Friday 20 February 2009
Children's Author and Illustrator School Visits: 10 Hot Tips
My TOP 10 TIPS, if you are new to school visits:
1 Get all the details for the visit sorted well in advance, and ask to see a draft timetable. Do this weeks, not days before the visit, as teachers can be hard to get hold of last minute.
2 Don't feel obliged to do what someone asks of you. If you don't think it will work, suggest something better (with confidence - by email if that's easier to pull off!). Also, if you don't feel comfortable with any particular age group (eg nursery or teenagers), just say so.
3 There's nothing you can do to entertain a 5yr old and a 14yr old at the same time: if you're working with family groups in a library, ask them to restrict the age spread to either under or over 8yrs.
4 Don't let a school give you too many kids at once: 1 class at a time is plenty when you're just starting out, and I rarely agree to more than 2 together, unless it's a lecture or a small, rural school.
5 Don't make workshops too complicated - I often pitched it too high until I got used to ability levels.
6 Focus on the children's enjoyment and inspiration levels during workshops, rather than worrying too much about the quality of the end products.
7 With KS1 children, break your event up into 10-15 minute activities, to hold their attention. As a newcomer, a 45 minutes session is probably long enough, for the same reason.
8 It is not really your job to manage behaviour - teachers or librarians should stay with you throughout and they will deal with this side of things for you.
9 Lunch is usually provided: in school this is a free school dinner (but remember: when you arrive, ask them to book you one - some school cooks get tetchy otherwise!)
And last but most importantly....
10 Don't under-charge: a day in the UK should pay between £300 and £350 with your travel expenses on top. This is the going rate and what you are worth. I charge more if I have to stay overnight (plus accommodation expenses). NOTE: a half day is not 1/2 this amount, but 3/4, because of your travel and prep time.
So, there you have it. I hope it's useful. Please don't let all the dos and don'ts put you off - a day spent in school might be hard work, but it is generally also amazing fun.
You can register with the Wordpool's Contact an Author for a very reasonable annual fee, and go on their listings, which will help people to find you. There are also many more agencies, such as Class Act who will help you to arrange visits. You can also contact your local library or School Library Service, or approach local schools direct.
A couple of boring things:
Some schools and councils may still ask you for a CRB check. This is not actually a legal requirement any more, but the word is taking a while to spread.
If you are invited via a local council, you may also need public liability insurance. Join NAWE and your £5 Million indemnity is thrown in for free - by far the cheapest way to do it.
I hope this is helpful and gives a few more people the confidence to get out there and strutt their stuff. Do have a go. And please, if you have relevant experience, please feel free to add any tips of your own, or update mine, via the comments section below.