So, the very first thing I have to do on this post is once again thank Lauren Bennett and Random House Children’s Publishers for allowing me to partake in this book tour event. I went along with her and Damian Dibben to Bishops Stortford College where he had an author talk and a book group to participate in. The aim of this post is to present A Day in the Life of an Author; a quick-view guide into what it is like to be an author.
This is a new type of post for me, so I hope that this isn’t too boring or too over-done.
I also apologise for the low-quality photos, they were all taken on my iPod.
Foreword; the names of students have been changed for their privacy.
After making the journey up to Bishops Stortford College, Damian, Lauren and I were greeted in the reception where we were asked to sign in. While we were doing this, the receptionist went off to get us our visitor badges. It was the beginning of our day at this wonderful and amazing school that I viewed in awe.
Upon receiving our badges we were escorted by a pupil to the library, where we met with Rosie, the school’s librarian. She was a really nice person to meet and you could tell that she took her work seriously and really enjoyed inspiring children to read. It was brilliant to see. I can only hope that more schools have librarians and teachers as persuasive as her to get kids into reading at an earlier stage – because, let’s face it, reading is amazing, isn’t it?
While we waited for the hall to be set up and tea to be brought to us, Damian was given the chance to talk to a few of the children who were already in the library having a lesson. It is here where Damian met one student, Tara, who I would easily call one of his biggest fans. She loved the story and the first question she asked Damian was, “when is the next book coming out?”. I can only imagine how inspiring and amazing that question must have felt to Damian, especially as it was the first question he was asked that day. The conversation then turned with Damian asking Tara what she liked about the book. The feedback that he received all seemed incredibly helpful and must have been absolutely wonderful to hear – these children are his target audience, after-all.
Soon enough tea and biscuits arrived and we were being moved to the hall so that Damian could set up his presentation for his talk. As we walked into the hall, a table was set up off to the corner with posters of his book and a pile of his books stacked up, ready to be sold to the children that were interested in the story – who hadn’t already read his book. Damian then went off to talk to the technician to sort out the trailer of his book and the presentation that he had compiled together to go through.
Once it was all sorted, the children slowly started to enter the hall and I was surprised by how many children attended but also happy too. It was nice to see the teachers and librarian trying to get so many people involved in reading. It was also inspiring and lovely to see that a fair few of them already had the book with them as well. I couldn’t shake the feeling of pride and happiness at seeing them all there, ready to listen and engage with an author. It was something that I never had the opportunity to do at my school.
With everyone settled, Damian started the presentation with the trailer of his book (on my review post), a great way to get the kids actively involved with his talk. He then started his presentation but instead of just talking at them, he made sure to continuously engage with them, asking them questions like; “what happened in this picture?”, “does anyone know…”. I was overwhelmed by how much the kids did know and it quickly become noticeable that these children were all bright and intelligent individuals. I think that must have been a lovely feeling for Damian.
As a part of his talk, Damian also read a small passage from his book for the children. This was great as he not only gave them an idea of his writing style but because he put his soul into his words, changed his tone for the different characters and made it as fun as the book is, it really made the children sit up and listen. It must have been great to look up from his book and see that so many of the children still had his utmost attention; there were even a few who had their own copies open and were reading along with him. That was such an incredible sight.
After the passage was read, Damian then replayed them the book trailer, to which they were all happy to watch again. The idea to repeat the trailer once they had more information on the book and how Damian was inspired to write it was a clever technique. While it caught their interest at the beginning, it fuelled their interest at the end. Which lead Damian perfectly into a wonderful Q+A session with the children.
Some of the questions that were asked were really thought-out and incredible and I definitely wouldn’t have thought to ask them myself. It must have been great to hear the questions, to have the chance to answer them but to also see how many children actually had a question to ask as there was quite a few children who sat with their hand up waiting to be asked. Damian listened to every question, repeated them for others to hear and then answered them with charm. He did his best to include everyone in the time that he had but when he still had people with their hands raised at the end, it must have felt amazing. I can really only imagine how great it must have felt to get the kind of questions he was receiving and how it must make his job as an author feel worth it.
It was almost time for the children to go back to their classes so Damian was thanked for his time and then he sat at the table that had been set up for him and the children were told to form in an orderly queue if they wanted their book to be signed. It was amazing to see how many children went into the queue and waited to get their book signed and many of them stopped and spoke to him while he signed the book too. He was actively engaging with his audience and asking them questions about his book and letting them ask him questions too. It must have been great for him but I can also imagine that his hand was hurting a little as there were just so many of them that wanted to get their book signed! That must have been completely overwhelming but also amazing all at the same time.
We were then ushered back to the library where we received a glorious lunch of pizza, fruit and ice cream (I declined the ice cream but Damian lapped it up – we won’t mention the carpet incident…). Once everyone was fed and full, the book group started with Damian asking them questions about the beginning of the book. It was here where the initial feedback on his story was given. The children all agreed that they liked the beginning of the book because it caught their attention, it made them curious and they enjoyed that they were thrown straight into the action. This spiralled into a conversation about the various characters and how well they worked – or didn’t – work in the story. It was clear that the mysterious Topaz generated a lot of interest in the group. Fortunately it wasn’t all good news for Damian, and I do mean fortunately. Little Harriet also gave him some constructive criticism of his work, acknowledging that this is a book that still has flaws but that she still liked it and is looking forward to the next one. It was also shown that some found a few bits confusing but Damian was kind enough to explain these bits again. It had to have been such a great session for him, to hear exactly how the children felt about his book, no beating around the bush and only hearing good things. To hear the parts that didn’t work is essential feedback to an author but hearing it from your target audience is definitely not something that happens every day.
Unfortunately the session had to end as the next class began but before everyone rushed off, Damian once again let the students form a queue and he signed all of the books that he had missed out beforehand. He got some more feedback and conversations flowing during this part too and I am certain that by this point he was truly overwhelmed by the experience. But before we left the building, he signed the poster of the billboard that announced when he would be visiting the school. Just a last something to leave the school with for such a brilliant and endearing day.
Although the day had ended with the children, Lauren, Rosie, Damian and I went to the staffroom and had one final tea (or coffee) and spoke about how the day went. It was clear that Damian had really enjoyed himself, found that the feedback was really great and really helpful and that he was really excited for the release of the next book which is due out on August 2nd. I truly cannot imagine how amazing, helpful and effective the feedback and general greatness of this day must have been for Damian Dibben but I do know that if I ever publish a book and have a day like this, I would end up feeling extremely happy, proud and ready to tackle the upcoming books with fervour and determination. After all, I would now know that I had a small fan-base somewhere and that, that is good enough for me.
Oh, and before you all rush off. I should mention that this day must have been amazing for Damian but it was also really enjoyable for me as well. It was my first author event and I just truly enjoyed myself. Damian is a great, talented guy and it was such a pleasure to meet him. Of course, I wasn’t going to spend all day with him without getting my own copy of The History Keepers: The Storm Begins signed.
If you haven’t read this book yet, I urge you to go and do so! Also, I hope that this has opened the eyes of some aspiring writers and established authors out there to what it is like when you help to keep your audience active and engaged and how important it is to go out there and meet the people who are reading your work. They love it, and I am guessing that you will too.