One of my favorite parts of being a children's book writer is going into schools to talk about what I do. Not only is it an opportunity for me to get to get away from the computer and hang out with real people, it's also a chance to unleash my Inner Hambone. My school presentations are usually exceedingly silly, with costumes and props and puppets and goofy jokes and group poetry-writing and as much audience participation as I can muster without causing a stampede. But they also include wonderful conversations with kids about books and writing -- conversations that invariably send me home in a giddy, delighted mood because I'm reminded how much children love books, and what fine, perceptive, and enthusiastic readers they are and how privileged I am to have them as my intended audience.
Sadly, in these lean times, schools have less and less money to bring in authors and illustrators to do school-wide assemblies or classroom workshops. That's too bad for everyone. But I recently started working with a booking agent who specializes in setting up Virtual Visits, which are online conversations between authors or illustrators and school classrooms. Virtual Visits are a low-cost way for teachers to introduce children to the people who create books, and while they don't get me away from my computer, or allow me to make full use of my Inner Hambone, they do allow me to do the most important thing of all -- talk with kids and answer their questions about writing. I still do in-person visits through my regular booking agent, Susan Katz, but I'm pretty excited but these Virtual Visits too, which is why I made a little video spot, explaining what they are. I learned a lot while I was making it -- both about where I need to put the microphone and the importance of looking at the webcam rather than the computer screen, but also that doing anything with cats requires endless amounts of patience. Still, the creature was in my lap -- how could I not include him?