What’s your body saying?

What's your body saying

Anyone who sees me on Facebook already knows: I have a new dog. I also have an old dog, although the new dog is older than the old dog. Last year, we adopted 5-month-old Bookie, a cute, clownish puggle, (half pug, half beagle.) A few weeks ago, we adopted Dash from a shar-pei rescue organization. Dash is half shar-pei and — like Bookie — half pug. Shar-peis were originally bred as guard dogs. In a royal court, here’s how I would cast my two dogs:

Court jester backed up by the new guard.
Court jester backed up by the new guard.

Dash: royal guard

Bookie: court jester

In many ways, Dash is more gentle than little Bookie, whose play can be too rough. But when it comes to body language, Dash is vastly more regal and intimidating. Which brings me to today’s topic. Watching both dogs exit the house this morning, I was struck by Bookie’s leisurely amble compared to Dash’s commanding charge, head high, tail erect, scanning for intruders. Anyone seeing that body language, even someone not familiar with dog behavior, would instantly understand and respect its meaning.

Since we’re often presenting to large crowds, how we MOVE may be more important — particularly to spectators in the back of the assembly — than what we say. Do we move confidently, striding from one side of the room to the other, or do we stand timidly, shoulders hunched over the microphone? Confident, INTENTIONAL movement will communicate “I’m in charge” more quickly to a young audience than even a series of claps they’ve been trained to mimic. [Read more…]

15 things I’ve learned about author school visits


At this point, I’ve spoken to well over FIFTY THOUSAND STUDENTS. (Gulp!) I’ve learned a few things along the way…

PuddlePugGiveaway(This is an expanded version of an article appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of “The Highlighter,” the newsletter of the Mid-Atlantic Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I’m running a contest this week! By June 1, 2015, pop down and leave a relevant comment – to make sure I don’t confuse you with a spammer – and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Puddle Pug WITH the adorable Scholastic CD audio version of the book. There will be two winners, so your changes are good. Good luck!)

1. Pre-Ks, kindergartners and first graders do not really ask questions. They TELL you things. Some things they tell you are sweet and entertaining, but a dozen “I-have-a-dog-too” refrains can eat up precious time. For this reason, I generallystudents raising hands only invite questions from 2nd grade and up.

2. The best presentation is one that combines education and entertainment. I want them to be entertained; they’ll pay closer attention and will remember everything more clearly. But I want them to walk away with skills and knowledge they can apply to their own reading and writing. This is doubly true in this age of standardized tests.

How to ensure a GREAT author visit

How to ensure a sparkling author visitThis is the true story of a pair of author visits I did in the same week. The schools were very similar:
• Rural K-12 shared campus
• Elementary borrowed the high school auditorium for my assemblies.
• Both schools included 6th graders in the program for older elementary students.

My days in these schools should have been very similar, right? [Read more…]

Will awards net you more author visit invitations?

DoAwardsMatterAfter a recent Linked-in discussion about book awards, it got me wondering whether being an award-winning author or illustrator will increase a person’s school visit invitations. Specifically, whether awards would make a librarian more inclined to invite an author to her school. I’ve always thought perhaps it would, so I posed the question to teacher and librarian friends on Facebook. My friends said that, for the most part, awards played virtually no part in their considerations. Here are some of their answers: [Read more…]

Four podcasts about author school visits

4PodcastsAuthorVisits_150I was recently reminded about a podcast I did a couple of years ago with Katie Davis on her Brain Burps About Books. Katie is a bundle of energy who’s just plain fun to chat with. We had a nice long talk about my school visits and the various ways I publicize them. A search turned up not only the interview with me, but also other Brain Burps podcasts where school visits were discussed. So check out THIS PAGE to listen to four different Brain Burps podcasts – with me, Bruce Coville, Barney Saltzberg and Jackie Reynolds (aka BeeBee the Clown) – that touched on author school visits.

Mine is the 2nd interview on the page – Session 109 – and the interview starts about 17 minutes into the podcast. (Not that you won’t want to listen to the whole thing. You will! Great stuff on Katie’s podcasts.)

My book I Know a Wee Piggy had just come out, so we talked about that, too. I’ve since changed the activity I described in the interview. Back then, I carried around little bags into which children reached to see what was inside. (One object for each color in the book.) Now I use large paper “bibs”–kind of like sandwich boards–that kid volunteers wear to represent each color. Lots of fun, very visual, and a great way to involve the audience in the reading of the book.

PlanningYourVisit_coverSmall_byKimNormanHave you signed up for Cool School Visits updates? Sign up using the form on the upper right side of this page, and you’ll receive a free copy of my guide, PLANNING YOUR AUTHOR SCHOOL VISIT, which includes sample programs and breakdowns to target your sessions to different grade levels. (If you’re on a smart phone, keep scrolling and you’ll find the form at the very bottom of any blog post, below any comments.)