Hey cHEwY gum gums
Book Week is only 3 weeks away but for some authors, it’s Book Month/Season where they’ll visit schools all across Australia, promoting their own books and inspiring kids to read! Hoorah! New children authors always ask me for some tips about doing an author talk. I’d start by saying that it’s more of a presentation than a talk these days. Talking about your book is no longer enough to hold any kids attention. No, you don’t need toys or jokes like me. You just need to be yourself. But here my tips for a Super Duper author presentation, focusing on your new/latest book.
Get the kids curious about your book.
Yes, you need to talk about your inspiration for your books, but keep it focused on the kids. One of the ways you can do this is to ask the audience to imagine themselves in your character’s shoes and ask them questions to provoke their curiousity. For example, if your book is about a street kid in Paris during World War 2, ask the audience to wonder ‘what would it be like to be living in a warzone?’ or ‘how would you survive being in a city that is constantly under attack?’
Get the kids engaged with visuals.
I used to be a powerpoint slides snob, refusing to be tied down to a slideshow. But then I realised that kids respond and engage to you in many ways. If they are bored of your voice and stories, they may be attracted to your pictures, movies or other things like props or toys. So show that book trailer, a short film, sing a song or show those crazy photos, to cater for all kinds of kids’ learning styles.
Get the kids involved
It’s not a TV show or Youtube clip…the audience can actually respond and talk to you. On top of asking questions to the audience, try to drum up other ways to interact with them with little ‘talk-back segments’ like embarrassing moments or the last time they were scared. By getting the kids to tell their own stories, they will be feel more inclined to listen. Yes, it can be scary and sometimes they’ll say random things, but go with the flow. It also gives your voice a break too haha. Oh, and it could also be a great source for ideas too.
Get in touch with your inner child
The last thing you want to do is talk down to the kids but you don’t have to pretend to be one of them either (it doesn’t hurt to drop pop-culture stuff for kicks haha). Whether the age gap between you and the audience is a few years or decades, try to tap into what you were like as a child. Or you can pretend to be an alter-ego of your kid/teen lead character from your book. The audience will appreciate the effort you’re making to get into their world or heads.
Get out of your comfort zone
Perhaps of all this sounds scary, and that’s okay. It’s the thrill of ‘will this work or flop?’ that will give you a nervous energy resulting in enthusiasm for your talk. It’s hard talking to kids, it’s even harder to try to inspire them. I get it. Teachers and librarians get it. So keep trying new things and see what sticks. Trust me, it takes time to build up a polished presentation. Now for those if you want to avoid feeling like a robot delivering 3-4 same talks every day, try something new. Maybe you can find out what’s happening at school, like a fete or play and try to put it into your talk. Or maybe you can find a puppet, sing a song or poem, something to keep you fresh. This year, I’m trying to rap and sing a Taylor Swift song, ‘Me’ with new lyrics about Don’t Follow Vee. The first thing I sung that Tay Tay song, I got booed!
But I’ll give it another go. Ask me again at the end of September to see how I go hehe.
Good luck authors and illustrators!