3 Questions about School Visits with J. Scott Savage
And how to write a query letter
From the Writing Desk: We’ve made it through February! Huzzah!
I’m still cracking away at my middle grade monster book. The pages have been, for the most part, coming along pretty nicely! *Knocks on wood*. No doubt there will be much editing to do after this zero draft is done, but for now, it’s good to be getting words down again.
To that end, I’ve been writing this book by hand. With good old fashioned pen and ink. I started this when I drafted my last book (THE NIGHTMARE HOUSE that comes out in August, pre-order today!), after I saw Erin Entrada Kelly post about drafting by hand. I wanted to try it out for myself and it’s been hugely helpful for 3 big reasons.
Writing by hand takes some of the pressure off. Sitting down to write can feel really intimidating, like it’s this BIG IMPORTANT THING. Writing by hand kind of takes some of that pressure off. It’s all just scribbles on a page, no biggie!
Writing by hand slows me down and gets me out of my own head. I am a fast typist (over 100 wpm) and that’s not helpful when you’re trying to pay attention to language. Writing with pen and ink forces my brain to slow down and pay attention to the flow of the words on the page.
Writing by hand allows me to travel! I love writing in bookstores and in parks and zoos and wherever I happen to be. And it’s easy to stash my notebook in my big red purse and just take it with me wherever I go, and add a few words here and there during breaks!
Once I’ve got a few solid chapters down, I’ll type it all up in a Google Doc. I like having the first draft in the cloud, so I can also take it with me wherever I go. Then finally, I’ll download to Word for the serious edits.
How about you? Where do you do your drafting?
3 Questions about School Visits with J. Scott Savage:
We are SO incredibly lucky today to have J. Scott Savage with us answering a few questions about school visits. Scott has presented at more than 3000 (!!!) schools across the country, inspiring students to read, write, embrace their own creativity, and change the world. He’s the author of 20 published novels, including Graysen Foxx and the Treasure of Principal Redbeard, The Lost Wonderland Diaries series, published by Shadow Mountain, the Case File 13 middle-grade series published by Harper-Collins, and the FarWorld and Mysteries of Cove middle-grade fantasy series, both published by Shadow Mountain.
Q: What's the most important thing to be sure to incorporate into an author school visit?
A: I think the most important thing in a school visit is to make sure that you're leaving something of value. Let's say that you have 300 kids and maybe another 20 teachers in an auditorium. If you're there for an hour you've taken 320 hours worth of school time. I try to always make sure that I have a big picture message like “Find Your Magic” or “Our Differences Make Us Great.” Then I want some sort of leave-behind that the teachers can use in the classroom. And then finally I need to make sure that my presentation is fun and entertaining. My main goal is to have kids realize that reading and writing are both safe and fun.
Q: What's the biggest thing you've changed/altered since you first started doing school visits?
A: At first I didn't use PowerPoint for my presentations. Because I really thought that my main focus should just be talking to the kids. But I really quickly realized that I need to have visuals at the same time that I'm talking to help the kids take in the information in two different ways. Also I try to regularly adapt my presentation so that it stays current. Not just doing different books, but also because pop culture and what kids are interested in changes from year to year. So I try to make sure that my presentation is something that will be meaningful to the kids I'm teaching that year.
Q: Is there an interaction with a particular student that stands out most in your memory?
By far one of the most important things to me when I interact with kids is trying to find the kids who really need to have their moment in the sun. I typically call up six kids to help me show a hero, a goal, obstacles, and consequences. They're almost always certain kids that I see and think okay that kid really needs to be up here.
I was once presenting at an elementary school and there was a sixth grader who was much bigger than the rest of the kids sitting off by himself with several teachers surrounding him. I could tell that he was paying attention, but I also noticed that his expression never changed. When I asked for kids who wanted to be obstacles he raised his hand and I immediately called on him. I could tell the teachers were concerned and a couple of them started to come up with him but I waved to them and let them know that we would be okay. When I asked him what his obstacle was he repeated what I had told him before that obstacles are what stopped the hero from accomplishing their goal. I nodded and asked him if he wanted his obstacle to be a trap or a monster or something else. He thought for a minute and said a pickle.
So we made a giant evil pickle be one of our obstacles and the kids laughed and cheered. You would have thought that I'd handed him the holy Grail. He carefully ran his hand across it and took it gently back to his seat where all of the teachers and students around him admired it. The whole rest of the assembly he was holding it gently. It was all I could do not to totally get choked up during my presentation .
Those are the kind of kids that I want to make sure have a really positive experience at my school visits. One moment like that makes a really hard week totally worth it.
Thank you so much Scott for giving us your amazing insight and wisdom about school visits! Make sure to check out Scott’s website and his many incredible books!
What I’m Reading: Since I’m working on several monster books lately, that middle grade one in particular. Some writers specifically try to read stuff that’s completely unlike what they’re writing, but for me personally it’s helpful to have mentor texts to reference. It helps me get out of my own head a little bit, and helps the words get unstuck. For the book I’m currently working on, these are the two mentor texts I’ve been diving into, and some of my favorite kids books ever!
What I’m Watching: I’ve been watching this WWII documentary, Greatest Events of WWII in Colour, and it is powerful. It’s on Netflix, and worth checking out! And then for something completely different, I’ve also been watching the new Mickey Mouse cartoons on Disney+, and you know what? They are so much fun! It’s nice to see Disney bringing Mickey into the modern day, but still harking back to his roots.
How to Write a Query Letter: Need the formula for a successful query letter? I’ve got you covered.
Sleep Styles of a Cat Lady: The real ones know.
I don’t want to be afraid of bright colors, or new sounds, or big love, or risky decisions, or strange experiences, or weird endeavors, or sudden changes, or even failure.
Writing Opportunity: April Fools day is only a few weeks away! Can you believe it? That means it’s the deadline for the annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest. There’s no entrance fee, and there’s a $2000 grand prize, so flex your funny bone and get a writin!
Teacher or Librarian? I would love to do a free virtual Q&A with your class or book group! If you’re interested in scheduling a visit you can reach out to me via my website. Let me know how I can support you! I’ve also got free classroom resources to accompany each book. You guys are rock stars!
Thanks for coming along everyone! I’d be honored if you forwarded this to anyone you thought might find it useful. Onward!
Thanks for reading!