Ellen Hopkins visited our school today! In September she held a contest for teachers and librarians to enter to win a free visit during Teen Read Week. Our school was one of four that won a free author visit. Unfortunately our visit had to be rescheduled due to flight cancellations and issues, so she made time to visit us yesterday (Nov. 5th). As part of the contest we had to have books available for the students to buy and provide her with two hours of speaking time. The amazing Schuler Books and Music in East Lansing provided books for our students to buy. We broke up Ellen’s visit into two one hour presentations so she could reach more students.
Ellen ended up getting to school earlier than she expected, so she hung out in my classroom during my 2nd hour. The kids were star struck! She listened to me finish reading a chapter of Unwholly out loud and then told us about her friendship with the author, Neal Shusterman. She commented on the student-made poster on the wall for Michelle Hodkin’s debut The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. She told the class about Michelle and how she helped Michelle work on the sequel, The Evolution of Mara Dyer. Talk about cool! We also found out that Heather Brewer’s (the author of the Vladimir Todd series) husband is from Clio (the town where our school is located). Small world, right?! She took some time to answer my students’ questions and talk to them about the books they’re reading.
Before the presentations, Ellen offered to hang out outside the cafeteria so students could meet her, buy some books, and chat with her in general. Some of them were nervous to approach her (so cute!), so I nudged them over. I had a sub in my room at the time who I asked to bring my class down to meet Ellen. We took some pictures, had books and bookmarks signed, etc. She offered some writing advice to some of my aspiring authors, too.
Ellen’s presentation was fantastic! She took time to tell the students about her life growing up, her life as an author, and the inspiration for her books. The kids loved learning more about her daughter who inspired Kristina’s character in Crank. Her books have inspired and helped so many of my students, so I know her presentation really resonated with them. She did get some boos when she told us what a big SF Giants fan she is! ;) One of my favorite parts of her presentation was how much she stressed that students can be successful writers and make a living. I really hope the aspiring authors in the room heard her say that.
We had a number of students pre-order books to make sure they received the book(s) they really wanted. I was amazed how many more students came up to the stage after the presentation to buy a book or two. Some asked to take a picture with her, which of course Ellen did, and some who didn’t buy books received a bookmark from Ellen which she signed and personalized. I’m pretty sure Schulers ordered 175 copies of Ellen’s books and that there were only about 50 or 60 left at the end of the day!
**Side note–Ellen signed all of the extra copies, so if you’d like a signed copy of one of her books stop by your local Michigan Schuler Books and Music to get one! **
The day was wonderful. The students were excited and engaged and pretty much everything went smoothly and according to plan. I couldn’t be more thankful for Ellen and her books; it’s so generous that she did this for us and a few other schools. A huge THANK YOU, Ellen, from me and the rest of the staff and students; we were thrilled to meet you!