Invite author Alan Gratz to your school and your students will learn where he gets his ideas, how he outlines and writes his novels, and how as a Little Leaguer he hit his little brother in the stands with a baseball — from the outfield.
Since the debut of Samurai Shortstop in 2006, Alan has visited hundreds of schools and libraries all over the United States — and one school in Japan! — to talk about his books, the writing process, and more. As a former eighth grade and tenth grade English teacher, he knows how to keep things relevant and entertaining, and, perhaps more importantly, how to out-smart-aleck the smart alecks.
Put Him to Work
Alan has one talk for kids that covers all his books:
Choose Your Own Speech!
Using an interactive PowerPoint presentation, Alan lets the students vote on which direction they want his talk to go. Want to hear about his disastrous Little League adventures, or his abject failure as a youth soccer player? Want to hear about Prisoner B-3087, or The Brooklyn Nine? It’s up to the audience!
Recommended audience: grades 3-12
Works well for: large (auditorium-sized) or small (classroom-sized) groups
Requirements: PowerPoint projector and screen
Q & A
Alan leaves time for questions at the end of every session, but some of his best visits have included entire sessions set aside just for Q & A. No PowerPoint, no prepared speech, just Alan in the front of the room answering every question your kids throw at him — what it’s like to have a career as an author, how to get published, where he gets his ideas, the nuts and bolts of the writing process, how he tackles research, and what kind of chances the Tennessee Volunteers have this season. Q & A sessions work best classes that have read at least one of his books and prepared questions ahead of time.
Recommended audience: grades 4-12
Works well for: small (classroom-sized) groups
Alan prefers to speak to large groups if your facilities allow, like an entire grade level at a time. Put him to work during lunch too! He loves having an informal lunch with smaller groups of kids — the baseball team, the creative writing club, the Battle of the Books team, the newspaper staff, etc. Once he’s at your school, Alan wants to meet as many kids as he can! If you’re planning to sell books during the event, don’t forget to schedule time for a signing too, before the students have to leave for their buses.
Alan’s Needs Are Few
Give him a couple bottles of water, a PowerPoint projector and screen, and (in auditoriums) a microphone, and he’s good to go. And if you buy him a bottle of Coca-Cola and a bag of Fritos for lunch, he’ll be your friend forever.
How to Prepare for the Big Day
School visits work best when the students are familiar with Alan and his work. It just makes sense — when they know the books, they’re excited to meet the author. In addition to reading his books in the classroom, teachers can work with students before the visit to help them come up with questions beyond “How much do you make?” “How old are you?” and “How much do you weigh?” Alan’s been asked all those questions and more, and he’s happy to answer them (even the ones about how much he makes and how much he weighs) but with a little advance preparation kids will often ask surprising and interesting questions about his research and the writing process, and make the visit far more educational and memorable.
You’ll Need Books, Right?
Alan doesn’t bring books to sell at events, but he’s happy to help arrange book sales with a local bookstore if you’re interested. Students love having a book for him to sign while he’s there. Bookstores will often put together an advance order form with his books on it that can be sent home with students, and then someone from the bookstore will bring the books to the school the day of the event. Some bookstores will offer school discounts, or even give a percentage of the sales to the school. If you want help finding someone to help with book sales, just let Alan know — but book sales are not a requirement or an expectation.
Outside one hour drive from Alan’s home: $1,500 per day plus travel and hotel.
Within a one hour drive of Alan’s home (put in zip code 28765 on Google Maps):
$1,200 per day plus travel.
If that’s beyond your school’s budget there are a couple of ways to make a visit more affordable. You can partner up with another school (or schools) in your area, booking back-to-back events and sharing the travel expenses. If you and other schools can join forces and schedule Alan for five consecutive days, he’ll pay his own travel costs. Each school will only pay for one day’s honorarium and one night’s lodging.
You can also split a day between two schools if they’re close enough together so that getting from one school to another doesn’t eat into too much of the day.
Alan is also available for online chats via Skype for $100 per hour.
E-mail Alan to discuss an author visit!