Dawn of a New Adventure (Part 6)
Just did my third talk on drugs and prison to a school. In the previous talk, several female students started crying during excerpts from my upcoming book. So after the success of that one and the first talk, I swaggered into Ashford School in Kent expecting more of the same, but the beginning didn't work out as planned. I introduced myself, and started the jail story. I asked for a volunteer to read the first of the excerpts from my blog and upcoming book. In previous talks, many hands went up at this point from eager students willing to read. But on this occasion, I was met by a wall of silence. Many of them looked skeptical. Others seemed to be drifting off elsewhere. For a few seconds, I wondered what to do. Is it all about to go wrong? I thought. Then I asked the teacher who'd booked me to select someone to read. That stirred them up a bit, and each subsequent jail anecdote captured more of their attention, until I had them all on-board. In the Q&A session, endless hands went up, and as usual there wasn't enough time to answer all of the questions.
The teacher congratulated me at the end. A group of students kindly invited me to eat with them in the canteen, where they bombarded me with more questions. I told them I'd worried about how the talk was going at first. They explained that they get talks every two weeks. Mostly stuff that doesn't interest them. So they arrive at the talks ready to zone out. That was the atmosphere I'd detected at the beginning, but hadn't understood why. They said having the teacher pick readers had forced them to pay attention, and they'd quickly got hooked on my story after that. They said it was like something from a movie - The Shawshank Redemption was mentioned - but my presence made it real to them. One student said she'd seen Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Tent City on TV. I could see the impact of my story in the eyes of the students I was sat with, and that gave me a good feeling.
So what started out with resistance that led me to worry I was doing something wrong ended up a success. Today, I learned that every audience has its own character, and there may be forces at work on an audience that I shouldn't take personally.
I'm still buzzing from it all, and looking forward to my next talks in January.
I've got three radio interviews coming up, and details will be posted here soon.
Click here for Dawn of a New Adventure (Part 5)
Click here for details of my talk
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Shaun P. Attwood