First Author School Visit
When I approached the classroom for my first talk of the day, slightly dreading standing in front of a class of seventh graders, a young lady exited an external covered locker area. She intercepted me and asked “Are you the author?” I said “yes” and she replied “I’ve read the first chapter of your book on your website and loved it.” She smiled and then disappeared though the doorway to the classroom.
As an introduction to my first ever school visit as an author, I must say it blew away my nervousness like a breeze dispersing a mist.
I entered the classroom and was introduced to the class and my talk commenced. I spoke about the usual things an author does when addressing an audience: how I came to be a writer; how long it took to write my first novel; how long it took to get published; my hobbies and the general life that encompasses being a writer. By the time I finished that part of the talk I was very relaxed and enjoying the experience.
When we spoke the week before the teacher, Hannah Anderson, wanted me to talk about creative writing and she also indicated that it would not be my only visit, so I felt I could deal with a single part of the craft for this talk. As an initial subject I picked characterization as I believe that is probably the most crucial part of creating a story that a reader will keep reading. If the characters are interesting a reader will want to follow their journey, if a writer doesn’t take too many liberties with plot and setting.
From the start of this stage of the talk the children were enthralled by the subject and very active as we created four races of characters. As I’m a fantasy writer it won’t be a surprise that I asked for those style of characters, but, as is the norm with young minds, they completely threw me with their suggestions. None of the Tolkienesque races I expected actually made an appearance and one of the races, agreed by all the class, was Dog. If that was what they wanted then who was I to stifle their creative juices. By the end of the session the ‘Dog’ race had actually turned into the ‘Flying Spider Dog’ race as the students had decided that this particular species had wings, eight legs and twenty eyes. To say that my first experience with a class of middle grade kids was hilarious would be an understatement. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the experience and was fully relaxed when I then had to repeat the talk with sixth grade students.
I conducted the same talk, but with different results when it came to character development. This class decided that the four characters we would design were to be Elves, Wizards, Eagles and Cyclops. These were probably more aligned to my expectations with regard to races, but, as with the seventh grade students, the attributes given to these characters were outside the box. The particular elf we were designing had a phobia about the color green and as it was a wood elf I could foresee big problems for this character. They also stated that the Elvish race would worship the Eagle as part of their Pantheon of gods. This was pretty amazing as they were now creating links between characters just by designing their attributes. For sixth graders I think this is a pretty advanced abstract thought process; creating potential connections before a story is even begun. By the way, the wizard had green skin, so another connection there with the elf’s phobia.
Thoughts on my first ever author visit? Absolutely amazing and I’d say to any other author out there who is offered an opportunity for a school visit; do it, it’s a blast 🙂