Middle school gets a really bad rap, and I’ve never been one to try and correct it. My memories of middle school are not all fond ones, to say the least. When I experienced it first hand, I came away feeling like a lot of kids at that age tend to be mean and vindictive–not because they’re actually mean and vindictive, but because they’re all trying to figure out who they are still. That much uncertainty mixed with hormones and the social stratus of school is a recipe for disaster.
The past two Tuesdays, I was slated to go back to middle school. This time as an author, to speak with more than a hundred students about writing, where ideas come from, Vodnik–you name it.
I was not really looking forward to the experience.
Don’t get me wrong. No one had to twist my arm to get me to agree to go. But as much as I might seem to enjoy speaking in public, I dread it every time. Even teaching a class. It’s not that I have a bad time once I’m up there talking–it’s the lead up to it. Knowing I’ll have to be talking in front of strangers. I don’t know why this is, but there you have it. And speaking in front of middle schoolers? I had no idea what to expect.
The actual experience was a real pleasure.
The students were attentive, they’d brought questions, quite a few had read Vodnik and had interesting observations about the plot. For four 20 minute sessions, students had written down three questions each on notecards. I was handed the cards and went through them one by one, answering questions I’d never seen before in my life. It was actually a lot of fun. I got to talk about everything from talking alpacas to my love of steak to the other books I’m writing.
Sure, there were some kids who didn’t seem like they were to jazzed I was there. But most of them were actively engaged the whole time. There was a rush on Vodnik cards after each session. Demands for where they could buy my t-shirt. That kind of thing. It was a blast. Much better than my memories of middle school were.
So all told, I’ve very glad I went, and I hope to be able to do it again. I’m considering opening up offers to have me do Skype visits to public and school libraries that have a copy of my book. I think I’d probably want them to be prepared for the visit in the same way these classes were prepared. They’d read excerpts, had specific questions–it was very smooth and easy for me to do it. Anyone else out there experiment with Skype visits already? I’d do in person ones, but my time is so tight . . .