Authors are encouraged to know their target audience and connect with the readers who will be buying their books. These tasks become a little more complicated for the writers of children’s books. Their readers may not be able to buy their books, or attend the industry standard book launches or signings.
Marci Seither, Kathy Boyd Fellure, and Jeanette Hanscome are three authors who understand the need to reach their young audiences in creative ways.
This year, they’ll be putting their books right into the little hands of their readers by participating in an Author Day at a local elementary school.
Marci Seither, the organizer of this fun event, has written hundreds of articles for local and national publications, including Guideposts magazine. She is also the author of The Adventures of Pearly Monroe (2014), Empty Nest: Strategies to Help Your Kids Take Flight (2014) and Pumper John
Kathy Boyd Fellure is the author of Nana’s Tin of Buttons, When the Birdies Came to Tea, Bear Cub Adventure, and Mr. Snowman Ate Our Picnic Lunch. She’s celebrating the upcoming 2016 summer release of The Misadventures of Jake and Missy, illustrated by Donna Plant. Her novels include a Tahoe Trilogy, and her current work in progress, Across the Pond.
Jeanette Hanscome is the author of six books, including titles published through Focus on the Family and Running with Roselle, the story of Michael Hingson and the guide dog who led him to safety down 78 flights of stairs at the World Trade Center. Her devotional Suddenly Single Mom: 52 Messages of Hope, Grace, and Promise will be published by Worthy Inspired in March 2016.
The week before their Author Day in Sacramento, Marci, Kathy, and Jeanette blessed me with an interview and shared the valuable purposes and rewards of school visits.
Why should children’s book authors consider investing their time in school visits?
Marci: Going into schools allows us to connect directly with our readers. It is also important to encourage the next generation of storytellers. Who knows? Maybe one day I will read a book written by one of the kids I encouraged. After seeing the impact that a handful of authors had on one school, I wondered how it would affect the next generation of storytellers if 100 Christian writers visited 100 classrooms filled with students who need to know their own stories are worth sharing.
Kathy: During school visits, bridges are built that not only reignite the students’ desire to read, but offer the tools to help a younger generation make personal contact with someone to show them they also can write and/or illustrate books.
Jeanette: School visits show students that everyday people can write books. In this technology-driven, fast-faced society, it benefits them to learn that writing a book is a process−that it takes a lot of time and thought and planning and hard work. These visits also create readers. Something about personal connection makes a book more attractive and fun.
Marci: I feel so humbled as I look into their eager and excited faces. Last year was our first year to set up an Author Day. The school held a few assemblies and then the authors rotated classrooms the rest of the day. This year we have a bigger team and are really focusing in on the different aspects of the writing craft. It is going to be interactive and a BLAST!
Kathy: I spend time in prayer before and after school visits. I learn so much from students when I listen to their stories. I am always grateful and touched by the depth of their interest and respect. Afterward, I am overflowing with hope for a new generation of future writers and illustrators!
Jeanette: School visits always encourage and energize me. Is it okay to admit that it’s fun to be treated like a rock star? It’s just sweet! But more than that, I enjoy inspiring children to love reading and great stories. I love hearing their stories and questions, and sensing their interest. Afterward I try to predict which kids will probably become writers themselves.
Please share one priceless moment from a school visit.
Marci: I surprised a class that had just finished reading my book, The Adventures of Pearley Monroe. The class had done art projects depicting their favorite scenes from my book. The wall was covered with a timeline of the events of the story. Students wrote reports based on the historical facts I had put in the book. It was my goal to help kids fall in love with history, and I was seeing the result in a way I could never have imagined. I shared that sometimes it takes a long time to work toward your dream. I LOVED seeing their faces when I told them that everyone has a story worth sharing, including them.
Kathy: On a school visit, a student asked me to marry him. He proposed after I read When the Birdies Came to Tea to his class. He took my hand in his when he very sincerely and politely asked me, then waited for my answer. It was sweet beyond measure, but I explained I was already married. Though he was disappointed, he told me his dreams of being an author one day too. That I could encourage!
Jeanette: During my last school visit, every child who’d paid for a book in advance got to come to the library after lunch for a book signing. At the end of the day a little boy came in and asked, “Is it too late to buy a book?” He held out a crumpled wad of cash. The vice-principal reminded him that he was supposed to order the books ahead of time. In a rare moment of boldness, I asked, “Which book were you hoping for?” He looked up at me and said, “The one about the dog.” I told him I had an extra copy in my tote bag. The vice-principal patted the boy on the shoulder. “Well, it looks like this is your lucky day.” Signing my spare copy of Running with Roselle for this young man felt special–like God knew he needed to be able to buy a book on Authors Day. I sold 60 books that day, but signing his book meant the most to me.
Marci, how can other children’s book authors join you in reaching out to their very special target audience by investing their time in school visits?
If you’re interested in inspiring students in your area, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can build a team of 100 Christian writers dedicated to encouraging students in 100 schools in 2017.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with our readers, Marci, Kathy, and Jeanette. I look forward to hearing what God does through your team during next year’s Author Day.
Xochi (so-she) E. Dixon encourages and equips women to embrace grace and deepen their relationships with God and others. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, ENCOUNTER—The Magazine, Devo ‘Zine, in three Inspire anthologies, and at www.xedixon.com.