Almost a year ago, I wrote a post with advice for readers interested in connecting with authors. After some recent discussions online, I want to revise and update.
If you are asking questions: Check the author's website to see what questions have already been answered. Encourage kids to be creative and ask thoughtful questions. I see this often from authors so I'm repeating it.
Don't expect an instant reply, authors can receive between 10-700 emails a day (not to mention social media tags) and are busy creating new books. Many of them really want to respond and I've seen some of the struggle for the "right" words to respond with, so you might need to be patient.
Also, "one thing teachers should know is that when they send us a big package of letters it becomes impossible to personally reply to each kid. I totally get why teachers want to encourage kids to write letters, and there's no reason they'd realize how it feels on our end. But it seems worth spreading the word about. If a kid REALLY wants to connect with an author it's best done on a personal one-to-one basis. I feel terrible about the envelopes I have that contain a bundle of thank you letters, and I try to write an email back, saying how much I appreciated the notes, but for authors who work with a lot of classrooms, it can be rough." Laurel Snyder
Remember there are lots of fans and only one author. You might not always get a reply, I know there are authors who agonize over that fact. The majority WANT to interact, but time is precious.
Many authors have blogs, search those out. I think author blogs may be one of the most motivating and inspiring things available for young writers.
Great authors like James Preller have blogs they use to respond to kids' letters: "I've been posting random fan mail letters & responses on my blog for the past 5 years: http://www.jamespreller.com/category/fan-mail/
If you are using USPS mail: enclose SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).
"Don't ask for help with your homework." was advice from S.E. Hinton, author of "The Outsiders"
Here is an example of that from the amazing Lisa Yee:
Letters as assignments: I've heard of teachers giving assignments to write/email an author. This seems like an ill-advised idea to me. Perhaps save those interactions for authors that the student really wants to know more about and have a greater connection with. On this subject, S.E. Hinton said, "It is very unfair to an author to make them responsible for a student's grade. That should between the student & the teacher." She is so right!
Publishers as postal carriers:
"I also wanted to point out that if a child doesn't get a response from an author, it could be because of the ridiculous amount of time a publisher can take to forward the mail. I was heartbroken when I got a pack of letters from a class sent in care of one of my publishers and a note from the librarian saying "Please write back!" and I didn't get it till the following school year--I don't know how it took the publisher six months to put the letters into an envelope and mail them to me, but it's not an uncommon experience, I understand." Deborah Underwood
Request for books/drawings/charity:
If you're going to ask an author for a book to give away, please know that authors don't have an unending supply of books and they will actually have to go to a bookstore, buy the book, pay for it, and pay for shipping. Authors/Illustrators are some of the best people I have ever known, but, like anyone else, there are limits to their generosity. If you are going to make the request, you should find ways to make it easier for them to help you (like buy the book, provide postage, etc.)
*Just as you would never expect other professionals to provide their service for free, you should understand that you should expect to pay an author/illustrator to visit. You will also need to provide transportation.
*Make sure they give authors breaks so they can prepare for the next presentation. PLEASE adhere to the agreed-upon schedule--saying, "You won't mind just dropping in and doing a quick visit with the kindergarteners, will you?" puts the author in a very awkward position, especially if they'd planned on using the time to mentally prepare for the next assembly.
*Authors receive a number of inquiries for visits either through email or website. Typically the contact information is on the author's website. Once you have made contact and received a response, it would be respectful to write back to the author, even if you are not going to secure a visit with them. It appears some schools write to many authors at the same time to inquire, or decide not to use that author, and then don't extend the courtesy of responding to let them know another direction was chosen.
*Once the visit is set, make sure that the kids and the other teachers know who the author is before she visits.
Barbara O'Connor wrote this awesome post about successful school visits, check it out.
I would love to update this list and help with connecting readers and authors. If you have ideas, please let me know.
Here are authors and illustrators I have in my network. Click on their names to go to their website. I've learned so much about the writing process from them, maybe if you start following them and check out their blogs, you can pass that on to students. Follow them on Twitter and learn all about their latest projects and get sneak peeks of things to come:
Sharon Creech @ciaobellacreech Celebridot 2011, Celebridot 2012, Celebridot 2013
Ame Dyckman @amedyckman Celebridot
Peter H Reynolds @peterhreynolds Celebridot 2012, Celebridot 2013, The Dot Club
Kristin Tubb @ktubb Celebridot
Katherine Applegate @kaaauthor Celebridot
Debbie Ridpath Ohi @inkyelbows Celebridot
Zachariah OHora @zachariahohora Celebridot
Tom Angleberger @Origami Yoda Celebridot
CeCe Bell @cecebellbooks
Michael Grant @thefayz
Augusta Scattergood @ARScattergood
Courtney Stevens @Quartland
Lisa Yee @LisaYee1 and @RealPeepy Celebridot
Stephen McCranie @stephenmccranie
Jarrett J. Krosoczka @studioJJK
Judy Blume @judyblume
Barney Saltzberg @BSaltzberg
Margo Sorenson @ipapaverison
Michele Robinson @MicheRobinson Celebridot
Chris Barton @bartography Celebridot
Lauren Castillo @studiocastillo Celebridot
Lynne Plourde @LynnPlourde Celebridot
Florence Minor @minorart Celebridot
Wendell Minor @wendellminor Celebridot
Bethanie Murguia @aquapup Celebridot
Deborah Underwood @underwoodwriter Celebridot
Eric Wight @Eric_Wight
S.E. Hinton @se4realhinton
Katie Davis @katiedavisburps Celebridot
Susan Verde @susanverde Celebridot
Erica S. Perl @ericaperl
Anita Silvey @anitasilvey
Beverly McClure @beverlymcclure
Donna Gephart @DGephartWrites
Sage Blackwood @urwalder Celebridot
AJ Smith @AJSmithillustr Celebridot
Cynthia Leitich Smith @CynLeitichSmith
Drew Daywalt @DrewDaywalt Celebridot
Cynthia Lord @Cynthia_Lord Celebridot
Deborah Wiles @deborahwiles
Lisa Jahn-Clough @ljahnclough Celebridot
Holly Goldberg Sloan @HGoldbergSloan Celebridot
Jennifer Fosberry @jenfos Celebridot
Anne Belov @PandaChronicle Celebridot
Anika Denise @AnikaDenise
Jamie Michalak @Jamie_Michalak
Bonny Becker @bonnybecker33 Celebridot
Lori Degman @LoriDegman Celebridot
Deborah Freedman @DeborahFreedman Celebridot
Russ Cox @smilingotis Celebridot
Julie Falatko @JulieFalatko Celebridot
Stanley & Katrina @StanleyNKatrina
Kristi Valiant @KristiValiant Celebridot
KimberlyNewtonFusco @kimberlynewtonf Celebridot
Tina Kugler @tinatheatre
Nicole Walters @nicoleywalters Celebridot
Laurel Snyder @LaurelSnyder Celebridot
Samantha Berger @BergerBooks Celebridot
Kirby Larson Verified account @KirbyLarson Celebridot
Anna Raff @annaraffNYC Celebridot
Jesse Klausmeier @JesseKlausmeier
Matthew Cordell @cordellmatthew Celebridot
Anne Ursu @anneursu
Timothy Young @TimSYoung Celebridot
Melissa Guion @MelissaGuion Celebridot
Jessica E Young @happybluejess Celebridot
Ellen Potter @Ellenpotter
Adam Lehrhaupt @Lehrhaupt Celebridot
Erin Dealey @ErinDealey Celebridot
Aileen Stewart @AileenWStewart Celebridot
Chris Crutcher @ChrisCrutcher
Aaron Becker @storybreathing Celebridot
Lois Lowry @LoisLowryWriter Celebridot
Kathi Appelt @kappelt Celebridot
Louise Borden @LouiseBorden Celebridot
Jon Klassen @burstofbeaden Celebridot
John Lechner @johnlechner Celebridot
Barbara O'Connor @barbaraocconnor Celebridot
Rebecca Kai Dotlitch @Rebeccakai
Brian Lies @BrianLiesbooks