I’ve just seen the fabulous Ali Sparkes give a talk at our local library and….WOW! That’s how an author talk should be done!
Ali writes for children, and she was funny, informative, and engaging. I won’t give away her ‘trade secrets’, but she has quite a few clever props, some for fun, some to illustrate her points, and a final magician’s trick for the end of the talk, which brought some real gasps from her audience.
I might have to make library visits one day, (though I’d have to finish a book first!) so here’s what I picked up from Ali’s talk.
- Engage the audience in the first few minutes. Ali had us responding to cue cards straight away, and it really got us in the mood.
- Keep the audience involved. Ali asked questions, she called people up to help, and she used props throughout the talk to keep us interested.
- Choice of readings. Ali chose a couple of really fun passages from her books, and these were spread out in the talk, but gave a real insight into what to expect if we read her stories. She put a lot of expression into it, but I suspect she’s a natural performer!
- Be funny. Well, there again, you’re either funny or you’re not – but it certainly helps!
- End on a high. The magician’s trick. We were ALL impressed, mums and dads too!
And what about writing advice? The talk was aimed at children, but the main message is clear. Don’t give up. Her work was rejected for years, but she kept writing and submitting. She got close a few times, only to be rejected at the last minute, but she kept writing. She was finally published in 2006, and has written 40 books since then!
We’ve never read her books, but on the basis of this talk, I think we’ve missed out. We bought ‘Out of this World’ yesterday, and now that it’s signed, my daughters can fight over who gets to read it first.
The talk was part of the summer reading challenge, which we’ve always taken, but this year… well, to be honest, the girls read longer books now, and the reading challenge would be a bit like Nanowrimo – all about quantity rather than quality. I’m sure they could pick six books to read, but they’d be chosen for their brevity to meet the six week deadline. I’d rather they read a few ‘bigger’ books slowly.
This is the third author talk I’ve attended at the library, and though I’m an aspiring writer I’ve never hovered around afterwards to ask insightful questions, or chat with the ‘proper’ author. (Actually, I think there were two ‘proper’ authors in the room, I think I spotted Kate Kelly, in the audience, who’s blog I’ve followed for a while.)
I didn’t hover around for a chat this time either, I wish I was the sort of person who could do that though – just walk up and introduce myself, and start chatting about the writing process.
But is that the right thing to do? What’s the social etiquette for collaring authors after talks? Should you save that for conferences?
What do you think?