, and environmentalist who teachers at an inner-city elementary school in Chicago.

Ashley Howey is the literacy coordinator at Briar Creek Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Last school year, she contacted me about my picture book Seeds of Change, a nonfiction biography of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya. Brier Creek Elementary school wanted to do something different, something no other school in their district had done before.

The school community wanted to adopt the themes within Seeds of Change to be the deep focus for student growth, teacher extended learning, and administration professional development. In other words, everyone at Briar Creek Elementary wanted to be involved in change. They wanted the book Seeds of Change to guide them because they felt it showed how people tackled big problems and worked together, and most importantly how change brings out each person’s inner potential.

Brier Creek Elementary School hosts diverse learners from various socio-economic and multicultural backgrounds. The school is supported by Title I and is a year around school. Their curriculum mission is to “cultivate culturally ambitious citizens.”

“We want everyone in our school to own a copy,” Ashley Howey said. “Teachers, students, cafeteria workers, administration, parents. Everyone.”

“How many is everyone?” I asked.


1,200 copies is a lofty goal, a ton of books, an enormous number, I thought.

“What makes this project so special?” I asked.

“Every student in the school is united by reading the book and using it as a springboard for collective change,” she said.

I remembered that goals are all about teamwork, goodwill, and sharing our resources. I was on board.

In September 2013, I sent video message to their teachers. In October 2014, we skyped with the whole school where a storyteller enacted Wangari’s life. By March 2014 the school had purchased close to 300 copies, one for each teacher and one for each family unit in the school. They were not able to give all students a copy. Nonetheless with the copies they had, the school began their Seeds of Change project.

Brier Creek Elementary Teachers

Brier Creek Elementary Teachers with copies of Seeds of Change

The music teacher, Adam Hall wrote an anthem for the whole school. Young people sang lyrics like: Plant our roots/ Let us grow/ Water us love/To watch us bloom!

Children in different classrooms started thinking about how to be the best they could.

One student said: “At our school we are working together to make things better like Wangari did!”

Teachers felt the pull of the whole school learning focus. Enthusiasm was contagious!

One teacher said, “Seeds of Change has given our school a common language of character. We have integrated these powerful message of persistence, patience and respect for our surroundings and others, into our conversations throughout the school.”

But by June 2014, Brier Creek Elementary School still had not been able to give a copy of the book to each student. In fact, since March, many, many had to share. What Ashley Howey wanted when she first started this big school community project was for everyone to have a copy of the book, and so far they still need 700 copies of Seeds of Change.

Then something happened. They started giving away some of their books.

“We wanted the children to sign the book here in North Carolina and give them to the children in Kenya. And the Kenyan children would sign a copy and we would keep a copy it in North Carolina.”

When students decided to share their resources, they were given even more opportunities to learn, grow and be proud of who they are.

The exchange was a success. Students in North Carolina saw a digital video of Kenyan students reading the book. Kenyan students saw North Carolina students dancing and singing to the song they created called Seeds of Change.

Students in Kenya with their copies of Seeds of Change

Students in Kenya with their copies of Seeds of Change

Their special project is unique and is rooted in changing the mindset and actions of a school community. With this first year over, Brier Creek Elementary now wants to continue to connect and share what they learned.

The school is now is involved in a sister project with a school in Kenya. Teachers in North Carolina are sharing lesson plans and learning activities with Kenyan teachers and their students.

“We plan on Skyping with the Kenya teachers and students about Seeds of Change,” Ashley said. “In August we will fundraise with a Seeds of Change Walk-a-Thon and the money will go to buying more copies of the book for us and for Kenya.” They want to raise enough funds to buy 200 copies to send to Kenya.

What you can do

Together with your help, we can continue to plant and honor our seeds of change. If you are inspired by Brier Creek Elementary School’s project, get involved! I have started a Seeds of Change Campaign where young people around the country can help other young people at Brier Creek Elementary and their sister school in Kenya by donating copies of Seeds of Change to help them reach their goal of 700 copies for their school and 200 copies for their sister school in Kenya.

If a young person donates, I will donate an Author’s Skype visit to your home or school. In my Author’s visit, we will read parts of the book and do a seed planting together. I will also create a section on my website where your school will be honored as a donor.

Please contact publicity@leeandlow.com or jencullertonjohnson@gmail.com for scheduling and further information.

Book donations can be sent to the following address:

Ashley Howey, NBCT

Brier Creek Elementary School
9801 Brier Creek Parkway
Raleigh, North Carolina 27617

Filed under: Book News, Educator Resources, Interviews with Authors and Illustrators Tagged: African/African American Interest, author visits, Seeds of change

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8. Author Event in Milford, NH

Bring the kids for a fun-filled story time!

Saturday June 7th at 2:00 pm
Toadstool Bookshop, Milford NH

Award winning children’s book author and illustrator, Jennifer E. Morris will be reading and signing, “The Ice Cream Shop,” the first book in her silly new Scholastic Reader series featuring Steve the opossum and Wessley the rabbit (approx. age 3-8).  Then join us while we make our very own rabbit or opossum ears, complete with face paint whiskers! 

Jennifer is the author and illustrator of several children’s books including the best-selling, “May I Please Have a Cookie?” also published by Scholastic. Visit her on the web at www.jemorris.com.

If you are in the area please stop by and say hi!  If you know anyone else who might be interested, please pass on the information.

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9. MRA Poster by Matt Faulkner and me

Michigan Reading Association held its 2014 conference this past weekend, and I got to do some presentations at it. At the huge general session on Sunday they unveiled the poster for next year's conference and -- ta-daaa! -- I helped create it.

Fellow Michigan author-illustrator and dear friend Matt Faulkner drew the MRA lettering scene and that gorgeous, intricate calligraphy of the words Honesty, Diversity, Unity, and Equality.

I did the Michigan readers pen/watercolor art and the layout.

These posters were distributed to teachers and librarians and will hang in schools around the state.
I've already seen a few in schools, actually.
This is a busy season for author visits-- I'll watch for more in my travels to schools around the state.
Pretty heady stuff!

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10. SundayMorningReads

I didn’t know until last night that the Harbaughs were born in Toledo, Ohio. No wonder they’re so good! (Yes, Toledo is my hometown.)

When the Colts lost early in the playoffs, all my attention turned to the 49ers. You could call me a fair weather fan of the Niners, thanks to my oldest son. I think he has been a fan of the Niners ever since he knew what football was and, when I think back to him as a boy I vision him in his cardinal red and metallic gold coat, hat, scarf, sweatshirt and/or one of many t-shirts that were part of his wardrobe. It may be just a game, and he may be just a fan but his loyalty to that team is mighty impressive. And, because of that I’m rooting for them, too.

Well, I’ll be rooting for them after I attend the Taiwanese New Year celebration on campus. I met a student who is from the town in Taiwan where I used to live and she was kind enough to gift me with a ticket. I’ll be surprising her with a red envelope. My fingers are crossed for beef noodles.

I really can’t believe there are only 6 books by authors of color released this month. I’m really looking forward to the emails and comments telling me of the titles I’ve missed.

14 February is International Book Giving Day

A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy usually posts a comprehensive list of African American non-fiction in February. She recently posted the winners of the American Indian Youth Literature Award.

The Brown Bookshelf’s 28 Days Later is underway. MG/YA authors will include

Feb. 1 – Malaika Rose Stanley (MG)

Feb. 3 – Alaya Dawn Johnson – (YA)

Feb. 5 – Glennette Tilley Turner – (MG)

Feb. 6 – Traci L. Jones – (YA)

Feb. 8 – Brian F. Walker – (YA)

Feb. 9 – Veronica Chambers – (MG)

Feb. 10 – B.A. Binns (YA)

Feb. 12 – Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams – (MG)

Feb. 13 – Octavia Butler – (YA )

Feb. 15 – Lyah Beth LeFlore – (YA)

Feb. 17 – Arna Bontemps – (MG)

Feb. 18 – Jasmine Richards – (MG)

Feb. 21 – Nalo Hopkinson – (YA)

Feb. 24 – Linda Tarrant-Reid – (MG)

Feb. 26 – Chudney Ross – (MG)

Feb. 28 – Jaime Reed – (YA)

Indeed, another impressive list of vanguard, established and new talents!

If you’re looking for a way to get one of these authors to visit your school or library, you might consider the Amber Brown Grant or a Targets Arts Grant.

Have you read Wasafiri? Wasafiri is Wasafiri is a literary magazine at the forefront in mapping new landscapes in contemporary international literature today. The current issue highlights global youth culture.

YALSA is about to make spring committee appointments. If you’re a YALSA member, do think about getting involved! All I did to get begin working with them was to complete an application.

My term with the YALSA’s Best Fiction in Young Adult selection committee officially began today and it begins with the question: How do you define ‘a good book’? I think it would be easier to agree on a definition of a good book than it will be to agree on a good book itself.

Here’s hoping you (and the Niners) have a good week!


Filed under: Sunday Reads Tagged: 28 Days Later, author visits, BFYA, February releases, sunday morning reads, Wasafiri, yalsa

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11. Ingredients for a Great School Visit

I had another I.N.K. post just about finished when Kelly Milner Halls' plea for school librarians and a package pushed me in another direction.

The mailer came from Carol Sweny, the Henniker Community School librarian, in Henniker, NH, where I had recently talked to kids, K-8.  The disc of photos recording my two days there included all the ingredients of a great school visit and reminded me how often a school librarian is at its core.

In the school visit's section of my web site, I have a version of what most authors say on theirs: I find that when kids are prepared for a school visit, they get more out of it. So I ask that students have access to some of my books beforehand, and read (or are read) at least one of them.  I also have downloadable pictures of me and book covers to make a poster for your hallway.  These efforts alone will invoke kids’ interest and enthusiasm, making the visit more memorable for them.

Remember you can click on all these pictures to make them larger.

This statement isn't an ego thing or a plea to buy more of my books beforehand.  When kids know I'm coming, when they have read or heard some of my books, they are psyched to see me.  They have had time to think and wonder about things, they listen more attentively, they ask more questions.  They get more out of the experience.  It's not that I can't grab an uniformed class or auditorium's attention; I can.  But time after time, I notice that prepared kids have a better experience. 

Like Kelly, I know that classroom teachers and principals are overloaded.  Some may not even know an author is coming in time to prepare.  Besides they are trying to get through their curriculum and whatever enrichments they have planned, let alone teaching to whatever state test is coming up next. PTO parents work hard to raise money for author visits, but their role doesn't usually extend to the classroom or library.  The school librarian is the perfect person to rally the troops: to prepare the kids in library class, to suggest and facilitate related classroom exercises, to organize book order forms, to generate excitement.

The Henniker has one author come each year, and Carol Sweny makes the most of it. I'm not suggesting that every school or school librarian wants or needs to put in the time and effort she did.  Perhaps showing how she rallied her school, however, will remind people how important it is to have school librarians and how much their efforts, with school visits and everything else, help kids learn and grow.

Here is part of the flyer Carol made to pass around to the teachers.

As you saw, grades K through 4 saw a presentation based on my book On This Spot, which takes New York City back in time to when it was home to forests, glaciers, dinosaurs, towering mountains, even a tropical sea.  This presentation included, among other things, kids taking many different objects and sorting themselves into a timeline.

Carol asked the teachers to have their classes use timelines to supplement normal learning.  They did so in different and wonderful ways. The school's corridors were festooned with examples of this interesting way to think about time and history.

The kindergarteners made timelines of their days.   

First graders created a timeline that would record a whole year of learning month by month.

The 2nd graders made illustrated lifelines.
Third graders did their lifelines too.
Here's a new way for a 4th grade class to think about the making of the Statue of Library. 

The 5th grade concentrated on learning new computer skills while doing their personal timelines.

The 6th grades' timeline of our presidents was perfectly timed since my visit occurred shortly after the election in November.

The 7th graders learned research and computer skills creating a timeline of Henniker's history that took up an entire hallway.
The 8th grade's timeline cascading down the stairway brought their study of the Harlem Renaissance to life.

As Kelly so wisely said, school librarians (any librarians) are teachers. They build relationships, spark imagination.  We should fight for them.

I would fight for Carol Sweny.  Besides a great school visit, she gave me a moment of feeling like a rock star.  Check out what greeted me when I pulled into the school parking lot.

5 Comments on Ingredients for a Great School Visit, last added: 12/10/2012
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There have been lots of great developments and goings-on lately.

I've taken over as the director/leader/coordinator (what is the title, anyway?) of the Young Willamette Writers. I'm very excited about this position. The Willamette Writers is the largest writers' organizaton in Oregon, and one of the largest in the United States. Its purpose is to provide support and encouragement for current and aspiring writers. Young writers are not overlooked!

The Young Willamette Writers meets at the same time as the adults (7pm on the first Tuesday of every month) to hear from professional writers about topics related to craft and the industry. Upcoming guests are Tom Hallman, Jr. of the Oregonian, Lisa Nowak (Running Wide Open) on outlining, Amber Keyser (Angel Punk) on transmedia, Anne Osterlund (Exile) with a topic yet to be decided. What a great year we're going to have!

I'm in the middle of teaching a workshop at the Lake Oswego Library for 4th-6th graders. We've had lots of fun with my And then... stories as well as Chris Van Allsburg's book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. I'll be doing a one-time workshop at the Albina Library in December.

SCBWI is hosting the 4th annual authors and illustrators gala, "Flap Flap!" on November 3. At this event, 15 authors and illustrators (including yours truly) will have four minutes to tell about their books. Come hear backstories and good tidbits from the authors themselves. This is a great time to get some Christmas shopping done as well.

Finally, I was honored to have my book discussed on Dan Patterson's blog after he used it subbing in a 5th grade class. Thanks, Dan! Glad you had fun with it!

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13. Author Presentation - All Tied Up

Last month, I wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek post titled Lessons Learned - Author Presentations. The comments and suggestions from readers of that post were fantastic and very helpful. Today, I thought that I’d share a little about my recent Author Visit -mixing it up with knowledge I learned and information I shared, all wrapped up with some very touching and creative thank you cards.

 During my Introduction while described my childhood, I explained that I liked to read, make stuffed toys for my brother, and secretly write and illustrate stories in my closet. And, I liked cotton candy. These elements were woven throughout my presentation.

Of course, cotton candy got a huge reaction.

During my Writing portion, I showed them how I feel some days, while I am writing.

I think all the students could relate.
(Also, I shared, "The fact that I'm talking to you instead of writing is yet another way that I'm procrastinating.")

The only problem I had was my throat became dry while talking for all that time. I brought my trusty water bottle with me. But, like I shared to a friend, “When I stopped to take a drink, I had 60 pairs of eyes glued on me.” There’s got to be a secret to being able to speak and not get a dry throat.

Though I’ve done classes and presentations, this was my first go at a Powerpoint presentation. The previous week during a sold out show at a large, local theater, the speaker’s Powerpoint presentation continually got the “spinning ball of death”. I was so scared that was going to happen to me. The teacher and I tried to match our schedules so I could to go in a day or two early and check to see if the presentation ran okay. But, in the end, I had to cross my fingers and arrive at the school 45 minutes early to get everything working. Let’s just say that the presentation finally got on the screen five minutes before the students came in. Lesson learned: buy a projector!

The teacher told me later that the students were talking about my presentation and writing the entire rest of the day. She said, “The students were so excited about your visit and now inspired to write their own stories!”

Here’s a few nuggets from the cards and letters:
“You inspired me to draw and write.”
“I will probably buy your book it sounds really good.”
“I want your book so badly.”
“You rock, Mrs. Lewis.”
“I think your presentation was awesome.”
“You have inspired me to become an author! I’m sure The House that Jill Built will be awesome.”
“I will read the book right when it comes out.”

Would love to share all 60 wonderful comments. But, I’ll stop at those. Gotta love 'em.

The one thing that strikes me while I’m rereading all these cards is they are all extremely creative and unique. Our schools are truly filled with some amazing talented and creative students. The

1 Comments on Author Presentation - All Tied Up, last added: 5/25/2012
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14. Author Outings

I had two wonderful school visits in April.

 First, I met Mrs. Parham's 2nd grade class at Conway Elementary School where I shared DOGGIE DAY CAMP with the students. They enjoyed playing "Bubba Says" with me and discovering some verb and adverb adventures of their own.

 Next, I spent the whole day with the incredible students at Christ Community Lutheran School. I was amazed at all the creative projects the students and their teachers had made for me in preparation for my visit. They highlighted each of my books with poems and stories and inventive dioramas--Kitty Kerplunking Visits Doggie Day Camp! Why didn't I think of that? There was a video as well!

 First Grade teacher, Ann Schmidt who helped organize my visit, had this to say: Just to let you know about your influence on my classroom. There are 4 of them that have started creating their own books. They've shared their stories and now the rest of the class is all fired up about writing their own too. This is something that first graders should be doing, but this class has just realized how fun it can be, thanks to you. 

For me, it's great to write for children, but even better to help inspire them to do their own writing. Like I always say, Ready, Set, WRITE!!!

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15. Lessons Learned - Author Presentations

This week, I was schooled by a third grader.

I’m in the middle of an art lesson. Bryson says loudly, “No, dude. The planet.” I stop and look over at him. Then, I get the joke. They got me. All the boys are on the floor laughing. I’ve lost them, again.

Thanks to my magazine articles and an upcoming nonfiction book, I’ve been getting requests to talk to local classrooms. What am I going to say? How can I keep them interested in all the knowledge that I want to share? Is there any thing I can do to prevent losing them?

I’ve created and presented Art Appreciation lessons for over 12 years. I’ve created and taught several After School Enrichment classes for the past 6 years. Most cases, the teacher or a mom helper has been in the room. I’ve taught for an after-school Art program for almost two years - teaching at several schools each week and subbing all around the western Chicago suburbs. In those classes, it’s just me. I’ve had my share of challenges. After one class, a teacher walked by as I was putting up the artwork and said, “That must be Michael’s.” I said, “Yes, it is. Are you his teacher?” She responded, “Yup, and good luck with that.” The class was full of Michaels. 

This week, I discovered several websites and blogs filled with information on how to give classroom presentations. Children’s book authors and illustrators are so giving of their time and expertise. The town I live in has hosted several Author festivals. I was fortunate to be able to sit in on many classroom presentations; even made a few author friends through the years, too. When possible, I watched presentations in my own child’s class - my own personal focus group. (One very popular author totally “bombed” according to my son, an eight grade student at the time. The author’s talk was geared for elementary school students not middle schoolers... or, at least, we thought third graders might have laughed at the jokes.) I’ve been a guest at several career days, talking to several eight-grade classes at a time - always an attentive and engaging audience.

Other lessons I have learned:

  • When the power goes out in the building, the whole class screams. (I thought turning the lights out quieted them.) 
  • When one student has to sharpen a pencil, the whole class does, too. (Yes, my pencil box has all sharpened pencils.)
  • When one student has to go to the bathroom, the whole class does, too. 
  • When one student asks to hand out papers, the whole class does, too. 
  • When Gracie jumps up and down and shouts “Mrs. Lewis, Mrs. Lewis, Mrs. Lewis”, she’s going to say, “I like pumpkin pie... and lemon pie... and strawberry pie...” 
  • If there is any way they can glimpse at your lesson, they will see it - and tell the class what you are going to teach before you start. 
  • If one child asks to erase the board, they’re all going to drop everything and race up to help. 
  • And, finally, there’s always one child who you think is going to be handful who winds up totally surprising you - and that makes you smile all the way home. 
Would love to hear from other seasoned veterans of author presentations. Any interesting stories or humorous antidotes that you would like to share? I need help. I need to be prepared for the Brysons, Michaels, and Gracies.

While telling a friend about my trying day, I said, “The entire class was driving me nuts.” Argh. Another word to delete out of my brain. Wish me luck.

10 Comments on Lessons Learned - Author Presentations, last added: 4/27/2012
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16. My John and Tom (Part Almost 3)

I was all set to post the third installment of my FoundingFathersPalooza—an exploration into how I conceived, researched, and wrote Those Rebels, John and Tom, my book about Adams and Jefferson. And I’ll post the final installment next month.

But something wonderful happened a few days ago that fits in so nicely, I couldn’t resist talking about it. You see, in a couple of weeks, I get to meet John and Tom.

In person.

I’ll be participating in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum’s “Presidents’ Day Family Festival” at the JFK Library in Boston, on February 21st.

And John and Tom are going to be there!

OK, technically, John Adams will be played by Thomas Macy and Thomas Jefferson will be played by Bill Barker – but take a look at the links. Don’t they look fabulous?! Both men are real history buffs and I know will do Adams and Jefferson proud.

We’ve been doing a bit of emailing, setting things up. Under the signature line for Thomas Macy’s emails are the quotes:

"Querulous, bald, blind, crippled, toothless Adams."
- Benjamin Franklin Bache
"I'm not crippled." - John Adams

And Bill Barker signs his emails:

Yr' hm'bl sr'vt,
Thos. Jefferson

I think this is going to be fun…

I am geeky excited. For someone who spent over a year working on the book, this is the next best thing to a time machine.

If you will be in Boston on Feb 21st, please join us, won’t you?

7 Comments on My John and Tom (Part Almost 3), last added: 2/9/2012
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17. Seymour Simon at the NSTA Conference

Okay, so I know you’re going to say I’m biased, but I’m a huge fan of Seymour Simon.  As a librarian, I was always comfortable recommending his books  - he was one of my reliables, an absolute go-to.  Recently, I’ve had opportunities to work with him and, I have to confess, he’d have a lot of us beat in the pop culture and technology departments: Seymour knows more about Idol than I ever would and has all the latest gadgets that I’m still slightly scared of.

With that in mind, you have to check out Seymour Simon’s website and blog.  Here is just a glimpse of the coolness you’ll find there:

Want to meet Seymour in person?  The correct answer, of course, is yes.  He’ll be at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conference in San Francisco this coming weekend!  On Friday, March 11th, from 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm, he’ll be accepting his award for the NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 – listen to him speak about GLOBAL WARMING.  On Saturday, March 12th, he’ll be on a panel, “Science with Seymour Simon and Wendy Saul: Developing the Language of Science”, from 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm at the Moscone Center, Room 262 on Saturday.  Stop by and say hi to Seymour!

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18. Travelblog: A School Visit, Moroccan Style

We all know that an author should never say yes to a school visit without first knowing the terms. But last summer Cynthia Ruptic, the lower school librarian at the Rabat American School [RAS] emailed me. “Come to Rabat for two weeks. We’ll have a great time.”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Usually these international trips last a week, at least that’s what I’ve been told as I had never done one before. But Cynthia and the upper school librarian, Lora Wagner, thought that since I write for children and young adults, and since I’m a writer and photographer, two weeks would be a better fit. Two weeks in Morocco? How could I resist.

Lora and Cynthia

That was last summer. As the time for my visit neared, North Africa exploded in a sea of Facebook revolution. My good friend, Liz Levy, was trapped in Egypt along with Bruce Coville and his wife. Trouble in country after country inched closer to the border of Morocco, and the conflicts grew more violent. Was this the right time to talk about nonfiction and photography. Would the students concentrate on anything other than what was happening on their continent? Was it safe? The school principal, Kathy Morabet, emailed, “Come! Morocco is peaceful.”

And so ….
My two weeks in Rabat were intense and wonderful. Before I left, though, Cynthia emailed a program that freaked me out by its Cecil B. DeMille, Technicolor-coded complexity. There was a two-page spreadsheet, chock-a-block filled with classes, photography workshops, after-school club meetings, auditorium presentations, and a teacher presentation. Class visits were from Pre K to 10th Grade. I immediately came down with a sore throat that lasted until I arrived.

In addition, Cynthia and Lora set up a series of half hour meetings with each teacher before I was to meet their class. Yikes! When would there be time to do all that? Those meetings turned out to be a godsend. They gave me the sense of what the teachers were doing and how my prepared programs could be adapted to reinforce their teaching. Class projects ranged from growing silk worms in a shoebox to scribes in Ancient Egypt. Science, math, and ancient history are not exactly a clear fit with my work as a contemporary nonfiction author. And yet, when we put our heads together we found ways to bridge the gap.

So when Alice Mendoza’s kindergarten class went to work on the RAS Storypath Park, the students photographed the tops of the school’s palm trees and attached prints to clay models that represented the trunks.

Photo by Alice Mendoza.

4 Comments on Travelblog: A School Visit, Moroccan Style, last added: 4/11/2011
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19. Author-in-Residence: A Dream Assignment

I have had a great gig this year: author-in-residence at the Michael J. Perkins School in South Boston, a small elementary school set right in the middle of Old Colony Housing Project. Old Colony is being renovated and I was hired to work with the Perkins kids on a blog about being in the middle of a construction zone. I described more about the situation in last October's post.

As the end of the school year approaches, it's natural to look back and access the experience. Having done school visits for many years, I have always been in awe of classroom teachers. Now, I bow down to them. To see what they do every day, day after day, is amazing. To see the pressure to fulfill a state's curriculum--teach X from October 12 to November 3rd and then segue to unit Y on the 4th. To understand more fully how my coming to the classroom with extras means extra resources and richness but extra work squeezing to fit everything in, however worthy it all is.

But some great things happened this year, from K to 5. Some of the highlights:

When the kindergarteners read Mike Mulligan and his Steam Engine, they wondered what the workers on the site had named their machines. They were amazed--maybe a little horrified--when they realized those excavators and dump trucks were just called "it" or "they." That's when the Name That Crane campaign was born--the two kindergarten classes each nominated names, ran campaigns and voted for the name to call the huge crane that lifted the steel (they also learned the democratic process in the bargain, which made the See How They Run author very happy). Voting Day was very exciting, take a look.

Here are the kindergarteners at the naming ceremony--with the Big Giraffe, the newly dubbed 400-ton crane in the background. (A fine name, but I was personally rooting for Mr. Lifty! That's democracy for ya--besides I didn't get a vote.)

For National Poetry Month, one first grade class experimented with acrostic poems, which use the letters in a topic word to begin each line. Then all the lines of the poem relate to this topic. Given what was going on outside their class window, they used the word, CONSTRUCT. This poem above was one of my favorites.
One second grade class is collaborating on a book about the day in the life of a construction worker and what these men and women must do to stay safe. For one week, they spent an hour a day observing the construction site and writing down what they saw.

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20. Tim Green…

is on Facebook!  Go over there and “like” him!

Interested in having Tim visit your school or library?  You can also stop by Tim’s website for information about Skype visits and in-person visits.  And check out our website for Tim where you can get discussion guides to use in your classroom.

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21. Thoughts on School Visits

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22. A Leap of Faith

Years ago, when publishing was in its heyday, established authors could sell from concept. Here’s how it worked. An author and an editor did lunch. (The publisher picked up the tab.) They discussed possibilities for future projects. When the editor liked an idea s/he said, “Write me a proposal.” That was it. There was trust that the author would deliver a book that they would be happy to publish. The author walked out of the lunch confident of an assignment with money to follow. That was then. Now even established writers have to do proposals complete with a marketing analysis, detailed outlines, maybe a few well-written chapters, and loads of background material. Then they wait for the proposal to be reviewed before a full committee, which seems to be more dedicated to why they shouldn’t do a book than why they should. In these hard times, the beleaguered publishers must constantly consider their bottom line when investing in a project.

The best editors, however, still know how to imagine along with authors. We all know that every book starts with a vision—a fleshed-out idea of how to create a work. Other parts of society are not quite so visionary. As much as we would like to think otherwise, most people don’t “get” innovative ideas. The popular show, Mad Men, about the advertising industry back in the sixties understood this. Fully articulated and illustrated presentations were required to in order to leave nothing up to the imagination of their clients. They knew that even when a concept has merit and is worth a try, every innovative venture, every work of creativity, requires a leap of faith in order to turn a concept into a reality.

What, then, is innovation? I have defined it as: Creating something new from disparate existing elements used in novel ways to solve a contemporary problem while forecasting its own future growth and development. In my
outside-the-box proposal published last month in this blog I proposed using nonfiction literature in the classroom (nothing new here), combined with professional development from the authors themselves (nothing new here) to help teachers use their books effectively, and ending up with an author visit with the students after they’ve studied the books (this doesn’t happen often but there’s nothing new here, either.) What makes this program innovative? Its scale (school-wide, many authors and many books) and the timing of the professional development—just before the books are to be used by the teachers, so they can immediately apply what they’ve learned and the timing of the author-visits with kids (just when they’ve completed studying a book). The technologies that makes such an ambitious program possible and even more importantly, affordable, are interactive videoconferencing—face-to-face conversations between the authors and the school participants and a wiki, a collective online document that chronicles contributions from all the participants and serves as a written record of the project. The authors don’t need to travel and schools don’t need to pick up the travel expenses and the in-person personal appearance fees. All of us authors know the excitement of a school visit. It is often the highpoint of a school year. I’ve always wondered how the teachers took advantage, back in their classrooms, of the energy and enthusiasm generated by these visits. I believe that my program for Authors on Call does just that. What we’re really offering, beyond expertise and excellent writing is inspiration and excitement. My problem: I needed to find a school willing to test this idea.


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23. Dark Days Author Tour Kickoff!

Today is the kickoff of the Dark Days author tour!  There is a Livestream event TODAY from 4:00 – 5:35 pm EST, featuring Claudia Gray, Kiersten White, Amy Garvey, Anna Carey, and Jocelyn Davies!  Check it out here: http://www.livestream.com/epicreads.

The tour officially begins on October 12th at the Barnes and Noble store in Lynnwood, Washington.  Check the tour dates to find out if the Dark Days tour will be stopping by your city:

Wednesday, October 12th
7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
Lynnwood, WA
with Claudia Gray (FATEFUL), Kiersten White (SUPERNATURALLY), Amy Garvey (COLD KISS) and Anna Carey (EVE)

Thursday, October 13th
7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
Huntington Beach, CA
with Claudia Gray (FATEFUL), Kiersten White (SUPERNATURALLY), Amy Garvey (COLD KISS) and Anna Carey (EVE)

Friday, October 14th
Time TK
Tattered Cover
Highland Ranch, CO
with Claudia Gray (FATEFUL), Kiersten White (SUPERNATURALLY), Amy Garvey (COLD KISS) and Jocelyn Davies (A BEAUTIFUL DARK)

Saturday, October 15th
1:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
Boulder, CO
with Claudia Gray (FATEFUL), Kiersten White (SUPERNATURALLY), Amy Garvey (COLD KISS) and Jocelyn Davies (A BEAUTIFUL DARK)

Sunday, October 16th
2:00 PM
Naperville, IL
with Claudia Gray (FATEFUL), Kiersten White (SUPERNATURALLY), Amy Garvey (COLD KISS) and Jocelyn Davies (A BEAUTIFUL DARK)
*This event will be Livestreamed.

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24. Digital Painting Lecture and Demonstration

Come say hi on November 1st at the Lunenburg Public Library, Lunenburg, MA. I'll be giving a talk on digital painting techniques. Oh and best of all, it's free. I'll even bring some left over Halloween candy. :)

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I set up a lot of school visits in the course of the year, but few warm my heart as much as the annual Adopt-a-School visit. The Adopt-a-School Initiative is a collaboration between the American Association of Publishers, the Children’s Book Council, the NYC Department of Education, school librarians, and publishing houses. The program sends well-known children’s and young adult authors into New York area schools. We at HarperCollins Children’s Books take great pleasure in connecting our authors with these deserving schools. Authors generously donate their time and energy, and we support the visit by sending classroom sets of books to the participating schools. This past December the wonderful Audrey Vernick enthusiastically agreed to follow in the footsteps of past participants such as Walter Dean Myers, Robert Lipsyte, and Maryrose Wood. Audrey’s picture books include SHE LOVED BASEBALL: THE EFFA MANLEY STORY, IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?, and TEACH YOUR BUFFALO TO PLAY DRUMS. We asked Audrey for a first-hand account of this very special school visit… and homecoming.
-Tony Hirt (Our Author Visit Coordinator Extraordinaire- tony.hirt(at)gmail(dot)com)

When I was asked by HarperCollins if I’d be interested in participating in the CBC/AAP’s adopt-a-school week, during which authors visit public schools throughout New York City, I asked, almost as an afterthought, if it might be possible to visit the elementary school I attended—P.S. 184 Queens. I was pretty sure this wasn’t the kind of thing one could ask, but something pushed me to try anyway.

And then, thanks to the persistence of AAP’s Becca Worthington, and the cooperation of school principal Dora Pantelis and media specialist Adriana Tibbetts at P.S. 184, it all came together. On December 13, 2011, I returned to my elementary school.

I graduated from P.S. 184 in 1976, a time when all the fire hydrants in our town were painted red, white and blue in celebration of the bicentennial. In the decades since, my elementary school memories have not dulled. (Don’t ask me about junior high school, high school or college. But you can ask me to name the kids in size order in my first-grade class and I’ll get nearly every one.)

I walked in that building and knew its geography. The smell in the cafeteria was unnamable but profoundly familiar. The faces on the kids were different, the computers in the classrooms looked ridiculously out of place—especially with a lot of the same old furniture—but more than anything, it felt like something very close to home.

I met with kids in kindergarten, first and second grade. I read to the kindergarteners and talked with the first- and second-graders about where I find my story ideas and where they might find their own. I encouraged them to listen to the stories around them and to be curious. They listened, they laughed, they agreed that I looked like I was “from history” when I showed them my own first-grade picture. (I didn’t tell them that I borrowed that term from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but in the interest of giving credit, that is the whole truth.)

The kids asked smart questions, as kids always do. As I drove home later, I finally accepted the fact that I can no longer be someone wh

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