When teachers ask me about if an author visit was a success, I consider a couple of factors:
- Were the students engaged?
- Was there a balance between “Buy my book!” and “Here’s how to be a better student”?
Student engagement is a big one, since a bored audience could be doing something else with their time. Author visits take work to coordinate; Quiet Ball is a much easier way to bore students.
I understand that authors make money from book sales, so of course they would want to hype their books. But by being at the school you’ve already highlighted your book apart from all of the others on the shelf.
James Dashner scores well on both of these requirements. He had some pictures on a PowerPoint to make the students laugh, but what really kept the students involved was asking questions. Dashner asked students about why to pre-write and what makes for a good revising process. He detailed the steps that he takes when writing a book. It was great to hear that pre-writing, first drafts, and revisions (all things our teachers emphasize) are involved in how he gets published.
Our focus on rigor, relevance, and relationships was enhanced by his real world writing examples. I especially appreciated that to be a published author many times you send off your revised manuscript to an agent before you get to the final copy. Students came away from the author visit with a better understanding of strategies for writing (and signed copies of the book).