There’s nothing quite like the experience of receiving a really good review. It feels fantastic and it seems that the countless hours,days, months, years married to the laptop was all worthwhile. But media reviews, as important as they are, aren’t the only gauges. They are an opinion.
I’ve always had the deepest respect for stand up comics. If their audiences don’t like what they’re doing they’re getting to know it straight away. Nowhere to hide. And the same applies if they hit the mark, there is instant gratification, approval and adulation.
During the Franschhoek Literary Festival for young readers I was invited to speak at a government school and a private school.
Over the past few years I’ve been invited to speak at many schools around the country to all different age groups. One of the reasons I get a kick out of speaking at schools is the way in which the young audiences express their points of view themselves with bubbly enthusiasm and linear honesty. They haven’t been influenced by what’s socially acceptable and unacceptable. They do what they feel like and they say it as it is. If they’re bored or tired they’ll let you know by fidgeting, whispering or yawning, and if they’re interested and excited, their eyes will be glued, or their arms waving, wanting questions answered.
It doesn’t matter what cars their parents drive or how big their house is, for them if they can be told an interesting story, or get to use their imagination, they will give you their undivided attention. And they will appreciate it – honestly.
The reason I speak at schools is to promote the importance of reading and the topics that I write about – creativity, imagination and self -belief. But it’s because I also get to interact with my readers, and as inspired as they are upon meeting a real life author, I am just as inspired to interact with such honesty and enthusiasm. (It also feels cool to be told how much your books are loved.) I think it is important for students to meet authors/artists/scientists/politicians/sportspeople etc. as they are then able to put into context that which they hear about. For them it’s inspirational.
I always ask for a review of my talks, both positive and critical, as this helps me to gauge where I’m at and how the talk has been received. Most of the times it’s the teachers who review, and as fantastic as this is, it’s refreshing when hearing a critique from the most honest of audiences.
This is the feedback I received from the Grade 3’s,(8-9 year old)
“Your book has inspired my imagination, when I play with my friends. Your talk reminded me of the time when my family and I went to Thailand and I got to ride on the quad bikes. Imagination can lead to adventure.” Alexander
“I loved your talk it was truly amazing. I felt as if my brain was full of creative books. I loved that one line that you said about what happened when you read books about places – that’s what I like” Tyler
“I learned a lot about that village on water.” Sebastian
“I really love how you told us about that water village you inspired me so much and thank you so much for coming and sharing that wonderful experience with us I reallyenjoyed your news so thank you.” Daniella
“I really enjoyed your talk. I also write books and you have inspired me to make my books even more imaginative.” Kendra
“Imagination has really helped me to see the animals in your book, while Mrs Heistein was reading to us.” Kera
“I like his special book because it inspires me. It is a wonderful book.” Aidan
“Gary Hirson, you are a very special man. The way you entertained us was incredible and you always need your imagination.” Destin
“Thank you so much for coming just to see us! I loved hearing about the floating town. I definitely liked The Magic That’s Ours book because I love reading and using my imagination”. Kayley
“I still remember when you were eating spiders and I did not know about that place on water and one day I might go there. I loved your book – it is my second favourite book. My first favourite book is a Bible and I really do like your majinashon(imagination) – it is so cool. I can’t wait until you make another book I might be the first girl to read it.” Madison
“I love his book so much because of the pretty pictures and how he writes and how he reads the stories. Thank you”. Mila
“Thank you for coming to our school. It was a pleasure for you to come and I bought two of your books and they are very good.” Casey
“Gary Hirson did teach me to yoosyormachnaishn (imagination) in reading.” Rico
Just before I left for the festival I tweeted “Off to speak at the Franschhoek Literary Festival with the hope of inspiring the youth to read…” Hopefully I achieved my goal.
Thank you to all the teachers and pupils of Franschhoek High School and Bridgehouse.