Tuesday, September 29, 2015

From the Page to the Stage: Sharing Your Writing with School and Library Audiences

By Marcia Wells, @WellsMarcia

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: One of my favorite things about writing for kids and teens is visiting schools and libraries. It can be a little intimidating at first, but a great school visit is a rewarding experience and worth the time and effort to do. Marcia Wells visits the lecture hall today to share some tips on making the most of your school and library visits.

Marcia Wells is the Edgar-nominated author of the middle grade mystery series, "Eddie Red Undercover". She's taught classes on author school visits and is a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books. The next book in the Eddie Red series, DOOM AT GRANT'S TOMB, is coming April 5, 2016.

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Take it away Marcia...

For many writers, the mere thought of a school or library visit can bring on an immediate attack of stomach cramps and sweaty palms. But sharing your work, whether it's published or not-yet-published, can be incredibly rewarding. Kids are thrilled to share their thoughts with you and tell you what you should write next. (Adults do this too!) Keep your ears open, take a deep breath, and step outside your writer's cave- you won't regret it!

Step 1: Check Out Your Town

Talk with librarians, teachers, neighbors and friends. Figure out where your event should take place, and for which audience. Is there a bird exhibit at the local art museum, and you've just written a book about birds? Did Mrs. Smith's fifth grade class just finish a unit on the Revolutionary War, and that happens to be your specialty? Usually people are excited to have authors come and talk, whether it's at a school, library, café, theater, church, museum, synagogue (to name a few!) Somewhere out there is an audience who wants to hear about you, your process, and your writing.

Step 2: Plan, Plan, Plan!

Will you use visuals? Will you do a reading? Visit the venue (or at least speak to the person in charge) and make sure they have the equipment you need. Think of activities that will engage your audience (slideshows, skits, props, hands-on show-and-tell, group discussions). It's best to be over-prepared with ideas because you may have to switch gears part way through if your audience is restless. Attend other author/public speaker events and see how they do it. Check out www.schoolvisitexperts.com for more great ideas.

Step 3: Engage Your Audience

This is the most important step of the whole process. Start off by asking them questions that reflect your book content. For my art mysteries, I ask: "Who likes mysteries? Why do we like mystery stories? Who likes to draw?" You might read a short segment from your book, but keep it short and remember--it can be a partial scene and doesn't have to start at the beginning. Ask questions after about what you read to keep them engaged. Make it about them, not you. Be enthusiastic, on your feet and active. The worst is a speaker who hides behind a microphone.

Step 4: Expect the Unexpected

Things go wrong, technology fails, a storm keeps people from coming, a kid barfs on the floor (this has all happened to me- and more!) Smile and laugh and remember that this is FUN and not the end of the world. Smile and keep smiling (even if you want to cry. Crying is for later at home with a glass of wine). Don't be afraid to ask for help. SMILE. If you are relaxed and happy, your audience will be too.

Most of all, HAVE FUN!

About Eddie Red Undercover: Doom at Grant's Tomb

Eddie Red, the NYPD’s youngest crime-solving hero, smells trouble. Could he be the target of the elusive art thief Lars Heinrich, whose last robbery he ruined? If so, why won’t the police let Eddie help on the case? What are they hiding from him?

In the thrilling third installment of the Eddie Red Undercover series, Eddie will need some luck of the Irish as he races against the clock (and bombs and runaway subway cars) to stop what could be one of the greatest heists in history.

Companion to Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on the Museum Mile and Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery in Mayan Mexico.

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  1. Thanks for the great advice, Marcia, and thanks for posting, Janice. :-)