My first Book Reading/Signing event took place on Friday at GMAA, a private school in Westchester, Florida. I was very nervous (I always am before any event), but excited at the same time. I was going to be reading to kids between the ages of eleven and sixteen. Tough crowd – or so I thought.
The night before the reading, my little seventeen-year-old Pomeranian gave me a bad night. He kept getting up and walking from one end of the bed to the other, over and over again, while making a noise I call a cough, but it’s more like loudly coughing, wheezing and clearing his throat at the same time. I got up and took him to the kitchen to see if he wanted some water. He drank, and I brought him back to bed. He was quiet for a minute, and then began walking and coughing again. I got up for a second time and took him outside to see if he wanted to do something. Nothing. Well, this went on until one thirty in the morning, when he finally settled down and fell asleep. This has happened before and I’ve told his vet about it on several occasions, but she explains there’s nothing that can be done about it. He takes a bunch of pills for several things already (poor thing). He’s just very old. After a sleepless night, he had some sort of episode in the morning that had me in tears. I almost cancelled the reading, but fortunately he seemed to get better.
Right before leaving my house, I misplaced my keys and spent at least ten minutes looking for them. I always put my keys in the same place so that I always know where to find them, but of course this morning was not going as planned. When I finally found my keys, I stormed out the door (without breakfast) and ran into a terrible traffic jam. It seemed like there were terrible forces conspiring against me. Everything that could go wrong was happening on this important day.
My fortunes changed once I finally arrived at the school. My sister Cleo greeted me very warmly. You see, Cleo is a music teacher at this prestigious school. Her children (Natasha, Vanessa and Joshua), were ages 17, 23 and 12 when they read my book and loved the story. Cleo read it and enjoyed it, as well. She introduced it to the school’s librarian, who didn’t have time to read it, so her assistant read it instead and also loved it. My sister asked for several copies of the book to give to the English and literature teachers at the school, and I gladly gave them to her. Well, this led to the book being incorporated into the school’s library and curriculum and to the Book Reading/Signing event.
Everyone at the school was friendly and kind, which made me feel at ease. I wanted my Book Reading/ Signing event to be different. I wanted the kids to be entertained, but I also wanted to instill in them a desire to read. I had adapted one of the chapters from my book into a skit for the kids to perform. My sister took the play to the 5th grade teacher, Miss Betchel. She chose three kids to play my characters: Robbie, Natasha and Cleo. I was very excited.
All the kids were taken to a small auditorium where they sat and waited for the
Show Book Reading/Signing event to begin. They said a prayer and sang a hymn. I was introduced. I spoke a few words and then my book trailer was shown on a large screen. The kids clapped excitedly when the trailer was over.
After I read a short chapter from the book, the kids performed the play. Janine Llaurado, Ester Peiro and Kalvin Martinez did a great job portraying the characters. After that I spoke a few words about what inspired me to write The Basement, and gave aspiring writers in the group (which were many) a few tips on writing. Afterwards, I took pictures of the actors in my play, teachers, librarian, my sister… I was having a great time and had forgotten all about the bad night and morning.
I set up a table with my books in the library, and just when I thought the fun was over, hordes of kids came into the library in waves with their teachers. They were so excited about the book. They asked me a million questions, not just about The Basement, but also about my experience as a writer and the writing process! Many of the kids told me about how much they loved to read. I think nothing warmed my heart more than that. These kids were excited about reading! I wanted to do flips and dance on the library tables (inappropriate, I know).
I had an awesome time interacting with the children. Telling them what The Basement is about, what inspired me to write it and what they needed to do to prepare if they wanted to become writers: read, read, read and write, write, write. Oh, yeah… I sold some books, too.
We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading.