Thanks for your interest in my presentation. I enjoy sharing the stories behind the books I've worked on with kids, parents, teachers, librarians, and others interested in writing and illustrating. I hope to interest an audience in how stories they've read have been told, and in how they might tell stories of their own. I hope the information below helps you decide if my presentation might be a good fit for your audience and, if so, that it helps you prepare for a visit.
I start with my childhood love of drawing — something I think a lot of kids recognize and identify with — and with examples of drawings I made as a kid. Students will recognize the subject matter: cars, monsters, Bert and Ernie, dinosaurs, Yoda. I show how I kept drawing through school and how a class in college lead to a career making children’s books.
Then it's on to working as an author and illustrator. Students first see where I've gotten ideas for some of my books, and then what it takes to turn an idea into a book. Students see sketches, storyboards, book dummies. (An example of a book dummy is on YouTube, here.) They see how each plays a role in the process, and hear how the form of the book influences the way authors and illustrators tell stories. (Think page turns. One review said about my work, “he also knows how to give his pictures a cinematic energy, especially in the way he “cuts” from page to page.” I liked that, and like to show students what that means.)
I talk in particular about making nonfiction books. I hope students see that the creative process is a way to engage with and learn about their world. Writers don't only write what they know, as the familiar advice goes. Writers also write what they want to know. I show different kinds of research tools and experiences: books, articles, and (reputable) web sites; talking with experts; trips to museums, zoos, and dance studios; looking at model space ships. I talk about the challenge and fun of selecting, arranging, and shaping that information for the final book.
I talk about working with editors and show students something they'll recognize: work covered with notes and questions. I want kids to understand art requires (and rewards) persistence, thought, and work. It is rewarding, purposeful, and often fun work — but it's work.
I show the studio in Brooklyn I share with three fellow author/illustrators, and the tools used to make drawings. Videos help explain the details of the tools I use to make a picture. Finally, there is a glimpse of the production work and printing processes that turn drawings into books.
I give the presentation with humor and energy, and work to keep the audience’s interest. The slide show clocks in at about thirty to forty minutes, which typically leaves fifteen to twenty minutes for the Question and Answer and sketching period. Timing can be adjusted to fit a school's needs. Finally, if the school can provide an 18" x 24" (or larger) drawing pad, I'll do some drawing during the Q&A part of the presentation. All drawings stay with the school.
For What Ages?
The presentation can be shifted to fit different grade levels, schools, and classes. Having said that, because there is so much about process and revision and research and artistic decision-making in the presentation, I find that it works for grades 1 and up, works best for grades 3 and up. It is really more than kindergarteners want to hear. For kindergarteners what seems to work best for me is simply reading and drawing, rather than the whole slide show.
Preparation for a Visit
My presentation is focused on the process of making my books, and assumes familiarity with them, in particular Locomotive, Moonshot, and The Racecar Alphabet. Presentations are also available that focus solely on the creation of a particular title. These presentations are available for Moonshot, Ballet for Martha, and Locomotive. Please let me know if there are other titles of special interest and I will be glad to emphasize that material in my presentations. Please note that when students are made familiar with the books before a visit, presentations become more enjoyable, relevant, and rewarding.
I bring and use my own laptop when I give presentations. (My presentations are built using Apple's Keynote presentation software, and using my laptop saves us both from having to wonder about software and formatting variables.) I'll bring a VGA adapter and an HDMI adapter and should be able to plug into your projector or A/V system.
I won't need to stand at the computer while presenting, but will want to be able to see the display on my laptop. A sound system or speakers help with a couple of video clips in the presentation but aren't necessary.
At the risk of stating the obvious, please be sure the projector is bright enough and the ambient lighting can be made low enough that the presentation can be seen.
Book Sales and Signings
I’m happy to sign and personalize books sold at events and presentations, but don't sell the books myself. (I don’t have the inventory, the skill set, or the contractual right.) Sales can be coordinated through the bookseller or wholesaler of your choice, or directly through the publishers, some of whom offer a discount for author visit sales. Many of my books are published by Simon & Schuster. Information on ordering S&S titles is here.
The fee for a school visit is $2500 for a full day, which can include up to three presentations. (After three I begin slurring my words.)
About the fee: over the years, and to my disappointment, I've learned that when I'm at work, I'm making a living, and when I'm not, I'm not. If my fee is not a good fit with your budget, you can find someone whose honorarium works for you. A list of other Simon & Schuster authors who do school visits is here. Some of my personable and talented studio mates also make school visits, including Sophie Blackall, Edward Hemingway, and Sergio Ruzzier.
Transportation and Lodging
Transportation and lodging in a local hotel for the night preceding the visit must also be provided for visits outside New York City. (I don't own a car; transportation generally means commuter rail, Amtrak, or airplane.)
Please send an e-mail to brian (at) brianfloca.com. It will help me spot your email amid the spam if you please include “school visit query” or “mail from brianfloca.com” in your subject heading.
“Brian took our students on an exciting journey through his creative and writing processes with his lively presentation. He brought us up close and personal into his New York City studio. He delved into the intricacies of his research by sharing his travel experiences and how they influence his artwork. Brian had each and every student in the palm of his hand with an intimate portrait of his life and work. His presentations are extremely entertaining and he related as beautifully to our first graders as he did to our sixth graders.”
Barbara Burns, Lower School Librarian, Norfolk Academy, Norfolk, VA
“Brian Floca captivated students with his good humor and inventive presentation. Whether connecting the beginnings of his career to childhood drawings of dinosaurs or describing how being curious—about race cars or ships or space—can to lead to a book, Mr. Floca emphasized that the passion a writer needs lies in everyone. His impact was lasting: for weeks after his visit, students chose to write their own books during playtime and recess.”
Liz Leyden, St. Clement's School PTO, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.