As the publication date for my first children’s book, The Dandelion’s Tale, grows nearer, I can’t stop thinking of all the things I’m going to have to do to promote the book. I’m a ‘first-timer’ after all, so I really have to kick things into high gear.
I was with my agent last week and she talked about school visits. She’s already working to set some up for me where I get to talk to different grades about different topics. For example, because my book is geared to 7-year olds, I would read the book to the younger grades. For older grades, I’ll talk about what it’s like to write a book or give a glimpse into the life of an author.
I know the kids will all be happy to have me there – any break from day-to-day school stuff is always a welcome distraction. But the whole thing kind of terrifies me. I like to write because it’s a quiet profession. Just me and my keyboard. If I wanted to perform in front of people, I would have taken up acting instead of being a stagehand in high school.
When I went to college, I majored in broadcasting because I wanted to work behind the scenes in radio or television. I never had dreams of being the ‘on air talent’. I was happy to leave that for the folks who were born hams or seekers of the limelight.
All of that is about to change. Somehow, between now and then, I have to learn to become a public speaker (which, by the way, is the #1 phobia in the country). All of the what ifs flood my mind when I think about it. What if I stumble and totally mess up reading my own book? What if the kids hate it? What if I can’t answer a question? What if I bomb? What if, what if, what if?
Past experience has taught me that I have to expel the what ifs. If I don’t, they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, what do I do? Well, here’s my plan, and it’s based on talking to people who excel at public speaking.
Prepare. I know if walk into a school cold, I have no chance. What does it mean to prepare? First, I have to get comfortable reading my book aloud. That means my family is going to have to sit through little readings constantly between now and then. That also means I have to write down what I plan to say about writing and being an author and speak it, then rewrite it, then speak it again until it becomes second nature.
Make it fun. I don’t want to be the boring teacher from Ferris Bueller, leaving kids drooling on their desks. I have to make it exciting, funny, interactive. For the little ones, I’m making like sparrow and dandelion props so they can help me tell the story. I have to get prizes to hand out to kids who ask and answer my questions. Maybe I’ll even get some music in the mix. The event is mine to create, so it’s time to get creative.
Toastmasters. I’ve been told by more than one person to attend some Toastmasters meetings and get comfortable by speaking in front of people under their tried and true guidance. Hey, it can’t hurt! Sounds like I have a holiday project.
Visualize success. I know it sounds corny, but it works. If I know my stuff and imagine it going well, time after time, it will. Athletes pay a ton of money to sports psychiatrists to understand this concept. There, you now have it and you didn’t need to play sports or shell out a dime.
Ok, that’s how I plan to tackle my school visits. What are some of the tips and tricks that have worked for you? I’m far from an expert and I want to learn just as much as the students I’ll be seeing.