March 17, 2014

An Author's Guide To Skype School Visits With Guest Iza Trapani!!!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Everyone!

I have a present for you!

It's not green.  And it's not Irish.  But it's still a great present :)

Remember on Friday I promised a guest post on a very interesting topic?

Ta-da!

Allow me to introduce the multi-talented and delightful Iza Trapani!
Author/Illustrator Iza Trapani
Hi Iza!

Thank you so much for joining us today!

I personally am very interested in the topic of Skype school visits.  I think they're a wonderful alternative to in-person visits for many schools, allowing authors and illustrators to visit classrooms without the expense associated with in-person visits.  Having never done one myself, I was curious to know the details of how one goes about it, and I thought you guys might like to know too!  So I asked Iza (who is a pro :)) to elucidate, and she very kindly did (VERY kindly because not only did I ask her for a guest post, it was on short notice!)

Take it away, Iza!

While an in-person school visit is always better, a Skype session is a nice alternative for schools  struggling with tight budgets and/or for schools wanting to invite an out-of-state author. Most authors charge travel expenses  in addition to their presentation fees, so it can get expensive. Skype visits are a convenient and affordable option. They are also great for authors and illustrators who are often up against deadlines.  Cutting out the travel leaves more time for the works in progress.

I’ve been doing skype visits for a couple of years now, and I’m glad to share my experience.


Getting Skype Visits

Advertising for Skype visits is no different than for in-person visits. On my website I have a link with information on my school visits. It includes a description of my presentation, a short video of me presenting to a class, my fees, list of my titles, short bio,  feedback on my presentations and more. When a school contacts me, I also have a school visit PDF that includes all the relevant info plus references. A few years ago we added a blurb that I am now available for Skype visits as well. When I started doing Skype, I sent out an e-mail announcement to all my school contacts, teacher friends, and fans. A few years ago I’d also sent out a flyer to numerous schools within a 50 mile radius. The flyer had a brief bio, description of my presentation and contact info. I am also listed in Arts in Ed directories in several counties. Mostly, the schools find me either via my website or by word of mouth. Because my writing and illustrations (especially) are so time consuming, I can not do too many school visits. But that is a personal choice. Some authors do lots of school visits and I am sure they promote much more aggressively than I do.



Setting up the Session

I set up right in my studio which has good, glare-free northern light and overhead track lights.  My laptop will rest on a small table. I’ll have a stool to sit on and my materials (illustration samples, books I’ll be using etc.) will be within reach on top of my flat file cabinets on the left. To my right will be an easel with an 18x24 pad on which I’ll do drawing demonstrations. Behind me, a low bookshelf will showcase some of my books face out. It makes a nice backdrop.

Before doing my first school visit I did a test with my sister (in Poland!)  to make sure the light was good, that the books behind me were well arranged and that the easel was at the right height. When I first started I was worried that the class wouldn’t see me well, but I soon learned that the image I see of me in the little window on the bottom right in Skype is what they are seeing. I can tilt the computer screen to adjust the view as needed.

Makeup? Attire?

One of the advantages of a Skype visit is that I don’t have to fuss over my appearance. First of all, it’s never a crystal clear image-at least not on my end. I rarely wear make-up but I  will wash my hair and wear a nice, casual top for the session. It doesn’t matter what’s on my bottom half- clown pants or a tutu- they won’t see it :-)

Interruptions?

I turn off the phone and leave a note on the front door. If it’s UPS or FedEx, they can drop off in our front foyer.  My big Mastiff, Jambo, might stay in my husband’s shop- but I have had requests from some schools that the kids wanted to see my pets, so in those cases I will leave him with me. Part of the attraction of Skype is seeing the author at home.


 Technical Problems

Sometimes there are technical problems - usually no sound. So far, the problems  were on the school’s end and were quickly fixed. A quick test Skype with the teacher ahead of time is always a good idea. I also do a test Skype with a friend or relative beforehand.

Sound can be a bit problematic. When the children join me in singing there is a slight delay. Also, I don’t always hear the children when they ask me questions; the teachers usually have to repeat them, and I can hear the teachers just fine. They say they can hear me very clearly, so I am glad about that.


My Presentation

My Skype presentations are the same as my in-person visits. I start off with a short intro, telling a little bit about me- how I was born in Poland and came to the U.S. when I was seven and went right into first grade not speaking any English, and then how my dream of making books for children came true. Then I sing/read one of my nursery rhyme books, and I’ll have the kids sing at least the first verse along with me. Then I will discuss the bookmaking process, talk a bit about getting ideas and turning them into stories, and then the many revisions that are needed. I will show samples of my storyboards, dummy sketches, color studies and final art. I will also show some of my rejected works- paintings I had started but wasn’t happy with. And I have some press sheets to show them so they can understand the printing process. After that I will do Q+A then go on to a drawing demonstration. I’ll choose a character from one of my books and have the kids think of some ideas of what the character could be doing and I will draw it for them. Then I’ll ask the kids to help me add details to the drawing and I will put them in. A typical scene might be a bear riding on a skateboard and juggling. For details they will ask me to put in the sun, birds, bunnies, flowers, ladybugs, etc. I love that! There are so many edgy books out there and it’s reassuring to me to know that kids are still charmed by the beauty and wonder of nature.


My books are ideal for preK to 1st grade, but I will also present to older kids. I will adjust my presentations- doing more singing and reading with the little ones and more bookmaking discussions with the older kids.

Fee

I charge $150 for a 45 minute to 1 hr session. My in-person visits are $250 per session plus travel expenses beyond 50 miles. I will do up to 4 presentations in one day. In both cases, the school will send me a check after the visit.

And that’s all there is to it! :-)


Thank you, Susanna, for featuring me. I hope this info is helpful to your many wonderful readers!

Thank YOU, Iza!  I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say it was very interesting and enlightening!


Iza is the author and illustrator of 20 lovely picture books for children, including Itsy Bitsy Spider (a favorite in our house), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The Bear Went Over The Mountain, Little Miss Muffet and many more. She is also the illustrator of 4 books written by other authors.

Teachers, you can learn all about Iza's school visits here:


and everyone - teachers, parents, readers, writers, homeschoolers, librarians, kids etc. - you can find Iza around the web here:


www.izatrapani.com
http://izatrapani.com/blog
Like me on Facebook
Follow me on twitter

I hope you enjoyed learning about Skype visits (I know I did! :)) and if you have any questions, I think Iza will be happy to answer in the comments!

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone, and once again, Happy St. Patrick's Day! :)


Reactions:

121 comments:

  1. Thanks, Susanna! It's always nice to be on your blog, and I do hope the info is helpful- and yes, I am happy to answer any other questions!

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  2. THANK YOU!!! I am hoping to get into some Skype visits in the coming year and really had no idea how to go about it, especially how to contact schools. Being in Italy, Skype is my only option, so I need to figure it out. Oh -- of course the big thing to figure out is CONTENT. What do I do with kids for 45 minutes? This gives me lots to think about... Grazie mille, Iza and Susanna!

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  3. What a WONDERFUL gift! I'm in the process of researching doing Skype visits right now!

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  4. Hope this goes really well, Erik!

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  5. This is a super post and I am going to bookmark it. Thank you both so much.

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  6. Wow! That is so cool, Erik! Hope the visit goes really well!

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  7. You're very welcome, Joanna. I'm so glad it it's helpful!

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  8. I'm glad you found the post helpful, Cecilia! I think school visits are like anything else - they take practice! I know I had to learn as I went for in-person visits - I'm still learning! - and Skype will be no different I'm sure.

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  9. I'm glad it was timely, Laura! There's a lot to learn, and I find Iza's experience so helpful!

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  10. I know. 45 on Skype sounds long to me! Iza has an advantage - she can draw :) I wish I could!

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  11. It's VERY helpful, Iza! Thank you so much for sharing with all of us! And I do have a stupid question - very basic. Where do you look while you're talking? At the dot in the center of the top of your screen? I find that so hard to do because I want to look at people's faces, and then it looks like you're looking down... I think... but I can't tell because I'm looking down :)

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  12. What a nice St Patrick's Day treat to hear from Iza! Lucky are the kiddos who receive a Skype visit in their classrooms from her. Thank you for sharing those tips with us. For the Irish and Irish at heart today: May your hearts be light and your pockets be heavy!

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  13. They are lucky indeed! Iza is wonderful! Thanks for the blessing, Cathy - have a lovely day! :)

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  14. Karen Mae ZoccoliMarch 17, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    Loved this post! Thanks, Iza, for sharing all your great tips for using Skype, as well as the content you include on your author visits. I am not yet published, but hope to be one day, and will keep this tucked away for future use. Happy St. Patty's Day!

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  15. Erik, that's fantastic! I am sure you'll do a great job! Have a happy St. Patty's Day too!

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  16. Thank you, Karen and good luck on your journey!

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  17. Thanks, Cathy. I love the light hearts and heavy pockets expression- and same to you!

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  18. I am glad, Joanna!

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  19. Yay! I am glad to help, Laura!

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  20. So glad it was helpful, Cecilia!

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  21. Oh, Renee, you have tons of content to work with. They will LOVE you!

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  22. Excellent interview! Thanks for sharing your expertise, Iza! Good point to practice ahead of time w/the teacher and work out all the kinks. I'll remember this post if I ever have to do one. Susanna, you'll do great w/these visits as well. If u ever wanna practice using Skype to someone overseas, let me know :)

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  23. Ditto! What a good suggestion for practice, Tina! I am always up for a Skype visit. :)

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  24. There are no stupid questions- and, in fact, these are great! I tend to look both directly at the center of the screen where the class is, and also at the little window, not because I am vain (though I am :-), but because I want to make sure they are seeing what I am seeing. This is especially important when I am reading a book and showing the pages. Normally, I sit about a foot and a half from the computer screen. As I read I move the book closer for one page and further back for the whole spread- using the little window to guide me. When I draw, again I check in the little window to make sure the drawing pad on the easel is visible. And I ask the class from time to time if they can see and hear me ok, and they always say yes. Basically, the back drop behind me is partly visible. As I move my head or step back a bit to work on the easel, the view shifts. They may see some books that were directly behind me then. It's really not as tricky as it seems :-)

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  25. Tina and Renee - it would be so fun to practice! I was just thinking that practice would be the way to work out the kinks and wondering who I might subject to it :)

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  26. Thanks for the insights! I'd like to start skyping with classrooms and this is helpful!

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  27. Isn't Iza the best? We will all be so much better prepared thanks to her! Happy St. P's day to you too, and good luck with your writing!

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  28. So glad you liked it, Kirsti! There's a lot to learn and it's nice to get the skinny form someone who's done it!

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  29. Great information! Also, love another reason to stay in my jammies. :) Happy St. Patty's Day!

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  30. Susanna, Renee...We could also do a Google Hangout, that way all 3 of us could see and hear each other with all of our kiddos, and Susanna could read to our kids or do her author visit for practice!

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  31. That sounds very fun! Except for the part where I do my author visit. I would probably die of embarrassment doing it in front of you guys! :)

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  32. No make up you are funny Eric! Luck of the Irish to you!

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  33. What a fabulous post, I shall definitely print this out when i can get the printer working ;) I'm getting the impression that schools in Canada would find it odd to pay for an author visit. I must speak with a local author about what he did. Skype visits are the way forward for sure. Thanks so much ladies!

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  34. Hope it went well Erik! And thanks for sharing all the great info Iza.

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  35. To you too, Coleen! Loved your pretty post :)

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  36. It's interesting, Catherine. Some people clearly charge for Skype visits and others do them for free. I think it's fairly common for authors to do free 15 minutes visits, but I know of at least one author who does free 45 minute visits (in the US)

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  37. What a great post! Thank you, Susanna and Iza. I am not in this place in my writing career, but I'm going to pass it along to a friend who is.

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  38. Iza is the cat's pajamas, isn't she Lauri? :)

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  39. You will be soon, Debbie :) Meantime, thanks for sharing :)

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  40. Thank you for being nice and saying there are no stupid questions and also for answering them so helpfully :)

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  41. Michelle Heidenrich BarnesMarch 17, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    One less mystery to be uncovered for down the road Thanks Susanna and Iza. :)

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  42. Mike Allegra writerMarch 17, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Fantastic post! I've been contemplating the Skype thing for some time now. Thanks for the tips Iza!

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  43. Glad you liked it, Mike! I think what we've all decided is that we should all practice on each other :)

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  44. What a helpful and informative post. I haven't done any Skype visits but I've been curious about them. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and tips, Iza (and thank you, Susanna, for hosting!). By the way, I'd definitely want to see Jambo (and your tutu)!

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  45. Those were really good questions! Thank you for asking them! And thank you, Iza, for explaining everything so well. I'm definitely bookmarking this page. :)

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  46. Oh what a wonderful post, BBF. I MIGHT need it someday. If I do, I won't forget this valuable info. I guess I never thought about the connection problems for others. O the farm here, it would be horrendous. Not sure what I'd do about that. Go to the coffee shop? Thanks Sus, for having Iza over. I learned a lot. :-) xoxo

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  47. What a fantastic, practical guide! Love the pets and singing--and really hope there's a tutu on-screen too!

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  48. I know, really! The tutu is the best part :)

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  49. Glad you liked it, Rob! Connection problems are serious for me... we have terrible internet! But we're hoping maybe there might be a fix on the horizon... we'll see... And who are you fooling'? You'll be doing Skype visit of your own before long! :)

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  50. Glad you found it helpful, Linda! And I agree - I want to see that tutu :) Jambo I've seen (in pictures at least) and he's a cutie pie :)

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  51. I'm always the dummy in the room - might as well ask in case it benefits anyone else :)

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  52. Thank-you both so much. I've been scouring the web for feedback like this.

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  53. Then yay! I'm so glad we were able to be in the right place at the right time! :)

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  54. I love this post. Thanks, Susanna and Iza. Mornings like this morning scare me about Skype. I Skyped with a friend in California, and the whole time I could see and hear him and see and hear myself. But he could only hear me - not see me. Besides calling each other back a few times, we had no clue what to do. Ugh. Scary!

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  55. I know, Genevieve, that is a worry for me. We have terrible internet on Blueberry Hill, and I can imagine all kinds of connection problems...

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  56. Stina LindenblattMarch 17, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    I still have to figure out Skype. My hubby tried to set up an account but couldn't get it to work. And then the kids laptop died. We're not sure if the two were related, but we didn't want to take the chance again with the new one.



    Great post! It's a great way to do school visits!

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  57. Great interview about Skyping with classrooms. Easy for everyone and you can go anywhere. I often give Iza's books as gifts to young children. Like to introduce mom's to her books.

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  58. Thanks for the info. Skype visits sure sound practical, no if my internet was not so dodgy...grrr...

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  59. Stina, once you get the equipment working, Skype is easy as pie!

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  60. Yes, Genevieve, tech problems do sometimes occur- that's why it's good to do a test ahead of time. It's really not scary!

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  61. I'm so glad you found it helpful, Joanne!

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  62. Thanks, Stacy. I'm glad you like the tutu! :-)

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  63. Hi BBF, I am so glad you found it helpful. Yes, a good connection is necessary.. xoxo!

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  64. Thanks, Linda! Or maybe Jambo in a tutu!

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  65. I'm glad to be of help, Mike!

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  66. Thanks for sharing, Debbie- and you'll get there!

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  67. You wouldn't do that to him... would you? :)

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  68. I have done short Skype visits (as well as school and library visits) pro bono but we writers and and artists do need to take ourselves seriously. We wouldn't expect a lawyer or doctor to give us an hour of his/her time for free. Our time and what we have to offer are valuable :-)

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  69. Thanks, Coleen!

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  70. Yay! I am glad I was able to help you out, Kirsti!

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  71. You are so right, Iza, and I'm so glad to hear you say that, but sometimes it's hard!

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  72. I am glad it was helpful, Tina! And yes practicing with others is always a great idea!

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  73. Thank you, Karen. Good luck in your journey! And a happy St. Patty's Day to you as well!

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  74. Dodgy internet is a problem, Keila...and yes, very frustrating. I have been there...grrr...

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  75. Oh Patricia, thank you so very much!

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  76. Good luck on your journey, Michelle! Thanks :-)

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  77. I've often been so caught up on in-person school visits that this was and is a very good reminder of an excellent alternative to getting out there to readers and new potential readers. Thank you!

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  78. A great alternative for far away schools!

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  79. They are wonderful, aren't they? Perfect for baby gifts and birthday presents!

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  80. Good luck, Stina! For us, the internet connection is the problem!

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  81. Erik, you crack me up!!! I never would've thought of cyber-pinching on St. Patrick's Day!!!

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  82. Thanks for having Iza, Susanna! This is a subject I'd been wanting to hear more about! Thanks for sharing with us, Iza!

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  83. You're welcome, Penny. So glad if it was helpful. It was very hard work for me, so I'm glad you appreciate the 12 seconds I spent asking Iza if she would do it and then copying and pasting it into my blog. Phew! I need some chocolate after all that :)

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  84. Thanks so much, Iza...for sharing not only what and how, but also your price structure...most speakers are very mum about that. :) I know that kids are fortunate indeed to get to see and hear you. And I loved your answer to Susanna's question about where to look. I think I sit too close...and I want to look at the face on the screen...but then it looks like I am looking down and with my already somewhat drooping eyelids, it looks like i am sleeping...so I try to put the computer up on boxes so it will be high and then I have to look up. :) Great post, Susanna!

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  85. That's the exact same problem I have, Vivian! I'm so glad if you found the post helpful. I am so grateful to Iza for sharing her expertise with us!

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  86. I will never have good enough internet to Skype (and I'm not really the sort of person who does good interviews or talks anyway), but that was fascinating reading about Iza's experience and techniques for Skype school visits. Thank you!

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  87. Very helpful. I can't wait until kiddo gets in school and I can say, "have you checked to see if the author will Skype!" Thanks Iza and Susanna.

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  88. Vivian, you will have to try this out for our next Skype session for critique group!

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  89. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikMarch 18, 2014 at 6:55 AM

    It did - it was AWESOME!!! :D

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  90. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikMarch 18, 2014 at 6:57 AM

    Thank you very much Ms. Hill! It went really well - I'll blog about it on Saturday! :)

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  91. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikMarch 18, 2014 at 7:05 AM

    Thanks Ms. Trapani! It was a fun Skype-in! :D Happy St. Paddy's day!

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  92. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikMarch 18, 2014 at 7:05 AM

    Thank you...Thank you very much! ;)

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  93. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikMarch 18, 2014 at 7:05 AM

    Thank you Ms. Meyers! It was fun to do! :D

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  94. This_Kid_Reviews_Books_ErikMarch 18, 2014 at 7:05 AM

    Well, I was Skyping to a 4th grade classroom... full of 4th graders. You never know what to expect! ;) And I just un-buttoned the shirt (I was wearing a Batman one underneath!) and wore it to school. I prefer cyber-pinching to REAL pinching! ;)

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  95. Great! I'll look forward to it! You can teach us all a few more things about how to Skype successfully :)

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  96. Such a great idea, Stacy! We need more moms like you! :)

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  97. Glad you enjoyed it, Teresa! And you're very good with your Favorite Scene videos! :)

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  98. Stanley & KatrinaMarch 18, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    We hope your session went well, Erik!

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  99. Stanley & KatrinaMarch 18, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    What a fabulously informative post. Thank you very much. The few sessions that Neighbor Girl has done, she has enjoyed immensely. This is such paw-riffic information. Thank you for sharing with us, Iza. Thank you, Susanna for having her as a guest. Have a paw-riffic day, all! ~Stanley & Katrina

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  100. Will do, Stacy. :) Looking forward to it...and thanks for the comment on the 12x12 1st 250 words post. :)

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  101. Thank you Iza and Susanna!!! I've started Skyping this year and... I. Am. Loving. It! I love the fact that I can visit almost anywhere in the world and get children (and adults) excited about literacy. I have my name listed on a few websites that are about Skype Visits and I also list it in an email I sent out to the media specialists in my state twice a year. I'm glad to see you list your price. :) I do too. Some people don't like too, but I think it is beneficial for both parties. I even had an extra link for fundraising ideas, if I'm out of their price range.
    Glad to see that what I'm doing is basically what you are doing. Good luck!

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  102. Skype In The Classroom is one, BUT it has to be free through them: https://education.skype.com/
    This has given me great exposure and the confidence I needed.

    The other one (I just checked) has been revamped and no longer lists other authors. :( BUT I got some references from that site.


    With the first link, you can upload your different lessons for the teachers/media specialists to look at. I would suggest uploading them at different times though. This will keep you towards the top and not seeming to spam them.

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  103. I enjoyed this very much Iza and Susanna, thank you for posting, filing it away for a skyping day....

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  104. Hope it will come in handy at some point, Julie :)

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  105. That's terrific, Tracey! I love your fundraising tips for people who find you out of their range - very clever. And I'm with Renee - would you be able to list the sites?

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  106. So glad you found it helpful, S&K! Sounds like you might have a few things to teach us too, since you have experience!

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  107. Such a great post! So informative and helpful. Thank you for setting this up, Susanna, and thank you for sharing your knowledge, Iza. I really appreciate it!

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  108. Glad you liked it, Janet! I'm sure you'll be making use of the info in no time when your book is published and schools are knocking on your door for visits! And in the meantime, there's probably a way to incorporate Skype into hackey sack :)

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  109. Hi Susanna and Iza, I was having technical difficulties this week commenting on blogs, but I'm back in the game. Thank you so very much Iza for always being so willing to share your information. It's obvious, you care about others. I'm definitely keeping this post. Thanks Susanna for having Iza drop in for a visit. :-)

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  110. The pleasure was all mine, Tracy! Iza is a gem, and I'm always grateful for a visit from her :)

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  111. You're welcome, Lauri!

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  112. I am glad you found it informative, Janet!

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  113. Thanks, Julie!

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  114. Teresa, if I can do it, YOU can do it! I used to be painfully shy and I still doubt my speaking abilities, but I had no choice but to get over it :-)

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  115. Thank you, Vivian! And yes, I think for something like this some standard of pricing is beneficial. I feel my price is fair and in the ballpark of other authors I've spoken with or researched. I'm glad you liked it!

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  116. That's great, Angela. In-person visits are better, but, yes, Skype is a good alternative!

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  117. This is a wonderful idea! Thank you both for the interview!. There is so much potential for authors and other guest speakers this way. I think it opens up the world even more for students, and it must be a help to teachers as well.

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  118. I'm glad you liked the post, Karen! Skype is a great alternative to in-person visits and works well in many situations!

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