The November 2nd opening day at the Pismo Beach Butterfly Grove was a huge success. There were an estimated 1500 people engaged in a variety of activities. I demonstrated how to make a butterfly book and had over 80 children and parents stop by my table to participate. My new children’s book, When Caterpillars Dream, is now available at the grove kiosk. Drop by and see the over 25,000 Monarch butterflies that are wintering over at the grove, located at the end of Grand Ave. along Highway one. The grove will be open until February or early March when the butterflies take to the air and fly north for the summer.
In the past two weeks, I have visited two elementary schools. In many ways, these visits couldn’t have been more different. Yet, there were some similarities. At one school, I talked to a group of 60 fifth graders in the school assembly room; at the other school, I met with a class of first grader.
The fifth graders had just completed a publishing assignment using classroom computers and were celebrating their achievement. They were interested in hearing about my book writing process from first idea to publication. I spoke from a podium and had a mike (which I ignored).
With the first graders, I read one of my stories, The Mysterious Case of the Missing Birthday Cake in their classroom from a comfy chair, a more intimate and congenial atmosphere.
In each instance, the children were attentive and asked good questions or shared interesting comments. Here are a few things I learned from these experiences:
l. Be prepared. Have supplies, examples, etc. available at my fingertips so I’m not fumbling around looking for what I need while talking.
2. Be flexible. I wasn’t aware that I would be talking with the fifth graders in an assembly room with podium and mike. Fortunately, they all were able to see my visuals and hear me.
3. Bring something for the students to take home to remember the visit. I brought bookmarks, with pictures of my Oak Tree Press books and email address to both groups. Hopefully, some of the students or families will order my other books. Teachers like to pass these out themselves later. With the first graders, I left a copy of each of my Oak Tree Press books for the class.
4. Engage the students in conversation. I try not to talk too long without asking them a question. When taking about where I find my story ideas with the fifth graders, I started out by asking how many didn’t like vegetables. There was an overwhelming show of hands. I followed by talking about how my book, Ants on a Log, was a true story about my son who when young hated vegetables. With the first graders, I asked how many would like to fly with butterflies when showing them my book, Butterfly Girls. Again, a show of many hands. I find if the children participate, they feel comfortable in asking questions and making their own comments, and we have more of a conversation rather than a lecture.
5. Don’t talk too long. Children, especially the little ones, have a short attention span and can only sit still for a limited period of time. I watch my audience and gage my presentation to match their abilities. Naturally, the fifth graders can listen and pay attention longer than the first graders.
6. Be friendly. I always smile and engage the children in conversation when I first meet them. With some of the fifth graders, I asked them what kinds of books they liked to read and how many had read Harry Potter. With the first graders, I mentioned briefly that I have four grandchildren, ages three to nine and ask how many were seven years old. This exercise developed a connection between us, and the children seem to feel more comfortable in asking questions and making comments.
7. Keep control of the conversation. Sometimes children like to tell too many of their own stories, and this gets our conversation off track. I try not to call on the same children more than a couple of times and to bring the conversation back to the agenda if we stray. Yet, I always like to hear their questions and comments. This shows me that they are listening, engaged and are learning something.
8. Leave with a smile and a thank you.
Naturally, when speaking with adults, there is less concern about attention span. However, here too, I like to engage my audience more in a conversation than a lecture.
Creating is as important to me as eating and sleeping. I am an artist as well as an author and illustrator of children’s books. When I become tired of being a wordsmith and sitting at the computer, I rest my brain by creating a new handmade paper basket or book art form or photo collage. I find, the new activity feeds back into my writing, whether freeing a road block or generating new ideas and directions. It’s as if my mind is on idle or cruise control for a while, as my hands are busy and my focus is elsewhere. Some of you may cook or sew or garden to exercise your creative spirit when not writing. Whatever other activity you choose, it serves to refocus your attention.
My writing brain is not totally disengaged, however. Working in the background, it is just not under pressure to find that perfect turn of a phrase or description or that intriguing plot twist. I’ve turned off my computer or put my pen down, unchaining my mind, allowing it to roam free. In those moments, new connections are made and new ideas are developed. When I restart my computer, the words flow freely again.
I wonder if you have had the same experience and what activities you use to free your creative spirit.
Beryl Reichenberg, Children’s Book Author and Illustrator and Artist
View my Fiber Art and other art pieces at http://www.berylreichenbergart.com
Holli Castillo in her blog post http://www.gumbojustice.blogspot.com asked me twelve questions and posted my answers. She is posting similar questions and answers from other Oak Tree Press authors over the coming weeks. Visit her blob site and see how other authors answers these questions. Oh, by the way Holli has a wonderful sense of humor. Beryl.
I’ve just updated my two websites: http://www.berylreichenberg.com for children’s books and http://www.berylreichenbergart.com for my art and sculptural pieces. Now my children’s book website includes a section on reviews as well as news, and the art site pictures have been rearranged. Visit both at your leisure. Thanks, Beryl
A great book about Jack the Rabbit who won’t eat vegetables until he eats Ants on a Log at school and finds it delicious. Gradually his mother persuades him that vegetables can be tasty. Do you have a child that isn’t in to vegetables? Maybe this little book can help.
This book is charming and engaging with parent and children alike being able to relate. It just might be the spark to encourage to kids or grandkids to eat and enjoy celery.
Inspired by the author’s son, Jeff, who refused to eat his greens and a little boy. Seems Jeff and Jack the Rabbit have a bit of something in common….they both are vegetarians now!
About the author: ”Traveling extensively throughout the world including countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia, I have taken many photographs that I use in my art work and books. These travels have given me a broader understanding of the world and other cultures and have been an inspiration for many of my children’s stories. Other story ideas come from my contact with children, who are a never ending source of delight.”
Posted by Dayton.Mom-Spot.com
I just returned from a three-week trip to England, Wales and Scotland and as usual, took a copy of each of my books published by Oak Tree Press. I find giving away books is a good way to meet friends, start interesting conversations and have my name in areas that wouldn’t likely see my children’s books.
One book, Camouflage, went to a family who had us over for dinner. Although this book is for young children and the family had teenagers, there were many nieces and nephews who were younger and would enjoy the book. Even the teenagers had fun hunting for the wild animals hidden in the illustrations.
Two other books, Butterfly Girls and The Mysterious Case of the Missing Birthday Cake, I gave to our guide’s delightful, four-year-old granddaughter. I chose these two books because they are for younger children and especially little girls. At one point in the evening we met, this little girl asked me to read the books I had “drawn” for her. Cute!
I had two books left, When Caterpillars Dream and Ants on a Log. What to do with these? Fortunately, in Scotland I met another children’s author, William Sloan. He had self-published two books for his grandchildren, and we exchanged books. His books are small black and white editions with line drawings. A Grandfather’s Tales is full of delightful short stories. Of Bees and Bats, of Crocodiles and Cats is poetry much in the vein of A. A. Milne’s Christopher Robin.
As we talked, I learned that Bill Sloan admits to being a child at heart. He has a keen eye for observation and wonderful sense of humor. We talked about self-publishing and book sales. Unfortunately, we did not have much time to visit. I am happy to see that his books are available online in the U.S. from LULU.Com.
No matter where I travel, I always meet children, adults or other authors. When I offer them one of my children’s books, it always starts an interesting conversation, a connection and hopefully a fond memory. I know I shall always treasure these moments.
Butterfly Girls by Beryl Reichenberg is a feast for the eyes and a joy for the mind. This children’s book introduces children to the world of butterflies in an educational but creative way that hopefully will inspire young people everywhere to go outside and seek to learn more about the world around them. The graphics are lovely and whimsical.
Review by: Cindy Ladage Co-author of Tucker’s Surprise, The Christmas Tractor and My Name is Huber, a Tractor’s Story