DIVYA SRINIVASAN is also the author of Little Owl's Night. She lives in Austin, Texas. She likes being alone sometimes, but she also loves spending time with her family and friends. You can see more of Divya's illustration and animation at pupae.com.
You can learn more about the Octopus Alone here.
Learn more about Divya here. If you are interested in hosting an appearance by Divya Srinivasan 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 Divya Srinivasan
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 only just started doing author visits a few weeks ago (beyond reading the story, answering questions, and signing books), so my experience is limited. But so far, they've gone really well.
I wasn't sure what I had to offer in terms of presenting to students or adults, because my career path has felt so roundabout, with one thing leading to another. I don't have formal training in art or in writing, so don't feel qualified to "teach" either. Also, I create all my artwork on the computer, so didn't know if my set-up could be accommodated (even though it's completely portable).
When the children's book buyer at BookPeople in Austin asked if I'd be willing to be included on a list of authors available for author visits to schools, I hesitated. But she assured me that even a demonstration of how I create illustrations would be plenty, along with any information about how I researched my book and my personal process. The idea of a presentation was intimidating to me, but keeping it personal really opened me up. And she said my laptop-drawing tablet set-up would work fine, and that I'd be visiting schools that use projector-computer connections all the time.
I'm grateful to Meghan at BookPeople for encouraging me to do my first school presentations in early May. And I feel so lucky to have visited schools with such helpful, supportive, enthusiastic librarians! My first visits were a bit of a boot camp situation, presenting to 5 groups of about 45 kids each, one after the other. But it helped me know that as long as the teacher and librarian can keep the students in line, I can handle a bigger crowd than I thought. A few days later at another school, I was originally supposed to do a presentation to 3 groups of 20 kids, but when some other classes wanted to be included, I already had the confidence to add another 20 to each group. Those 2 intense days were invaluable, helping me see what worked and what didn't, and getting feedback from those amazing librarians who really helped guide me.
A few days later, I had my book launch party at BookPeople, with a crowd of about 150, mostly adults but a good number of children (of all ages) too. From my experience with the teachers and librarians at my school visits (and thinking about what would be interesting to me and my friends), I could see what might appeal to an older group, what I could focus on more. I look forward to presenting to groups of older students and adults.
I feel at home with my laptop and tablet in front of me, "pen" in hand. It's really fun for me to be in my element, drawing, and hopefully that comes across to the audience.
What makes your author appearances unique?
So far, I've done all my book illustration on the computer, so I'm able to show exactly how I create artwork using my laptop and tablet. From what I've seen so far, the kids and adults are interested to see the process. So I start with a blank file in Photoshop and draw something simple, like a fish. Then I duplicate it, shrink it (all pretty quickly and in front of the audience) and show how I can change colors or add other features. I explain that all of the artwork in the book was created with these tools, and it's just that some objects are more complex.
I've been kicking off my presentations with the book trailer, which I animated (again, on the computer) using the book's artwork. It's a nice introduction to the book, and tends to grab attention right at the beginning. I hope it shows the audience that one type of work can feed another. In this case, my book's illustration and story were what I used to make this video/cartoon.
There's also a video I love showing (and that I love watching) because it's impressive no matter how old you are. It's an unbelievable example of octopus camouflage and inking taken from a TED talk. It feels great to share it with children and adults alike.
Do you enjoy making appearances for adult audiences? What do you do when presenting to adults?
I haven't yet presented to a group of strictly adults. It's mainly been for groups of students from Pre-K through 2nd grade, and mixed group of adults with their kids. I'd love to do a presentation for older students and adults in whichI can focus more on how I made the books--where I got ideas, and especially the process of creating the artwork. Friends and relatives have seemed interested about the art side in particular, and I know I love to see how other people create their work.
I also have some examples of rough sketches and their final versions, and how I used photos as reference for my illustrations. I don't want my presentations to the very young children to get too long, but I think there are things that would be interesting to an older audience.
What can schools and libraries do to ensure a successful appearance?
I just did a couple of school visits on my trip to Chicago this week. They were on he same day, and I was hoping I'd be able to stop by the schools a day earlier just to make sure the A/V connections would work, since my current presentation is so dependent on my computer. Having a test-run made a huge difference so far, as something was always a tad different in each venue's set-up. A day earlier wasn't possible, but luckily I was able to get there an hour earlier. I know I'm a worrier sometimes, but as far as getting the technology to run smoothly, there's been good reason for worry.
My visits have gone especially well when the librarian or teachers had introduced my books to the students beforehand. I also try to email librarians early on to let them know teachers and parents can download coloring pages for the kids, and also watch the trailer. It's also great when teachers can collect questions from the students before my visit. That way even the quiet, shy kids might be more likely to be involved, and there's more time for them to think about what they'd like to ask rather than being put on the spot.
Do you enjoy traveling to other parts of the country for appearances?
I love it!
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?
In Chicago last week, I visited two schools in two nearby cities in the same day. Because I had at least an hour before each presentation to meet the (once again outstanding!) librarians, test out the A/V connection and generally get my bearings, it worked out great.
It seems easier to give presentations tailored to age/grade ranges so I don't have to worry as much if something for older kids might be boring for younger, and vice versa. There's probably some ideal grouping for really large groups, though, that I am just not aware of, but that schools have figured out. So far, the librarians I've had the pleasure of meeting have led me well!
What do you hope your audience will come away with from your presentation?
Growing up, my schools never had author visits. I think it would have been inspiring to me back then.
With my presentation for Octopus Alone, I try to show how what I observed in real life (for instance, photos I took at Monterey Bay Aquarium) translate to story ideas and illustration. I also show the audience photos of my workspace, which has elicited maybe the most surprising (to me) response: "Wowwww!" from these little kids! They can see what I have up in front of me when I'm working--drawings, photos, postcards, post-its with inspiring quotes. Teachers have said they like that I show them my office because it makes writing and making books less mysterious and more approachable. And that's great!
At one of the Chicago school visits, my host later told me that he was watching one of the little girls sitting behind me as I drew a fish on the computer. He said her jaw dropped and that he thought he saw an illustrator being born. That made me so happy. I have really loved seeing children's drawings (and a few book reports!) inspired by my books.
What was your favorite/most interesting/most memorable [choose one] appearance experience?
At a recent school visit, I had a group of Pre-K children. I showed portraits I'd made of Washington and Lincoln when I was in the 2nd grade, and I asked if anyone knew who they were. All was quiet, but for one little boy sitting close to me who whispered, "Grandma and Grandpa?"
In the same group, when the kids were lining up to go back to class, another little boy broke away from the line, ran over to me, and worriedly asked, "Is octopus ink pollution?"
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