Meeting My Readers
My first book was published in 1983, and two years later I left my full-time editing job to become a freelance writer. While I miss the daily interaction with colleagues, writing at home lets me fully immerse myself in the lives of my characters for the months it takes for me to write a book. Once the writing is done and the book is published, I know how I feel about my characters and my story, but I'm always curious to know what the readers are thinking and feeling. This is why I enjoy getting out on the road to meet my readers at bookstores, libraries, and schools.
At the height of the popularity of The Baby-sitters Club series, I had a very busy travel schedule, making appearances all over the country. It wasn't unusual for two thousand people to line up outside a bookstore! While I loved that so many people were excited about the series, the big crowds meant that I could do little but sign the books handed to me. There wasn't much time for chatting with the kids who had come, and it was disappointing if people were turned away because time had run out. While it was wonderful to see the support and enthusiasm for the BSC, but I didn't feel that I had much of a chance to connect with the readers.
Now when I'm on the road, I'm happiest when there is plenty of time to talk with my readers. If you've never attended an author visit, it can be a lot of fun. Often I open these events with a presentation with lots of information about me and my books. There are baby pictures, pictures of pets, descriptions of the wildlife outside my house in the country (bears! turkeys! foxes!), and photos of the people in my family. I explain how a book is made, from the initial idea, to the outline and manuscript, to the editing process, and finally, the artwork and cover illustrations. The question and answer period after the presentation is usually lively. Readers are interested in my personal life and have lots of questions. Some questions readers often ask me are: Where did you get your dog? How old are you? Where do you live? Do you have any kids?
I'm always happy to sign books - and other things. I've been asked to sign board games, t-shirts, hands (!), sleeping bags, posters, bookmarks - you name it. Kids wait very patiently on line, and I enjoy having a chance to talk with them. Some are very shy, while others can't wait to tell me about what they've read. Everyone takes away something different from a book, and I enjoy hearing what kinds of connections they've made with a particular story or character.
I also enjoy meeting adults who read my books when they were growing up. It's heartwarming to hear that many of them have become teachers, librarians, bloggers, writers, and tv producers, and that they were influenced by their childhood love of reading.
For now, my solitary writing time is over. I have lots of fun travel scheduled for the next couple of months, which will give me a chance to connect with both new and long-time readers. Over the years, kids have often told me how exciting it is for them to get to meet one of their favorite authors. But from this writer's viewpoint, it's a huge honor to meet them!