Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Queen for a Day

Today I'm off to Gilcrest Elementary School for an all-day school visit, doing four presentations plus a quick little hello to kindergarten. I know it will be a wonderful day. Days when I visit schools are always wonderful days.

There are many things I love about school visits, but here are two particularly self-serving ones:

1. I get to be a celebrity, for at least this one day. It turns out that I lOVE being a celebrity. I still cherish my visit to one school, years and years ago, when the cafeteria renamed the hot lunch menu in my honor, so that the kids that day were eating Gus and Grandpa chicken nuggets and Phoebe's fries. Many are those who have bronze or marble statues of themselves on a pedestal in the public square; but few are those who have had a hot lunch menu named after them. Kids whisper and point as I walk down the halls: "Is that her? Is that CLAUDIA MILLS?" They ask me to autograph grubby little pieces of paper, their hands, their shoes. In the question period they pepper me with questions like, "Is your family jealous that you're so famous?" Once, after a local school visit, a kid was walking by my house when I was outside in the yard - he stopped astonished in his tracks: "I didn't know YOU lived here. I thought it was some ORDINARY person." In my greatest yet queen-for-a-day moment, one librarian in Tampa gave me a bunch a bunch of plain yellow number-2 pencils and asked me to touch them, so that she could give a pencil to each child that had been touched by me.

Yes, I do like being a celebrity!

2. I get ideas for future books. My books are often very immersed in the world of school, and now I no longer have children who obligingly come home each day with school stories to report to me. (Back when he was in elementary school, I would try to get Gregory to give me enticing details about such matters as which kids had fallen out of their chairs that day. "Gregory, who fell out of his chair today?" "Mom, people don't fall out of their chairs EVERY day. . . Well, it was Kevin.") So, since my boys went and grew up on me, I walk the halls of elementary schools looking for seeds of story, and for the real you-couldn't-make-this-up kind of details that will bring the story alive. It was on a school visit a few years ago that I saw a hallway hung with student papers on the topic, "What I Would Do to Change the World." Thus was born How Oliver Olson Changed the World. I have a lot of reasons to thank that school forever.

What book might be born today?

1 comment:

  1. Have a wonderful "celebrity" day, Claudia! I know you'll bring back some wonderful tales for us as well as those all important seeds for new books. I love your books!