As an author, I do lots of appearances — school visits, writing workshops, library talks, lit festivals and bookstore signings. Sometimes, I’ll get a thank you gift from the organisers. I’ve been presented with all manner of interesting and generous gifts — from bottles of wine, to boxes of chocolates; from coffee mugs, to Turkish Delight; from fancy varieties of tea, to certificates written with beautiful calligraphy. These are lovely gestures and are always very much appreciated. But the very best type of thank you gifts are the ones that come from the kids— drawings, cards and thank you notes.
A couple of weeks ago I conducted workshops at the Scotch College Junior Literary Festival organised by Ford Street Publishing. In those workshops, I got the kids to help me plan out stories on the whiteboard as a way of demonstrating story structure. In one class, the kids planned out a story involving a Kung-Fu Master and Ninja throwing stars. At the end of the session, one of boys presented me with a folded paper throwing star. How cool is that?
On 24 August I did a talk and signing at the Eltham Bookshop, after having gone to see Doctor Who: Deep Breath at the cinema (new season; new Doctor; VERY exciting!). I wore my TARDIS jacket to the screening and decided to keep it on for the bookshop gig. As I stood talking, one of the audience members sketched me and presented me with the drawing at the end.
A couple of weeks ago I attended another Ford Street Publishing Literary Festival, this time at the Tucker Road Bentleigh Primary School. It was a fun event at which I conducted three workshops, followed by an hour or so of signing autographs. I had the opportunity to share my Doctor Who obsession with the kids, many of whom were also fans. In fact, one of the kids even drew a picture of the 10th Doctor and his TARDIS, which he presented to me at the end of the day.
It was a surprising thing… but really lovely! At that same festival, another student presented me, completely out of the blue, with a set of drawing pins decorated with various flags of the world. It was a pre-loved set, with a few missing pins… which somehow made it that much more personal and special.
And to top it all off, a week later I got a parcel of thank you cards and letters. It left me speechless. But it gave me such a nice warm glow.
Kids tend to be more honest with feedback than adults. That grown-up filtering system hasn’t kicked in yet. I get all sorts of interesting comments. During question time after one session, I had a boy emphatically tell me that my books would be a whole lot better if I included fart jokes in them.
So when I get compliments and positive feedback from the kids, I know it’s heartfelt and genuine. It’s one of the reasons I love writing for kids. I certainly don’t mean to sound ungrateful for the gifts I’ve gotten from organisers (it really is very nice to be appreciated)… but while a box of chocolates from the organisers is wonderful, a parcel full of hand-made cards, drawings and letters from the kids is pure GOLD!