So last week I was down in Florida visiting family and while there, I made a trip to visit my sister-in-law's classroom. She's a 3rd grade teacher and her class has been reading some of my Pirate School and CatKid books this year. They all wrote me letters back in the fall and I promised to try to visit them...a promise I made good on last Monday.
Public speaking in front of children is completely unlike speaking to a group of adults. If you're uninteresting, adults will simply ignore you and do something else while your talking, but kids tend to give you their full attention and hang on what you say in a way that can freak some people out. Personally, I've always got along with kids. Talking to them is always a source of great material.
I used to volunteer in a school, reading to the same kid once a week for the entire year. One day, the boy I read to got into an argument with a girl who had joined us. She was telling me about a book her older sister was reading called "True Ghost Stories." The boy rolled his eyes and gave the simple response "Fakes." Anyone who has read the first CatKid book will find something familiar in that argument as it made it's way into that book.
For the class visit last week, I decided to read the first few chapters of Pirate School #8. There were three classes there (about 75 kids) and they were all excited, especially when I had them join in every time "Arrr!" appeared, which as any good pirate knows, is rather frequently. It was only the second time I've read Pirate School to a group but it went very well. When reading aloud, you're either feeling it or not.
My favorite part is always the question and answer period that follows. Given access to ask an adult any type of question that pops into their minds, kids can come up with some great ones. Here's some of the more interesting ones:
- (In response to me stating Man U was my favorite soccer team) "My question is two questions and they're connected. First, were you upset when Manchester United lost 1-4 to Liverpool...."
- "CatKid is a girl who can turn into a cat, right?"
- "Mine's not really a question, but do you know what the best thing about WalMart is? Their low prices."
- "Are any of your characters based on like people you know?"
- "How do you write such good stories? You really draw me in with all the questions in the book?" (This one very much impressed me)
- "My little brother is evillllll" (said in a creepy voice with scary hand gestures)
I've mentioned before how I often feel disconnected to my books after their published, especially the children's books. This is where these readings become such an enjoyable event. To see how involved kids get with the books definitely makes me feel proud that I'm doing something worth doing.
I've never cared so much about becoming a "bestselling" author. For me, it's always been more important that the books make an impact on whoever reads them. This is why, when I hear from parents that their kids were "playing" Pirate School or CatKid or even Supertwins, it's better than any sales numbers ever could be.