I’ve always known I would eventually do school visits, and I looked forward to the day. I just always thought I would do them when I got a book published or at least when I had a contract and a publication date in sight.
But last week my mother-in-law asked me to come visit the 5th grade at Quail Hollow Elementary and talk about being an author. It’s her last year of teaching, so I figured it’s now or never. I put together a presentation and decided it would be good practice.
And it was really fun! The kids were so enthusiastic, bursting with questions and comments about their own writing experiences. We discussed fairy-tales and why I chose to write a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. I asked them to tell me what holes they saw in the traditional tale and what questions went unanswered. These were their questions:
Where does Rumpelstiltskin come from?
How did he get his name?
Why does the miller tell the king his daughter can spin straw to gold?
Why does Rumpelstiltskin help her?
Why does he want a baby?
What’s the baby’s name? (And the miller’s and the daughter’s and the king’s?)
What is the kingdom like?
How does Rumpelstiltskin turn the straw to gold?
Why does he say his name out loud in the woods?
All excellent questions, and I was so happy to say that RUMP answers every one of them. They were excited about that, so I read them a little of Rump and they loved it. One student asked if I would give them all a free book when it was published. Oh, wouldn’t that be nice? I said no, but I would gladly sign a copy for them. They seemed to think that was good enough.
I think the students’ favorite part was when we discussed story ideas and then we created our own class story. I had them choose a main character, what the character wants, what is in their way, and how they overcome the obstacles to achieve their goal. It went something like this.
Demo is a girl and she wants to take over the world through mind control. But she can’t because of her annoying brother who is breaking her concentration. Also there are mad scientists and a crazy unicorn and Demo has a curse to eat cheese.
But she stuffs her annoying brother in a closet with the crazy unicorn and transfers her curse of eating cheese onto the mad scientist and was able to take over the world through mind control.
Pretty awesome if you ask me. I see a best-selling chapter book in the making, something along the lines of Franny K. Stein. I encouraged them all to write the story down in their own way.
So it was a lot of fun, good practice, and I hope many more school visits are in my future. I love this age. Middle-graders are so enthusiastic about reading and writing and stories. It’s a pleasure to write stories for them and it’s a pleasure to share.
The only thing I feel is really lacking in my presentation is the music. I just have this fantasy of playing the guitar and singing for the kids at the end, but alas, though I have a beautiful guitar I don’t know how to play it. Better get on that.