by Jeff Strand
Sourcebook Fire (March 1, 2014)
Description from Publisher: Everything 16-year-old Henry was dreading about survival camp turns out to be true--or even worse. The only thing to help get him through is his equally unathletic best friend Randy and the discovery of a girls’ music camp just down the path. But they’ll soon have a lot more than obnoxious “drill counselors” and too many push-ups to worry about. The owner of Strongwoods Survival Camp has taken out some loans with very dangerous men to keep himself afloat, and when a trio of them show up to collect, things go bad. Very bad. With a camp now full of armed killers, survival now has a whole new meaning for the campers.
Kid Lit Frenzy would like to welcome author, Jeff Strand to the blog. Thank you Jeff for sharing about your experience with your first school visit.
"They're all going to be half-asleep for the first couple of classes," I'd been warned. "So don't take it personally."
I wasn't going to take it personally. I could relate. When I was a high school student, there was nothing in the world worse than having to get up in the morning. I was so tired every morning that I couldn't even summon the energy to put edible items into a bag, and so I never had anything for lunch. ("Couldn't you have made your lunch the night before?" you're probably asking. I guess I could have. The thought did occur to me every single day at lunchtime. Instead, I went with the plan of being ravenously hungry all afternoon, and then coming home and gobbling down the stuff I should have brought for lunch.)
Anyway, I was there for the Great American Teach-In, where I would speak to seven English classes in a row about the life of being an author. Because I was there to inspire young minds, I vowed not to burst into tears at any point during my talk. I dressed nicely, to help perpetuate the myth that authors can afford nice clothes. I went in fully prepared, because even though I hoped to mostly fill the time with Q&A, I had to be ready in case there were no Q's to A.
And...the warning had been correct. The students were as zombie-like for the first couple of classes as I had been in my high school years. I was tempted to walk around with a cattle prod zapping people, but I'd left all of my cattle prods at home, and I figured that as a teenager I'd have been disinclined to buy books by an author who'd given me an intense electric shock.
Fortunately, I had this information going in, so I knew not to ARGH they hate me I'm boring them it's like I'm trying to teach them algebra first thing in the morning and I'm going to have to do this seven times and during at least one of them I WILL burst into tears despite my promise not to do so, and the teacher will report me as a Really Tedious Author and I'll never be invited to speak at a school again!
"That's how it always is," the teacher assured me, as a waterfall of flop-sweat cascaded down my forehead. "The next classes will be more alert."
Teachers had lied to me in the past ("Algebra has lots of uses in everyday life!") but in this case, it was the truth. The next batches of students remained upright, and asked questions, and laughed at my jokes. The teacher also laughed at my jokes, although by the sixth or seventh time she'd heard them I think she was just being polite.
What I mostly took from this experience was the wonderful discovery that, if you're having lunch with a bunch of teachers in the teacher's lounge, they use the F-word. A lot. I'm not saying that all teachers make frequent use of the F-word when the students aren't around, but these teachers did, and there was no evidence that it was a rare occurrence, and it was the greatest thing ever.
Did I personally inspire 175 (25 x 7) students to become authors? Not necessarily. Did they all rush home and share tales of the amazing Famous Writer who shared his life experience with them? Dunno. But they MIGHT have, in my mind, and ultimately that's what matters.
After hearing about Jeff's experience with his first school visit I had to ask “What was your favorite question from the day?”
Jeff's response: My favorite question was “How much does school help you become a writer?” Obviously, with the teacher sitting right there, it was very important to give the correct answer! I explained that even though writers have editors, it is absolutely essential to learn grammar and all of the other writing basics, or you’ll never make it past the submission stage to get an editor. The teacher seemed to approve of this answer.
Thanks Jeff for stopping by and sharing your experiences. And if you are reading this, check out a copy of Jeff's book at your local public library or pick up a copy at your favorite independent bookstore.
About the Author: JEFF STRAND is a three-time nominee for the Bram Stoker Award, and both of his YA books, A Bad Day for VooDoo and I Have a Bad Feeling About This are both Junior Library Guild Picks. Jeff lives in Tampa, Florida, and would last approximately three seconds in a true survival situation. But he's okay with that, because he mostly just types stuff in a safe bear-free environment. jeffstrand.com You can also follow him on twitter: @jeffstrand