Monday, April 25, 2011

Mortification Monday

As suggested by author Shannon Hale, I’m sharing a frustrating author experience as part of her “Mortification Monday” topic. So here goes.

One morning I drove through a raging blizzard to find a school that had booked me for an assembly. I couldn’t even see the street signs, and was SO grateful for my faithful GPS. I got out of my car and trudged through the snowy parking lot. I was dragging 70 instruments, my projector, and my laptop in a giant rolling suitcase, dressed in my presenter attire. It was comical. I was slipping, pulling snow, and my toes were numb.

Entering the school, I brushed myself off, found the front office and went inside. “May I help you?” asked the secretary.

“Hello. I’m here for the assembly,” I said.

“What assembly?”

“The author assembly. I’m Kristyn Crow.”

“Kristine…I’m sorry, what was your last name?”

“Crow.”

“Are you a parent coming to watch, then?”

“No, I’m the presenter.”

“Ohhhhh. Okay. Well, the principal wants to talk to you about it,” she said. “Have a seat.” Her tone was a little terse. I sat in the lobby, feeling like a kid with a referral. “The principal will see you now,” she finally announced.

I went inside and sat down. “We need to discuss a few things,” he said. “There are some parents upset about your presentation.” I felt like I had just entered the Twilight Zone. Parents? Upset? Presentation? I hadn’t even given a presentation yet. I blinked a few times, frozen. “There have been calls to the school with concerns about authors peddling books to children."

I swallowed. “They are specifically concerned with my visit?”

“No, just presentations by authors in general. I guess there was discussion in a recent PTA meeting about it.”

I had no idea what to say. “Alright. So are you canceling the assembly, then?”

“Well I’m wondering if you can reassure me that you’re not peddling your books.”

Suddenly I was ten years old again, explaining why I threw my chicken patty sandwich across the cafeteria at lunch. I gave him the general outline of my presentation: I introduce myself, talk about what authors do, use fun animations to show how books are made, give three storytellings, and invite students to play along with my books in a rhythm symphony. I explained I had worked very hard putting it together and the results at prior assemblies were very positive. “In fact, I’ve been asked back by some schools who were really pleased,” I said, hoping to pass the audition.

“That sounds perfectly acceptable. But just so you know, there may be some hecklers in the audience.”

“Hecklers?”

“A few parents might watch, and they may have comments for you along the way.”

HOOOOO boy.

The assembly went very well. No hecklers. Kids sitting with rapt attention, punctuated by a rowdy rhythmic finale with everyone cheering. Success. In the end, it’s all about the children being inspired to read, and having a good time with books. It’s about making a connection.

Interestingly enough, no administrators attended the assembly, after all that supposed concern. It was just me and the kids. As I left I stopped by the office. “Thanks, Kristine,” the secretary said. “Sounds like they had a lot of fun in there. Oh, we’ll have to mail you your check. Our district takes several weeks to process them through the system.”

“No problem.” I made my way back into the parking lot, dragging my enormous suitcase in the snow.

And a year later, no check.

I could tell you so many other similar stories…a school who dismissed half the children in the middle of my presentation because they “had something else to attend,” technical problems where my PowerPoint shut off because the custodian did not plug in my equipment properly, or a school whose microphone made me sound like Rod Stewart, etc. But all in all, I L-O-V-E to do school visits and in almost every case the schools have been absolutely wonderful.

For every story of mortification, there are dozens of positive ones. Click here to read one of my favorite school visit stories.

Read more “Mortification Monday” stories at Shannon Hale’s blog by clicking here.

3 comments:

storyqueen said...

Oh my gosh! Poor you! But if we don't laugh about stuff like this, then we end up crying!

Thanks for sharing your story.

Shelley

Juliana said...

That's hilarious! I wish I could personally hire you to come to my kid's schools, because I know your books are well-loved there!

Sarah Cutler said...

That's terrible! All my nightmares involve getting transformed back into my school-age self. Sitting outside a principal's office would have left me in tears.