Saturday, February 29, 2020

Payment in Cash Please (Brian Katcher)

The teacher turned off their audio to avoid echos, and I couldn't tell if my jokes were going over or not.

In one of my earlier school visits, a librarian asked me if I'd need anything special. I requested a bowl of M&Ms with the brown ones taken out. Much to my embarrassment, she actually provided the bowl, telling me she couldn't wait to see what I planned to do with it. I sheepishly explained I'd actually taken that from Van Halen's concert rider, which I assumed was more universally known.

It's funny, when visiting libraries and schools, I almost always feel like a visiting celebrity. As a librarian myself, I've arranged author visits, and you tend to want to make them feel welcome. Still, when the host cracks out the donuts and coffee, one can't help but feel a little arrogant.


The more pictures I look at of my visits, the more I realize how few shirts I own.

A fellow author once asked me how much of one's presentation should be pre-prepared, and how much should be off-the-cuff audience Q and A. My experience is that if the audience is coming out of personal interest or is voluntarily there, then you can pretty much wing it. If, however, this is a mandatory thing from one of their classes, be prepared to speak for the entire time. I hate looking desperately at the teachers, hoping they'll throw me a softball question.

My presentations usually fall into three sections: My life, my road to publication, and my descent into alcoholism and poverty.  If there is time, I volunteer to read student manuscripts for a modest fee, with a guarantee of later publication.*


"And when I woke up in that Baltimore flophouse covered in my own filth, that's when I got the idea for Deacon Locke Went to Prom."

 I find most audience members are very active and involved, especially when I'm getting them out of class. And when you seem to be losing them, you can always make stuff up. One of these days John Green is going to wonder why so many people think he killed my dog.


Big Brian is watching you.

In conclusion, I asked for Poland Springs mineral water, you oaf! I'm not going on now. Forget it. 

*Not a guarantee.
 

Friday, February 28, 2020

Presenting Facts, with Humor and Attitude (on Author Visits) by Dean Gloster

(In Which I Talk about Making National News this Week for Advising the Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security on the Coronavirus. Yes, Really.)

            Our topic this month is what can librarians, teachers, students, and writers expect if you invite me to give a presentation

            First, humor.



            I used to be a stand-up comic, I wrote a masters’ thesis on humor techniques, and I spend way too much time writing jokes for Twitter, where I have 138,000 followers. (That number generally gets an ooooh from eighth graders.)

Second, you can expect that I’ll probably customize it to refer to current events. That’s the former stand-up comic in me: I like to riff on what’s happening now.



Third, you can expect that somewhere in it, I’ll go deep. If we’re going to talk, we might as well talk about something real.



For specific topics, I can do a presentation on how (and why) to be funny, complete with practical humor theory. (That is, taught in a way that a teen or adult can immediately use, unlike the humor theory taught in some college classes.) I could also cover the ethics and morality of humor, a subject most young comics (those under 40) often don’t think enough about.

            I can do a presentation on the power of story—why presenting information as a story more effectively moves and persuades people, along with the practical implications. I was a lawyer for 30 years, and I did a lot of courtroom work, where the key to moving the judge was to present the facts in the form of a story that made sense.



            I can also do a presentation on the Supreme Court—I was a law clerk to two U.S. Supreme Court Justices.


For writers, I can also talk about a variety of craft topics, including writing better dialogue, how (and how not to) to work in backstory, techniques and tips for a fast, compelling opening, and how and why to use humor, even in serious stories.

            You can also expect me to update those presentations to have a timely hook.

So if I were doing a presentation today, I’d probably mention my fun tweet exchange this week with the acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security that ended up in the national news. Especially since it involved whether we’re going to die.



            Some background: After he came into office, Trump fired the entire U.S. pandemic response chain of command and never replaced them. His administration savagely cut disease-fighting operational budgets of the CDC, NSC, DHS, and HHS. His hiring freeze prevented the disease-prevention arms of those organizations from operating effectively. And for other current vacant positions, he just has “acting” directors, some of whom are holding down several jobs. On Monday, though, the stock market fell in the U.S., with the Dow declining over 1,000 points because of concerns over the impact on our economy of the spread of the coronavirus.

That created a problem for Ken Cuccinelli, who is, in addition to being Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration, is also Acting Deputy Secretary of our entire Homeland Security.

Cuccinelli had trouble getting into the updated Johns Hopkins online map showing the real-time spread of the coronavirus, and instead of calling them or asking someone in the government, he did what some others in the administration do, and just tweeted about it:


It’s a little weird, crowdsourcing IT help during a deadly pandemic because, as the acting head of an agency, you don’t know how either a phone or the Internet work. So I responded:


But I took pity on him, and from my brother Mark I got a link that was working, so I tweeted that to Clueless Cuccinelli, along with a light drizzle of sarcasm:


That tweet ended up in the national news the next day, because—understandably—the Huffington Post found the whole exchange both alarming and entertaining.


Entertainment isn't everything. I grew up as the high-achieving son of a neglectful, alcoholic, mentally ill mother who was sometimes dangerous. (Which I wrote about here: http://yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/2018/02/my-mother-loved-and-so-so-lost-by-dean.html ) That helped me learn early that grownups will sometimes not do their job to protect us, and we’ll have to find a way to do better ourselves.

That’s a message I pass along in some of my presentations, and it’s especially relevant today. Because my fun exchange with clueless Ken Cuccinelli is part of a broader story now unfolding, which is less funny: There is a global, spreading coronavirus pandemic that our government is responding poorly to, and is lying to us about.

The virus, covid-19, is similar to the cold virus, but somewhere between 7 and 20 times deadlier than the flu. Our own CDC and outside scientists now say it is extremely unlikely that the spread of the virus will be contained, particularly given that in China—despite draconian efforts—it spread from a single city to throughout the country in 35 days. Now, there are more new cases outside China each day than in that country. As I type this, our government’s response is frighteningly inept. Against the advice of the CDC 14 infected Americans were brought back on a flight of uninfected people, and then greeted by HHS staffers who were, according to a whistleblower, unequipped with gear and uninformed about how to avoid getting infected.

Yesterday as I type this, the President falsely claimed there were only 15 infected Americans, when the Center for Disease Control had admitted there were 60, one discretely identified in California. Today as I type this, there are 28 identified in California alone. And the CDC’s criteria for identifying infections is dangerously flawed—if you have all the symptoms, you are not even tested, unless you have recently been in China, or you know you have been exposed to someone who has recently returned from China—even though there are more new cases diagnosed every day outside China than there are in that country. To try to reassure people, two days ago acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf testified (falsely) to Congress that coronavirus was no more deadly than flu, but only because he exaggerated the lethality of flu by 1900 percent. Today, the New York Times announced that government health officials are banned from giving accurate information about the epidemic unless they’ve cleared those statements first with the office of Vice President Pence, which will insert a political spin, at the expense of public health.


When it’s raining lies, it’s important to be able to operate an umbrella.


Not everyone can operate an umbrella.

            So take precautions. Wash your hands frequently. Use hand sanitizer. Don’t rub your eyes or nose of touch your face without washing your hands first. If you’re sick, stay home and don’t infect others. If you’re an employer, relax your sick day policy and encourage sick people to stay home. Start making alternate child care arrangements for when schools and daycare centers close. If you have immune system, heart, or respiration problems, be especially careful.

            And vote. To do that, you have to register to vote. As I mention in some of my school visits, in California, you can even pre-register to vote, if you’re 16 or 17, here:

            Ultimately, when I talk with groups these days, my message is often: be a protagonist.

            Protagonists don’t accept the world they’re born into, they try to make it better. Protagonists grow and develop, because the circumstances demand it. Protagonists do not quit, despite setbacks and obstacles and difficult odds.


            We face difficulties ahead, my friends. Be a protagonist. And good luck to us all. 




Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His current novel is about two funny brothers who have to team up with their friend Claire to save the world. It has all the usual Dean Gloster novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and a slightly off-kilter sensibility. Also a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is missing 74 percent of his soul.

When Dean is not studying Aikido or downhill ski racing, he’s on Twitter: @deangloster

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Author visits (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

My favorite author visits are those when I can meet with smaller groups, sit in a circle, have a back-and-forth discussion. I will read from my work if asked, but I prefer not to do much of that. People can read for themselves. A live visit is a chance for us to discuss what isn’t printed on the pages.

I’ve never charged to meet with book clubs—groups of people who have already read one of my books—although if we are geographically distant, the visit may happen via Skype rather than in person. I love when questions lead to discussion. When asked what happened to the characters after the last chapter, I like to turn the question back to the audience and hear what readers think. It’s even better when they debate one another over what certain scenes mean, and whether certain characters are really “bad,” and if the flawed relationship featured in The Secret Year was really love, or something else—and if so, what?

My third book, Until It Hurts to Stop, gave me a chance to talk about bullying. My second book, Try Not to Breathe, led to so many people sharing their stories of surviving the suicide of a loved one, or surviving their own attempts. Part of the simple power of stories is just knowing that we’re not alone.

I view my books as the start of a conversation. For me, an author visit is, ideally, continuing that conversation.

(If you are potentially interested in a visit, more details are available at www.jenniferhubbard.com .)

Monday, February 24, 2020

What to expect from an author visit--mine, anyway (Brenda Hiatt)


As an author of teen fiction, I’m always more than happy to meet with my readers and potential readers, as well as aspiring writers. Over the years, I’ve done meet-and-greet events, structured talks for classrooms, libraries and civic groups, multi-author panels, book club visits and more—and they’ve all been great fun. If you’re a teacher, librarian, bookseller or book club organizer who’s never had an author visit your group or classroom, you may want to know what you can expect.

Like most authors, what I bring to a presentation, visit or appearance varies depending on who the audience is and what I’ve been asked to do. For libraries, I often talk about my path to becoming an author and leave plenty of time for questions. For groups that are already fans of my work, such as some book clubs, I’ll focus more on the specific book or series they’re reading and delve more deeply into the characters, plot points and what the story means to me—and to them. Schools are more likely to want something geared toward the aspiring writers in a class, so I’ll discuss things like the actual writing process, editing, getting a book from idea to print, etc. 

I’ve been in the writing biz for a long time. My first novel was published in 1992 and I’ve been a working writer continuously since then, publishing both traditionally and independently. I also conducted online writing workshops and classes for twenty years. That means I can speak to almost any aspect of writing or the business of writing/publishing that your group or class might be interested in. One thing I’ve found readers of all sorts tend to be curious about is where my ideas come from—in particular the idea behind my popular Starstruck series. It’s a fun story that I never get tired of telling!



Because travel cuts so deeply into my writing schedule, these days I mostly prefer to keep my in-person visits close to home (now central Florida) or locations that I’ll be visiting already for other reasons, such as a research trip or a writing conference. However, I very much enjoy Skype or other video-conferencing appearances, which have become both more popular and much easier in recent years. If you’re a teacher, librarian, book club leader or other event organizer interested in arranging an author visit, please don’t hesitate to contact me at brenda@brendahiatt.com. I’d love to spend an hour or two with you and your group!  

Learn more about Brenda Hiatt at https://brendahiatt.com


Saturday, February 22, 2020

Teen Skype Visits with an Author - Holly Schindler

Since my writing schedule keeps me from doing much traveling, my author visits have primarily been Skypes. This is true of all reading levels--I've Skyped with elementary schools, high schools, book clubs, bookstores, libraries, and even a few senior centers!

For teens, my Skypes can always be tailored to fit your current needs. I usually have a back-and-forth via email with teachers, in order to find out what's been going on their classroom or writing group, etc. Are you involved in a fiction writing course? Poetry? Are you trying to encourage your writers to submit their work? Are you trying to convince them of the merits of revision?

My Skypes have been writing-centered or business-centered. I've guided teen authors through the process of submission. I've answered questions about what it's like to be a full-time author.

I've also shared screenshots of ongoing projects, to show young authors how I create gloriously messy first drafts without losing track of where that project is going. I've shown students how I approach a revision.

But while I do come to my Skypes prepared to discuss certain topics, I also encourage teens to veer off-topic. Once the conversation gets going, I'm never exactly sure where it will wind up--but those are by far my favorite visits!

Are you a high school teacher? Librarian? Do you have a teen writing group or book club? I'd love to Skype with your group. Feel free to contact me at: hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Four Types of Author Events for Promoting Your Books at Libraries (Alissa Grosso)

I worked in libraries for years, and as an author I've done a number of library events to promote my books. Library events can vary greatly in terms of format and audience size. They can be a great way to promote your books as an author, but they can also be a lot of work. As far as what to expect, well, I would say expect the unexpected, but that's not too helpful.

It really depends on the type of event. Generally, I would break author-themed library events down into four main types of events. They are:

1. Solo Author Presentations
These might be billed as a "meet the author" event or a "local author" event. For one of these events
My 2011 solo talk at Eastern Monroe Public Library in Stroudsburg, PA
you will be the only author there and will (hopefully) be speaking to a group of people who have come for the event. You might be talking about your experiences as an author, your journey to publication or simply sharing a sort of behind the scenes look at writing your book. You could intersperse talking about your book with doing a short reading from your book. Think about including some visuals to help engage your audience, and be prepared to answer questions from aspiring authors about how they too can get their book published.

I've done solo author talks for a good-sized audience of twenty or more people and other talks where it was me, the library director and a couple of patrons. Even though I write books for teens, at least half the events I've done at libraries, the audience was all adults.

Some events I've been standing behind a podium at the front of a large meeting room, sitting in a chair facing the assembled crowd or, especially for the smaller events, seated in a circle along with people attending the event.

2. Author Panels
If you're not a big fan of public speaking or prefer not to do a solo author event, you can partner with other authors and do a panel style discussion at a library. Sometimes libraries put together their own panel and will invite you to join in, but most of the panels I've been part of at libraries have been organized by the authors themselves.

A YA author panel at the Cranford, NJ Public Library
If you're interested in being part of a panel, you'll want to get involved with different local author promotional groups. Some groups are organized simply by region, while others are by genre. At different points in my career I've been members of both sorts of groups and met some author friends as a result.

The nice thing about doing a panel discussion, is even if you don't get an audience for your event, you won't be alone because you'll have some other authors to talk to. The other nice thing about panels is with multiple authors, there won't be any lull in the conversation, and it keeps things interesting for the audience.

3. Writing Workshops
Leading a writing workshop is a fun way to inspire aspiring authors. These participatory style events mean you won't have to do as much in the way of public speaking, but they can take a fair amount of planning.

You may have to plan different workshops depending on the age of the attendees, the length of time
Working with young writers at the Little Flower Teen Writers Festival
allotted for the program and whether or not this is a one-day event or an ongoing workshop series.

They can be a lot of fun, and if you come from a teaching background or really enjoy teaching others a writing workshop is a great way to combine your love of writing and your love of teaching.

Basing your lessons or exercises around passages from your own books is a way to squeeze in a little bit of book promotion into your event.


4. Book Fairs
Sometimes called book fairs or author fairs or perhaps book festivals or expos these events usually involve multiple authors and little to no public speaking. In most cases, you'll be sitting behind a table with your books on display in front of you.

At the Bucks County Library Author Expo in 2018
Other than perhaps making sure you have enough hard copies of your books as well as some sort of takeaway promotional item or flyer that has your name and author website on it such as sticker or bookmark, you won't have to do much in the way of planning.

Usually these book fair style events run for a few hours or more, so they may require a greater time commitment, and while you'll hopefully sell some books at the event, you probably won't be earning anything near minimum wage for your time commitment.

From my experience, those with books for children, can usually do a little bit better than those writing for adults or even teens.

Library author festivals can be a great chance to engage with readers in person, and it's so much more thrilling to sell a book directly to a customer and autograph it for them then it is to sell books to unknown internet strangers.

Closing Thoughts
While selling books at library events can be hit or miss (remember, most regular library users tend to borrow books for free from their library) they are a great way to meet and engage with your fans and potential readers. It can be a lot of fun to share your books and your passion for writing with like-minded people. Plus it will give you the chance to explore some different libraries, which is always pretty cool.

If you're looking to do a presentation or other library event, start by reaching out to your local library. Then contact other libraries around your area either by phone or by sending an email.



Besides spending a lot of time hanging out in libraries, Alissa Grosso is the author of 7 books for adults and teens, and chronicles her author life in her weekly Awkward Author vlog and podcast. Find out more about her and her books at alissagrosso.com.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Building A School Visit is just like Building A...Sandcastle! (Jodi Moore)


Around the time I was shopping When A Dragon Moves In around to various agents and publishing houses, my friend Loren was working hard on her degree in library science. “I know it’ll be published,” she said (as good friends will say), “and you’ll be my first author visit.”

And then...it happened! Loren graduated, a lucky school snapped her up and Flashlight Press agreed to publish my debut picture book!

“Can you come the end of May?” Loren asked me over the phone.

“YES!” I Tigger-danced around the room. Then, reality hit. “But...I’ve never done this before. What do I do?”

There was a moment of silence. “I don’t know. I’ve never done this before either.”

Since research is something both librarians and writers love, we set off to find out: by asking teachers what they wanted in an author visit.

“Encourage our students to write,” one said.

“Talk about the parts of a story,” another suggested.

“Discuss the need for revision,” a kindergarten teacher (yes! A KINDERGARTEN TEACHER) weighed in. “These kids think they can get it right the first time.”

And so, using my husband's original sandcastle as a visual metaphor, I crafted concrete, relatable, interactive presentations with grains of inspiration as shared by teachers themselves.



Here’s what I provide:

K through 4th grades:

“Building a strong story is just like building a sandcastle!” 



From "organizing tools" and "digging for ideas" to "building a strong base" and "re-reading and revising", students are introduced to the parts of a story, including the daunting "story arc" using the award-winning picture book When A Dragon Moves In.

Primary grades: Students will first be detectives, fixing spelling and punctuation errors; then will act as artists, “painting a picture” with words. They will then participate in Cool Kids Theater, acting out a scene from the book, learning how to “immerse themselves” in the writing process.

Upper grades:  Using The Wizard of Oz as an example, we will discuss adding dimension to stories and layering characters (adding a little “meat” and a lot of “heart” to the “skeleton” of the tale) as well as Character vs. Plot-Driven work.

And you never know…the DRAGON may even MOVE IN!
Towards the end of the presentation, students will “meet” the dragon and explore a professional masking technique used in theater, thereby infusing a bit of art inspiration...and recycling!




NEW for 5th-12th grades:

“Unleashing the Power of Words”

A picture may be worth a thousand words; however, if we choose our words carefully, we can express ourselves with the power and flair to rival any artist.

In this session, students examine the rich emotion and nuances reflected in the illustrations of a picture book and then explore innovative methods they can use to strengthen their own words and concepts to develop believable, 3-dimensional characters, vivid settings and gripping plots.

Discussion topics include: What’s the difference between a plot-driven and a character-driven story, and why should we care? Can a character be all good or all bad? Adjectives and adverbs…creative or crutch?

Because here’s the thing: stories have the power to teach, to connect and to heal us. I share examples of books that serve these needs, and close by impressing upon students that there are stories missing the world needs to hear…their own.




As authors, we speak to the most important audiences in the world. This letter took my breath away, and reminds me of my mission, my passion and my responsibility. Every day.

I’d love to connect with you and your students. Contact me at https://www.writerjodimoore.com/contact for further details and scheduling. All attendees receive hand-signed bookmarks at the end of the presentation/day. Hope to hear from you soon!





Monday, February 10, 2020

A Few Common Themes by Sydney Salter

I craft a unique presentation for each audience, but I usually hit upon a few themes.

Spending a summer living amongst the descendants of the ancient Mayans inspired me to write my first novel Jungle Crossing. I love to research before I write any story because I love to learn new things.



Long before I wrote any fiction, I wrote in diaries. I have rarely missed a day of journaling since I was fourteen years old. Even the shortest most boring entries end up telling a more complete story.


Sometimes rereading those old journals (I don't do it often) is painful, but doing all that personal writing has taught me how to access emotions in my fiction writing. I encourage young writers to keep a journal.



I talk about how I wasn't a superstar student. I like to encourage those kids whose potential isn't recognized by teachers, or anyone, but who have a passion for something and ambition to succeed.





I talk about how hard I worked to learn how to write. Again, keeping a journal helped me get to that personal and honest spot. But I still had to learn how to spell - and I still had to learn about the importance of meeting deadlines.



I still practice my writing skills by doing short writing exercises, writing short stories, and playing with writing. I rarely reread these pieces. Writing practice has taught me to write fast and without self-criticism. You can always make bad writing better!



I talk about learning to deal with rejection. I use to keep all my rejection letters in a notebook, but now writers get ignored more than rejected. We still have to figure out a way to keep going. I often talk about how many novels I've written (12) versus how many I've sold to be published (5). Every story I've written has taught me something new - and I have no regrets! I will only regret not writing the stories I hoped to tell.


I talk about how to find stories. I love to do workshops with advice columns. Everyone takes the same scenario and quickly writes a story. It's really fun to see what everyone comes up with! No two stories are ever the same.


I always emphasize that writing is a skill that's important to every single person in the modern world. Some of us will end up writing stories, but others will write grants so that they can do their scientific research, fund their nonprofit work, or report about some other aspect of their business.





Saturday, February 8, 2020

Sparks of inspiration and information: Reaching out to Book Sellers, Teachers, Librarians and Book Clubs by Kimberly Sabatini

This month on the blog we're reaching out to book sellers, teachers, librarians and book clubs to let them know what sparks of inspiration and information we can provide to assist THEM!

This means, if you book me for a visit (in person or virtual) I have a magic hat full of things I can use to add to your day and make your life a little better. 

First thing to know is that there is some overlap in what these groups of book folks are looking for--despite the fact that they might have very different needs on other occasions.

What I'm going to do is give you the areas where I think I have something to add and I'll let you decide if any of those buttons are worth pushing. 

First and foremost--TOUCHING THE SURFACE (Simon Pulse, Simon & Schuster) has a professionally crafted Common Core Curriculum Guide.



Exploring the Authenticity, Originality, Tenacity, and the Community of Being a Writer
(Prepared by Debbie Gonzales — www.debbiegonzales.com)
Table of Contents:
Practice vs. Talent – Sentence Crafting
Excerpt: Touching the Surface
Authenticity – A Study in Voice
Originality – Writing Outside the Box
Community – e Peer Writers Workshop
The Peer Writers Workshop: Participant Information
Meet the Author: Kimberly Sabatini
Common Core State Standards Alignment:
English Language Arts Standards » Writing
English Language Arts Standards » Speaking & Listening
Touching the Surface: Synopsis
And you can find the link to the full TOUCHING THE SURFACE Curriculum Guide HERE.
isbn: 978-1-4424-4002-9
Note: The projects and lessons included in the document have been created to compliment the content of my school visit presentation and are intended to enhance the students’ program participation and reading experience. But if you are not able to arrange a visit with me--I would LOVE for you to use the curriculum in conjunction with my book. I'm a former Special Education teacher and I know that bringing kids to reading is a fluid process and I would be proud to help you out with that. 

But growing community does not only happen in schools. I know, I've been a member of the SCBWI (the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators for over a decade. I've journeyed from nervously stepping out and looking for my crew to just recently becoming the Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI Eastern New York
My calling--my purpose in this group is a community builder. 
So, whether you're looking for sessions on starting a critique group, finding the tenacity to keep writing despite any lemons tossed at you, learning how to write outside the box or you'd like a class on becoming best friends with similies, metaphors and analogies--I can be of service.  
And I am always available to take any group through my personal journey to publication with hands on materials from my process or interject this within my other presentations depending on time.
Lastly, I am ALWAYS developing as a writer, a teacher--that never leaves you--and a presenter. After reading TOUCHING THE SURFACE if your readers or book club members organically becomes inspired by the story or ignite something new in their journey as writers--feel free to reach out to me because I believe that sparks of inspiration should always find a way to glow brighter. 
If you have the time, I'd love to know who provided you your favorite author visit/event and what made it so special.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Safe Spaces ... and Dreams of Cupcakes (Mary Strand)


This month, we’re blogging about what librarians, teachers, booksellers, and pretty much anyone in the vicinity can expect from our visit.

On a good day? Cupcakes.

Seriously, you can expect ME ... along with books, bookmarks, and other author swag.

I haven’t yet brought a guitar, but that very concept is currently being discussed in connection with a possible book event with another author who (like me) is also a songwriter. But it would definitely have to be for the right crowd.

Book cupcakes at a Barbara Vey Reader Weekend

I’m an extrovert, which is rare for a writer, and not even remotely shy. I’m not the type to shove myself in anyone’s face, though, because it’s not my style. I can speak on pretty much any topic, sometimes even knowledgeably. (Sometimes not, but then whatever I say will be pretty funny.) I’m not a stand-up comic and don’t aspire to be, but I’m pretty funny if I’m in the mood, and I’m often in the mood.

I love Q&A’s, especially when the Q’s come from kids and teens. Kids and teens don’t get a pinched look on their face when asking why I write about the things I do. Although my books err on the “sweet” side, I think they’re realistic, and real life isn’t as neat and tidy as some parents of kid and teen readers want it to be, and I don’t pretend. Even though I write fiction.

Pinched Face: “Did your character really have to say ‘rat’s ass’? Do the sisters really have to talk about BOYS and the possibility of having SEX some day?”

Me: “They really do, because it’s true to their personality. Kids and teens are THINKING these things, and books are a safe space to explore those thoughts.”

Yeah. Kids and teens don’t ask questions like that.

I’m happy to read excerpts from my books, but most readers prefer Q&A’s. They can read on their own, but they can’t easily ask me questions and get answers unless we’re both in the same room. I think Q&A’s are a better use of the reader’s time, but hey: up to you. (You can also ask me questions on Goodreads, though, or via my website or my author email address. Go for it.)

The best book events feature at least a couple of authors, along with readers (some of whom might be future authors) who want to join in an open exchange of thoughts: about books, about anything they like. My book events provide a safe space for that, even when a few pinched looks on a few parents’ faces threaten that safe space. I simply don’t let them.

But cupcakes are good, too.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.