Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Skype City - Old Dog Learns New Trick

I read with fascination old dog Marsha's ventures into the world of A. books. Old dog Claire has been venturing into the world of technology, kicking all the way. But last week I learned a new trick. I held a Skype author visit with a class of sixth graders in Pennsylvania. They were reading my nonfiction book Children of Alcatraz in tandem with the novel Al Capone Does My Shirts. Their energetic teacher had contacted me, wondering if I would share my thoughts via the internet. I panicked. I'd heard all about Skype author visits, but had not entered that new world. Please. Do I have to? We had skyped with our daughter when she studied in Ireland a few years back, but not since. Yet I knew that I couldn't say no. Next September I finally have a new book coming out. Lisa and Jackie and other writer friends are doing book trailers and some even tweeting. Come on, Claire. Sure you just celebrated a big round number birthday, but you are not dead yet.

With trepidation I practiced the technology the day before and even fixed the glitch myself. Then early Friday morning (5:15 am PST) I sat up in bed, put on a fleece top over my pj's, and turned on my laptop. I looked into the screen and staring back at me was Patty Duke. I looked like the aging Patty Duke, often spotted out here in my neck of the woods. I think I even muttered that aloud. But then I told myself to get a grip. I greeted the students and began answering their questions and talking about the writing process. The hour flew by. I love talking to kids about reading and writing and the opportunity to support teachers who work with them every day.

The Skype visit lifted my spirits. I had learned something new to add to my 2011 list. It even empowered me to wade into the book trailer waters this week. Most of all, my Skype adventure reminded me to keep taking risks and exploring new options. To remember my early days of writing when everything was possible and failure just part of the mix. Technology will never take the place of writing a strong story. But in some deep way using Skype helped break through some of my paralysis about this new world of publishing platforms. So today as I write, I will try to remember that there are many ways to get my stories out into the world and people and technology to show the way. And hey, I just might be skyping with my grad students next semester, too.


  1. Oh, man I don't know what image I love the most, Claire: you sitting in bed with pjs barely disguised as you chat with a classroom or an aging Patty Duke roaming around western Washington.

    All of us with more than a few accumulated big birthdays birthdays, say it loud and proud: The future is ours!

  2. I agree: love the image of you Skyping in your PJs! The one time I did a Skype visit with a group of middle school girls, I started to stress about my outfit until I realized they'd only see me from the waist up. But I found the experience unsettling, mainly because the technology on their end wasn't working quite right. Still--they were in San Francisco and I was in Watertown; not bad.

  3. I was proud of my tech savvy yesterday for buying a new computer power cord instead of simply curling up in a whimpering mass and waiting for the malfunctioning cord to heal itself, but you are galaxies ahead, and you give me hope that maybe someday I will tiptoe into the brave new skype world. Thank you.