How’s your voice?

Hey cHEwY gum gums

I’m writing this blog at Melbourne Airport, as I’m about to board a plane back to Sydney. It’s been a smooth Book Week in Melbourne, I got to each school on time, thanks to the bonus GPS in my hire car and the kids have been delightful. I also got to stay in an AirBnB near the Yarra Trail so I can go jogging, so that was a treat.

Oh, and then there’s the burgers! Hmmm Monroe Beers and Burgers in St Kilda is da bomb.

I was lucky to catch up with a few authors throughout the week, including a Penguin Random House author meeting with burgers (so we can claim it as a tax deduction).

The first question we ask each other is, ‘How is your voice?’

As authors and illustrators doing school visits, your voice is essential. If my powerpoint doesn’t work or I forgot to bring my toys or books, it doesn’t matter. But I need my voice.

I have to be mindful of how I use my voice each day. If I have 4 one-hour sessions, and I have 2 back to back, I shift into a lower gear for one of those sessions. I latch onto the little moments of when I don’t have to use my voice, like when the kids are running late and shuffling into the hall. Or when the teacher has to mark the roll.

But our ‘performance’ time is not just confined the 3-4 sessions, but it’s also the times in between. It starts when you enter the front office at 8:30am. It continues with the small talk with teachers and librarians in the staff room. Sometimes it’s when a class gets there early for a session and ask you random questions to fight the awkwardness. Or when a few kids come up to you after the talk to ask more questions. Then there’s the odd occasion where you have a signing session during lunchtime, where the kids can come up and say hi.

Publicists and Booksellers get it. There are many times when we’re in the car, travelling in silence as we go to the next school or bookshop.

Librarians get it. They give me a cup of tea and ask me if I need a space or time to chill. Yet, a part of me feels conscious of being anti-social. Sometimes when a teacher-librarian asks me if I need some time alone, I say nah, even though it would be nice. Or when I’m in the staff-room, teachers can come up to me and ask questions, eating into my break time. Which is fine, most of the time, really. I want to make a good impression to everyone, especially those schools where I’m there for only half a day or just one session.

But there are moments when I take out my laptop and pretend that I’m answering emails or working on my next book (which I really am haha) just to zone out. I need pockets of silence to reset my voice but I still feel bad though, feeling a tad anxious that I’m someone who is only ‘bright and cheerful’ in front of a stage.

This is probably all in my head haha. But there is a fine line that all authors and illustrators have to deal with when they visit schools. That said, occasionally I’ll get a day where the teacher-librarian is busy and I’m left alone in between sessions. Other staff look at me like I’m a relief teacher and it’s bliss.

Other authors and illustrators get it. Even at our Burger Catch Up and at the Booked Out Speakers Agency party, it was all over by 8pm because well…we need to rest up haha.

I’m only halfway through my Book Season, with a few more weeks travelling up and down the East Coast. There’s still plenty of schools and festivals to come, so I better keep my voice intact. However, I also need to speak up if I need help (like a microphone if I’m in a hall of 400 kids) or I need to take a time-out. Because if I ever do lose my voice, it’s all on me.


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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