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Getting Ready To Make An Appearance At An Elementary Or Middle School

May 10, 2008
Last time we talked about the kinds of things to consider when you've been invited to speak with kids at an elementary or middle school.

Let's move forward and look at some key points you'll want to keep in mind for a memorable visit.

Let kids ask

I always make sure to leave lots of time for kids to ask all kinds of questions. And these questions do not have to be related to my being an author or having written a particular genre of book. I do ask them what kinds of books they like to read and ask them to tell me what book they're reading right then.

For example, my favorite book of all time when I was a fifth grader was Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. I recently bought a copy of it and re-read it. It held the same kind of magic for me now that it did in 1966.

If you have a favorite book from when you were in elementary or middle school (it was called junior high when I was going), then mention that. Oftentimes, the kids are reading those very books and will relate what they like about it - and what they dislike about it - so you can have a conversation with them instead of lecturing.

A chapter reading

At some point in your presentation you'll want to ask kids if they'd like to hear the first chapter of the book. I've never spoken with a group of kids who did not want that to occur. Everyone loves to be read to - even adults.

If you've written a mystery and have a really good first chapter you will probably have the kids raise their hands and ask you to read the second chapter. If you have time definitely do it.

Offer a challenge

I did this kind of activity when I was in the process of writing the sequel to my first juvenile mystery, Bitter Tastes. Both Bitter Tastes and Mudder are part of the Kathy and Martha Mystery Series.

I read the kids the first working chapter of Mudder and asked if they could give me some help. I wanted them to come up with elements of suspense that would heighten the tension and make the first chapter scarier. The suggestions I chose would be included in the new first chapter and the names of the kids working on that project will be included in the acknowledgment section of the new book.

I got some really great suggestions from the kids and have had many of them ask when the new book would be coming out so they could see their name on the acknowledgment page.

Handouts

I have two handouts that I regularly use when I make an appearance at a school. The first one is a very short, half-page that gives the kids a way to structure their stories into a common theme. This is a tool they can use over and over again for any story they write.

This second handout is actually a freebie that is a bookmark for them and great publicity for me. Everyone who comes to one of my appearances gets a free bookmark and I usually autograph it for them as well. I make the bookmarks in my home office using 110-pound card stock and a color printer. With the sophistication of desktop publishing there is no problem making a really attractive and memorable bookmark.

If you decide to make a bookmark on your own don't forget to use the back side as well. You don't have to limit yourself just to the front and make sure that your web site address appears at least once if not twice on this bookmark.

Conclusion

Visiting schools is a wonderful way to give your time and talent to kids. It's also the world's best laboratory for writers of juvenile fiction because the kids you speak with are your audience.

You won't receive better feedback anywhere else.
About the Author
Victoria Rosendahl has published one adult mystery and has begun the Kathy & Martha Mystery Series with the first installment, Bitter Tastes. Check out Bitter Tastes for ideas on how to build a kid friendly web site and feel free to e-mail her at info@vbrosendahl.com.
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