Late last year I had the opportunity to do two school visits and later did this interview with Jessica Kennedy on the subject. This interview in particular pertains to a reading/presentation I did for my children's picture book, Crash.
J. Aday: How did the visit come about?
Mayra: Ever since the release of my first children’s book in December 2007, I had been toying with the idea of contacting schools around my area for visits, but I was scared. Mostly of rejection. Also, I’d always been terrified of speaking in public. So I debated with myself for most of this year until finally I told myself, ‘Enough is enough! If you’re serious about your writing career, you better stop your pitiful, shy author act and get your butt out there.’ And so I did. I drafted a letter and sent it to various schools. The letter included a brief bio with my websites/links, blurbs of my books (and of course links to their covers and reviews), and my desire to come to their school for a possible presentation, reading and/or book signing.
Most of the schools showed interest and two of them booked me right away. Two other schools want me to come and visit next year.
J. Aday: How did you prepare?
Mayra: To start with, I did some brainstorming and wrote down some ideas. I also asked advice from some Guardian Angel Publishing (GAP) authors. We have a fantastic group of people in our forum and we share ideas and help and support one another. I also practiced a few times my ‘speech’ to the kids and read the book out loud to myself several times to achieve the right flow, tone and pitch. I had bookmarks of the book and coloring pages done well in advance. Since the book is about a golden retriever puppy, dog names, and the responsibilities of owning a dog, I brought with me a life-size golden retriever puppy and mother golden retriever stuffed toys.
I made an outline for the 30-minute presentation:
· Put the stuffed toys in a closed bag. Upon arrival to the class, after a brief introduction about yourself and why you wrote the book, tell the kids, “I have a surprise for you. I always bring my dogs to my school visits because they LOVE children and they LOVE listening to stories.” At this point the kids will think you have real dogs in the bag. Take out the toys, “Surprise!” and put them at your feet in a “listening” position. Tell the kids, “The mother golden is called Brigitte. But I won’t tell you the name of the puppy--you’ll have to guess that at the end of the story!” (This was suggested by another GAP author, and it was a great idea!)
· Then tell them, “If you’re very quiet and listen to the story very carefully, I’ll let you hug the goldens before I leave.”
· Proceed to read the story. Dramatize it with different voices, gasps of surprise, barks, etc.
· When finished, ask the kids, “Do you now know what the name of the puppy is?” Of course, they’ll answer “Crash!” Then ask them, “Did you like the story? What did you like about it most?” Make sure all kids who raise their hands have a chance to respond.
· Ask the children if they have any dogs, what their dogs’ names are, and what things they must do to take care of their dogs. Engage in a warm discussion.
· Give them coloring pages and bookmarks of the book.· Before leaving, let each child give a ‘goodbye’ hug to the goldens.
Read the rest of the interview at A Writing Playground