Child’s Play – Performing for Children (Part One)

This article was first published in WQ August 2010 – a publication of the Queensland Writers Centre. I will be posting it to my blog as a 3-part series.

Part One – How to Establish Connection (Tuesday, 5 October)
Part Two – How to Maintain Interest (Tuesday, 12 October)
Part Three – Question Time (Tuesday, 19 October)




As a children’s author or illustrator, it is highly likely you will come into contact with kids. It may be at a book launch, a festival or in a classroom. As a favourite author or illustrator, kids will love to hear how you do what you do – and why, where, when.

Children like to feel a connection with the speaker, so it’s important to establish relationship – quickly. Once kids have connection, they will want to be in your session – and be willing and active participants throughout. Connected kids are engaged kids.

Of course, if they’ve been bookworms in your books, it’s likely that they already feel they know you – even own you. But you can’t assume they’ve read them. It’s your first task to interest and enthuse them.

How to Establish Connection:

●  Wow them:  Start with a personal anecdote – maybe an experience that inspired your story. In truth, the more embarrassing this anecdote is for you, the more it will appeal. But shocking, amazing, and familiar experiences also work well.

Since my writing is largely inspired by my rural life – which generally involves chaos and disaster – I start by introducing my hubby Felix (the cat with more than nine lives) and share some of his unbelievable-but-true escapades. (Felix isn’t ‘there’ in the flesh, of course – which is good, because I can say whatever I like about him. And kids love it!)

●  Act the part: Yes, you really do need to put on a performance. Be prepared to entertain with appearance, voice, content and props. Be bold!

Match your style of presentation to your genre/topic. If your writing is dark – don’t be too witty. (Though you can crack a joke.) If you write fast-paced stories – be lively in your presentation. If you write for young kids, wear bright, bold colours, with jaunty jewellery.






Kathryn Apel is a teacher and children’s author. Kat has attended author talks with her class and organised whole school (Prep to Yr 10) participation in the Curtis Coast Literary Carnivale. As an author, Kathryn has conducted talks face-to-face in schools and at writing events, and via Katherine School of the Air, and Eluminate Live online.

Kathryn is willingly available for author talks. Click on the Kat to School tab above – or on this link – for more information.


  1. Hi Kat,
    You forgot to mention singing! Maybe that’s in the next part 😉 Seriously, I love doing author sessions with children so I’m always interested to hear how others approach it. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to then next installment.


  2. Glad you found it helpful, Christie and Dee.

    Katrina, I would say that your singing would definitely come under ‘Wow them’. For me though… it wouldn’t really qualify. 🙂 More like ‘scare them away’!

    I agree – author visits are so much fun!


  3. Pingback: 24 October 2012 – Building a profile « Picture Books Only

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