At a recent CANSCAIP (Canadian Society for Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers) meeting a woman commented passionately on how she had tried everything to get her son to read–then he met an author and everything changed. He grew to love books. It was wonderful to hear and I believe her. How many times have I listened to a passionate writer and needed to buy her book afterwards.
Also I know I have been lucky enough to have this effect on my young readers too. One time I was in a restaurant grabbing some lunch between school visits on a tour of the Sudbury region and the waitress hugged me because I had hooked her daughter on one of my books. She had read it right through. First book ever.
So I venture out as much as possible, embarrassing myself as I call out to young customers at Chapters. “Want to have an autographed bookmark from a famous Canadian author?” I don’t mind the odd rejection (crazy woman in aisle four alert!) but I love engaging kids, telling them about my books and having fun with them. Two out of three times parents and young readers walk away dazed and amazed, saying how nice it was to meet a real live author. (We won’t talk about the other times.)
But it’s even nicer to venture into a really beautiful independent bookstore. This Saturday I visited Blue Heron Books–a mesmerizing bright and colourful emporium with friendly inviting staff. On the advice of my writing mentee and friend Tiffany Short, I invited myself to host an event for March break: Solve the Dognapping. With prizes, props and script in hand, I brought along a guaranteed audience Jadzia and William Filipowicz, a couple of my grands. They’ve been to my launches but I wanted them to experience a more child-focussed event.
Seven other keen youngsters came and we enjoyed a wonderful time. Jadzia kept saying “I feel I have to tell everyone who did it!”
“Noooooo. Jadzia, Noooo!” She kept it in luckily.
I have had larger audiences but never a better one. Or more fun. Everyone was able to earn a prize either by trading their best mistakes with me, acting out scripts or hunting down the missing (stuffed) dogs. Tiffany participated and interviewed each participant to hear who they felt committed the dognapping. I loved watching her patiently discussing all the characters with them.The local newspaper photographer came and took photos and afterwards I was able to chat with the owner Shelley McBeth. It takes a whole village to raise a book lover.
Does that mean I turned any young readers on to reading? I think my participants were all readers to begin with. Still I did hear Jadzia tell my daughter she wants to be a writer when she grows up. But I guess I’ll judge my success by how fast Jadzia and Will grab for the next in the series, The Artsy Mistake Mystery.