Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 6, 2013

6 Mistakes Authors Make in Assemblies

Alexis_ONeill_Headshot_med270So you have a written and successfully gotten a publisher to offer you a contract. Now is the time to start thinking of how you plan to market your book. One of the first things that comes to mind are school visits, but you could use some help in figuring out how to maneuver that whole avenue. Well, I am going to point you to a great site – School Visits Experts. Once you visit them I am sure you will agree they share great information on there site. It was founded by Alexis O’Neill. You may already know Alexis, since she has been the SCBWI Regional Advisor in California for the last 18 years and has helped so many children’s writers and illustrators. I know everyone who reads the SCBWI Bulletin and everyone on the West Coast knows Alexis, but for those who live in other places, have a stack of SCBWI Bulletins waiting to be read, or haven’t read one of her books, this might be your first encounter with Alexis.

ALEXIS O’NEILL is the author of THE RECESS QUEEN(Scholastic), THE WORST BEST  FRIEND (Scholastic), LOUD EMILY (Simon & Schuster), ESTELA’S SWAP (Lee &  Low), THREE IRISH TALES (Kindle), and other award-winning picture books as well as a museum education consultant and an instructor for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Her nonfiction works have been published in Spider, Cobblestone, Calliope, Faces, and Odyssey. Her newest book, THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS: HOMAN WALSH  AND THE FIRST NIAGARA SUSPENSION BRIDGE (Calkins Creek Books, September  2013) will be launched this fall at Niagara Falls in both New York and Ontario, Canada. Alexis writes “The Truth About School Visits” column for the SCBWI Bulletin, offering advice to published authors and illustrators on the art and business of doing presentations. . .

She was also the recipient of the California Reading Association’s Dr. Marcus Foster Memorial Award 2010 for making significant and outstanding contributions to reading throughout California.

Thought I would share this book trailer for Alexis new book, since I’m always pointing out good trailer, so a little bit will wash off on you and help you down the road. Here is the book trailer for The Kite That Bridged Two Nations — coming September 2013!

Here’s Alexis:


Mistake #1. Opening weakly

Solution: Get attention! Invite the audience in immediately with a startling statement or image, a communal action (singing, chanting, clapping in rhythm) – anything that commands attention and shows the kids that the program is in your capable hands.

Mistake #2. Being unaware of audience reaction

Solution: Learn to “read” the room.  Are kids getting restless? Beginning to chat? Turning away from your presentation?  Time to switch up the content or pace and get them refocused.

Mistake #3. Speaking too softly, quickly or monotonously

Solution: Practice breathing, projecting, slowing the pace and speaking with lots of expression. Even if you think you have a voice like a foghorn, it will sound strained to those in the back of the multipurpose room.  Be sure to use a microphone. And don’t talk to the screen or easel – face your audience.

Mistake #4. Using visuals or props that are hard to see

Solution: Aim for the kids in the back of the room.  Make props oversize. Be sure everyone has a clear view of your props and the screen.

Mistake #5: Going overtime

Solution: Appoint a timekeeper to give you warnings at 10 minutes, 5 minutes and the end. Keep your eye on the clock so that you can adjust your pacing.

Mistake #6. Failing to create an ending with impact or with a call to action

Solution: If you like to incorporate a Q & A into your assembly, don’t end with it – place it just before the ending. Wrap up by sending the group out with one last anecdote, a summary of the points you made in your presentation or an appeal for them to do something (Be sure to read! Write! Start a book club!) is a place for published and soon-to-be-published authors & illustrators to find and share advice on how to create and deliver quality programs for kids, teachers and librarians. This is the place to find guidance on

  • Designing meaningful programs
  • Managing the business side of school visits
  • Getting hired
  • Evaluating the impact of your program
  • Working effectively with children, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and hosts

The ultimate purpose of is to help you deliver presentations that have a positive, meaningful and motivational benefit for students, teachers, librarians, educational specialists, administrators and parents, increase your visibility and assist you in your quest to secure engagements.

For Advice on how to start looking for a school visit, read this article from Alexis:

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Sounds like a great system – shame we don’t have something similar in Canada.


  2. these reminders to avoid mistakes are good for conference presenters as well! 😉 point taken….. lol


  3. Great tips. 🙂


  4. This is such a great article because picture books (especially the ones presented in front of large (and small) groups of young picture book children really are to be performed and accessed aurally/orally/visually otherwise they are lost on them. Like drama. The more audio/visual techniques the better.


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