So I had a really cool opportunity last week.
A friend of mine works as a Middle School counselor and she invited me to present at their career day. My response: Um, yes!
So I had weeks to prepare... a really cappy looking tri-fold poster for my table. I posted some cool inspirational quotes from Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and others.
It was quite fun to make, which is a good thing because pretty much no one looked at it. Which was probably okay, because even though my quotes were cool, the over all presentation was... pretty lame. (probably looked like I made it in Elemtary school. I should stick to digital presentations.)
I was super excited and not all that nervous... until I got there. Pulled up right next to a cop car, which of course is expected at career day BUT STILL. All I need is to ding his car (the silly things you worry about)... But also, I started getting real nervous that I was going to be super lame.
Like, being an author is really cool. But Police officers, doctors, veterinarians... those are the kinds of careers that career day is about, right? They have cool uniforms, and stories. And dude, did so many of the other presenters have COOL displays. Like full on professional banners and hanging signs and... just cool stuff, okay? I looked super extra lame. *twiddles thumbs*
There were around 50 presenters so lots of options, not just firemen and doctors. There were realtors, and teachers , photographers, construction workers, and lots of tech jobs I have no idea what they really do (seriously, there was one table that just said "Squirrel" and nothing else. No clue) and so many more.
Now, how this particular fair went down was that the students had to pick at least three career tables to visit and ask interview questions. 95% of the questions were pre-set, and were pretty irrelevent to my particular career. Like, "What kind of career advancements are available?" Uhhhh....
So the students crowed into the gymnasium and I was lucky to get one student come up to me right away. But she quickly asked me a couple questions, which I answered awkwardly, then she left and ! was alone... *cricket cricket*. There were like tweleve girls crowded around the photography table (that's 100% where I would have been at this age, to be truthful.) *twiddles thumbs again* I wasn't the only one standing around, though, waiting eagerly for students to find me interesting. Many students passed and didn't stop.
But before long my wallflower identity dissapeared when a few more interested students showed up. Then a few more. I was by no means super popular, but I had someone interested in me/my career pretty regularly, with only a couple gaps. Actually, the fair was split into three periods, and the first was the most lacking in interest (maybe because EVERYONE hates mornings. Truth.) I had a couple small crowds (like 5 kids tops) later in the day.
Still, most of the students asked the stock questions, never venturing to ask their own. I did my best to explain the reality of being an author with those questions. "There are no qaulifications! You don't need any kind of degree," (I did mention MFA a few times) "there aren't even age requirements. Anyone can be an author, if you're dedicated enough. It's hard and it takes a long time, but if it's what you want you can start working towards that goal right now." I even explained that you are paid per project that sells, so it can be very irregular. Most published authors also keep other jobs.
Most of the students were just simply curious, which is totally fine. I didn't expect to come across many super motivated young writers.
I was mostly impressed when I came across a young person who asked me real questions. Who understood that their worksheets didn't really fit this career and that was okay. They got enough to fill in their assignment, but asked out of the box questions.
But I did find a couple legit writers out there. One who already has a book up on Wattpad (which I just started using myself. Cool site.) one who said she's working on her first book and really wants to be published one day. A handful who write poetry and/or short stories. One young girl surprised me with "So do you think it's hard to self-publish?" (I'd decided to only talk about traditional publishing for the simple fact that if I talked about both options things would get super complicated super fast. I did chat with her about it a little, though, since clearly she had a bit of background knowledge.) Apparently, her mother was an author and offered to help her self-publish her book if she ever finished it. So a potentially soon-to-be published author in my midst!
It was fun to chat with some of these young writers and readers. Some who only ever write short stories, some who write novels, some who just LOVE to read. They were all awesome.
It was really a cool experience, and I didn't feel insecure at all by the end (next time I'll just go without the cheesy poster. They just talk to you anyway.)
I also had a quick interview with a local journalist and he quoted me in his article about the event (also where I got the pictures, I didn't take any myself). Check it out here (yes, he miss-spelled my name 3/4 times. Again, what are you gonna do? #authorlife) http://www.thesuburbanite.com/article/20160325/NEWS/160329777
Final note: Why didn't they have this kind of thing when I was in school!?!