Monday, November 14, 2011

My First Book Talk

Last week I had my first "official" book group with students.  Until this point, everything had been in a classroom setting with kids asking me questions about my books, but this was fairly formal.
Our school has a Kindle club for kids who've met various requirements through the school library.  One of the books on the kids' Kindles is Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire.  Our school's English department head is in charge of getting the kids together twice a month and discussing their books with them.  And this time, they'd chosen to read Half-Vampire.  It was a last-minute switch, really.  She'd forgotten to write up some discussion questions, and it was really easier for her to offer to monitor my seventh-graders who were taking one of those weekly government-mandated standardized tests in a computer lab than to write up questions.  And, obviously, I could think up discussion questions about my own book without a whole lot of effort.  Besides-- standardized tests vs. munching treats and discussing vampires: where would you rather be?  Duh.
I learned a few things from the perspectives of these kids (good readers who weren't afraid to speak their minds).  The ninth-grade girls all thought Eric was immature.  The eighth-grade boys didn't think so at all.  (I smiled at this.)  One eighth-grade boy was so pleased that Eric was so easy to understand; it had never occurred to him that Eric speaks just like the kids at our school, since that's the kid speech wherein I am most fluent.
That same boy was dying to know where I'd gotten the idea for the telekinesis.  That was something I hadn't thought about in years, so it made me laugh to tell him the truth.  When I was just barely beginning the book -- handwritten in a Mead spiral-bound notebook -- all my ninth-graders were very into giving me suggestions.  A boy named Eric (on whom the fictional Eric's looks are indeed based) was a TA for the French teacher during my consultation period (a time for meetings, lesson prep, and grading papers).  One day during this consultation period I was sitting at my desk, grading tests, when he, wearing a TA pass, came into the room, slapped his hand down on my desk, leaned over to look me straight in the eye, and -- without any kind of lead-in, said, "I want telekinesis!"
I nodded and said, "Yeah, we can do that."
And he left the room.
That was it.
The kids listening in the library last week thought that was hilarious, but it was the truth.  To this day, I do not know what prompted that boy to demand that power for his fictional and much-altered alter-ego, but that's how it happened.
I know a fair amount of authors write on their blogs that they fear public speaking and/or school visits, and some authors don't have a clue how to talk to kids.  (There is a local author of some fame who used to make a lot of grade school visits in the valley.  My students unanimously agree that he came across as unbelievably arrogant and dislikable.)  Obviously, I have neither of these problems.  I hope sometime to be able to talk to kids who are not at my own school about my books, but that will have to wait for a future date.  :)


  1. You have the upper hand in that you are used to speaking in front of people (and kids are the worst audience for public speaking). Keep it up.

  2. I've just noticed you like Gail Carriger too. Looking forward to Timeless being released?

  3. Ah, and thank you for reminding me to check up on Timeless! I had forgotten it was so soon! *heads off to put it on hold from public library*