I was honored to be invited by the prestigious School Library Journal to take over their Instagram account on 4/24/2020 and present my work and new book to school librarians, teachers, and the general public. The session is now available on Youtube for everyone to watch:
I spent 7 months in 2019 working on the a 'Spirit Animals' mural for Stevenson Elementary in Bellevue WA. Each of the 80 animals on this mural was designed by a kid.
Click here to read more about this project, see a making-of video, and look closer at all the creature art.
Author visit to Thoreau Elementary
Continuing my National Poetry Month school visits, I was honored to be invited to the Henry David Thoreau Elementary School in Kirkland, WA to present to a combination of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. Once again I was delighted to be able to read poems to the kids and talk about the writing process.
Having an intimate setting in the school library made the kids more willing to ask lots of questions. Once again we did the exercise of illustrating a Shel Silverstein poem, which produced these wacky images:
I always tell the kids to compare the images we create with the one Shel Silverstein used to illustrate his poem, and then decide for themselves who has the better imagination. They all conclude that kids have the better imagination, so I am hopeful it inspires them to be freer with their creative talents.
(Note: To see similar images from other school visits, click the School Visits tag on the right and scroll through the school visit blog postings).
To quote the school librarian: "Vikram's presentation was humorous and inspiring for students. He encouraged students through his own stories, poetry and art to persevere as they pursue their unique dreams and aspirations. This important message cannot be repeated enough and Vikram did so eloquently and with grace."
So humbling. :)
If you would like to arrange a school visit to a middle or elementary school, please contact me.
April is National Poetry Month and I like to do my little bit to help spread excitement for poetry, This month I was delighted to visit Audobon Elementary School in Redmond to share poetry with all the forth and fifth graders (about 175 students). What a blast!
The school arranged two special assemblies, one for forth graders, and one for fifth graders, in which I was able to present to the kids, read poems from my book, talk to kids about the writing process (inspiration, practice, revision), do a Q&A and generally interact with all the wonderfully curious kids.
I usually follow up my presentation with an interactive exercise where I illustrate a poem for the kids based on their input, imagination and suggestions. The end result is usually pretty wacky and a big hit with the kids:
Last I heard the kids were still very excited about my visit. Humbling to be able to inspire at least some of them to write and draw more. If you know a elementary school that would like to arrange a visit, let me know.
Author Visit to Redmond Middle School
I was recently invited by the teachers and librarian at Redmond Middle School (RMS) to make an 'Author Visit' and present my poetry and art to RMS 6th grade classes (all 11 of them - totaling about ~330 students).
RMS certainly rolled out the red carpet for me:
I conducted five 40-minute sessions meeting 2 to 3 6th grade classes at a time. I split each session between introducing myself, reading a few poems from my book (including talking about sources, inspiration, the writing process, rejected poems, alternate endings, forms, styles and intentional poetry construction), conducting an interactive poetry-plus-drawing exercise, showing and talking about some of my art, (for some classes) showing how to draw cartoon faces and expressions, and fielding questions.
Above: sharing one of my early formative experiences with the combination of poetry and cartooning, a 1954 MAD Magazine cartoon interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven by comic genius Will Elder. Since this comic is almost impossible to find, and well worth reading for any poetry or comic fan, here are links to the panels:
Above: Reading a poem (titled 'Curse of the Catchy Tune') from my book. Here the kids are raising their hands in response to my question: "How many of you have a song stuck in your head RIGHT NOW?!?"
Above: Interactive drawing exercise with the kids where I first read a poem to the kids ('The Yipiyuk' by Shel Silverstein), then ask them to imagine the creature and give me one-word descriptive adjectives. We collect a bunch of these adjectives and then I draw the cumulative creature for the kids. Yes, this is design by committee and the results are well worth it.
By the end of the sessions, many of the kids were excited (and, I like-to-think inspired - at least a couple came up to me and professed they love to write poems and draw and want to "do what you do")(My response: "Go for it and let nothing stop you!!!"). One class even took my business cards and insisted I autograph each and everyone of them. So touching and humbling! :)
Thank you RMS 6th graders for being such a wonderful and engaged audience. And many thanks to the School Librarian and Language Arts Teachers for inviting me.
I am looking forward to visiting RMS again in the future. Go Grizzlies! And never stop chasing bubbles!
Click here to LIKE this on Facebook.
A School Visit Thank You
A few weeks ago I did my first in person school visit. This week I received a wonderful card from the class I visited with little thank you comments, a color version of the drawing I did in the class, and even a miniature replica of the book!
Some comments from the kids:
"You inspired me to create a poem!"
"Write more books!"
"We had tons of fun!"
I conducted a school author-visit to Spiritridge Elementary School (Bellevue WA) today where I spent an hour with a bunch of fourth graders. After reading poems from my book, talking about poetry, poetic forms, influences, and the poetry writing process, we decided to do a live spot drawing.
First I read them a poem by Shel Silverstein titled 'The Yippyuck' (about a thing called the Yippyuck which is not described in the poem). I then asked them to imagine, based on what they heard, what a Yippyuck would look like and drew it for them on the Smart Board as they described it, which turned out to be "big!", "fat!", "slimy!", "pointy nose!", "sharp ears!", "wings!", "fangs!", "evil smile!", "multiple eyes!", "five legs!", "duck tail!", "pig tail!", "antennas!". "tentacles!", "hair like medusa!", "halo!" .. needless to say we were all in splits by the end of this drawing session....! :)
If you ever wondered what a creature designed by a roomful of 4th graders would look like, well this is it:
Skype Visit Video
Here is a video of my Washington International School Skype visit. Warning, it's pretty long!
Author Skype Visits to Schools
Today I did my first author Skype visit to a school in Washington DC, right across the country from Seattle. I was invited to kick off the school's 'Poem In Your Pocket Day' in their morning assembly in front of 400 kids (the entire elementary school).
To keep the visit engaging, I decided to not just read poetry to the kids, but to illustrate it LIVE so they could watch me draw along with hearing the words, and bring the words and images together to their funny 'punch-line' conclusion. Thanks to the magic of Skype Desktop Sharing, the kids were able to see me draw on my tablet even as I spoke to them on Video. The school librarian later sent me the following testimonial:
"Vikram's presentation via Skype was excellent! Our 300 students in grades one through five sat enraptured during his time with us and were inspired to ask him lots of questions. He focused on his experiences as a poet for our "Poem in Your Pocket Day" assembly and was both funny and completely on target. I had at least a dozen of our teachers tell me how wonderfully perfect they found his presentation to be."
-- Primary School Teacher Librarian, Washington International School.
The visit was a great success and I am going to be doing more such Skype visits, especially as I feel I can create a unique poetry + illustration experience for the kids and hopefully inspire them on two fronts.
If you know of a school that would like to invite an author/poet/illustrator for Skype visits, please let me know.