Now that school is back in session, we’re getting our usual flood of emails about Writers in Schools. In that stack, there are a fair number asking some variation of “How do I get involved in Writers in Schools?” The program can seem a little too good to be true—a full class set of books and an author visit—so we find a lot of teachers are surprised how easy it is to participate. And, if you teach in D.C. or in Baltimore, your first WinS visit is just an email away.
Step 1: Contact a PEN/Faulkner
The easiest way to get in touch is through our Writers in Schools account, which is wins[at]penfaulkner[dot]org. We check the account each day, and make sure that your request goes to the correct person. Let us know who you are, where you teach, and how you heard about the program. We will get back to you within a two to three business days with more details. Note that currently our programming is limited to D.C. Public & Public Charter Schools and to Baltimore City Schools, and that we work almost entirely with high schools (grades 9-12).
Step 2: Choose an Author
When we received your request, we’ll send along a list of books by participating local authors. This list has everything: novels, short story collections, memoirs, creative nonfiction, and even young adult novels for younger grades and reluctant readers. Take a look at the list, which includes a brief summary of each book as well as a listing of major themes, and let your contact at PEN/Faulkner know if something jumps out at you.
For most instructors this is the longest step. The list is long, and there are so many amazing choices. I’d recommend sticking with it. Sometimes the best visits and most perfect matches are the result of a lot of back-and-forth about which writer might work best. As always, PEN/Faulkner staff is on hand to provide advice and recommendations.
Step 3: Logistics & Observation
Once you’ve selected an author, we get to work ordering your class set of books and scheduling the actual date of the visit with the author. We always schedule visits at least six weeks in advance to give the books plenty of time to arrive, and give instructors and students plenty of time to read and discuss. When the visit is confirmed, PEN/Faulkner staff comes into your classroom to observe and talk a little bit about the visit. This gives us an idea of what preparation you’ve done for the visit, as well as offers the chance for us to meet before the big day.
Step 4: The Long Wait
Over the next few weeks, you’ll be reading and discussing the book, and you may not hear from PEN/Faulkner staff as much. We’ll get back in touch about a week before the visit, though, to confirm directions, time, and any other logistical concerns.
Step 5: The Visit
At this point you’ve highlighted, dog-eared, underlined, and post-it-ed your book. The only thing left to do is talk about it. We bring the author into your classroom for a discussion of the selected book, its inspiration, and the process of writing it. Students will have time to ask lots of questions, and then will get their books signed. After the visit, students take their books home to begin growing their personal libraries.
Step 6: After the Visit
We’ll send you an evaluation so that you can offer feedback about your experience working with Writers in Schools. And then we’ll start all over again to plan the next visit!
— Ariel Maritno
PEN/Faulkner Programs Coordinator