Connect Guys with Authors: Virtual Chats Make Writers Real and Relevant to Boys

Article excerpt

It was a sunny June afternoon, perfect for playing baseball, taking a dip in the local pool--or having a virtual chat with a favorite author over Skype about what you've been reading. That was the message the New Albany--Floyd County (Ind.) Public Library set out to impart this summer through our first "Guys Read" program series, which was designed to attract boys to the library and get them excited about books. We sought to make that virtual guy-to-author connection with the help of local high school teacher and Twitter legend Paul Hankins (@Pau1WHankins).

A voracious user of our library, Hankins quickly jumped at the chance to give something back. He turned out to be the perfect partner for this project: a passionate reader and, as a teacher and father of two, someone who's comfortable with kids.

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He suggested arranging Skype chats with some guy - friendly authors--an approach he has had success with in his high school classroom for many years. By reaching out, he has developed personal relationships with many authors through Twitter, by attending conferences, and via his classroom writing project rawinkonline.com.

Our first step was to approach authors who would appeal to our male readers, and this is where Hankins's expertise really helped. We decided on Phil Bildner (author of the Sluggers series about baseball and other sports books), and Scott Seegert and John Martin (cocreators of the Vordak the Incomprehensible books). Since Hankins had already established relationships with all three, they did the Skype chats for free.

Both kids and authors had a blast at these programs, and we were lucky to "host" authors who went the extra mile by recommending great books to our young patrons. Most of the youngsters had read our guests' books beforehand and were full of questions. Even those who hadn't read the books left excited by authors who encouraged them to write and to read what they like. The youngsters quickly grabbed copies of books the authors had recommended and books I featured on display. …