Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pre-Published Author Classroom Visits?

Yesterday I read an article on classroom visits and workshops in my SCBWI quarterly magazine. In the back of my mind, I started planning what I would do for mine . . . until my brain stopped me.

But you aren't a published author yet. You're just wasting your time.

I laughed at myself. I've already done a classroom visit, I told my brain. On getting published.

Yes, you read that right. Janet Sumner Johnson, an unpublished author, has done a classroom visit on getting published.

I can hear your questions clammoring through the blogosphere, so I will answer them:
  • Did you get paid? No.
  • Did you claim to be an expert? No.
  • Didn't the students question your authority? No.
  • And why not? Because I did my homework. I knew what I was talking about, and most importantly I knew more than the students. ;) (And I brought my source reference with me and showed it to them.)
  • How did you have the gall? Oh yeah, you in the back . . . I heard your question. I was asked, and I have a hard time saying 'no,' so I did it.
  • But why? Why would they ask you of all people to do a classroom visit? Connections. Yep. It's all about connections. My dad is a teacher and likes to brag about me to all his acquaintances(*blushes at the thought*). When he told the writing teacher that I had just finished writing a book (the first draft, mind you), and was working to get it published (*blushes again at the thought*) she asked if I would present to her class on how to get published.
  • Weren't you scared out of your mind? *wipes tears of laughter from my eyes* Scared doesn't even begin to describe it. But that made me prepare that much harder, and you know what? I'm really glad that I didn't let a little fear hold me back. It was a fabulous experience, and I learned tons, tons, tons more than any of those students did.
  • So what is the point of your post? My point, dear friends, is that we sometimes hold ourselves back from doing things because we don't think we know enough. We don't think we're ready. We don't think we have the cred. There are so many excuses, really.
We classify classroom visits as something only the published can do. But why? True, we can't talk about what it's like to be published. We won't have a beautifully bound book to hold up and show the students. But we do have experience and knowledge.

I know many of you could write a query with one arm tied behind your back (as long as it's not the one attached to your writing hand). Some of you can spew grammar rules like you study the Chicago every day. Some of you know the best way to pinpoint agents in your genre. It may sound basic, but it's knowledge hard-earned. Knowledge that others would love to gain.

Okay, I've said my say. But what do you  think? Should pre-published authors look for opportunities to do classroom visits? Why or why not?

17 comments:

Beth said...

I did several classroom visits before my books were published. They were to my daughters' classrooms, and it was unpaid, but nobody ever questioned whether I should be there. It was fantastic practice for my later paid presentations - I learned a ton about holding kids' interest.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've done classroom talks about writing and the pathway to publications for my kids' classes. Of course they all asked me if I wrote Twilight. ;)

The idea for my WIP came from this. I was going to discuss where you can ideas from and picked up a magazine at the library as an example. An article in it caught my eye. During the class, I mentioned reality shows and had them name a few. The show my son loves was listed. As he and I walked home, all kinds of ideas started forming in me head based on these two random ideas, and by the time we got home, my WIP was born. :D

Joanne said...

Oh definitely. It's all part of the writing experience, and we gain something from it in the process. I'll bet the kids loved your presentation, people are so intrigued with writers. What grade level did you present to?

Melissa Sarno said...

I say, 'go for it' and I commend you for going for it. Sometimes I don't feel qualified to write about finding an agent on my blog because...er...I haven't found an agent, but I've done so much flipping research it's unbelievable, so why not share what I've learned?

Jessica Bell said...

Definitely! It's another notch on your belt, innit!

Kenda said...

I say yes :-) Any chance to be around kids, talking about writing and the publishing process, etc. is adding to our experience bags--and we never know what we'll pull out because of it! I say go for it...

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king, right? :) I was recently asked to do a classroom visit via skype, but I'm not sure if I'm going to do it ... but that has more to do with screaming toddlers and scheduling than feeling like I don't have anything to offer. :) For the last couple months I've been mentoring a teenage writer. I'm teaching her all I know about publishing-- and I realize, I've learned a lot! She will probably surpass me very soon, but for now, I'm happy to be her instructor.

Amy

Victoria Dixon said...

You bet and for all the reasons you listed plus at least one more: It's good practice for when you ARE published and have copies to sell at the school's book sale. LOL Get ready for it, girlfriend!

Talli Roland said...

Sure? Why not! Any serious writer knows loads about the crafting and the road to publication.

Anita said...

Totally! Good for you...and then the students will be thrilled to buy your book when it is published. Tons of mktg should be done before the book is.

Amie Kaufman said...

I think it'd be a lot of fun! I do a lot of teaching and presenting in a different area of expertise, and it's so much fun. I say that anybody who gets the chance should go for it!

Lynn said...

I've always been a believer that to make your goals you need to act as if they have already happened. And you've got that going on!

Connie Arnold said...

Good for you, Janet! It's a good experience, for you as well as the kids, as you found out. I'm sure they greatly enjoyed having you there!

WritingNut said...

Definitely! And I'm so proud of you for grabbing your fear by the horns and kicking it out :)

LTM said...

I'm sure you have loads more knowledge about the process than those guys do! And just think of all the painful mistakes you're saving them! Oh, if only a prepublished author had caught me before I started querying an unfinished novel to EVERY agent at once... LOL! :D

good work, JSJ~ <3

Lisa Gail Green said...

I spoke to my daughter's second grade class. The teacher asked me to show them what a pre and post published manuscript might look like.Then the kids asked questions. Mostly how much money authors make. Yes, I dashed some hopes that day...

Susanne Drazic said...

I think that is a wonderful idea. Sounds like it was a great experience. CONGRATS!