Last Friday, I visited Coulter Grove Intermediate School in Maryville, talking to the 6th and 7th grade classes. In total, that was close to speaking to 400 students. 400!
I like to think that I have my spiel down pat now--I introduce myself and my book, tell them a little bit about my story of starting Ascension at age 12 and the journey from there, read an excerpt from the prologue to peak their interest, then talk about believing in your dreams and making them happen, and end with questions. I have it down, can basically do it in my sleep now. I like to think that maybe they walk away from my talks thinking, "Hey, that author is a pretty cool lady!"
I've had some awesome moments at my school visits over the past five months. My first visit, right when I walked into the classroom, a girl raised her hand and said, "She's really pretty!" At the middle school career day, we had so many people come up to the table telling us that they were writing a book or wanted to be a writer. At the other intermediate school, kids asked so many questions that we ran out of time and a horde approached me afterward.
Most of the questions I get at school visits are the basics--"what's your favorite book?" "How do you write better?" "Do your character names have meaning?" "Is your book going to be made into a movie?"
I have instant answers to these questions. Then at this past school visit, apart from the other fantastic questions the students had, one boy asked me, "What's the hardest part of your job?" This question shocked me and also made me smile. So far, the only people that have referred to my writing as my job are me, my publishing team, and my mom. Not my friends. Not my students. So I guess I just made me smile to hear that. But I also knew my response: "Talking to you guys." The writing is not so hard, though it can get frustrating. Editing can be heart breaking or tedious. But this part, selling yourself, seeing yourself as a product that needs to be pitched, a public figure, is so difficult. Now, I'm not just talking to my friends or family. I'm imparting "wisdom" on kids who I hope will eventually read my book.
Plus, speaking to that many people is just exhausting. I got in the car afterward and slumped into my seat, totally ready for a nap.
But despite the nerves that rush through my body, make my hands shake imperceptibly, I'm beginning to love talking to students. They always have great questions, and it's so encouraging to hear all these students with writing aspirations. Even if they aren't interested in my book, I hope that they hear me when I talk about believing in themselves first, that they are the ones who are going to make their dreams come true. I'm living proof of it.
But then, there are the moments that I'll always remember, like a 7th grade boy coming up to me after my talk and asking me to sign his shirt then hearing him on the way out, "Dude, she signed my shirt!" I think I reached a new level of ultra cool at that point.
Until My Next Thought,