Last week, I had the privilege of speaking at an elementary school in my city…my first unofficial author visit. And it was so much fun! I spoke with two fourth grade classes about books and writing and inventions. Amazing! But I wasn’t sure it would be that way…
The Rochester Children’s Book Festival is a huge deal where I live. Rochester is not a big city, like Boston, New York, or Chicago, but we sure do know how to put on a children’s book fest! Now in its 21st year, the annual RCBF is host to 45 authors and illustrators, both local and not at all local and this year it takes place on Saturday, November 4th.
Over the years, I’ve spent many amazing Saturdays in November perusing the books, fan-girling the authors, and volunteering at this festival. As the main sponsor, the Rochester Area Children’s Writers and Illustrators group (a group I belong to) plays a major role and I’ve had the honor of volunteering in many ways like managing the flow of traffic in the busy main author area, being an author assistant, and announcing presentations by the authors. To say that being a part of the event is a writer’s dream of a way to spend a day (with books and the people who create them) would be an understatement!
As part of the book fest, published and non-published members of RACWI are invited to volunteer as visiting authors at the RCBF’s outreach program with the Rochester City School District. In my early years of writing I always passed up this opportunity. Even though I’ve always been very comfortable in a classroom setting—having spent years as a substitute teacher and also a reading teacher, I kind of felt like the kids would rather hear from a real author—a published author, not an wanna-be author like me. But the focus of the outreach program is to get inner city school kids excited about reading and writing, especially since many of them may not attend the book fest. Volunteers can present in any way they like from reading another author’s books, to talking about their own stories and their dreams of one day seeing them in book form. But still, for many years, I felt like there were writers many authors more qualified than me to speak to the kids about books.
But last year, while Spin the Golden Light Bulb was still out on submission to publishing houses, I took a deep breath and volunteered—hoping the children would not view me as an author-impostor. With my binder encased middle grade manuscript and a self created children’s story planner in hand, I dressed up, headed off the one of the city schools, and conducted my presentation to two third grade classes. I spoke to kids about creating memorable characters, reading excerpts from Spin the Golden Light Bulb; I spoke to them about my own ups and downs of getting publishing; I listened to their ideas for their own stories; and ultimately, I left them with their own story planners to use. I had a fabulous time chatting with them and I don’t even think they saw me as an author-impostor at all! In fact, before I left, they gave me all sorts of encouragement. Convinced that my story would be published one day, they made me promised to tell them if it ever is! Little did I know that one week later, my publication offer would come and my binder bound manuscript would soon be turned into a real book.
Almost exactly one year later, just last week, I volunteered again—this time with my ARC, my advanced reader’s copy of Spin the Golden Light Bulb in hand and presented to two amazing fourth grade classes at another city school. This time though, with a bit more confidence than the year before, I spoke to kids about all things books, writing, and publishing… I gave them a presentation on how writing futuristic books can help create our own future and I read a sneak peek preview of my first soon-to-be published book. It was an incredible day, meeting the children and hearing their enthusiastic ideas for their own inventions and stories. It was amazing meeting the librarian, and the teachers, and the volunteers from Altrusa who make the event happen each year. And it was especially wonderful to see how eager the kids were to talk about books.
The biggest lesson I learned in meeting the children and presenting to them was to get over myself. All those years I could have been volunteering for this program, I stayed away—worried I wasn’t author-ly enough to have something to offer these kids. When really, most kids simply want to be connected with…and books are one of the greatest connectors there are.
For privacy reasons, I wasn’t able to take pictures of the kids, but I was able to snap a picture of a few of them with my ARC. This photo will always remind me of the kids who listened to the first chapter so intently, the kids who became wide-eyed when I told them that no other kids had read this story yet…the kids who got a sneak peek at my first published book.
I plan to continue my author visits through this program, each year, as long as they’ll have me. I also plan on doing as many school visits as I can. I would have loved if an author came to my school growing up. I never knew that becoming a person who wrote the books I loved was even a tiny possibility. If I can inspire kids to write and to read—to open their world up to the millions of books that could make an impact on them—like so many other amazing authors do, then I will be so happy. Books are meant to be shared—and talked about. Author visits are a great way to do that.
So if any of you ever have the chance to share your love of books and writing with kids in any capacity, I say just do it. Your presentation doesn’t have to be award-winning. It just has to be genuine. If your love of books is there, it will most certainly shine through.
If you happen to be in the Rochester area this weekend, definitely stop by the Book Fest. I won’t be signing my book there this year, since it doesn’t release until January, but a little birdie told me that I may be signing both my books there next year. *squee!* Here’s the link so you can read all about the festival fabulous-ness! Rochester Children’s Book Festival.
Remember, Spin the Golden Light Bulb is available for pre-order now and pre-orders help so much—especially for authors of indie publishers, like Amberjack Publishing. So if you have any interest in reading it, or know a child who would, consider pre-ordering it. I would appreciate it so much!
And don’t forget to stop back on November 9th… two months out from launch day. Big things are happening. Big!
The debut of the Spin the Golden Light Bulb BOOK TRAILER will be happening right here on my site!!!! Plus, there will be a giveaway attached to it’s debut also. So…lots of fun things happening next week and I’m so excited…in case you couldn’t tell!
Have a fantastic week, friends! Thanks for stopping by:)