Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Long-distance visit brings author up close with hometown students

For an author, a first ever Skype-type visit with a classroom is sure to be an unforgettable experience. But my May 10th over-the-computer exchange with the wonderful students of Mrs. Suida's fourth grade class at Peck Elementary School of Warren, Michigan was an extra, extra special event for so many reasons.

First, it was the warmth and welcome of their principal, tech director, teacher and the students themselves that made this visit so memorable. Mrs. Suida had read my novel The Terrible Secrets of the Tell-All Club to the class. During our visit, each student approached the camera and microphone and asked an insightful question about the book or about being an author: "How long does it take to write a book?" "What inspired you to write the novel?" "Which character did you identify with the most?" (That one really made me think!)

The students had also started their own club, one that offered the classmates a chance to share their stories and opinions while emphasizing important values of friendship and respect. I was so touched to learn about this wonderful idea and their excitement in creating the club.

What else made this visit out of the ordinary? The school is located in the city of Warren, Michigan, where I grew up and went to school, had my first job, attended junior college and first contributed articles to a community newspaper. In fact, Peck Elementary is just one mile from the house I lived in as an elementary student myself. I shared memories of my childhood in Warren, including the stores, restaurants and movie theater I'd walk to with my friends, and the McDonalds where I worked to help pay for college.

And Mrs. Suida said she remembered some of these places, too!

Following our visit, I emailed the class a photo of myself when I was about their age, and the age of the characters in the book. (That's me!)

Finally, there was one more special surprise that made this visit so remarkable -- my Aunt Pat (she's also my Godmother), came to the class to be part of the fun. Because we live so far away, my aunt and I haven't seen each other for quite awhile, and it was great to have her support and the chance to re-connect. My aunt works at the school, and she introduced Mrs. Suida to my book.

A big thank you Mrs. Suida's Class for a fun, inspiring time, one I won't ever forget!