Today marks the end of the month, ending SC Ransom’s residency with us, so she shares with us a final post…
‘Wear good shoes and show no fear…..’
I’ve just started doing school visits; going to secondary schools and talking about my books and the process of writing. I’ve never done anything like this before, so was somewhat apprehensive. I’ve done hundreds of business presentations, so I wasn’t worried about getting up and talking to loads of people, but the audiences I normally address are unlikely to heckle. I knew that I needed help so I turned to the writing community of Twitter, asking their advice. I got loads of really useful responses, but the one which really stood out was:
‘Wear good shoes and show no fear’
I can’t remember now who provided this particular gem (maybe Cat Clarke, author of Entangled?), but the advice seemed to resonate. I went shopping.
My first visit was to my old school, and a sea of familiar uniforms faced me as I stood there in my LK Bennett spiked heels. The girls there were lovely, and listened intently as I talked about how I had written the book, and how I had managed to get published. I had also recently been to see the first book being printed, and was still stunned by the whole printing process, so I talked about that too. Thinking back, they did glaze over a little at that point, but they asked loads of really good questions and I signed dozens of books.
I then set off on a mini tour, warming to my subject, and it wasn’t until I asked for feedback from one of the organisers of a particular event that I realised what I was doing – I was giving a business presentation about the practicalities of publishing. I wasn’t talking about what was in my book, but rather about how the book came to be there. As a result I don’t think that I was inspiring the kids to pick up books and read, which is what I had been hoping to do. So I ditched the presentation and started again.
Now when I speak to kids I still show slides, because I think that it makes a useful focus for their attention, but I talk a lot more about the characters, how I decided what they were going to be like and the locations I chose. I ask the kids who they would choose to play the characters in a movie (they all seem of have an opinion on that), what they think about the covers and where they would set a book. I’ve also been reading more from the books, as I’ve been assured by several of the librarians that the kids really like being read to. They’ve started asking lots more questions too.
I was really nervous before a recent talk: it was to a mixed group (my books are primarily aimed at girls), there were about 80 of them, and the audience included the ‘literacy disadvantaged’ set at the rear of the room. I was warned that they might get a little boisterous and be shepherded out mid-talk, and not to worry if that happened. I kept thinking back to the ‘show no fear’ advice and tried hard to make sure I looked relaxed. But I needn’t have been concerned. They were all fantastic, and the kids at the back asked some brilliant questions.
During my talks I’ve also been hugely impressed by the dedication of all the school librarians. They all seem so knowledgeable and so enthusiastic about getting the kids to read, whatever it is they enjoy, and it seems madness that so many of them are now fighting for their jobs. In my opinion reading is the very best preparation for being a writer, and a good librarian can introduce kids to a vast array of work in a structured and understandable way.
I see school visits as one of the best parts about my new part-time writing career, and I’m looking forward to doing many more. Getting feedback from the intended audience for the books is invaluable, and helping to inspire reluctant readers is unbelievingly satisfying. During my last visit a girl shyly asked me if I would review the novel she had been writing, and another school is running a competition to write a first chapter of a book called Small Blue Thing. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!
Thanks, Sue! It’s been great having you here at Bookbabblers – you’re very welcome back any time! You can buy Sue’s first two books here now..