As part of our marketing focus this month, we've talked about making school visits and what an impact they can make in an writer's career. But we haven't discussed how fun, or how zany they can be. To get at that, we asked TBA clients for a favorite question, or story, from the front lines...
My favorite question is "Who's your favorite character in your book?" I love it because normally I'm the one asking readers this question, so when they ask me, it takes me a second to answer. (But I don't think what I say comes as a surprise–my favorite is Miles! He's my oldest character, and I see a lot of myself in him.)
– Francesca Zappia, author of MADE YOU UP (Harpercollins/Greenwillow, 2015)
I have been asked the following several times: “Have you ever murdered anyone?”
– Robin Stevens, author of MURDER IS BAD MANNERS (Simon & Schuster, 2015)
I once did an author event here in Australia at a local writing centre. It was very early on in my career. The blurb for the event had my photo and the fact I came from Reading, England. One guy, wanted to know why I was writing under a pseudonym? I told him I wasn't. He would not have it. He was convinced I was writing under a pen name. Turns out he thought I was Kate Winslet! He admitted his mistake by saying I "didn't have her feet!" I've never been back to that centre, but it remains the funniest question I've ever been asked. (And strangest).
– Donna Hosie, author of THE DEVIL’S INTERN (Holiday House, 2014)
Easy! Some authors get asked what their favorite book is, where do they get their inspiration from of if they ever write about real people. But me, I just get asked about bananas. Or, more to the point why I don’t like them. It all started a few years ago when I decided to start a workshop with some dumb facts about myself, including my personal war against the hideous yellow things that people try and pass off as fruit. Now, I’m not sure if it amuses kids that a grown woman might not like bananas or they just can’t be bothered to think of better questions, but all I know is that whenever I mention that I don’t like them, that’s all they want to ask me about.
– Amanda Ashby, author of DEMONOSITY (Penguin, 2013)
A fourth grade boy once asked me, very solemnly, “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being extremely difficult, how hard you would say it is to write a book?” I was touched, because clearly he had thought long and hard beforehand about how to phrase his question. That or he's just a natural-born sociologist. Either way, awesome. I told him that for the first few minutes of plotting, it’s a glorious 2. But most of the time, in the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel, book writing GOES TO ELEVEN.
– Kathryn (K.E.) Ormsbee, author of THE WATER AND THE WILD (Chronicle, 2015)
“Do gargoyles really come alive at night?”
It's my favorite because of how accepting they were ready to be about the world's magic!
– Mike Revell, author of STONEBIRD (Quercus, 2015)
One of my favorite questions of all time came from a small (and very active) boy, who asked me,
“Have you ever told a story about a bear?”
“I have not,” I admitted.
“Can I tell you a story about a bear?” he asked.
“You bet,” I said. I meant, of course, that he should write his story down. Instead, he proceeded to tell me and his classmates the following tale:
“One time, my father and my uncle took me camping. After they fell asleep, I decided that I really wanted to see a bear so I snuck out of the tent, went to the car, and took out a bag of Hershey Bars. I unwrapped the candy, and then laid it all out in a circle around our tent because I know that bears like Hershey Bars. Sure enough, later that night I heard a snuffling sound. I opened the tent flap, and looked outside. And you know what? There’s something nobody ever tells you about bears. But I’m going to tell you. Bears are REALLY BIG! And that’s why… I PEED MY PANTS!
“I tried to wake up my Dad and my uncle, but they’d had a couple beers. Nobody was awake but me. AND THE BEAR! So I went and hid in my sleeping bag and fell asleep.
“The next morning when we woke up, there were Hershey Bar wrappers everywhere and the bear was gone. My father and my uncle yelled at me for eating the candy and wetting my pants, but I told them, ‘IT WASN’T ME. IT WAS THE BEAR!’
“They didn’t believe me. So that night, after it got dark and they fell asleep, I snuck out and made the big Hershey Bar circle again. Sure enough, I heard that snuffling sound. The bear was back! And this time, I woke up my Dad and I woke up my uncle. They looked outside AND THEY FREAKED OUT! And I said, ‘I bet you want to pee your pants now too!’
“And that’s my story about a bear.”
I never know what to expect from a school visit, but I always know it will be some combination of amazing and terrifying and unbelievable and good. Because that’s what kids are. And that’s what writing is. And by the way, my next book has a story about a bear.
– Paul Acampora, author of I KILL THE MOCKINBIRD (Roaring Brook, 2015)
My favorite question of all time is from my very first school visit for Oh. My. Gods., when a sixth grade boy asked, "Why did you write about a girl?"
– Tera Lynn Childs, author of POWERLESS (Sourcebooks, 2015)
I love doing school visits, bookstore events, and teaching at writers conferences, but my favorite events are teaching workshops for young writers. These word passionate kids ask questions on par with those I receive from adults. For example, "How can I make sure my characters' actions remain consistent through the entire book?" was recently asked of me by a ten-year-old novelist. I hope, one day, she'll sign one of her bestsellers for me.
– Heidi Schultz, author of HOOK’S REVENGE (Hyperion, 2014)