Tuesday, April 10, 2007

social skills

The girls and I had a couple of laughs this weekend reminiscing about our times in art school. The one conclusion which we all agreed upon was that art school does not teach one social skills. In fact, if anything it seriously impairs one’s ability to have a normal conversation. At our art school, parties consisted of dark rooms with people leaning against the walls staring at the floor in silence.

This is why it is fairly extraordinary that we’ve all somehow reintegrated into normal society and, much more, created careers in children’s books. The one thing none of us realized in art school was how much public speaking would play a part in our work. I thought I’d spend my days alone in my studio, creating my art in a safe cocoon. School visits, conferences, booksigning events— those happenings were far from my mind.

Which is why, as I prepare to go to the Texas Library Association conference tomorrow, I’ve realized how much of a miracle the transformation of my life really is. I now do about forty school visits a year, have dinner with strangers and even throw my own parties (which will not be in a dark room and full of awkward silence, I promise)! Perhaps I’m not the most witty or most remarkable conversationalist (I will never be a stand-up comic), but the fact that I can now speak in intelligible sentences is an accomplishment I’m quite proud of. It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of meeting a new person filled me with dread and speaking in front of a crowd would make me one step away from suicidal.

This leaves me to say this: for any of you who dread school visits, talking about your work, or meeting people in general—YOU CAN DO IT! If I can do it, anyone can. If you want any pointers and you’re at TLA, just come up and ask me. I might even answer you back.


Anna Alter said...

Ha ha, its so true- art school prepares you for one thing: making art. Not the speaking, networking and other extraverted activities involved in selling books!

I think one reason for that is that in art school, people prize themselves on being different, outcasts, loner visionaries. Speaking about your work as a professional requires just the opposite- finding ways to connect the way that you are with the way other people are so they can understand your motivation and methods.

Its a hard leap to make, but Grace you've done it so beautifully!

Don Tate II said...

I look forward to meeting you, if you're still there on Friday. I'll be signing with Lee & Low Books, too.