Monday, October 29, 2012

The Value of an Author Visit

(Originally Posted at The League of Extraordinary Writers)

Author visits can take a lot of time to schedule and prepare for. Teachers, school administration, and parents aren't always supportive. Some argue they aren't "curricular." (This isn't true. Unless writing isn't part of your curriculum. In which case your school has bigger problems than the lack of author visits.) They can be expensive.

On the author's side of things, they're exhausting. They take time away from writing. They can be a nice source of extra income, but for a new author like me, the income isn't very significant.

So why do we bother? Why do some librarians spend dozens of hours of their own time scheduling and preparing for author visits? Why do some English teachers take the lead in those sad schools that lack a librarian? Why have I done more than 200 author visits for free over the last year? (I charge now, although I'm very cheap.)

A student recently answered all those questions for me via email. I've asked for, and received, his permission to share the email with you. I've changed his name to protect his confidentiality. Otherwise the email is exactly as he wrote it:
My name is Fred. About a year ago you visited Cedar Rapids Iowa. You made a stop at the Linn County Juvenille Detention Center and i was a resident there. ever since you visited i have been big on writing. but just not stories. i have written alot of poems and different raps about my life. i was wondering maybe if i could get some expert advice on how they look. or what are some areas i need to improve. if at all possible i would like to send them to you in the mail and hopefully get some good advice. it was really nice meeting you. if you want to know how my life is going right now i am on my way to completeing an independent living program. i just celebrated my 17th birthday today and im on the road to success. writing has been a big inspiration in my life and with out the visit from you i know for a fact i wouldnt have started to write. i would really like to hear back from you soon. it was great meeting you.

Does anyone believe another high-stakes test would have had this kind of impact on Fred's life? Another reading program? Another teacher evaluation system? The things many policy makers and administrators focus on truly don't matter. What matters are the connections that librarians, teachers, coaches--even visiting authors, make with students and the impact we have on those student's lives. If you're involved in education, do your school and students a service: contact an author--any author--today and schedule what may be a life-changing experience for some of your students.