Sunday, 16 February 2014

Princess Petunia's first presentation

Princess Petunia may be used to speaking in front of very important people. After all, she lives in a Castle with a King and a Queen. But I'm not used to it.So my first talk to elementary school children this week made me just a little nervous.  But I need not have been because the staff at the ISS International School of Singapore were so so welcoming. And my distributor from Closetful of Books, Denise Tan, had thoughtfully prepared a huge banner designed like a scroll, announcing Petunia's arrival.

Thanks to librarian Graham Grant who organised the school's Book Week, I was given a 'solo' slot and two joint sessions with David Seow as well, along with other SCBWI authors. 

To kick off, I need to thank Sue Grant and Marilu Burden for preparing the students. They delved into my website and Facebook page and ensured that everyone knew almost as much about me and Charlotte my illustrator as I do myself!  And there were pictures of us for students and parents to see as they walked to the library to browse, and buy the books. Here I am with Sue and Graham outside the library. 

To prepare myself, I went to the school a day early with picture book author, Sarah Mounsey, and we tried not to distract David as he talked about his books to Grades 2 & 3. Then, on the day, I had two workshop slots with David before 'going solo'. We gave Grades 2 and 3 the low-down on how we get our ideas, setting them on a task to think up their own stories, based on a very funny made-up word.  I don't often think where I get my inspiration from - all I know is that I'm constantly bombarded with thoughts that one day may give birth to a story. And I could see that some of the students had exactly the same mindset. Making David the target of their story was one plot I particularly enjoyed! 

Of course, speaking alongside David can be a little tricky, especially when he gets carried away.  But I managed to stop him drawing a moustache on Sarah's picture:

...and later on, on my brand new scroll-banner too.  Hmmmm, watch out, David! 

Our two joint sessions over, David and I belted over the road for a quick lunch, and new batteries for his camera, arriving back just as the students of Grade 4 were filing into the Hall. (Hic!)

The students lapped up everything I said. No one made a peep when I was reading the first few pages of the book. And everyone had loads of answers to all my questions, even giving me plot ideas for the next book about Freddy and Petunia! And I especially enjoyed showing them cover and page proofs from the printers to demystify the whole process of creating a book.    

And there was more to come ...

Th students leapt up to have their books and bookmarks signed, then I chatted to staff and parents in the library. There's a super relaxed, inclusive feel to the school which must benefit the students enormously.  Sue showed me round the playgrounds, including the big old banyan tree with its hundreds of roots, which is just off-limits because of the creepy crawlies who live there. Although I already knew the school had to move, and tunnels for the new MRT train line are being built beneath its current site, I couldn't help feeling sad. These old buildings, formally British barracks, seem ideal for a school.  But I'm sure that the new school in Depot Road will be equally welcoming.  And no doubt easier all round. 

Finally, I couldn't resist making a new building for ISS myself. Petunia is seen here below on Closetful of Books' table alongside Sarah Mounsey's Purple Pawprint series and David's Sam Sebbie and Di-Di-Di, Blue Kangaroo and Emma's Elephant. 

(Please don't try this 'book house' in a library or book shop - unless you've already bought all the books!) And thank you, everyone, for making Princess Petunia's first Presentation a really royal occasion!  

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