Sunday, 9 February 2014

11 tips for a SKYPE author visit

Last week, I got to do a SKYPE visit with kids at
Hart Highlands Elementary School, in Prince George BC. That's 3600 kilometers from my house! We had a great time talking about The Gargoyle at the Gates, which is a Red Cedar 2013 nominee this year, a first for me. I'm really honoured, and through the magic of SKYPE, I got to chat with some young BC readers about it.
I've done lots of author visits before, but SKYPE has its own set of rules, I learned. So here, for anyone else doing a SKYPE author visit, a few thoughts:
1. Anything but the wall. I set up a stage, I brought out gargoyle posters and statues, and had them around me. It was visually interesting, a lot more interesting than just staring at my head, I hope.
2. More than 1 book? I read from The Gargoyle at the Gates, but the children had questions about the other books, I'm glad I had them all handy in book stands behind me.
3. Go old school with photos. I have a few books of gargoyle photos from around the world. I held them up to fill the computer screen, and the kids really liked that. Good old codex ruled the day.
4. Disembodied heads are weird. I was on a large screen in the gym. I must have looked bizarre, floating around. If you do a reading, keep it short. It's dull I think (and maybe a bit creepy) to watch a floating head reading away, no matter how fascinating your book might be.
5. Any questions? Tell the teacher ahead of time: take 10 questions, or some previously agreed upon number. Worked like a charm, no dead air, each student came up and sat in the "asking chair" and asked their question, one at a time.
6. Tissue is your friend. Yes, I had a cold. I kept the tissues nearby.
7. Have a prop. I have a gargoyle puppet, which I stuck in frame with me now and then. More visual interest, which the children seemed to like.
8. Give the dog a treat. I went out and bought my dog a new pet toy, which he played with during the whole SKYPE chat. He didn't bark once.
9. Turn off your cell. Yep. Check. No text messages or phone calls to distract me.
10. Hello? Hello? Do a trial run and SKYPE your school the day before. All systems go!
11. Play the guitar. Okay, maybe not everyone can do this one, but I wrote a song for the book, The Gargoyle Shuffle, which I played live for the kids. I got to see them dancing around like gargoyles... since I never take my guitar with me on visits, this one thing alone made the SKYPE visit pretty special!
Thanks Hart Highlands for a fun visit!

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