“I have always been an admirer. I regard the gift of admiration as indispensable is one is to amount to something; I don’t know where I would be without it.”
- Francois de la Rochefoucauld
If Cynthia Lord reads this, she’s going to think I’m crazy. Or actually stalking her. Of course, I’m not stalking her. I think.
Last year, Cynthia Lord was a keynote speaker at the NESCBWI conference. She seemed so nice (the kind of nice that makes you want to be her friend) and I admired her story. Ms. Lord’s Saturday talk moved me to tears. And on Sunday for an interview, she’d brought her Newbury Medal, sending it out to the audience to make a wish on it. My wish still hasn’t come true, but I’m holding out hope.
At the same conference, she autographed my book. Afterwards, I read it and realized what all the fuss was about. I wrote a post about it: http://theresamilstein.blogspot.com/2009/09/reading-like-writer.html
One day, I decided to check her blog. I commented about my post and provided a link. You know what? She commented back. And on my post, I provided a link to her post along with our comments: http://cynthialord.livejournal.com/557972.html
As I stated in Friday’s post, at this year’s conference, I planned to take a workshop on school visits even though I don’t have an agent, let alone a book to promote. Since there wasn’t much else that interested me on Sunday afternoon, I decided to take it anyway for possible future school visits. And as I wrote in the last post… Cynthia Lord.
Imagine my surprise on Friday when I came to the registration desk and found out I’d be the “Handler” for that two-hour intensive workshop. Being a Handler meant I’d check that people were registered for the course at the door, pass out any handouts, introduce the speaker(s) if needed, and provide anything the speaker(s) may need. By the time of the workshop, I wasn’t nervous because I’d already been a Handler (and made a mess of it) the previous day.
The workshop run by Cynthia Lord and Toni Buzzeo was awesome. Being a parent on a school art committee, a writer, and a teacher, I could see school visits from a variety of perspectives.
As a parent who has set up author/illustrator visits (for Gareth Hinds, Noah Z. Jones, Laya Steinberg, Paul B. Janeczko, and Matt Tavares), I was familiar with contracts and author requests. It was interesting to hear it from Cynthia and Toni’s perspectives.
As a writer, I could see how visits could be a lot of pressure and why authors need to plan ahead of time to ensure a smooth visit. Equipment provided by the school and writer had to be considered. So did number of talks, number of kids at the talks, and the lengths of the talks (depending on grade). Also, what types of “props” the writer should bring.
As a teacher, especially a sub, the idea of being thrown in unfamiliar situations was not a foreign concept. And the suggestions were EXACTLY how I handle myself when students first walk into the classroom:
Have something on screen (or in my case, the board)
Give eye contact
Smile (unless they come in with a bad attitude)
Have someone introduce you because helps transfer authority (or in my case, introduce myself)
State expectations beforehand
Their tips for dealing with behavior are also techniques I use: eye contact, scanning, proximity, and pausing. (And my patented glare.)
Another suggestion was to touch a student’s shoulder as a warning. Not only do I give a warning touch, but I also do it as reinforcement for a compliment.
Being a former teacher (Ms. Lord) and librarian (Ms. Buzzeo) these women knew about providing different tools for different types of learners, so visual and tactile were as important as auditory.
The session was scheduled to be two hours, but both writers stayed another forty-five minutes for questions. Afterwards, I asked for a picture of both of them and a picture with Cynthia Lord.
It was a satisfying ending to a wonderful conference.
Now that I have Cynthia Lord’s autograph from last year, a photo this year, saw her speak three separate times, and posted about her twice, I’m done stalking her. I’m pretty sure.