When you write a series, you end up answering the same questions over and over, which is understandable. Who wouldn’t wonder if I have a hamster or what was the inspiration for the book? Deborah Kalb recently interviewed me for her (adult) book blog and dug a little more deeply. I always like questions that make me think. Here’s the interview: http://bit.ly/T6l9Hw.
I recently was at a school where I did two sessions (third and fourth grade) and we had a lot of time, so it was more relaxed than usual. The students asked all the usual, obvious and again, perfectly understandable questions. But then a miracle happened: they started to ask questions about writing. Really good questions about writing. I wish that happened more often at school visits. Yes, the author is there to inspire the students, which is what I try to do. And entertain as well, so they don’t fall asleep. But often, people miss the opportunity to have a writer all to themselves and ask for answers they’d never get off my website, for instance, or in the bio on the back of a book. Once the kids loosened up that day, they dug more deeply and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. I love it when a child asks a question that really makes me think!
I guess at a perfect school visit, the teachers would have had time beforehand to explore the possibilities of asking a real writer questions about how they really write. But I know how limited their time is.
It would be ideal if the students were asked to listen to each answer instead of waving their hands and hoping they’ll get called on. (They all do this, but if you really think about it, it’s rude to have your hand up while a person is answering another question.) And the students would not repeatedly ask questions that were already answered because then it’s obvious that they weren’t listening. (One of my son’s previous teachers, whose class I’ve visited several times calls students on that bad practice but she’s the only one.)
It would be really lovely if the teachers listened and didn’t do their paperwork while I spoke. When they do that, I realize that there’s no hope that they’ll take what I said and reinforce it back in the classroom. Most of the time, teachers do go back and talk to their students about what I said and give them a project that builds on that. But not the ones who don’t listen.
In the end, this is what school visits are like and 99% of the time, the students and teachers are enthusiastic, interested and lots of fun.
Life isn’t perfect anyway, after all. But please – don’t hold back from asking those burning questions.