I love author visits either face to face or virtual. Authors are my rock stars, and I love making connections with them that I can then bring back and share with my students. On a recent face to face visit at our school by T. A. Barron, one of the teachers came to school the next day and explained her surprise when she went home to tell her son about our author visit. Her son was a fan of Barron and had read every one of his books in his school library. She had no clue that the author who was at our school the day before was nationally recognized. I only want the best for my students.
I first met Ruta Sepetys in 2011 at ALA, but that was only for a simple book signing for her first book. In 2013 when her book that took place in New Orleans came out, I figured out a way to get her to visit school when she hit New Orleans on her book tour. She was a phenomenal speaker and had the juniors eating out of her hand. We met again in 2014 at the Louisiana Book Festival and at the International Reading Association Conference, and we have also had a chance to visit one on one when she was visiting the city. So I felt very comfortable contacting her to schedule a skype with the middle school book group, BRiMS.
For this session, I asked the students to read Sepetys first book, Between Shades of Gray. When we hold a skype, the author will usually talk for 10 to 15 minutes about their work and then I open it up to questions. I knew not every student had read the book but that did not matter. From Sepetys first words, the students were on the edge of their seats intent on hearing her every word. She made her presentation interesting certainly to those who read her book but also to those who did not. She talked about how she came to writing late in life, that she gains inspiration from history that is little known, and how she has been a storyteller ever since she was in elementary school.
When it was time for questions, the students were all over the map. Since Between Shades of Gray was being made into a movie and called Ashes in the Snow, they wanted to know if any of her other books would also be movies (I am not telling). They wanted to know if her first book would ever have a sequel (maybe some day). One student who is also a writer wanted to talk to her about the writing process and how it feels when people you don't know read your work (thrilling).
The group talked with her for a little over 30 minutes. Then as most of them left, I began talking to Sepetys. Several of the members walked up to the camera asking if they could ask one more question. She obliged them of course. They really did not want to leave the library and the magic of talking to this author who has so much passion for writing stories. As I talked to the members today about yesterday's visit, they all said it was such a fantastic experience.
PS: I wanted to add information about the technology for this skype and thought it would fit in a postscript. In the past, I always used my laptop with a webcam for skype sessions. Students would walk up to the camera to ask their questions so the author could see who was talking. For some reason my laptop will no longer access the external webcam while in skype. I bought an adapter for my tripod to hold my iPad. I have an adapter to connect the ipad to the interactive white board (IWB) and an audio cord. I liked doing the skype through iPad. Since the author is on the IWB and the audio runs through the IWB's speakers, the audio and picture are quite clear and easy for the students to see and hear everything. With the iPad in use for the skype, I just took pictures with my phone. I think that I will do this again in January when we have another scheduled skype visit.