As a resident of Virginia, Kathryn Erskine was devastated by the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. In the aftermath of this tragedy, she was driven to understand how community and family—particularly families with special-needs children—dealt with this violent event, and how our lives might be different if we understood each other better. In writing Mockingbird and telling the story of Caitlin, a young girl with Asperger's syndrome, she walked into the fragile world herself, and like Caitlin, offers us something "good and strong and beautiful."
Kathryn was a lawyer for fifteen years before turning to her first love, writing. Her debut novel, Quaking, was one of YALSA's Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. She lives in Virginia with her husband, two children, and her dog, Maxine.
If you are interested in having Kathryn make an appearance at your school, library, or conference or conference, please use the online request form or email the Author Appearance Coordinator at authorvisits[at]us.penguingroup.com with possible dates, your organization, location, details about the day, and your contact information.
A Note from Kathryn Erskine:
To librarians, teachers, and reading enthusiasts:
My goal in any kind of author appearance is to encourage the audience's creativity and get people enthused about reading and writing. I want people to participate, be a part of the event, so they'll get more out of it. I want people to laugh because laughter recharges the brain, literally and figuratively—and it's more fun! I want people to take something of value away with them.
Much like you do every day, except I only do it on occasion and the rest of the time I get to sit in a corner with my laptop, oversized coffee mug, and a little sign ("Quiet, please, novel in progress!") and work inside my head. For me, it's an energizing change to go out and chat with audiences, hopefully leaving something helpful with them.
In the meantime, we rely on you to handle an important part of our children's lives. Thanks for all you do to encourage reading and curiosity in our world. Thanks for being the answer man, the resource lady, the go to person. Thanks. We appreciate you.
Author Appearance Q&A with Kathyrn Erskine:
What can a school, library, or conference expect when you are making an appearance? What might you do differently with audiences of varying sizes, ages, and interests?
I enjoy the variety of giving presentations tailored to different audiencesfrom elementary school to college and from children's book fairs to adult conferences. With a small group, there's more opportunity to get up, move around, do role-playing and other activities (yes, with adult audiences, too!) but even with a large group I have activities that encourage group participation. If the audience members are invested in the presentation because they're actually a part of it, they're much more likely to get something out of it. There's nothing more gratifying than entering a room of very sleepy, bored looking teens and seeing them lively and laughing 30 minutes later.
It's easy, of course, for authors to talk about their books, but I also love talking about the process of writing, either focusing on one aspect of it or giving a broad overview of all elements. My workshops can be geared to different age groups—the one most popular among middle and high school students being how to write SASSY. (Please go to my website for details under "For Educators.")
What makes your author appearances unique?
Every author is unique so we each bring our own view of the world with us. Coming from an upbringing overseas, I try to have people look at something, anything, from a completely different perspective. Seeing things with fresh eyes may very well help us in our daily lives but it's critical in our writing. Why? As I tell students, each of you sees the world from a unique perspective because you come from a unique set of circumstances. You may go to the same school or be in the same family and even be a twin but your role and your experience is unique. Since you're the ONLY person who sees things the way you do, you're the only one who can share that. The rest of us can learn something about you, ourselves, and the world, all because of what you seeso please share it!
Do you enjoy making appearances for adult audiences? What do you do when presenting to adults?
Definitely. I'm teaching an adult writing class right now. Since I didn't start writing seriously until my 30's, I know what it's like to be an adult starting down the writing road. I can give advice and confidence because (a) it worked for me and (b) with years of wisdom and experience to tap into, adults have the potential to write something truly captivating. If the topic is my books or books in general, I love talking about what parents, teachers and librarians can pull out of books or how to pull readers into those books. Adults tend to enjoy my books as much as younger readers because the themes are universal.
What can schools and libraries do to ensure a successful appearance?
What you do alreadyadvertise, educate, and generate interest ahead of time. Also, I'd be happy for you to give out my email, blog and website so people could contact me ahead of time with questions or topics they'd like me to cover in my program. I may not be able to address everything raised but I'd cover as much as possible so the audience can feel that the experience is a little more interactive and conversational.
Do you enjoy traveling to other parts of the country for appearances?
Love it! I grew up moving around the world so travel is comfort food to me. The caveat is that it does cut into my creative writing time (and makes it harder to meet deadlines!), so I'm also happy to use Skype for author appearances.
Do you ever make appearances at more than one school in an area? Could schools and libraries from one area join together to bring you to their institution?
Definitely. I'll be speaking at the International Reading Association in Chicago at the end of April and while there will be visiting three middle schools. I wanted to add a library visit or two but simply ran out of time.
What do you want your audience to come away with from your presentation?
Hope, encouragement, inspiration, new tools for their toolbox, and a smile. Yes, I aim high! I do believe, though, that the energy you bring to something determines the outcome. At the very least, I'd like everyone to walk away with a golden nugget. That nugget may be different for everyone. It may be how to get un-stuck on a story they're struggling with, how to make writing a research paper fun, or realizing that what they want to say really is valid and important.
What was your favorite appearance experience?
I went to a middle school where the teacher had all her students read and discuss my book ahead of time and, in fact, had prepared the whole school for my arrival. I felt like everyone in the school knew who I was and they wanted to ask me questions, my opinions, and have me comment on theirs. It was lofty and weighty and wonderful all at the same time. But afterwards was even more of an experience.
All of the students in the English classes wrote heartfelt letters to me about what my book meant to them, confiding in me their often very difficult life experiences, similar to those of the character in Quaking. Their thoughts and feelings and confidences touched me. It revealed the impact that an author or a book can have on a young person's life, and how important it is to nurture and foster their growth, knowing that it's something delicate and developing, but also present the tough topics of life between the protected confines of the covers of a book. Within those covers, the reader may find a friend and a reason to hope. And if things become unsettling, those covers can be closed, giving the reader a chance to think, to process, to deal, without coming to any harm. That's the beauty of a book and the responsibility of a writer and when it works, it's memorable for both author and reader.
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