Saturday, February 15, 2014

International School Singapore visit 2014, Day One

With my hosts Susan and Graham Grant

With my captive audience

Graham Grant of the International School Singapore very kindly invited Emma Nicholson and me to conduct talks and workshops at the school during Book Week. Of course we were thrilled to have been asked and we immediately got down to planning our joint workshops and our individual talks.

If you've had look at some of my previous posts, you'll know that Emma recently published her awesome middle grade book Princess Petunia's Dragon and she was looking forward to seeing what her audience thought of it. So a couple of weeks before our visit we took about six hours to work out what we were going to say and do to hopefully inspire kids to write their own stories.

Emma's Book Palace of copies of Princess Petunia's Dragon

Writers basically work alone for the most part so I like doing workshops and talks with friends who are writers as well. It gives us a chance to bounce ideas off one another and, truth be told, I need someone to rein me in at times and Emma's really good at that. On more than one occasion, she's told me when I should be quiet! But that doesn't mean I always listen to her.

Emma at the printers!

By the time of our school visit, we were all set. I was scheduled to do two talks and two joint workshops with Emma. An hour before my talk I received a call from my distributor Denise from Closetful of Books who fretted: "You're still at home? Why are you still at home?" 

By the tone of her voice I realised I should jump into a taxi as fast as possible. Thankfully I live about 10 minutes away from the school and so I was there in no time. The guard at the school took down my particulars and handed me a pass that I had to make sure I did not lose. 

Caught trying to add a few illustrations to Sarah Mounsey's

 Denise met me at the main gate and escorted me to the library and introduced me to Susan and Graham who could not have been more warm and welcoming. Oh and Emma was also there  to support my individual talks that day. My fellow picture book author, Sarah Mounsey, aka the competition, messaged me to say that she was on her way there too. Kelvin, my other distributor, was already at a table piled high with copies of our books, ready for sale. So with time to spare I showed Denise my presentation.  After assessing what I had prepared --BTW I was up till two in the morning finalising it-- Denise looked at me and said: "Just make sure you don't go off topic!"

"What? What do you mean?" I responded. 
Denise sighed: "I know you, David, and you are capable of going off topic." 

Denise and Sarah
Now in my defence, I only go off topic when people, and when I say people, I mean Denise and other grown-ups, start talking about topics I don't want to listen to. Nevertheless, when it was time to go up to the multi-purpose hall where my talks were to talk place, I repeated this mantra: "Don't go off topic, don't go off topic, don't go off topic."

We plugged the projector into my computer and then the kids streamed in class by class. I handed my camera to Denise and asked her to take photos. 

Marilu Burden, Emma and Susan Grant
Then I met another of our hosts, the gracious and welcoming Marilu Burden, the Elementary School Literacy Coordinator before the students started streaming in.

The kids
I kicked off my talk by telling the kids about my earliest memories of reading and about what inspired me to start writing and why my school report card always looked like it had been fatally injured in a combat zone. 

RIP: My report card from school.
It sustained fatal injuries during my school years


I have to say the kids were so well behaved, welcoming, and so, so smart. They're a lot smarter than I was at their age and I'm sure Denise would say that they are a lot smarter than me now, right, Denise?

After my first session, Sarah had to head off to pick up her children from school and Emma bought me a very nice lunch at Takashimaya before I headed back for my next session. Having heard me speak once, Emma decided she would rather spend the afternoon shopping than listen to me again. Denise was not so lucky and she had to listen to me all over again and try to sell some of my books.

The kids at my second talk were just as fun, smart and interesting as the kids at my first talk. Then it was time to pack up, go home and get ready for another day at school. 
You know the funny thing is that when I was in school I couldn't wait to leave and now that I'm a grown-up, a fact that is quite possibly open for debate, I can't wait to go back. Why is school now so much more fun than when it was back then?

As I left, Denise paid me a priceless compliment. She said: "It was good. I underestimated you."  Thanks, Denise! And thanks to Susan, Marilu and Graham for arranging a terrific first day!

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