Time flies when you’re really busy!

And having fun!

The second statement, the ‘fun’ one, I’m not so sure about right now. You know how when things are so intense, you’re just trying to keep everything straight, that you can’t really know if you’re actually having ‘fun’ or not.

Well that’s where I’m at right now.

I told my Public Speaking adult class that when you get nervous before a presentation, it means that you respect your audience. You care about doing a good job, not wasting their time, and it’s a good thing.

Well from the anxiety I feel before each and every workshop, I think I respect the workshop participants a LOT!

It’s been busy the last few weeks.

I’ve been continuing with the programs at Downsview Public Library. The turnout ebbs and flows. Just when I’d resigned myself to having one very determined journal writer for my adult Writing program, a bunch of people showed up! It was almost crowded! One of the ladies was working on a thesis and wanted help, the others wanted to know about writing fiction.

Each group is so different, and the people are so interesting! From the kids who come to the writing and public speaking programs, to the teens, fifteen year old boys who are eager to hone their public speaking skills (one of whom wants to be a sort of motivational speaker!) to the seniors who are working on their memoirs.

I’m seeing so many little breakthroughs!

The girls who are a little shy are really blossoming! The boys who are sometimes full of a few too many antics are calming down. The fifteen year old boy who wants to address social issues chucked the powerpoint he’d developed and spoke from his heart about his experiences in such an effective way that it brought tears to my eyes!

And there were tears in the seniors’ program too as some of the writings were coming very close to home. One of the ladies remarked that the writing was almost therapy. And another lady was surprised when I remembered details of her story from last week. She said I had such a good memory, and I told her it was because they were all so interesting!

And I told them that I find people, in general, fascinating. And that when I meet them I’m trying to reconcile their character and personalities with what I see of them.

I encouraged the ladies to give me some of their writings so I could comment and give them feedback on them, and many of the ladies took me up on the offer. I’ve been reading pages and pages of an Asian lady’s memoir. It’s fascinating! She’s been through so many interesting experiences. And as I read I’m thinking of how she can further shape the story to make it even better.

Part of the residency involved inviting schools in the area to partake of free author presentations at the library. But because the TDSB schools are still involved in job actions, I got permission from my supervisor to instead do outreach in the schools.

I’ve been to two different schools so far. I went to Ancaster P.S., a small school of about 105 kids, and I went to Blaydon P.S. which had closer to 170.

At the Ancaster school I did my A New Life/Coming to Canada presentation where I talked about the immigrant experience and how I became an author, always bringing it back to how very valuable libraries are! And of course mentioning my residency and the programs that I’m doing–for free! I was supposed to do the grades 1-5 but when I got there, I found out there were only about fifty kindergarteners so I did another presentation for them, a short one, where I focused on Big Red Lollipop, just so they’d be included too.

I did the same at Blaydon P.S.. Just did a mini presentation for the kindergarteners.

But at the Blaydon school they gave me the choice of which presentation to do for the older kids so I decided on The Roses in My Carpets. It’s funny but these days I haven’t had as much chance to do that presentation and it really is my favorite.

We went up to the library, and the kids, grade three to five, came in so it was pretty crowded.

By the time everyone was settled I only had about forty-five minutes, but I’ve done it in less so I just went ZOOM!

What I’ve learned is that doing the presentation quickly can actually be more effective than doing it slowly. I think it’s because with all the techno gadgets, kids are actually used to be engaged at a faster level than what they experience in school. In school teachers try to take their time, really get them to comprehend things.

But actually what I find is that the kids will only get so much anyway. You need to tell them a good story! Information sticks so much better in anyone’s mind if it’s attached to a story, so my Roses presentation is perfect in that regard!

It’s basically a story of me writing a story, and the reason why the kids care is because they realize the personal investment I have in writing the story.

Honestly, I always say my Roses presentation is a presentation I would pay to watch! I do think it’s that good. And the fact that I’ve been able to do it in some pretty sketchy schools, where kids can be pretty scary, speaks volumes!

Usually it even gets to the point where if one kids starts talking, the others will shush them because they want to hear what I have to say.

One of the girls in my workshops was in the audience. She’d already seen me do the presentation in the public speaking workshop she’d been attending and I worried that she might find it boring to see again. She assured me afterwards, “Not at all.”

It was neat having an insider who knew the other kids at the presentation. She told me that one of the teachers had started crying. I told her that wasn’t unusual.

And she said that one of the girls who hates reading and books had pronounced my presentation ‘excellent’.

It turned out she was one of the kids who’d been clamoring for my autograph at the end of the session. And the funny thing is when the kids ran out of paper, they had me sign the tops of their hands.

The first time I’d been asked to sign body parts, t-shirts and hats, I refused. But now I just do it. What the heck?!

At one point of the presentation I raised my voice because I was saying something pretty passionate about video games. She told me that I had scared some of the kids when I did that. And yet it was appropriate.

I turned it into a public speaking lesson, pointing out to her the different techniques I’d used.

Ah, teachable moments!

I haven’t had a chance to do much writing. Honestly between lesson planning and organizing stuff and just keeping the house half decent, I don’t have the time, but I’m sure everything I’m learning is all grist for the mill!