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Planning a First Book Program
by Kathryn Lay
When I finally got that long-awaited call from
my agent that my middle-grade humor novel had been accepted, the first thing I
did was scream the news to my husband and daughter and call everyone I knew (and
had known). The second thing I did was think, "Can I do school visits with this
Many in my critique group had gone before me in
the adventure of their first book being accepted and published. One thing they
were doing to keep their book in print and to create more income was to do
Yet, being terminally shy, I wondered how I
could possibly perform such a feat and do it well. Over the next year 18 months,
I worked toward a goal of becoming a visiting author for schools and
FIND YOUR BOOKS LESSON PLAN
Somewhere in every book is an idea, theme, or
focus that can be used to enhance a schools curriculum or make learning an idea
fun. It may be friendship, a concept such as counting/colors/alphabet, a
historical event or time, nature, trivia, planting and growing, or using your
For my book, CROWN ME!, I found three
main topics to use and emphasize and teach for school visits. It is about a boy
who wants to be in politics, begins with 5th Grade Student Council President, is
crowned King during a medieval history project, and learned many truths about
leadership along the way. With the upcoming Presidential Election in our
country, I found that I could use elections, medieval history, and leadership as
my school visit theme. I also wanted to incorporate the importance of reading
and writing, as these are used in the required state school tests for 4th
graders in Texas.
CREATE A PROGRAM
My next plan was building a program that
teachers and kids would both enjoy. Being the wife of a teacher and listening to
other authors who do school visits, I knew that my program couldnt be a lecture
or time of just reading from my book. It had to have pizzazz. There should be
action, kids involvement, and visual aids.
Over the next year, during rewrites and galley
proofs, I set about putting together my props and program. I put together a mock
election where students would write or say essays with the topic, "If I were
king or queen of my school I would
" This went along with how my main character
becomes king of 5th grade. I would have several candidates, just like in a
real election. With several students representing the Electoral College, and the
rest being part of a cheering rally, our king or queen would be elected and
It was fun finding crowns, jester hats and shoes
with little bells, finding inexpensive American flags and creating banners to
wave that proclaimed, "Huzzah!"
Unable to find crown stickers, I created my own
as well as bookmarks. Later, my wonderful publisher created bookmarks with my
book cover and information on ordering, so I have been able to use them in my
press packet and visiting school packets.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Once I had my program figured out, I began
sharing it with my writing buddies, my critique group, and friends who were
teachers or librarians. Just as with my writing, I listened to critiques and
ideas to make it better.
When an opportunity came up to do a school
program, months before my book would be available, I accepted. It was an all day
event with other authors and storytellers involved. I was given 4 groups of
students, 1 hour per group, grades K-5 in each group.
This was the perfect chance to practice my
program before I had my book in hand, to see if my idea worked.
I learned a great deal from that first program;
what worked and didnt work, what the kids responded to best, the times they
were restless, the things that made teachers smile or look bored. I found what
wasted time and what went too quickly. With such a mixed group, I also saw what
worked better for the younger ages and what interested the older kids, as well
as the parts of my program that appealed to them all.
I learned to be flexible. My original plan had
been for teachers to have students write their "speech" ahead of time, send them
to me a week before the program, and Id pick 3 kids to be the "candidates" for
each group. They didnt have time to do it beforehand, so I had to pick
volunteers at the time of the program. Some kids gave speeches; others said only
a few words. I learned not to panic, but to improvise and let them have
As the time nears for my book to appear,
coinciding with the beginning of the school year and right before election time;
I know that I survived my first school visit, it was fun, and the kids learned
something new. My program will change as I learn from each school visit, but I
am ready to take my book and program "on the road."
© Copyright 2004, Kathryn Lay
Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through firstname.lastname@example.org
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