About a month ago, Cinda Williams Chima met with my sixth grade book club using Skype. It was a great experience that I forgot to write about. I promised Ms. Williams I would post today and tell you about it as well as her upcoming Seven Realms series.
On my end we had two laptops, a webcam, two projectors, and a screen. We were holding the interview during lunch so I also supplied pizza for the students. One laptop, an IBM Thinkpad, had Cinda's slideshow that she'd sent me earlier. The other laptop, a Dell Latitude D620, was for the Skype interview, it was hooked up to the internet via a wire because our school does not have wireless yet. We used a Logitech QuickCam with built-in microphone so that Cinda could see the students.
I had a couple of problems connecting to Cinda at first due to our slow internet connection. It finally worked! Having the projector hooked up ensured everyone could see Cinda, as if she was in the room with us. I had her slide slow on the other 1/2 of the screen, ready to go. Cinda would expand on the slide and when she said next, I would go to the next one. It was awesome! We learned about Cinda's writing process as well as her home life. Do you know where Cinda grew up? We even got to see how covers can change. After Cinda finished, each student was allowed to ask questions.
I must say, overall, this was a fantastic experience. Not only are Skype visits cost-effective, you can schedule them at convenient times. It helped having the Skype video so that we could see and hear Cinda. That made it similar to an in-school visit. I would definitely do this again. It would be great to have at least one author visit per book club.
Our book club met and came up with the questions we would ask Cinda as well as decided who would ask what. Since it was during lunch, I did have a student who wasn't in our book club, but had read Cinda's books join us. Also, that helps, making sure the students have read the books!
It really helped that Cinda sent the slideshow in advance. I had time to look through it and make sure everything was viewable and easy to work with. Cinda and I also did a test a few days before. This helped me ensure my setup was workable. Having two projectors made the interview seem more interactive. It was more like Cinda was there with us.
My major problem was my webcam. You should have at least two with wide-angle lens so that all of the students can be viewed. I did have students go up to the webcam and look directly into it when they asked their question. This gave Cinda an opportunity to really see them. Some of the students were low talkers though. It would have helped to have better microphones. Also, I forgot to take pictures or record the interview! Too starstruck I suppose!
All in all, I wouldn't hesitate to invite another author to our school via Skype.
Here, you can find out how things went from Cinda Chima's perspective! She blogged about her experience with our book club. She also lists other authors who Skype!
Cinda's newest book, The Demon King, will be released October 13, 2009. I can't wait to read it. I know I will have one of our book clubs read this book and hopefully they will want to meet with Cinda too! You can read the first chapter of the Demon King and learn about the background and history of The Seven Realms. If you like high-fantasy with a touch of romance, you will love Cinda's books. I urge you to check them out, you won't be sorry.