A half hour in heaven

I started smiling the minute she started talking. I just knew she was going to be great. She was better than great. My eyes darted from her, to the screen behind her, to the faces of the children in the audience. I didn’t want to miss a minute of the presentation, but I also wanted to see the childrens’  reactions to what she was saying.
She started by telling our students that when she was their age she didn’t believe she was a writer. She didn’t believe she was any good at writing. Her teachers would mark up her papers and she didn’t like that at all. She didn’t want to rewrite.
But, she was a reader. And she loved reading picture books to her boys when they were young. One day, she told the children, she decided to try writing a book about her pet poodles. She didn’t really like writing about poodles though, and when she sent it to a publisher, they didn’t like it either. The publisher asked her what she did like, and she told them she liked non fiction, and she loved picture books.
She went on to tell the children that she has learned so many cool things when she has been writing her books.  She didn’t call it research, she called it learning cool things. I watched as some of the children nodded and others’ eyes lit up when she told them that when she was researching for a baseball book she learned that some players actually sleep with their bats under their pillows. She told them that when she was writing about Thomas Jefferson she learned he was a shopaholic. She told them that when she was writing about Kandinsky she learned that some people have a condition called synesthesia that causes them to see color in letters and sounds in numbers. The audience was in awe.
Instead of listing and explaining all the steps that a book goes through to get into stores, she solicited volunteers and used props and suddenly the children were writers and publishers and illustrators, acting out the steps that happen from idea to published book.
She showed them a stack of 25 rejection letters- and those were just for one book. But the book was published, and she showed us a copy.
She talked about what she does when she gets stuck, and I could see students smiling because they could relate.
She answered questions about her plans for her next book, and her daily writing routine and what she is reading now.
The children were mesmerized. They hung on her every word. I could see the wheels turning inside the heads of some of our most dedicated writers. I could see the skeptical expressions ease
And at the very end of a much too short half hour with this amazingly animated author, she mentioned that she was once a Second Grade teacher. Of course she was.

3 thoughts on “A half hour in heaven

  1. Awesome! We are so fortunate to have amazing YA and children's authors and illustrators that come to our classes and really connect with the students. This sounds like a terrific visit. Of course, now I feel like I have to do some research to figure out who she is.


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