I wanted to share with my top five things that I’ve learnt from school visits this year.
If you love your stories they will shine and children will love them too. Children adore stories and have a wonderful sense of fun and adventure. They will go with you wherever you take them.
Don’t try and do anything someone else does when they visit schools. Follow your heart and do what it tells you. It has always worked for me. I recently bought a basket that I can pop all my author goodies inside and it makes visiting so much easier. At a quick glance I can find anything.
Be flexible and adaptable. Yesterday, after getting a little flustered by first going to the wrong school with the same name I still got there on time. Then in all the Christmas end of year madness the teacher had forgotten. So instead of infants it was the Year Four grade. Guess what? The visit was joyful and full of story. The students gave me invaluable feedback, praise and story love. Today at my doorstep totally out of the blue was a lovely bouquet of flowers from the school with wonderful thanks for all that the students received from my visit. Remember you too will receive as much as you give.
Be professional, by that I mean be organized and prepared for anything. Even gum chewing little coolies. ‘The boy at the back could you please pop that gum in the bin.’ And ‘Thank you.’ Dress like an author. When I wore my watermelon top the Kinders were in love with it. It also helped that I looked fun and creative and like my author self. We had to move rooms and that can interrupt flow but not if you make it an adventure. ‘Come follow me, into the land where it’s cool.’ (The air conditioner) If children like you they will tell you things that may make your hair raise but that’s because they trust you. Don’t ever break a child’s trust bubble with you.
When I road test stories the students are awesome they tell me the good bits and they will also tell me the bits they didn’t like or understand. I shared a rainbow story and when were chatting about colours I then realized I had forgotten blue. ‘Oops thanks for telling me that, lucky you noticed I’d better fix that when I get home.' Embrace and enjoy school visits they will make your heart sing.
The Sunshine Coast Writer's Retreat 2017 was a wondrous learning journey while cocooned away in the Montville Country Cabins.
Rosegum cottage was charming with a swinging bed. I rolled on the grassy hill, basked in the sun. Feathers abounded.
Raindrops sent me scurrying. As I was working away the door opened. Raelene beamed hello. We nattered away over a cup of tea and became perfect roomies. Writing networking was already magically happening.
Our first night was spent in Montville at a welcome dinner with Aleesah and authors who had travelled far and wide from around Australia and overseas.
Early kookaburra laughter started the next day. Beware! At breakfast, a pirate kookaburra stole a most delicious treasure. Guard your brekky.
Samantha Wheeler gave us tips about story, settings and characters as we studied the three-act structure. She said ‘Throw obstacles into your stories and learn to be the writer you are.’
Karen Foxlee sprinkled magic everywhere. Objects are very important, you can bring them to life with magic. So write magic, believe in magic and be magic. Make sure your characters have soul and know what your character wants. Karen’s honesty about her writing process really let us have a peep inside a writer’s mind.
We networked and shared while partaking in a yummy dinner under a canopy in the garden. Our guest speaker was Alex Adsett, a super sleuth agent who gave a dynamic presentation. If you are under Alex’s wing as an author you have found a very safe place.
The next day, Peter Carnavas presented picture book writing. Peter shared mind mapping, character relationships, unlikely combinations, cheeky animals, the three-act structure and the blue page. Peter was captivating with his creativity. I loved exploring creative thinking with music.
Elaine Onston shared about editing and polishing your manuscript. Rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. Polish your manuscript, be consistent in your writing and entice your reader. We even learnt about the naughty words that writers overuse.
That night dinner was a tasty BBQ feast laid out with vases of flowers and twinkling lights. A toasty fire pit was the perfect place to share stories. Bliss.
On our last day, Aleesah got us all thinking about Social Media and how important it is in today’s world. We all need an author bio and CV. As writers we need to set goals and not hide away. An online presence is required to become part of the writing community.
Rochelle Manners shared an editor’s perspective about publishing both traditionally and independently. Yikes! There were stats and distribution and bookshops and more. Books do need to sell. Don’t live in fairyland peeps and get real.
Michelle Worthington jumped right into Social Media. We are forging our way in a new world and need to think about our author brand. Authors need to learn to play in a new way. Creativity extends to the keyboard.