On 11/19/10, I spoke at three schools, all lovely. The first was Redding Elementary in Redding, Connecticut. Even before stepping foot there, it had special meaning because I have known its principal, Stephanie Pierson Ugol, since 1996.
At that time, I worked in marketing for a publishing company called Abbeville Press in New York. At the same time, after hours, I was writing what would become my first published book (also Abbeville):
Having some nervousness about whether or not I was on target with my approach, I decided I wanted to “focus group” the book with kids who spanned the range of ages the book would be intended for. My colleague told me that her sister was a teacher at a Connecticut school (not RES). Her sister was Stephanie, and Stephanie generously got me cleared to visit various classes in her school, including hers.
My first field research! I wish I had documented it better—not even a single photo taken. But it remains a meaningful if hazy moment at the start of my path to doing what I love.
When I told the Redding students that it was because of this connection that I was now speaking at their school, they turned to Stephanie and erupted in jubilant applause. It was one of the most thrilling moments I’ve yet experienced in doing author visits, and it wasn’t about me at all.
The middle school that day was John Read Middle School, also in Redding. Two dutiful reporters for the student newspaper sat up front. The school kindly sent me a copy of their article about my talk. It was intriguing to see what from my hourlong presentation they chose to address, and how.