School Author Visits for Introverts

As a children’s author, if you want to get your book out there in front of your intended audience, author visits are vital. Our age group is far less likely to be scouring the latest book blogs or perusing Amazon. We have to bring the books to them where they are. Schools!

download

Unfortunately, most writers I’ve met including myself, tend to be introverts. Public speaking is something from their nightmares not something they would voluntarily put themselves through. The first time I spoke in front of an audience, I felt physically ill. And kids, boy I tell you, they are honest. They may ask embarrassing questions like “Are you pregnant? (yes that happened) or tell you your book just doesn’t look interesting. But they are also enthusiastic. When they are excited about something you can bet it’s sincere. And what a unique and amazing opportunity we have as authors to speak to children directly and inspire in them a love of reading and writing. By so doing, we are helping keep the print industry relevant to future generations!

Now that I have gotten a good number of talks under my belt, I have acquired a few tips that I’d like to share for the fellow introverts out there who may be considering taking the plunge into the world of public speaking. Some of these may seem obvious, but many of them I wish I’d have known beforehand.

download (1)

1. Prepare yourself

Being adequately prepared helped me more than anything else. For me this involves writing down a detailed talk to help me get things straight in my head, then I whittle it down to the most important parts. I then take these key elements and create a power point with images that will get the kids excited about the content while simultaneously keeping me on track.

Then I go through the talk in my mind over and over. While in the shower, while washing dishes, before I go to bed, etc. I make the talk become second nature. Once I have a talk down I practice it in front of a test audience using the power point on my computer. If I forget where I am, I just hit the next button and it brings my right back on track, no paper needed.

I practice the talk once for my kids, and once for my husband who purposely raises his hand at inappropriate times and answers questions with unusual answers to help me be ready for anything. Another thing I did to help prepare was pray. Prayer is a great way to help ease your mind and bring you to a place of comfort. He’s in control!

2. Be confident

download (2)

Easier said than done. But for all these kids know, your as big as J.K. Rowling and you’re taking time off from writing your next best seller to talk to them at their school! Put yourself in their shoes. How cool would that be??

Something I like to do before starting a series of new talks and book signings, is buy myself a new outfit. It may sound trivial, but when you feel good about what you’re wearing, it can really give your confidence a boost.

3. Keep it relevant

Relating to the kids and keeping things relevant to them is so important. It helps keep their interest and excites them to see that you know about things they like and take an interest in what is important to them. This can be expressed in the questions you ask and by using images in your slide show that reflect the current trends.

For example, superheroes are big right now, so in one talk, when I was talking about the powers of the characters in my book, I asked them what kind of super powers they would have if they could choose any. When I spoke about The Hero’s Journey, I used examples not just from books, but also from popular movies and video games, and when I spoke about well rounded characters, I used Naruto (A popular anime character) as and example of someone who has both strengths and weaknesses.

It’s so fun to see their faces light up when they recognize something on the screen, but also be prepared for a little excited chatter. Personally I prefer a little noisy enthusiasm to bored, stark, silence.

4. Keep them involved

I like to encourage participation as much as possible. I add plenty of places where I can ask a question or have a spot for them to share. I’ll ask about their favorite books, what they are currently reading,  or if they have some recommendations for me. Whatever helps them feel involved and not just lectured at is great.

Another way to keep them involved is through props. It helps bring your book to life when you can pull out an object from your story and show it to them. I’ve used various props. A mechanical owl, a hangman spider, a haunted journal, and most recently a mechanical kraken that guards the gates to Atlantis. I feel this really helps the story leap from the page and stirs the imagination.

5. Stay hydrated

download (3)

This should go without saying, but so many times I’ve arrived to give a talk and forgotten to bring water with me. This is especially important if you are giving several talks back to back. If you aren’t used to speaking loudly for long periods of time, it’s really easy to lose your voice.

I would highly recommend honey throat lozenges and an aloe drink. Aloe drinks are gaining popularity in the US and can be found at Asian markets or in many Asian food aisles at your local grocery store. I even found some at Dollar Tree recently.

6. Pace yourself

The tendency, especially if your nervous, is to speed through your talk and get it done as quickly as possible. But when you go too fast it doesn’t allow the content to be absorbed by your audience and they may lose interest.

I often need to remind myself to slow down and speak up, especially during the reading portion when I read part of my book aloud. And when reading your book, enjoy it! It’s not a race. Take your time, pause for dramatic effect, and leave them on a cliff hanger.

Nothing quite as satisfying as hearing dramatic groans because you stopped reading and they want to hear more.

7. Leave them with a memento

Bring something you can hand out to help the kids remember your books and the things you talked about. I like to bring coloring pages of the illustrations in my book and bookmarks. I’ve been surprised to learn that even the older kids enjoy getting coloring pages, and who doesn’t love a colorful bookmark?

This gives them something tangible they can bring home to show their parents and helps them connect to you any your story.

8. Have fun

Cliche I know, but remember that these kids are excited to be there meeting a real author and taking a break from their typical day. This is a treat for them, and even though it can be nerve wracking, it’s always been a treat for me too.

Writing middle grade books or any children’s book, presents a unique challenge for reaching your audience, but also provides a unique opportunity to inspire, encourage and reach the next generation of readers.

9. Treat yo self!

download (4)

Make your author visits a rewarding experience. Go out and celebrate when you’re done by eating at that new restaurant you’ve been meaning to try, or getting a yummy carton of  your favorite ice cream! Food is a great motivator for me, but for you it might be something else. Whatever it may be, don’t skip the celebrating! Not only did you write a book, you faced a challenge head on and you didn’t just survive, you thrived. Be excited, and treat yo self!

I sincerely hope these tips will help you if you are considering doing author visits. Before I started speaking at schools a few years ago, public speaking was my absolute greatest fear. I want you to be encouraged because if I can do this, as person who was too scared to order my own fast food at McDonald’s as a teen, you can do this too! Introverts unite! (In separate places and on different days when we feel like it.)

Do you have any good tips for public speaking? I’d love to hear them. Comment below!

 

Advertisements

Cover Reveal for Penelope Gilbert and the Guardians of Atlantis

Okay guys, it’s time for what you’ve all been waiting for! No, not free ice cream or taco night. I suppose the title of this post already gave it away, but for those not paying close attention, it’s the cover reveal for the sequel to Penelope Gilbert!!! Okay, settle down. But not too much, because here it is!!!!!!

37700015_10215468643365176_320821756224864256_n

I Just love how it turned out. Big thanks to my husband Chad Steward for his amazing talent and artistic eye! It even looks more amazing when you put it up next to the first book. Check it out.

37704195_10215469896036492_8638629681366564864_n

Don’t the colors look awesome together?? Can’t wait to have the full trilogy on my shelf. Just have to do that whole, writing the third book thing. Baby steps, Emily…

 

Look for Penelope Gilbert and the Guardians of Atlantis August 28th 2018 on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. com!

Plotters vs. Pantsers (following the white rabbit)

With the writing of my newest book, I’ve been pondering the merits between plotters and pantsers.

If you are unfamiliar with the terms, plotters are writers who plot everything out, sometimes down to every minute detail. I’ve heard of some even having these big story boards with graphs and charts to keep track of each chapter, character, and plot twist. These are the type A’s of the writing world. I imagine them like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.

2013-03-10-014-11

Must… figure out… character motivation.

Pantsers on the other hand are known for writing by the seat of their pants. They may jump into a book with very little idea where they plan to steer the story, preferring to just dive in and see what happens or where the characters lead them. Perhaps ending up going in a completely different direction then they originally thought. I would picture them more like Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus.

msfrizzlejpeg-0d8169

Let’s go on an adventure!

Both of these styles have pros and cons. A plotter may write the story quickly and efficiently  because they have it all thought out in advance, while a pantser’s story may come slowly as they work through it and go with where the story leads.

However, a plotter’s story may seem more predictable, or less exciting because they haven’t left room for anything unexpected to happen while a pantser’s story may be full of twists and mystery, because the author themselves didn’t know where it was going to end up. They are able to chase every little white rabbit and see if it takes them to a magical new world. Sometimes these white rabbits pay off, but other times they lead to a dead end which then needs to be cut or edited resulting in a lot of wasted time.

Most writers probably fall somewhere between these two categories, and that’s great! Maybe they write a killer plot, but are also able to re-direct if it just isn’t working for them, or they may think of something new along the way and are able to add that in.

Personally, I am a horrible plotter, and sometimes I wish I could incorporate a little more planning, but it just doesn’t come easy for me. I admire those who can plan.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been working hard on my novella Aviarium. I wanted it to be about 20,000 words total so I could get it out there quickly, but I’m already at 18,000 and the story feels like it’s maaaybe at the halfway point. That’s if I keep in pretty skeletal and don’t go back an add detail. So you see, lack of planning can be a problem, especially if you have deadlines looming.

Mostly, I’m okay with it though. I have more fun writing things as they come and letting the story take on a life of it’s own. For me, it keeps things exciting. Plus my characters are headstrong and wouldn’t stand to be bossed around anyway.

As in life, I’d much rather take a chance and see what possibilities lie ahead. If you don’t occasionally follow that white rabbit with the pocket watch, you might miss out on something magical around the next bend.

Alice and the Rabbit, from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), English children's writer and mathematician

 

 

Aviarium and Audiobook Sample

Hi everyone, I hope your summer is off to a great start! I’ve been working hard trying to get my new post-apocalyptic story, ‘Aviary’ or ‘Aviarium’ (still working out the title) finished as quickly as possible, so I can devote the rest of my summer to finishing Penelope Gilbert book 2!

Just for fun, I wanted to share a couple images that will give you a little hint of the world you will find in Aviarium.

IMG_7384_tonemapped-L

c844930fceda2dbd71ad0d79bda72832

Now that’s “Some Pig!” Yep, the new story has both pigs and trees. Strange combination? Perhaps. Anyway, it’s been really fun to write and I am excited to share the adventure I have planned for my new character, Tam as she sets off on her journey to become a pathfinder.

Also, while I have you here I wanted to share the new YouTube video Chad’s been working on that allows you to listen to the entire first chapter of Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure in audiobook format. We wanted to get this up in time to promote an upcoming sale starting on July 1st. For a limited time the Penelope Gilbert eBook will be only 0.99! And once you have the eBook, the price for the audiobook drops dramatically. Go ahead, give it a listen! Penelope Gilbert Chapter 1

COVER REVEAL for Thomas Templeton and the Whispers of Branson Manor

I have a very special post to share with you today. Cover reveals are always exciting and I can’t wait to share my latest one!

First a little about what been going on on the book front in general. I realized today what a crazy amount of time has gone by since I wrote anything on here. My poor blog is looking lonely, so lonely. I am going to blame Chad here, because I started a brilliant blog post a while back and he had the nerve to start using his own computer. I think it said something like, “Well, well, well, It’s been a long time. Yes sir, a long time.” See? Brilliant.

Anyway, a lot has happened since I last posted. I signed a contract for my new middle grade novel which is now in the editing process, I’m about halfway through writing Penelope Gilbert and the Weapon of the Ancients, and I’m working on a post apocolyptic YA novella which is both fun and out of my comfort zone.

Additionally, the book signing for Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure at Barnes and Noble went amazing thanks to all the support from friends and family. The book sold out and we got to meet some new fans. It went so great that they’ve asked Chad and I to come back. Apparently we’re also “Young and Hip.”

images

Oh yeah… so hip.

Anyway, not only did they ask us to return, they also offered to host a release party for my upcoming book, Thomas Templeton and the Whispers of Branson Manor! Chad Steward just finished the cover recently, and I am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. This book is a middle grade mystery story with some elements of horror. Think along the lines of a slightly more scary Goosebumps book. The release party will be just in time for Halloween on October 14th at Barnes and Noble in Tukwila Wa from 1-3 pm. I hope you’ll all be able to join us!

Ready to see it? Well okay then. Stop lollygagging and let’s get to it! Without further ado, here is the cover for Thomas Templeton and the Whispers of Branson Manor.

 

Version 5 for Approval

I am in love with this cover. It has a cool, spindly tree, a crow, a dark mansion, and creepy shadows. This cover fits the theme of the story really well and I couldn’t be happier with it!

Blessings in the Chaos

Chad and I had an amazing opportunity yesterday to go and give not one, but eight separate author/illustrator talks at the library of the Elementary school to several different classes ranging from 3rd to 6th grade. Over 300 students!

The week leading up to to this day had been a struggle to say the least. Chad threw his back out and all of my kids were hit with a particularly nasty stomach bug. The first night I hauled their beds out to the living room and parked myself on the couch. Then all night long, I listened for signs of a potential eruption and shoved a bucket under their little faces. I got good too. I got fast. I could go from dozing to holding back hair in 2 seconds flat. Not to brag, but I’m kinda a puke sensing ninja.

It’s interesting to see how your kids personalities come out in times like this. My 6 year old became very sad just wishing it would be over and she’d feel better. My 4 year old became angry and screamed and gritted her teeth when her stomach hurt.  My 16 month old… well she just seemed cuddly and confused.

Anyway, I kept hoping they would be better before the big day, but it really hung on. After about 4-5 days of virtually no sleep, it was time for Chad and I to go do our author/illustrator talks at the school.

We prepared as much as we could the day before. Luckily I already had a pretty solid talk planned from when I spoke for Chad’s classroom. We just added a power point presentation to accompany it, and Chad planned his own little talk about his illustration work that he would give directly after mine. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep or the fact that I had given the book talk once before, but I was a little less nervous this time. At least I thought I was until we arrived.

The first talk was for a room full of fifth graders, but I could swear they looked older than that. I was looking around the room and suddenly wishing I’d had Chad give his talk first, when I was given the cue to start. I started out a little shaky. I could hear the quiver in my voice, but I cleared my throat and went on. I’m thankful for the the power point because it helped me stay on track. About midway through, I was feeling pretty good. The kids were attentive and had some great questions at the end.

There wasn’t much time to celebrate and take a breath though, because as soon as we got done talking to them, the next class was lined up at the door.  My voice started giving out a little during the 3rd and 4th talks, but a lunch break and throat lozenges helped me get through the second half of the day.

Overall it was a great experience. The kids were so excited to hear from a real author and illustrator. I felt like a celebrity. For all they knew I was like J.K. Rowling and Chad was Picasso. Several of the kids had even read my book already. The librarian said that since they got my book in they haven’t been able to keep it on the shelves. They managed to track down two copies for the event and had the kids put their names on slips of paper for the chance to check them out. Pretty flattering! Who knows if it will result in any sales, but it’s so cool to know that my book is being read and enjoyed.

It’s funny, if you would have told me just a year ago that I would be speaking to over 300 kids I would have laughed and then felt sick to my stomach at the mere thought of it. But I did it. I actually did it! When we walked out that door at the end of the day, I felt relieved but I also felt so amazed. God had given me the strength to get through something that absolutely terrified me like nothing else. How great is that?

Now I have another great opportunity on April 8th from 1-3 to do a book signing with Chad at the Tukwila Barnes & Noble. Some of the kids from the elementary school might even show up to say hi. Even though this past week has been rough with sicknesses and injuries, I am so thankful that I keep getting great opportunities like this to get out and meet potential readers and to grow as a person. If you look, you’ll always find blessings in the chaos.

Emily Steward’s Path to Publication

My path to publication story!

Christi Corbett's Blog

Today’s Path to Publication is by Emily Steward. Without further ado, here’s Emily…

**************

emily-bio

Even before I knew what a writer was, I loved to tell stories. One of my first memories is telling bedtime stories to my mom and brother. After they fell asleep, I would continue to tell the story for a long time afterward. I even used to tell stories to God because I figured he got tired of just hearing everyone’s problems all day.

In kindergarten, I discovered the people who create stories are called writers. I decided then and there, that one day I would become a writer. My teacher was extremely encouraging and I attribute a lot of my early writing passion to her.

Over the years, my dream went by the wayside, but it was always in the back of my mind. After taking a few writing classes from a local college, I…

View original post 1,076 more words

Plot Bunnies

If you aren’t familiar with the term plot bunnies, it basically means an idea that wont go away and must be written. Plot bunnies, like real bunnies, often duplicate and they lead to more and more plot bunnies and great ideas.

SSJ-132081

Well it occurred to me today, that mine are more like plot gremlins. They seem like a good idea at first.

gizmo_in_blue_flame-like_background

Cute, right?

But once they start replicating, and I work on the ideas after midnight, they get out of control and soon I just want to throw them in a blender.

grem

This week I’ve been trying to refine the plot points in my book and get them to make sense and mesh well with book one. I’m about 14,000 word in and today I’m realizing those cute furry ideas have officially turned into mischievous troublemakers.

It’s really difficult, because my perfectionist side wants this book to come out just right. Not too much exposition, just enough description, and plenty of action. But since I am not a planner, this can be really hard to achieve. Sometimes the plot gets away from me and I end up spending way to much time one one thing, and not enough on another. Or I just plain get stuck and decide to write a silly post about gremlins instead of trying to sort it out. I sure hope I can get these guys under control soon. Even if they are gremlins, they are my gremlins and I believe they are still good deep down.

Wish my luck guys! I’m about to dive back in.

 

My First School Visit

Today was the big day! The day of my first school visit. For any of you that know me, doing anything involving public speaking is a big deal. I’d been practicing what I was going to say over and over until I could practically say it all in my sleep. In fact I think I may have said it in my sleep at some point.

Yesterday I even bribed the girls with Otter-pops if they would sit down and listen to my presentation. I figured if I could hold the interest of a 5 year old and a 3 year old, the third graders would be no problem. The 3 year old only ran off once and the 5 year old sat enthralled the whole time, so I’d call that a win. They had some great questions when it came time for the Q&A period too. I think one of the questions was, “I like Minecraft!” Not so much a question, more of an informative declaration. Overall it was a great test run.

A few days ago, Chad even brought home some questions the kids in his class were thinking of asking me. This gave me a great opportunity to see what I might expect. Apparently I needed to nail down who my favorite Pokemon was because that was on several kids’ question cards.

This morning I woke up feeling prepared, yet still a bit terrified. I arrived at the school a few minutes early, and after checking in at the office and getting my visitor badge, I soon found myself sitting in a tiny chair outside the classroom, waiting for Chad to get the students prepared.

fullsizerender2

While I waited, I tried to remember one last time what I had prepared to say. Wait, what did I prepare??? It took me a moment, but I managed to remember the gist of the first part of my talk. I just needed to remember the beginning, and hopefully the rest would flow.

They were ready, so I walked up to the front, all eyes on me. I started out a little rough, but the kids were really engaged! So engaged that it was a little intimidating. But after I got going I started to get in a good rhythm. When the time came for me to do the reading, they were doing so well that I read the slightly longer version because I thought they could handle it. I was a bit concerned it would be too much and I might lose them, but they were great! I could tell they were really listening. So cool! When I came to the end they even wanted to know the exact page number so they could find out what happened next. I also got to use this cool spider prop of a mechanical Hangman Spider from my book. The kids loved that!

img_1137

Oh also, my highlight of the day was when I asked them what their favorite books were, and one boy said his favorite book was mine. I asked if he had read it and he responded “No, but I like it!” I hope he feels the same after reading it. After I was done I handed out some coloring pages of the artwork in the book, along with some bookmarks.

All on their own, the students started lining up for me to sign their bookmarks, coloring pages, and random slips of paper. It was very sweet and flattering. What a great first experience!

There was one point I really tried to hammer home during my talk. When you are writing as with most things in life, you can’t expect it to be perfect the first time. Sometimes you just need to jump in and get started, knowing that with each thing you write the better you will get. The same could be applied my school visit today. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but if I waited for perfection or if I waited until I was comfortable, I would never talk in front of an audience. As with writing, I hope I can learn from my experience and get better and better each time. There are no mistakes, just revisions waiting to happen.

Book Release

Hi guys! Sorry I haven’t updated in a while, but life has been a whirlwind. My book was released in eBook format in September and this October it came out in paperback! Of course the moment it was available on Amazon I was tempted to order a copy even though I put in an order to get some directly from the printer. I resisted, but Chad couldn’t and ordered one on Amazon just in case it might come quicker. 🙂 It didn’t and I got a cute little single book on the exact same day my boxes of books arrived. I can’t even begin to tell you the joy I felt opening that first box and unwrapping that book… MY book. So surreal. It looked so professional and the artwork on the cover looked even better on the actual book than I imagined!

14731236_10154283884988884_2525389032091185910_n

Following this amazing moment, my book release party was scheduled and it was a great success! So many friends and family came out to show their support of Chad and me. It really made us feel loved. We are so blessed to be surrounded by people who want to see us succeed and are truly happy for us.

14991962_10154315189008884_3670442556709014259_n14925353_10154315190888884_5394875239208329197_n14915282_10154315189068884_4315724024790933968_n14947792_10154315198008884_501237913707232432_n2

Now I just need to keep up the momentum! Currently, I am trying to get the word out on my book. I’ve been leaving a trail of bookmarks everywhere I go, plus I plan to do my first school talk next week at Chad’s class. I am so nervous, but I know it will be a good thing. I just have to completely push myself and hope I don’t actually die. It does seem possible. I can see the headlines now. ‘Local Author Dies of Mortification While Speaking in Front Of 3rd Graders.’ If you don’t hear from me after next week, you’ll know what happened.