Which got me to thinking about my own experience of author and illustrator visits in schools when I was a child. I racked my brain and I came up with virtually nothing! I keep thinking we MUST have had visits, people MUST have come to speak to us, but nothing stood out. I don't think I even knew what an illustrator did until I got to college. (And not hardly then). We had school trips to museums and (possibly) art galleries, but most of my knowledge came from wandering around museums and galleries on my own. And, of course, the wonderful old library in our town.
I say virtually, because I do remember ONE visit to my school by an author. I think I was about 14 years old. At that time I was constantly drawing and writing, making little comic books and newsletters. Working on the school magazine. Making up plays. So I was interested to see what a REAL author did.
In my memory she is somewhere between 35 and 85. Wild grey hair, no makeup (possibly), hippy clothes and baggy cardigan. We gathered in the library, myself and my best friend up at the front of the crowd. She must have told us something about her life as an author for adults, but I only recall that she read us some of her writing. And I was appalled. This was writing?? The story, I believe, was about a woman's life. Except all I remember was a long, long list. A list about everything in her kitchen, her cupboard, her fridge, her closet. And it went on and on and on. I am sure it was a good idea, experimental, deep, 1970ish. Anyway, she was published so I respected that. But I preferred my Bronte, CS Lewis and pony books.
In the library the author gave our stories back to us. I turned excitedly to the last page to see what she'd written. 'Good Try'. Oh. My heart sank. I peered over at my best friend's story. Her last page was covered in flowery writing. She grinned widely and showed me. 'Natural writer, what a voice, you are a born story teller!' I smiled and offered congratulations. Then I sank down in my chair and hunched my shoulders.
My best friend stood at the front of the class and read out her story.
I went home. I got out my drawing pad and I drew. And I drew and drew, because this much I knew - I could draw! And if they noticed nothing else, they would notice that!
I stopped writing. Or at least I stopped thinking about it as much and enjoying it. I still read voraciously. Gradually ART took over my life.
Later, in my twenties and thirties, I started to pen little stories. I never did anything with them. They were just scribbles. Drawing was how I made my living. And then, finally, in my late 30's, the urge to storytell begin to re-emerge. I sent off a few chapters to agents .. I got some hand written rejections which I cherished. And then, mid 40's I realized there was nothing else I wanted to do with the rest of my life than to follow my dream and illustrate and write - for children. My writing is coming on, it has a ways to catch up with my drawing, but it will.
I tell you this story because it is a reminder to me, and to us all, that the children ARE listening. When I do a visit to a school I will bear in mind that every child is important - not just those with the talent that shines most brightly. And as I do more of these visits I realize that one of the most important sessions is the Q&A. Because that's when you really get to talk to the children ... not just tell them about you. I am going to sit up and pay attention to what THEY have to tell ME.
Thanks for listening and if you have any links about school visits or your experiences, would love to read your comments.
PS. I still love my best friend. She has a fabulous family, is a great cook and performer. But she has not, as far as I know, yet written and published a novel. Of course, there is still time!