Today, I'm giving a recap of an experience I had while on author tour. I hope you enjoy the story.
People often ask me what’s it like doing author tours.
“Do you enjoy travelling?” they will ask. “You must have so much fun. It must be wonderful.”
And of course it is. Touring the country, meeting your young fans, talking about books, performing and entertaining and making people happy is amazing. There’s nothing quite like it and it’s the author dream we all have and all hold dear to our hearts.
But it’s not all a bed of roses. In between getting to those uplifting events where kids are clamouring for your autograph, I think any seasoned author will tell you that organising and conducting a tour requires an incredible amount time, energy and commitment. School visits don’t just happen.
And I’m not just talking about the work that goes into it from the presenter’s point of view.
Have you ever stopped to think about the incredible amount of time and energy it takes a busy teacher-librarian on top of their ordinary day to organise an author visit? They are often the unsung heroes in day in day out. We, as presenters, receive the applause and accolades. The TLs rarely get a thank you. In future Greenleaf Press Newsletter, we’ll be trying to share some information from the point of view of some of the amazing TLs we work with.
For now, here’s a snippet of what was involved from the author’s point of view to get me on the ground on the NSW South Coast/ACT recently. The day went something like this…
I have four children, three of whom attend school. The three-year-old, Finn, is at home with me most of the time as he’s only in daycare two days a week. I do an awful lot of my work with him sitting on my lap.
After the school drop off, I worked at my desk then took Finn out to run some errands, collect the mail from the post office and buy a Batman Superhero outfit (for Finn not me). We then came home, had lunch, vacuumed. Then it was time for me to do more work at my desk. With Finn on my lap. Again.
Finn will read, draw (usually scribbling over my To-Do-List) and watch YouTube videos on my lap. He’s great at swiping that screen.
At two-thirty, my husband left work early and came home to take Finn and distract him from the fact that I was leaving. It’s always a tearful farewell. Not just for my husband but for Finn as well (jokes). Separation anxiety is the worst thing for a mother!
I did a radio interview at 3pm, got changed, threw my suitcases into the back of the car. Then I drove an hour to Brisbane airport so I could catch a plane to Canberra.
In fact, I wasn’t trying to get to Canberra in the first instance. I actually had to get to the NSW South Coast – Moruya to be specific – before I would then return to Canberra for school, library and writers’ centre talks for the rest of the week.
Getting from the QLD Sunshine Coast to the NSW South Coast isn’t easy. Australia is a huge country and flights to smaller places aren’t always straightforward. The quickest way, which wasn’t quick at all, was to drive an hour to Brisbane then fly to Canberra then drive another two hours to the South Coast.
When I reached Brisbane Airport, I parked my car at AIRPARK then caught the shuttle to the terminal. I checked in, went through the scanners then set up in the airport doing work on my laptop while enjoying some Vietnamese rice paper rolls. Yum.
I waited and worked some more (the plane was delayed) then finally boarded the plane and set out to Canberra. The plane landed at 9pm, I waited for my luggage to finally appear then scurried out of the airport only to discover that it was zero degrees outside. Yikes!
That’s quite a shock to the system for a Queenslander wearing sandals. I layered myself up in every item of clothing I’d brought with me, which wasn’t a lot because books are heavy and they take up most of my luggage allowance.
Here’s a mental picture of the glamorous (not) author for you: Summery blue floral print pants, black shirt, black bolero jacket, long burgundy wavy pattern coat over the top and a blue check print scarf. Oh, and white sandals.
Thankfully, there weren’t any people ahead of me at the car hire counter. I’m not a fan of lines. I took the keys and headed to the hire car in the carpark, spotting Kim Beazley along the way then headed off. Brush with fame!
Of course, when you’re on author tour, I’d suggest that you always be prepared to expect the unexpected.
I’d never driven the road from Canberra to Moruya before – especially not in the thick of night – and I soon discovered that there’s lots of fog in that part of the world. In some places, the fog was so thick that I couldn’t see more than five metres in front of the car and I had to drive very, very slowly.
There were animals on death-wishes running across the road in front of me and then, well, then I hit the multitude of hairpin bends coming down from the mountains to the coast. I don’t think I’ve ever navigated so many hairpins in my life.
To top it off, the radio reception was scratchy, sometimes non-existent, and because my mobile is with Vodafone, there was absolutely no phone coverage. I was on SOS for ages.
At one point, I was laughing to myself at the state of my situation. Thank goodness my car didn’t break down. The things I get myself into…
Note to self: If you don’t like driving, you really shouldn’t do regional author tours.
By the time I arrived at my room, it was 11:40pm and not surprisingly I was wired from the nine hours of travel, the last two hours of which were spent tightly gripping my steering wheel through thick fog and winding roads. I eventually fell asleep at one am and was up again by seven-thirty preparing for the big day ahead.
The day was awesome, by the way, they usually are. The rest of the week I spent in Canberra was also wonderful and I connected with so many children and authors.
Being on author tour is always, always worth it and it's also always an adventure. Like I said, be prepared for anything!