Teachers & Librarians

Penguin Young Readers

Author Access D.J. MacHale

D.J. MACHALE is the author of the bestselling book series Pendragon: Journal of an Adventure through Tie and Space, the spooky Morpheus Road trilogy, and the whimsical picture book The Monster Princess. He has written, directed, and produced numerous award-winning television series and movies for young people including Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Flight 29 Down, and Tower of Terror. D.J. lives with his family in southern California.

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If you are interested in hosting an appearance by D.J. MacHale at your school, library, or conference, please use the online request form, send an email to authorvisits[at]us.penguingroup.com with possible dates, your school name, location, details about the day, and your contact information.

 

Author Appearance Q&A with D.J. MacHale

What can a school, library, or conference expect when you are making an appearance? What do you do differently with audiences of varying sizes, ages, and interests?

I love speaking at schools, whether the group is as small as a single class or there are six hundred kids in an auditorium. The energy and enthusiasm that kids put out is amazing. I do a presentation, with visuals, telling the story of how a slacker kid who hated to write in school went on an improbable journey that led him to be a bestselling author. The trip begins with making films in junior high and high school, to a film production degree from New York University and on to creating and producing television shows. That all led to the ideas and the opportunity to write novels.

The essence of the talk is about the challenges of pursuing a career that is considered "creative". You are constantly being told no, you find disappointment around every corner, and criticism is never ending. To succeed, it not only takes talent but tenacity. You can't take "no" for an answer and you can't give up.

I then talk a little bit about whatever my latest book is and if time permits I do a reading. I then like to leave time for Q&A. That's my favorite part because it gives the kids a chance to participate and talk about the kinds of things they want to talk about.

What makes your author appearances unique?

That's hard to say because I haven't seen anybody else's presentation! But I like to think that I engage with the kids on a very relatable level. I do my best not to come off as a boring old adult who is there to give them a lecture, because I'm not. The more the kids are engaged and involved, the more fun the presentation becomes.

It also helps that I am not only an author, but I've also made several TV shows for kids that many of them are familiar with.

Do you enjoy making appearances for adult audiences? What do you do when presenting to adults?

I do like speaking with adult audiences. It's all about tone. I can give pretty much the same presentation to a fourth grader or an adult. All I do is change the tone and it works like a charm. The only real substantive difference comes when I talk about story. The younger the audience is, the more they want to treat the story as if were real. For example, when a young kid asks why a particular character died in my story, my answer would have to be given within the context of the story. Maybe they died because they had made a terrible mistake, or there was a price that had to be paid for something they had done wrong. When an adult asks the same question, I can also give the real reason…which is usually that I had no idea of what to do with that character anymore so I got rid of them. It's all about the tone.

What can schools and libraries do to ensure a successful appearance?

Prepare…and participate. The best events are when teachers or librarians have gotten their kids to read at least one of my books beforehand so that they have some context for who I am and why I'm there. It's even better when they have discussed the book in class. Having read a book or two also helps to get kids excited about meeting the person who wrote a book they just finished. During the event itself, the best teachers are right there with the kids listening and asking questions and enjoying the show…as opposed to sitting in the back texting. Seriously. I've see that more than once. That sends a bad message, literally and figuratively.

Do you enjoy traveling to other parts of the country for appearances?

Absolutely! I've logged a lot of miles. The travel itself isn't fun, but the destination always makes it totally worthwhile.

Do you ever make appearances at more than one school in an area? Could schools and libraries from one area join together to bring you to their institution?

All the time. When I'm on an official tour I may visit three or four schools in a day. When it's the "off season", meaning when I don't have a new book out, schools contact me directly to bring me in. But there are expenses associated with that so it often works out that a few schools will pool their resources in order to make it affordable.

What do you hope your audience will come away with from your presentation?

A few things. I hope that I can de-mystify the concept of "author" so that kids can understand that they too can achieve interesting things. I also hope to inspire kids to not let adversity stop them from dreaming big and following their hearts.

What was your favorite/most interesting/most memorable appearance experience?

My most memorable was when a young college student drove many hours to meet me. When she was younger she was severely dyslexic. The first book she had the tenacity to work all the way through was one of mine, and that showed her that it was possible. It was a huge breakthrough for her and she went on not only to read all of my books, but she became an avid reader. When I met her, she was in college studying literature. She said she had my books to thank for that. I'll never forget that.

The other memorable experience was when a tornado warning hit and the teachers didn't know what to do. But that's a whole 'nother story.

 

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