As Jason Wells said on Wednesday, “I’ve been trying to get Jeff Kinney to Vermont for seven years.” Wednesday, the Abrams publicist delivered for the Flying Pig and a several other bookstores in northern New England. That we were thrilled is an understatement. That the more than 500 kids from Williston Central School were thrilled is beyond an understatement. There was much coordination that happened to make this event so much fun. First off, a new Wimpy Kid book, The Long Haul, came out just two short weeks before the event, so everyone was thrilled at the timing. Coordinating an author visit to a school that involves the whole school is no easy feat. We worked very closely with Karen, the librarian at WCS, who was on board from the first email inquiry about Jeff’s visit two months beforehand.
Every school visit needs a cooperating angel within the school. Without such a person, there is a lot of frustration and feeling like you’re hitting a brick wall. Once, I tried in vain, to get a Newbery-winning author in a school years ago and was met, not with exuberance, but with a stonewall: “We see him as intrusion, not enrichment.” Not much to say to that except thanks for being honest, if misguided, and we went to another school. Karen was a true champion of this event. She worked hard with the maintenance crew to get the gym set up for 500 kids. It was adorable — so many classes sat on big blue mats to protect the floor. Book order form were sent home to all the kids and there were no details that weren’t attended to right away.
The other thing a school visit needs, especially when the visiting author is as famous as Jeff Kinney, is someone from the publisher who spells out everything that he will need. Jason left no stone unturned as he laid out what Jeff’s requirement were, from microphone, podium, computer and screen, to how big the parking lot was (the Wimpy Kid tour bus is not a mini van). Abrams made it very clear that Jeff would do an-hour long presentation that allowed for 15 minutes of questions. He would autograph books ahead of time and not personalize them. This made it very smooth. All the kids who wanted a signed book got it delivered to the school the day of the release so there was no book business during the event. This made for a very easy event for all involved. I have to say, out of all the school events we’ve done, I’ve never seen such well-behaved kids in my life. They were quiet in their total excitement, I guess some were in awe, one little boy was practically shaking from joy at being in the same room as the creator of Greg Heffley.
Jeff is a real pro at speaking. His talk is engaging, very funny and supported by a great Power Point that’s full of humor. The kids were all just leaning in and listening. I always wish I could follow kids after an author visit to see who was really moved and who started writing because of the visit. Jeff’s call to action was quite simply: don’t wait till you grow up to start becoming an expert, start now. I could many heads nodding along with him. The kids left the gym energized and buzzing.
I snuck onto the tour bus, because, well, I just had to. Please note, that even when I’m relaxing, there’s always a good PW to read! When I returned to the bookstore, I was thrilled at how smoothly the event had gone. Imagine my surprise to find a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the counter from the school thanking us for Jeff’s visit!