Why would I make up something like this?
So last night I had an appearance at a middle school in a town near here. The event was a "Literacy Luau," one of those events schools sometimes run to celebrate reading and books. Someone did a lot of work on this thing. They had games planned in various locations, a book fair, a book drawing, a book swap, a bake sale, and readings by two poets and an author. (The author being me, of course.) And they were offering my most recent book for sale.
I have a friend who subs at this school, and she had called me earlier in the week to tell me that every time she subbed in an English class, she had to read Happy Kid! during the read-aloud time. Yesterday afternoon she told me the school had been promoting the event all week and kids were going to get extra-credit for showing up.
Yesterday I was thinking, Gee, maybe I should prepare a mailing for middle schools with ideas for using Happy Kid! and send it to the reading teachers instead of the librarians, since my contact at this school was the reading teacher and she was really working for me. This could be the beginning of something big!
Well, I get to the school last night. Adults greet me, they're happy to see me. Yada, yada. If you can think ahead at all, you've probably figured out what happened next.
Not a soul showed up for my reading. And I was supposed to do two.
However, there were people across the hall where the poets were reading, in large part because in addition to the adult poets, student poets were going to read their work. And where you have students, you have their parents. So my contact decided to move me across the hall with them, and we'd all do one big reading.
That was fine. The poets were good and created a very coffeehouse-like atmosphere. But I'm sitting there a little worried that when I get up to read at the end, everyone will leave because they've only come to hear their kids after all.
Fortunately, a couple of kids read stories, which provided a nice little segue to my fiction reading. I was introduced as their featured writer (which was putting a nice face on a bad situation). And I did nail the reading. Fortunately, I have a great deal of experience with poorly attended appearances, and I wasn't as rattled as I would have been if I wasn't used to this sort of thing.
The reading seemed to be a hit, people laughed, seemed engaged. Then I was moved back across the hall with anyone who would like to talk with me while something continued in the poetry room. (I don't know what.)
Two parent-child units came by as well as a substitute teacher. The school sold two books, which was two more than I expected. I was very happy that I don't sell my own books at these things because the school ordered twenty or thirty, and I already have cases of books in my cellar.
A number of people who saw me afterwards said how great I was, though.
The reading teacher felt very badly and was worried that she hadn't promoted me well enough. (I truly don't think that's the case.) So I ended up in the hallway consoling her by telling her stories of all the author appearances I've made that were busts.
As you can imagine, we were there a while.
Thank goodness for my virtual life. While I was sitting in that room trying to listen to those poets, I was working out how I'd describe the experience on my blog.
I'm now thinking about trying to become the Harper Lee of kids' lit. She never makes appearances, and she seems to do quite well with sales. And she's only got the one title. So I'm thinking about refusing to make appearances and spreading stories about being a recluse, which wouldn't be that hard since I only go to taekwondo class and the grocery store.
It's what you might call a reverse marketing plan.