What an exciting first week back to work. I received my new iMAC, which I’m excitedly tapping away on, and wrote THREE new stories!!! And to sweeten the deal of a great creative week, I got to take off my “teacher hat” today at school and put on my “author/illustrator hat.”
I. Loved. It. (!!!!)
I’ve always enjoyed public speaking, so today was no different. I had prepared a short talk about my “journey” to becoming an author, and then gave the school four specific points that I wanted to discuss. Because the presentation was part of the kick-off assembly for Parent Council’s “Read A Thon,” I wanted to tie reading into the creative process of writing. I’ll attach the basic outline of my talk below, in case you care at all.
The kids, though wired for the beginning of the assembly, were VERY excited to hear what I had to say and paid close attention. They laughed at all of the right spots, and relished in the story I read to them at the end of my presentation. Of course, I decided to read them a story I wrote called “Art’s Farts,” and so I knew that whether they were in grade one or grade eight, they would be interested. Everybody farts, after all. I also made sure to have the document camera ready to go so that I could put up some illustrations to the story. This kept all of their attentions during the moments when I got too excited and lost my spot or needed to clear my throat.
I’m very pleased with the presentation and how it was received. I was complimented by many of our staff members and kids and that in itself is the best reward for a talk. You really are quite vulnerable when you open yourself up as more than a teacher. I think that consciously recognizing that I was, in this moment, NOT a staff member but a visiting speaker was necessary for me to do a good job.
I would love to be able to do this full time some day. I envision myself giving a Monday talk at a school, followed by a week of storytelling and illustrating workshops. How amazing would that be?! One colleague commented afterwards, “You really should be doing that as your job; you are such a good public speaker!” and another said, “Do you realize how many kids want to be writers now?” I can only hope that I had any influence on them. I think I had the most influence on myself though, realizing that I really CAN engage, hold and reach an audience of any age … 4 to 14, and the adults in the room!
Now, here’s that speech I gave, or rather the outline I wrote for myself last night … I did a lot of improvising along the way (note: this is excluding my ad-lib description of how I got to where I am as an author. If you want my bio, you’ll need to hire me for a book talk!):
1) If you are a reader, then you are a writer. Anyone with an imagination, who knows how to speak, can write a book. It just takes careful practice using those words, and a whole LOT of imagination.
2) Just because you read or write one way, doesn’t mean you can’t read or write something else. I used to write a column for a newspaper. It was about common sense. They stopped publishing it because no one in the city had any, and they didn’t want them to feel bad! Just kidding. They said they needed to run more ads. I also wrote for a TV show called CMT Star, on Country Music Television. My credit was “researcher,” but I really did most of the writing. I write scary stories for adults, too. And, I write report card comments. But my favourite thing to write is stories for kids with pictures.
3) I like to write picture books because reading them is like watching TV. Except, it’s a special TV, where you get to have complete control over how happy, sad, funny or wild the words sound, and how long you stay on one page. You can’t do that with TV unless you pause it, but then it gets all digitized. It’s not as fun. You get to control your world when you write. You can make a story as unbelievable or as realistic as you want. I like to ask myself WHAT IF questions to find out what my stories will be about. When I wrote SAD MONSTER, I asked myself, what if there was a sad monster who had a wish to make? And then I wrote the story. I didn’t plan it, I just let it happen, like a TV show.
4) And now onto the farts. I’d like to share a story with you that I wrote. It’s not published, but maybe one day it will be. You’re the first people to hear it. To help you see it a bit better, I’ll show some sketches that go along with the story while I tell you the story. This is called, “Art’s Farts.” (Story has been excluded as I am workshopping and am not ready to release it. My hope is that one day it is published.)