During the course of the last school year—September to June—I did some 36 Skype visits with classes. These were classes all over the United States and from Thailand to Canada. This way of visiting with classes has enormous advantages for both the schools and for me. For classes doing author studies, the visit can be a meaningful concluding (or beginning) event, during which time they can ask me questions about my books and writing process about which they are curious. My goal is to respond to each student and question in a personal way, so that the young reader feels some direct contact.
Thus, the teacher for my last Skype sessions was kind enough to write, “The students loved that they were able to ask you questions and receive a personalized response from you. One student noted she loved the way each answer was unique, even when questions were similar. Another boy said he really liked how you spent quality time with each student responding to his or her question.”
On my part, I get to engage with my readers and gain a sense of what they enjoy (or do not enjoy) about my work. I also get a feel for whom my readers are, which never fails to feed into my thoughts and work in progress.
Classes which read a variety of my books tend to have more interesting questions than classes which focus on a particular book—though that can work. While virtually all classes discuss what questions will be asked ahead of time, when time is allowed for spontaneity, original and even surprising questions are asked. That is something I always love. Furthermore, it always enriches the discussion when teachers themselves are involved in the reading and questions.
Meeting and talking to my readers is always positive for me. For the school and class, it is also vastly less expensive and disruptive for the school and class. Living in a remote, rural area, I love the freedom to visit so many places, many of them small communities that rarely can have an author visit. That said, I often connect with big city classes, too. In short, students and writer can join hands, voices, and books anywhere.