Speaking to a Scout Group
I had the opportunity to address a group of Girl Scouts recently about my life as a writer. Talking to them, and interacting with them, brought back a flood of memories.
Earlier in my writing career I spoke to students on frequent occasions. I have presented in cafeterias, gymnasiums, classrooms, home-school settings, school libraries, and public libraries, as well as to a wide variety of age groups. Some were one-time presentations; others were ongoing artist-in-residence venues. (Ongoing venues were even more fun because it gave opportunity to discover the promising writers in the crowd. I devised writing contests for students — the photo below shows a few of the proud winners.)
Not in Our Vocabulary
In my growing up years – all those eons ago – in our small school in our small town, I’d never even heard of an author visit. Such a term wasn’t even in our vocabulary. I’ve wondered from time to time what my life might have been like had I actually met and talked with (or listened to) an author when I was in elementary school. (That so-very impressionable age.) I truly believe it would have provided a strong springboard from which to launch out. I think it would have made the idea of writing as a profession much more of a reality rather than a faint figment of my imagination.
Because of this lack in my life, I have invested a great deal of time – and travel expense – to speak to students whenever I could. My hope was that there might be at least one in the crowd who one day would have the courage to step into the role of author because of my example and encouragement.
For the most part all of my student face-time experiences were positive. I remember only one occasion when the teacher left the room and used me as a stand-in while she took a break. Consequently, the students treated me with great disrespect. I felt bad for all concerned. But again, that was a rare experience.
Even students who are reluctant readers are, for the most part, impressed with a real live author. And all of them – reluctant and avid readers alike – come armed with a myriad of questions. Some of the more general might be:
- How long does it take to write a book?
- How many books have you written?
- Where do you get your ideas?
- Do you write about real, live people?
- Do you make a lot of money? (And the sister question: Are you rich?)
- When did you start writing?
- Why do you write for kids?
- What does it take to get published?
The biggest joy is taking the time to answer all the questions. I love it. The more questions, the better in my opinion. I love watching their faces as I pull book after book out of my bag and explain to them how the different titles came into being. I’m confident that just knowing there’s a human being behind each book, gives them a fresh hunger to read.
You Will be Richer
This is why I say when I spoke to the scout group the other day, it brought back memories. I enjoyed their questions, their interest, and their feedback. Such a fun experience.
While I realize that school security these days can be somewhat of a problem, young students still need to experience personal contact with authors. If you’re a published author and there’s a school in your neighborhood, check to see if you can stop by some day and make a presentation. The students will be richer for it.
And so will you.
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