Sunday, September 07, 2008

Guest blogger: the bad school visits

I’m on a list with some other authors and the subject of school visits came up. First off, I want to say that 99% of all the school visits I’ve done have been great. The teachers have been wonderful and accommodating and the kids have excited but respectful.

However, I have to say I always get a kick out of hearing other author’s bad school visit stories. Alane Ferguson shared a couple with me that are worth passing on to all of you aspiring writers out there. In speaking about why free school visits aren’t always the best thing for authors to do, she wrote:

I had a personal revelation when I went to my old elementary school and spoke for free. First, they forgot I was coming. Next, they made me pay for my *&^%$#@ school lunch. And then last but not least, teachers stood up in the middle of my assembly (sorry, but we've got early recess) and ushered a third of the little darlings out of my assembly while I had the mike in my hand. They actually turned out the lights on me while I was packing up my things.

First I called for help, and then I had to go and find the switch in the complete dark - I must have fumbled around for a full five minutes. I'm SUCH a celebrity!

That also reminds me of another horror speaking trip I had, this time in Texas. I was placed in an auditorium with middle-school kids from an inner inner INNER city. First, when I met the small group in the library, the kids would ask me questions, but their accent/street talk was so thick I kept turning to the library lady, pleading, "What did he/she say?" (At times it was hard to tell who/what was asking the question.) And she'd have to TRANSLATE for me! I felt like I was in that old 'Airplane' movie where I had to turn to the Beaver's mom who says, "Pardon me, I speak jive." It was so embarrassing!

So then all of the teachers left me with these kids who looked like were posing for mug shots. I really mean that ALL the teachers left, as in they were gone to their own teacher party. When the bell rang the kids filed out and then the same kids came back and sat down, which I figured out when they started repeating my lines back to me during my second presentation. So I'm looking around for help, and there was none - the kids were just dumped with me for two more hours until the last bell. I was doing sock-puppet tricks by the end. Oh, and the principal, when he showed up, was armed, if that gives you a hint.

And I swear to you on all that is Holy, the librarian, who drove me home, told me she was into all kind of kinky things with the principal, who apparently had no principles. I found out w-a-a-a-y too much about whips and chains and all kind of unmentionable things. Talk about overshare! I did not want to KNOW! I kept staring out the window muttering "I'm from Utah, please stop.”

I could not get out of that car fast enough.

Memories.

Janette popping in again. Okay, Alane's story made me laugh until I cried. (Which just goes to show you the kind of supportive friend I am.) If any of you authors out there can top this school visit story, I want to hear it!

17 comments:

stephhale said...

Those stories were hilarious! Now I'm a bit nervous about my first talk next month though. :)

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

I can't top it, at least as far as school vists go, but I will say I love Alane's books.

C.E. Salima said...

Oh my goodness, that was funny . . . and sad. I'd say Alane wins the prize for the worst. Hands down. Like you, all my school visits have been great.

Jewel's Gems said...

Oh that's just too funny! Of course, now I'm thinking twice about speaking in a school:o)

Kristina Springer said...

Ahhhhh! So funny! But I can't imagine going through it.

Liz Adair said...

Janette,
I can't top these author visit stories, but I taught in the inner city early in my teaching career, and I totally identify.

What a hoot. Thanks for letting us know about this.

Heather B. Moore said...

I guess the lesson is to always charge double just in case you meet up with a gun-carrying principal with no principles. Scary!!

Melanie J said...

Okay....and I have now determined that I will never write for adolescents so as never to be invited to do a school visit. Holy cow.

LC Lewis's "Hear Ye, Hear Ye" said...

What a riot . . . I mean literally! I've only ever done high school visits and they were all really satisfying visits. Two were with at-risk students and they both started out dicey, but luckily, I had great faculty support. That's the key, I guess. Do background checks on the faculty!

Linda Adams said...

Oh dear!
So sorry, Alane! What a nightmare. I can't top it, but I can empathize.

I was flashed by a little old man at a booksigning in Logan, UT once though. I was sitting at a table, so I happened to be at eye level when I noticed the zipper and the funny grin on his face.

In a clear voice, I said, "Excuse me, sir, you might want to zip up your pants." And he and his granddaughter rushed out of the store.

Surveillance camera couldn't identify them later... oh well.

So there's my horror story.
:)

Crystal Liechty said...

Oh my gosh! Do things like that really happen!?! I'm so niave. But I got a good laugh. Thanks, Janette.

Tamra Norton said...

I've done a lot of school visits and most have been great. I don't have anything to compare to Alane's. I think the worst was when I was up speaking to some 5th and 6th graders, a boy in the back row gave me the "stop talking" hand gesture that the teachers and kids use to get everyone to quiet down. Yeah, that made me feel welcome. Oh well...

Lynne's Somewhat Invented Life said...

Janette, I read this to my husband, laughing all the way through. When I was finished he said, "Texas is one of our states, it isn't even a foreign country."

Oh, my. Poor Alane. Surely she can use some of that in a future book. Well, except for the whips and chains.

Alexis O'Neill said...

Yikes! The part in Alane’s story about all the teachers filing out was pretty scary. Make sure to carry a bullhorn & a whip to call them back in (seriously!) The closest I came to "no teachers in charge" was when the school principal (actually a "friend" of mine!) scheduled a meeting for all the teachers at the same time as my assemblies and left the kids with aides. Talk about "no classroom follow up." Luckily, the kids didn't riot!

Asenath said...

Luckily writers never have days, just more material to draw from. :)

Lillian Syville said...

no, it wasn't in pajamas, but in a purple princess ball gown

Julie Wright said...

Okay NOBODY can top that! That is HILARIOUS!!!!!