Career Day at Heritage Intermediate

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend Career Day at Heritage Intermediate School — and I had a blast. It was a banner day for me in so many ways. First, I love the opportunity to talk to my readers. But more than that, the Career Day was my first in person appearance after publishing 7th Grade Revolution … in fact, it was my first in person event in over a year and a half.

Let me explain …

I have basically been confined to the house for the last year and a half because while I had my leukemia and lymphoma in remission, it slipped back into an active state. While active, my immune system is compromised, and the targeted therapy course I am on to stabilize the cancer also suppresses the immune system. In other words, any little bug floating around that wasn’t enough to keep the kid home from school, could potentially put me in the hospital because I have no resources to fight sickness. My blood values on the cancer have been stable for several months, so we decided the Career Day was a good opportunity to test the immune system boosters I’ve been going through for the past five months — properly protected, of course.

Many of the kids who came to my table were at first confused by what jobs I was there representing. I expected them to be. As I cannot go out in a public setting without wearing a face mask and (if potential for contact is present) gloves, I decided to dress to theme and wear scrubs. So some kids thought I was a doctor or a nurse while others thought I might be a vet because I had Sergio with me — which was the goal. Why? So when they questioned what job I had, or made an assumption, it reminded me to talk about the leukemia and how they should follow their dreams/passions no matter the obstacle. It was also a subtle reminder to them not to “judge a book by its cover.” 🙂

Here are a few of my observations/remembrances from the day and some of the questions I was asked:

  • All the kids I spoke with were fantastic. They had a “passport” to collect stamps from each of the presenter tables they went to. They quickly learned the question of “stamp my paper?” would be declined until we had talked a bit.
  • If you give me a marker in the morning, by the day’s end I will have marker on my face.
  • The event was well organized and flowed smoothly.
  • Is it real? (while pointing at Sergio, my stuffed sloth) was one of the most frequently asked questions of the day.
  • Some of the other questions were:
    • How many books have you written? (10 with about 20 in the pipeline)
    • What is the favorite book you’ve written? (Tough question as I love all my work, but Speak No Evil (2019 Young Adult) because I love the concept of communicating through music instead of words)
    • What is 7th Grade Revolution about? (Synopsis here)
    • Where do you get your ideas? (Twitter — for 7th Grade Revolution and The Star Warriors and the Secret of the Red Key (Homeless Myths Series), dreams — Misfit McCabe series, characters popping up and talking to me — The Journal of Angela Ashby (Fall 2018) and Speak No Evil, life experience.)
    • Why do you like writing? and Why do you write? (Because getting lost in the worlds of my characters consumes me and the characters in my head won’t let me be until I write their stories.)
    • How much schooling did it take for your job? (For me? I didn’t have any specific schooling for the jobs I have. I took college courses to be a teacher. But for the System Analyst job there is a Bachelor of Science degree (4 years) most companies want, and for writing there is a Masters of Fine Arts degree(5-6 years). I have taken creative writing courses through adult education and studied my craft through books and articles on the internet for writing. Ultimately, by following your passions and learning as much as you can about them, the jobs will find you.)
    • What is a System Analyst or Process Analyst? (I look at what the people in my company do, how they are doing it, review our system capabilities and identify the gaps, then make recommendations for bridging the gaps and/or build a tool to bridge the gap for the immediate term)
    • Is it contagious? on learning I have leukemia (No, it is a cancer of the blood and cannot be shared)
    • Do you get writer’s block and how do you get rid of it? (Not very often, but when I do it’s because I’m missing something. Ways to combat it are to go for a walk, listen to music, and spend time with my characters.)
    • What inspired you to write? (Reading, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and the stories won’t leave me alone until I write them.)
    • How long have you been doing your job? (System Analyst/Process Efficiency Expert – 23 years, Writing … since I was 9 — when I began a terrible book — but finished my first novel at age 23, which went on to win a teen choice award in Toronto.)
    • Can I touch it? meaning Sergio (Yes)
  • The energy of the event carried me through the day. I love talking about what I do. And seeing the kids eyes light up when I described what happens in 7th Grade Revolution or how the Timmy and the Golden Lion Tamarin books bring awareness to endangered species as well social issues kept me going.
  • My voice managed to hold up throughout all the sessions, although today I’m croaking like a frog. 😉

Even though tired by the end of the event, I was able to make the drive home fueled by the energy from the kids. And I cannot wait to go back for their book fair in April. On the way home, Sergio decided my mask makes a better hat. 😀

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