I was fortunate to have the opportunity to hear Patrick Phillips, author of Blood at The Root, speak locally last week. I did not grow up in the community I now live and teach in and when I moved here 25 years ago, I was told the very basics of its history — there was a rape, the black community left the county, the government built a dam and created a lake, Oprah did a show here. That was it. The truth of the matter is much different, more complex and devastating, horrifying in parts even. But to hear Mr. Phillips speak about the dark history of a place — the place that has been home to both of us was a unique experience.
This was not my first time hearing an author speak about their work. I’ve seen Joshilyn Jackson (The Girl Who Stopped Swimming), Lisa See (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan) and Kathryn Stockett (The Help). I missed my chance two years ago to hear Pat Conroy, my all time favorite Southern author, and I will forever regret that I didn’t go.
Hearing an author talk about their work is a phenomenal experience. My first time hearing an author speak was about 4 years ago and I was hooked. It added another dimension to my reading experience and I wanted MORE. The insight into an author’s creative and writing processes and how they craft a story is amazing. Joshilyn Jackson talked about how she builds a biography for her characters. Lisa See starts with an event or idea, researches it and her story grows from there. Kathryn Stockett was influenced by people and events in her life to create her story. Patrick Phillips found an old photograph that sparked a research journey to separate myth from truth.
Can you imagine how powerful it would be for students to hear an author talk about their craft? How many aspiring authors would be inspired to keep writing? How many future writers might be encouraged to try writing? How many students would understand their own writing process better from hearing about the struggles of a published author? This is good stuff people!
Did you know there are hundreds of authors willing to Skype with your class? Really, it’s true. Authors of books for kindergartners to adults are willing to share their expertise and answer your students’ questions for FREE on Skype. I’ve linked several sites below to get you started.
In times when money and transportation issues limit experiences for students, Skype can bring those experiences into your classroom. You are not limited by location — your classroom can transcend its four walls and experience dedicated time with authors of books your students have read and loved. If I understand a book better from added commentary, explanation and discussion with the author, how much more rich will a student’s understanding of a book be if they can interact and question the author?
I’ve been thinking who would be my dream author to speak to my class? After much reflection and thought, I’ve narrowed it down to two — Richard Preston author of The Hot Zone or Ishmael Beah who wrote A Long Way Gone. We read both books in my AP Human Geography class and there are so many questions I would like to ask and have my students ask these authors about their stories.
Has anyone Skyped with an author? Who? How did it go? If you were to Skype with an author, who would your dream author be? Please share your experience and thoughts with us in the comments.