Last week, I did my first school visit at one of the local elementary schools in Champaign. I was invited to participate in the school’s annual Family Reading Night, and I read an excerpt from the first chapter of The Mark of the Dragonfly. I was nervous, of course, but I had a lot of fun.
It was wonderful to practice not only speaking in front of an audience, but speaking directly to my target audience. I also learned a couple important things, the first being that reading for seven or eight minutes only gets me about seven pages into the novel. The time flies by, and that’s okay because another thing I learned is that shorter is better. An introduction for the author, a short reading, and then a Q&A afterwards held everyone’s attention but didn’t drag on so long that it made the students restless.
The experience also reminded me that the most challenging thing about interacting with a younger audience is also the most fun thing: you have no idea what the kids are going to say or ask. You have to be prepared for anything, because wow, kids can come up with some really creative and interesting questions and observations. Speaking of which, note to self: come up with a better answer for the expected questions like “How did you get the idea for this book?”
You’d think I’d have some of this stuff down by now, but I’m still learning.