Last week, I attended a PTA meeting at my daughter's school. Her teacher pulled me aside saying, "The kids have been working on a writing project this week, and I would love it if you would come in and talk to the class about getting published as an author." Because six years ago, my daughter told her preschool teacher that I had won a bronze medal for my floor exercise routine in the 1984 Olympics, I figured my proud little girl had told her teacher that I was a published author. I sidled up to Mrs. Edwards and whispered, "Uh, you know, I'm not actually published, right? . . . and, the imaginary sister named Horsehair, she's not real . . ." (my creative child has a rich fantasy life--go figure). Mrs. Edwards replied that she knew that I wasn't published--yet (sweet of her to add the "yet"), but that she thought the kids would enjoy hearing about the whole process. Cool!
I brought in lots of props: reference books, stacks of query and rejection letters, manuscripts and one of my book dummies. The kids in the class were wonderful and attentive. I don't think they had ever thought about the whole process of sending out manuscripts and figuring which editors might be interested in your books. We talked about how it felt to receive a rejection letter and how it felt to send your work back out there again and again. We talked about how if you never tried to send anything out, you would never know if it could have made it as a published book. One child told me that her mother had sent one of her poems to Highlights magazine . . . but that it was turned down. I loved that she felt okay about telling me that in front of the whole class!
I also read my book dummy to the class and talked to them about my novel. They gave me a great little ego massage by telling me how much they loved all of my work. Now I know why people are tempted in their queries to say "I read my book to a class of fourth graders and they LOVED it!"--but don't worry, I won't be adding that line to my submission letter. These kids probably would have enjoyed my reading the instruction booklet that came with a microwave if I had read it with enough animation and drama.
I left school thinking that this was a great concept for a school visit--the pre-published author! Then, you have the bonus of getting to go back in and talk to the class again if (when) you actually are published.
(photo credit: Anne Hardy)