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.