Now, I have never been in the position to offer a quiet room in which an author can scream with frustration. Sorry, to rest in. That’s because my only experience of author visits has been as volunteer helper in either a school or a shop, and neither does spare rooms. But I have accompanied an author or two to the toilet. Not all the way, obviously. Just enough to make sure they found their way back again, because school corridors can be hard to navigate. I used to get lost myself.
I’d like to think that Offsprings’ secondary school library wasn’t a bad place to visit, even without a private restroom. We really wanted the authors to come. Due to lack of library space it was always the keen students who were invited. Perhaps that was the wrong way to do it? They will have been better behaved, but leaving less opportunity for an author to convert someone. I was very heartened by the young man in Y7 who was seen carting all (as they were) eight of the Roman Mysteries around.
We remembered the names of our visiting authors, and had we had access to a red carpet, we would have rolled it out. Depending on the programme they were offered tea and coffee with cake or biscuits. Since I can remember eating Cathy Hopkins’ sandwiches, there must have been some of those on occasion. Reasonably good ones, for a school.
But funds were always a problem. Travel expenses were paid. But never a full day’s fee, and that was simply because the school didn’t have the money. Not because no one felt the author deserved to be paid. I offered a bribe once. Which has still not been ‘acted on’.
It surely must be like having guests come to dinner at your house? We can’t all give the same experience, but the dinner guests are not the same either. Or is it more like calling a plumber out? You need their services, but you don’t have to become best friends. Sometimes getting together will be a success, and at other times not. And it’s not always the case that both parties feel the same. I was once overcome with the feeling that an author was ghastly beyond belief, only to have them say how well they thought it went.
So did we get it wrong? Nicola Morgan has some firm ideas about what makes a good author visit. For the author, that is.