Our first speaking engagement
When Clark and I first published We’ve Seen Santa, I sent letters to all the local elementary schools and public libraries offering to come and speak to the kids and read our book to them.
The first person to reply was a librarian from one of the local elementary schools. We set up a date for us to come and speak to the students and share our new book. We’ve Seen Santa fit perfectly into their day because Santa himself was expected to stop by for cookies that same evening.
Aside from Speech class, neither of us had any experience with public speaking. As the date approached, we were filled with an equal mix of excitement and anxiety.
Clark has the benefit of being an extrovert with very high self confidence. I, on the other hand, am an introvert with self esteem issues.
We had been asked to talk to the students about writing and publishing a book. They were working on their own book projects.
We used a few visual aids to assist in our presentation. The school provided a camera for us to put the items up on the big screen. We learned how to work the equipment on the fly during our presentation.
We brought the original artwork for We’ve Seen Santa. The kids were surprised to see how large the original pages were.
Clark brought his portfolio full of artwork. The children ooo’d and aah’d over his colorful collection.
Pièce de résistance
I was lucky enough to still have the book I’d written and published when I was in third grade. Maybe you have one, too. The cover is made of cardboard wrapped in wallpaper. Each page is hand written and illustrated by moi.
The children enjoyed my story. We all had a laugh at my artwork. It was almost embarrassing to have my third grade illustrations follow the illustrator’s portfolio. I must admit my artistry hasn’t improved much since then.
Cookies with Santa
That evening we returned, books in tow, and set up to meet and greet the parents at the Cookies with Santa event.
Santa hadn’t been there very long before he was overcome with a bout of food poisoning. Suddenly, Clark and I found ourselves to be the main attraction.
It was awesome! The kids brought their stories and artwork with them to the event just to share with us. Hugs were requested often — and gladly handed out under the watchful eye of a parent. Political correctness be damned, children need hugs.
It was a night Clark and I will never forget, and hopefully we left an impression on those young aspiring authors and artists, too.
We were so blown away by the enthusiasm of the kids we met that day, that we dedicated our next book, I Love the Changing Seasons, to them.
With the dedication comes a presentation. Once again their librarian set everything up. Clark and I just had to show up.
Everything went wrong
I was just getting over a bout of bronchitis — the antibiotics were gone, but I was still leaning heavily on the inhaler. We were running behind and arrived precisely on time. I took two deep puffs off my inhaler and prayed my voice would hold out for the day’s events.
We made our way inside, and everyone is doing the hustle that goes along with a school wide event. We were escorted to the library where a handful of students eagerly waited.
The camera was all set up. I was to read the dedication to the entire school via closed circuit television, and then we were presenting the students with a copy of the book.
They started the introductions, and immediately the phone starts ringing. There was no sound in the classrooms. They couldn’t hear a word. They tried to fix it, but to no avail.
The principal was a quick thinker, and soon she had a new plan. She would take me to the office where I could read the dedication over the loud speaker, and Clark would remain in the library to present the book to the students.
We were on a tight schedule because we had to head to the high school to be interviewed by the communication arts students for their newscast — video at end of post.
The principal was also a speed walker. I felt like I was chasing after her, practically running down the hall. We arrived at the office. I was panting heavily and trying to catch my breath. I had, of course, left the inhaler in the car.
I was still out of breath when she finished her introduction and handed me the receiver. I was live and I could barely breathe. I read the dedication between gasps. On silent camera, Clark presented the students with a copy of I Love the Changing Seasons.
High school communication arts students
After the fiasco with the camera at the elementary school, we had arrived precisely on time again. This did not ease the anxiety of the newsroom.
If you’ve ever been in a newsroom before the cameras begin rolling, you know how crazy those final minutes can get. It is no different in a high school communication arts room.
The students were professional and focused. They were shouting orders and arranging the set. They spoke quickly and tossed around jargon as casually as if it were every day conversation — which, I guess, for them it was.
A calm settled over the newsroom just before they rolled camera. It was a sight to see. I was so anxious — the bright lights, the cameras, the crew gathered around watching; it was all so unnerving.
It was a wonderful experience, and I am so glad that we had the opportunity to interview with Mr. Donahue.
*video queued to start at our interview*