Sabtu, 08 September 2012

The Benefit of Author Visits for Children Authors

It was an early spring morning and a young child author and her father visited a local grade school to discuss their chapter book. Three hundred and fifty students waited eagerly to discuss the book they had all read in their classes the prior weeks. Two grades at a time piled into the lunchroom for three separate sessions. This school visit was the first such occurrence for the father-daughter writing duo and they were not sure what to expect. It was quite a surprise how it ended.

After brief introductions of themselves and the story, the event opened up into question and answer sessions. The students came prepared with not only the typical questions of "why did you write this story" and "how did you come up with the character names", but also deeper inquiries that immediately let the authors know the students were fully engaged with the storyline.

At one point, a student asked a question about a dragonfly in the story. The father looked around the audience and asked the children to say the name of the character and they all screamed "Rainbow", and smiled. It was the first time the authors heard such a resounding recognition of their work, and they then realized that this event, which they initially thought of as an offering for the benefit of the students, held equally as much for themselves.

The event wrapped up as the last group of students went back to their classes. One teacher left a folder with the authors filled with sheets of paper. Each student from the first grade class had all written, as well as first graders can write, letters to the authors to thank them for their time and other special comments about the book. The details in these letters were all wonderful, but one comment was not so expected. As the young child author eagerly flipped through the papers once back at her house, remembering herself how it was to write such notes four years earlier, she set one aside and said "this is my favorite." She read to her mother and father the following words from that special note: "Mae - I love your book. It is amazing. You inspire me to write. I am starting my own adventure story now. Thank you so much!" Her co-author father turned away to wipe a small tear from his eye.

The writing duo started the project to bring their story to life, and for the father to show his daughter the importance of sticking with something, not giving up, and acting on your passions. He thought that seeing the book in a book store and knowing it was placed in different dinosaur museums was the light at the end of the tunnel. Weeks and months had transpired and they finally scheduled this first author visit at this school. The light in his daughter's eyes upon reading those words from the first grader truly marked the completion of this journey - at least this part of the journey. That is what they had been working for but not really known early on how incredible that experience could be.

In the few weeks since that visit, the writing duo were fully motivated and worked through the first several chapters of their next book - now book number two of a series that will continue, with many planned author visits.

The lesson to all is that the benefit of your hard work and perseverance may not always be what you expect. Open your minds, follow your passions, share and collaborate with others, and do everything you can to expand and invigorate our next generation of authors, teachers, scientists, etc. The rewards will come, and may be as simple as a smile or a letter from a first grade student.

John Dolbey lives in the Midwest with his wife and daughter. He began feeding his daughter's deep fascination of dinosaurs with countless bedtime and drive-to-school adventure stories. The creation of Iggy, Guana, and Dawn is the result of years of collaborative character building. John's first book, Sunrise Over Fire Rock Field, is a tribute to his daughter, her love of dinosaurs, and those adventurous iguanodon siblings. John and his daughter are still telling stories and coming up with new journeys for Iggy and his sisters.

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