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Every Author Needs a Few Props

It may sound silly, but it's true. If you are a presenting author, you need to have some props. This holds true for school and library presentations, book festivals, book signings, holiday fairs, and even larger speaking engagements.

It’s Too Easy to Look Normal.

We’ve all been to many events where the speaker, dressed in perfect business attire, takes the mic. You can often feel the drowsiness begin to creep into the room. Not so if the speaker is carrying (or wearing) something unusual. This is especially true for children's book authors. We can play dress up whenever we feel like it.

Gimmicky is Always Good.

Your props can be simple, but they need to be meaningful and eye catching. If your book takes place at a rodeo, wear a big ol’ cowboy hat. If your story takes place in a lighthouse, bring along a model of a lighthouse and maybe a pile of shells. If your book is about a dog, bring along a replica of the dog—or even the real pup. If your book is about a train, bring a few toy trains along, or perhaps a train whistle. Imagine the fun the children will have taking turns pushing the button to sound the whistle.

As an author of fairy books, I have worn fairy wings and an antenna to just about every event and speaking engagement I have attended over the last 10 years. On a few occasions, I even wrapped myself in twinkle lights. Other intriguing props that I bring along include the Knot Fairy’s lantern, the Freckle Fairy’s night goggles, and the Belly Button Fairy’s bucket of imaginary fairy dust. Of course—I always wear the Sock Fairy’s mismatched socks.

Children Love to Touch.

If you are presenting to a small group of children, you can be absolutely sure that they will enjoy coming up to touch the props at the end of the program. If you can bring along a stuffed animal that looks like the one in your book, the kids will love to touch it, real or not. If your story is about an unusual animal, such as a hedgehog, many of the children may not have seen a real one, so a toy hedgehog will still be exciting. If your story is about an insect, how exciting it is for children to see a real one!

One of my props when reading The Knot Fairy is a replica of her very own book titled How to Tie Knots in Hair. I often let the children line up and, one by one, draw their own version of a knot in the book.

Props Help Keep Their Attention

Props provide a unique way to keep the attention of young readers. Children are always amused as they anticipate what new things you might introduce at any time. For school visits, be sure to use your props in a meaningful way. Wearing a cowboy hat means nothing if it doesn’t tie into your story. Just carrying a guitar doesn’t add to your presentation, but using it to sing a song that relates to your story greatly enhances your visit.

Carry your props in an intriguing box or bag. Then bring them out one at a time, when they appear in your story. You will have the children’s complete attention. Even the grown-ups in the room will be entranced.

Make a Statement at Fairs and Festivals.

Be sure to wear—or display—some props at fairs and festivals. Your big ol’ cowboy hat, or fairy wings, or Santa hat will definitely attract attention and draw people to your booth. But be careful. You need just the right amount of props to enhance your booth and capture the attention of passersby, but don't overdo it. Too many toys and gadgets will take the attention away from you and your books and might give the impression that you are selling toys.

You Will be Remembered.

It’s definitely worth the effort to gather a few meaningful props together. I don’t think there is a story out there that doesn’t have something within it that will make a great prop.

Long after your audience has forgotten your face, they will still remember the crazy hat you were wearing, or the mismatched socks, or the glittery treasure chest, or the silly bunny ears, or the toy train that looked just the one in your book—and even whistled.

Don't be afraid to shine.

Put on that silly hat. People will love it. Props can make the difference between boring and being memorable. Besides, you only look silly when you look in the mirror!

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