What better way to celebrate World Book Day than to describe those moments when writer meets reader.
The first question, often, ‘Are you rich?’
I shake my head, apologetically. The disappointment is mutual.
‘Are you famous?’
‘You mean like David Beckham?’
I search for redeeming qualities. Hard-working, enthusiastic, kind – they’re not going to hit the mark. As I can’t be rich and famous, I opt for the complete opposite. I am ordinary, I tell them. I don’t have a special part of my brain that makes up stories. I get it wrong. I give up. I get bored. I have another job because I don’t earn enough to keep a rabbit. I eat Marmite.
Bizarrely, they like this. In the first five minutes I have gone from alien-being-that-by-magic-brain-dumps-entire-book-without-trying to real person. A small leap of logic and that means everyone in the audience could be a writer too. Is it wishful thinking or does the room decide to pay attention after all?
Yesterday, I was with 90 Year 7s at Hans Price Academy. There were little groups within the classroom that may as well have had labels – earnest, excited, looking forward to the bell, disruptive. My goal is always to get the ones that could scupper the session to instead make it better. It’s intensely satisfying if the shouter-out ends up shouting out something brilliant, or insightful, which is what happened as my hour was nearly over. We were talking about viewpoint when, a child I wasn’t sure was even listening, succinctly captured the joy of writing in the first person. *grins*
After the session I signed whatever scraps the Year 7s could find for me to write on and, as usual, had to refuse to give away my books despite the pleading faces.
I may not be rich or famous, but for five minutes after a school visit I feel I am both.