The author as stand up comic
You’re up there for an hour, doing nothing but talking, and they’re all laughing, hundreds of them, sometimes. You’re being FUNNY! You’re a comedian!
This was not what I expected. Not even slightly.
“Are you up for doing some promotion?” they asked. “Perhaps touring schools, signing some books, talking to the kids a bit?”
“Um…sure? Yeah. Whatever.”
I didn’t know that what they really meant was: “Are you comfortable talking to 300 ten year-olds for an hour. And making them laugh?”
This, it transpires, is life for a modern author – especially one who’s just written a children’s book. As the mainstream press continues its precipitous decline, children’s books – always something of a poor relation in the review pages – are covered even less. What hope for my offering (Time Travelling With A Hamster, HarperCollins since you ask, thanks) to gain the attention of the book-buying public?
Well, a promotion by the very excellent bookshop chain, Waterstones, helped. With it came an invitation to embark on a “book tour” around the UK and the enquiry if I could talk to groups of children about it.
As it happens, I’ve done a bit of children’s entertaining in my time, largely as an outlet for my love of magic and illusion. More recently my magical alter-ego “Welly Wizard” (don’t judge) has made rather fewer appearances. Hardly any, in fact. But it does mean that standing up in front of children is not entirely alien to me.
But what do I do? How do I fill an hour talking to a classroom/assembly hall full of children most of whom have not the faintest idea who I am or what my book’s about?
Well, I start by reading chapter 1. That’s easy.
Then it’s a time-travel related magic trick. Freed of the burden of being “the magician”, it turns out to be much more fun.
Then I teach them how to memorise a list of ten random objects using mnemonic memory links, and this is when it starts to get properly funny, because the crazier, the sillier, the more outlandish the mental images created, then the easier it is to remember them. It fits the theme of the book: the main secondary character has a super-power memory.
Another reading is next, and I tried loads of different chapters before deciding that the best reaction came when I read the chapter involving the torturing of a cat. (Don’t worry: it sound more gruesome than it is.)
I finish with writing a story, collectively, with the children volunteering ideas for what happens next. It takes five minutes – and the results are always different and always hilarious.
And that, more or less, is it. They seemed to like it and there was – usually – a gratifyingly long queue of children wanting to buy the book and have it signed.
O2 Arena next.
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