Why you need to listen to Kids’ questions
Australia’s Book Week is a treasured institution. In the third week of August each year, children across Australia celebrate books and take part in a Book Parade at school, dressed as their favourite author, illustrator or character. There’s nothing more fun than seeing a favourite teacher dressed up as a character like ‘The Queen with the Wobbly Bottom’.
I recently launched my first book, The Mentor Within, and earned the title of ‘Author’. My son’s school grabbed the opportunity to have a Parent-Author give talks to all 500 children at the school during Book Week. I had very big shoes to fill – one of their previous featured authors was the much-loved Andy Griffiths, author of the Treehouse series and arguably Australia’s most popular children’s author.
My book is not a children’s book. While it is a leadership and business book, encouraging people to trust their inner wisdom, make good decisions and take powerful action, the message also works well for children. It encourages them to turn down the volume of their Monster Within (we all have one) and reconnect with their Mentor Within, and the illustrations are great for adults and children alike.
For a long time, I have sung this little ditty to myself: ‘Who will I be when I’m 53?’
Coincidentally Book Week was the week of my 53rd birthday. I told them my story in photos, and that I had planned to be an author at 53. I asked them: ‘Who will you be when you’re 53?’ And my last slide said, simply, ‘You Choose.’
The talks were a Triple Win: a win for them, a win for the school, and a win for me. The kids were clearly in awe of my author status, and absolutely thrilled to be able to find out more and dream themselves into the same status one day. Some of them have already started writing their books and I am now looking for mentors to guide them on their journey (all offers gladly accepted!).
The children asked hundreds of questions. They served as a great reminder to me about why we write business books. The questions were innocent and undefended, coming from children. Read through them, and remember why you wrote your book and what adults (and potential clients) are asking in their heads when they meet us:
1. WHY DID YOU DO IT?
What was your motivation for writing a book? Did you write it because you wanted to help the world? Why would you choose to miss out on all the fun stuff while writing? Oh, and is it fun? Why? (Some kids said they never want to write a book, and that it would waste their time. My answer? We all have important things to do in our own way.)
2. HOW DO YOU MAKE A BOOK?
How do the words you write get into a printed book? How do you make the cover? Who puts it all together? How?
3. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO SAY?
Where do you find the ideas? Are you inspired by your surroundings? How do you know your stuff is interesting? How do you find wise things to say?
4. WHERE DO YOU FIND THE PATIENCE TO COMPLETE IT?
What happens when you lose your motivation? How do you stick to the task? What do you do if you make mistakes?
5. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
How much do you write a day? How many words are in it? What did you give up to do it?
The sessions worked because they were based on THEIR questions. After one of the sessions an 11-year-old blurted out: ‘Rosemary, I loved that session! It was so useful and I learnt so much’. Then over the next few days whenever the children saw me in the playground they swamped me. I was a Pied Piper as they jostled to tell me their book ideas and how far they had got in the books they were writing.
I want to challenge every author to be the author at Book Week at a primary school. I believe authors have a responsibility to instil a love of books, to encourage young writers, and to nurture the belief that they can be authors by the time they are 53. Or even 23.
Listen to the questions of young people. They can teach us a lot.