1. Say no. When the Browning School librarian calls to invite you to their book fair, say no.
2. Say no again. When the same librarian invites you the following year, just say no again.
3. Explain that you’d be happy to come during your normal school visit season — in the spring.
4. Say that you don’t do school visits in the fall or winter. It’s your writing time.
5. If she’s still inviting you, then you have to give it to her straight, “I DON’T DO BOOK FAIRS!!! IT’S JUST A SHOPPING DAY FOR KIDS.”
It’s true. Book fairs are not particularly fun events for authors. You sit there with a stack of your books, your autograph pen ready. Kids rush up to you, breathless. They ask, “Where are the Goosebump books?” or “Do you have any Walter Dean Myers?” Worse, they ignore you altogether and buy stacks of books that don’t require your autograph.
6. Almost immediately you get a reply email back from the same librarian. Uh-oh.
7. You expect her to say, thank you, we’ll try you again next year, or something polite like that. Librarians are generally very polite :).
8. Instead, you read a LONG list of all the reasons why you should come to Browning, or else!!!
9. How do you say no to that???
10. You don’t.
11. You say YES!!!
12. You go to Browning and you have a really marvelous time!!!
And that’s exactly how I ended up making a bunch of new friends at Browning, an all-boys school in NYC’s Upper East Side, last week. It was fantastic!
This is Sarah Murphy, the very pushy librarian who wouldn’t take no for an answer: Doesn’t she look friendly and wonderfully nerdy-chic? Don’t be fooled — she’s a say-no-to-me-at-your-own-peril author wrestler — just look at the beautiful display case that she had decorated in the school lobby — she bagged not one, but FIVE authors for her book fair this year!
At 8:30 sharp, all the young gentlemen of the lower school filed into the gymnasium for announcements, the Pledge of Allegiance,and the school song:Then they sat down to listen to me:It was really kind of scary to find myself doing an author presentation during my writing season, when I’m normally alone and everything is very quiet, and I’m no longer used to hundreds of eyes looking at me and hundreds of ears turned in my direction. I told the boys of my nervousness, and immediately, I felt the room fill with their sympathy. It gave me the bravery I needed to continue talking. Thank you, boys 🙂 !!! When you’re an author, it’s not always easy to stand up in front of a large audience and ramble on and on about why you love reading and writing and why everyone else should too!
But at Browning, I was preaching to choir. Even the youngest were enthusiastic readers and writers.I gave them tips and helpful hints on how to keep a writer’s notebook. And they took copious notes.After the general assembly, I held a writers’ workshop in the library with a smaller group. We worked on how to find the strongest beginning to any piece of writing. We decided our topic was being the new boy at Browning. There was a new boy in the group. He was from London. Others remembered being new boys in “Pre-primary.” They named boys that became their first friends. Where do you start? Look for the smallest detail about Browning to use as the key to opening the door to the rest of your story, I told them. Then use all five senses to write about it. The key to their Browning experience? Their blue blazer. How does it make you feel to wear it? I asked. “Warm.” “Itchy.” Then a fifth grader said, “Classy. It makes me feel classy.” Everyone agreed. It was the perfect hook! You can also think of it as bait — you gotta hook your reader at the very beginning and reel them in.
This was last Thursday. Then on Saturday I returned to Browning for the actual book fair. Whoever heard of making an author come out for two days??? Do you think it had something to do with a pushy librarian lady 😉 ???!!!
Thank you, gentlemen, for coming by! And a big THANK YOU to all the parents who made this such a wonderful day for all, and for making it possible for me to come for two days :).
And thank you, Miss Murphy, for being such a pushy librarian. Browning boys are very lucky to have you on their side. I’m SOOO happy I said YES!!! True to their word, Browning gentlemen are very classy. Only one young reader asked me for Walter Dean Myers — and it was a girl.
To see more photos of their marvelous book fair, please visit the Browning School website here.