Funding an Author Visit—There’s Money Available!

I LOVE speaking at schools and leading writing workshops. By now, I’ve visited enough campuses to see a wide disparity in demographics. I’ve been to inner city elementary schools with metal detectors and bars on the windows, and I’ve been to schools with sparkling courtyard gardens and laptops for every child. Whether a school is wealthy or economically-disadvantaged, everyone agrees that kids deserve the best possible education, which begins with the foundation of literacy. If you’re reading this, you already know that reading is the foundation for education and citizenship, and it is a gateway to empathic connections. You know that writing is not only an art, and a way to share ideas and use imagination, but a critical communication tool. As the printed word increasingly competes with large and small screens, the intrinsic and pragmatic value of an author visit increases exponentially. Meeting a “real live” author allows students to peek behind the wizard’s curtain—to humanize the process of story creation (fiction and nonfiction), and to glimpse at the creative potential of curiosity. Many authors, like me, incorporate concrete curriculum connections to support classroom instruction.

But how do you pay for an author visit when budgets at the school, PTA, and district level are squeezed? Though by no means an exhaustive list, below are some options you may not have considered:

Grassroots Fundraising:
Find a creative way to raise the money. Get the students involved so that they feel invested.
Car washes
Product sales
Coin campaigns (Think of the bonus math connection!)
Carnivals

Corporate Event Sponsors:
You know the drill.

Grants (Where a Texas organization is mentioned, insert your own equivalent):
* Ask your colleagues which grants they have had success with.
* Check your state and local arts commissions, such as the Texas Commission on the Arts and organizations within specific communities like Impact Austin.
* Search your state’s library association. For example, The Texas Library Association sponsors grants for public libraries & disaster relief.
* Search Grant Watch by state (ie: Texas Grant Watch), and other cooperative sites that help educators find grants, like GetEdFunding and Grants for Teachers, and ProLiteracyScholasticJunior Library Guild, etc. There are many more out there!
* Look at regional writing organizations.
* The Writer’s League of Texas’ Project Wise facilitates one-hour author visits at no cost to participating Austin-area schools, and is funded by the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division.
SCBWI’s Amber Brown Grant, and the Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Grant by ALSC and ALA, funded by Simon and Schuster.
* The Texas Book Festival has grants available through their Reading Rock Stars Program (and they provide a book for each child)
* The remarkable nonprofit organization First Book (They also provide a book for each child.)
* Check corporate philanthropy options like Dell Computers, HEB, TargetWells Fargo, Exxon/Mobil,  Dollar General, Barnes & Noble, etc.
* Be aware that some large corporations reward employee volunteers by making a donation in the employee’s name. One of my school visits was paid for by a company on behalf of an employee volunteer.
*If, after all your efforts, you’re still short on budget, ask your preferred author if they will discount their honorarium. Every author I know will gladly do this, as long as the request is reasonable.

Do you need free books for your classroom or library? Check out the options listed by the National Education Association.

Remember, there’s free money out there to help you help your students. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

If you would like information about my school presentations and writing workshops, contact me here. 

STAY TUNED for my updated post about how much money authors really earn.

Think School Visits Only Help the Students? Think Again!

Hello, friends!

As I sit in my dining room on this cold and rainy Saturday, I am reflecting on the thirty-four schools that I have visited since mid-September. Yes, thirty four! Tomorrow, I leave for a full week of school visits in Houston, and more schools are on my calendar after that, so the number is rising. I owe so much to the Texas Bluebonnet Award nomination, and the nomination to other state award lists, too. They are lovely accolades for Step Right Up, but the award nods have also provided these glorious opportunities to talk to young readers. Special thanks to Texas Library Association!


I have been honored by each school invitation and humbled by the dedication I have witnessed in the real rockstars—librarians, administrators, and educators. If you are among those noble professions, thank you!

Truth be known, the flurry of 2018-19 school visits has changed me in profound ways.

Every school visit gifts me with new perspectives on the unique challenges for schools in wildly varying economic and demographic environments. I have presented in wealthy schools, where every brand-name-wearing second-grader has a smart phone in their designer backpack, and a laptop provided for them. And I have presented in schools that have bars on the windows, metal detectors, and hand-me-down-wearing third-graders who worried that my presentation clicker was a taser. (There’s only one way an 8-year-old could make that assumption.)

Some kids have challenges. Some kids are challenging. But every kid deserves the best that we can offer. When I stand before them, I feel the responsibility deeply. We all know that books can offer windows and mirrors for young readers. And, for those readers who haven’t yet fallen in love with books, meeting a real author who failed many times before any success—one who is as flawed and human as everybody else— can be enlightening. And, as some studies suggest, author visits inspire kids to read and write more. 
During this Bluebonnet season with Step Right Up, while I share my personal connection to Doc and Jim’s story, and as I share my writing, research, and revision process, the kindness theme takes center stage. I offer a bit about Abraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words, too, which is all about Honest Abe’s big mistake—political mudslinging that almost cost him his life—and how the lesson he learned from the resulting duel taught him to be a better man. It’s a story about learning from our mistakes and about the power of words. It’s a story about character—kissing cousin to kindness.

Authors often subconsciously gravitate toward stories with particular social issues. I didn’t set out to be a kindness author, but I’m awfully grateful these days that I have two books that offer a bit of light when darkness creeps into our internal or external worlds. During these exceptionally divisive and volatile times, I think it’s important that adults offer EVERY child a sense of hope, a sense of potential, a promise that, though we don’t always have a choice about where we live or the stuff we own, we all have a choice about HOW we treat others. As authors, we have a responsibility to every one of these kids and to the adults who dedicate their careers to nurturing and educating them.

Perusing an 1859 newspaper. Research can be cool!
4th grade writing workshop.

I watch kids’ faces during my presentations and in my writing workshops, looking for content that especially connects. It isn’t always obvious at first. In the moments before and after my presentations, there are kids who want to chat. Sometimes, they share something funny or random. Sometimes, they want to share something that’s weighing on their young hearts. Often, stories are whispered into my ear about a dying grandmother, a cousin who hit his dog with a shoe, an uncle in prison, a school bully. Sometimes, they tell me that they want to be an author, too. (Cue the confetti!)

It is a special honor when I witness the seemingly-least-likely kid in the room find a spark of magic in their own imaginings. I see it in the wide eyes, hands in the air in response to a question, the random hug by the child who thanks me for writing a book about kindness. I saw it last week when a third grade boy stopped me in the hall of his school and said, “I’m writing a story about you today.” He was that kid, y’all. You know the one—the kid often thought of as a problem. He gets it, this kindness thing. And, maybe, just maybe, he gets the reading and writing thing a little bit more today, too. If I transferred a little word wonder to him, well, my work here is done. And I am a better person for it.

 

If you are a library or education rock star, thank you, thank you, thank you for all you do to inspire, nurture, and educate OUR kids ! What would we do without you?

If you are an author or illustrator colleague, keep sharing your passion for young readers and the books that can inspire them. What we do matters!

For more information about my presentations and writing workshops, click here  or contact me. I would be happy to travel to anywhere in the United States and beyond. If I’m not quite what you’re looking for, please reach out to another author about visiting your school or library. We’re all in it for the kids.

Everything You Want to Know About School Visits

My fellow NARRATIVE ARChaeology authors and I put together a series of articles about school visits. Below are direct links.

Click here for Why Invite a Non-Fiction Author to Speak at Your School

Click here for Getting the Most Out of Your School Visit

Click here for The Truth About What Authors Earn

Click here for How to Pay for a Visiting Author. Also, see this Cynsations blog post about more available grants to pay for author visits. And, for Texas, also consider Title V grants. After all, the writing process should be the core of all author programs.

Read more about ways to pay for author visits on the Booking Biz blog here.

 

NARRATIVE ARChaeology is a group of nonfiction writers who specialize in nonfiction author visits.  Visit the NARRATIVE ARChaeology site here!

It’s Time for TLA 2017!

Next week brings the 2017 Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio, Texas. I look forward to the event every year. If you’ll be there, please find me and say hello. Below is my schedule.

Stay tuned for more information about my latest co-venture with authors Cynthia Levinson and Susan Kralovansky, NARRATIVE ARChaeology: Teaching Kids to Dig Research and Rock Writing. We promote school visits focused on nonfiction and research—topics important to every classroom in the country. We’re gonna have a blast!