7:30 BELLS: Guest Post by author Laurie Ann Thompson

I'm so pleased to introduce 7:30 BELLS readers to Laurie Ann Thompson, my new friend and author of two wonderful non-fiction books for kids. Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters, and Emmanuel's Dream.

I recently did an author visit with two classes of sixth graders for their Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) unit on teen activism. I normally plan to speak for about 40 minutes and save the last 20 minutes for questions. For the first time, I ran out of things to say only 20 minutes in. I still can’t figure out what happened: did I skip a section, talk too fast, what? I was in a little bit of a panic when I realized I had 40 minutes left to fill and no plan for keeping 50 hungry 11-year-olds focused on the topic (it was right before lunch!). I decided to open it up to questions in the middle, which would give me time to frantically try to figure out what to say for the last 20 minutes.

Fortunately, the kids were awesome. Engaged and interested throughout, they had a TON of serious, insightful questions. We had meaningful discussions about being a changemaker, about reading, about writing, and about how the three overlap and enhance each other. Lo and behold, we used up all of our time! Despite its lack of structure, it was one of the best visits I’ve ever had, and I’m still feeling a little bit high from it.

The truth is I always feel like I’m walking on air after a presentation. As I told those kids, that never ceases to amaze me! When I was contemplating switching careers to become an author, one thing terrified me more than anything else—public speaking—and I’d do just about anything to avoid it. Toward the end of my senior year of high school, the administration posted our GPAs. I was one of the top in my class, which meant I’d have to give a speech at graduation. I nearly failed my last semester of Spanish—after having gotten As for four years straight—in a desperate attempt to end up third in my class. Success! No speech.

At that point, my main goal was to not be noticed. I lived in constant fear of making a mistake, terrified of failure. I avoided doing anything I wasn’t already sure I was good at. No one could find out I was a fraud, that I wasn’t really as smart as they all said I was. I played it safe and stuck to what I knew. That is no way to be a changemaker. In fact, it’s no way to live.

Of course, life has a way of changing us. Since then I’ve been put in situations that were way outside my comfort zone. Each time, successful or not, my comfort zone expanded. Succeeding at or even just surviving something I thought was out of reach is the best high there is. The bells ring for me when I’ve pushed myself to do something I never thought I could. That rush of adrenaline tells me I’m alive and growing, and that’s the best feeling there is.

Laurie Ann Thompson writes for children and young adults to help her readers—and herself—make better sense of the world we live in so we can contribute to making it a better place. She strive to write nonfiction that gives wings to active imaginations and fiction that taps into our universal human truths. She believes that each of us is capable of doing amazing things once we discover our passion, talent, and purpose. Thompson's books are: Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters, and Emmanuel's Dream, both Junior Library Guild Selections. My Dog Is the Best, is coming soon.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on April 14 for a guest post with the wonderful children's author Dave Patneaude.