An Author’s Guide To Skype School Visits With Guest Iza Trapani!!!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Everyone!

I have a present for you!

It’s not green.  And it’s not Irish.  But it’s still a great present 🙂

Remember on Friday I promised a guest post on a very interesting topic?

Ta-da!

Allow me to introduce the multi-talented and delightful Iza Trapani!

Author/Illustrator Iza Trapani

Hi Iza!

Thank you so much for joining us today!

I personally am very interested in the topic of Skype school visits.  I think they’re a wonderful alternative to in-person visits for many schools, allowing authors and illustrators to visit classrooms without the expense associated with in-person visits.  Having never done one myself, I was curious to know the details of how one goes about it, and I thought you guys might like to know too!  So I asked Iza (who is a pro :)) to elucidate, and she very kindly did (VERY kindly because not only did I ask her for a guest post, it was on short notice!)

Take it away, Iza!

While an in-person school visit is always better, a Skype session is a nice alternative for schools  struggling with tight budgets and/or for schools wanting to invite an out-of-state author. Most authors charge travel expenses  in addition to their presentation fees, so it can get expensive. Skype visits are a convenient and affordable option. They are also great for authors and illustrators who are often up against deadlines.  Cutting out the travel leaves more time for the works in progress.

I’ve been doing skype visits for a couple of years now, and I’m glad to share my experience.


Getting Skype Visits

Advertising for Skype visits is no different than for in-person visits. On my website I have a link with information on my school visits. It includes a description of my presentation, a short video of me presenting to a class, my fees, list of my titles, short bio,  feedback on my presentations and more. When a school contacts me, I also have a school visit PDF that includes all the relevant info plus references. A few years ago we added a blurb that I am now available for Skype visits as well. When I started doing Skype, I sent out an e-mail announcement to all my school contacts, teacher friends, and fans. A few years ago I’d also sent out a flyer to numerous schools within a 50 mile radius. The flyer had a brief bio, description of my presentation and contact info. I am also listed in Arts in Ed directories in several counties. Mostly, the schools find me either via my website or by word of mouth. Because my writing and illustrations (especially) are so time consuming, I can not do too many school visits. But that is a personal choice. Some authors do lots of school visits and I am sure they promote much more aggressively than I do.



Setting up the Session

I set up right in my studio which has good, glare-free northern light and overhead track lights.  My laptop will rest on a small table. I’ll have a stool to sit on and my materials (illustration samples, books I’ll be using etc.) will be within reach on top of my flat file cabinets on the left. To my right will be an easel with an 18×24 pad on which I’ll do drawing demonstrations. Behind me, a low bookshelf will showcase some of my books face out. It makes a nice backdrop.

Before doing my first school visit I did a test with my sister (in Poland!)  to make sure the light was good, that the books behind me were well arranged and that the easel was at the right height. When I first started I was worried that the class wouldn’t see me well, but I soon learned that the image I see of me in the little window on the bottom right in Skype is what they are seeing. I can tilt the computer screen to adjust the view as needed.

Makeup? Attire?

One of the advantages of a Skype visit is that I don’t have to fuss over my appearance. First of all, it’s never a crystal clear image-at least not on my end. I rarely wear make-up but I  will wash my hair and wear a nice, casual top for the session. It doesn’t matter what’s on my bottom half- clown pants or a tutu- they won’t see it 🙂

Interruptions?

I turn off the phone and leave a note on the front door. If it’s UPS or FedEx, they can drop off in our front foyer.  My big Mastiff, Jambo, might stay in my husband’s shop- but I have had requests from some schools that the kids wanted to see my pets, so in those cases I will leave him with me. Part of the attraction of Skype is seeing the author at home.


 Technical Problems

Sometimes there are technical problems – usually no sound. So far, the problems  were on the school’s end and were quickly fixed. A quick test Skype with the teacher ahead of time is always a good idea. I also do a test Skype with a friend or relative beforehand.

Sound can be a bit problematic. When the children join me in singing there is a slight delay. Also, I don’t always hear the children when they ask me questions; the teachers usually have to repeat them, and I can hear the teachers just fine. They say they can hear me very clearly, so I am glad about that.


My Presentation

My Skype presentations are the same as my in-person visits. I start off with a short intro, telling a little bit about me- how I was born in Poland and came to the U.S. when I was seven and went right into first grade not speaking any English, and then how my dream of making books for children came true. Then I sing/read one of my nursery rhyme books, and I’ll have the kids sing at least the first verse along with me. Then I will discuss the bookmaking process, talk a bit about getting ideas and turning them into stories, and then the many revisions that are needed. I will show samples of my storyboards, dummy sketches, color studies and final art. I will also show some of my rejected works- paintings I had started but wasn’t happy with. And I have some press sheets to show them so they can understand the printing process. After that I will do Q+A then go on to a drawing demonstration. I’ll choose a character from one of my books and have the kids think of some ideas of what the character could be doing and I will draw it for them. Then I’ll ask the kids to help me add details to the drawing and I will put them in. A typical scene might be a bear riding on a skateboard and juggling. For details they will ask me to put in the sun, birds, bunnies, flowers, ladybugs, etc. I love that! There are so many edgy books out there and it’s reassuring to me to know that kids are still charmed by the beauty and wonder of nature.


My books are ideal for preK to 1st grade, but I will also present to older kids. I will adjust my presentations- doing more singing and reading with the little ones and more bookmaking discussions with the older kids.

Fee

I charge $150 for a 45 minute to 1 hr session. My in-person visits are $250 per session plus travel expenses beyond 50 miles. I will do up to 4 presentations in one day. In both cases, the school will send me a check after the visit.

And that’s all there is to it! 🙂

Thank you, Susanna, for featuring me. I hope this info is helpful to your many wonderful readers!
Thank YOU, Iza!  I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say it was very interesting and enlightening!
Iza is the author and illustrator of 20 lovely picture books for children, including Itsy Bitsy Spider (a favorite in our house), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The Bear Went Over The Mountain, Little Miss Muffet and many more. She is also the illustrator of 4 books written by other authors.
Teachers, you can learn all about Iza’s school visits here:
and everyone – teachers, parents, readers, writers, homeschoolers, librarians, kids etc. – you can find Iza around the web here:

www.izatrapani.com
http://izatrapani.com/blog
Like me on Facebook
Follow me on twitter

I hope you enjoyed learning about Skype visits (I know I did! :)) and if you have any questions, I think Iza will be happy to answer in the comments!

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone, and once again, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🙂

Skype Author Visits?

It’s August 15, which means here in New York school hasn’t started yet but it will soon.

With the start of the new school year comes a new opportunity for school visits, one of my favorite parts of being a children’s author.

Thus far, I have always visited in person.  I get to meet the kids face-to-face, hear their laughter and excited comments, let them pat Phyllis 🙂

But school budgets, as always, are being cut further and further.  Fewer and fewer schools have the resources to pay authors to visit – especially lesser known authors like me.  And this means fewer kids get the chance to meet authors and illustrators and see that these are paths that are open to them in their lives.

But before you get too depressed over the state of affairs, there’s a new solution – Skype!

It’s free.  Anyone can download and use it.  And many authors and schools are now doing visits by Skype.

I am terrified eager to give it a try!  (Because as you all know, I am so gifted with technology!)

As I see it, here are the pros:
1. Skype is free.  Any library or classroom with a computer can access it.
2. An author can visit any school or library regardless of distance – no travel fees, no overnights away from home, etc.
3. Most authors will do a 15 minute visit for free provided the school gives the student participants the chance to buy the author’s books and encourages them to do so.  A longer visit may cost up to $300, but that’s still significantly less than an actual visit.
4. The author can do the visit right from home.

…and here are the cons:
1. It’s harder to visit a large number of children at once because you’re limited by the computer screen.  But this might actually be a pro in disguise because smaller groups mean more interaction per child.
2. The author (and the teacher/librarian on the other end) has to be technologically savvy enough to make Skype work 🙂  (And there’s the chance, in bad weather, that you might lose your internet connection.)
3. There’s a bit of juggling involved to get the viewing angles right – the author shouldn’t look as though she’s talking to the floor 🙂  This may require skill in architecture or engineering (or at least balancing things) to get your computer in the right position relative to you.
4. Some background shows up, which means the author has to find a clean uncluttered space in her house that looks as though she has in fact vacuumed the dog hair in the last millennium 🙂

One thing I don’t know, since I haven’t done this yet, is whether the interaction still feels the same.  Do the kids get as much out of a virtual visit as they do from an actual one, or do they end up feeling like they’re watching TV?  What do you think?

Teachers and other writers, I am very interested in your thoughts on Skype visits!  Have you done them?  How have they worked?  What do you see as pros and cons?  Please share!