I’m leaving bright and early (like 7:30 a.m. bright and early) for two days of school visits in southwestern Minnesota tomorrow. It’s pretty much on my way (well, if I take the long way) to stop and see my dad, so that’s why I’m leaving so early. If I leave at 7:30, I should be able to get to the nursing home in time to have “dinner” with him. I’ll stay for a couple of hours, then continue on to Luverne, Minnesota.
I was starting to get a little concerned about this visit because, like I said, I’m leaving TOMORROW and as of 3:00 this afternoon I still hadn’t gotten a schedule for my visit! I didn’t know what time they wanted me to arrive at the school on Tuesday morning; I didn’t know which groups of kids I was speaking to when (I have different presentations for kindergarten and first grade than I have for 2nd-6th grade); I didn’t know whether I was scheduled back to back or if I had a break in between (I really need a break in between to put all my props back in order); I didn’t even know when I was going to finish up on Wednesday. I THINK it’s about a 6 1/2 hour drive. So if I was done by noon, my plan was to drive all the way home. (I have night vision problems, so I have a lot of trouble driving after dark.) But I didn’t KNOW if I’d be done at noon…if I’m not done until three, I would probably only drive partway home. But the thing is, if I don’t drive home Wednesday, I need to figure out transportation arrangements for Preteen for Thursday. So when I didn’t hear anything…and then I e-mailed (and eventually CALLED) and STILL didn’t get a response I started to get REALLY nervous! I couldn’t believe they wouldn’t respond!
I know other writers who have some real horror stories when it comes to school visits, but I’ve never had a bad experience myself…unless you count my very first experience…first of all, one of my presentations was to college students…which in and of itself wouldn’t be so bad. But this was the end of the school year and students at this college were required to attend X number of “visiting lecturer” presentations in order to graduate. Mine was the last opportunity to get credit for this, so I had mostly students who were only there to fulfil a requirement; they really weren’t interested in children’s literature or how one becomes an author at all. But I also had this group of older ladies from town in the audience for this presentation…they were very sweet; they nodded and smiled throughout my whole presentation (which really made up for the jocks who were sprawled out at the back of the room, yawning and checking their watches!)…they even came up to talk to me afterwards. The other problem I had during this visit was since this was my first author visit, I didn’t know yet that you’re supposed to say in your contract that you get paid THE DAY YOU’RE THERE. I didn’t do that, so I wasn’t paid the day I was there. Which again, in and of itself, shouldn’t be THAT big of a deal, but the person who invited me quit her job, so no one ever put in for my payment! And it took a little while to get that straightened out. But it did get straightened out. And the rest of the event itself was fine (this was a young author conference, so the kids were really enthusiastic!). Everything was well organized, people were good about communicating with me, and people were VERY nice to me!
Then I was at a school last year where they didn’t have a single one of my books in their library! So the kids really had no idea who I was. But I really can’t say this was a “bad” experience because once again, everyone was so very nice. I thought it was a little weird they’d spend all this money to bring in an author and not prepare the kids at all. But the kids were GREAT! And the librarian apologized to me at the end of the day for not having any of my books (that was how I knew they didn’t have any…the librarian told me! I wouldn’t have known by how the kids acted during my presentation…they were really enthusiastic!). But he said a bunch of kids “stormed” the library looking for my books after each of my presentations and he was going to order copies of all of them.
Well, I eventually decided this just didn’t make sense. This school in Luverne wouldn’t invite me and then not give me this basic information (or worse, ignore me when I asked for it)…there had to be an explanation. I got to wondering if school was even in session this past week? I did a little poking around and discovered that their boys basketball team had made it to the state tournament, so school was indeed canceled Thursday and Friday (which was when I e-mailed and called)! That explained a lot! I grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota myself (about 2 hours east of Luverne), so it DOES explain a few things. I KNOW what a big deal it is when your small school makes it to the state tournament! So I actually felt a lot better about the situation when I realized it was state basketball tournament time up there and their school was in the tournament. Half the town probably was/is at the tournament!
But then at 4:00 today I got an e-mail from the person who invited me. She HAD e-mailed me a schedule last Monday…but I didn’t get it. Don’t you hate when that happens???? So she e-mailed it again…and it’s a perfect schedule (I really appreciate when they give you half an hour between presentations!)…I am indeed finished at noon on Wednesday, so I’ll be able to get home that night. So all that fretting for nothing.
I’ve got all my books signed (they ordered 83 books…plus the school gave a copy of my M is for Minnesota to EVERY second grader in the school — isn’t that cool? I’ll have to find out where they ordered them because it sounds like they got a better price on them than I can get when I order them from the publisher)…I’ve made my hats (I definitely decided to shorten the power point presentation and bring the interactive how-a-book-gets-made thing back into my program)…I’ve got my list of who needs to be where, when, and how they’re going to get there for my husband…I think I’m ready! It’s hard to actually GO away sometimes when my school visits take me away from the family for more than the day…but once I’m actually on the road, I really like it. I like the travel…I like meeting new people…I even enjoy the actual speaking (about ten years ago I NEVER would have believed I’d EVER say such a thing!)