"Moral fiber? I INVENTED MORAL FIBER!"
Anyway. The character-building exercise at Snow Springs Elementary in Lehi yesterday went very well. Jody Kyburz and her fellow teachers did an awesome job of preparing the students (who were wonderfully attentive and eager to participate) for an author visit, and consequently, we all got something out of it. I can't remember a better school visit.
Actually, maybe I'll address the topic of school visits today, although I started out thinking about something else, morally fiberally speaking. So here goes.
When I first started making school visits, I didn't demand much because I didn't want to look like a Raging Egomaniac (egomaniac--my grandma used to use that word!) Writer Diva Person. I also felt like it was wrong at some level to take money from a public school. So I was all whatever is fine. Don't pay me. Don't read my books. I'll just show up, do my thing, and turn the lights out for you afterwards.
Then one day the luminous Ivy Ruckman (wonderful Utah writer who paved the way for many other Utah writers) called and said, "Listen, doll. If you charge for your visit, you'll be amazed at how much BETTER the whole thing will be for everybody. Suddenly they'll have a slide projector that works and suddenly the students will have been prepped and suddenly everyone is much more engaged because AN AUTHOR IS VISITING!"
Well. I didn't believe Ivy. I was committed to being a "good person"--the kind who does everything for free. Until one day I showed up to do an event at a junior high school where the teacher wasn't even there. She'd just left me directions in the main office and oh btw would I take roll and could I stay a couple more periods? In other words, I was an unpaid substitute teacher for kids who had no idea who I was and who didn't care.
And so I started to make a few simple demands after that. 1) ask teachers to read or make my books familiar to students, 2) ask teachers to publicize the visit, and 3) ask for a fee, even if it's pretty nominal.
The take-away here? I don't like to fuss much. But it turns out that sometimes people want to fuss. Sometimes people need to fuss. And sometimes all that fussing can be nourishing for all involved.