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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Visits, Skype Visits, INK Think Tank

My Ebook and App class at Rutgers is coming to a close. Next week my students will present their projections for what specific libraries should do about ebooks and apps over the next 1, 3, anad 5 years. As a final step, I invited Vicki Cobb to visit us to talk about her ambitious experiments with having authors do viritual visits to schools. In my mind, these virtual visits and the ongoing relationships between school and author they make possible is part of the horizon of possibility of digital publishing. Because, for us in NF, part of what we are offering to young readers is a model of our process — how we research and write our books. And Skype and similar tools make it possible for us to be embedded in a school or class over a semester or year.

Vikki, it turns out, does not need to rely on sometimes-kludgy-Skype, she has better equipment whicht Rutgers is able to connect to in a special media room. The advantage was that we had a better image of Vikki, and two separate screens to see what she saw of us, while we spoke with her. We had a lively class, as Vikki talked about the experiment they are doing working with a school over an extended period — a test case in what author, class Skyping can be. Though I am not part of that group, I have been having very similar discussions with schools. I like the idea of creating an ongoing relationship with a school, its teachers, its librarian, and its students where I share my process and they can use me as a resource — but all of this is done via Skype, so no travel, and not a big claim on my time

Take a look at the INK Think Tank site, I’ll report back from my experiences, and please post your thoughts. Can we all come up with FAQs on Skype visits, rules of the road, techniques for creating better Skype visits, a cost structure, tips and disasters — in other words, share and build a framework for what to do and how to do it?


  1. Thanks for the opportunity to talk to so many committed, interested educators in your class, Marc. I see that you are changing lives by educating leaders in education. In the founding of INK and its pilot project with the Bogert school, I’m learning that if change is going to come, where nonfiction authors as a resource to schools becomes a part of the fabric of American education, it needs an organization to make it happen. We are working to establish a brand–Ink Think Tank and Authors on Call, its videoconferencing division, represent excellence, much as certain publishers have come to represent excellence. (Individual authors can establish their own brand but effecting change in education will be spotty at best.) In earning that brand of excellence, we’re finding that there is still a learning curve–discovering how to work with teachers and students and discovering the possibilities and limitations of technology. It is very enlightening for us authors to see how much teachers bring to the program and learning that what we can do best is to inspire curiosity, writing skills, and hard work in others.