I arrived at Buckhorn a few minutes early. I signed in and took a seat in the corner of the main office. Beside me on the floor, I placed the bag containing some of the books I wrote as a kid; while across my lap, I rested my arms on a notebook of insect photos representing the various characters in my book. After a cursory smile toward the secretary, I sat, quietly waiting, feeling a sense of nervous anticipation.
This was new ground for me. I was about to walk in and bear my creative soul to a class full of kid critics. My worst fear - they would act polite and thank me for coming, but there would be no connection. Cockroach, Silverfish and the rest of my characters would slip into obscurity, dragging my own confidence with them, quietly disappearing into permanent oblivion.
Two boys entered the office, eager to escort me to their classroom. I greeted them warmly and proceeded to follow them. As I did, one of them looked up at me and exclaimed, "Mr. Ward, I just want to tell you, your book is awesome!" I knew then, it was going to be a good day.
But a good day was a great day and a great day became a most memorable day as I sat in the author's chair, surrounded by the enthusiasm of 3rd graders who couldn't get enough of my book. They couldn't stop talking about my characters. They had embraced them as their own. They knew their quirks, they could describe their personalities, and they couldn't wait to read more about them. It was nothing short of surrealistic to know that a story, a fantasy world purely out of my own imagination, something you couldn't see or hold had become a part of these children's lives. I was humbled and exhilarated at the same time.
Ms. Sae-tong asked, "Maybe Mr. Ward would like read some of his book for us?" This suggestion brought about a rock star cheer. I eagerly obliged and began to read where the class left off on the last few pages of Chapter 10. "Remember the rule," Ms. Sae-tong said as I finished. "No reading ahead over the summer. We're going to continue reading the book at the beginning of next school year."
I couldn't wait for them to read the rest of the story, meet the rest of the characters and have them start reading book two. And what made me even more excited? I knew they were feeling the same way too.