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Change in Author Visits February 22, 2014

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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I’ve been working at an accounting firm as a full-time copy editor/proofreader for about a year and find myself too busy to devote much time to my writing career. Now that tax season has hit, I’m working overtime and some Saturdays. I’ve decided to cut back on school talks and, as indicated on my new “Appearances” page, will consider taking part in Q-and-A panels and informal classroom discussions only. Even these I will need to be choosy about because I have limited vacation days as a new employee.

This situation is not unusual. Most writers need to work another job to support a writing career and they struggle to find time to write. I feel fortunate because my daytime job is one that comes easy to me and keeps my grammatical skills sharp. As always, I write when I can.



Why Authors Charge for School Visits November 3, 2011

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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Sometimes people ask me why authors charge for school visits. They may hold the common misconception that publishers pay authors to speak at schools. Some alternatively believe that the publicity generated from school visits somehow financially compensates authors. The truth is authors who speak at schools usually either charge a fee or suffer a loss.

Authors have expenses such as transportation, hotel stays, meals, day care for their own children while they’re gone, and time spent preparing, traveling, and speaking on-site. That time spent on school visits is time that could have been spent writing and, perhaps, generating sales.

Books sold at schools seldom amount to enough to pay for an author’s expenses because authors receive only a fraction of cover prices. One bounced check or stolen book can wipe out the profit from numerous books. Any books donated to the library or classroom come out of the author’s own pocket.

School visits aren’t free. Authors see this, and those seeking to establish or maintain a writing career charge for their professional services.

A New Brand of Author Visit March 14, 2010

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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I visit a lot of schools, and interest in the old-style author visit (with an author speaking to an auditorium full of children) seems to be flagging. These visits typically consist of an author or authors speaking about overcoming obstacles such as rejection to reach their dreams. The authors intend to motivate students and might spice up their speech by singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, or using whatever other talents they possess.

With the No Child Left Behind Act and other legislation, I’m finding teachers would rather have author visits that directly apply to or complement instruction in the classroom. Schools are under pressure to attain high test scores, and teachers view all instruction time as precious.  If an author can teach children to write better, that’s more valuable than discussing the road to authordom.

This is fortuitous for me. I’ve never enjoyed being “on stage,” speaking to large groups primarily as an entertainer. I enjoy a smaller audience I can interact with. The two presentations I conduct most in classrooms might be more accurately called “workshops.” In my “You Be the Artist!” presentation, I speak to younger children (usually kindergartners through second graders) about the process of publication and they take part in illustrating a page for a book. In my “Great Aunt Mabel’s Sweater” presentation, I speak to older children (usually middle schoolers) about descriptive writing and they perform two writing exercises and volunteer to read their work in “share time.”

I led both of these workshops at a public school last week, and a teacher said to me, “This is what we need. The kids were more interested than they usually are in author visits, and they learned more.”

I’m going to pass this along to my author friends. Some despair about visiting schools because they “have no talent but writing.” But writing talent is precisely what many teachers and schools hope authors can spark in students. Increasingly, schools are looking at authors more as mentors for students than as entertainers.

Writing Sacrifices December 9, 2009

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Over the years, I’ve read several author interviews in which the author talked about bouncing a baby on one knee while composing a novel on the computer. Recently, I read an interview in which an author said she had served her children popcorn for dinner in order to make deadline. Writing involves sacrifices, but these are the kinds of sacrifices I’ve never been comfortable making. When my children were small and counted on me for care and attention, they came before my writing. I probably could have been far more productive in those years had I taken more than nap time to write (or even taken every nap time), but I don’t regret  my choices. So, I don’t advise other writers to pay less attention to their children than their stories or to try to divide their attention between the two.

This came to mind this past week when I presented at two schools and signed at a bookstore. One of the schools and the bookstore were out of state, so I arranged these visits well in advance, for this past Friday and Saturday. After setting the visits, I learned my youngest child, a 10-year-old, had a Christmas program Friday evening. Next year he goes to middle school, so this would be his last Christmas program in elementary school. I hated to miss it. I couldn’t simply reschedule the bookstore signing because I was the featured author for a school’s book fair being held at the store. I talked with my 10-year-old son about it. He told me to keep my plans, saying he no longer enjoys taking part in the Christmas program and wouldn’t go if he didn’t have to either. I left town, and my husband videotaped the program, but I’m still sad about missing it. That’s a sacrifice for writing I made, but my son did too.

I’m more comfortable with the writing advice to “give up on a clean house.” I’ve always been a neatnik but have let some household chores slide to make time to write. My house is still clean, but it’s cluttered. A spotless house is something I’m willing to sacrifice.

My kids? Not so much.