I went in to one of my local Jr. High's to sign some books (they had ordered a copy for each of the writing teachers, plus one for the library), and came away with this:
Thank you notes from my author visit.
Buried treasures within the notes:
(These are going on the wall of coolness by my computer.)
(Not pictured: my photo with the entire class doing a pose like the ones drawn here.)
Class visits are their own reward for me. They take time, but they are so worthwhile. I hand out bookmarks and I'm sure I end up getting a few sales from the visits. But the most important thing for me is the chance to influence these kids - to get them excited about writing and creativity and learning. Depending on the class, I may talk about being an author, or about my books, or sometimes about my whole career-progression as an engineer-turned-scientist-turned-author. I enjoy public speaking, and even more so, talking to kids. I've done a lot of it in the last year, everything from teaching seminars to school visits to Girl Scout book clubs (coming soon!).
This particular class was special because it was filled with struggling learners. Most hated writing. Many hated to read. Two adorable girls had been to my classes at the library, where I taught writing for teens, but they were probably the only ones that actually enjoyed writing.
I shared that my son had written a book, and self-published it, and passed it around. That perked up their interest. But mostly, I spent the period talking about working hard to achieve your goals. I told them that no matter what kind of job they did when they grew up, they would do it better if they learned how to express themselves clearly with their writing. I talked about stories, how important they are, and how we use them all the time to explain the world to ourselves and to each other. I encouraged them to write every day, even if it was just in a small journal like I carried around. I said they should write about things that mattered to them: the annoying guys with the locker next to them; their crazy friends; or make up stories and pass notes when their teachers aren't looking, like I did. Writing would help them figure out the craziness in their lives, and over time, maybe help sort things out. And all that writing would make them better able to express themselves, to tell stories in their work, and ultimately help them become better teachers or nurses or whatever dream they chased after.
Not my typical author talk.
One of the thank you notes said this:
"I thought your speech was really cool. Something that you said really caught my mind. You said, "write about something you care about." Some people just write things they're not even looking at. I say if you write things you should care about it and show passion for it."
That boy will go far.
There are some days that I rail at the craziness of the publishing world or glare at my manuscript and wonder if it's ever going to come together. Sometimes I want to tear out my hair in frustration with trying to balance all the many hats of being an author in the modern world.
Today I soaked up the knowledge that this writing thing that I do can make a difference in young lives.