GAYLE FORMAN is an award-winning author and journalist whose articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, The Nation, The New York Times Magazine, and Elle. She is the author of If I Stay and it's companion, Where She Went. She lives in Brooklyn with her family. Visit her at www.gayleforman.com.
If you are interested in hosting an appearance by Gayle Forman at your school, library, or conference, please use the online request form, send an email to authorvisits[at]us.penguingroup.com with possible dates, your school name, location, details about the day, and your contact information.
Author Appearance Q&A with Gayle Forman:
What can a school, library, or conference expect when you are making an appearance? What do you do differently with audiences of varying sizes, ages, and interests?
My appearances are tailored for the venue and the age. In larger venues, with a mixed-age crowd, I might do a musical reading (reading bits of If I Stay, interspersed with music) or combine the Shakespearian or travel elements of Just One Day/Just One Year along with a text reading. Or, I might give a talk on the writing process, or trends in YA, or what have you. For smaller groups, or for school-aged groups (high school or middle-school) I tend to do an interactive presentation on how stories are built. We look at the fundamentals of story (premise, conflict, character, setting...) and have the whole class build a narrative together. Candy is often involved. What I never do is just read, nor do I ever show up unprepared. My presentations always have some audiovisual element.
What makes your author appearances unique?
I'd have to say the same things that make my books unique. For book-based events, I try to pull something out of the emotional core of the work to bring into the reading (music was very effective with If I Stay). For the next two books, travel and Shakespeare will become a part of events. I have a background in theater, so I love the improvisational nature of events, especially school events, thinking on my feet and having fun with the kids. There's a lot of humor in my events.
Do you enjoy making appearances for adult audiences? What do you do when presenting to adults?
See above. I don't do readings at school visits but I will do a certain kind of reading with adults, and I'll go deeper, both into the work itself and into the process. If I'm speaking to educators, I may look at teaching points in the works. I may also prepare a thoughtful/provocative talk about any number of topics for an adult audience, depending on the venue/audience. I'm also happy to sit and have a book-club discussion with adult groups (and teen groups). That can be a real joy.
What can schools and libraries do to ensure a successful appearance?
They can clearly communicate who exactly I will be speaking to, so that I don't prepare a presentation for 25 high schoolers who have read the book only to find I'm speaking to 50 middle schoolers who've never heard of me. And they can work hard on their outreach to ensure a good turnout.
Do you enjoy traveling to other parts of the country for appearances?
I do love traveling, but I also have two young children so, like everything else in my life, I have to balance traveling for events with the needs of my family.
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?
Indeed. Because traveling away from home requires such logistical planning, I prefer to get more bang for my buck (figuratively, not literally) and do as many events as I can when I'm away. So I'm happy to do multiple events in a day or, if libraries prefer, to combine events. Absolutely.
What do you hope your audience will come away with from your presentation?
Please don't tell my publisher I said this, but I don't expect then to come away wanting to buy my books. In fact, after one library event, one of the librarians got up to book—talk my books because I'd done such a lousy job of it. I like illuminating the process of writing, and if the audience is familiar with my work, I like going deeper with them about that. But I also love talking about other YA books—I'm a big champion of my genre—and the creative life in general. Also, I think I can be funny. You might not get that from the doom and gloom in my books, but my presentations tend to be a mixture of funny, and, I hope, moving. Also, as I mentioned, there is often candy.
What was your favorite/most interesting/most memorable [choose one] appearance experience?
I'm going to cheat and give two. Finishing a musical reading of If I Stay to dead silence, and looking up to see the audience in tears. And the anecdote I already mentioned. I'd just given a really fun presentation at the M. Jerry Weiss Center at New Jersey City University. Few, if any of the students present were familiar with my work and I had spoken about the writing process (specifically, about the books I'd written that readers would never read because I decided against publishing them). At the end of it, Dr. M. Jerry Weiss, the amazing ninetysomething year old professor emeritus, got up and proceeded to tell the students about If I Stay and Where She Went with such passion and conviction that after he was finished, there was a mad rush and we sold out of books. That was gratifying. But even more gratifying was hearing this man, someone so out of my supposed target demographic, speak from the heart about my work.
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