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 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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.