On February 9th, I did my first school reading at Redding Elementary in San Francisco. It was funny going into it, because I was a little nervous. I've done dozens of speaking engagements in seven different countries for my real job, some in front of hundreds of people, but the prospect of speaking to twenty kids in my own town about my book somehow got me more jumpy. I guess when speaking to adults, I generally know what to expect, but it's been about twenty years since I've been in a classroom speaking to Fifth Graders.
After all the build-up though, the day seemed to go really well. I spoke with three classes, and each really seemed to enjoy my talk. I described what inspired me to write my book, how long it took, what skills I learned in school that helped, and finished with a reading of the Prologue. Throughout the process, I showed the students pictures of my book as it evolved from manuscript, to 2,500 edits, to advance review copy, to final book. I also showed them how the artwork in the book evolved from drafts to finished material. The students at Redding were very engaging and asked great questions.
My favorite part was at the end of the second and third classes. At the end of the second, right when I finished my reading, one of the girls in the back of the class pushed her chair back, threw her arms in the air, and exclaimed, "THAT WAS SO SWEET!" It made me laugh because her reaction was so genuine. At the end of the third class, one boy raised his hand and waved it in the air frantically until I called on him. Then he said, "Mr. Mahoney, that is the BEST book I have ever read!" Hahaha. What great kids. They kept me smiling and helped stoke the excitement I feel finally being on the "speaking circuit".
A couple of weeks later, I returned home to find a package stuffed in my mailbox from one of the classes. In it was a wire-bound book of 53 letters from the kids. This gesture was so touching and while I'd love to display all of the wonderful letters, I had to select just a few that I could fit here.
To Mr. Toy's class: thank you! You are a wonderful, insightful, and genuinely intelligent class. I appreciate your letters!