We have been working with Eve Wersocki Morris for several years and now we get to feature her and her debut book, The Bird Singers. Eve shares with us her new perspective on author visits!
Publicist-Author Eve Wersocki Morris on doing her first school events –
In my current job as Senior Publicity Manager at a Children’s Publisher, I work on a lot of author events; pitching them to festivals and helping debuts create an event for schools. I have sat in the back of many school halls watching fantastic authors enchant packs of usually-wriggling kids with inspirational stories or hilarious anecdotes. I’m always just as mesmerised as the kids themselves – and never miss an opportunity to join in a draw-along. So when it came to creating my own school events I had a ton of inspiration to draw on – but theory and practice are two very different things…
My debut The Bird Singers is a mystery adventure middle-grade about two sisters on holiday in the Lake District where strange things start happening… there’s an unknown stranger stalking the countryside and the birds are acting very oddly. The sisters’ Babicia (grandma in Polish) used to tell them tales about myths and monsters and they start to wonder whether those myths might just be real… Inspired by my own childhood holidays in the Lakes; my Polish background; ancient myths and folklore; even being sister! There are a lot of exciting elements in the book so it was tricky narrowing down what to talk about in the event.
When I create events for new authors, I lead with the principal that an author event should ‘entertain and inspire’. You want kids leaving that school hall buzzing with excitement. So I structured my event in two halves. Firstly, I kick off with my bumpy road to becoming a debut author – which includes talking about my own dyslexia – and then share my five things which make a mystery adventure (for me, that’s character, setting, villain, suspense and, most importantly, food!). It’s a fun way of telling them about The Bird Singers and the inspiration behind it while making them think critically about the important elements which go into a book – while also avoiding sounding like I’m doing a sales pitch to the kids!
Every author I’ve seen has a different style of presenting – some can go off the cuff and make it up on the day, while others have more of a rehearsed storytelling style. The second method seems to work for me. I did a lot of acting at school and university so it was great to go back to this. I put in a couple of (hopefully) funny ‘sketches’ including the time I drove a motor boat and almost got hit by a ferry and the moment a teacher shouted that I was ‘the worst speller in the class’.
I’ve also seen how controlled audience interaction can really keep kids engaged in a talk so I wanted to add in moments to get the audience to share their thoughts and ideas – from low-level interaction like ‘put you hands up if…’ (to check everyone’s still listening and haven’t fallen asleep…) to more creative engagement like building up a character profile together.
Once I made my event (and performed it to my ex-teacher parents) it was time to bring it to the kids! When The Bird Singers published (3rd February), I did a whole week of school events in London. At first it felt strange to be the one on stage – instead of the publicist helping the author – but once I stepped out in front of that first school, it was the first time I felt like a real author. Face to face with my readers. And it turns out… I love doing school events. Phew!
Year 5s and 6s are absolutely fantastic! So smart, thoughtful and creative. I wasn’t expecting to feel so emotional when kids told me ‘I’m dyslexic too’ or ‘I’m also half-Polish’ or ‘I want to be an author too.’ Maybe all authors think this but I felt I was talking to a younger me.
Best of all, after my second ever school event, one student put up their hand to ask: ‘can you come back next week?’ I couldn’t have asked for a better review. And I’ve certainly got the event bug and I cannot wait to do more.