I absolutely love that my school benefits from two author visits a year. Now, to give credit where credit is due, I am not directly responsible for the logistics of bringing the authors to our school; my co-librarian handles that. But the point of this post is to share a recent author visit, and how it was different from all the others.
Most of the authors who visit our school talk about the origin of their books: where the idea came from, the research they did, etc. And they are wonderful. However, we recently had local author Valerie Patterson visit our school. Due to snow, early release days, and delayed openings, she was gracious enough to visit on two separate occasions: once for Creative Writing classes and the school’s evening book club, which featured her recent book Operation Oleander, and the other to conduct specific presentations to aspiring writers and our Battle of the Books club, who are reading Operation Oleander as one of their competition books.
While I did not attend her first presentations to the Creative Writing classes and evening book club, I will say that the second visit was simply outstanding. A few days beforehand, English teachers distributed passes to any of their students who were interested in attending a writing workshop by Ms. Patterson, which was held in the library. She briefly spoke about her own journey with writing, including the process of her two published books, and many students asked pertinent questions. Then came my (and I think the students’!) favorite part: students were given a list of first lines from several popular books and invited to write their own stories based on a line of their choices. She gave them several minutes to work on their ideas and offered students the opportunity to read aloud their creations for the rest of the attendees. The suggestions and feedback she offered students was productive and well-received: many students, upon leaving, were overheard talking about their writing to other attendees. Ms. Patterson was incredibly gracious and a great facilitator of this unique experience with our students!
It had never occurred to me to have author visits also function as supportive writing workshops. I love that students were able to attend that may or may not have read her books but still enjoyed the experience. I love that students who may take other electives like foreign language, art, or music, that may not have time in their schedule for a Creative Writing class, were able to benefit from a published author who gave them practical advice and a writing experience they very much enjoyed. I also love that the library was the place to host this workshop, and that students could see the physical space as a place to not only love reading, but love writing, and be around other students they may or may not have known shared their own passion for writing.
Overall, it was an amazing experience for both me as a librarian and for my students. There has got to be a programming idea in here somewhere for making these writers feel welcome to continue their craft in the library. I also enjoyed being able to see my students – who I usually see as readers – were amazing writers, too, and that potential would not have been realized without Ms. Patterson’s encouragement, explanation of her writing life and process, and practical writing exercise. We look forward to having her again soon!
Valerie Patterson conducts a writing workshop with students in the library!
What about you? What author visit have you hosted (or attended) that was simply outstanding?