EVENT How to shine in a school visit

Image: Justin Davies

From planning your school visit to the big day itself, children’s authors Justin Davies and Lindsay Littleson shared their thoughts at the recent SCBWI Scotland on-line event, on what to do/what not to do when entering the incredible world of school visits. Sarah Broadley reports.

How do I approach schools?

Live Literature Directory (through Scottish Book Trust)/your regions equivalent - https://www.scottishbooktrust.com/authors

Authors Aloud - https://authorsalouduk.co.uk/ (can be difficult to get added - publisher may need to contact them for you)

Social media connections with librarians/teachers/school boards/local parents

Create a teaching resource & add to your website/link on your social media accounts – see the following links for an idea of what to include – https://lindsaylittleson.co.uk/home/resources/, https://www.abielphinstone.com/resources/, https://www.cranachanpublishing.co.uk/resources/

E-mail all your local schools – not a successful hit rate but all you need is one yes!

Contact your local bookshop for potential connections

Value yourself – you’re a published creative, rejoice in your words/pictures being out there.

Image: Lindsay Littleson

What do I charge?

The Scottish Book Trust has a set fee of £175 for up to 90 minute session. Check with your local equivalent about what to ask for. If you’re doing an on-line session - £80 for a 40-50 min session should be considered. Charge for transport/mileage/accommodation too.

Public Liability Insurance/other additional certificates/DBS checks – check with your local school about their requirements and contact the SOA if in doubt as there can be conflicting information out there. A reminder to all - you should not be left in the hall/room with the children by yourself. If the teachers leave the room, you immediately do the same until the situation is resolved. For further info on contracts - https://nicolamorgan.com/for-

Image: online audience

Help! What do I put in my presentation?

Chunking is the way forward on this. Here’s a split of information to consider:

Introduction to you and your book

All about me

Inspiration behind the story/research

What’s needed by an author when writing – their toolkit, perhaps

Readings – keep them short and relevant

Meet the characters

Interactive section

Fun & games (if you have time for some audience participation)

Q & A

You’re booked!

Your event is confirmed, congratulations. Everyone has their own way of preparing for an in-person school visit. Some write lists, others just pack and go. Here’s some reminders that you may wish to consider for your school visits:

On the run up to it…

Contact the school by e-mail/call to double check event details/ask any questions/confirm they have your contact details. Have you added their contact details to your phone?

Send them details of event itinerary

Send your invoice/terms & conditions/cancellation details (for all parties)

Does your PowerPoint get past their IT firewall?

Do they have a clicker you can use (if not, pack your own plus spare batteries)?

If a paper task for each child attending is on your plan, have you sent the school the documents/templates they will need to print/photocopy for each class involved (ask nicely/be aware of resources & budgets)?

Do you need to take any devices with you?

If you’re there all day, will they provide your lunch?

What additional resources do you need for the day – flip chart/pens/mic?

Ask the school if you can sell your books – they may say no but at least you have approached them about this. If yes, prepare and send a small info page all about you, your book, price etc to the school to send onto parents IN PLENTY OF TIME. Check with the teacher too.

The week before…

Your E.A.K (Emergency Analogue Kit) is here to help! This is an essential tool for all visits. Technology can be relied on but what if on the day the presentation doesn’t connect to the school’s IT after all? What if it won’t move on from one slide to the next? Preparation is key in order for your stress levels and those of the staff to be kept to a minimum. Your E.A.K should include:

A set of laminates AND a printout of all the slides in your presentation.

A back-up presentation that can be used for all age groups – you may think you’re going to chat with 8 year-olds but when you arrive it’s a whole school assembly for ages 5 to 12! Check your presentation is appropriate and relevant to the intended audience.

Day/night before ...

Fuel in the car/tickets ready?

School contact details on your phone?

Checked for diversions/road closures/strikes?

Do you need directions to hand?

E.A.K packed?

Are you using props?


Post-its/giveaways/PP on a stick/signing pens


User copy of your book with marked passages you’re reading out

Phone/device chargers


The big day has arrived…

BREAKFAST! Please eat something before you arrive at the school. Pesky time stealers may be in operation and before you know it, three hours have passed and your stomach is growling at you.

Don’t forget all your bags/phone/coat/keys

Arrive early/prompt

Ask if you are being introduced so you’re prepared if that falls down to you

Ask to check your event space beforehand (may not always be possible)

Can you see a clock? Don’t run over – schools run a tight ship and you may be forced to walk the plank!

Try to get someone to take photos of you in action – ideal for thanking them on socials, adding to websites etc


On the train home/next day…

Send a postcard/letter/e-mail to thank the schools/teachers involved – it’s a big day for them as well as you. Post a thanks on your social media too.

Consider what went well, what could have gone better, additional prep required for the next one?

Well done, you survived!

Kettle’s on.

And breathe.

* Images courtesy of Caroline Deacon

Sarah Broadley is a member of SCBWI Scotland (she co-chaired the network from 2015-2017) and writes for children of all ages. She is a member of the SOA as well as a trustee on the board of Cymera: Scotland’s Festival of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Writing. Sarah also interviews industry professionals for her quarterly SCBWI feature 'Writers' Minds' and is a book reviewer for My Book Corner.
Website: www.sarahbroadley.com Twitter: @sarahpbroadley


Stephanie Cotela is the Network News & Events Editor at Words & Pictures magazine.

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