A few weeks ago I was a visiting author at Central Park Elementary school in Midlothian, IL for their “I love to read week”. Prior to the visit, I was particularly anxious considering the student body was somewhere around 750 students. I spent weeks agonizing over the program as I searched through old posts in the Facebook group “Creating Engaging School Visits” to help me get my thoughts together. (Side note; this is an awesome group for authors needing tips on doing school/ library events successfully, founded by Michelle Cusolito.)
I even had one author private message me sharing details on different props she uses and all the elements that help her keep the kids engaged. This was especially helpful for me because I slowly started to think about the character I had and what things I could do to bring life to my presentation. During this prep time, fellow author Kim Norman released a book on this particular topic, her timing couldn’t have been better. Check it out.
After all that time I spent trying to figure out what to do, I had an awakening. The students were so interested in learning about my childhood in Zimbabwe and the different experiences I had from theirs. I realized I had forgotten to reconnect to what makes me who I am today. I did mention where I was born during my talk, in addition to giving the kids a quick geography lesson, but I really didn’t think that elementary students would be particularly interested in my childhood. By the time I was done they had learned how to say mangwanani (maa-ngwah-naa-nee), which is good morning in Shona, my native language. One student wanted to know how to say “I love to read”. Wow! That moment was mind-blowing. Hearing all the kids chant ndinofarira kuverenga, pronouncing the words just like any other native speaker made my heart so happy :).
By the end of it all, I recognized that although my fellow authors had poured lots of golden nuggets into my bucket, I had to do my part to find my unique voice. I had to be myself. Those students needed to hear the stories of a young Christine that played with real mud, made soccer balls from trash bags and rope, loved gardening with her grandma, had a fabulous time in boarding school, played geography games for fun, and so on. I suspect I did a pretty good job, I certainly felt good about it :).
What have you learned in your author presentations?