Usually, I talk about writing. Now, I'm going to turn the tables a bit and write about talking about writing.
You might need to read that last sentence again. I know I did.
I have been visiting schools, acting like some famous hot-shot authorstrator* for almost a dozen years now. I try to change my presentation every year to keep things interesting for schools that hire me time and time again. It would be tough to present with a row of snoring teachers lined up against the back wall.
The one constant I have always kept in my presentations is the part where I have a kid from the audience come up and model for me so I can draw him. This drawing demonstration has always been very popular with both adults and kids and it gives me the occasional opportunity to see a child traumatized irreparably. It also gives the audience the occasional opportunity to see me get traumatized irreparably and even more spectacularly than the kids.
The drawing demonstration has evolved over the years. I used to simply read my book, The Rules, then have the kids share their own rules that weren't in the book. This part of the process remains, as it allows me to collect new rules for a possible sequel.
After listening to the rules, I used to simply choose one rule that I liked, have that kid come up and draw him.
That worked until a kid stood in front of me on the stage and ate a hideous gooey strand of snot that she picked out of her nose. Her rule, I might mention, was "Don't pick your nose and eat it." It made me realize that I seemed to have a knack for picking kids that probably shouldn't be given uncensored access to an audience. So I started asking the teachers to choose the kid for me.
That worked until I had a kid throw a shoe at me. The teachers dutifully listened to the rules then selected "Don't throw shoes at people" as a winning rule. The kid came up and assumed a good shoe throwing posture, complete with shoe in hand. He posed and I drew. I drew and drew and drew as the kid threatened to throw his show at me. I assumed the kid was really getting into his role.
Until the shoe bounced off my head.
That got my attention. When I looked up at the kid, he was crying hysterically because his classmates had been laughing at him.
So I started warning kids that people would laugh at them and they would feel ridiculous. That worked until the kid came up, saw several classes of kids looking at him, grabbed the front of his pants and screamed "I gotta go to the bathroom!" He ran from the room and I never saw him again.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that the drawing demonstration is–by far–the most popular part of my presentations.
Today I was at a school and I listened to rules and gave my warnings and had the teachers pick a victim for me. When he was picked, this first grader ran up, jumped on to a stool I had placed next to me, fell off and landed on his head on the floor.
First graders found this very, very entertaining.
I suffered a series of tiny, but very real anxiety attacks.
Since first graders bounce, he was unharmed but unfortunately, he remained unconvinced of his own mortality. Since I always watch my models closely for early warnings of flying shoes, I had an excellent view of him as he bounced and twitched and tipped the stool in a dizzying display of acrobatic skill and death-defying bravado. It was thrilling and terrifying and I was still able to draw despite my morbid visions of the reams of paperwork that would lay before me if he fell off and injured himself.
We both survived the ordeal, but it was a close one.
I'm considering wrapping the kids in bubble wrap before they come up to model.
It would probably be really, really hard to draw, though.
*Authorstrator - A word I stole from a kid at Washington Elementary. It is brilliant and I intend to describe myself as that from now on.