Guest Post by Dori Hillestad Butler
I’ve been doing school visits for more than fifteen years. I love talking to kids about books and writing. I love making connections with them. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between what I do and what they do. I write. They write. That makes us all writers…whether they want to write for a living when they grow up or not.
I know that not every kid who hears me wants to be a writer when they grow up, but that’s okay. I like to think that every kid has a dream. Just like me. That’s a key point I make in my presentations: I had a dream…here’s how I made my dream come true.
My favorite part of an author visit is the Q&A. That’s where I have an opportunity to connect on a personal level. Kids want to know authors. They’ll ask anything. And that’s okay. I’ll answer just about anything. That’s how the kids discover that I’m a real person…and by extension I hope they get the idea that being an author is a “real job” held by “real people.” People like them.
But once in a while a kid asks a question, and before I can answer it a well-meaning adult interrupts and says, “That’s not an appropriate question.” The kid hangs his head in shame, the adult asks me to call on someone else, and the opportunity for connection is lost.
Sometimes I understand where the adult is coming from. I don’t necessarily agree, but I understand. Some people think it’s rude to ask an adult how old she is. I just shrug and answer the question. I’m 49. When someone asks how much money I make, I may not quote the number I put on last year’s tax returns, but I will explain how authors and illustrators are paid. It’s another opportunity to make a connection.
I suppose the librarian who didn’t want me to answer the kid who asked me what my favorite color was simply felt there were more “educational” questions to be asked. She may not have been wrong, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for the kid who was chastised for asking a perfectly harmless question. It felt like another lost opportunity for connection.
I know there are visiting authors out there who don’t want to answer these questions and they’re grateful for the adult intervention. But what if you’re an author who doesn’t mind answering them? Is it okay to answer the question after an adult has proclaimed it “inappropriate?” What do you think?
Dori Hillestad Butler is an award-winning author who is eager to share her love of story with readers of all ages. She is the author of more than 40 books for children, including the Haunted Library series and the Buddy Files series. Her books have been on children’s choice and teen award lists in 19 states. The Buddy Files #1: Case of the Lost Boy won the 2011 Edgar Award for best juvenile mystery. Dori grew up in southern Minnesota, spent the last 19 years in Iowa, and now lives in the Seattle area. She is on a quest to do an author visit in all 50 states. If she hasn’t visited your state yet, you may be eligible for a discount. For more information visit www.kidswriter.com.