The Very Busy November

In November 2018 I had one school visit. Happily, this year was different. I prefer different.

I knew I would be attending the Virginia Association of School Librarians conference in Roanoke as part of a group of authors participating in the Read-Local Challenge. The date of our presentation and my book signing was Thursday, Nov 7th. I put out the word to some Virginia schools that I would be able to do a discounted visit on Wednesday, Nov 6th. Tye River Elementary said yes. I then checked my calendar (because I’m an idiot and should have done this first) and realized I already had a visit booked for that date in Pennsylvania.

I told Ms. Thompson, the librarian at Tye River of my mistake and offered the same discount for any other date. They asked if I could do Friday, November 15th. That date worked as I had the day before on my calendar to visit with 2 schools in Pennsylvania, 4 assemblies split between two schools.

It dawned on me that I would be doing the same round trip 2 weeks in a row.

The first week’s Google Maps trip
Week 2

The first school visit of the month was Southwest Elementary in Lebanon, PA. They wanted me to do 2 assemblies during the day and an evening program for their Family Literacy Night. I needed to order books from Schiffer Publishing for the next couple of weeks so I included a side trip to the Book Farm in Atglen to pick them up (it was literally on the way to Lebanon). I did my assemblies, had dinner in town and came back for the evening event. I did a version of my daytime program with a few additional explanations for the parents. It was very well attended and afterwards I made books available for sale. Literacy Coach Mr. Albright and the teachers I met did a great job organizing everything.

Talking to the students at Southwest Elementary school.

I signed a lot of books that night and did not get on the road until after 8pm. It’s a 5 hour drive from Lebanon to Roanoke, most of it being on Rt 81. It’s probably the first time I heard the voice of Google maps tell me to “stay on this road for 301 miles”.

Reading Do Not Open The Box! to the Southwest students.

I stopped for gas and coffee and got to my hotel around 1 in the morning. I needed to be at the venue, the Hotel Roanoke Conference Center for an 8am signing session so I didn’t get a great deal sleep but I was fine. Originally I was going to drive home that night but as it was a 4 and a half hour drive home I didn’t want to do 2 of those in a row. I spent the day meeting VA librarians, signing books for them and talking about school visits. I got to meet Ms. Thompson from Tye River, who I would be visiting the next week. We did our presentation about the Read-Local Challenge that afternoon and I did another signing session afterwards. Since I had decided to take a hotel I had a nice dinner with a bunch of other authors who were at the conference.

Talking to a librarian at the VAASL Conference with fellow Read-Local Challenge author Terry Catasús Jennings.

My drive home the next morning was uneventful but very pleasant. I decided to go by way of Charlottsville and enjoyed the mountains and the VA countryside. When I got home I did a tally of books I had sold and realized I would need to order more from Schiffer to cover the next 3 school visits.

So it turns out the schools I was visiting on Thursday, Nov 14th, were just east of Lebanon. I stopped by Schiffer again for the books I needed. Fort Zeller Elementary was the first stop in the morning and I did two assemblies, both of which were great. Principal Lin attended and took some photos and snippets of video which he posted on twitter and youtube. As often happens, a number of teachers wanted to buy books after seeing my presentation and I signed a bunch while having lunch with Ms Faust, the reading specialist who had set up the visit.

Answering a student’s question about whether it’s easy to make a book.
Answering another question about The Angry Little Puffin.

In signing the books I lost track of time and had to rush over to Jackson Elementary for the afternoon. I did my assembly for the younger kids first and then did the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. The first 3 presentations were fun but this last group were pure gold. Every once in a while you get a group that is so into my presentation. They laughed and laughed, asked great questions and left me feeling exhilarated.

Reading I’m Looking For A Monster! to the students at Jackson Elementary.
Principal Hower took this great photo of me and the students from my second Jackson assembly.

Afterwards I knew I had that long drive down 81 again but not quite as far. I booked a hotel in Staunton, VA, a 4 hour drive south. It was earlier in the afternoon so I saw some spectacular skies on my way down before the sun set.

In the morning I had to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains to get to the school. I left extra time to take the scenic route and saw some fantastically beautiful views on my way over. I had a lovely day at Tye River. The students were wonderful and very appreciative. I was glad I was able to re-schedule and make it to their school.

Ms Thompson had me present in her very large library. I did three presentations to all the grades. She took some good pictures throughout the day.

It’s funny, sometimes the pictures of me make me look grumpy but it completely depends on what I’m in the middle of reading.
Showing the Where The Wild Things Are action figure I sculpted.
The signed print I gave to Tye River Elementary. You can find out more about my school visit swag on Dawn Prochovnic’s blog.

I drove home Friday afternoon, hit a bit of rush-hour traffic near DC and got home early evening. I could them relax a bit over the weekend and prepare for my school visit on Tuesday, Nov 19th to Freedom Elementary in Sykesville, MD. It was nice to have one where I could drive there in the morning and come back on the same day. As you can see by this narrative, every school visit is different. I only did 2 presentations in the lunch room at Freedom as their schedule would only work that way. I did 3rd, 4th and 5th in the morning and then came back a few hours later for the younger grades. I find it’s not hard being flexible and working with the schools based on their needs, their schedule and their space. This visit was set up by the PTO and I was the first author they’ve had in a while. I’m glad they chose me to start having them again.

Talking to the older grades at Freedom.

I don’t have any more school visits on my calendar until 2020. I’ve got a bunch scheduled and a few more in the works but I still have plenty of room in my schedule. Please get in touch if you’d like to book me at your school.

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