Clara Vulliamy: School Visits
I want to fly the flag for author school visits.
Certainly, they take us away from our precious time at our desks; they take time to prepare and time to recover from; and as we are, by the very nature of our profession, backroom people and not all of us natural performers, it also takes a toll on our nerves. But the benefits are huge.
It’s consumer research: a really good opportunity to connect with our audience and to see what makes them laugh, gasp, find inspiring or find dull. And it’s an amazing spectacle: we don’t feel amazing much of the time, but they think we are – a real live creator of a real book, it’s practically show business!
This is how it works for me. I plan a day in a school around three or four one hour sessions, with a break between each. In each session I’ll tell the children about who I am and what I do, show some stuff, read a story or an extract and draw a picture. Then we will all get busy and make something, and I prepare for this carefully.
For me this interactive aspect, whether it’s a piece of collaborative writing or a sticky painty workshop, is the best bit. Our creativity and theirs are joining together, their pleasure in books is enhanced and extended, it all starts to make sense. I feel more relaxed. I potter around the room, having a chat…
making sure everyone gets a compliment and feels good about what they have done.
There’s something very special about that self-confidence and pride:
‘I MADE THIS!’
There’s one thing I must add, though, in my stern voice. We must always charge a proper fee! See the Society of Authors page here:
You’re a professional person, schools do have money to spend, and it makes it harder for your colleagues if you offer yourself at a cut-price rate.
I blogged about a happy school visit here, if you’d like to read:
I was born in London, daughter of author illustrator Shirley Hughes and architect John Vulliamy. My first experience of making pictures was being allowed to use up my Mum’s paints at the end of the day, which was like scraping the icing out of the bowl after baking.
I studied Fine Art at Chelsea School of Art, The Ruskin and The Royal Academy. After graduating I began illustrating in newspapers and magazines, and doing a weekly cartoon in The Guardian. I started writing and illustrating children’s books when I had a family of my own, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve made around 30 books, including The Bear with Sticky Paws, Lucky Wish Mouse and Martha and the Bunny Brothers.
I live in Twickenham with my husband, our two grown-up children and a gang of cheeky guinea pigs.
I haven’t ever done an author visit, but I’ve started to approach library’s to volunteer and read to the kids in term time. Excited!