My most recent Skype author visit was with the phenomenal fourth grade students from Schwarzkopf Elementary School in Lutz, Florida. While nothing can replace a personal visitation, Skype allowed for an efficient, rewarding experience, bringing the students and me together in a personal and entertaining format. The precocious tweens had prepared questions in advance and having read Lucy and CeCee’s How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School, they were eager to discuss the book and writing process in general. In short, it was a glorious morning!
So for us non-techy types, what exactly is Skype? Skype is an Internet telephone service that allows one to connect with others by video, telephone, or voice messaging. Once you download the Skype software, setting up an account is relatively easy, and utilizing basic services such as video calls is free, which is economical for schools that are often challenged with limited budgets.
Some Skype Author Tips I share with librarians and teachers to help the presentation go smoothly as possible and maximize our time together include the following:
➢ Download Skype and open an account if your school doesn’t have one already. (Contact your technology coordinator to make sure you can use the software. Some districts block programs like Skype, and if that’s the case, you’ll want to see if it’s possible to unblock it for your program). Test it out at school to make sure it works.
➢ Contact the author to arrange your virtual visit. Set a date and time and decide which videoconferencing program you’ll use and who will initiate the call.
➢ Plan the presentation. How long will it last? Will students gather around a computer or will the author be projected on a big screen? Where will kids stand or sit so they can be seen and heard? Have kids write questions on index cards in advance to keep the discussion moving.
➢ The day before, set up a “trial call” with the author to make sure everything is working on both ends.
➢ Make sure the kids understand that your connection may be lost temporarily during the chat. It helps to have a plan in place for when that happens.
➢ On the day of the presentation during Q and A, if the kids seem reticent, you might start things off with a question or two to prompt discussion.
➢ If your connection is lost, don’t panic. Just call the author back. It may take a few tries before you establish a good connection.
➢ Keep an eye on the clock, and let students know when it’s almost time to wrap up the discussion.
Skype author presentations are a win-win for both authors and schools, who most certainly will integrate them into prevailing Blended Learning curriculum and digital instruction. They are a time saver for busy authors and a money saver for schools. Most importantly, Skype author presentations provide an opportunity for an interactive connection among the literary troika of author, student, and text. Online, interactive school visits are the wave of the future as students, authors, and educators can dialog about the joy of expressing oneself through the written word.
You can use the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Speakers Bureau to find authors who Skype at http://www.scbwi.org/speakers-bureau/
Thirty Sample Student Questions to Ask Authors During Skype Interviews
1. When did you first start writing?
2. What is the hardest part about writing a book?
3. How do you know when a book is finished?
4. How do you keep track of the different characters, events, and places?
5. What time of day do you do your best/ most productive writing?
6. What do you do with random ideas that pop into your head when you can't write them down?
7. What inspired your first book?
8. Do you map out the entire plot? Or just write as it comes to you?
9. What do you do when you get stuck or experience writer’s block?
10. What are your tips/ secrets about writing for any up and coming author who may need help/ encouragement?
11. When you are not writing, what do you like to do for fun?
12. What books do you enjoy reading? (favorite genre, author, book, etc.)
13. How long does it take you to write a book?
14. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
15. How do books get published?
16. Do you edit or proofread your own books?
17. How do you research information or ideas for your books?
18. What does your family (parents, spouse, kids) think of your writing?
19. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
20. Do you have a favorite character? Which character would be your best friend?
21. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
22. Are people ever critical of your books? How does it make you feel?
23. What audience do you write for?
24. What do you think makes a good story?
25. How did you come up with the title?
26. Is there an overall message or theme in your books that you want readers to grasp?
27. How much of the book is based on real life or someone you know?
28. What books or authors have most influenced your writing?
29. What are your current writing projects?
30. Who designed the cover(s) of your book(s)?
For more information on Skype Author presentations, please visit my website: