My goal is to help get kids excited about books and reading. This is the nuts-and-bolts part about creating that excitement.


Click here to download a complete event planning guide


INITIAL INQUIRIES

After reviewing my programs and the details on this page, contact me at tomvisits@att.net. Include as much information as possible:

  • Your name
  • Name of venue (school, library, etc.)
  • Sponsor (if different than venue)
  • Type of program you're interested in
  • Time required; full day, half day, etc.
  • Date preferred
  • Special requests
  • Your contact information
I will respond within 3 working days.

IN ADVANCE OF AN APPEARANCE

Scheduling the day
My most popular program is "How a Book is Created," which I customize to the grade level(s), and takes about 45 minutes. I can do up to four of these programs in one day, and can fill in the remaining time with visits to art or writing classes, mini storytelling workshops, etc. It's hard to effectively connect with a group of disparate grades, so please try to limit the range in each session to three grades. Please confirm the age ranges of the audience, and the size of each group, in advance.

Contracts
Unless you have a contract that needs to be used, I have a standardized contract that spells out all the details. Once the particulars are worked out, we'll put them in the contract and it's signed by both parties. Then we're in business!

Honorarium
Please contact me about honorarium information for full-day and half-day events.

Out-of-pocket expenses
Sponsors are generally not responsible for travel expenses when appearances are in the greater Chicago area, unless there are unusual circumstances. For further distances, I ask the sponsor to pay reasonable out-of-pocket expenses, including but not limited to mileage/airfare, lodging and meals. Receipts will be presented for reimbursement. To save costs, I encourage you to partner with other schools or libraries in your area to organize multiple appearances. That way, you can collectively cover the honorarium or travel expenses. If I'll be appearing at more than one location, I might need transportation between venues.

Getting the kids (and parents) excited
Please read my books to the children so they'll be prepared for the event. For many of my books, you can download free activity guides from my site to get kids in the spirit. By the way, many of these activity guides were written by a teacher, so although they're silly, they're educationally silly.

Spreading the word
If you'd like to include information about my appearance in newsletters, e-mail, posters, bulletin boards, etc., I can provide graphics of book covers, sketches, and my photo for that purpose.

Equipment
Depending on the kind of presentation I'm giving, you may need to supply an LCD projector and screen, an easel with two 27" x 34" pads of paper, art supplies for each child, etc. This will be worked out in advance, specified in the contract, and confirmed prior to my appearance. I bring a MAC laptop with an adaptor for the projector. My presentations are in Keynote.

Book Sales
Some sponsors like to offer book sales and signings. Please know that I do not personally sell books, but I'm always happy to sign books. To order my books for you to sell, contact your local book seller or, in Illinois, contact Barb Fessler at Anderson's Bookshops (books are discounted, and can be picked up at their warehouse or shipped to you). To schedule a book fair that will feature my books but also include many other titles, contact Tami Smith at Anderson's Book Fair Company. Outside of Illinois, contact your local book seller for referrals in your area.

THE DAY OF AN APPEARANCE

Classroom etiquette
Is that an oxymoron? Surprisingly, not. I've found most classrooms have a set of rules and a way for the teacher to remind the kids when the rules need be observed. Please let me know in advance what the rules are and how I can be consistent with them.

Photos
I might bring a camera and ask a teacher or other adult to snap some pictures of me while I'm presenting. These photos would be used on my web site or promotional materials. Please let me know if you'd rather not have pictures taken in your school.

Lunch Hour
If an event goes over the noon hour, lunch would be appreciated. I enjoy breaking bread with a small group of students or the staff.

Book signings
Please provide sticky-pads for people to write the name of the person they want their book(s) signed to. Tom will write an inscription that is appropriate for each book, and will personalize with the child's name.

Payment of honorarium
Payment is usually made at the end of an event. Let me know if you'd like to make other arrangements.

Feedback
Comments and criticism help me improve my presentations. I will hand out feedback forms before a presentation, which can be filled out and returned to me either before I leave or by fax.

HELPFUL TIPS FOR PLANNING YOUR EVENT

Personal appearances by authors and illustrators can enhance students' learning and enrich your curriculum.

If you are thinking of booking an author visit, first determine what you want from the appearance. Do you want the author/illustrator to speak to all the students or just a segment? Do you want small intimate groups or will large auditorium events reach your goal? Do you want a writing, drawing, or creativity workshop?

In addition, before contacting an author, please determine:

  • Your budget. You'll need to consider: The author's honorarium, travel (if not local, this will include airfare, cabs, hotel), meals and other possible expenses
  • How extensive an event you want to plan, and which of your colleagues will need to be involved to make the event successful.
  • A sample schedule for the day

A successful author visit involves advance planning and making connections: Connections with books (have your children read the author's books before the visit), connections with your curriculum (see Tom's free activity guides to connect his books with curriculum), and connections with the school/library/community (get the PTO involved, inform parents, possibly invite parents).

Suggested checklist for planning an author visit

3-9 months in advance

  • Select the author, determine availability and cost
  • Talk to the author about their presentation; be sure it meets your needs and goals for the event.
  • Get funding approved
  • Set date and times. Consider other school events when selecting a date.
  • Sign a letter of agreement or a contract

1-3 months in advance

  • Set the schedule for the visit; consider how the author's day will be spent (time for breaks? lunch?); submit schedule to other faculty for their involvement
  • Contact the author for photos, biographical material to enhance the appearance
  • Make a list of special equipment or materials needed
  • Prepare teachers' resources
  • Be sure teachers have a copy of author's books
  • Order copies of books that extend the topics
  • Prepare teacher packets to include author bio, web pages, a list of author's work, activity guides that correspond to author's work, etc.
  • If you are planning a book sale/signing, plan:
    • When and how the books will be purchased by students and signed by author
    • Will parents be invited to the signing?
    • Order books from publishers, jobbers or local book store

3-4 weeks in advance

  • Confirm all plans with the author
  • Create an author information sheet to send home to parents
  • Create bulletin boards and other materials to support the event

1-2 weeks in advance

  • Talk to the author to confirm all details
  • Obtain author's requested supplies and equipment
  • Assign colleagues to escort the author, take photos, set up and staff signing
  • Schedule staff luncheon with author

"The kids loved it and it made them want to read and draw more."

Teacher, St. Cletus School,
LaGrange, Illinois

"The slide show
was perfect!"

Teacher, Whittier School
Downer's Grove, Illinois

"A fabulous presentation. It held the students interest and moved along smoothly. Afterwards, the students were very motivated to sketch and write their own stories. A great springboard to model after."

Teacher, Western Avenue School,
Geneva, Illinois

"Fun, humorous, delightful. A very well-spoken illustrator and author."

Librarian, Illinois Librarians Assoc.
Annual Conference