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Author Presentations—Yours and Mine

Spoede Elementary Family Night
I recently did some author presentations in or near O’Fallon, Missouri, where I live. My goal— to inspire and encourage readers as well as writers and future authors. And for others, to show that if you believe in yourself and work hard at something, you can accomplish anything.

In March I participated in Writers’ Week at Troy Buchannan High School, where I talked about writing and re-writing and becoming a published author. While I was there, I listened to a wonderful personal essay written by a very talented student. And I was honored to have the cover of my book, NAME THAT DOG, painted on a ceiling tile, destined to join other visiting authors’ books on the ceiling of the school library. The painting was done by an amazingly talented high school artist.

Later that evening I visited Spoede Elementary School and spoke to the students and parents at Family Book Night. I felt right at home in the camping theme, with flashlights and stories around artificial campfires in the gym! But the most fun was talking to students one-on-one during and after the presentation.

In May I talked to authors participating in Nancy Polette’s class on Writing for Children at the Middendorf-Kredell library about my own journey to publishing and picture books. Nancy is an excellent teacher of children’s writing, and an excellent author as well. School Library Journal said that she is "an educator with imagination, creativity and an appreciation for the intelligence of children."

I remember the times before being published, and I relate to the uncertainty of ever being published, and whether our work is good or not. And I cherish the encouragement and help from published authors that I received myself. I enjoy being able to offer that encouragement to other children’s writers. And having contacts with other children’s writers, published and unpublished, keeps me going.

I also attended some local author appearances during the past few months. Going to another children’s author’s presentation is always food for thought, even if it seems very similar to what I do at an author visit myself, or even if their book is totally unrelated to what I write. Here are a few of my ‘take-aways.’

In March Jeannie Ransom, author of the picture book The Crown Affair, gave a presentation to patrons at the Middendorf-Kredell library in O’Fallon. Her presentation was very similar to what I sometimes do, but there were some added things that she did that connected with her audience. One was showing on a map the distance between where she writes to where the publisher is located, as well as the location of the illustrator, and the printing company.

Being able to view the presentation as an attendee gave me additional insight. I could see what parts held everyone’s attention, what they connected with the most, and consider why.

Later that month I went to a presentation and book signing by Cathy Gilmore and Carol Benoist, authors of Easter Bunny’s Amazing Day (Cathy is also the author of Little Lamb Finds Christmas) at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Fenton. I could feel the enthusiasm of the speakers during the presentation, and see how that enthusiasm ‘caught’ their audience up in it. A craft activity afterwards brought children into the book even more.

Most recently, this month I attended a presentation and book signing at the Spencer library in St. Peters with Vicki Berger Erwin and Justine Riggs, authors of the book for adults, Finally a locally produced Guidebook to St. Charles, by and for locals, Neighborhood by Neighborhood, City and County—which has to be the longest title I’ve ever read! Vicki has had many books for children published in the past, including some of the Babysitters’ Club books, and is the former owner of Main Street Books in St. Charles. Again, as an outsider, I could see what connected with the audience—not only by what they talked about in their presentation, but also how it was presented and how the speakers connected to the audience on a personal level.

Another perk of attending other author presentations is how the excitement of having a new book published catches me up in it with them. It keeps me motivated, and excited about my own work. And sometimes listening to another author speak inspires a new thought or idea that can be totally unrelated to their own book.

Another idea is to see what authors are doing presentations at your local schools. When I started out, I asked the school for permission to attend the presentation with the students. It gave me motivation, information and a base for myself as an author for future author presentations.

So take a moment to check out author appearances at your local library or bookstore. You might be surprised at how it can fire you up as a writer.  Read More 
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