Friday, March 23, 2007

Author: Rick Riordan

I had the most wonderful day yesterday. I got to hear Rockstar Rick Riordan give a presentation to a group of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.

His talk is very polished and he roped in the kids immediately. He includes tons of humor including the funniest-word-in the-English-language-to-an-elementary-student (the 'u' word) and told some stories about his other school visits.

He described the origins of Percy Jackson's story and showed covers of his books from other countries. He shared information in an easy give and take manner that kept the kids totally engaged.

His presentation skills are excellent. Authors who make school visits or do book signings have to learn how to handle groups and must become polished at answering inevitable questions such as, "How long does it take to write a book?" etc. To the credit of his fans there yesterday, he did NOT have to handle "Where do you get your ideas?" (my pet peeve.)

Riordan knows 1) to repeat the children's questions so everyone can hear them, 2) how to handle the inevitable kid buzz/noise after a joke or provocative comment 3) to move around the audience 4) to remind kids to put their hands down after a question he has posed has been answered.

[FYI: Elementary kids will raise their hands to answer questions and then forget to put their hands down. You can end up with a virtual forest of distracting arms hanging in the air if you do not remind kids to lower their hands to be ready for the next question.]

The highlight of the presentation was hearing RRR read a passage from The Titan's Curse. The students were leaning forward into the story (along with the teachers) as he re-enacted a chapter. Riordan throws himself into his reading (you can see why he is a good storyteller) and ducks and lunges and weaves and shoots virtual arrows as the action unfolds.

When he closed the book, there was a huge chorus of moans.

Signs the author visit has been a success:

1. The kids mob the author at the conclusion of the talk, despite their teacher's pleas to line up and return to class.

2. The campus security guard comes up to tell the author how much he enjoyed the presentation and that he had never seen the kids so attentive.

3. Within ten minutes of returning to class, over ten kids hit the library looking for the book to check out (the clever librarian at this school had thirty copies of the paperback available for checkout.)

4. There are more books to be signed than you have ever seen in your life for a visiting author

5. Many of the books awaiting the author's signature were obviously brought in from home and looked like they had been read multiple times with creased spins, blunted corners, and battered edges, the signs of true love.

My librarian friends politely invited me to crash their lunch with RRR between gigs and I shamelessly accepted.

After lunch I floated a few doors down and wandered my local quilt store.

It was a perfect day.


Erin said...

Check my blog tomorrow for an interview with Mr. Riordan!

MotherReader said...

You are a lucky person. Very cool.

I know what you mean about the raised hands thing. Whenever I ask a question in a booktalk, I go right into the "hands down" part. Like "Raise your hand if you have a pet. Okay hands down."

Little Willow said...

Very, very cool. Congrats.

Robin Brande said...

Thanks for posting this great description! It's always good to hear how other authors handle their appearances--especially at schools. Sounds like it was a blast.

Jackie said...

Total envy over here!

mbpbooks said...

I'm good with 1, 3, and 4, but 2 has me stumped. How did he settle down the buzz?

Camille said...

Ah, excellent question. One good thing about the buzz is, they are reacting to the speaker's comment (hopefully.) Riordan does NOT do the "Shhhh..." or the "Hey, guys, let's settle down now!" -thing. Hushing is like begging and often just escalates the noise.

You have to let the buzz roll then swoop in with the next comment, maybe with a prop (in his case it was the next book cover) to visually demand/command their attention.

It is a timing thing that comes with experience and the presence the speaker projects from the first "hello."

Riordan has kept many elements of the talk we first saw him give in 2005 but it is now polished and well timed.

(It also helps to have the teachers sitting along the outside to "redirect" specific students as needed. "Hortense/Horatio, come sit by me!")

It was nice being the "guest" at this presentation. As the librarian in charge, you sweat more over the behavior of your students

Anonymous said...

So cool! Thanks for the recap. It was almost like being there (though of course that would have been much more fun). I just love hearing about kids so excited about meeting an author!