Pub Rants

Out Of The Mouth Of Babes

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STATUS: Supposed to snow tomorrow. I’ll make it in but I think it will be a lonely day for Chutney and I.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN by Clash

Throughout any given year, I probably give at least 10 talks or workshops at writer’s conferences or other organizations. Plus, with my background in corporate training, I have to say that my public speaking skills are exceptional. And I certainly don’t feel any anxiety or nervous anticipation before any given talk.

That is, until this Saturday. I was tapped to do a talk for area 4th and 5th graders at the CCIRA Authors Festival. (Side note: CCIRA stands for Colorado Counsel International Reading Association.) That morning, I found myself kind of nervous. What an interesting new sensation. After all, with adults, you can fudge a talk; with kids, no way. If you’re boring, they’ll let you know. I also had never given a talk to people this young.

Much to my relief, the talk went great (phew!). Here’s a pic of the 90+ elementary schoolers in attendance (with a sprinkling of adults).

I actually confided that I was nervous and told them I was counting on their questions to carry me through so please don’t let me down. And I have to say, I was blown away by them. They asked the best questions I think I’ve ever received at a talk.

Here’s a sampling of what was asked:
1) What happens if you can’t sell a book to a publisher?
2) How do you know if a writer’s idea is a good one?
3) If Hollywood has bought the film rights, does the author get a share in the profit?
4) Can you publish your book yourself or do you have to have a publisher?
5) How do you decide if the cover art is good?
6) Do publishers show animation for cover concepts?
7) What happens if more than one publisher wants the book?

There were more but this is what I can remember. I’d do a talk for that age group again in a heartbeat.


23 Responses

  1. Nicole Mc said:

    Awesome, and I think that would make me nervous also! Shoot I get nervous getting up and introducing the “game” at the class Christmas Party. weak!

  2. Diva Donna said:

    I love kid quesitons. It’s easy to tell from the questions that they had a really good idea of what you do. The talk must have been great.

    You’re so right about not being able to fudge a talk. Kids know when you’re faking it and they require enthusiasm and truth or they tune out. Well done. Glad it went well.

  3. jen storer said:

    What a lovely story! Kids don’t let their writers fake it either, they can smell an agenda at 500 paces! A colleague of mine (very successful PB writer) trialled a ‘worthy message’ PB on some kindie kids. At the end a little boy put up his hand and said, ‘It was boring’. Author said, ‘Oh. Which bit?’ He said, ‘All of it’. j 😉

  4. r louis scott said:


    I was in a fourth grade parent teacher conference and let slip that I had just finished writing a historical novel. My daughter’s teacher then asked me to come to the class one day and talk about it, so I loaded up a cart with about 15 of my reference books, a half dozen books that had inspired me, and five or six binders with my story in various drafts. It made a pretty impressive pile and there were lots of great questions.

    When the questions slowed down, one of the kids that had apparently seen a little cartoon I had drawn on my daughter’s lunchbag one day asked me if I had illustrated my book. Then I had a bunch of questions about cartoon aliens, which just goes to show that fourth graders have an agenda even if their speaker doesn’t.

  5. Adrienne said:

    Almost all of my presentations are for that age range, and I so agree with you about the questions, kids definitely ask some of the best ones. 🙂

  6. Penny said:

    I would love to hear your answers to all those great questions! And to add one more of my own, that they should have asked: How does one become a literary agent?

  7. Krista V. said:

    I would have loved to participate in something like this when I was that age. Kudos to you for educating our rising generation of authors!

  8. Evangeline Holland said:

    Ah children…they ask the best questions because they are blissfully unafraid of rejection! I’m going to take a page from that book, and apply it to every aspect of my writing career. 😉

  9. S. Kyle Davis said:

    You were a trainer? I’m a training developer, and have occasionally do on-platform! Trainers, in my experience, seem to all be of a certain breed.

    Those are good questions! You’ll have to do a post and answer them!

  10. Jill Kemerer said:

    How cool! I love that you talked to these kids. Who knows, maybe one of them will go on to be an author, all because of your speech? Everything about this makes me smile!

  11. Julia's Child said:

    I understand! Children are often mysterious to me, and that’s still true even though I have two of them.

    I’m glad it went well, but here’s another reason your effort was worthwhile. I don’t remember a thing about most of the conferences I’ve been to in my adult life. But I remember plenty about the Young Authors workshops I attended in the early 1980s.

    Go you!

  12. Suzanne Warr said:

    This is why I write to the middle grades. They’re the smartest AND the most fun! And I’d think so even if they didn’t laugh at my jokes. 😉

    Great job!

  13. Vivian said:

    I’m also curious about the answer to #2, although I suspect it would take more than one blog post to explain.

    Great questions for any age group.

  14. Melaine Bryant said:

    The first school visit I ever did was in front of @300 students. Sweat was pouring off me, and at the end I was still shaking so much I could barely sign books. But after that it steadily got easier because almost everywhere I went, the kids were so fantastic. Since then I’ve spoken at many, many, many middle schools and some high schools, and have found the same thing. Most of the time kids ask very thoughtful and intelligent questions, often to the surprise and delight of their teachers, who never thought they had it in them.