The Book Talk


Libraries have always been a source of fascination for me.  Since my childhood I’ve found them to be the kind of mysterious, secret places that make a person want to curl up and hide, with a great book and an eternity of imagination.  Who knows what treasure can be found in a library? Be it  a gem of wisdom arriving just in the nick of time or a librarian who keeps aside books she thinks you’ll like; these are the things library junkies like me have begun to expect from our local book repositories.  What we don’t generally expect are teenagers.  Masses of chatty, laughing, LITERATE teenagers!

Thursday (26th of August) as part of book week, I presented my book talk to the teen book group at Marsden Library.  I never know what to expect from these things, disinterested kids who only show up for the food or smart alecs there to find out if the ‘teen author’ knows anything at all about teens?  On Thursday, I got neither of these.  Instead I got a group of polite, thoughtful, considerate kids who love to read and who really wanted to meet their first ever, honest-to-god, writer.

I also had the pleasure of meeting the library staff who encourage these kids to continue reading by providing them with interesting activities like author talks, writing workshops and discussion groups.  They’re hard working and amazing people who made me feel relaxed and welcome in their space.  Their welcome made it much easier to talk to the kids.

Between ten and fourteen teens turned up for my book talk.  Following my presentation on Truth vs Fiction, afternoon tea was served.  During this time, while we drank pink milk and ate doughnuts, the kids milled about to chat with me.  Yes indeed they did.  The told me what they were reading at the moment and why they enjoyed (or didn’t) certain genres.  I heard about their own creative undertakings and their dreams for the future.  Then, before I left, individuals approached, to thank me for taking the time to talk to them.  They would, they assured me, look me up.  By the end of it all, I felt just fabulous and my love of libraries was as strong as ever.

If you’re also a new author scheduled to do one of these talks, I have some tips now, that may help you also, to finish the day feeling great:

1)   Have a plan – never think to ‘wing’ a public presentation, confident as you may be, it won’t work.  Not only should you have a plan, you should run the             plan by your host.   The host knows your audience better than you do, so they’ll tell you if you’re on the right track.

2)   Be polite – Your host has more going on than just your presentation.  Thank them profusely for their efforts on your behalf.

3)   Presents don’t hurt – I usually take lollipops with me and for this last one, I took  some signed copies of my new book (for the best questions).  I also sent        the library some promotional postcards and posters before the event to help them with advertising.

4)    Enjoy the process – People respond better to you (and therefore your presentation) when they know you like them.  I make no secret of the fact that I                   enjoy people.  I like talking to them, I like listening to them.  I especially like listening to teenagers,  after all they’re the source of the ‘real’ vocab and                 ‘authentic voice’ people comment upon when they’ve read my books.

5)    Be yourself  –  Teenagers have ‘crap detectors’ about a mile wide.  If you’re speaking it, they’ll know it.  If you’re presenting it, they’ll know that too.  Stand         up, present yourself as yourself and your work for what it is.  They’ll appreciate that so much more than someone who’s trying too hard to be cool.

That’s it.  Five simple steps to enjoying your book talk!  If you’ve come across others you think I should know about, be sure to tell me.


6 responses »

  1. I’m an old Doc with a book (“The Mandolin Case”) and a tour. I’m not too old to learn, though, and these are excellent suggestions. I’ve already made a few of the mistakes you mention, esp in regards to not enough planning of my program. I’m bad to wing it at times.

    I hope you’ll visit my site. On My last post there’s a link to a TV clip that includes a brief discussion of my book, “The Mandolin Case,” and a short clip of some triple mandolin work with my pals Darin Aldridge and Wayne Benson. I thought you might enjoy it.

    Enjoyed your post. Come visit. As far as I know I’m the world’s only physician bluegrass fiction writer.

    Dr. B

    • Hi Tom, I love your site and the stories there. Regarding book talks, I think the rules may change according to audience. By and large teens generally don’t talk, and they won’t ask questions until they’re very comfortable with someone.

      Writers groups tend to have a least a couple of people who have questions and are dying to learn. Still, preparation doesn’t hurt.

      I do have another big tip. All the best author talks I’ve attended have been talks where the author has spoken about something other than their book. They’ve picked a topic or a theme from within their book and spoken about that. So for example, one was a Queens Counsel who talked about all the ridiculous things he’d learned while being a judge. Another was a YA author who spoke about the refugee families he’d met while researching his (fiction) book. I think that doing it this way gives listeners an insight into who the author which makes them a heck of a lot more attentive than if you just plug the book.

      Will drop by again soon to say hello.

  2. You have more good advice here.

    The best musicians I know are the ones who have an innate sense of what music the audience is in a mood for, and play what they came to hear.

    Dr. B

    • You’re dead right Doc. When I talk to education students about teaching, I explain that sure, you have to know your stuff and you need to have a lesson plan but don’t be afraid to throw the plan out the window if you find it’s not working!

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