The worst came first.
A couple of weeks ago, I did my first two in-person events for Stampede. First up was a dual storytime of Animal Antics with Dara Dokas, author of the brand new Muriel’s Red Sweater. We were at a local zoo–a big zoo, one that I know has had author events in the past. But the event was a total flop. Why? Well, here are just a few lowlights:
* The gift shop didn’t order our books (though that was part of the agreement). We were tersely notified of this a couple of weeks before and were told we couldn’t sell our books, either. Gee, thanks.
* We were there as part of a huge zoo event, and our storytime was clearly not worth any preparation. There was no signage whatsoever, and we were shoved into a very loud, crowded room of kids doing crafts and parents talking on cell phones and calling to their kids across the room. When the one softspoken zoo volunteer announced our storytime to the room, she encouraged people to keep crafting–but didn’t ask them to be quiet at all! Of course, half the people probably didn’t even hear her.
* A few kids did come over to listen, but they couldn’t hear over the din in the room. Dara and I had to practically shout in their faces (never a good tactic for storytime!) for them to hear our poems/books.
* The atmosphere was so rowdy, the few kids who did participate started accosting the Muriel puppet. Poor duck had her beak yanked every which way!
* We didn’t even pull out our animal-related activities afterward. No point.
* After our first presentation (yep, we had two), we had time for a quick lunch. We stood in line at the snack shack for 20 minutes–the zoo was mobbed.
* Basically, there was no one there who cared about the storytime besides us. And the situation made it impossible to create a lively, engaging presentation.
Boy, was that demoralizing. It felt like a total waste of time. It wasn’t so much because we sold no books, but it felt like we didn’t connect with anyone, kid or adult. We were just part of the din.
During the second reading, we moved out to a barn, which was slightly quieter.
The next day was a solo event for me at Micawber’s Books. An event organized by the same Dara Dokas, who works at Micawber’s. It was the polar opposite.
* The event had been advertised and promoted with signage, emails, and personal invitations from Dara.
* Someone was there to greet me, give me some water, and make sure I had what I needed.
* It was a GORGEOUS spring Minnesota day, and everyone was outside. So few people showed up. BUT, the people who did could hear every word I said.
* Books had been stocked, and I was available to sign books after the reading (and 4 or 5 books sold, which surprised me since there were so few people there).
* Afterward, kids did animal activities, like How far can you jump? and What’s your wingspan? Dara helped me set up the props before storytime.
Most important of all, I felt like I connected. There were only a handful of people there, but I got to say hi to each one of them. I didn’t have to shout in their faces!
At the zoo, we shared our books in a room with 30 or 40 kids. In Micawber’s, I only had 3 or 4 kids. But the Micawber’s event (and other bookstore events we’ve done since then) was so much better! It was so much more about sharing books we love rather than being about adding one more free "entertainment" option to a chaotic event.
Here I am at Micawber’s Books in St. Paul.
We have another zoo event (at a different zoo) and lots more library and bookstore storytimes, and I guess they’ll run the gamut. I was surprised at how poorly run the zoo event was (not necessarily the bigger event we were part of–I have no idea how that went, but our specific part in it), and hopefully none of our other events will live down to that!
If you want to see a few more pix from both events, click here and then click on the picture to move forward through the album.
What’s your storytime from hell story? Care to share?