Author: “Wait until your brain calms down”

“What if you didn’t have a Switch? »

Horrified gasps filled the air in the Jefferson Elementary School gymnasium as first and second graders imagined life without their beloved handheld video game device.

“What if you didn’t have an iPad? »

More gasps.

Author Laurel Snyder sued.

“Or a computer?

This time the gasps were followed by low whispers. What kind of dystopian society did this woman grow up in?

Next, Snyder asked what they could do to pass the time without these devices.

“To get on my bike.”

“Playing with friends.”

“To dance.”

“To design.”

And, finally, the answer she was waiting for: “Read a book.

Snyder loved to read books as a child. She would borrow 10 books from the library at the start of the weekend and finish them all by the end.

Author Laurel Snyder dances to illustrate a point and entertain the students.Photo by Vickie Moss/Iola Registry

But without books to read or computers to distract her, she would be bored.

And when she was bored, that’s when the magic happened.

“Your brain gets to that place where it’s a blank sheet of paper. You feel like your brain is not doing anything,” she said. “But what happens is your brain wakes up.”

She lay on the floor of her bedroom and stared at a crack in the ceiling. Soon crack became a dragon. A hungry dragon who loved pizza.

Thus began Snyder’s love of storytelling.

She is now the published author of 25 children’s books, both chapter books and picture books.

She visited seven area schools on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the Visiting Authors program. The program is made possible by a grant from the Helen Gates Whitehead Trust.

SNYDER discussed his writing career with K-5 students in an interactive and highly engaging way.

She asked questions that the crowd was eager to answer, such as “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

She told them about a time when she was young and sad, when her parents divorced. She shared the story of the discovery of magic and storytelling. She told them about her best friend, Susan, and how they wrote books together by fashioning little pieces of paper together. She even showed them one of those tiny old books.

Laurel Snyder speaks with students at Jefferson Elementary School Tuesday morning as part of the Visiting Author Program. Photo by Vickie Moss/Iola Registry

She and Susan were afraid that if they shared their books with anyone they would be laughed at. Eventually they gathered their nerves and showed a teacher.

Everyone has at least one special teacher, Snyder said. Someone who supports and inspires them.

This particular teacher not only insisted that the girls read the book to their class, but she was smart enough to do it in a way that no one would laugh at them. She told the class that there would be a test on the material, so the students paid close attention and took it seriously.

They had written a book, the girls realized.

“What made it into a book?” Snyder asked Jefferson students.

After a series of guesses, Snyder told them the answer: “Somebody read it.”

HE TOOK years to publish his first book, Snyder told the students.

She sent her story to editor after editor, until an editor responded with a thoughtful letter and advice: She needed to make her characters stronger.

She did, and eventually her first book, “Up and Down the Scratchy Mountain”, was published.

This led to an important lesson, which Snyder had the students repeat.

“Thank you very much for these helpful comments.”

Instead of being hurt when someone gives you advice or criticism, see it as an opportunity to improve yourself, she said.

Author Laurel Snyder speaks with first and second graders at Jefferson Elementary School as part of the Iola Reads Author Visiting Program. Snyder visited students at seven area schools on Tuesday and Wednesday.Photo by Vickie Moss/Iola Registry

She encouraged students to tell their stories, especially their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Children don’t usually get the opportunity to tell the stories,” she said. “If children can tell the stories, 100 years from now we will be reading about what it was like for children to experience the pandemic.”

After a question and answer session, Snyder reminded the students of the importance of boredom.

“You have to turn off your brain and wait for your brain to calm down.”

That’s when the magic happens.

SNYDER’s books include “Orphan Island”, “Charlie and Mouse”, “Bigger than a Breadbox”, and “Swan, the Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova”.

Students had the opportunity to purchase some of his books, which were delivered prior to the visit.

Lola R. McClure