Author visits at schools

Five years ago, if someone had told me that I would one day be visiting schools as an author, I would have rolled my eyes and chuckled in disbelief.


photo 1 (1)Now, here I am with six published books in the X-tails series and a number of author visits under my belt. I’ve always been shy and I’ve never considered public speaking to be a strength of mine, so when I visited my first school, I knew I had to face my fears. As it turned out, it was not only pain free, but it was also a blast!

Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned how I conduct my author visits. Schools can now prepare early for my visit with my lesson plans and posters. Then on the day of my visit, I start off by showing the students examples of how the illustrator, Vic, and  I work together. For example, Vic won’t always know how to illustrate a trick or stunt in my books, such as a snowboard handplant. For that trick, I provided Vic with digital photo. The photo showed a man upside down on his snowboard, holding himself up with one arm. To complicate matters for Vic, I asked for that upside down man to be changed into an elephant, who is holding himself up with his trunk. I show the students this process: a photo of a trick, turned into a pencil illustration, then color added using a computer, and finally my words added to the page. The students love it!

Next, I reveal secrets to the students—secrets about how the characters’ names are based on terms for animal groups, such as the name “Flight,” which means a group of butterflies and “Mischief“ is a group of mice. The students are amazed that every name, even for the guest characters, has a secret meaning. I also reveal how I came up with name, “the X-tails.” I even admit that one of the X-tails doesn’t have a tail. And if the students are really lucky, they’ll receive a sneak peek of my next book, which is top secret!

After telling secrets, we’re ready for storytelling. The beginning of my reading has the students roaring, howling, growling, grunting, bellowing, and even thumping their feet like kangaroos. Story time is interactive and is the highlight of my visit. I love watching the students become engaged and pulled into the story, word by word.

New for me in my school visits is speaking to grades 5 – 7 about the writing process. I consider my stories and my style of writing to be different. Because of this, I love to share how I come up with ideas, including the setting, character development (my favourite part of the writing process) and plot.

Sometimes we’ll brainstorm ideas for a new book or series. You’ll always have a student who raises his or her hand only to say something silly to make their friends laugh (I anticipate a whopper coming when the student can barely get the words out without giggling), but more often than not, the students will come up with very creative ideas. Brainstorming together is another interactive exercise and it’s fun for all of us.

Kids have the most amazing imaginations and I love hearing their questions and comments. They say the darndest things—I remember one student patiently holding up his hand. When he finally got his chance to ask a question, he sadly stuck out his lower lip and told me his pet bird had died—it was quite adorable.

At the end of my visit, students receive order forms to take home, providing the opportunity to purchase signed copies of the X-tails books. Each ordered book is personally signed to the child.

I feel blessed to have the opportunity to inspire children to read, write, and believe in themselves. My school visits are one of the greatest benefits of being an author and I look forward to many more visits to come!