I visited my first primary school as an author in 2007. The very idea was nervewracking. After all I had never spoken to a class of children before, let alone for an hour. What was I supposed to do? How could I keep them entertained? What if they hated me?
As it happened, it was a lovely school, and the librarian who arranged the visit with me said I was welcome to bring some props along because they were a surefire way to keep the children entertained. What a great idea! Props. I hadn't thought of that. So I started thinking about it. What sort of props could I bring along with me, considering I was a new author, never having visited a school before? I had no idea what I was going to talk about, let alone what props I would bring with me.
After several days of wracking my brain, I came up with a thought that quickly developed into an idea. Since Quizzical was based around a quiz show, why not bring a quiz show to the classroom? Yes, that made sense. Now, I just had to work out how to do that. I was lucky in that my distributor had something called a Quizmaster in stock. It was a longish, bright yellow thing with three red buttons on top. When you pushed one of them, a panel at the front would light up in front of whichever buzzer was pushed. It was perfect for what I wanted. So, along with some questions I'd made up, my buzzer and I headed off to the school on the appointed date.
At first I spoke about how I'd self-published Quizzical; what my experience of that process had been, the positives and negatives, and how it differed from being commercially published. The children were very interested, and asked lots of questions, then we got down to the quiz show. It was a resounding success. I was very buoyed after the visit and looked forward to many more to come.
I can honestly say that visiting schools and libraries is my favourite part of being an author. It is a chance to interact with the children who read my books as well as being a truly rewarding experience. I'm not sure that I make a difference, though I'd like to, but if I can inspire even one child to achieve their dreams, just as I did, then it has all been worthwhile.
Since that first school visit I have had many. No one group is the same, and no matter how different the schools, the teachers, or the children, I always come away feeling uplifted inside. And believe me, there is no better feeling.