I’ve done school and library author appearances before, from a reading for 20 to presentations with 200 all squashed together on the cafeteria floor. They were fun and the kids got involved as we talked and created a story together.
But this . . . wow.
Mrs. Auten teaches a combined 4th/5th class at Brown Elementary here in Brownsburg. Through the Shimmer of Time had been recommended as a book to tie in with a visit to Conner Prairie, so she contacted me and purchased one to read aloud to the class. They finished it before Fall Break, visited Conner Prairie, and then invited me to the class for a Q & A session.
Sounds good, right?
And then I found out what an amazing teacher Mrs. Auten is.
As she read each chapter, she asked the kids to listen for a particular thing each time: character traits, plot development, description details, etc. They speculated on why something was included and what it might mean later.
And then – are you ready for this? – she had them dissect the book and plot it on a rising/falling action chart! (I don’t think I even knew about rising action until at least high school.) And then they wrote their own mysteries, using my book as an example!
Needless to say, these kids were curious and intelligent, invested in the story, and we had a great conversation.
They asked simple questions like where I got the idea, why I used a pot for the time travel mechanism, and was Amos Ramsay from the present or the past.
They delved deeper and asked what I changed from early drafts, what I had to set up early to lead to something that happened later, and what pieces of my own life showed up in the story.
We talked about creating contrasting characters, about the ways Jim and Hannah changed through the story, and about some of the research required for both the historical and contemporary parts.
And then we talked about Hannah’s old-time dialect. I told them I worked hard to do it without using phonetic spelling like Mark Twain – an awesome writer with great stories, but hard to read. Their heads whipped around to Mrs. Auten. She had just started reading Tom Sawyer to them, and that night’s assignment was to read a chapter on their own – they would find out first hand what his dialect was like.
They cared about what happens next for Hannah and Jim (always what an author wants to hear) and were excited to learn a bit about RESCUE Through the Shimmer of Time and that it will be out in a couple months. And yes, I’ll come back for another visit then.
Our planned 30-45 minute flew by (and actually stretched past an hour), I discovered just how much fun it was to meet with a group that already knew the book. I’m going to work on getting the word out to other schools and individual teachers and see if we can do more classroom visits like this. If you’re a teacher or a parent who wants to set one up, please contact me!