There’s nothing like 21 school presentations in five days to remind a writer why she loves to play with words. Earlier this month, I was part of Wordpower South, an eight-person tour of southern Alberta, focusing on the Brooks area, that is organized by the Young Alberta Book Society and sponsored by Cenovus.
Like any tour, it was exhausting and exhilarating. There is simply nothing like a young child hugging your leg and looking up to you and saying, “I liked your story.” You just want to lean down, pick up that child and hold him for a little while, maybe forever, because, finally, it feels as if you found a fan. Now, I know it could have been any story I pulled off a library shelf and read – and not necessarily one I wrote — but still, in my day-to-day dealings with editors and deadlines, I just never get that kind of positive support and feedback.
Here are some memorable moments:
- I spoke with Grade 1 and 2 students at Duchess School just before lunch. I must have run out of things to talk about because I asked the kids what they were having for lunch. “Pizza!” they all said.
“Oh, man,” I said. “I just love pizza.”
One little man hung back slightly when it was time for the students to leave. I bent down to hear him better and he very sweetly said, “If you come to my class, I’ll share my pizza with you.”
- Engaging junior high kids can sometimes be a challenge. In the midst of a story, I mentioned that adults are so boring they have an expiry date of 10 minutes. During the Q&A session a JH boy commented, “You must not be an adult. You’ve been talking for an hour and are still interesting.” Did I, perhaps, replace a physics class?
- Two elementary-aged girls at Rolling Hills School approached me after my session. Both seemed shy, but had the biggest smiles as they showed me their collaborative stories. One girl held the three-ring binder and turned the pages as I read; the other stood beside her and beamed the way kids do when they meet a kindred spirit.
- My presentations are what you might call “exuberant” as I use voice and gestures to convey stories. The kids were laughing, appropriately, and having fun as I told a story about a beady-eyed teacher whose bald head was so shiny it appeared that he polished it each morning with butter. During Q&A’s a girl was so comfortable, she put up her hand to ask what normally might seem like an inappropriate question: “Why are you so weird?” she asked. (My answer? “I’ve always been weird; the difference is that now, people pay me to be this way.”)
- It’s often after a presentation when a child will approach me, and totally make my day. At the end of the day at Ralston School, a young girl stopped to tell me that she is writing a series of books about making the world a better place. She reminded me, so clearly, of who my characters are and who my audience is, particularly when I write “Kids Power” books, stories of real children who have made their communities better places.
Thanks, Cenovus, for understanding the importance of literacy and for giving me the opportunity to connect with and share stories with children, and thanks YABS for taking care of all the arrangements with schools and hotels. Wordpower inspired me by reminding me why I love to write for children.
© 2014 Sue Farrell Holler