So, a couple weeks ago I was asked to participate in an Author's Tea event at my daughter's school. This was the third year they've had one and it's always been a good time, so I said "sure", I'd love to. The kids had all written their own books for a school project and just had them published, so it was an exciting time.
I've done my fair share of public speaking before, talking about writing, the process, and getting published in today's market. But with the prospect of speaking to a group of elementary school students, I wanted to be on my best game. They are our future after all. So I gave it some extra thought and tried to come up with a few topics that would be relevant, at least I hoped, to kids that age, and tied it into my presentation.
I talked a
bout growing up reading comics and the literary impact they had on me, devouring which-way books where you made choices at the end of the page and turned to a certain page based on your choice, and even taking classes on Shakespeare and how his work still shows up in movies todays, pointing out a few examples. I think it went well. No one threw anything at me, that and I had some help in the form of one Gina Jones, another local writer and motivational speaker, who had the kids on the edges of their seat.
So I had thought about how to end my talk, to give the kids something to remember about writing and using their imaginations. Maybe I could spark the future of the next great novelist of our generation? The night before I'd had an epiphany to buy the whole student body a pencil, their own wands to create magical adventures all their own. A quick stop at the local dollar store and I was set for my grand finale.
When I'd reached the end, I told the kids I had something for each of them and, of course,
their eyes lit up. I produced a pencil from the box I'd brought with me and showed them all. Some of the smiles went away but curiosity kept most of them. I told them it was no ordinary pencil. This was a magic pencil! Why was it magic? Simple. Inside every one of the pencils that I'd brought with me was a story hidden inside, just waiting to be let go. Some of the kids' face lit up and I'd figured I'd hit the mark and I felt pretty good as I was passing them out to all these eager young writers. I even got a nod from Gina, saying it was a pretty cool idea.
Afterwards, I was still at the school, stuffing my face with some delicious cake that was provided for the event, and my daughter came up to me. I asked her how I did and she said very genuinely that I was great and everyone enjoyed it. That made me feel even better. But then she paused and said there was only one thing that was bothering her, so I asked her what was wrong. She said some of the kids in her class were cracking open their pencils to find the magic and there was none. I told her to tell them to sharpen both ends and they could still get a short story out of them. Now, she's old enough that she understood where I was going with the pencils, so did the pencil crackers, but kids will be kids, and I still think it was a good idea. Though maybe next time I'll go with stickers.