URSULA VERNON is the author and illustrator of the Dragonbreath series, as well as Turk and Digger. The daughter of an artist, she attempted to rebel and become a scientist, but in the end couldn't fight her destiny. She lives in Pittsboro, NC, where she writes, draws, and creates oddities.
If you are interested in hosting an appearance by Ursula Vernon 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 Ursula Vernon:
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?
What I do depends largely on the ages involved. I generally find that with children younger than about ten, particularly in large groups, shorter talks are better. On the other hand, I've had groups of high-school students hold me there for the better part of an hour with Q&A sessions about the writing life. With young kids, I tend to stick to audience participation questions—"How many of you have ever tried to make your own comic?" a short reading, and I'm now adding demonstrations of how I do the Dragonbreath art digitally. (I take audience requests!). Whereas with slightly older groups, I find they're often much more interested in the process.
As a result, I really like to know up front what age range I'm presenting to!
What makes your author appearances unique?
Well, I'm the only Dragonbreath author around! I like to talk about comics and making comics, which I find kids are often very interested in. With all the new tablet technology available, I'm looking to add digital art to the presentation, so that kids can actually see Danny being drawn live, and can make their own suggestions!
Do you enjoy making appearances for adult audiences? What do you do when presenting to adults?
I love presenting to adults. (For one thing—see below—I don't have as much trouble making out what they're saying!) I can do much longer presentations about creativity and where ideas come from and subjects I don't get to explore quite as much with children. (Not that most small children need to be taught anything about creativity—they're already drinking from the fire hose!)
What can schools and libraries do to ensure a successful appearance?
If I'm going to be drawing or showing slides of Danny, a digital projector that can plug into a tablet or laptop is also essential.
Also, one challenge I'm struggling with is that I'm beginning to lose my hearing, a hereditary issue that will eventually end in hearing aids. Unfortunately the first thing to go is the highest register, so if you get shy children speaking in a whisper, particularly in a crowded room, I'm increasingly unable to make out what they're saying. Because of that, I like to have a teacher or an aide in the audience who can repeat the child's question so that they get an answer and I don't have to go "I'm sorry, kiddo, I just can't hear you!"
Do you enjoy traveling to other parts of the country for appearances?
That's a surprisingly tough question! I like seeing new places, but if I've been traveling a lot, I need some time to recover. And of course I have a lot of deadlines so that there are more Dragonbreath books! But I do enjoy traveling every few months, and if I'm going somewhere I've never been, I love taking an extra day to go around and see the area.
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?
I make a fair number of local appearances. And sure, schools and libraries could join together if they wanted to!
What do you hope your audience will come away with from your presentation?
You, too, can make a comic! Comics are awesome!
More generally, I hope that kids—particularly reluctant readers—will come away with the idea that reading isn't all scary. I get a lot of e-mails from parents of kids who really don't enjoy reading, but who are willing to pick up the Dragonbreath books because of the comic format. That's the sort of thing that makes me glad to be a writer!
What was your favorite/most interesting/most memorable appearance experience?
I still have a fond memory of the middle-school kid who, after I had answered a great many questions about the writer's life, hit me with "Are writers rich?" You could hear teachers face-palming across the auditorium…(I answered as gently as possible, and offered to show him my car in the parking lot if he had any further doubts.)
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