Hey cHEwY gum gums!

With most schools across Australia returning to face-to-face teaching, we edge a tiny step closer to the possibility of author visits and workshops. A few schools have booked me in for October onwards, around the time of the new CBCA Book Week in Term 4. While nothing is set in stone, I realise that I will have change the way I do my own presentations and workshops in this post-pandemic/covid-safe environment.

No more large crowds

‘How many kids can you speak to?’ a teacher-librarian might say.

‘As many as you can fit in,’ I’d say.

Gone are the days where the whole school is squeezed into a school hall. Or having 4 classes almost sit on top of each other in a library. Who knows if large-scale assemblies will be allowed by Term 4. But even so, kids will be sitting like pieces on a chessboard, and you’ll only ever have half the amount of kids.

The more kids in a room, the more laughs you hear, and the more energy to get. Now I have to adapt to performing to a more emptier space. I’ve already had practice with my virtual author visits, but I will miss that instant feedback.

No more space-invading

It’s the little things that make an author visit, like entering a room of excitable kids, giving them high fives. Or shaking a kid’s hands after a presentation. I like doing my presentations and invading kids’ space to get their attention, such as being a dinosaur and roaring at someone’s face to jump-scare them. It’s funny because it’s so unexpected, but I don’t think I can get away with it now…unless I wear a face mask haha. I’ll just have to hold back now.

No more interactive props

A lot of kids probably know me as the crazy guy with toys. I usually come to school with a giant bag of soft toys and display on a table. It is inevitable that after a presentation, kids of all ages, from Grade 1 to 11 will come up to hold one of my plush toys. Not anymore. I wonder if I have to disinfect my toys after every visit. My Grumpy Bear wouldn’t like that haha.

But while props can still be used by the author, I guess I won’t be able to pass them to a volunteer, such as a kid trying on a cowboy hat or asking someone to be my patient as I become Dr Phommavanh. These skits and routines would have to be shelved. I’ll just have to find other ways to be interactive within a safe distance.

I’m sure authors and illustrators will find different ways to adapt to this new normal. While I’ll miss doing things like using my Bubbles toy to give literacy kisses to kids (you’d had to be there), I’d still be very grateful to be able to have a live audience and perform.

O.W