Weekend Dialogue: What was your worst school visit experience?

Yesterday I attended our local SCBWI monthly meeting. We had a lovely speaker, Liz Scanlon, who discussed school visits -- how to plan them, how to present them, how to make some money on them. It was interesting and fun, and it got me wondering. What are people's worst school visit stories? My first book doesn't come out until 2007, so I've only done a marginal number of school visits. So, far my worst story is when the embarrassed middle schoolers wouldn't share the parodies of fairy tales that they had written.

But, I'm sure there are people out there that have had nightmare visits. Ever had a child come up to tell you that they love you but been so excited that instead of a hug they threw up on your shoes? That kind of thing. Share your inspiring stories so that all the future school visitors will be properly terrified. Use the comments link below.


Anonymous said...

How prevalent are school visits now? I mean, in a given year, how many authors/illustrators visit a sixth grade class (just as an example). I can remember 1 author visiting my entire K-12 years and it was in sixth grade. The author of Trixie Beldon. And I'll say it worked. I rushed right out and bought all 36 books in the series to date.

The Buried Editor said...

It depends on the school and its budget. The private school in Dallas I attended as a kid brought an author to speak to the whole lower school every year. One year we had Madeleine L'Engle, another the guy who wrote A Dog Called Kitty.

Some schools bring authors to just speak to a class; others bring them to speak to the whole school.

So, school visits are still alive and well, and they can be a nice source of additional revenue for authors.

SilberBook-Blog said...

Great question! With only my first book out, POND SCUM - I too haven't made tons of visits - but hands-down the worst so far was a 5th grade class, who couldn't even fake a question to ask me. "Okay," I said, smile wilting by the second. "Someone's got to want to know something?" The kid in front of me shot the question heard round the school. "Why do you got those wet spots under your arms?"

Now from a little 2nd grade kid, that might be a real question. But I know 11 year olds - and this was pure snotty attitude. I looked to the teacher for any help... none came - and so I carried on with an in-depth description of body sweat.

At least I had their attention!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy doing school visits very much. After over 10 years of doing them, I can report that usually I have a great time. And the kids seem to have a good time, too.

Some odd things or potential disasters have happened tho -- the important thing is to simply plow on through -- such as Silberbook-blog did.

Several times I've been late to my speaking gig because of traffic, which normally flows over 60 mph on the beltway, slowing down to a crawl. Yes, it's embarassing. I just offer to stay longer or suggested they combine classes.

If children really, really want to know something, I get good questions. If the teacher has primed them, the questions can be weird. ("ex. Who is your favorite character?" How can I answer that? I write non-fiction and all my subjects are real, not made-up characters. )

And then there was the year I spoke at 15 libraries during one week in a midwestern city. The unforgetable audience? A roomful of nothing but boys -- mostly from a nearby boy's club. I had introduced them to my picture book about toes. Before I showed them my book about fingers, I made the mistake of asking them to think of things they could do with fingers. (warning -- never ask a group of boys this question.)

As they told me their ideas, the childen's librarian cringed at the back of the room. But I kept my cool. I kept responding, "Oh my. How about that? You know -- I never thought of that."

-writer, children's librarian, & grandmother

Lisa Yee said...

I was at a school and asked, "How many of you have ever met an author before?"

The entire room, three classes, raised their hands.

"Wonderful!" I said, "Who was it?"

"YOU!!!" they screamed.


Sadly, I didn't didn't have a different presentation prepared, so I had to ad lib for an hour.