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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: author talks, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. The wonderful magic of author visits - C.J. Busby

Whenever I'm lucky enough to be invited to schools to give talks or run creative writing workshops, I always enjoy the visits, and get a fantastic boost from them. But it can sometimes be difficult for a lone author to gauge the usefulness or value of what they do on a school visit - after all, you rarely get the chance to hear what the children really thought of you. Are they just being polite when they say it was great? Are the teachers rolling their eyes behind your back? When they tell you about the last author visit they had, and how inspired the children were, are they drawing unfavourable comparisons? Are you really doing it right? So when I got the chance to volunteer as a steward at the Appledore Festival Schools Programme, near where I live, I jumped at it. I could get to sit at the back, and watch another author do their stuff! I could learn how it looks from the other side of the room, see some examples of what works, check out what other people do.

I'm so glad I did. Because what I discovered is that author visits are magical, wonderful and amazing, and there are probably almost as many ways of being magical, wonderful and amazing as there are authors. Both the authors I shepherded around north Devon were fantastic, and they connected brilliantly with their audiences - but they both did it in almost opposite ways.


John Dougherty is an old hand - he does a lot of author visits, and he's written a lot of books. His latest series - about brother and sister Stinkbomb and Ketchup Face and their adventures foiling the dastardly plans of a group of no-good scheming badgers - is pure silliness in the best tradition of Roald Dahl and Mr Gum.


John had the children rolling on the floor (literally) with his special brand of humour, guitar playing, singing and interactive mayhem. His talks were high octane fun, but he had some very important things to say as well - things like: you are all authors, all of you, because you've all written or made up stories, and that's what being an author is. Things like: there are no right or wrong books to read - read what you like, see if you enjoy it, try something else if you don't. Don't worry about people saying it's 'too old' or 'too young' or 'for boys' or 'for girls'. As he pointed out, no one shouts at a 70 year old reading a magazine saying, 'You're too old to read that! You're seventy! It's too easy for you! You should be reading Aristotle. In the original Greek!'

Lucy Jones is much nearer the beginning of her writing career - she's published two books, and she's currently working on a new one.  She doesn't play the guitar, or sing, and she didn't have the children rolling on the floor. But she did have them equally spell-bound.


Lucy talked about her early writing - and even read out a short story she'd written when she was seven, with her original illustrations projected on a powerpoint. She talked about the books she'd loved as a young reader herself, and the trials and hurdles of becoming a published author. And she read some extracts from her books - spooky, spine-chilling extracts which had the kids open-mouthed, wanting to hear the next bit...


She talked to them about how to write, how to build up ideas and believable characters, and she gave them a challenge - to come up with their own character, based on a picture. The twist was, that the character they were inventing was dead - they had to decide how he had died, and what sort of ghost teacher he would make, in the ghost school where her new story was set.

What struck me, sitting at the back, was just how excited the children were by the presence of an actual author - someone who'd written a real book! And how intrigued they were to hear just simple things, like how books are made, how the covers are designed, how long it takes an author to write a book, where do authors get their ideas from?! It was immediately obvious, as one of the audience, how valuable it was for children to be told, by someone who really writes books - you can do this too! In fact, you do it - every day! We get our work corrected by editors just like you get your stories marked by your teacher. It's more words, it takes longer, but it's not different in kind from what you do. And although very few of those children are going to grow up to be published authors, it gives them a new sense of the value of what they can do, what they are capable of, what they could aim for if they decided to. It reinforced the value and importance of stories and creativity of all sorts, whether it's their writing or their made-up playground games or their engagement with stories in books, magazines, TV, or computer games or films.

Traipsing round with my two authors, and watching the magic being kindled again and again in their sessions, I realised that I needn't have worried about my own sessions. Children's authors write for children, so they have a pretty good idea of what engages their interest, and how to talk to them. They are creative, clever people, with inventive minds and a way with words. When they tell a child, "That's a fabulous idea!" or "You see? You're an author too!" they give that child a warm glow that you can see from fifty yards away - a gift that will stay with that child for the rest of their life.

So if you're an author, and you do school visits - take a bow, you are making a difference! However unsure you may feel abut your sessions, you are touching the children you talk to in ways you probably don't realise. And if you're a teacher or parent or librarian - beg, borrow or steal the money from the school budget (or PTA jumble sale?) for a local author to visit your children. Or even better, have a look to see if there's someone available to be your Patron of Reading. That one visit will kindle a magic that will inspire those children for the whole school year and beyond.


C.J. Busby writes fantasy for ages 7-12. Her most recent book is Dragon Amber, published by Templar. The first book in the series, Deep Amber, was published in March 2012.

"A rift-hopping romp with great charm, wit and pace" Frances Hardinge.


www.cjbusby.co.uk

@ceciliabusby

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2. Writer's Guilt…. Or Have I Done Enough? by Megan Rix / Ruth Symes

What I love most about writing, and thought I would love most even before I was published, is the freedom it gives you. Freedom to write when you want and where you want, about what you want and how you want to.

For a few years I probably averaged a 1,000 published words a year (this was when I used to spend 6 months in the UK and 6 months travelling round the world). Now my average is more like 1,000 words a day. (I try not to work weekends unless I’m really behind on a deadline or so desperate to tell a story that it just can’t wait. I’m writing this on Saturday though - so I probably write more often at weekends than not.) If I've written a 1,000 words in a day I stick a sticker on my annual wall chart. I like seeing the stickers build up only... only there never seems to be enough. Not every day’s got a sticker and I want to write more. I always think I could do more, if I was more focused more, more disciplined yaddah yaddah yaddah.

I call it writer's guilt but really an average of a 1,000 words a day is good.... isn't it? I’ve won two children’s books of the year this year (Stockton and Shrewsbury) and will have had 3 novels out this year in 10 days time.

'The Hero Pup' is written under my Megan Rix pseudonym and being published by Puffin. It follows an assistance dog puppy from his birth until his graduation as a fully-fledged Helper Dog. Anyone who knows me knows how close this book is to my heart and I'm very much looking forward to working with guide dogs, medical alert dogs and PAT dogs on the book tour.
But not only do I have ‘The Hero Pup’ coming out under my Megan Rix pseudonym on the 1st of October I also have the first in a new series of books about the Secret Animal Society coming out under my Ruth Symes name. 'Cornflake the Dragon' is being published by Piccadilly. It’s about a school lizard that turns into a dragon when it’s taken home for the holidays.

How many words do other writers write each day? I don't know. They probably all do much more or maybe they do less but every word they write is pure gold.

And what about the thinking time? You've got to have thinking time, or I have. I like to mull over the story for a month or so these days. Not forcing it to come. Just researching and thinking about characters until I know, absolutely KNOW it's the story I want to tell. I don’t get a sticker for thinking but it’s just as valuable.

Then it comes to the talks at schools and festivals – meeting your target audience. In the past year I've spoken at 16 schools and 5 festivals - an average of little over one a mouth. Is it enough? It feels like the right amount for me but I know of other writers who do lots more. Should I be doing lots more? I don’t know.

And that's what comes with having a career where you choose so much for yourself. There's so many choices that it's hard to know if you've made the right one. But better to make the mistake yourself than be living someone else’s mistake. Maybe there shouldn't be writer's guilt or writer's goals maybe we should just have the aim of improving every day.

Chris Rock (excuse the swearing) has a very funny sketch about the difference between a job or a career His main point, and I agree with him, is if it's a career there's never enough time for all you want to do to advance it but if it’s a job there is always far too much time and you can’t wait for it to be over. Writing is definitely a career and I wouldn't have it any other way :)


My website's are: www.meganrix.com and www.ruthsymes.com.

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3. What the Small Boy said to the Author - Joan Lennon

The author was packing up after a boisterous session with 5 classes of 8-9 year-olds in a large, echoy gym.  She became aware that someone was quietly trying to get her attention.

It was a small boy.

The boy was bespectacled, goopy-looking, earnest. A boy who did not now, nor probably ever would, find the world his oyster. The author looked at him. It was like looking at a small boy version of her own small self.

The boy looked at the author, as the noise of the dispersing classes swirled around them.  "I keep your books in a box under my bed," he said.  "And when I can't sleep in the night I take one out and read it." 

The author babbled.  She thanked the small boy for saying such a lovely thing and that he couldn't have said anything nicer to her.  Ever. 

"That's all right," said the small boy, and walked away.

The author knows that she cannot go round schools and libraries and festivals saying, "Hello!  I'm an author and I'd like to live under your bed."  But in her heart, she thinks it would be the nicest thing.  Ever.


Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.

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4. Adorable Thank Yous





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5. Author Visit to Greater Atlanta Christian School

At the end of August, I spent some time in Atlanta, giving talks at two schools, a library, a girls' group, and a book club. Greater Atlanta Christian School was kind enough to take pictures as I spoke. I've found the pictures entertaining enough to share with you!

I know several of my former students occasionally stop by. I figure they'll be just as humored as I am.


8 Comments on Author Visit to Greater Atlanta Christian School, last added: 9/19/2012
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6. Meeting Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale was in town on Thursday, talking up her most recent book, THE PRINCESS ACADEMY: PALACE OF STONE. I never tire of hearing other authors talk about how they work, how they manage with children, writing, and life. It's very much an iron sharpens iron thing.

Shannon talked about getting ideas for stories daily (a story isn't one idea but many, she said), writing down those ideas, and coming back to them at a later date. She works on two books at once, turning to one when the other is in edits. A sitter comes to watch her four kids for three hours a day, five days a week, and she commits to 1,000 a day.

I felt a kinship with Shannon when she mentioned she's drawn to stories that are hard. If a story is easy, there really isn't anything to say. I'm in the midst of my own hard story, and hearing I'm not alone in this challenge was reassuring -- and fuel to help me finish my work.
 This girl in front of me was adorable. She'd worn out her first copy of THE PRINCESS ACADEMY, so she bought two more: one for regular reading and one for backup.

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7. Starstuff & Supergiants

On Tuesday I’m heading over to Science Oxford to give a talk on Starstuff and Supergiants, which will be a bit of a science of Johnny Mackintosh sort of thing. I came up with the title ages ago, with no plan of what I was going to say on the subject. I thought I’d have months to prepare – where does the time go?

Happily, it’s kind of all sorted and I’m hoping to make it as fun as I can and also inspiring. It’s the first time in my life people are paying to see me (the princely sum of £3), so I’m desperate to give everyone their money’s worth, and a bit more besides. It will be great (if scary) if the place is full.  Science Oxford is

1-5 London Place
Oxford
OX4 1BD

This is part of the wider Oxford Science Festival that runs to the 21st March. If you can’t be there in person, I have a dreadful feeling this might be webcast at some point. Just off to buy props…


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8. Maggie’s Animal Life

On Wednesday evening I found myself trudging home late at night through the kind of incessant downpour you feel is never going to end. Rain that infuses every part of you, seeping up your trousers, down your sleeves and occasionally washing over you as a car drives past too quickly. My thoughts turned to a marvelously funny, insightful and poignant novel I read recently called The Flood, by Maggie Gee.

Set in the City, where it’s always raining, flood waters are steadily on the rise. Battered boats rescued from scrapyards serve as makeshift buses for the tower blocks, around which the waters are rumoured to have been diverted from the city centre. In that centre, the wealthy are ferried to the opera in gondolas. While all the inhabitants of the city are struggling not to drown in their various problems, their President Bliss tries to deflect attention to far away, pursuing a Blair-like war against the unfortunate inhabitants of a  poor distant country. Neither his cabinet nor the general population has any enthusiasm for the crusade, but somehow Bliss is able to continue with the war (for the sake of peace, naturally).

As well as the rain, I was thinking of this particular novel because I was travelling home from the launch of Maggie’s latest book,  My Animal Life. I’m not sure the Al Saqi bookshop on Westbourne Grove has ever been so crowded. Three of us were there because we’d all had the privilege of meeting Maggie a year earlier, and sharing a writing month with her at Hawthornden Castle as the finishing touches were put to this memoir (I was beginning Johnny Mackintosh: Battle for Earth). It’s a wonderful thing to see a physical book when you were also able to watch it in the late stages of development in the womb. It’s also great to meet fellow writers and on the night I chatted with several I’d not met before.

Maggie spent a little time in conversation with Colin Grant, another author as well as BBC World Service Broadcaster, talking particularly about the candour of her new book, and what had led her to write about herself rather than her characters. Maggie’s a very deep thinker. She puts a lot of science in her books, she’s often tackled difficult themes (check out The White Family), and she comes across as very honest and full of love. While Colin asked her about “sex”, she ended their conversation saying the greatest taboo in writing is “love”. As the place was bursting at the seams, concerned for her audience, it wasn’t long before she stood to read to us from My Animal Life.

I had a very religious upbringing and, although I know now that we’re from all the same stuff as the other creatures on the planet, I still often think of people as separate from animals. That’s strange because my philosophy is very anti the rationalist/logical school that’s dominated so much of our thinking since the Greeks. Intellectually, I believe we’re social creatures, rarely motivated by logic precisely because of our animal

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9. "On the Other Side"




I had the pleasure of meeting author Marianne Smith on Oak Island at the Senior Recreation Center.  She gave a wonderful talk about her life and the novel On the Other Side, which she wrote for her grandchildren. Marianne grew up in Germany during World War Two facing the dangers of war, bombings, hunger, and life without a father. The story is based on facts, events, and real life experiences. At the author talk Marianne Smith stated that “Everything in this book is real. I couldn’t write a book like this and imagine these things.”

Marianne admitted that it wasn’t easy putting on paper many of these painful teenage memories, but they defined the person that she became. And they show what it was like to come of age in Germany during war-torn times on the other side. Our teens need to text less and read more books like Marianne’s masterpiece.

After meeting and talking with Marianne, I felt like I made a new friend. As a poet and a essayist, I feel like I can't write about anything unless it's true. All of my poems, stories, and essays are brimming over with real life experiences. I have three books in the works, and whom did I write them for? My grandkids.

 

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10. Poets Talking About Poetry

Robert Frost (1875-1963) American Poet.
Poetryis finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses theuniversal, and history only the particular.

Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC) Greek philosopher.
Poetryis not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not theexpression of personality but an escape from personality. But, of course, onlythose we have personality and emotion know what it means to want to escape fromthese things.

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) American-English poet andplaywright.
IfI feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that ispoetry.

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11. If You're in Albuquerque in April

Stop by!

6 Comments on If You're in Albuquerque in April, last added: 3/28/2011
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12. Jayne Jaudon Ferrer: Your Daily Poem Editor & Creator




Jayne Jaudon  Ferrer is thepoetry editor and creator of my favorite poetry website:  www.yourdailypoem.com,and a first class poet. What she promises is that the poems she shares dailywill “not be boring.” I think she certainly fulfills that promise each day,while championing a website with TLC, whose cup run-eth over with inspiration,resources and poetry interaction. The quality of the poems she presentsencourages readers to leave behind positive poetry comments and seek more poems(written by the same author), thus affirming the daily poet’s path and writing process.

Jayne is a“poetry missionary” converting the skeptics to believers in the power ofpoetry. Go to her website, read a sample of the poems in the archives, and youwill discover that poetry can be “outrageous,inspiring, hilarious, heartbreaking, uplifting, sobering, and surprising.”Then sign up for a free daily poem delivered to your e-mail box. You will haveno regrets.


Want to know more about Jayne? You can find this biographical sketch on her website:  


Jayne Jaudon Ferrer is the author of four books of poetry that focus on family life, one of which has remained consistently in print for more than twenty years. An award-winning copywriter and freelance journalist, Ferrer speaks frequently at women’s and book events; her poetry and articles have appeared in publications ranging from Boca Raton Magazine to Christian Parenting Today. Jayne lives in Greenville, South Carolina; learn more about her at www.jaynejaudonferrer.com.


Since this month is National Poetry Month, Jayne showcases a month's worth of poem that even extra special. Subscribe and see for  yourself.

If you wander into the archives, you might even stumble on a poem of mine in the archives...
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13. When did you last get out of your comfort zone?

If you're like me, you'll have a little voice in the back of your head that speaks up whenever you think about stepping outside your comfort zone. It's not easy, but if we want to achieve our goals and dreams we have to learn to ignore that voice.

(Read more ...)

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14. Author talk: Siobhan Vivian

This morning I attended a lecture and mini workshop at my local library, led by YA author Siobhan Vivian.  In a little room with paintings of princesses and castles on the walls, and a giant dragon on the floor, Vivian spoke to an audience mainly of teens and young readers (though there was one little [...]

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15. New Photos Are Up!



"New" photos are up, just follow the link... 




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16. Leaving On a Jet Plane

Three years ago, May B. won first place for a novel excerpt at the Jambalaya Writers' Conference. This year I'm headed back to Houma, Louisiana to present at the conference. It's a thrill to be included on the roster this year! If you happen to live around the New Orleans area, I'd love to meet you.
Here are my topics:

Verse Novels -- From Homer to Ellen Hopkins: Long a mainstay in classical literature, the verse novel has made a comeback in children’s literature in the last fifteen years. What’s the appeal? Learn about the authors and titles which have had an impact on the genre, why an author would choose to write this way, and if your story might best be told through verse.

DIY Marketing Plan: Authors nowadays are expected to play bigger and bigger roles in spreading the word about their books. What, exactly, does this look like? Learn to identify and reach your target audience in traditional and non-traditional ways, produce materials to compliment your book, and create your own marketing plan.

I'll share about the conference once I return -- and don't worry: I'll eat a bowl of gumbo for you.

10 Comments on Leaving On a Jet Plane, last added: 3/27/2012
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17. IRA 2012 Recap

I've just come home from my first International Reading Association convention, an annual event that draws teachers, librarians, and other bookish types to discuss literacy and teaching methods. It was a wondrous time!

Uma Krishnaswami, Kimberley Griffiths Little, Carolee Dean, Kersten Hamilton, Carolyn Meyer, Esther Hershenhorn
Lisa Schroeder, Caroline Starr Rose, April Halprin Wayland

On Sunday I was a part of an institute -- an intensive session that lasted from 9-5. The title of our panel was Rekindling the Reading Fire - Using the Story Strategies of Professional Authors to Inspire a Love of Reading and Writing, headed up by Carolee Dean. The session included panels on magical realism; plot, setting and story; verse novels; and historical fiction.

I also had the opportunity to meet fellow Project Mayhem author, Hilary Wagner, and my dear, dear author friend, Sheila O'Connor.
It was lovely to meet Random House Children's Books tireless sales and marketing team and a number of literature-loving educators as well as dozens of other authors I'd up to this point only known on-line or through their books.

My only regret is not having more pictures to share!

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18. Missouri Mini Book Tour

I've spent the last week in Missouri doing six different author events. Here are some highlights (...the times I remembered to take my camera):
 Springfield, Missouri: The Library Center

I've never seen a library this amazing! There's a gift shop, coffee shop, gorgeous children's wing, and a variety of programs for all sorts of readers.
I did my Buckboards, Buffalo Chips, and Bloomers presentation, an interactive talk about the American Frontier.
 I also met blogging friend and librarian extraordinaire Sarah Bean Thompson, of Green Bean Teen Queen.
 Here I am taking a snooze while signing books.
Neosho, Missouri: book club

These colorful ladies are members of my mom's book club. Anyone remember my post about The Little Nippers, my mom's childhood club? Three Nippers are in this picture. My mother also enjoys napping while pictures are taken.

 Dad and Mom

12 Comments on Missouri Mini Book Tour, last added: 5/25/2012
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19. Midnight school chats

I don't know how many school talks I've done over the last twenty years, including quite a few online (text) chats, but last week was a bunch of firsts!

The Burr Elementary School in Connecticut has been doing Nim's Island for their One Book, One School program. (I've heard from a few schools around the world who've done this, and it gives me a thrill every time. There are so many wonderful books in the world that it's great honour to have one of mine chosen for a whole school to read. (Or, in the case of Rye State School, to encourage the whole town to read!)

However the Burr school wanted to follow up with an author visit, and as I couldn't zip across from Australia to Connecticut, we decided we'd do it with Skype. Of course, just as in the emails between Nim and Alex Rover, the ten hour time difference made this interesting. I did a trial run with the teachers first, so early in the morning here that I was still in my pyjamas (definitely the first time I've been videoed in pjs),but we did the actual talks at 9:30 am for the kids,and 11:30 pm for me.

There was something quite special about doing it so late, and also about inviting the kids into my messy writer's office as we talked. (This time I was properly dressed!)I put a table up beside my desk to spread out more books and things to show, and was able to turn the computer around so they could see the office itself. My little dog, Harry,was asleep on the couch behind me, and I gather it was quite a highlight when I brought him up to the camera to say goodnight.

Of course it wasn't the same as being physically in the same room, but it was far more than a second best. The feedback from the school and the kids has been wonderful, though perhaps the real test was simply how good the kids were - 50 minutes is a long time for kindergarteners to sit on the floor and pay attention at the best of times!

I think my author talks have just entered the 21st century - this is definitely something I'd like to do more of.

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