Events can be booked here.
I've always loved getting out and meeting readers in person - engaging them with my stories, with reading, with writing their own! And demystifying both the process and the profession: showing them that this is something they can do, too.
Then along came YOU-KNOW-WHAT.
events, festivals, conferences. All cancelled.
No school events?
No book fairs?
No lovely readers to meet.
Like most people, it took me a while to pick myself up. Dust myself off, and remember:
Yet I was nervous about doing events virtually: would it work? Would students get the same things out of a virtual experience?
There's only one way to find out ...
I considered many different ways of creating a virtual event, and also spoke to a number of teachers and librarians about what would and wouldn't work for their school. Many schools were wary of webinar formats like zoom. I considered other webinar options, but they all had security or privacy concerns.
Instead I came up with this: running events on a password-protected page on my website. Students would be given the link and password to attend. The page would be a series of short videos, basically my author talk in manageable chunks. I would ask them questions to engage them in imagining what would happen next in a story, and include comment boxes where they could answer. And then, at the end - another comment box where they could ask me questions, and I'd answer them for the second half of the hour. Using comment boxes this way there was no videoing of students, no need to have their full names or email addresses.
I offered schools around the UK a free virtual event experience: 16 schools in total took part.
And you know what?
There are testimonials from some of the schools that took part, which you can find here.
Not only that, going virtual had some real advantages:
I could go anywhere, it was flexible, and judging by feedback from schools, endless comments and detailed questions, students were very engaged!
Working with so many different schools
made me understand:
flexibility is key.
Schools have different requirements and concerns. Going forwards, they also have different budgets. Running events virtually allows me to offer events at a fraction of the usual cost, with no travel expenses.
My format allows schools to run them in different ways: with students taking part remotely; with students taking part remotely by the teacher sharing the page on a school-run webinar; in school either with every student on a computer or with the teacher projecting the screen in a classroom. It can be done with or without the comments boxes if preferred. I realised as well that in addition to the personalised video addressed to the school taking part that I already included on their page, I could also record video of me answering submitted questions, again personalised to the school, or even do a live Q&A on a school-run webinar such as zoom.
I also quickly realised that this format is ideal for workshops. It is also ideal for use with mixed ability groups, as the teacher could elect to only use some of the videos with some students.
I took into account feedback and have honed and lengthened my virtual author talk. I've also designed an exciting new workshop: Finding your story.
Both can be run with or without comment boxes like my original version, with a video of me answering students' questions, or even with a webinar Q&A run by the school (additional fees apply).
And because flexibility is so important, if what you would like isn't offered, you can contact me using the contact form below to discuss other options.
Events can be booked here.
Students will be very happy with a virtual event, like these ones from the Falkirk Book Award in 2014!
But without the red T-shirts.