In January, I spoke at Mission Valley Middle School in Prairie Village, Kansas, and the experience continues to humble and impress me. I already posted a bit about it here and here and now I must take an opportunity to share more that has happened since then.
At every school visit, I leave a simple feedback form for both students and teachers to fill out. Their input has helped me improve my presentation. Some schools copy, distribute, and return them. Others don't.
Mission Valley did, and with distinction—the envelope was fatter than any other I've received in the five years I've been doing this. I think literally every person who saw me there completed the form.
After I spoke there, I had lunch with a small group of students/future authors. They sent me custom-made thank-yous decorated with photos of my visit:
I have to share a bit from the feedback forms, all from students between the ages of 12 and 14. It is always nice to be reminded how young a sharp mind can take form. And you can't beat the honesty.
Sizing up my presentation skills:
"In communications we are learning about public speaking and from what I know you are pretty good. Since your talk I have been more persistent."
"Your presentation skills are excellent and your message is inspiring."
"Your visit was very meaningful. You taught a good life lesson of never giving up, which will one day, if not already, contribute to our lives. You were a very good speaker, with effective voice and great examples."
"You had a strong voice and I actually listened."
"It was cool how I had never heard about you before Friday, and now I really want to read more."
Just plain nice:
"You're really funny and that got the crowd going."
"I would listen to you speak again in a heartbeat."
"I loved your enthusiasm and how you were comfortable in front of our crowd. Your story and message were inspiring. I learned not only about perseverance but also about empathy and how hard it is to be an author."
A favorite in a class by itself:
"You put more enthusiasm into [your presentation] than most people would have. It seems you've learned to laugh at yourself. Also, have you heard of Barnes and Noble? Is that named after you?"
Finally, one that especially inspires me. In fact, this pretty much blew me away:
"Thank you so much for coming! I am ABSOLUTELY INSPIRED! When you told us about your mom telling you to write to the newspaper, but you thought if you were good, they would come to you...I am just like that! I want to act and my parents told me things to do, but I always thought they would come to me. But you showed me that I have to get out there, show off, and be seen! In fact, right now, I am trying to think of ideas for a TV show to show my mom's friend director. So far, the people I have told believe in me. But one or two think it's a bit far-fetched. And it is, but I don't care. I am going to try my hardest to be seen. All I need is support, which I have, and to believe it can be done. I can do anything I set my mind to. I truly believe. All the signs are there! I even got a fortune (continues on back) cookie that says 'Your unique talent will find its way to success.' I know most people don't believe in fortune cookies, but I asked for a sign and got one!"