Turning up to an author event is a daunting task when it is your first time. The nerves are rattled, insecurities rear their ugly heads and it takes every ounce of strength not to turn tail and run back out to the safety of my car. Well, that’s what it was like for me anyway!
When I arrived at my first event, I was out of sorts. My carefully planned morning had gone awry and the time I had scheduled to arrive on time had fleeting gone, leaving me huffing and puffing to get to the location. After a warm greeting and a brief outline of where I would be setting up, the librarians left me to my own devices with parents and children looking on with great interest. Talk about feeling like a goldfish in a bowl! I quickly pulled a chair next to the small table they had provided and put the few things I remembered to bring with me on display. It wasn’t much and I regretted my decision not to make more cards, flyers and book marks for the occasion.
Learning from my first experience, I cleared my morning schedule. The second event went far more smoothly. I arrived a half hour earlier than required and got a chance to chat to the librarians (who were different from the first set) and built a good rapport, which enabled them to understand what I wanted out of the session and how to support me. They set up a colouring station for after my reading and it went very well. More children attended this event which made it lively and fun. I appreciated the fact that the librarians hovered close but didn’t interefere unless absolutely necessary, giving me the option to chat to the parents and interact with the children.
The third event started pretty much the same as the first: chaos and mis-managed time. I got there with minutes to spare after taking a wrong turn and following the wrong road on my gps. Luckily, the librarian was someone I had met through school events with our local library service. She was absolutely lovely, taking the time to offer me a cup of tea and time to set up while she rallied around getting the rest of the children from a nursery next door. I was so pleased because my audience was far younger and more of a challenge to entertain. It felt so rewarding to see a tiny person, only a few month’s old, responding with a smile. The quiet, shy members opened up to the experience of following rainbow ribbon trails and some were brave enough to growl like fire bears by the end of the session. I was so pleased they liked the story and could pick their favourite places we visited. Those excited little faces eager to see the sea horses and choose their favourite book mark to commemorate the day made it so worthwhile.
This last event was a bit of a let down. The children who were supposed to be signed up turned up late and even though the librarian was very supportive, I had to muster up the enthusiasm to read to two lovely little ones and their mums. I had brought support in the form of my sister-in-law and her son, together with my two sprogs, who made the audience a total of five. All-in-all, it was still fun and I made an extra effort to keep the younger member of my audience entertained.
From this experience, I have learnt to adapt my reading skills to the audience. Some children are eager to get engaged but others need a bit more time to chew through their shyness. Another big thing is preparing for very few children to turn up. The main purpose for taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge was to promote reading in libraries during the holidays and encouraging parents and children to have fun when they get there. Numbers have dwindled – this I know from the feedback I’ve received at school – not many parents are aware of the numerous events available at their local library. So, having an open mind and enjoying the company of anyone who makes the effort to turn up is important.
When leaving, I always give away a set of my books for the library to add to their collection. That way, I know that my visit will have the long lasting benefit of readers discovering my books long after I’m gone.
Well, that’s my experience. What was yours like if you’ve done this before and what advice could you offer other authors doing events like this?