Many months ago, I received an email from Octavia Books asking me if I wanted to host a visit with author T. A. Barron. I had met Barron two years ago when the International Reading Association was held in New Orleans. Penguin held a dinner for him and two other authors, and I got an invite to this intimate gathering. So I knew that my students, as lovers of fantasy, would welcome Barron to our school. They were a wonderful audience, but the visit certainly did not go as planned.
This story is a lesson in the need to be flexible. Initially, our school would see him first, and then he would travel to two other schools before visiting the bookstore at the end of the day. I like morning author visits. Then I got an email asking if we could fit him into the afternoon. I agreed, but I was concerned because he was to arrive at 1:30, and our students leave school at 2:40. He would not have much time to set up and speak and sign books. In the weeks prior to his arrival, I alerted the teachers of all the 7th and 8th graders, publicized the books that we would sell, and asked a student to design a banner welcoming Barron to the school. In the morning of the event, I prepared the stage for his presentation. Then I sat down and began some of the day's other tasks.
At 9:30, the office calls to tell me that the author has arrived. What?????? He was four hours early. Now what do I do?
First, his schedule showed that Barron was to arrive at 9:30. Uh, oh, the publicist made a mistake. Surprising since there were a million emails back and forth between her and the bookstore and me. I knew his driver because she has delivered many authors to our school. The three of us put our heads together to make a plan. If they left, we would not see him again because our school is 30 minutes from the other schools and the bookstore. I jumped into action to make sure my students met the author. The stage was set up, so I got him started getting his computer set up. I grabbed a microphone, bookmarks, and my camera. Then I wrote a frantic email to all the teachers and sent some students and a clerk to all the classes to alert them to the change in plans. The teachers rallied. In about 15 minutes after his arrival, he began his talk.
I was most concerned about the books that students had ordered to get signed. They were not going to arrive at school until 1:30. With some quick thinking, I came up with a plan. I want my students who buy books to have a chance to talk to the author individually. I had a stack of bookmarks with illustrations from Barron's many books. I gave each student who purchased a book, a bookmark to be signed by the author. That problem was solved. After school, I high tailed it to the bookstore with forms and money. Barron was able to sign all the books which I then delivered to the students today.
At the end of the day everything worked out for the students at PFTSTA. Barron was most impressed at our ability to make it happen, and his presentation really made an impression on the kids who now want to read his books. I do feel bad for the school who thought he would arrive at 9:30 because that visit was cancelled.
I want to thank Barron for his visit and Penguin Teen and Veronica at Octavia Books who made it all happen. You can see more pictures of the day on the library website here.
|T. A. Barron and I at the end of the event|