A Few Tips about School Visits


 A Few Tips about School Visits

Natalie Bright

Like most parents, I have volunteered at the school to help with book fairs, teacher appreciations, band boosters, and fundraisers. I started writing when our sons were in elementary school. I had visions of volunteering at the book fair one day where my book would be sitting on the Scholastic cart. As you can guess, the publishing industry rarely coincides with an author’s big dreams.

The reality is I finally have several children’s books out, but both boys are too old to read them. Our youngest is a high school senior this year, and I continue to volunteer as a parent at the local schools, but work in a slightly different capacity. I’ve changed my focus to writing and reading. This year I’m offering a free power point workshop on writing to the schools in our district. Even more fun, is the added bonus of having the star of one of my books, a rescue horse named Flash and his trainer, participate in some of the events as well.

We’ve got six programs under our belt now. Here are a few things to consider about book promotion on a local level.

  • Reach out.

Clubs, organizations, and schools are desperate for programs by authors. With fees in the $1000 and up range for most nationally known bestselling authors, school budgets can only afford these type speakers every three to five years.

Reach out to everyone you know and find contact addresses online.  Does your local library have events that you can participate in? Send school and public librarians a postcard or flyer and make it easy for them to contact you. Be flexible and work with their schedule. Herding 700 kids in and out of the library takes some skills, but it is doable. I try to make myself available on a one-to-one basis as well. Be friendly and approachable for teachers and kids. At the end of the day, you’ll be exhausted and inspired.

  • Shine and Sparkle

Kick some booty on the very first gig. Wow them and give them more than they expected. Develop a powerful, informative presentation that enhances the school curriculum. Word will spread.

  • Be Open to Criticism.

I have tweaked my program several times based on feedback from librarians, teachers and principals. I always ask the librarians three main questions at every school visit, “What are your kids reading? Did I connect with your kids? How can this be better?”

I learn something from the students as well. In the first part of my program, we go through a series of slides about everything that writers write. According to a very attentive third grader, guess what I had left out; graphic novels. These are hugely popular with kids today. Based on questions, I also added pics of my workspace and of my co-worker, Kitty, our cat.

  • Kids Are Visual

Use lots of pictures of young people in your power point. Kids today are very visual. Everything is photos, movies, video games, YouTube, and pics of their friends on snapchat. Your presentation must have relatable pictures. There is not one image of any adults in my 30-minute presentation.

  • Kids love FREE things

Send a bookmark home which includes your book covers, website, Instagram tag and ordering information. Include the name of your local book store that carries your books. They may not purchase a book on the day of your author visit, but believe me, kids will remember you. They will point you out to a parent at the grocery store. Have books in your car.

What’s popular with the kids in our school district, you might be wondering? Interestingly, every elementary school has been different. Graphic novels, particularly ones about real historical events, wouldn’t stay on the shelf. The school last week loves horror and scary stories, so the GooseBumps series is always checked out. The school this week is reading mostly Big Foot and alien stories, even the girls. Who knew, right? Harry Potter holds  no interest for this upcoming group of elementary aged readers. And girls have turned their backs on typical “girlie” type stories like the Barbie series which used to be very popular.

The interesting point that I have learned is that kids talk about their favorite books, just like adults do, and you’ll see those patterns from the books they check out. Two friends will read a book, and they tell their friends, and they tell others, and so on. BUZZ and word of mouth still works.

Start locally. With a little effort, you can make your book the BUZZ of the schools in your area.

Natalie Bright is the author of the nonfiction Rescue Animal series, easy readers featuring two rescue horses, Flash and Taz. Her Trouble in Texas series is a wild west adventure for middle grades set in the Texas frontier. She also writes women’s fiction. To see pictures of author events, go to Instagram.com @natsgrams Nataliebright.com

 

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Now is as Good a Time as Any: Writing Your Family


Now is as Good a Time as Any: Writing Your Family

Natalie Bright

I spoke at my hometown library this last week. The Dimmitt Book Club meets at the Rhoades Memorial Library every month. We talked about the changing tide of books for writers and readers, and hopefully, inspired a few people to write their family. I heard several wonderful stories about the people from my hometown.

After a show of hands, about three indicated that they owned eReaders. (As I shared with the group, the two things that sold me on an eReader is that I can make the words bigger and I can read in the dark while my hubby sleeps.)

According to a recent Pew Research Center stats, half of American adults either own a tablet or an e-Reader. In 2014, 12 million devices were sold. It’s no surprise that Amazon Kindle has the largest share of the market, with 75% of all eBooks sold in the US. Other countries are close behind the eBook craze with markets opening up in India, Germany, Indonesia, and Brazil.

For people who love stories, like Book Clubs, this is an amazing time for readers. Original material is in high demand, which makes this an amazing time for writers as well. The irony of our time is that while eBooks continue to gain a solid hold, it’s never been easier for anyone to create a book for print.

Family Stories

Many of you have thought about writing the stories you heard from your childhood, or putting your family genealogy research to paper. I think today, more and more people are interested in family stories and the history of their communities. Family historians and genealogist can bring community and family members to life through the written word, and reveal them as real flesh and blood souls. With the ease of self-publishing options, you can write it and have something in hand you’d be proud to hand out at the next family reunion (or sell it to your cousins to cover your costs).

A Million Ways

Whatever you think a family memoir or collection of stories might be, forget those preconceived notions. Through the ease of self-publishing options, you can create whatever you want. I shared several of my favorite examples of family memoirs and personal reflections that have been turned into published works. I’ve listed them below:

PATCHWORK PRINCIPLES by Jerry and Martha McClenagan. A heartwarming collection of life lessons featuring original quilt designs hand made by Martha. (Infinity Publishing)

TEN SISTERS by Doris Wenzel. Unique POV from ten sisters who each wrote a chapter about the day they were taken from their mother and adopted out to different families. (Mayhaven Press)

TAKE TWO & BUTTER ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT, by Barbara Sewell. Heirloom Recipes & Kitchen wisdom from her grandmother. “If you want some hot bread and free advice, step into my grandmother’s kitchen.” I love this collection of recipes and wisdom.

             GROWING UP IN THE BRADFORD OIL FIELDS by Jim Messer. (Xlibris) Written for his children, Mr. Messer reflects on memories growing up with a father who was an oil field shooter. A fascinating look at how they stored, transported, and ignited nitroglycerin during the completion process of fracing wells in the 1930s.

             A WOMAN TENDERFOOT by Grace Gallatin Seton Thompson. Published in 1900, this Rocky Mountain adventure is written by a Victorian woman who did the unthinkable: she accompanied her husband into the wilderness of U.S. and Canada. What I wouldn’t give to have some of this detail about clothing, food prep, adventure, and life from my own grandmother.

             LETTERS FOR COACH by Libby Cleveland. Author Coop Action Printing, Lubbock Texas. A collection of letters from players to their favorite coach.

SO GREAT A HERITAGE by Kathie Jackson. A collection of letters by her father who was an army Chaplain. She sprinkled this book with details of the war in between letters to home.

OIL PEOPLE by Natalie Bright. Nonfiction targeted to upper middle grades about the varied workforce used in the discovery, production and refining of oil. Lists the many products we use every day. Self-published 2010 based on my husband’s work as a petroleum geologist, and now available on Amazon as an eBook.

           “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” WEST TEXAS CHRISTMAS STORIES. Based on an old ranch hand on a college friend’s ranch, I wrote the story as an exercise for a writing class, and years later it was selected for this anthology published by TCU Press. Never delete those story ideas. You never where they might find a home in the future. This great collection contains both fiction and nonfiction about West Texas.

Writer’s Secrets for Non-Writers: You CAN do This!

  • Your writing is not going to win a Pulitzer Prize. If you’ve ever wanted to record your family history, write it down now. It’s not going to be perfect the first time. Writers call it the vomit draft.
  • On the next pass through your work, narrow the focus: smells, sounds, fear, taste, grit on your face. Add the details that brings the reader into your story.
  • Write to one person in particular. Don’t worry about who will be reading your work. Just write.
  • I’m not talking about literary writing. Write in a Conversational tone. Don’t worry about grammar or complete sentences. Just write. You can go back and fix it later. You can’t fix a blank page.
  • Read your story out loud. Every author I know does this final step before submitting their work for publication. This helps you find awkward sentences, typos, and determine the flow of your story. Again, it’s not a literary piece. It’s you telling a family story.
  • Have someone else read your work for an honest critique.

Libraries of Tomorrow

The library in my hometown continues to thrive. I used to spend every Saturday there while my mother did the weeks laundry around the corner. I’m glad to know that the folks in Dimmitt continue to use the facility.

In addition to several groups using the meeting room and a Tuesday reading program for children, the Dimmitt library features a lighted glass case of collections from local patrons. This month were porcelain tea pots from England. The previous month featured Elvis memorabilia. Librarians are thinking outside the box to keep their facilities vibrant even in today’s eBook revolution.

Now, Take a Deep Breath. Whether you’re a multi-published author or first-time writer, be open to the possibilities of your creation and WRITE. Don’t forget to schedule a talk at your hometown library after you get that book finished.