Category Archives: Author Visits

Young Alberta Book Society: Let’s Talk Money

Another long stretch has passed, but I have returned, and as promised, “let’s talk money” as it related to authors’ visits to schools.

In fact, there is still time to book an October author visit through Young Alberta Book Society (YABS). The organization’s program is huge and multifaceted. Artist eligibility is not easily achieved, but since participants are established professionals, those on tour during the October “Taleblazers” festival are asked to set their own fees. For a half day, $300 is standard and includes two one-hour presentations. For a full day of four sessions, $500-600 is fairly standard; however, some artists request $700 or more.

Author accommodation, food and transportation are paid by the program, including during the special, week-long Wordpower programs, in which the fees are the same for everyone and set out in the “call for artist” applicants.

With YABS, both schools and writers must become members, but given the quality and variety of available programs, the $50 membership is invaluable. Each year for Taleblazers, writers update their availability, fees and publications. Also, they indicate where they are willing to travel. Then, based on that information, teachers fill in their request forms.

How is the program funded? The school memberships help cover the organizational costs. Authors set their own fees, and also, schools pay those fees as well as a $20 stipend to cover lunch or one meal. To do so, cheques are made payable to YABS, which deducts a small administration fee and forwards the rest to the author or artist.  Yes, the schools must budget or fundraise to cover the professional fees, but YABS offers suggestions for fundraising, and each year, one lucky school will win a free author visit during the festival.

In a few schools, students and staff may become so inspired by their guests that they decide to set up a writer-in-residence program within the school. In such cases, contacting YABS is a beginning point and then writers negotiate directly with school organizers.

The YABS program is invaluable in assisting writers and teachers to collaborate on programs that promote literacy, learning and the love of words. So, become familiar with it. There is still time to book an author visit for October. Next week, we will talk about money as it relates to the Canadian Authors Association WISP programs, which facilitates author visits to schools in the spring. Remember, a world of wonder and talent awaits the opportunity to connect with your students.

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Let’s Talk Money: Part One

After my hiatus, I’m back. So let’s talk money as it relates to artists and school programs. Although we are nearing the end of the school year for students, teachers are already planning for next year. In fact, school bookings for artists available during the fall Taleblazers festival of the Young Alberta Book Society (YABS) have opened, making this a great time for clarifications.

Certainly, it’s wonderful to have authors as visitors in schools, but should they be considered volunteers or paid professionals? Without a doubt, artists and teachers both need to know how professionalism and finances relate to artistic expertise, program expectations and school budgets.

Financial details are very different Writers in Schools Program (WISP) sponsored by the Alberta Branch of the Canadian Authors Association and for the touring programs offered by Young Albert Book Society (YABS). In fact, writers and other artists who visit schools sometimes have very different views regarding issues of payment.

Some novice writers simply want to go into schools and share their work with the kids. Perhaps they have one book, a couple of short stories or a few poems published or self-published, but they have no intention of generating a reasonable income from writing.  Many professional writers and their organizations believe that, because of those volunteers, teachers may assume they can invite artists into their classrooms and not be expected to pay fees. Although the arrangement might be agreeable to a particular teacher or author, it creates problems for professionals who have committed much of their lives to developing their art and their public programs.

Personally, I believe that, if a parent or grandparent wants to go into a classroom and read or share their work with students in their child’s classroom, such dedicated support for reading and writing is to be appreciated. However, to confuse this personal option with the programs and services offered by professionals would be unfortunate.

Admittedly, writers who have not presented in schools need to make sure they have created school and student friendly programs.  Such learning is a process that takes time, and just as some teachers are “naturals,” a few writers seem to be “born” teachers, too.  Some are outstanding communicators and even talented “entertainers.” However, others may have written fabulous work, but they are shy and uncomfortable in classrooms. As a result, teachers need to understand there will be differences and so choose their guests carefully.

Whatever the priorities and approaches for teachers and artists, everyone wants what’s best for students. As well as prioritizing what is best for students, WISP and YABS pay writers or artists as professionals, and next week, I’ll tell you more about how fees works within those programs.

Authors in Schools: What’s the Best Match for You?

Whether you are a teacher or an artist, it’s wise to get a sense of how programs work. Long before any planned visits, writers and artists need to think about what they will offer to students, and teachers must evaluate how guest presentations will fit with their goals for students.

Browse the websites as soon as new information is posted. Both Young Alberta Book Society and the Canadian Authors Association Writers in Schools Program provide links to the websites of participating authors and artists. Follow those links, and the web will open up a world of further information.  While teachers will be researching possible guests, authors and artists will find countless ideas for programs.

Just as artists are wise to begin with grade levels where they will be comfortable, teachers should look for writers, illustrators and story tellers who will enhance their own programs concerning both content and approaches to learning and writing. For instance, writers of horror, science fiction and romance may have written great work, but only the teachers will know if that work is the most suitable genre for their students. Some schools prefer to “shelter” students; others may wish to focus on presenting the widest array of possibilities from the artistic world.

The WISP webpage is part of the Alberta Branch of the Canadian Authors’ website. As such, it does go off line between periods of author and school registration. So, for spring presentations, be sure to check the website during the previous fall.

The YABS website is an especially fabulous resource that is available all year long.  It offers a page suggesting additional teacher resources, publications and writing contests for kids, and it provides links to other relevant programs. For instance, in partnership with business, the society has also developed Wordpower, special week-long tours generally in March for southern Alberta and in April for northern Alberta.

Writers and artists must realize that there is a greater chance of being invited into an elementary school than into a junior or senior high school. Writers are sometimes invited to speak to Grade Ten or Grade Eleven students, but there is little likelihood of being invited into a Grade Twelve classroom. The reasons are logical. Generally speaking, elementary teachers have more flexibility in their course matter and approaches, while Grade Twelve teachers are working hard to prepare students for the rigorous exams that can determine what further education and career opportunities are available to those students. As well, parents are more involved in fundraising at the elementary school level. Later, their teenagers prefer independence to parental involvement at school, but fundraising is often necessary if a school is to fund author visits.

Those authors who hope to visit elementary schools should take note that younger students have shorter attention spans, and attention span needs to be part of program planning. Younger students benefit from varied approaches to learning, and sometimes they even prefer to tell their own stories rather than listen to the stories of adults. So presenters might consider how to encourage discussion as well as how to assist students in moving ahead to new materials or concepts.

Writers and other artists in schools are often able to provide the extra inspiration and motivation that helps make all students become keen learners. Both the YABS and WISP author programs have fine strengths. So, choose what’s best for you, and plan to participate.

Young Alberta Book Society (YABS) & Writers in Schools Program (WISP): Planning Ahead

For teachers, timeframes for author tours are important, and dates can become a deciding factor. Some school calendars follow the traditional school year; others operate on a semester system; some schedule classes over the summer. Professional development days, parent-teacher interviews, statutory and religious holidays all affect when it is most convenient to host an author.

Timeframes are important to writers and artists, too. For instance, some simply cannot participate in YABS Wordpower tours because they are scheduled in March and April. Other participating artists who are “emerging” in their fields need extra time to prepare material before going into schools. Also, mental preparedness is essential, and newbies benefit from talking to those who have toured in the programs.

Both teachers and touring artists learn from viewing the websites of numerous authors. In countless cases, these experienced individuals know what works and what doesn’t work in schools. As well, before signing up as a host or presenter, consider suitability for specific grade levels. Touring artists should begin with grades where they feel comfortable, whether that be kindergarten or high school, and school organizers new to the role of hosting should see how the process works with a few classes before determining that they will offer everyone in the school an opportunity to “see the writer.”

Likely, teachers or teaching teams will prefer the spring or fall for Alberta author and artist visits. For WISP, member writers update their information and availability by the end of September. School organizers can view the information by mid-October, and by then, the deadline for applications to host authors are posted. Usually, that deadline will be about the end of November but it can change every year. Also, demand exceeds availability and funding. So, schools should apply as early as possible. Participating authors present in schools from February to mid-May. All follow-up paperwork must be to the WISP co-ordinator by the end of May.

Those YABS members who are planning to tour update their information and availability in March. The updated content is available throughout the year on the website, and school organizers can begin booking visiting authors in May for the fall.  With many, many visiting artists who live throughout the province and are willing to travel to schools, finding the best guests for your school may take time, despite the ability to search specific types of artists and specific grade levels. Also, the school registration form allows organizers to select their first three guest preferences.

Next year might be the perfect year to participate as a host or visiting artist. So, begin now. Check out the websites: www.yabs.ab.ca and www.albertaauthors.ab.ca Plan, plan, plan, and success will be inevitable.