"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Juvenile Center Author Visit

So yesterday I had to privilege of speaking at the Williamson County Juvenile Center just outside of Austin. I gave two presentations, about an hour each, to kids ranging from 10 to 18.

The first group was about 20 kids (all guys). This group was made of up the kids who had done something wrong but were awaiting a decision from the judge as to whether they would be staying on or not. When they came into the room, many of them carried books. I asked if they liked to read, and the response I got was that it was all they were allowed to do.
Not a bad response, I think. After all, there's no better way to develop a love of reading than to be exposed to it.
Anyway, the kids in this group were great. They asked lots of questions, and seemed a bit more willing to open up. I think it may have been the smaller group dynamic.
Overall, the main thing I noticed in this group, was the varying age difference. The youngest kid was 10, just 2 years older than my son. He, by far, asked the most questions, though as the speech went on, others loosened up, too. One kid even mentioned he wanted to write down stories and actually already had already started.

The second group was about 70 kids in full uniform (camouflage) who had been assigned to stay at the Juvenile center. The guys had their heads shaved and the girls all wore theirs up. They were polite, listened while I was talking, and then during Q&A some even mentioned SFF books and authors they liked to read. Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, R. A. Salvatore.
And let's not forget Stephanie Meyer. I think every kid in the room had read her books. One guy said no matter what she wrote next, he'd buy it.

I love the interaction with the kids; I love asking questions while I speaking and having them actually respond. Some admitted to being able to solve the Rubik's Cube. One kid asked me who my favorite Tolkien character was. To date, nobody has guessed my favorite Mario Kart character.

***

So it's been under a year since I've really been doing a lot of public speaking, and here's my discovery:

I love it.

Whether it's 30 2nd graders, 150 librarians, or a group of 70 troubled teens, I've enjoyed it each and every time.
And keep in mind as I say this that a year ago I was terrified of the thought of getting up in front of a group and speaking. It seemed horrible. The first time I shook. The second time, ditto, though not nearly as much. Each time it's gotten better. And yesterday, I wasn't nervous at all. I realize I can do this. And it's fun.

I'm big on PowerPoint and pictures, which I used to think was a crutch—that I was unable to give a "real" speech. But yesterday I realized my PowerPoint is more of a tool. It allows me to be chatty and approachable and not feel like I have a script. It lets me be myself. And I think this is the part I truly enjoy. I can get up and connect in some way to a group as myself and hope that I make a positive impact on at least one person out there.

Happy Wednesday!

41 comments:

Christine M said...

You give a great presentation! I'm so glad that the day at the detention center went well.

beth said...

Yay for you!

I think that is what makes a good teacher, too--one who doesn't read from the script, but brings herself into the lesson.

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Chris! It was a great experience!

Thanks, Beth! I think you are exactly right about teachers, too. This nails it. They were the best ones!

adrienne said...

A very inspiring post!

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Adrienne! It was an inspiring visit for me!

Lauren said...

That's great that you went and spoke with those kids. They can for sure use good role models.

lynn said...

Is your mariokart character Boo the ghost? That's my fav :)

I tremble at the very thought of presentations, so it's inspiring that someone who used to hate presenting can grow to love it. Thanks for sharing!

lotusgirl said...

How neat is that? I'm so glad that you are comfortable talking in front of groups. If I ever get published, that will be one of the scariest things for me. I'm a behind the camera kind of person.

beckylevine said...

This sounds wonderful. Not sure why I'm amazed that every kid, including the guys, had read Twilight, but what that says for Stephanie Meyer is pretty fantastic!

Okay. Summer task: Learn powerpoint, develop presentation. Have son teach me. :)

PJ Hoover said...

I couldn't agree more, Lauren! I was so happy to do the visit!

Bowser, Lynn. My son always gets Mario. And please totally believe me when I say speaking used to make me tremble!!!!!

Lois, you'll change, too. I think it's kind of necessary! I was just like that a year ago!

Right with you, Becky. Twilight has swept the nation in a way that is hard to even imagine. Oy.
And yes on presentations and PowerPoint!

Thanks for visiting!

Kelly H-Y said...

What an awesome post! And, I have a feeling you've reached many kids out there! So cool to have that opportunity with the kids at the Juvenile Center!

Keri Mikulski said...

Great stuff, PJ! Sounds like fun!! I have a few lined up this summer and can't wait.

And I agree with Beth. :)

Windsong said...

Great post! I'd be interested in learning more about integrating powerpoint presentations in with the presentation. :D

Kelly said...

That is awesome that you became truly comfortable speaking in front of all ages. Sounds like you really reached them!

D.A. Riser said...

Excellent post, PJ, and kudos for presenting at the detention center.

My fav MK character is Toad -- you gotta love those tight turns. Well, granted, that was on the SNES version as I'm a bit behind the times on that front ...

Heather Zundel said...

That is really cool. Not only about your speaking ability, but about the audience. I would love to have an opportunity like that. And I hope I will be able to speak like that too.

And by any chance, would Dry Bones be your favorite Mario Kart character?

Rebecca said...

Very cool, PJ. The idea of public speaking has always freaked me out. Thanks for the encouraging words!

PJ Hoover said...

Aw, thanks, Kelly H-Y! It was a great opportunity!

I hope you'll post about your visits, too, Keri! It's always nice to read about them!

So funny, Windsong, because after I typed the post, it made me think more about it, too. So I'm hoping to speak at one of our SCBWI meetings on the subject! But i'll post about it in the future, too!

Kelly, I'm so glad I'm feeling more comfortable with public speaking!

Thanks, Dan! Toad is a good one. I've tried him a handful of times, but I always come back to Bowser.

You will totally have the opportunity, Heather! And it's Bowser all the way!

It has gotten so much easier, Rebecca. I would never have believed it!

Thanks for visiting, everyone!

Christina Farley said...

I wish I could see your presentation. It sounds awesome!

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Christina!

Robyn said...

P.J. that's really great! I quiver when I think about getting up and speaking. I guess it's like you said, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. UGH!

PJ Hoover said...

It's so funny how we can learn to be less nervous in situations, Robyn!

Lady Glamis said...

PJ, what an awesome experience! I like power point stuff, too. Definitely a tool. :)

Angela said...

I think that's so awesome that you went to a place like this. Sometimes troubled kids just need to know that they are special--just as special as any other lucky school to get a presenter like you. I hope more authors are inspired by this and reach out to people who need a bit of extra caring.

TJ Brown said...

I love speaking to kids too. So much fun!
Teri

C.R. Evers said...

Awesome! sounds like a rewarding and productive time.

Carrie Harris said...

How fabulous! Those kids really need some inspiration, and it sounds like they got it. Stories like that make me all emotional. ;)

Embarrassing, but still true.

PJ Hoover said...

I love PowerPoint, Michelle! The more I use it, the more I love it!

I'd like to do it more often, Angela! It was that cool of an experience. I do hope the kids enjoyed it some :)

Totally agree, Teri!

Very rewarding, Christy! Hope you're feeling better!

LOL, Carrie! Everything makes me emotional. I used to be so calm and collected. What happened?

Thanks for visiting!

Laura said...

Sounds like a wonderful presentation. Kudos to you for learning to love public speaking, BTW. Glad that you had such an interesting/engaging audience too!

Casey said...

I'm glad it went so well!

It's relieving (for me) to hear that you've gotten comfortable with speaking. Awesome!

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks Laura! Long time! I hope all is going great! I see your tweets each day :)

Thanks, Casey! yes, if I can do it, anyone can!

Sheri said...

That's awesome, PJ!

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

I'm glad they are having those kids read. I worry that the younger generation has so many fewer readers. I'm still working on my daughter.

Robin L said...

Wow, what an incredible experience, PJ!

And I adore Power Point. I agree it allows me to feel freer and more ad lib when I'm giving a speech. Maybe because the images act like giant, illustrated notecards for what I'm going to say. :-)

Rena said...

What a great story. I am sure you inspired some of those kids not only to read more, but to consider writing. I bet they all have interesting stories they could come up with. That's great you love public speaking so much. My husband is pretty good at stuff like this too, from his work in law enforcement.

Shelli said...

wowo that is good work. go to the keep it real blog on my blogroll - you and jessican woudl totally hit it off with her foundation - may be a great contact - she is doing work iwth Ron Clarke foundation ;)

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Sheri! Nice to see you!

I wonder the same thing, Jennifer! Let's get those kids reading! And thanks for visiting!

Thanks, Robin. And you did a fab job at BookPeople with no PowerPoint. This I need to learn to do.

I agree, Rena. I bet they have some amazing stories to tell.

I'll totally check it out. Thanks, Shelli!

Happy Weekend!

Angela said...

Congrats on two great presentations. Love the interactions with the group.

Is it Diddy Kong? (So long as it's not Baby Peach...ew yuck Baby Peach)

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Angela! And it's Bowser! Ditto on what you say about Baby Peach :)

Sadako said...

Hurrah!

Solving Rubik's Cube is super hard. I saw some guy on the subway do it over and over again in seconds; I was uber impressed!

PJ Hoover said...

Yeah, I'm at like 2 minutes, Sadako, but the world record is 12 seconds!!!!! Wow!!!!!
Thanks for visiting!