Posts Tagged ‘school visits’

Yakking in Yakima: WLMA Conference

Monday, October 15th, 2012

I said I was going to pull back on this blog, but I didn’t mean for it to grind to a dead halt. I know it’s been many weeks since I’ve posted, but that’s because I’ve been busy revising my WIP and setting up events to promote the release of the paperback edition of FLYAWAY later this month. I did want to pop in for a few minutes, though, to tell you about the wonderful time I had this weekend at the Washington Library Media Association (WLMA or “Wilma”) Conference in Yakima.

Deb Lund, myself, and Janet Lee Carey at WLMA. (Not pictured: Jennifer Shaw Wolf.)

I was lucky enough to be part of a panel on school author visits with my esteemed colleagues Jennifer Shaw Wolf, Deb Lund, and Janet Lee Carey. We intended our presentation, which was titled “Show, Tell, and Do: The Future of Author Visits” to be a dialogue with our audience of school librarians, and it was. After we each introduced ourselves and our books, we led the attendees in a discussion of every aspect of school visits, from how to find visiting authors to asking for what you want in a visit to alternatives such as Skype and multi-author visits. We had a blast presenting, and our audience was enthusiastic and engaged.

My husband came with me to the conference, and the next day, we took the scenic route home through the Yakima Canyon, where we saw a herd of big-horn sheep grazing by the Yakima river.

Look closely at the river bank: big-horn sheep!

All in all, it was a lovely experience. Now I hope that some of those librarians will contact me about doing school visits!


Odds and Ends

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Today is a red letter day for me, because this afternoon my critique group is meeting to give me feedback on my WIP. I’m so nervous and excited that I’m having trouble focusing, so I thought it would be a perfect day to catch you up on a couple of odds and ends.

First of all, I wanted to share a photo from the Teen Author Reading Night at the L.A. Central library a few weeks ago.

As you can see, I’m reading a scene from FLYAWAY. I tried a different scene than I usually read at events, and it has now become my favorite. On my right is Ron Koertge, author of STONER AND SPAZ II, ¬†and on my left is Cecile Castelluci, author of THE YEAR OF THE BEASTS, who is also the organizer of the reading series.

Second, I wanted to share a couple of highlights from my visit to Garfield High School this Wednesday. It was the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken to – 90 students! – and the school’s black box theater is the coolest space I’ve ever presented in. It’s also the first time a bookstore has sponsored my visit – I was happy to have someone from the University Book Store in attendance.

My favorite question of the day was, “If you become a super-famous author, would you consider writing your autobiography?” A close second was, “Have you thought about making a movie of your book?” All of the questions the students asked were heartfelt. I loved their enthusiasm and thoughtfulness.

Last of all, I want to remind those of you who live in Seattle that I’ll be performing on Tuesday, June 12 at 7 p.m. with my husband, Steven Bishofsky, as part of the Ballard Writer’s Collective live storytelling event, Ballard Jam, at Egan’s Ballard Jamhouse. We’ll be telling the story of how cancer brought us together, with musical interludes by Steven. It’s going to be sweet and inspiring – I hope you can make it!

Public speaker? Who, me?

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

I’m getting ready to walk out the door for an author visit to Garfield High School. The crazy thing is, I’m not all that nervous. Okay, maybe my stomach is churning a little, and I’ve changed my outfit three times in the past hour. But compared to the fear I used to have about speaking in public, this is nothing.

Becoming a published writer has forced me to learn a lot of things quickly. I had to go from zero to functional in technology 101 in a matter of months, and I’ve taken a crash course in being a shameless self-promoter. But the area I’ve made the biggest strides in is getting up and talking in front of an audience.

It’s odd to me that writers are expected to do so much public speaking, because most writers I know are incurable introverts. We like nothing better than to hide in our caves, surrounded by our own thoughts. But being published means getting yanked out of that cave, into the light, where we’re supposed to automatically transform into witty, charismatic extroverts.

At first the idea of doing book events made me break out in a sweat – all those eyes, focused on me! But I’ve discovered that a few of my writer’s tools are useful for making speaking engagements less stressful.

What if? Most writers are infinitely familiar with this powerful little question. And I’ve found that, not only can it take a story in interesting and unexpected directions, it can also help soothe nerves before I have to get up in front of an audience. What if I’m actually an expert on what I’m talking about? What if people are excited to hear me? What if they’re pulling for me to do a terrific job?

Create a character: We writers love to create characters. How about creating a character that loves to get up and speak? I think of this not as being fake or dishonest, but as finding my “inner extrovert” and letting her come out to play.

Shitty first drafts: We’re all familiar with writing shitty first drafts and then polishing them in revision. So why not consider your first attempts at public speaking first drafts that you can hone at subsequent events? After all, you’ve got to start somewhere!

Later…I just got back from speaking at the high school, and it was a blast. Once I got going, I didn’t feel the least bit nervous. All I had to do was remember why I was there – to share my love of reading and writing with the students and to get them excited about FLYAWAY – and the rest was easy.

Do you get nervous before you speak publicly? What do you do to calm your nerves?

High School Author Visit Chronicles: Episode Two

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Today I did my second solo high school author visit. (I visited a group at Capital High School in Olympia recently with several fellow authors, but going it alone is a whole different animal.) Today, I spent the morning at West Seattle High School in – you guessed it – West Seattle.

In some ways, this visit was a very different experience from my visit to Edmonds-Woodway High School earlier this month (read about that visit here). For one thing, Edmonds-Woodway is in a brand-spanking-new building, while West Seattle High is literally “old school” – in fact, it reminded me of the high schools I attended back in the ’70s. For another thing, while Edmonds-Woodway is predominantly white, West Seattle High has a very diverse population. The groups I presented to had a mix of African-American, Latino, Asian, and white kids, as well as a few girls in burkas.

But in many ways, my experience at both schools was similar. The students seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say (in spite of the studied look of boredom on some of their faces) and asked some excellent questions. The most popular question seems to be “How long did it take you to write the book?” Today, when I asked the students to guess how long it took, their estimations ranged anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. When I told them I did eleven revisions over the course of six years, their jaws dropped. One boy asked, “Was it worth it?”

I wish I could say that I immediately answered with an unqualified yes. But in all honesty, I had to think about my response. The past few years haven’t been easy. There have certainly been high moments – learning that Flyaway was going to be published rating top among them – but there have been incredibly low moments, too, moments filled with frustration and disappointment.

So I just stood there for a second, unsure of what to say. Then I gazed out across the sea of desks and saw all the faces looking back at me and ¬†realized that those kids are the reason I write YA novels – it’s not for the money or the notoriety or the reviews, but for the teens themselves.

“Yes, it was worth it, ” I told them. “And you know what makes it worth it? Being able to stand here and talk to you.”

This statement from the bottom of my heart was greeted with eye-rolling and sniggers, but I didn’t mind. In fact, I loved it. Because that’s what teenagers do.


New Kids on the YA Block Northwest Tour

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Now that the dust has settled, I can’t wait to share the slice of awesomeness that was the New Kids on the YA Block Northwest Tour!

New Kids on the YA Block (not pictured: Carole Estby Dagg)

Megan Bostic (NEVER EIGHTEEN), Kendare Blake (ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD), Kiki Hamilton (THE FAERIE RING), Carole Estby Dagg (THE YEAR WE WERE FAMOUS), Kathy McCullough (DON’T EXPECT MAGIC), and I started the tour last Wednesday night at Third Place Books in Seattle. After we each introduced our book and read a short selection, moderator William Kenower of Author magazine plied us with questions. Then we answered questions from the audience and ended with a book signing.

The sweetest moment for me was being approached by a girl who had already read FLYAWAY and had written me a fan letter. She came to the event specifically so I could sign her book.


The next morning, we headed for Olympia, where our first stop was a visit to Capital High School. We had expected to speak to several classes, but because of a schedule change due to testing, we only had half an hour with a small group of students who had signed up to see us. But what a treat they were! Most of them were writers themselves, and we were impressed by their impassioned questions about everything from dialogue to writer’s block.

We met more writers that evening at the Olympia Timberland Library. A sizable group gathered to hear us speak, read from our books, and answer questions. Most of the attendees were adults, so we fielded a lot of questions about how to land an agent and get published. The local Barnes and Noble sold books for us after the event.

Our final event took place on Friday evening at Garfield Book Company near the Pacific Lutheran University campus in Tacoma. This event was especially lively because our moderator, Daniel Marks, author of the upcoming YA novel VELVETEEN, kept everyone laughing by asking questions such as, “If your main character were an ice cream flavor, what flavor would they be?”

But for me, the best part of the whole tour was spending time with my fellow 2011/2012 debuts and sharing perspectives on the ups and downs of this crazy business. We had such a great time together that we’re already busy dreaming up our next event.