With the start of the new school year comes a new opportunity for school visits, one of my favorite parts of being a children's author.
But before you get too depressed over the state of affairs, there's a new solution - Skype!
It's free. Anyone can download and use it. And many authors and schools are now doing visits by Skype.
As I see it, here are the pros:
1. Skype is free. Any library or classroom with a computer can access it.
2. An author can visit any school or library regardless of distance - no travel fees, no overnights away from home, etc.
3. Most authors will do a 15 minute visit for free provided the school gives the student participants the chance to buy the author's books and encourages them to do so. A longer visit may cost up to $300, but that's still significantly less than an actual visit.
4. The author can do the visit right from home.
...and here are the cons:
1. It's harder to visit a large number of children at once because you're limited by the computer screen. But this might actually be a pro in disguise because smaller groups mean more interaction per child.
2. The author (and the teacher/librarian on the other end) has to be technologically savvy enough to make Skype work :) (And there's the chance, in bad weather, that you might lose your internet connection.)
3. There's a bit of juggling involved to get the viewing angles right - the author shouldn't look as though she's talking to the floor :) This may require skill in architecture or engineering (or at least balancing things) to get your computer in the right position relative to you.
4. Some background shows up, which means the author has to find a clean uncluttered space in her house that looks as though she has in fact vacuumed the dog hair in the last millennium :)
One thing I don't know, since I haven't done this yet, is whether the interaction still feels the same. Do the kids get as much out of a virtual visit as they do from an actual one, or do they end up feeling like they're watching TV? What do you think?
Teachers and other writers, I am very interested in your thoughts on Skype visits! Have you done them? How have they worked? What do you see as pros and cons? Please share!