SHERRI L. SMITH has written several award-winning novels for young adults. Flygirl, her first novel with Putnam, won the California Book Award, was a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, and has received over fifteen state award nominations. She lives in Los Angeles, CA.
You can learn more about Orleans here.
If you are interested in hosting an appearance by Sherri L. Smith 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 Sherri L. Smith
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?
Expect to have fun. I love talking to other book lovers, so for me an appearance is like spending time with friends. While I have a "menu" of options as a jumping-off point, I tell every organization that I'm flexible and prefer to adapt my visit to their needs and curriculum. In a day, I usually do an assembly and four breakout sessions—anything from writing workshops to character design with paper and glue (an exercise from my days in animation). I've even spoken to high school seniors about choosing and applying for college. For large groups, I give a lively talk and Q&A. For smaller groups, grades 6 and up, we'll something more hands on. My favorite workshop is essentially story improv where we brainstorm and create a complete story outline on the fly. That sort of story structure workshop works best with older kids, grades six and up. However, if I find myself in a room full of seven-year-olds, I can adapt. With young students, I go for more Q&A and some hands-on crafts.
What makes your author appearances unique?
I tend to be very interactive. It's one of the reasons I prefer in-person visits over Skype. I like to get students involved and excited in the storytelling process. I also have an interesting background in entertainment—from movies to comic books to animation. Kids really light up and ask questions when they hear this, even the reluctant readers.
Do you enjoy making appearances for adult audiences? What do you do when presenting to adults?
Yes, I love to talk about writing with adults. Anyone over school age who turns out to hear an author speak is probably a writer waiting to be born. I love to encourage that spark. While I can give a straight book talk and discuss the origin of a story and my process, I also like to find out what the audience is interested in. Sometimes putting paper and glue in the hands of adults is as exciting as it is with the kids.
What can schools and libraries do to ensure a successful appearance?
The most helpful things for me are travel plans and a clear schedule at least two weeks before I arrive, so I can be prepared. Bathroom breaks and snacks are always welcome, as is a handy bottle of water or cup of tea! If I'm speaking to a school, I also like to have an idea of what else is going on with the students—there's nothing more difficult than speaking at a school that's about to go on vacation. Neither the teachers nor the students are interested at that point, and I don't blame them! If I know that in advance, I will plan a hands-on project to keep them actively engaged.
Do you enjoy traveling to other parts of the country for appearances?
Absolutely. My childhood was one long road trip and travel is in my blood. Talking about books once I get there makes it all the more fun.
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?
Of course, I encourage it! One of my best school visits was a weeklong trip to Florida for Teen Read Week. Ten schools in two districts in five days—what could be better?
What do you hope your audience will come away with from your presentation?
I hope that I can inspire people to sit down and write. If they are already writing, I will give encouragement and tools to achieve their goals. If they aren't interested in writing or reading, by the time I'm done, they will be. I have such a passion for my work, I hope to spread the joy.
What was your favorite/most interesting/most memorable [choose one] appearance experience?
I had a very long day of appearances in the Washington, D.C. area a couple of years ago. The morning started at a small school for teen mothers. From there, I visited a middle school book fair, a private girls' school, and ended the day in a homeless shelter speaking to kids and their parents. The day was a whirlwind that really ran the gamut of haves and have-nots from all walks of life. But what moved me the most were the adults at the shelter—one who wanted advice on a writing career, and one who was ashamed to even consider writing because, in her mind, she had never done anything or been anywhere. Suddenly, her daughter called her on it in front of me, and asked if I'd sign a book for her mom. That poor woman was so embarrassed! But everyone has a story and they all have the right to tell it. I know writing can seem like a luxury when you are living hand to mouth, and reading is difficult when you have children and no roof over your head. But, somewhere in the middle of our conversation, she remembered her stories. She had been somewhere after all. The memory made her laugh. She sounded like schoolgirl a thousand miles away from her worries. At the end of the visit, she took a book to read (and yes, I signed it!). I will never forget her.
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