Every school I've had the privilege of speaking at has given me a great experience. Some have given me a great story, too.
Because Clark Kent grew up in Kansas, I made my first trip there to promote Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. The media dubbed it the "Superman's First Home on Earth Tour." ("Media" is misleading. I mean me. No dia. Though two papers did cover it: here and here.)
The final school of my four days in Kansas did something no school I'd spoken at had done before (or has done since).
My presentation was set up in the gym. The 250 or so middle school students filed in and sat on the bleachers. I was the lone man on the floor before them, with the expanse of the empty gym behind me, except for some kind of sound system in the back. When my kind hosts (the principal and media specialist) were ready to introduce me, they surprised me in two ways.
First, someone scurried to the back of the gym and pushed a button on that sound system. The theme from Superman: The Movie filled the room. That music transports me in the cocoon of my iPod, so to hear it blasted in that space for that purpose was, simply, super cool. I had no opening move grand enough to match it.
Then the music stopped. The media specialist, with whom I’d arranged the visit, stepped up to introduce me. In my experience, most school visit intros, regardless of length, are built on the basic facts—where he’s from and what he’s written.
But this one was different.
The media specialist told the story of our “evolution”—how I e-mailed her the previous spring, how she politely but not definitively deflected me, how I tried again, how she had given me a closer look but no commitment, and how I contacted her a third time…at which point, she realized she had some fondness for my efforts…but still thought I was a little too dedicated.
However, she went on to say, something did compel her to take a chance on me. And she came to see that what I was doing was consistent with what I do in all aspects of my career, and what I was about to talk about with the students—the importance of persistence. Only she said it so much nicer.
I was moved that she thought about the process in that way. My presentation added another level to the topic: I mention (as does the book) that Superman was rejected for more than three years before a publisher said yes.
To wrap, back to the music: I find it funny (in a good way) that they played the Superman theme not for a guy who played Superman or even a guy who wrote Superman stories but for a guy who wrote about the two guys who created Superman. Is that six degrees of super-ation?
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