Ask Roland Smith




I.  Research Phase


To get ready for your interview session with author Roland Smith, the first thing you and your partner must do is get the background story by becoming thoroughly familiar with Roland's life and his works.


Being an interviewer is a bit like being a detective. You will be looking for clues about Roland everywhere - on his website, in newspaper articles, in other interviews, and in biographical sketches. All of these can be found on the Internet. And don't forget to look inside Roland's books, themselves for clues.


* From time to time in the webquest you will see a *.  When you do, take special note because there will be an important message for you or an assignment you must complete. 


Write Notecards:


  • We've heard that when Roland is researching a book, he writes down everything he's learned on notecards. Sounds like a good idea, so why don't you try this same approach.  * You should gather at least 25 note cards, and as you follow this webquest, fill the cards with information  about Roland. 


Meet Roland  by watching a video:

                                   Roland talks about Peak



Did you learn some facts about Roland? Write them down on your cards. You may be able to use some of these facts to form good questions for the interview later.


* Whenever you think, "Hey, I'd like to ask Roland Smith that," quick write down that question.


Roland's Website 

You are searching for all those tidbits that the other interviewers, like Babara Walters, may have overlooked. These are the details that show you are a dedicated professional. By reading the pages on Roland's website, you will discover information about the man: his life, his family, where he's traveled, what he's done,  his special talents, his likes and his dislikes,  and you will become acquainted with his books. Maybe you can even uncover information about some of his future projects. Go explore.







When it comes time for the interview, you will shine  if you have read some of Roland Smith's books. It's sure to put him at ease if you can talk knowingly about his writing. Be sure to mention what you like best.


Did you know that many authors say they get ideas for new books during their school author visits? 


Look around your classroom and gather up all the Roland Smith books you can find. Leaf through the books. Look for clues about the author by reading the  book jacket flaps and the dedications.


Think back over the visiting authors you've seen  - Andrea Cheng, Ted and Betsy Lewin, Patricia Polacco, Douglas Florian. They all have shared similar advice: "Write about what you know." " Keep the story close to your heart." "Do what you feel passionate about." 



* Do you think Roland subscribes to these same ideas? Discuss this with your partner.


Can you pick up clues from Roland's books about what's important to him?  What do you notice about his characters, the settings, events, and locations in his books? Are there any common trends?


* See if you can find five recurring themes from his books. Discuss them with your partner and write them down. They may help you write your interview questions.



More Roland Smith resources:


Roland's background ("From the Zoo to Kenya: My Journey as a Writer", written by Roland Smith)


Tampa Bay newspaper article about Roland ("Inside the Writer's Mind")


In-depth biography (from Contemporary Authors)


Liberty Tribune article ("Visiting Author Shares Secret")



Now you've finished the intensive research phase of your project.  



II. Write the Introduction


You are now an expert about Roland Smith. Next you should write a brief (about one minute) introduction welcoming Roland. This should contain information that you have gathered in your research.

When you write your introduction, consider your audience - your peers in the 5th and 6th grade. You want to grab their attention. Keep your introduction crisp and to the point.  Mention just some highlights of Roland's life and his accomplishments (you can discuss these more in depth during your interview through the questions you ask). Try to say what is it about him and his books that make him a special author and why his books are worth reading.


Here are two webpages with tips about how to write introductions: 




Introducing a speaker. Toastmaster Club



* Write your introduction, then practice reading it aloud.



* Revise, Revise, Revise.


     Make sure the intro is short, yet packed with interesting information for your listeners.


* Practice reading your revised introduction aloud.



III. Craft your Questions for the Interview

For the interview, you will need to prepare at least 12 dynamite questions  to ask Roland. Think about your goals and what you want to know. Always remember your audience of 5th and 6th grade students. What will they want to know? What questions can you ask Roland that will make kids want to read his books? Is there something that  Roland can say in the interview that will inspire students or that might give them ideas about how they can improve their writing? How do you get him to talk about those things? Remember you only have so much time for the interview, so make each question count!


Here is some advice when it comes to formulating your interview questions.


  • Good questions do not have obvious answers.


    Good questions are open-ended, which means that they can have a range of answers, they cannot be answered  in just one way or with one word - yes or no. 


  • Good questions are always respectful and courteous of others' views. 

  • Don't ask authors to "explain" the endings of their books. Authors  want readers to think and discuss these elements of their books. 


    • Good questions are unique. They draw the author out and make him think.


    • Good questions might begin by comparing and contrasting two books or two characters.


    • Good questions are framed and include some background research information. For instance if you want to ask Roland Smith how he was able to write so realistically about mountain climbing in Peak and whether he climbs himself, you might ask the question something like......  In Peak you describe so vividly the risks, the equipment, the skills that are needed to climb safely and the exhaustion the climbers feel. Have you yourself ever climbed Mt. Everest of another mountain - like perhaps Mt. St. Helens that is near your home?


    • Realize that one question may lead to another. Be prepared to ask that follow-up question. 


      • During the interview - listen carefully to what Roland  is saying.  He may say something that raises another topic or makes you think of another question. There may be more to the story and you can find out, but only if you ask.  


In this link author David Schwartz writes about the sorts of questions, both good and bad, that he's been asked by students during his school visits:




* Type your 12 questions into the class wiki.


 * Read the questions your classmates have written.







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