Author Topic: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?  (Read 817 times)  

Offline MikeRyan

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Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« on: June 06, 2018, 09:30:34 PM »
I've been approached by a middle school teacher about speaking to her writing class (7th grade) sometime in the fall. I was just wondering if anyone else has ever had the same opportunity? Part of me would really like to do it, but, in spite of selling around 200,000 books since 2017, I don't really consider myself anything special or an expert or anything. I write crime fiction and thrillers and consider myself an average writer. Just interested in hearing anyone else's experiences if there are any.


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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2018, 09:44:34 PM »
Yes.

I passed.

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Offline Simon Haynes

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2018, 10:04:55 PM »
Yes, I've done loads of them. I usually talk about the life of an author, give them a few facts about publishing, delve into some of the hair-raising things I did as a kid. If there's time, or if I finish a bit too soon, I do a reading.

It's one of the reasons I wrote my MG series, just so I'd have something to read to them!


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Offline Kal241

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2018, 12:11:26 AM »
Had something similar recently. Was approached by a disabilities coordinator wondering if I'd teach a class on visual storytelling to people who have disabilities (I have Aspergers and am good at illustrating, so they consider that a plus). I agreed, because it's always good to pass on the knowledge. It'll be happening later this month.

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Offline A. S. Warwick

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2018, 12:45:30 AM »
I actually did one a week ago - though it happened in the school I worked at as a library officer.  One of the primary teachers asked me to speak to her grade 5s a little about the writing process, or at least my writing process.

I'm terrible at public speaking so it was only the fact that I've known these kids for a few years that I was willing and able to do it.
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Offline Simon Haynes

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2018, 02:20:09 AM »
My first two or three I was sh---ing bricks, as they say. Very nervous. Gradually it got easier, and it also turned me from a relatively reserved and shy person into someone who's comfortable speaking in front of anyone, anywhere. I must have done 30 or 40 talks, it's been a while since the last but it did completely change me as a person.

If you get the chance, take it.


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Offline Diana Kimpton

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2018, 02:45:22 AM »
I've done lots of school visits. I get really nervous about them, but they always go okay. I usually talk about how I get ideas and develop them into stories. Then I read an extract relevant to what I've been talking about and follow that with questions and answers. A friend takes in a pack of postcards with a question written on each one. Then, if no one asks a question, he asks someone to pick a card and read out what it says. Some children just want to join in rather than ask a question so don't be surprised by children saying things like "I've got a cat" instead of asking a question. (The younger your audience, the more likely this is to happen.)


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Offline cadle-sparks

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2018, 03:13:13 AM »
Libraries and book clubs, but not schools.

I always say "I'm just one writer. If you asked nine other writers here, you'd get ten different answers to a lot of your questions." I'm not sure that sinks in, but I get what you're saying about feeling strange because you aren't feeling representative of all writers.

For a school, I'd point out that despite (whatever difficulties I had in junior high), I went on to sell books to readers in 15 countries. Some of them are feeling stuck, are in miserable families, are in foster care, are the class scapegoat, aren't going to get laid until they are 25. Think of those kids, and give them hope something interesting is ahead for them in adulthood. What if something you say can prevent a suicide? Throw them a line.

Go for it.

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2018, 05:32:21 AM »
I did very recently, in fact. My daughter is in kindergarten so I got to speak to all the kindergarten kids. She was overjoyed that I came to her school to speak, and I made a big deal about how she's my most important helper. I made big posters with pictures about the writing process (things like a monkey typing; I told them it was an actual picture of me working) and the traditional publishing process. Despite the fact that I abhor speaking in front of people, it was wonderful. The kids were fantastic and I scored all the hugs.]

I have a friend who did a talk to older kids. She discussed crafting stories and she got the class to help her write a story on the fly. Apparently that was a huge success.

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Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2018, 06:22:12 AM »
I have once (helping students review for a mythology test based on a mythology book I wrote), and that seems likely to become an annual event. That involved doing Q and A in four different classes.

The classes mingled their questions about the substance of the book with questions about my creative process. It's clearly something high school students are interested in. Most of the ones I spoke to were fourteen--and one of the them was already 20,000 into his own novel. Others were considering writing as a career.

If you think about the twists and turns of indie publishing, there's plenty to talk about (and many interesting anecdotes). You don't really have to be an expert to provide a different perspective and some important information. 


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Offline MikeRyan

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2018, 11:29:39 AM »
Thanks for all the replies and experiences. I'm not a big public speaker, I always hated those class assignments when I was in school where you had to stand up in front of everybody and give a report on something for twenty minutes. I'll probably just contact the teacher and ask what she had in mind. It would be cool if some of the kids were interested in writing for a career, or hobby, and pass along my own experiences. Kind of pay it forward I guess. Thanks to all who responded.


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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2018, 11:56:57 AM »
Thanks for all the replies and experiences. I'm not a big public speaker, I always hated those class assignments when I was in school where you had to stand up in front of everybody and give a report on something for twenty minutes. I'll probably just contact the teacher and ask what she had in mind. It would be cool if some of the kids were interested in writing for a career, or hobby, and pass along my own experiences. Kind of pay it forward I guess. Thanks to all who responded.

For what it's worth, I hate, hate, hate public speaker and have totally choked in public before. But speaking to kids was really different. I think kids are much more engaged and curious and fun.

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Offline Jan Hurst-Nicholson

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2018, 12:28:13 PM »
I've spoken at loads of schools. (I joined a public speaking organisation especially to equip myself for talking about my books). Depending on the age group, it can be great fun. I had cards made from the illustrations from my Leon books and I offer them as prizes to children who can answer correctly when I ask questions. Ten-year-old's hands shoot up and attention improves 100%. I usually begin by asking them if they know why a chameleon would make a good private investigator (answers on a postcard, please  ;D ) and that gets their attention straight away. The books were trad published, so I asked them, and the teachers, how much they think I made on each book, after telling them the selling price. They were shocked at how little an author receives.
After telling them about the story and the characters I show them how a book is printed. I asked the printer for the sheet of pages before they are cut and the children can see how some of the pictures are upside down and it has to be folded a certain way before cutting.
Teenagers are not as eager to answer questions as they are at the 'embarrassed' stage  ::).  You have to adapt your talks to suit individual audiences.

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Offline Jan Hurst-Nicholson

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2018, 12:30:43 PM »
For what it's worth, I hate, hate, hate public speaker and have totally choked in public before. But speaking to kids was really different. I think kids are much more engaged and curious and fun.

I'm getting to the final stages of writing a book on taking the terror out of public speaking. It's for the 'average person' . Maybe I could ask you to be a beta reader  :D

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2018, 12:31:43 PM »
I'm getting to the final stages of writing a book on taking the terror out of public speaking. It's for the 'average person' . Maybe I could ask you to be a beta reader  :D

Sure! :D

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Offline Jan Hurst-Nicholson

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2018, 12:34:55 PM »

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Offline PenNPaper

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2018, 01:00:53 PM »
I've been approached by a middle school teacher about speaking to her writing class (7th grade) sometime in the fall. I was just wondering if anyone else has ever had the same opportunity? Part of me would really like to do it, but, in spite of selling around 200,000 books since 2017, I don't really consider myself anything special or an expert or anything. I write crime fiction and thrillers and consider myself an average writer. Just interested in hearing anyone else's experiences if there are any.

I have done exactly this. It was exhausting, but the kids are sharp and most of them, very interested. Some, those who are already writing, will hang on your every word. I say do it. The experience was very rewarding.

Offline D.A. Boulter

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2018, 02:53:42 PM »
I did this several years ago for an acquaintance of mine who taught Grade 4 (I think). Each student wrote a short story -- some very short -- and I wrote comments on each one. (I got the stories in advance of my going in to see them.)

I talked a little bit about story structure, then discussed each of their stories in turn. I had handed back their stories, but as each one put up their hand and gave me a hint, I was able to discuss that particular story in detail.

What wowed them was me actively relating to their stories personally. They found my little talk on story structure boring (I think), but when I used each story in turn as an example, I had their undivided attention.

It was a lot of fun. The teacher was amazed that I was able to recall all 24-30 stories without notes, and the kids were delighted as it was obvious that I didn't just read, write comments, and then forget.

I also wrote a short story to read to them, which had a bit of a sad ending. I did that so I could show that if you write the stories you can have any kind of ending you want. So, I then turned the sad ending into a happy ending by adding a couple of extra paragraphs.

It's quite the ego-boost to see your audience absolutely enthralled by your writing. Always wanted to do it again, but it was a one-off. Never got the chance again. However, I'm very happy I did it.

I don't like public speaking either. I'm your stereotypical introverted, quiet, sit-in-the-corner writer. However, I find I am able to put on a persona, and that persona does like it, is interested in the subject, etc. So, I just allow him to take over, and away I go.


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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2018, 05:32:29 PM »
I've lectured on and instructed basic writing mechanics, story architecture, fantasy worldbuilding, and indie publishing at middle schools, high schools, and colleges. I love it. I still get messages from students whose classes I've visited. Few things make me happier than knowing that I'm partially responsible for yet another youngling  p*ss ing off their parents by getting an English degree and going on to become a struggling author. Mission. Accomplished.

I write and lecture for a living, now, but it's all real-world stuff; my ultimate goal is to make a living writing fantasy and giving talks and demonstrations at schools and fantasy cons.
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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #19 on: June 07, 2018, 06:01:02 PM »
Never as an author, but I used to do science shows at schools for a job.

If you want some advice about how to do it, do not talk to them like they are children. In my experience kids want to be talked to like they are adults. If they think youre talking down to them they will disengage and start hassling you.

You should do it!

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Offline David VanDyke

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #20 on: June 07, 2018, 08:25:20 PM »
I've been approached by a middle school teacher about speaking to her writing class (7th grade) sometime in the fall. I was just wondering if anyone else has ever had the same opportunity? Part of me would really like to do it, but, in spite of selling around 200,000 books since 2017, I don't really consider myself anything special or an expert or anything. I write crime fiction and thrillers and consider myself an average writer. Just interested in hearing anyone else's experiences if there are any.

You're in the top 1% of authors if you've actually sold (vs. given away) 200K books. That's special.

Besides, that matters less than how you tell your story and connect with the kids.


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Offline Simon Haynes

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2018, 08:38:27 PM »
If you want some advice about how to do it, do not talk to them like they are children. In my experience kids want to be talked to like they are adults. If they think youre talking down to them they will disengage and start hassling you.


Oh yes, most definitely. I cringe when I hear adults speaking to anyone under the age of about 15 as if their audience were three years old. If adults only knew - or remembered - how sharp kids were, they'd speak to them a bit more normally.

Don't lecture them, and don't bore them. You'll already be ahead of about 95% of the people they're forced to listen to ;-)


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Offline MikeRyan

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #22 on: June 07, 2018, 10:52:50 PM »
Everyone's given some good advice and I'm leaning towards doing it. Sounds like the best way is to just interact with them and make it fun. I don't want to sound like some stuffy middle-aged guy talking down to them. Thanks everyone for your opinions.


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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #23 on: June 07, 2018, 11:28:50 PM »
Everyone's given some good advice and I'm leaning towards doing it. Sounds like the best way is to just interact with them and make it fun. I don't want to sound like some stuffy middle-aged guy talking down to them. Thanks everyone for your opinions.

I used to teach middle school. Rough crowd. I agree with the advice to talk to the kids like you would an adult...an adult who's learning something new. Teens/tweens lack experience, not intelligence. They are hungry for anything that seems real to them. It's the age of disillusionment, and they're testing the truth of things. An adult who gives them the straight scoop (in a school appropriate presentation) will earn their respect.

It might be good to ask the teacher to have the kids write down some question beforehand. It could help the teacher prep the students and give you some idea what to focus on.

From that, it helps to have a working plan going in. (e.g. Intro>short "about writing/pubbing in general (covering reoccurring questions)>more specific prewritten questions>open it up for questions/comments real-time, etc.) It might break down two seconds after you enter the room, but you'll have some ideas to fall back on if you hit a lull.

Consider leading with "200K books sold and I still feel like I don't have the credentials to be here, but I'll tell you what I know..." -- just a thought.

Good luck.


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Offline notjohn

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #24 on: June 08, 2018, 07:35:34 AM »
I've talked to a lot of high school and university classes, though none recently. I came to dread the high school visits. (I was paid for the tour.) The college kids were great. I've also taught writing seminars at a junior college and a state university; both were thrilling, especially the latter. Young talent is amazing. Where do their ideas come from?

Susan wrote two children's books and visited a lot of schools, and sometimes I came along as the driver, especially if I had attended that school. (My father was a restless man. We seldom stayed in one town or city as long as two years. The high school we graduated from was the ninth school my brother and I had attended. Great preparation for a writer!)

Susan loved those talks, since the kids were the same age as the audience for her books, and she still gets email from some of them.

I have to say that the best part of being a writer, for me, is the people who write (or now email). I get them mixed up sometimes. I have these emails "friends" and I don't have the faintest idea of where they live, most of them, and often enough I don't know what our original connection was.
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Offline MikeRyan

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #25 on: June 08, 2018, 10:21:28 AM »
Thanks. Yeah, I would definitely not wing it. I'm someone who likes to plan and prepare for everything. I hate surprises and not knowing something before I get there. So I would definitely like to plan everything out so everything flows smoothly.


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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #26 on: June 08, 2018, 01:46:05 PM »
I've spoken at schools many times. It was always an enjoyable experience, and at one stage it was profitable as I was put on a teacher's salary for ten months to allow me time to talk individually with every child in a four hundred student school, (Jells Park Primary) to encourage them with their creative work, and also in weekly group sessions. This was as part of the authors and artist's is schools grants. That expanded into my talking to all the parents, and the teachers in that school and then all the creative arts teachers in the state. For years afterward, (as the children were able to get to know me well during that year,) I had children calling out to me in the street, and waving to me. It was a fantastic, fun experience at the time. As well as the salary, there was a gift presentation at the end of my stay. They offered to pay for all my supplies and expenses, I refused to accept that, and, there are fantastic memories. The long engagement was covered by a leading magazine and the major state newspapers, so the publicity was excellent. I did this in a different name, my real name. Ryn is my retirement creative life name that I changed to eight years ago,  :) when I wanted to leave public appearance life.

I've never asked for payment for speaking engagements, but generally, I've been either paid a fee or have been presented with an excellent gift. Engage a public relations officer, the school may have one who will do the work for you, or you can do the PR yourself. Just try not to allow a newsworthy story to go unprompted, not if you need an income from your work. As an example of what good PR can achieve, I received interviews on a major television network's top lifestyle show and prime news stories as a result of some of those 'unpaid' talks. Those publicity bonuses are worth tens of thousands of dollars if you can get a major television station interested. It won't happen if they don't know there is a newsworthy story. They also like to add one human interest story to the news, usually at the end of it. Regional, rural based television will often accept a a local story with children, or about a creative person involved in the community, to end a 6PM news session, just before the weather report. Radio interviews, in the localty of the school, and local newspaper stories, are even easier to get, especially if you hand them an already written suggested script.

If you want to maximise the opportunity, get your blurb writing skills focused on writing a newsworthy story of why these children want to hear from you and make appointments to speak to editors where you hope to have it covered. I would go to the newspaper offices and the radio stations and the television channels in person, if I was hoping to gain big coverage of a story about where I might be. I'd always ensure there was a community benefit involved. If there wasn't, I'd create one, such as my presenting something I'd created as a gift to raise funds for a worthy cause. In those situations I could unload the scary part of fronting the media with my story, in the hope they would send a reporter to cover the event, to the public relations officer for the charity. Back then, I gave equal time to the public relations and to the business side of every opportunity that came my way an I did to the creative part. I've seen too many brilliantly talented creatives fail to earn a living at their work because they couldn't or wouldn't make themselves promote personal appearances, hence I'm stressing that the talking engagement is only one third of the work involved for a professional creative.

I mention all of that, to show that you can help the school gain publicity, and give a reporter an easy story to cover, while gaining publicity yourself. That sort of promotional work doesn't come easily to many creative people, it didn't come easily to me, I just made myself front up to those places with a press release in hand, and a compelling human interest story they might want to use.  Back then, it was a case of 'make myself' do those things as my income relied on it.

The speaking part of the engagement should be fun. You will be a pleasant change in the curriculum for most students, and they enjoy hearing from someone who may be living their dream. They will have heaps of questions you can answer if you're unsure at any stage of what to say next, not that a writer would be short of words. :-) Go and enjoy yourself and what it brings.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2018, 02:01:30 PM by Ryn Shell »

Offline Blerg et al.

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #27 on: June 09, 2018, 07:17:18 AM »
Johanna Penn had an episode about getting books into schools two weeks ago.

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #28 on: June 09, 2018, 10:24:08 AM »
I read a blog post by a tradpub female author who had the experience of going to a school to talk and the school only let girls go to the talk because they thought that since she was a female writer writing about ninja princesses, she didn't have anything of value to say to boys. I'm curious if other female authors have experienced anything like that. Or if any authors who talk at schools have noticed any sort of implicit or explicit gender bias on the part of the school staff.

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #29 on: June 09, 2018, 10:33:53 AM »
I read a blog post by a tradpub female author who had the experience of going to a school to talk and the school only let girls go to the talk because they thought that since she was a female writer writing about ninja princesses, she didn't have anything of value to say to boys. I'm curious if other female authors have experienced anything like that. Or if any authors who talk at schools have noticed any sort of implicit or explicit gender bias on the part of the school staff.

That's awful and, thankfully, hasn't been my experience. But I live in a really liberal area, and the school district here really embraces equality.

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Offline Diana Kimpton

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #30 on: June 13, 2018, 02:17:54 AM »
Another tip I forgot to mention. Make it clear before you go in that the teacher has to stay in the class with you. This is an important safeguarding issue, but it also means you don't have to worry about kids who misbehave, feel sick or want to go to the toilet. You're there to talk about writing - not to practise class control.


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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #31 on: June 13, 2018, 03:22:54 AM »
I've been a member of the Writers In The School program here in Nova Scotia for almost twenty years. I give workshops and presentations to kids anywhere from primary on up to University. You get better and more used to it, the more gigs you take part in.

The Grade 7's that you'll be talking to are at a challenging age - but murder and crime are still cool topics. Bring in a few paperbacks to show them what you've written. I like to lean them up against the front board (which might be a white board, a black board, a cork board, or a screen - depending upon the school. Rehearse your presentation in the bathroom in front of the mirror. Don't let the kids freak you out.

Offline LectorsBooks

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Re: Anyone ever invited to talk at a school?
« Reply #32 on: June 13, 2018, 01:16:50 PM »
I've gone into a few different elementary schools talking to kids about my book. I'm not a public speaking person AT ALL, but despite my nerves I found it a great experience. I know middle school is a different kettle of fish, but I always ended up leaving really energized about my writing. The kids always had great questions, too, so make sure to leave time for that. Except the kindergarteners. Their questions were usually just stories about their pets.  ;D

Janie Dullard