General

Corrupting the Youth... er, I mean... Speaking at Schools

So yesterday I did my very first school presentation, speaking in a creative writing class at a private school in Virginia. My father-in-law happens to teach there, and he talks about me, so some of the students vaguely know who I am. And I’ve visited before to hang out with a small group of girls and talk books, which was a blast, and I ended up using all three of those girls’ names in The Selection.

My expectation was that I would just bomb. I’ve never done this before, but I want to go and speak to young writers in the future, so I need to learn how. In the weeks before, I prepared a presentation and even bought a fancy little book to keep my notes in, but about five days out, I abandoned it. I’m not a structured kind of gal, and reading a list of bullet points about knowing characters made me cringe. In the end, I took it with me and just spoke.

So what happened?

Well, I think I did okay. No one fell asleep, which is a plus, but I’m not sure if I was quite as engaging as I meant to be. I did pop over to my notes from time to time, but mostly I just talked. Given that it was a private school, the class was small. Very small. Seven people. And, though Callaway thinks I’m crazy, that made it a bit more intimidating. It was one of those rare opportunities to connect with everyone involved, and I don’t know if I managed that. Also, I said suck a lot, and I don’t know if that froke them out at all. But they froke me out too, as I was making Harry Potter references and NONE of them had read a single book. So, yeah, I was out of my element at times.

However, there were some things I learned/decided upon and will try to incorporate these from now on:

One, I will wear jeans at every opportunity. These are my work clothes. Your teachers can wear dresses if they like, but I’m not a teacher. I’m just a chick who talks to people in her head and tells you what they say.

Two, I will let the teacher pipe in ANY TIME they want. The guy leading this class helped me transition over and over again, and I was so grateful to feel like I wasn’t doing this alone. And he’s the person they have to take direction from all year. It was nice to feel like he got/owned a part of what was happening.

Three, I will keep the notes on standby and continue to ask people to tweet questions at me just in case the students don’t have any. There needs to be something there, hanging in the background, just in case things go south.

And four, I will remain awkward. I went in wanting to be myself, and even at my best, I say stupid things (like SUCK five times in fifteen seconds. Not kidding.). But it’s honest, and I hope that it encourages others to embrace their awkward.

 

Oh, highlights:

One of the ladies whose name is in the book, a miss Elizabeth O’Brien if you must know, is the only girl of the three who hasn’t graduated yet. I was so happy to see her, hug her, and to be wearing similar shades of purple. Enthusiasm like that is so encouraging. Joy!

We popped in to my father-in-law’s class to say hi, and when he introduced me, this guy gasped and leaned to see me. I told him I liked his tie, and he told me he liked my videos. He was seriously wearing a spectacular bowtie and rocking a Phineas and Ferb notebook, which meant if I was still seventeen, we probably would have been BFFs. It was just cool.

Alright, back to reading through Book 2. I yearn to make it lovely!