Over the summer, I was fortunate to speak with my target audience on a couple of occasions related to my first book as an author. There I was, in a room full of students, one class about to end the school year and another class participating in a summer reading program. The spotlight was on me and it was pretty scary.
Okay, the students varied from kindergarteners to second graders but I was nervous. See, a long time ago, I was a little lad just like them.
As a student similar in age to the classes I visited, I too had guest speakers come for visits. School was always very hard for me. My eyesight was poor at best and from the age of four, I’ve worn glasses. I always sat at the front of the class so I could see and keep pace with the teacher. Keeping pace was another problem; I had trouble concentrating and reading was especially difficult related to my eyes. I was six and very frustrated and didn’t understand why I couldn’t pick up things as fast as my classmates. Consequently, I fell behind in school. My first-grade teacher and parents made the decision to hold me back and re-take that first year of school.
I got older and school continued to get harder for me. School would always be tough. When I reached high school, I spent my freshmen year in entry-level classes because my placement scores were low coming out of junior high. I never felt dumb. I felt like something was wrong with me. High school is hard enough for an overweight kid with glasses to add additional feelings of insecurity.
Then something remarkable happened. During my junior year, my English class included creative writing. For the first time, something at school clicked. I was interested in what my teacher was presenting, and I got positive feedback from her related to my assignments. I didn’t know at the time, but that class cracked a door open for me. A door I would walk through many years later.
I got a job right out of high school and, except for some college, I’ve been working ever since. However, I never stopped writing. I still have many of my old Mead spiral notebooks from high school tucked away in the garage filled with poems for girlfriends I wish I'd had before meeting my wife or song lyrics to music that didn’t exist yet. That creative spark ignited in high school never went away. It was always there for me, if only just me.
Well, it turns out it wasn’t just for me after all. While I stood in front of those students talking about my journey from a shy boy in grade school with glasses to a now published author of a children’s book, all eyes were focused on yours truly. That realization wasn’t lost on me. Those students wanted to hear about the book. They wanted to hear about me. I sat with one class and read a chapter. I tried my best to engage with them and ask questions about the book, school, and what they want to be when they grow up. My visit ran long the first time, as I kept fielding questions. Turns out, I’m really great at engaging. I had the attention of the entire class. I don’t know how, but I did. One student said he wanted to be an author when he grows up. That statement still chokes me up a little bit, as I type this. I told him – and each of the classes – that they can do anything they set their minds to.
Someone recently asked me why I write middle-grade chapter books. I didn’t set out with that specific genre in mind. I set out to tell a story. I’m a writer, that’s what we like to do. I have always felt comfortable expressing myself through writing. It was my “safe” place to share my thoughts and feelings at a given point in my life. I didn’t even know if the book would be read outside of my immediate family and friends. To my surprise, it was.
Talking about the book with students opened a new avenue for me. The platform allowed me to share a story of laughter, challenges and importance of family with the young men and women of our future. Not only did I write a book for my wife and me, I wrote a book for children of all ages to enjoy. I wrote a book that parents can read with their kids. Wow, I wrote a book.
What now? Well, I’m currently in the editing process for my second book in the Sydney series. Yes, I now have a series, which hopefully means more school visits. Which means more opportunities to engage with students.
Growing up can be tough, I know, but kids don’t have to feel uncomfortable about reading or give up if they have trouble. Much like writing a book, it takes time, practice, and determination. I saw all of those traits emerge this summer. I look forward to seeing them again. Does this mean I’m on the path to public speaking? If it means sharing my story and letting kids know they can accomplish their dreams, I guess I am. Ooh, perhaps a talk show? Too soon? Okay, too soon but, as I told the kids, it’s good to have goals.
"Misadventures of Princess Sydney," published in 2014
"Misadventures of Princess Sydney: Have Parentals, Will Travel," coming in fall 2015
Chris Minich is a writer living in Snoqualmie Washington. He enjoys spending time with his wife and their two precocious dogs, Sydney and Buddy. Chris is also a die hard Seattle Seahawks fan.
To learn more about Chris Minich and "Misadventures of Princess Sydney":
Author pages:Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9885547.Chris_Minich