I realized half way to a book event at the Charlotte Hobbs Library in Lovell, Maine that I’d forgotten my iPhone. The library had ordered copies of TILLIE HEART AND SOUL, kids had read it, and they were coming to meet the author (me!), discuss the book and eat pizza. What an opportunity for photos to put on social media! The pizza alone would make people buy my books!
I had enough time to turn around and get my phone, but then I decided, no. I’ve lately been noticing how thinking up marketing strategies has been taking up too much space in my brain. This marketing “habit of mind” depletes my creative impulses, and like most writers, I’m not happy about it.
Wouldn’t it be nice just to meet with the kids, talk about TILLIE, do some writing, and eat pizza without always looking for that perfect photo op to splash over social media?
I’m so glad I forgot my phone. I had the best author visit ever. I was totally present. I relaxed into my presentation, our conversation, the writing exercise, and yes, the pizza, too.
I tried a new activity that really worked out well. To get the conversation rolling (like I really had to encourage this group to talk…ha!), I’d selected quotes from the central characters the book—Tillie the protagonist, her best friend Shanelle, new girl Glory who unwittingly disrupts Tillie and Shanelle’s friendship, and Uncle Fred, Tillie’s guardian.
I read the quotes and asked the kids to identify the characters. I was thrilled when they were able to do it. It meant they’d read my book and I’d succeeded as a writer in differentiating my characters (which, as I told the kids, comes from spending lots of time with them and finally letting them speak for themselves.)
Then, using prompts, the kids created their own characters and drew their pictures. (Sorry no photos—not even of the seven-year-old detective whose high heel shoes were really weapons, or the teenager who lived in 5000 A.D. in the world’s tallest building, or the girl who lived in a camper and saved wild animals). I suggested that the young authors get their characters in lots of trouble over the summer and write their stories.
Later, when parents came for pick up, the authors shared their characters and pictures. And here’s the exciting part: at the children’s request, parents exchanged phone numbers. They wanted to arrange a writing group at the library like the critique groups I described because they wanted to keep writing!
Would all of this have happened if I’d been clicking pictures with my phone? Maybe. Maybe not. But I know one thing for sure, I was 100% my true self and I had a blast.