School Visits by Emma Carroll
The second best part of being an author, for me, is doing school visits. I absolutely love them. So much so I’m often more excited than the kids (embarrassing but true). Having worked as an English teacher for the best part of 20years, its no great surprise that I feel at home in a school environment. But believe me, being an author in school is NOT the same as being a class teacher.
- Your job is to bring something different to the mix. I’m not going to deliver a lesson that’s structured in the way their others are. I’m not going to dwell on grammar or punctuation. I’m going to focus on ideas, inspirations, how a writer works, taking risks. I’m not an English teacher- the school already has those. I’m an author.
- You’re in charge of the session (sort of). I set the pace, the tone, the expectations of the session. I’m prepared, excited. I expect it to go well. Motivated, focused students are less likely to misbehave- I know this. I also know about classroom management. But if there are any discipline issues, its not my job to challenge them. That’s where a member of staff steps in. It took quite a while for me to get used to this!
- Know your worth. It’s a bit embarrassing to charge people for your time, especially at first- of course it is- I’m English. It’s also hard knowing many state schools can’t afford author fees. But authors need to charge in order to make a living, it really is that simple. Personally, I can’t live off a four-figure advance, and don’t know many authors who can. Also see point 1- you have a specialist knowledge that’s unique and therefore desirable. If a school has paid for you to be there, it’ll usually be a bigger occasion for them too, so win win.
- You’ve got one shot. After your visit’s over, chances are you’ll never see your audience again. They probably won’t forget you, though- that’s how author visits tend to work. So I know I need to do my very best in that little window of time- not just for the kids who buy books, who’ve read all your stories and gush that you’re their favorite author (which is wonderful), but for the ones who maybe don’t like books or writing, who are convinced your session isn’t for them. It is. It’s for all of them. You won’t have another lesson tomorrow or the next day to prove it.
- No marking. This, for me, is one of the biggest differences from teaching. You’re not assessing the kids. You’re not grading their work. You’re not showing them how to write. You’re giving them the space to think and create- see point 3 – because that’s priceless.
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Emma Carroll writes MG fiction. Her debut ‘Frost Hollow Hall’, a Victorian ghost story, won the North East Book Award 2013 and was longlisted for the Branford Boase. Her second novel ‘The Girl Who Walked On Air’ has been nominated for the CILIP medal. Her latest book ‘In Darkling Wood’ is inspired by the Cottingley Fairies photographs, and publishes with Faber in July 2015. In another life she wishes she’d written ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier. Emma lives in the Somerset hills with her husband and three terriers.