Yes, I’ve fallen very behind on my recaps from the Iowa SCBWI spring conference, but today I’m getting back on track with one of the highlights of the weekend:

As a former teacher and principal, Mike Shoulders knows kids. And after listening to his presentations on school visits and his journey as a writer, I just wish he’d been my teacher or principal! Let’s put it this way, he closes his school visits by rapping his picture book V is for Volunteer. True story. Here’s what else Mike had to say about school visits:

  • To get “author visits,” flyers and random emails don’t work. Use word of mouth through speaking at conferences and face-to-face contact.
  • Kids like to know what you were like when you were little. Show you are a human, just like them.
  • A sprinkle of humor goes a long way.
  • Show them things they wouldn’t know unless you came to their school. Make them say “wow.” [Mike does this by pointing out hidden images in the illustrations, telling “behind the scenes” stories, something extra other than just reading your book.]
  • You MUST have visuals!
  • It helps to have a gimmick. [Not everyone can do magic and rap like Mike, sadly. Maybe my dad can teach me to juggle…]
  • Teachers want to see the entire writing process. Mike shows kids all the different drafts his book went through and shows a rejection letter. Great way to make “never give up” point.

During his second presentation, about his journey to publication, Mike had two quotes that really stuck with me:

  • “It is powerful to see your words in print – don’t cheapen this, it’s powerful.”
  • “If you’re a basketball player, you shoot baskets; if you want to cook, you bake; if you want to write, you read.”

If a school you know is looking for a speaker, I highly recommend Mike!