Speaking to Kids --- by Jane Kelley

I was a performer before I became a writer. I enjoy standing in front of people and acting the part of the professional, charming, witty novelist. I don't even worry that technology will once again refuse to be my friend.

Here I am, right before giving a speech at my library. I'm smiling, despite the knowledge that I can't show the amazing power point I spent days preparing. The library's projector, for reasons only it understands, refuses to speak to my laptop.

That's okay! No one really needed to see those photos. Pictures of Blackberry are always crowd-pleasers, but I managed fine without them.

I must confess that I am anxious about something when I speak.

It's impossible to predict what kids will ask.

That's why we love them. Their thinking has not been constrained. They are not polite. They are not filtered. They don't know that it isn't good manners to ask someone how old she is. Or how much money she makes. Or if any of her books are bestsellers.

I've learned the hard way to be ready to answer these questions. (I'm old. Not much money. Once my book was a best seller in a particular book store. And even on Amazon, if the category is narrow enough. Nature Girl is #1 among all books written by people named Jane Kelley!)

I gladly accept those tough questions, because kids have also asked me other unfiltered things that I was happy to have the opportunity to ponder.

What do you do when a book gets rejected?
What's your least favorite part about writing a story?
And, perhaps most poignant of all, are you ever lonely?

Yes, dear reader, sometimes I am.

There was one question that totally stumped me. At an appearance in Brooklyn, a boy held up a copy of Octo-Man and the Headless Monster.

"Did you really write this book?" he said.

"Yes," I said, blushing slightly, still feeling delighted that something I had created was out in the world.

"Then what's the first word on page 53?"

I couldn't answer that--not even after he gave me a hint. "It starts with the letter G."


  1. This is so great Jane. I love the spontaneity of kids and what comes out of their mouths! I'd better study the first word on page 53 of my book...

    1. Who knows? They might ask you about a different page!

  2. Obnoxious little brat. There's always one in the audience. More often, there's more than one.
    You, on the other hand, are otherworldly amazing.

  3. So funny! My own favorite questions I've been asked by kindergartners:
    "How many period and question marks do you have in your books?
    And this, after the children had been told they had to ask a QUESTION, not tell a story, where the question was something they really wanted to know:
    "Can you tie my shoe for me?"


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