Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Frass!" -- School visits and caterpillar poop

Kids are awesome. I ought to be around them more! Today I spoke to a school of about 400 kids, first to the 1st thru 3rd graders, then to the 4th thru 6th graders. Since I figured most of them would not have read my book, I talked about being a writer, showed some pictures of my family, like this one of my brother. . .
. . . told a little about the book, and threw in some of my favorite weird science & nature facts, specifically ones that apply to the world of my book. One of my favorite things about writing Dreamdark is the opportunity it gives me to do research into the natural world, in an effort to make the forests and jungles feel like real kingdoms full of wonders both magical and natural.

Take the humble moth for example. Not one of nature's most glamorous insects, but so cool. Besides the whole amazing silk thing, did you know that moths can smell each other up to seven miles away? I asked the kids how they'd like to be able to smell their friends coming from seven miles away. Not so much! That's a super power I could do without. I also showed them a slide of a moth caught in the act of drinking the tears of a sleeping bird. This amazes me. There are moths whose only source of saline is tears so they have specially adapted proboscises for getting through the inner eyelids of sleeping birds!!! HOLY COW!!!

And of course, there were the claws. Here is my guardian of the claws:
Like all my volunteers, he had to get dressed up for the occasion:
The boys were totally good sports about the wigs. One of them, a fifth grader and obvious class clown, even pounced on the one set of butterfly wings and commandeered them for himself!!

Here's my sweet butterfly faerie from the younger group:



I taught them my favorite new word:
Do any of you know what it means? Well, I didn't until a couple of days ago, but I knew at once that it would make a great faerie swear word. It means: caterpillar poop!!

And, I had a surprise for the kids that came about sort of by mistake when I went to the zoo with my family this weekend. I found a special paper for sale there. . . Well, I -- with the help of the kids, and Jim (who so sweetly came with me today for tech support so I could learn how to hook up my laptop to the projector. Thanks sweetie!) -- passed out pieces of paper, and had them hold it for a while, examine it closely, use their senses on it (ie touch, sniff. I did not suggest tasting, but some kids did so on their own). Only then did I show my final slide of the presentation, which revealed what the paper was made out of. . .
That's right. Elephant poop. Ha ha ha! That got such a huge reaction -- especially from the paper tasters, of course. But not to worry -- the paper is totally clean and sterilized, but it really is made out of elephant poop! When I saw it at the zoo, I knew I needed to have some. I just googled their web site and discovered they make rhino poo paper too.

And the very last thing, besides questions, was the facial tattoos. That's right, we gave the kids facial tattoos, a la Rathersting:

Snazzy, no? Of course they're not real tattoos. See, Jim took pictures of a few kids and then, while I was talking, he photoshopped these tattoos onto their faces, and we showed them at the end. It looked awesome.

It was a lot of fun, and I'm going to another school on friday (hi Jone!) and another next week, but right now I really need to buckle down and create some Laini's Ladies. Ciao!

Oh, P.S. I just received my samples of the new Blackbringer audiobook! So cool! I haven't listened to it yet, but I can't wait! It's being sold primarily to the library market, so you will be more likely to find it at your library (or ask your library to order it!) than at a bookstore, which is just as well, because it's crazy expensive. Sheesh! I think it's a hundred smackeroos! SO, what I'm going to do, is I'm going to think up a contest and give one away here. So be watching. I'll come up with something!)

19 comments:

She sure is strange! said...

I'm so glad you are good with children! What a gift Laini, you have no idea!

Molly, insanely jealous of those claws and wigs and tattoos

Heather said...

Sooo.....who's reading the book? Is it you?

Amber said...

"a moth caught in the act of drinking the tears of a sleeping bird. " ---- WHAA??? LOL!

YOU totally kick ASS, Laini. I bet you are so much fun for these kids!! Can't you come to Cali, and speak at Wyatt's class?? Huh? Huh? I'll buy you mangos.

:)

Laini Taylor said...

Molly -- thanks!!! I'm loving the props too.

Hi Heather -- no, it's not me reading it, but the AMAZING Davina Porter, who is an audiobook goddess.

Amber -- I would love to come to speak to more schools! And I would especially love to come and see YOU! I'm going to put up a page on my website this summer about my school visits -- if you let Wyatt's school know about it, maybe they'll bring me there when Silksinger is coming out next year! (I'd love to get invited to speak at more schools!)

Amber Lough said...

There is no doubt you've got to be the best school-visiting author alive! Ever!

For me to top that, I'm going to have to have human sacrifices, complete with on-stage cannibal dinners. And since eating kids is out of the question, we'd have to ask for volunteers from the staff...

Judex said...

This is the first time I have ever wished I could be back at school!Love all your stuff it's wonderful.Judith.

Sharon said...

Well Frass!
You are one heck of a school visitor person. Gifted is what you are.

Michele Thornton said...

That looks like the best school visit ever! I'm going to see if Sunset school here in West Linn (not far from you) can budget for this next year.

By the way, I attended your session at SCBWI last month and that was also awesome. You might want to bring the wigs and Elephant Poo paper next time, though.

Jone said...

I can't wait. Can I have a facial tatoo? Can I listen to Balckbringer?

brittany said...

SOOO FUN! I wish I could have been there!! Would you do any school visits back east, say in southern NH? What's the deal, do they fly you out and pay you? How do I book it??

and I want a tattoo, too! I want to live with the faeries and have talon knit me a flying faerie suit.

the moth thing IS cool.

tone almhjell said...

That looked absolutely amazing. Gotta love those wigs. Wonderful :)

Liana said...

I am TOTALLY now using FRASS as an....ahem...expressive word.
Those lucky kids-and thanks for posting the pictures! SO fun :)

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Can I please just hire you to come to my house and entertain me?? I love your imagination and creativity, Laini. It's unparalleled.

Tricia said...

oh goodness! what fun your presentations must be! and what lucky kids!

:)

megg said...

You are not going to believe this but part of MY JOB involves being on the lookout for... FRASS. Seriously. Any sort of insect that burrows through something poos out the results of the burrow. In FACT! Just yesterday I was dealing with a live beetle infestation in our dead BEETLE case (believe it!) and the way I knew that they were there?? I found piles of frass and then spotted the babies (called 'wooly bears' and then some adults!)

Yup! I told you you wouldn't believe it!! The OTHER thing you won't believe is that we were going to print our very boring original invitations on elliepoo paper (until we came up with the other much more AMAZING idea!) But we have bought a whole ream of ellie poo paper for all of the rest of our printing needs! (Can you get it in reams there?? If you can't, let me know & I'll send you some!!!)

I wish I had met you when I was a kid - I think you would have changed my life - seriously!!

Stephanie Perkins said...

I'm repeating what everyone has already said, but:

A) Your visit, dare I say it, has to be the COOLEST elementary school presentation of all time.

B) Love the pink wigs & tattoos & elephant poo paper (and the reaction to the poo paper)!

C) Frass = my favorite new safe-for-kids swear word (WHAT THE FRASS?? is being implemented into my vocabulary as you read this)

Stephanie Perkins said...

Oh, and I love, love, LOVE Davina Porter. After listening to her read the Outlander series, I checked out several other audiobooks from the library, just because her name was on them! What wonderful fortune (and so deserved) to have her as your reader. Can't wait to hear it.

HipWriterMama said...

The kids must have LOVED your school visit! Your props are too cool. Did you have kids lining up for their tattoo photos?

Little Willow said...

How fun. How fantastic. How wonderful of you to do all of this!