An author visit with a difference
Recently I did an author visit to my nephew’s school. This doesn’t sound like a particularly unusual thing to do, except that in our case, I’m in Ballarat, Australia and my nephew, Zeb, lives in Alabama, USA. Thanks to Skype, I was able to do a school visit to the other side of the world from the comfort of my own office.
The librarian at Valley Intermediate School in Pelham, Alabama is the lovely Mrs Foy. Mrs Foy and I had been trying to line up this visit for almost a year but due to us moving twice in six months and the mismatch of school terms, it was hard to find a time that worked. And when we finally did find a time that suited us both (’suited’ being a highly subjective word as the visit was from 1:15-2:45am for me – not sure that time is ever truly suitable LOL) disaster struck! After testing out our Skype connection earlier in the day, putting my make up on at midnight and getting dressed in suitably groovy clothing for my visit, our internet went down.
I was horrified.
I was worried.
And then I was aghast. After checking the website we discovered that our internet provider were doing a one-off scheduled maintenance from midnight till 6:30am THE VERY DAY I HAD SCHEDULED MY AUTHOR VISIT!!! I really couldn’t believe the bad timing, but Mrs Foy was very understanding and we rescheduled for the following day.
There were no technical glitches the second day, and I have to say I had an absolute blast visiting Valley Intermediate from afar. I did three consecutive sessions with 3rd graders, visiting with almost 250 kids. Mrs Foy had the kids set up in the library with a big screen so everyone could see me and my funny faces. (You’ll see evidence of these funny faces shortly…) I was talking through a computer off to one side of the room which was actually fantastic as it enabled me to have a side-on view of the kids as they watched/interacted with me. I was pleasantly surprised at just how dynamic it was. Just like in a live author visit in a local school, I was able to feel whether the kids were with me or not.
I began my visit by reading SAMUEL’S KISSES to the students. This was a little tricky as I had to make sure I was holding the book in just the right spot for them to see the illustrations and I seemed to get fumbly fingers when it came to turning the pages, but they were all very patient with me. Mrs Foy did a brilliant job of organising the whole thing and in each of the three session, after I’d read the book, ten to twelve kids had pre-prepared questions. They came and sat in front of the computer, introduced themselves and then asked me a question. Their questions were great! They asked things like:
“Do you live near the beach?” (The beach is about an hour away from where we live.)
“Have you ever been to Ayers Rock?” (No, the only state/territory I haven’t been to is the Northern Territory.)
“What’s your favourite Australian animal?” (The echidna. I love their wobbly little walk.)
“How is Australia different to America?” (There are many things that are the same and many things that are different.)
“Who is SAMUEL’S KISSES about?” (My eldest son.)
And that was where the technology really came into play. I had chosen a few photos from my computer that I thought were relevant – one of them of my son, who was the inspiration for SAMUEL’S KISSES, surrounded by kangaroos – and during the Skype call I was able to share these photos with the kids and let them see what I was viewing on my desktop. The kids were very excited and I think it made the whole thing more real for them.
My Skype visit to Alabama was a huge success. I had a blast, the kids enjoyed themselves and they not only got to learn about my book but also about Australia. I’m heading over the Alabama a little later in the year so I’m hoping to get to meet some of the students and teachers in person. So now I’ll leave you with a collection of funny faces I pulled during my visit.
I’d love to do some more Skype visits to schools around the place so if you know anyone who might be interested, please pass on my details: karen[AT]karencollum[DOT]com[DOT]au. I promise I’ll try to not pull such funny faces in the future.