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 schools in Japan and Indonesia! — 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 4-8
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 for 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 will do up to three “Choose Your Own Speech” presentations a day, to groups as large as your facilities allow. (He likes a big group!) Alan often does one big presentation for the whole school, or two or three smaller presentations (usually to one grade level at a time, like one each for the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, for example.) Half days, if booked with another school in the area, must split up to three total presentations between them.
You can put Alan to work during lunch too! He loves having an informal lunch with smaller groups of kids — 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 books, 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.
$3,000 per day, all inclusive. You pay Alan one honorarium, he pays for his own food, hotel, and travel within the United States from that amount! (For international visits, please e-mail.)
If that’s beyond your school’s budget, you can 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.
Group discount: Book a week of school visits with schools in your area (five days in a row), and the all-inclusive price drops to $2,750 a day for each school.
Alan does not travel for school visits in the winter from mid-November through the end of February, or in the spring/summer from the end of the first week of May through mid-September, so he can have time to get new books written. (And see his family once in a while!) All other dates are fair game. Click here to see Alan’s current school and conference visit schedule.
And he’s very sorry, but due to Alan’s extensive in-person visit schedule, he is no longer able to do Skype visits.