School Visit Survey Part 5: Next Steps

Edited to Add (September 19, 2018): If you landed here directly, please refer to this post which lists all previous posts in the series. They describe our process and break down all of the data we collected that lead to this post.

When Grace Lin and Karen Blumenthal launched the #kidlitwomen social media initiative for Women’s History Month, they urged members to focus on specific actions we can take to increase equality.  

In the spirit of #kidlitequality - Here are some of our thoughts on specific, actionable items that you can do to promote equality and diversity in school visits:

Confronting the Male “Rock Star” Author Phenomenon

Several respondents commented on their perception that publishers are sending some authors, perceived to be mostly men, on large numbers of publisher-sponsored school visits.

Our data support this anecdotal evidence. Male authors are more likely to have publisher-sponsored school visits than female/non-binary authors. And among authors who do have publisher-sponsored school visits, male authors did, on average, more of these visits. Even more striking, female/non-binary authors who had won a national ALA/ALSC award (ex: Caldecott, Newberry, Coretta Scott King awards, etc) had fewer publisher-sponsored visits than men who had not won an award.   

  • “I’ve had close to 10 experiences of being contacted by a school to see if I was free for a certain time frame, then told I was a “finalist” for the gig. Each one ended up going with a male author instead. Several times I’ve done a school visit at schools who have previously only had male authors, and the staff acts shocked that both girls and boys were completely engaged by my presentation…”

  • “There are men in my debut class with the same number of books published as me who have booked many more school visits, especially ones in other states.”

What can we do?

Being consciously aware of this phenomenon is the first step. The second is that we all need to clearly communicate with schools that author and illustrator visits are a professional service that is worthy of fair pay.  

Choosing to Donate Your Time

Some respondents mentioned that they choose to donate their time to do school visits, either for all of the schools they visit, or for low-income schools.

It’s important for all of us to recognize the value of our time and our expertise that we bring to classrooms. The average rate for a full day school visit is $1,000.  This varies by region and career stage, but a choice to donate your time to a school is a significant in-kind donation. It’s also important to recognize that being able to do visits for free is a privilege. It means you are financially secure enough to do so. This is not the case for many book creators.

If you do not communicate to the school that you are making a donation of your time, it devalues our skills and expertise in the eyes of school administrators. It hurts the ability of all of us to be paid fairly for what we do.

  • “In my area, there is a large bookseller who advertises “free” visits to local schools very aggressively, which can undermine the idea that authors and illustrators should be compensated for our time.”

  • “When I speak to schools about visits or even teachers, it is always, "The school doesn't have money to pay you, we can give you a basket of your favorite candy."  That doesn't pay bills. There are too many schools expecting free school visits to help encourage children, but when schools do not pay at all, how can they expect us to want to go encourage them (kids) to also work for free?”

  • “My first book released this past year. As part of the launch week I offered free school visits for that week. I was unable to get a paying visit for the rest of the year. I had lots of requests but as soon as I sent over fee information I never heard from them again. One school even contacted me for a visit then when I sent fee info they said they forgot they weren't available that day after all and then asked another author (my friend) for the same day and did the same thing to her when she sent her fee information. I guess the librarian trying to get a free visit didn't realize what a small world it is in the kidlit community.”

What can we do?

Please - go forth and give freely of yourself to causes that move your heart.  We all got into this business because we care about kids. But, if you do a school event for free or for a reduced charge, always communicate: “This is a donation of my professional services. I am donating my services to you because:

  • [you are a Title 1 school], or

  • [I do X number of donated visits per year], or

  • [fill in the blank].”


We also encourage you to clearly post your fees on your website and brochures. There is safety in numbers. If more of us share our fees, we won’t be alone. If it helps, refer people to our research. As long as you credit us, feel free to link to the post or quote our research however you like. This post has all of the data about pricing.

Supporting the Ability of Schools to Pay for Author Visits

Many respondents mentioned that schools have limited budgets to pay for author visits, either regionally, or everywhere.  

  • “Schools have trouble finding money for visits.”

  • “The number of visits I do/year has dropped drastically in recent years because of budget cuts & school testing.”

What can we do?

On the one hand, creators deserve to be paid fairly for their time and expertise. And on the other, every kid deserves to have the opportunity to have a real live author or illustrator come to their school - to realize that books are made by people, and that they, too, are writers.  

Many respondents mentioned how difficult it is for them to tell a school that they can’t decrease their fee to the point where it is unsustainable. We all want kids excited about reading and connected to books.

This is an area that requires some outside the box thinking.  One respondent stated: “When schools or teachers reach out to me about booking a school visit, I always include a list of grants they can apply for in order to pay for my visit.”  Perhaps we could all add such a list to our websites or emails. We could also suggest that local businesses might sponsor an author or illustrator visit.

Another idea includes bundling visits:  that is, the author/illustrator visits multiple schools over several days so the schools can share travel and lodging costs. Some authors also offer discounts if multiple schools are booked back-to-back over a few days. With an arrangement like this, you only need to prep once and your travel time is limited vs. if you booked the same number of visits weeks apart, so a discount makes sense.

There are also outside funding possibilities that can be explored.

For example, here in Massachusetts:


SCBWI also has the Amber Brown Grant: https://www.scbwi.org/awards/grants/amber-brown-grant/


Another possibility is nonprofit organizations modeled on the innovative work of  An Open Book Foundation. Founded by Dara La Porte and Heidi Powell, two DC-area booksellers, An Open Book purchases a copy of the author’s book for every child that they visit. Authors donate their time for these school visits to Title 1 schools. However, they involve guaranteed book sales.

What funding opportunities do you know about? Please add them in the comments, no matter how small.  If we get enough responses, we’ll compile them into a future post sorted by state or region for ease of use.

Promoting Diversity of Children’s Literature Creators

The percentage of authors and illustrators of color in children’s literature is too low. We all know this is a problem, and yet it persists.

Only 11 percent of our respondents identified as members of a racial or ethnic minority group. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that only 14 percent of books published in the US in 2017 were written or illustrated by people of color. In the same year, 39 percent of the US population was made up of people of color.

About one percent of our respondents identified as gender non-binary.  We did not collect information about other facets of LGBTQ identity.

For the first time, in 2017, the CCBC also counted books with LGBTQ content. They found that about 1.5 percent of books both contained some kind of LGBTQ content (including secondary/tertiary characters who may be LGBTQ, and books with animal main characters than can be read as metaphors for coming out), and were written by an author who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community (though authors did not necessarily share an identity with the characters in their books.)  

The ripple effect of the diversity gap in published books is a diversity gap in school visits. We know how important it is for kids to see themselves mirrored in the books they read. But representation also matters when it comes to the author or illustrator standing in front of the school gym.

Diversity gap in creators. 2017.jpg

What can we do?

  • Recommend books you love by authors from marginalized groups to your audience at school visits.

  • Promote those books on social media. Write reviews on your blog and/or online retail sites.  

  • Go beyond the book talk: when you visit a school, bring flyers about school visit programs for local authors from under represented groups.

  • Support the work of We Need Diverse Books and other organizations that have created mentorship and internship programs for creators from diverse backgrounds. Consider turning your birthday or other gift-giving occasion into a mini fundraiser for WNDB.

Supporting New Authors and Illustrators

Pricing transparency is important for everyone, but it is particularly important to authors and illustrators new to the children’s literature industry.  Many respondents mentioned that they did not know how much to charge, or even that they should charge for school visits.

  • “As a relatively new author/illustrator, I wished I could have someone show me the ropes. I am always worried I am doing it wrong. People tend to be unhappy if you charge, but then you really need to.”

  • “As someone just getting started it’s hard to know what to charge.  I also feel pressured to do visits for free for friends.”

  • “I find it phenomenally frustrating to know how much to charge.  My regular fee is $950, which other authors tell me is too low, that I should be charging $1500.... But how do I know I'm worth that?  Then again, how do the people who charge $2000 know they are worth THAT?”

What can we do?

Sharing information about regional pricing norms with newer colleagues is really helpful - and it actually helps all of us. When some people undercharge, it undercuts the ability of everyone to price our work fairly.

Perhaps we should field a brief version of this survey every couple of years - one that just collects anonymous information on current pricing trends - to help maintain pay transparency.  

Looking at Booking Agencies as a Tool for Fair Pricing

Remember this graphic?

avg charge booking agent.jpeg

Survey respondents who booked school visits through a booking agency earned about one-third more on average than those who did not. (Booking agencies typically take 15% of fees for their administrative costs).  Many respondents commented on the difficulties they have experienced in booking their own visits.

  • “I have found that schools almost always try to negotiate my fees down.”

  • “I find it interesting the number of times schools have assumed my visit is going to be free. Several times when I've mentioned my honorarium, they have come back and told me that they suddenly no longer need a visit or they found someone else or that their plans have changed.”

  • “I am always, without fail, asked to take less than my stated full day’s amount. I’ve looked at other honorariums from other authors and I’m already charging less. One event coordinator said, “we usually get ____ (my publisher) for cheaper than this.” I checked. Not true. I’ve decided to cut out school visits completely for a year, beyond the ones assigned for tour by my publisher. The back and forth takes a toll on my time.”

What can we do?

Perhaps a long-term solution to the gender gap in number of visits, and the difficulty of naming and sticking to a fair price, is to join together in groups and create booking agencies.  Even group websites or flyers that feature regional authors with set pricing and group advertising might help.

In the short term, if everyone posted their school visit fees on their websites, and that information was freely available to schools searching for authors, it would reduce the misconception that authors are able to visit schools for free.

Looking to the future

The issues outlined in our posts are wide-reaching. There is no one solution. Today’s post represents some possible starting points, but we’re certain there are ideas we haven’t even considered.

What ideas do you have? We really want to hear from you. Will you please leave your suggestions in a comment below?

(If you wish to remain anonymous,  email Michelle and she’ll add your comment anonymously. michelle(at)michellecusolito(dot)com Michelle promises not to reveal your identity).

As asked above, please also share funding sources you know about such as local grants, sponsorships, or organizations that support school visits.


About the authors of this study

We (Jeanette Bradley and Michelle Cusolito) volunteered our time and expertise to bring you the results of this survey.  We’d appreciate any support you might offer us in return. Perhaps you could buy our books, request them from the library, tweet about them, or write a review if you’ve read them and enjoyed them. Thank you for considering.

Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. (Yes, she is a data nerd who can draw.)  Her debut picture book LOVE, MAMA was published by Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. It contains no cities, pastries, or trains, but was made with lots of love. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. Jeanette is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt.

lovemama-final-web_3_small.jpg
jeanettebradley-headshot-small.jpg

You’ve landed on Michelle’s blog/website, so you can poke around to learn more about her. In case you missed it, here’s the cover of Flying Deep:  

Flying Deep cover.small.jpg

School Visit Survey Part 4: Free and Reduced-Price Visits

EDITED TO ADD (links to earlier posts):

If you’ve landed here directly, please go back and read our earlier posts to get the context.

  1. 2018 Survey: Transparency in Pay for Author and Illustrator School Visits

  2. School Visits Survey Part 2: Pricing

  3. School Visit Survey Part 3: Is There a Gender Gap?

  4. School Visit Survey, Mini Post: Virtual School Visits

82 percent of our survey respondents did at least one school visit for a reduced rate or for free in the last year.

This was the aspect of our survey that received the most comments. Many people commented that schools or booksellers expected them to do the visits for free, or that they were often asked to reduce their fees. Some people were ok with these expectations/requests, but most expressed frustration that they didn't feel their time was valued.

Here is what respondents had to say about the complexities of reduced price and free visits:

They reserve a number of free and/or reduced rate visits each year for low-income school districts:

  • “I rarely take school visits that are free except for two inner city schools I adopted. I am learning that pricing $750 for local visits and $1,000 for out of state is too low.”

  • “I have tiered rates where I give lower rates to local visits and low-income schools.”

  • “I do schools in my home school district every year (i.e., I see the first graders every year for a certain program, the second graders every year, etc). Those are the visits that I do at a discounted rate, as a thank you to my local school system and gratitude for the repeat visits.”

  • “ There are many free/reduced lunch schools in the local area of my hometown. I waive my fee for them. Generally, they will give me a small stipend for travel.”

They experience bargaining from schools when booking a visit, and end up negotiating their rates downward:

  • “When I speak to schools about visits or even teachers, it is always, ‘The school doesn't have money to pay you, we can give you a basket of your favorite candy.’  That doesn't pay bills. There are too many schools expecting free school visits to help encourage children, but when schools do not pay at all, how can they expect us to want to go encourage them to also work for free?”

  • “I have found that schools almost always try to negotiate my fees down. My husband, also an author/illustrator, is almost NEVER asked to negotiate his fees.”

  • “I am always, without fail, asked to take less than my stated full day’s amount. I’ve looked at other honorariums from other authors and I’m already charging less. One event coordinator said, “we usually get ____ (my publisher) for cheaper than this.” I checked. Not true. I’ve decided to cut out school visits completely for a year, beyond the ones assigned for tour by my publisher. The back and forth takes a toll on my time.”

They charge by the hour and are rarely booked for a full day:

  • “I don’t usually do full day visits. Instead, I do a one hour workshop once or twice in a day. For that, I charge $100-$250 per hour.”

They live in a region experiencing economic hardship, so they discount all visits in their region:

  • “Most schools in the south don't have any money to pay for author visits. (They barely have money to maintain libraries.) In many cases I either do the visits for free, or for a reduced rate or I help librarians to find grants.”

  • “It is easier to get full paying school visits out of my state than in my immediate area.”

  • “Michigan has been a depressed state for school money since the recession of 2006. It's coming back now, and schools have a little more money now, but that's only recent, in the past two years or so.”

They modify their prices based on book sales by the school:.”

  • “I waive my fee in favor of a minimum book purchase. Schools have to agree to sell anywhere from 15-30 books (depending on the school). As a newer author, these tend to be far more productive. Most schools will not pay to bring me in, but will agree to the minimum book purchase because I have a strong history of sales at these visits, and they know if they sell a certain amount, they'll get my services for free (but I also know I'm getting a lot out of it, as I can move as many as 150 copies in a single school visit)”

The Numbers

Several female respondents said that they feel pressured to lower their rates more often than they believe men are. Our survey can’t capture the complexity of this situation, because we don’t have information on the school visits that didn’t happen, or the amount of times people were asked to reduce their rates and said no.

Of the visits that did happen, however, male respondents on average did more total visits, more free and more reduced rate visits.

free and reduced visits.jpeg

 

Note this graph is based on survey respondents’ reporting of their full-day school visits.  We will talk about publisher-sponsored visits, which are generally one assembly per school, later in this post.

  • About half of male respondents’ visits were free or reduced price visits.

  • About one-third of female/non-binary respondents’ visits were free or reduced-price visits.

  • Men did 32% more full-price visits (8.7 vs 5.9) but they did 58% more free/reduced visits, which widened the gap in number of visits.

Respondents who don’t charge

Eight percent of our survey respondents (35 people) said they did all of their school visits in the last year for free. From comments, we learned that multiple things are going on with free visits. Some of the reasons given were:

They consider their school visits a charitable contribution, and therefore do not ever charge.

  • “I never charge taxpayer supported institutions. I never will.”

  • “I know that many authors discourage making school visits for free. However, I enjoy visiting schools and donating my time to make a difference in kids' lives. Sometimes I will sell a few books, which is great. I understand that some authors are trying to make a living doing school visits, but many, MANY public schools simply do not have a spare dollar to spend. Why should these schools, who need the visits more than the wealthier schools, frankly, suffer? I feel good visiting these schools and interacting with the students, regardless of their ability to pay me.”

They do free school visits in exchange for book sales.

  • “Being relatively new I have offered my visits for free in exchange for book sales, which has made me some $ and connections

They are asked to do visits for free by friends or family members.

  • “I love doing them but rarely get paid.  Often I do them for favors, for friends kids' schools nearby. But I'm tired of being nice and kind and available for favors for nothing. It doesn't do my self esteem any good and it's exhausting.”

  • “As someone just getting started it’s hard to know what to charge.  I also feel pressured to do visits for free for friends.”

All of their school visits are publisher-sponsored visits, done as part of a book tour.

  • “I have done hundreds of school visits in last ten years, mostly on tour, but have never charged. My current policy (with wealthier schools) is to require purchase of 100 minimum paperbacks at the school and to ask that same amount of books be donated to a charity or local needy school.”

Looking only at the respondents who did all of their school visits for free, there is a gender gap in the average number of visits done in the last year.

  • Male respondents did an average of 22.4 free visits.

  • Female/non-binary respondents did an average of 5.3 free visits.

Publisher-sponsored school visits

Publisher-sponsored visits are usually a part of a book marketing tour. Authors may visit multiple schools in one day, doing one assembly at each one. The publisher pays for the author’s travel, and works with local bookstores to sell books.  Bookstores set up events both in their stores and at local schools that are likely to have significant book sales. Note that authors are not paid directly for these school visits.

Publishers only sponsor school visits for a portion of their books, generally ones that have a book tour as part of their marketing. 19 percent of our respondents (80 people) did at least one publisher-sponsored school visit in the last year.

  • Together, these 80 respondents did 787 school visits sponsored by publishers.

  • Male respondents with publisher-sponsored visits did an average of 11.9.

  • Female/non-binary respondents with publisher-sponsored visits did an average of 8.5.

Awards & Publisher-Sponsored Visits

Since publisher-sponsored visits are an expense taken on by the publisher, one would expect that authors who have won major awards or who have been NYT bestsellers would have more publisher-sponsored visits than those who have not. And that is the pattern we see in our survey responses for men. However, winning an ALA/ALSC/affiliated award did not translate into more publisher-sponsored visits for female/non-binary respondents. In fact, female/non-binary award winners had a lower average number of sponsored visits.

These patterns are intensified when we look at the intersection of race/ethnicity and gender. Female/non-binary winners of national ALA/ALSC awards had fewer publisher-sponsored visits than male respondents who did not win awards

male rock star authors.jpeg
  • Female/non-binary respondents who have won a national ALA/ALSC award had a lower average of publisher-sponsored visits than men who had not won one of these awards. (8.3 vs. 10.3)

  • Men who have won ALA/ALSC awards did twice the number of publisher-sponsored visits as men who have not.  However, women do not see the same increase in numbers.

Publisher-sponsored visits are an indicator of the extent of a book marketing tour, but only a very rough indicator. Some tours may include mostly school visits, others may be weighted toward bookstore events. Our survey was focused only on school visits, so we did not ask about other author/illustrator events done in the last year.

What next?

Our final post will be some of our thoughts regarding what we can all do. We welcome your suggestions. Please leave them in a comment on this post. (Not via Twitter or FB.  We won’t be able to track all of those places). If you prefer to be anonymous, you can email me and I promise I will not reveal your identity. michelle(at)michellecusolito(dot)com

We would also love to hear your thoughts on pay transparency and the gender gap in author/illustrator school visits. While we are unlikely to single-handedly change the gendered nature of caregiving work, together we can take small steps toward increasing equality in children’s literature.   

About the authors of this study

We (Jeanette Bradley and Michelle Cusolito) volunteered our time and expertise to bring you the results of this survey.  We’d appreciate any support you might offer us in return. Perhaps you could buy our books (or rather, pre-order Michelle’s), request them from the library, tweet about them, or write a review if you’ve read them and enjoyed them. Thank you for considering.

Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. (Yes, she is a data nerd who can draw.)  Her debut picture book LOVE, MAMA was published by Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. It contains no cities, pastries, or trains, but was made with lots of love. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. Jeanette is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt.

lovemama-final-web_3_small.jpg
jeanettebradley-headshot-small.jpg

You’ve landed on Michelle’s blog/website, so you can poke around to learn more about her. In case you missed it, here’s the cover of Flying Deep, which comes out May 22nd.  

Flying Deep cover.small.jpg

School Visit Survey, Mini Post: Virtual School Visits

If you’ve landed here directly, please go back and read our earlier posts to get the context.

  1. 2018 Survey: Transparency in Pay for Author and Illustrator School Visits

  2. School Visits Survey Part 2: Pricing

  3. School Visit Survey Part 3: Is There a Gender Gap?
     

What the Data Showed about Virtual Visits:

  • 62% of our school #authorvisit survey respondents did at least one virtual visit.

  • Of those folks, 58% did all of their virtual visits for free (it's possible these were short 15-minute visits, which many authors commented they do for free)

  • Among authors who did charge for virtual visits, the average fee was $173.

virtual visits fees.png

Some comments about virtual visits:

  • “Clarification about my Skype visits — most are free, but only 15-20 minutes. I do charge for longer visits.”

  • “... in the past I've done free 15 minute Q&A visits, but this past year I only did one 30-minute Skype visit with a college class and charged $300. I plan to do only or mostly paid Skype visits in the future, but I don't get many requests for those.”

  • “My free virtual visits are 15 minutes long, as opposed to paid visits, which are 45 minutes long.”

  • “Regarding Skype: 15 min Q&A: free; Longer session: $200.”

  • “I'm still doing the 15m for free but now am charging 30m for $75, 45m for $100/$200.”

  • “I do free Skype visits up to 20 minutes. For 45 minutes to 1n hour, I charge $200 - $250.”

 

Our next full post will focus on free and reduced price visits.

School Visit Survey Part 3: Is There a Gender Gap?

Note

Please see our first post for information about how we categorized gender and race/ethnicity.

Is there an earnings gap?

As we mentioned in our last post, 8 percent of our survey respondents did all of their school visits for free.  The following chart excludes this 8 percent. It shows the average charge for only those respondents who charged.

Male respondents and female/non-binary respondents had close to equal per-day rates.  This was true at almost all levels of number of books published.

avg charge by gender and books.jpeg
  • Female/non-binary and male respondents are charging similar rates at most career levels.

  • At two points male respondents are charging more than female/non-binary respondents:  people who have published more than 50 books (5 percent of respondents), and self-published authors (3 percent of respondents).

Price vs. Quantity

While there is not a large gap between male and female/non-binary respondents in terms of rate, there is a significant difference in the total number of school visits done in the last year. (Note that the following graph includes all respondents – including those who do all visits for free).

numb visits by gender and books.jpeg

We found that, overall:

  • Female/non-binary respondents did an overall average of 9 school visits in the last year.

  • Male respondents did almost twice as many - an overall average of 17 school visits.

  • There appears to be a gap at all career stages, except for those creators who have published more than 50 books.

  • Debut male creators (those who have published only one book so far) did more school visits than female/non-binary creators who have published 5-10 books.

  • Self-published men did more school visits than female/non-binary respondents who have traditionally published 21-50 books. (The range of number of self-published books was 1-9)

A couple of comments we received:

“ Interesting to note that a few school librarians told me that they actively seek male authors because so many of their students do not have father figures.”

“I have noticed that when I do library conferences, the librarians will talk to/take info from male authors next to me, and not even make eye contact with me. One of my books (while not winning any national awards) has won 3 different state awards, and has been nominated for many more.”

Age

Anecdotally, authors have shared stories about feeling that age discrimination may come into play in school visits. We asked about age in our survey because of these stories from women in particular, who felt that being an older (or younger) woman was a disadvantage when trying to book school visits.

Only one of our respondents commented about this experience of feeling that her age was a factor in her ability to price herself fairly. She commented:

“... a younger woman, I find that a lot of schools expect that I shouldn't charge.  It's a quandary, because there are of course certain school districts (particularly majority Chinese American ones) which as an Asian-American author I want to visit, and am willing to regardless of need.  However, it puts me in a tough position - when I offer to do a visit in a school for free, suddenly word spreads and wealthier districts want the same, and are somewhat affronted when I ask for money.”

numb visits by age and gender.jpeg
  • We found that at most age levels, male respondents are doing more - many more - school visits than female or non-binary respondents.

  • For respondents over 65, men are doing fewer school visits than female/non-binary respondents. (6 percent of respondents were over 65)

  • Given the questions we asked - and didn’t ask - in this survey, we can’t state definitively if age  discrimination is a problem in school visits or not.

 Caregiving and its effect on school visits

One reason often given for women doing fewer school visits than men is that women are still more likely to be primary caregivers of the very young and very old.  Several respondents commented that they had reduced or eliminated their school visits for a period of time due to maternity leave or caring for an elderly relative.

(We only included respondents who had done at least one school visit in the last year in these survey results, but we plan to write a separate blog post about people who had not done any, because they had interesting things to say.)

numb visits by young children in hh.jpeg

We found:

  • Female/non-binary respondents with children 6 or under in their households did an average of 2.4 fewer school visits than female/non-binary respondents with no children at home (25% fewer visits).

  • Male respondents with children 6 or under in their households had the same average number of visits as men without children in their household.

  • Men with children age 7-17 in the household had a 15% lower average numbers of school visits than did those without children.  Female/non-binary respondents had 12.5% lower.

  • With children in the household or without, male respondents did significantly more school visits than female/non-binary respondents.

Some respondents wrote in comments about their caregiving responsibilities and their choice to limit travel:

  • “I had a baby last year and turned down all school visit invitations to limit travel.”

  • “I usually do a few visits a year, but my parents' health precluded that in 2017.”

Summary

We found that female/non-binary children’s literature creators are earning similar rates for school visits as male creators.  However, there is a large gender gap in the number of visits per year of each group. This gap is not fully explained by either caregiving burden or age discrimination.

While we cannot answer the “why” behind that gap with this survey, we hope that the knowledge that it exists, and the pricing information that respondents shared, will create a more transparent school visit booking and pricing experience for all children’s literature creators.

Next full post: We will look at free and reduced-price school visits, and their gender dynamics

About the authors of this study

We (Jeanette Bradley and Michelle Cusolito) volunteered our time and expertise to bring you the results of this survey.  We’d appreciate any support you might offer us in return. Perhaps you could buy our books (or rather, pre-order Michelle’s), request them from the library, tweet about them, or write a review if you’ve read them and enjoyed them. Thank you for considering.

Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. (Yes, she is a data nerd who can draw.)  Her debut picture book LOVE, MAMA was published by Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. It contains no cities, pastries, or trains, but was made with lots of love. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. Jeanette is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt.

lovemama-final-web_3_small.jpg
jeanettebradley-headshot-small.jpg

You’ve landed on Michelle’s blog/website, so you can poke around to learn more about her. In case you missed it, here’s the cover of Flying Deep, which comes out May 22nd.  

Flying Deep cover.small.jpg

School Visits Survey Part 2: Pricing

On March 15, 2018, Jeanette Bradley and I launched an anonymous, online survey with the goal of collecting data about author and illustrator compensation for school visits. This is the second post in our series of posts that dig into the data. (Our first post focused on the make-up of our 419 respondents. You can read it here ).

Pricing transparency helps us all. Knowing the going rate in your region, your genre, and your career stage, is key to pricing your services to maximize your ability to book school visits at a price that is fair and respects your time and expertise.

We asked survey respondents to give us their “average full-day charge for an in-person school visit.” Several respondents commented that they had tiered rates depending on travel distance, or that they offered discounts to low-income school districts or their own local district.

Because we asked for an average over all visits, our survey responses were grouped at points of mental rounding.  We found the best way to communicate the distribution of day rates was to group responses into ranges, using a common mental rounding point of $250.  

distribution of rates.jpg
  • 8% of respondents did all of their school visits for free.

  • Among respondents who charged for their school visits, the average rate was $1,002.

  • The most common day rate (mode) was $1,000.  

  • The middle 50% of respondents who charged had day rates between $600 and $1200.   

Who are the creators at the top of the range?  The eight percent of respondents - those who charged more than $2000 for a full-day visit - had an overall higher-than-average numbers of books published, awards, and were more likely to have published a NYT bestseller. But the most striking thing about this group is that all of them indicated that a booking agent or their publisher books at least some of their school visits.

Looking at Rates

The following charts all exclude the respondents who did all of their school visits free of charge, in order to better represent average rates for creators seeking industry standards.  

Categories/Formats

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  • There is some variation in average pricing depending on the category/format people write or illustrate.

  • Respondents who write early readers earned a higher average rate, which appears to be function of those authors having published more books. Many of them have published in multiple genre categories.

Career Stage

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  • Career stage matters!  The average for debut authors is around $600.

  • Self-published authors are earning much less than traditionally published authors, though some commented that they exchange book sales for school visits. (Anecdotal comment from Michelle:  I have heard this often in my school visits workshops and from schools that have had self-published authors visit).

Region

avg charge by region.jpeg
  • Regional pricing differences are fairly large. School visits in the Northeast have an average daily rate $283 higher than those in the Midwest.

One respondent said, “Michigan has been a depressed state for school money since the recession of 2006. It's coming back now, and schools have a little more money now, but that's only recent, in the past two years or so.”

Another said, “I mostly do local visits, in New England, but my friends who are authors in the Midwest feel that the going rates there are lower than on the East Coast.” The data supports this opinion.

Booking Agents

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  • Respondents who booked their school visits through a booking agency charged an average of $538 more per day than those who did not.

Award-winners and Bestsellers

We asked respondents: “Have any of your books won a national ALSC, ALA, or affiliated award? (For example: Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King, Printz, Stonewall, American Indian Youth Literature Award).”  We realize there are many other awards and honors that a book can win, but we chose these because of their prominence in the industry, and their potential to affect school visit rates.

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  • 16 percent of respondents have won a national ALA/ALSC award.

  • Respondents who won a major ALA or ALSC award earned on average $480 more per visit than those who did not.

Awards have a huge impact on the careers of authors and illustrators. One part of that is the increases in fees that creators are able to charge for speaking engagements and school visits. Recent analyses, such as Christine Taylor-Bulter’s audits of the Caldecott and Coretta Scott King awards, have shown that there is still a huge gender gap in the recipients of these awards. The ripple effect of these gaps spreads out into the pricing of school visits - survey respondents who had won an ALA or ALSC award at any point in time earned an average of 50% more per visit than those who had not.

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  • 17 percent of respondents have had at least one book on the NYT bestseller list.

  • Bestseller status translates into an average charge $708 higher than those who have not had a NYT bestseller.

Stars

We asked respondents if their most recent book had received a starred review from the following publications: Publishers Weekly, Horn Book, Kirkus, and School Library Journal.

avg charge starred reviews.jpeg
  • 31 percent of respondents had received a starred review on their most recent book.

  • Starred reviews have an impact on the amount respondents charge - each star appears to add value.

Number of visits

A day rate is not the only important factor in school visits – the other is the number of visits respondents are doing each year. Many respondents reported difficulty booking with schools at rates that they felt were fair to the use of their time.  

Here’s a sampling of comments:

“...I find it interesting the number of times schools have assumed my visit is going to be free. Several times when I've mentioned my honorarium, they have come back and told me that they suddenly no longer need a visit or they found someone else or that their plans have changed...”

“My first book released this past year. As part of the launch week I offered free school visits for that week. I was unable to get a paying visit for the rest of the year. I had lots of requests but as soon as I sent over fee information I never heard from them again. One school even contacted me for a visit then when I sent fee info they said they forgot they weren't available that day after all and then asked another author (my friend) for the same day and did the same thing to her when she sent her fee information. I guess the librarian trying to get a free visit didn't realize what a small world it is in the kidlit community.”

“I almost didn't fill it [this survey] out because what I get is so low. In the past, I have done more school visits, but for me, it is barely worth it. If I charge 250, I get bookings, if I charge 400, I don't. So in a way I am in a catch 22. It is hardly worth my time to drive several hours and give up writing time for 250. So [I] no longer advertise or actively try to get school visits. My presentations are great, teachers and librarians love them, so I really don't think that is the issue. Recently, I presented at a librarian conference and six librarians asked about school visits based on my presentation. I quoted them a rate of 400 per day. No one booked a visit! Even 400 is a low rate these days...”

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  • Respondents who have published more books did more visits in the last year – up to a point.  

In our next post, we'll dig deeper into the statistics:  Is there a gender gap in school visits? Watch for that post soon.

(If you want to be sure you don’t miss the posts, you can subscribe to this blog on the right sidebar and get it delivered to your inbox).

NOTE: I apologize for posting this later than we intended. Life sometimes demands our full attention.

About the authors of this study

We (Jeanette Bradley and Michelle Cusolito) volunteered our time and expertise to bring you the results of this survey.  We’d appreciate any support you might offer us in return. Perhaps you could buy our books (or rather, pre-order Michelle’s), request them from the library, tweet about them, or write a review if you’ve read them and enjoyed them. Thank you for considering.

Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. (Yes, she is a data nerd who can draw.)  Her debut picture book LOVE, MAMA was published by Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. It contains no cities, pastries, or trains, but was made with lots of love. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. Jeanette is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt.

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You’ve landed on Michelle’s blog/website, so you can poke around to learn more about her. In case you missed it, here’s the cover of Flying Deep, which comes out May 22nd.  

Flying Deep cover.small.jpg

 

 

2018 Survey: “Transparency in Pay for Author & Illustrator School Visits”

ETA (September 13,2018): If you got here from the SCBWI PRO Insider newsletter, this post lists all of the posts with results related to our survey.

On March 15, 2018, Jeanette Bradley and I launched an anonymous, online survey with the goal of collecting data about author and illustrator compensation for school visits. (Sometimes called author visits). There are many aspects we could have chosen to investigate, but we needed to keep the survey focused so that people would fill it out, and we would be able to crunch the numbers and make sense of the data (This is a volunteer effort, after all).   

Therefore, we limited this survey to residents of the U. S. who have at least one book published. It’s not that we didn’t want to go wider. We simply couldn't manage that much data.  

You may wonder why Jeanette and I are the ones who ran this survey. I first had the idea to do this because I care deeply about school visits. I facilitate workshops to help authors and illustrators develop engaging school visit programs. One question I face in every workshop is “How much should I charge for school visits?” Or the even more troubling, “Wait. I should be paid for school visits?” Over and over again, I’ve stressed that authors and illustrators should be compensated fairly for their time. Yet, what is the “going rate?” What is fair?   

I asked Jeanette Bradley to partner with me on this survey because her first career was as a policy researcher focused on studying housing and lending discrimination. She has experience writing and analyzing surveys about sensitive topics. This survey would not have been possible without Jeanette's expertise. Angie Isaacs, another KidLit person with advanced statistics experience also reviewed our results before we published them. Ultimately, however, Jeanette and I are responsible for the final reports, so any mistakes sit with us.

Summary of Important details:

  • Respondents had to be residents of the U. S.

  • Respondents must have at least one book published, either traditionally or indie/self-published.

  • Respondents must have done at least one school visit in the U.S. in the past year

  • All data was kept anonymous. No identifying information was collected, and the results are being reported in aggregate format.  

To solicit survey respondents, we shared the original blogpost that launched the survey in various places on-line:  

Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete our survey. We appreciate your time and honesty. In addition, many people wrote extensive comments about their experiences when given space to do so. We’ll try to cover the depth and breadth of experiences by sharing selected comments within our posts.

A note about gender, race, and ethnicity

People are subtle, complex, and multifaceted.  Surveys are blunt instruments for measuring the breadth of human identity and experience.  We recognize that gender is not binary, and neither is race/ethnicity. However, given the size of our survey, we have split our data into two categories on both of these identity variables, in order to protect the privacy of survey respondents.

Gender

We asked survey respondents to self-identify as one of these gender categories: male, female, non-binary, or a write-in “other” category. About one percent of respondents identified as non-binary; no respondents chose the write-in “other” category. Because there are a small number of respondents in the non-binary category, and we want to protect the privacy of respondents, we were faced with two choices. We needed to either exclude the non-binary respondents from the survey analysis, or we needed to combine them with a gender category that contained more responses.

We chose to combine the non-binary respondents with the respondents who identified as female, because we felt it was better to keep their data in the survey and identify what we had done than to erase a category of people from the survey.  We combined non-binary respondents with female, rather than male, respondents, under the theory that they are both groups that experience systemic discrimination.

Race and ethnicity

We asked respondents to identify themselves with as many of the following race/ethnicity categories which they felt applied:  American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, White / Caucasian, Other (please specify).  Because some racial categories had only a handful of respondents, we chose to combine everyone who identified themselves as American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, as more than one category, or who wrote in that they identified as mixed-race, as a Person of Color or POC.  (Note that respondents who wrote in that they were, for example, “Scotch-Irish” or “Ashkenazi Jewish” were coded as white). We realize this does not capture the rich complexity of racial and ethnic identity, but it is a small survey, intended to look at the general picture, and our goal is to protect the privacy of respondents while describing sensitive information.

Respondents: 419 authors and illustrators

  • Our results are based on the 419 respondents who had done at least one author or illustrator school visit in the last year who filled out our survey.   

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  • Three-quarters of respondents were female, which is similar to the demographics of the children’s literature industry as a whole.  

  • 1 percent of respondents identified themselves as non-binary. With so few respondents in this category, it would be easy for someone to trace specific answers to individual respondents, so we have grouped the non-binary respondents with female respondents in our results.

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  • Respondents live in all regions of the United States, with 39% of them hailing from the Northeast.

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  • 89 percent of respondents identified as white.

  • 11 percent identified as either American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, or some combination of multiple racial/ethnic identities.

  • This is similar to the 14 percent of children’s book authors who were identified as people of color by the CCBC count in 2017.  

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To protect the privacy of our survey respondents, we have grouped all people who reported that they were mixed-race/ethnicity or were a person of color together into one category.   

We know from research by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s (CCBC) annual count that authors of color are underrepresented in children’s literature. But because of the number of respondents in this survey, and the fact that it deals with sensitive topics, we wanted to err on the side of caution in reporting survey results.  (Again, some categories had only a few people who responded).

Most respondents are writers

  • 81 percent of our survey respondents are authors.

  • 17 percent are author/illustrators.   

  • Only 2 percent are illustrators.  This may be because illustrators do fewer school visits, or it may have to do with the places where our survey was shared. While we cannot know who exactly saw the survey promoted, it's possible we mostly reached writers.

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Survey respondents write across the breadth of children’s publishing.  Many write for more multiple age groups, some write both fiction and nonfiction. Others noted that they are also poets or have published adult novels.  

Respondents hail from all career stages. It is difficult to capture an author’s career in one metric, but here we simply use the number of traditionally published books.   

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  • 3 percent of respondents have no traditionally published books, and have solely self- or indie-published. We felt that it was important to include these respondents in the survey results, as this is a growing part of the publishing landscape.

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  • The majority of survey respondents earn less than a quarter of their household income from their work as authors and/or illustrators.   

  • Only 21 percent earn more than half of their household income from their author/illustrator work.

One respondent commented: “Your 0-25 percent choice is misleading. I'm still a negative sink on my family.” Since we did not ask this specific question, we do not know if other respondents might have said the same thing.

Now, on to what you all want to know: how many school visits are we doing? What are we earning?  

  • Overall, respondents did 4,540 school visits in the last year!

  • The average number of visits per respondent was 10.  

  • The average day rate (among the 92% of respondents who charged for visits) was $1,002.

See our future posts in this series for more details regarding pricing by career stage, location, and more! We expect the second post to go up on Friday and to be followed by two more posts next week that dig deeper into the data. (To be sure you receive them, you can subscribe to my blog on the side bar).

About the authors of this study

We (Jeanette Bradley and Michelle Cusolito) volunteered our time and expertise to bring you the results of this survey.  We’d appreciate any support can offer in return. Perhaps you could buy our books (or rather, pre-order Michelle’s), request them from the library, tweet about them, or write a review if you’ve read them and enjoyed them. Thank you for considering.

Jeanette Bradley has been an urban planner, an apprentice pastry chef, and the artist-in-residence for a traveling art museum on a train. (Yes, she is a data nerd who can draw.)  Her debut picture book LOVE, MAMA was published by Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. It contains no cities, pastries, or trains, but was made with lots of love. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids. Jeanette is represented by Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt.

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jeanettebradley-headshot-small.jpg

You’ve landed on Michelle’s blog/website, so you can poke around to learn more about her. In case you missed it, here’s the cover of Flying Deep, which comes out May 22nd.  

Flying Deep cover.small.jpg

How Much Should I Charge? Aiming for Transparency in Pay for School Visits

It’s Women’s History Month and the children’s literature community is celebrating with 31 days of posts seeking to address gender and social inequalities in our industry. Join the conversation at KidlitWomen on Facebook and by searching #KidlitWomen on Twitter.

Today, Jeanette Bradley and I are launching an anonymous survey to collect data about author and illustrator’s compensation for school visits (Sometimes called author visits). One of our goals is for there to be greater transparency in compensation. There are many aspects we could have chosen to investigate, but we need to keep this survey focused so that people will fill it out and we will be able to crunch the numbers and make sense of the data (This is a volunteer effort, after all).  

To that end, we have had to limit this to residents of the U. S. who have at least one book published. It’s not that we don’t want to go wider. There’s no way for us to manage that much data. (Also, having recently moved back from Ireland where I did some school visits, I realize how very different this is, country by country).

If you are an author or illustrator who creates books for children through young adults and you do school visits in the U.S.  please take our anonymous survey. It will take less than 5 minutes. Please be as honest and accurate as possible. Transparency is important to removing inequities, and the results are only as good as the data we collect.

Please invite everyone you know who does school visits to fill it out, as well.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MM7WVTY

You may wonder why Jeanette and I are the ones running this survey. I first had the idea to do this because I care deeply about school visits. I facilitate workshops to help authors and illustrators develop engaging school visit programs. One question I face in every workshop is “How much should I charge for school visits?” Or the even more troubling, “Wait. I should be paid for school visits?” (Anecdotal comment: I’ve never had a man ask me that question, which is partially what inspired me to want to dig deeper). Over and over again, I’ve stressed that authors and illustrators should be compensated fairly for their time. Yet, what is the “going rate?” What is fair?  (If you want to know more about why book creators should be paid for school visits, I encourage you to read this excellent post by Caroline Starr Rose).

I asked Jeanette Bradley to partner with me on this survey because her first career was as a policy researcher focused on studying housing and lending discrimination. She has experience writing and analyzing surveys about sensitive topics. Angie Isaacs, another KidLit person with advanced statistics experience will be reviewing our results before we publish them.

Summary of Important details:

  • Respondents must be residents of the U. S.
  • Respondents must have at least one book published, either traditionally or indie/self-published.
  • Respondents must currently do school visits in the U.S.
  • All data is anonymous. No identifying information will be collected, and the results will be reported in aggregate format.
  • The data collected will determine what our reporting looks like. There will be a minimum of one public blog post to share results, but there could end up being a series of posts, depending upon the data we collect.

Our Timeline:

  1. The survey is open from March 15-31.
  2. The results will be published here by the end of April (sooner if we can manage it).

Again, please help us out by taking the survey and sharing it widely so others will take it, as well.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MM7WVTY

Thank you so much for your time.

 Me during a school visit for my debut, Flying Deep.

Me during a school visit for my debut, Flying Deep.

Flying Deep, Plus Big Life Events

So much has happened in the last 16 months, and yet I haven't blogged in ages. I think it's because I found I really enjoy micro-blogging on Instagram. It's quick and easy and I can do it from my phone when I have a few minutes.

Here's a recap of a few big things that happened since I last posted:

Here's the cover of Flying Deep, illustrated by the fabulous Nicole Wong.

Publication Date: May 2018

Flying Deep.jpg

From the jacket: 

Imagine
you’re the pilot
of Alvin, a deep-sea submersible
barely big enough for three.

Climb inside the coolest vehicle
around and dive almost two miles
down to the bottom of the ocean.
Follow a typical dive schedule for
the day. Descend at 8 am—

Down, down, down.

Head back to the surface to arrive
by 5 pm—

Up, up, up.

What will you see?
What discoveries will you make?

What do you think of the cover? It's pretty wonderful, right? 

Back to my microblogging for a minute: While I was in Dublin, I posted #DublinLife almost daily on Instrgram. These posts highlighted something about my life in #Dublin that was different compared to my life in the US. Now that we're back, I'm posting #RochesterLife. I hope you'll check it out. If you're not on Instragram, I cross post to Twitter and to my "Michelle Cusolito, Author," Facebook Page.

 

6th Annual #KidstoParks Day

For the second year in a row, I participated in Kids to Parks Day, both as a blogger and as a parent who took my kids to a park on Saturday.  This year, we visited "Church's Field." A lovely area of protected land managed by the Rochester Land Trust

Readers of my blog know I love the trails that run near my house. But as we did last year, we decided to check out a trail we've never been on. This trail did not disappoint! It's short, but exceptionally lovely, with little places to explore. I'll let my photos tell the story.

Church's Field
Rules
wacky kid
mud bridge
mud bridge 2
Mattapoisett River
violets by river
unfurling
wildflowers
exploring
old foundation
contemplating a foundation
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flowers

Did you get out for Kids to Parks Day? Where did you go? Please share.

A Glorious Spring Day

Yesterday was a glorious spring day here in my sleepy little town, but I had loads of work to do that required my computer and an internet connection. My solution: I bribed myself. "Get the 'administrivia' done as soon a possible so you can hike to your lakeside 'office' and write."

I blasted through my work, ate an early lunch, and headed out.

trail to lake
trail at lake
lake
trail to brook

I love our woods year round, but I especially love early spring days when beech trees display their new finery- delicate, ridged green leaves, soft like silk.

beech leaves
IMG_5922.JPG
 My "office." A bench built by my 10 and 14 year old and placed so others can enjoy the spot. 

My "office." A bench built by my 10 and 14 year old and placed so others can enjoy the spot. 

office

Yesterday was a day when I felt deep gratitude to be alive in this place on this particular day.

A day of honking geese whose voices echo off the trees.

geese.swans

Of silent swans flashing feathery fans.

swan

A day of songbirds skittering as they build nests among bushes.

Of bumblebees defying engineering principals and flying even though it shouldn’t be possible.

Of ephemeral Lady Slippers preparing to bloom.

lady slipper

A day of turtles popping periscope heads up to look around and take a breath.

A day of tufty grasses poking through sand.

grass.lake

Of day of dragonflies zipping side to side

and crickets chirping in the meadow on the hike home.

meadow

6 Ways to Enjoy the 6th Annual "Kids To Parks Day"

Today is Earth Day, which seems like the perfect day to share an upcoming event.

Saturday, May 21st is Kids to Parks Day. I already pledged to bring my family to a park on that day. Will you join me? In addition to all of the benefits of spending time in nature, you could also win cool prizes. Register at the Kids to Parks Website.

Of course, you don't need any plans to enjoy nature. You can simply get out, hike, observe, and take in the day.

If you prefer a little structure, here are six activities you can plan to do with your family:

1.       Get to know a tree. Feel the bark. Notice the buds/leaves. Give it a hug. Climb its branches. Make a bark rubbing.

2.     Search for plant and animal life in a body of water. Find a pond, lake, ocean, vernal pool or puddle and see what's living in it. Don't just look for large animals- look closely in the water along the edge where insect larvae and small animals live. Turn over a few rocks. See what's there.

3.       Lie on your back in an open patch of grass, sand, pine needles, etc. Watch passing clouds, rustling leaves, or passing birds. Close your eyes. Listen closely. How many natural sounds can you identify? Listen on your own for a few minutes, then whisper to your family to point out sounds you notice. See if they notice different sounds than you. 

4.       Fly a kite. This obviously works best in open spaces. We have a small "pocket kite" we take with us when we travel. Favorite place we've flown it? The National Mall.

5.        Document your excursion in a small nature journal. Provide every member of your family with colored pencils and a small  journal. The journal doesn't need to be fancy. You can even make a simple one by stapling a few pages of copy paper together as a booklet. Hike until you find a place you like. Sit quietly for 15 minutes and sketch something you see or write a few lines describing what you see. You can look far off into the distance or focus on the moss by your feet. See what catches your interest. The idea is to notice details, not to be artists. Compare what interests you to what interests your family members. NOTE: even preschool children can participate if you give them larger pieces of paper. (My post, Nature Observations With Young Children offers guidance).

6.       Photo document your day. Turn off/silence the electronics except for a camera. (Don't view the day from behind a lens- be selective about when and where to take a photo). When you get home, work as a family to create a photo book, blogpost, or movie of your day. If you have older kids with the needed computer skills, ask them to create a movie that reflects their feelings/perspective on the day. (My kids happen to love using iMovie. It's intuitive and they can use it on a desktop, iPad, or iPod). 

Bonus idea for folks living in Rochester, Marion, or Mattapoisett, Massachusetts:

7. Check out a MOBY Explorer Backpack from the public library and take it on your adventure. Use the contents to investigate a topic more deeply.

In exchange for this post, I was offered two sets of books from National Geographic: one set for me, another to give to a blog reader. I will donate my copies to my local library.

ktpBooks

If you would like a chance to win a set that includes Buddy Bison’s Yellowstone Adventure and National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA Centennial Edition, please do two things:

1.       Leave a comment on this post.

2.     Sign up for the give-away using the rafflecopter below. (Leaving a comment unlocks the other options). It lists other things you can do to earn more chances in the give-away. For example, you can follow me on Twitter or sign up for my newsletter on the right side bar, in the gray box. Once you complete the action, click that option in the rafflecopter. Each actions earns you another chance.

How will you celebrate Kids to Park Day? Share your ideas in the comments.

PEN New England, Susan P. Bloom Children's Book Discovery Award

Last week I received amazing news. I am one of the authors being honored with a PEN New England, Susan P. Bloom Children's Book Discovery Award for my manuscript FLYING DEEP. This award honors emerging writers- writers whose work has not yet been published. 

All of the winners will read their work and receive awards at Simmons College in Boston, MA on the evening of May 15th. 

FLYING DEEP invites young readers to imagine themselves as a pilot of deep-sea submersible Alvin, exploring hydrothermal vents two miles deep where alien-looking life forms thrive far from the sun’s rays. I spent many months researching in order to get the details just right. The highlight of my research was a trip to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) where I met with Bruce Strickrott, Manager of the Alvin Group, and got to climb inside Alvin.

Inside Alvin.

In the pilot's seat.

To learn more about Alvin, and see some of the resources I used in my research, check out the my FLYING DEEP Pinterest board. 

Almost Time?

Last night on Facebook, a friend commented on one of my nature photos, "Almost time..." Today, I got a frantic call from a different friend. "I'm calling about the frogs. I just heard peepers. Did we miss them?"

What were they talking about? Wood frog migration! Around here, in some circles anyway, I'm known as the resident wood frog expert. I've written many picture book manuscripts over the years. One of the manuscripts I'm most proud of, FROG FRENZY, is about this very phenomenon. I spent four springs the watching migration unfold, taking notes, and getting the details just right for that manuscript. I'm still hopeful it will find a home with the right publisher. 

I've been taking my kids and any other families I can round up to see wood frog migration since my kids were young. Before the days of Facebook, friends would wait for a call or text announcing that migration had started and when they could meet me to head out. Now, I often make a quick FB invitation to alert as many people as possible.

In 2012, migration happened on March 8th, but last year it didn't happen until April 22! (Remember that banner year for snow we had here in the northeast? Wood frogs were buried beneath it, frozen solid until April!)

Well, I've been watching the weather, and it looks like this might be the week wood frogs migrate. I never know for sure, but the conditions seem right; peepers were heard (that usually falls a day or two before I see wood frogs), it's going to rain, and it's going to be warm.

In case you're new here and don't know quite what I'm talking about, my kids made videos for you. (Turn up the sound on the first one. You can hear the frogs kwaking). Enjoy!


Kids to Parks Day Give-Away Winner

The "Kids to Parks" giveaway ended last night. The winner is Kimberly H. I emailed Kimberly this morning.

Thanks to all of you who entered and thanks to National Park Trust for the terrific prize pack. 

 I hope you'll participate in "Kids to Parks Day" next year. But I also hope you don't wait until then to visit a federal or local park. Get out there exploring this summer.

 

"Kids to Parks Day" is May 16th!

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Have you heard the news? This Saturday is Kids to Parks Day- a national movement dedicated to getting kids and their families out exploring local and national parks.

I pledged to participate. Will you?

Here's what you need to know:

  • The 5th annual National Park Trust Kids to Parks Day will take place May 16 at local and national parks all over the U.S. All you have to do to participate is get outside in a local or national park. (Find an organized event in your area)
  • Parents, teachers, caregivers and friends, pledge to bring a child to a park on May 16! When you register you'll be entered to win a Nikon COOLPIX L830 camera! Register here: Last year, there were more than 447,000 participants in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. This year, the goal is to have more than 500,000 people enjoy Kids to Parks Day.
  •  Kids to Parks Day has been endorsed by many organizations including:  American Academy of Pediatrics, Boy Scouts of America, Children & Nature Network, National Education Association, National Geographic Kids, National Wildlife Federation, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let Move Outside! Initiative, half the nation’s governors, and many more
  •  Active Kids are Healthy Kids. At a time when the obesity epidemic touches nearly 1 in 3 children, cities across the nation are encouraging their residents to use Kids to Parks Day as the first of many days spent outdoors, at local parks and recreation sites, to develop more active, healthy lifestyles.
  •  Kids to Parks Day brings families together for important and irreplaceable outdoor and family time, to create lifelong memories, traditions and fun.
  • National Park Trust encourages children across the country to explore their neighborhood parks and discover science, history, nature and adventure right around the corner or just across town.  Their website can help jumpstart your adventure. Visit them at kidstoparks.org 
  • National Park Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving parks today and creating park stewards for tomorrow. As people spend more time indoors and as successive generations grow up with less of a connection to nature, NPT wants to build a greater awareness and appreciation for the importance of our country's public lands and parks. 
  • Local friends, this dovetails with our MOBY library program. Check out an "Explorer Backpack" from Marion, Mattapoisett, or Rochester library and bring it with you.

Note: I received no compensation for this post. I participated because I believe in the mission. However, you have the opportunity to win this this gift pack provided by National Park Trust.

gift pack

Kids to Parks Giveaway Prize Package Contents

"Buddy Bison” mascot stuffed animal, 2 National Geographic Books (National Geographic Secrets of the National Parks and National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A.), a CamelBak BPA- and BPS-free reusable bottle, a T-shirt, and a NPT Park Activity Guide ($75 value.) 

The give-away starts today and ends at midnight on Tuesday, May 19th.  The winner will be posted here on Wednesday, May 20th.

Will you participate? Share you plans in the comments. Even better, once you get home, let us know what you did!

Remember, register at ·         http://parktrust.org/youthprograms/national-kids-to-parks-day  


Family, Friends, and Frogs

This is my favorite time of year.  Who doesn't love the rebirth that happens once the snow melts and days become warmer? My particular fondness, though, is for vernal pools and the wood frogs that migrate to them to reproduce in early spring. No matter how stressful my life is, when I reach the pool and hear the quacking of wood frogs, I instantly feel calmer.

This year, we were buried under three feet of snow for months, so it took a LONG time for all of that snow to melt- an unusual circumstance for Southeastern Massachusetts. That means the wood frogs were late to emerge this year. So while we usually hear just wood frogs for a few days at our vernal pool before the peepers emerge, this year they arrived simultaneously

Wood frog migration is an event I love sharing with others, so I always invite local families along. We hiked about 1 mile in to our favorite vernal pool.

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Along the way, we saw a Mourning Cloak- the first butterfly to emerge in spring.

When we reached the vernal pool, exploration began immediately! (I mean, why wouldn't it?)

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The sound of wood frogs and peepers was deafening. We even heard the occasional tree frog. (Listen above). Loads of froggie eyes were visible in the water and many swam past us while we watched. This one stayed quiet and still for a long time:

wood frog by michellecusolito

Soon it was time to head home, tired but happy.

Want to learn more about wood frogs? Check out these posts from my old blog:

Wood Frogs are Traveling

Travelin' Wood Frogs

Polliwog by Polliwog

My Wood Frogs/Vernal Pools Pinterest board has links to books and websites about vernal pools and wood frogs. There's also a cool video that shows a wood frog thawing after being frozen solid in winter. Yup. Frozen solid. Their lungs and hearts stop when they freeze. As soon as they thaw they race to the water to reproduce- the frog frenzy of wood frog migration!

Have you seen or heard wood frogs or peepers in your area? We went out to see them on April 12th. If you live north of Boston, however, you might be able to see wood frogs at vernal pools in your area. (We heard a few yesterday). Wood frogs live in cool woodlands all the way up to the Arctic circle!

Winter's Waning, I Can Feel It!

I went for a woodland walk with my daughter and her friend yesterday. It was 38 degrees F and sunny, which felt glorious after months of being buried in snow and cold weather.

We were surprised, however, by how much snow is still on the ground. Walking was tough- we'd go a few steps on top of the snow, then suddenly sink in.  We got quite a workout.

But the sun was warm and lovely, so we stopped at a fallen tree to appreciate the sun and stillness, and beauty. 

I lounged on a fallen tree watching beech leaves sway against a blue sky

while the girls recorded their poetry ideas.

Then we headed back feeling relaxed and refreshed.

What fun nature experiences have you had lately?

Successful Bookbinding Workshop

Last weekend, 10 students were fortunate to create their own nature journals using traditional bookbinding techniques. This MOBY class (paid for with federal funds through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners) was free to participants.

Teacher Benares Angeley, owner of the Children's Art Lab in Mattapoisett, MA, taught students to create two kinds of books: the 3-holed pamphlet stitch and the secret room book.

Students started by making a small pamphlet stitch journal out of paper.

 Students were encouraged to decorate their paper journals using a variety of beads.

Students were encouraged to decorate their paper journals using a variety of beads.

Then they learned the secret room book, which involves folding and cutting one piece of paper. While Benares prepared the cereal boxes students had brought for the project, students "broke in" their journals. Benares told students a great piece of advice she got from a teacher she once had: If you don't write in your newly created journal, it can become too precious and you never want to write in it. So she gave students an open-ended prompt to get them started.

I completely understand Benares' point. I had to stop buying nice journals for my day-to-day writing. I wouldn't use them because I worried the writing might not be worthy of such a journal. I now write all of my first drafts in regular old school notebooks or composition notebooks. I save the journals for when I'm traveling. I generally choose one journal per trip and include all of my notes, sketches, and ephemera from that trip.

Once students had a chance to break in their journals, Benares took them through the 3 holed pamphlet stitch again. This time they created a larger journal with a cardboard (cereal box) cover. Once students finished stitching their journals together, they were encouraged to decorate them however they chose using the variety of materials provided. They were given beads, paper scraps, markers, pencils, colored pencils, etc. Benares told them to ask if they wanted a material and didn't see it. Several students asked for fabric and within minutes, Benares reappeared with scraps of material, ribbon, and lace. I enjoyed watching how students surveyed the materials, selected what to use, and then executed their ideas. One student collaged with paper, another with yarn, and others with ribbon. One student was inspired by a sample journal and used waxed linen to stitch animal tracks on her cover.

 The beginning of a bear track.

The beginning of a bear track.

 a few examples of their creations in progress.

a few examples of their creations in progress.

Overall, the feedback was excellent. Several students said they want to come back to learn more advanced techniques. 

 

Create a Nature Journal/Learn Bookbinding

Some of my new readers are particularly interested in the library program I’m part of called My Own BackYard (MOBY). I decided to share this event here, even though many of you live far away, because MOBY is something any library can replicate.

One component of MOBY is “Explorer Backpacks,” that include materials and books to get kids out exploring nature. Every backpack also includes a small journal. We hope students will record a few observations from their adventures so others who check out the backpacks can see them. We also hope students will be inspired to keep nature journals of their own.

That’s where this class comes in. Local artist Benares Angeley will teach students in grades 6-8 book binding. Students are invited to use their journals however they choose, but we hope they’ll use them for nature journaling or to document their letterboxing adventures. Journals will be created using a combination of found and purchased materials (all participants are asked to bring an empty cereal box).

This arts program ties in nicely to our STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) focus.

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If MOBY interests you, I hope you’ll sign up to receive blog posts in your inbox (there’s a box to the right to enter your email). You can also like the MOBY Facebook page and follow #MOBYfun. We’re building this collaborative program as we go, so more details will emerge over time. We hope other libraries will be inspired to develop similar programs.