Wanted: School Visits
Now that I have four recently published books and pandemic restrictions are coming to an end, I’m starting to look for school visits. In the years following the publication of Gringolandia and Rogue, I spoke at a number of schools — middle schools, high schools, and college and university classes — in ten different states. I enjoyed these visits and believe I added value to the experiences of my young (and in some cases not so young) readers. You can read highlights from these visits here, here, here, here, and here. These are only the most recent. There are dozens more.
In this earlier phase of my career, I enjoyed meeting my readers and inviting them to participate in the story with activities like “A Bundle of Letters,” where students reading Gringolandia in their classes could take the roles of Daniel or Tina and write letters to their father in prison. Or the advice middle schoolers gave to Kiara in Rogue, helping her to make friends with the New Kid and for the first time keep that friend.
As Moonwalking and Torch neared publication, I began thinking about activities around those books. Last week I spoke to my daughter’s fifth grade English class at the Lycée International in Los Angeles to test out my poetry-writing activity for Moonwalking — a poem of opposites or contrasts based on “Speak Up.” In that poem, JJ examines the Things That Make No Sense — times the adults tell him one thing and then tell him the opposite, or tell him one thing and then do the opposite. The poem’s first stanza introduces that paradox:
“Son, you need to speak up,”/Dad says/with a trace of the accent/he never lost/from the old country/where/Children should be seen/and not heard.
The students listened intently, had great questions, and wrote amazing poems that I hope they’ll send to the school newspaper. The topics ranged from bedtime and TV watching to global climate change.
The co-author of Moonwalking, Zetta Elliott, does a lot of school visits and has indicated that she’d like to cut back to spend more time on her writing. I, on the other hand, would like to get out more, meet my readers, and talk about my new books the way I used to talk about Gringolandia and Rogue. I found the students inspiring in the way they engaged with the stories, and I learned more about their reading preferences and how my books fit in. And the income helps, as most authors of books for children make more money from school visits than from book advances and royalties.
The pandemic has been extraordinarily disruptive, and my seven-year publishing gap hasn’t helped either. At the same time, we’ve become far more innovative in how we bring authors into schools. When Rogue was a finalist for the Truman Award for outstanding books for middle school in the state of Missouri, I used Skype to visit schools throughout the state. The audio and video quality has improved significantly with Zoom, as I found when I spoke to multiple classes at one time for World Read Aloud Day this year. The free visits were short, but I hope that with longer virtual visits, I can answer more questions and introduce activities. It’s a lot harder to lead immersive activities like “A Bundle of Letters” using Zoom, but there are advantages. One is that Zoom visits are much more affordable. Authors (myself included) usually charge less for virtual visits, and they don’t involve travel expenses. And in my case, a virtual visit makes it easier for me to show off my growing Lego town in real time. I just installed new buildings and scenes on the lower level that I can show kids, and give them story prompts like the ones I’ve created.
If you would like to book a school visit for the 2023-24 school year, or would like a last minute visit for the current year, please use the contact form, or contact me on Twitter (@LMillerLachmann), Instagram (@lynmillerlachmann), or Facebook (Lyn Miller-Lachmann).