It was World Book Day last week – a fantastic day for children and authors…a chance for everyone in schools to celebrate reading and writing and dressing up!
So what’s the problem you might ask?
Well the problem for me is that school visits strike terror in my heart!
I’m still trying to understand why. It doesn’t make any sense. You see I’m not only an author, I’m also a TEACHER – and that’s not all, I’m a DRAMA TEACHER!!! Talking to a bunch of children should be a piece of cake, a walk in the park. I should be able to do it with my eyes closed. And I usually can, except for one tiny problem…
I HATE TALKING ABOUT MYSELF!
Stick me in a hall full of three hundred children and staff and ask me to talk about SOMEONE ELSE’S BOOK and I’d be laughing, but ask me to talk about MY BOOK and I become a quivering, blithering wreck. I start worrying the day I’m asked to visit the school – I fantasise about the librarian calling to cancel, the school closing down or the start of WW3 – anything that would mean I don’t have to go.
Last year I was so scared I stuck my head in the sand and pretended World Book Day wasn’t happening!
This year was different. A child contacted me. The lovely Camille. She wrote me a gorgeous email inviting me to her school. She said it would mean the world to her. I asked her where her school was, hoping it would be in Timbuktu. Unfortunately it was only half-an-hour from where I live. It felt too mean to say no.
That was back in January. That was when I started worrying. I had nightmares. I’d be standing in front of the children and nothing would come out of my mouth. I’d hyperventilate, faint, keel over and die. I went to visit my sister at half-term and couldn’t relax. I kept saying, “I’ll be fine, just as soon as the visit is over.” THE VISIT began to hang over me like a dark rain cloud. I couldn’t enjoy anything.
A friend of mine lost patience. She said I was reinforcing negative thought patterns or something. That I had to imagine myself at the school and all the children LOVING my visit. She said I had to repeat positive mantras every night in bed until I changed my way of thinking. I tried but it didn’t work. The negative thoughts won out every time.
So what happened on the day?
I stumbled in to the school on zero sleep. Camille was waiting for me in the reception area. She was one of the nicest girls I’ve ever met (and not just because she loves my books) She looked after me all day, sat with me at lunchtime, told everyone we passed that they should read my books. It was SO lovely to meet her. I ran four workshops based on my book Butterfly Summer and the children produced beautifully creative butterfly myths.
They have a wonderful librarian who told me a very funny story about another visiting author (I couldn’t possibly reveal who it was) Apparently this quite famous author turned up drunk! Seriously!
At least I’m sober, I kept thinking…that must count for something.
I’d love to say, looking back, that all the worry was for nothing. That the next time a school invites me to visit I’ll say yes without a second thought.
But the fact remains. I really don’t enjoy talking about myself and I’m rubbish at promoting my books. I think they’re really good and I know children enjoy them, I’m just not very good at telling anyone.
Maybe that’s why so many of my main characters are shy!
So any advice? It’s a year until next World Book Day.
Maybe I should start working on some of those positive mantras???