Friday, May 15, 2015

Author Skype Visits in the Library

Students pose with author, Andrea Cremer, during April 20th  skype visit
The students in my two book groups had the opportunity to Skype with four different authors this past school year. I have been asked before if it is easy to find an author to skype. I always reply that it is, and that I have never paid any of the authors to talk with my students. I had met three of the authors who spoke with us this year face to face, but only one of them did I ask about the possibility of skyping at that time. I usually run all my author skypes the same way. I schedule the event for 30 minutes. I ask the author to talk about themselves and their book/s for the first 10 to 15 minutes, and then I allow the students to ask questions for the second half of the session. The students walk up to speak right into the microphone which allows the author to see who is speaking to them. This also makes it clear who is suppose to ask the next question. Very often the author is willing to talk longer, but I always end after 45 minutes. After that amount of time, the students start asking questions that border on the inappropriate. Even Grabenstein was impressed with wonderful questions that my students asked.

The balloons were to celebrate Mr. Lemoncello's birthday
I was at a library conference where Chris Grabenstein gave a speech during the school librarian's luncheon. His presentation was hilarious, and I knew that the kids in my middle school book group would get a kick out of him. I asked him during the book signing if a skype visit was a possibility. He said to email him about it. It took lots of emails between myself and his assistant to plan the visit and lots of time, too, as we scheduled the skype four months before the date of the event. I was right about the kids liking Grabenstein. They all read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library to be prepared for the skype. It was one of the most successful visits because almost everyone in the group had read the book. Besides reading the book, almost all of them loved, loved, loved the book. I asked the students ahead of time to send me the questions that they wanted to ask. It really was a lot of fun. 



I received an email from Ellen Hopkins' publicist asking if I had received an Advanced Reader's Copy of Hopkins newest book, Rumble. I had met and spoke with Hopkins at two library conferences. I knew that she was happy to engage in conversation with teens. I asked the publicist if it would be possible to schedule a skype. She said that it was. This also took many emails back and forth to work out day and time, but in the end, we scheduled the event during one of my high school book group's regular meetings. I have many of Hopkins books on the shelves of the library. Some of the members of the book group are real fans of Hopkins. I encouraged the students to read one of her books. Unfortunately. the majority of the students did not heed my encouragement of reading one of the author's books before the event. Even though the students did not have a lot of questions, I carried on the conversation and asked questions that I thought would engage the students. It did, but I was disappointed that the students were not as involved as I was.

Student asks Vince Vawter a question

The middle school book group, BRiMS, meets monthly to talk about one title that all members read. I had selected Vince Vawter's The Paperboy for February. One of the students came into the library early in February to ask if there was a sequel. She really needed to know what happened to the characters after the story ended. So we did some investigation and looked at the author's website. I read that he had skyped with several schools, so I sent him an email. I asked if he was available during our scheduled meeting on the last Wednesday of the month during the student's lunch period. He was, and he agreed to talk with us. It was another successful skype because so many of the students had read the book. They had lots of questions for Vawter.

Student asks Andrea Cremer a question
One day I was looking at the skype in the classroom website. Skype was advertising virtual visits with authors for School Library Month in April. I followed the link to see if there was an author with whom I was familiar. I saw that Andrea Cremer was available to talk about The Inventor's Secret. Penguin, her publisher was promoting this skype. I was able to schedule the event during a regular meeting of the high school book group, but the book seemed appropriate for middle school, too, so I invited both book groups to this event. I knew that many of the high school students had mentally checked out of school, especially the seniors, and I figured that there would be plenty of room for the middle school students. The only stipulation from Penguin was that the students either read the book or a 40 page excerpt online so that all attendees would be engaged in the author and the book. If the students were like me, then that excerpt only whetted their appetite for more. Some of the students checked out the book and finished it. The middle school students seemed the most thrilled about talking with author, Cremer, but all attending got something out of the interaction with the author. When Cremer mentioned that there are scenes in New Orleans in book two and three of this series, that really got the students attention.

To see more pictures and read more about the skype visits, open here on the library website.

I have not made any plans yet for skype visits for the next school year, but I will keep my eyes and ears open while reading twitter, reading promotional emails from publishers, reading posts on listservs, and attending author events. You have to be proactive in scheduling skype visits, but once you have had one, you will realize that it is an easy way to connect authors and readers. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I Should Have Been the One to Write a Thank You Note


Picture taken by their daughter in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve

My school has been very lucky to host over 24 live author visits since 2011, and almost as many Skype visits. J & P Voelkel have visited our school three times and skyped twice. I adore them and their energy, and they really put on a show for the students with lots of props and audience participation. They came to New Orleans on this last visit in March because book four in their series, Jaguar Stones, that was recently published had some important scenes set in our city. Just the other day, I received this wonderful card thanking us for opening our doors to them. Actually, I should be the one doing the thanking as they traveled so far to be with the students at Patrick Taylor for just a couple of hours. 

Jon and Pamela, you are our rock stars. Thanks for visiting us for a third time. The students and teachers were blown away and had the most marvelous time during this last visit. You are welcome back any time. 

Thank you note from J & P Voelkel 

The loud librarian standing with J & P Voelkel outside PFTSTA

Thursday, May 7, 2015

App Reviews in SLJ for Digital Bird Guides

Collins Bird Guide

Today I got an email that a review that I wrote for School Library Journal in September was just published. The review was for an app that helps you identify birds. You can open here to read the review. In 2013, I reviewed the National Geographic bird app which I think is much more useful. than the one by Collins. You can open here to read that review
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