Arranging a Skype Visit with Eric

“One of the best things about technology is the way it brings people together, even when they’re far away. Over the years I’ve visited hundreds of classrooms around the world in person. I always enjoy doing that. But sometimes it’s just not feasible, given the expense, the time involved, and the need to coordinate tight schedules.”

This is when technology comes to the rescue.

Eric recently had a Skype visit with children in Houston, Texas, talking about his book, Little Red Hot. The librarian, Mrs. Karyn Lewis, shared this about the experience:

Our Skype visit with Mr. Kimmel was a hit with my students and teachers! We had just voted LITTLE RED HOT as our favorite Texas 2×2 book by our Kindergartners, and so reached out to Eric on Twitter to let him know the great news! He was happy to work with our end of year schedule to find a time when we could visit with him to celebrate. He read us the book, answered questions from the students, and we even got to meet his snake! When the visit was over, the students told me, “That was fun! I love that book!” and the teachers said, “I can’t wait to read more of his books to my class!” We would definitely visit with him again!

Karyn Lewis (Librarian at Meadow Wood Elementary, Houston, TX)

Would you like to arrange a similar Skype visit for your school or library?

Skype visits are generally 45 minutes long on the average, depending on the age level of the children. Programs for younger children (K-2) tend to be shorter (30 minutes). Programs for older children (3rd grade and up) may be as long as an hour. Skype sessions as early as possible to reserve the date you’d like. Be aware that Eric lives in Portland, OR. The time change needs to be taken into account if your school is in another time zone. 

A typical author visit would look like this:

Eric is in his basement office—his “Hobbit Hole” as he calls it—where he does nearly all of his writing. Warning: it isn’t neat and tidy. Eric surrounds himself with some of his favorite things: his fishtank, his banjo, and his pet snake, Pirate. Pirate inspired one of his chapter books, HISSSS!!!! Pirate doesn’t mind coming out of his habitat to say hello to the children. Eric will ask permission first. He realizes that some people—including adults—are deathly afraid of snakes.

Eric will then share one of his books. It might be one that is already published. It might also be one that he is still working on. He talks about how the book got started; where he got the idea; problems that he ran into as he developed the story; how he works with editors and illustrator. His purpose is to give children an idea of how complicated the writing process is. We don’t just write a story once and five minutes later it appears on a bookshelf.

The rest of the visit—generally 20 minutes or so—is devoted to having the children ask Eric questions about books, writing, how he became a writer. Nothing is off-limits, except that it is important to have the teachers work with the children on preparing their questions before the session. What are the questions that will help children improve as writers? It’s nice to know what Eric’s favorite color is (GREEN) or what he likes to eat best (PIZZA). Question time, however, would be better spent asking how he develops ideas or what made him want to become a writer in the first place.

It is important that the children listen to the questions their classmates are asking so they don’t repeat a question that has already been asked. In certain situations it helps to think of questions as a class before the visit and assign specific questions to each child. No matter what happens, Eric treats every child with dignity and respect. All questions are answered and valued.

Eric will keep answering questions until the children have asked them all. He wants to make sure that every child is included and has a chance to ask his or her question.

It helps if children are able to practice speaking to the computer microphone, using a loud voice. A teacher should be on hand to help them if they are not speaking clearly or if Eric isn’t sure about the question.

Do not hesitate to let Eric know before the session if there are any specific books or aspects of writing that you would like him to focus on. He is happy to do that. Similarly, if there are any topics or issues you would like him to avoid, please tell us. (Example: a child may have a traumatic fear of spiders. It might be a good idea to avoid Anansi the Spider.)

The cost of a full Skype presentation is $300.

Please contact Val Hornburg at with three or four possible dates for a Skype Author Visit. We will do our best to find a date that works for both of us.


To request a Skype author visit, please review ALL of the information above. Then send an email to Eric’s assistant Val at

Please answer ALL of the following questions in a numbered list. (Sorry to seem picky, but following this strict format saves loads of time for all of us.)

1. What is your name and where do you teach? Include your school, city, state, and time zone.

2. What are a few dates/times that would work well for you? Please list your top THREE CHOICES. If your first choice is available when you email, we will reply within a week or so to confirm and schedule your visit. Please note that we are located in Portland, Oregon. We are on Pacific Standard Time. If you request a 10am visit, we will assume you mean 10am PST. If you live in another time zone, please be clear about the time you’re requesting.

3. How many students will be in the group? Which grade(s) will be included? (There is no limit on the number of children. However, it is best to group children of similar age together. K-2, 3-4, 5-6 or K-3 and 4-6 are good combinations. Grouping younger children with older children is not a good idea. Fifth graders understand the writing process in a different way than first graders. Grouping dissimilar ages together inevitably means that some children are going to be left out at some point.)

4. What book(s) will the students have read prior to our Skype visit? This is required for free Q and A sessions and highly recommended for all other visits. There is no point of children talking to an author whose books they have not read.

5. What is your username on Skype? (You can send this to us later if you don’t have one yet. You should make sure you have a working Skype connection at least a week before your scheduled visit.) We have found that it is important to schedule a Skype meeting with the teacher and/or tech person BEFORE the actual Skype visit. This allows us to make sure all connections are working and that there are no technical problems to address. It is important to solve tech problems in advance so we don’t run into them while the children are in the room, waiting for the program.

6. Please provide a classroom or cell phone number where you can be reached on the day of our scheduled visit. This needs to be a phone that is with you and turned on at the time of our chat. We will call that number if we run into any technical difficulties. If for some reason we are not able to establish a working Skype connection or run into any unforeseen difficulties, we will gladly reschedule the visit at another time.

7. Would you like to make it possible for children to order personalized, signed copies of Eric’s book? We have made arrangements with our favorite local bookstore, A Children’s Place, to handle ordering and shipping of selected titles. If this seems like an opportunity you would like to offer children and teachers in your school, let us know. We will send you a pdf copy of the order form to print out and distribute. Please note that ordering books is not required. We provide it as a service since teachers and parents have told us over the years that they appreciate being given the opportunity. Having your own autographed book after meeting the author definitely adds to student excitement.

We believe the basic questions involving a Skype visit with Eric are covered here. If we have left anything out or if you have additional questions or concerns, feel free to email Eric’s assistant Val Hornburg at

Eric looks forward to talking books and writing with you and your students!

Happy reading and writing!

(Special thanks to author, Kate Messner, for letting us use her website’s Skype Author Visit website page as a template. You can visit Kate’s website by clicking HERE.)

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