Friday, February 15, 2019

More on writing this summer's Robot-ish show

So the basic story for this summer (at least I THINK this is what's going to happen, but things change as the show unfolds), is that there is an alien that crash lands and we have to help him return to his home planet. There are several tasks, each exemplifying one aspect of maker space educational concepts.

 So there's an artistic component, a coding component, and a component based on physical construction. Not that any of the children will (or even should) recognize the educational work behind the scenes. They should just realize that they are totally capable of rebuilding the spaceship and getting their new friend (alien puppet) back home in time for dinner.
Fortunately we live near League City, so there's lots of NASA geeks that live here and sell some pretty cool looking gadgets at their garage sales. A lot of this stuff I have no idea what it does, but for a dollar or two I'll pick it up in the hopes that I can at least use it as a cosmetic embellishment on some of the stuff I'll be doing.

I know I said that writing a show is the hardest work I do, and it is. But it's also pretty fun!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Writing the new show: Take Me to Your Readers

Without a doubt, the hardest work I do is writing a new show. Marketing and scheduling and travelling and bookkeeping and graphic design are all parts of my job that are boring, difficult, or just not fun, but WRITING a show is, by FAR, the most difficult work.

The goal is that I come in and every joke is funny. The goal is that there's never a dull moment. The kids are laughing hysterically, the adults are laughing at how much the kids are laughing, and no one realizes how much they are actually learning. Until it's all over, and they think back about the jokes and the puppets and the magic and it dawns on them that it was all a "mini-play," a theatrical experience that conveys a story, and stories are one of the easiest ways to learn things.

But the best stories are the hardest ones to write.

For me it's even more difficult because I have these other goals I add in about using puppets, using magic tricks, comedy for kids, comedy for adults, which books I want to talk about, and this year I'm incorporating some Maker-space concepts so I'm having to really learn some new skills as I literally have to build a robot for this show.

Keep tuned for updates. Right now I have to practice writing code for the Arduino that will be the "brain" for this robotic character in my show. Still working on a name for him...or her? Hmm, so much to think about.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

When Everybody Plays, We All Win

Does it reveal my biases that I already have a favorite commercial from this year's Superbowl and it's still more than 30 hours before kickoff?

Look, every now and then several factors overlap to give you something better than the sum of their parts. Beans: mmm, pretty good. Rice: not too bad. Rice & Beans: DELICIOUS!! So it is with a particular Superbowl commercial this year.

Without belaboring it, here are some of my passions & devotions that come together in this inspirational work of art. Yeah, I said that about a commercial.

I was a special education classroom teacher for almost ten years. For the past 15 years I have quietly volunteered my time as an entertainer for children at a monthly event that allows the parents an evening of respite while trained, compassionate volunteers take care of their children; children with physical, mental, and/or emotional challenges that most families never have to struggle with. So I am and have always been an advocate for children with these sorts of challenges.

I'm a gamer. I don't watch much TV at all, but I spend WAY TOO much screen time in Tamriel forging weaponsand armor that use as I rid the land of bandits and dragons. And when I'm not there, I'm in post-apocalyptic Boston or Washington DCeradicating the wastelands of raiders and super mutants. D&DOnline, pen-and-paper Pathfinder, sometimes I wonder if I spend more time in fantasy realms than in the real world!

And my degree is in Business with a heavy focus on Marketing. So I've always loved effective advertising. People love to complain about advertising, but that's because they are complaining about INEFFECTIVE advertising: when you are bombarded with stuff you don't want, need, or care about. Effective advertising is the opposite. We LOVE to hear about things we want, need, and care about. Clearly, the ad below is NOT relevant to most consumers. But I DARE you to watch and say you don't care.

Lastly, I happen to actually know one of the families in that story. I've known Owen since he was a little kid. I drink beer and watch football with his Dad. I've followed Owen through countless surgeries and emotional, fearful times. It's super exciting to see him as he becomes, sort of the face of Microsoft's new Adaptive Controller.

Anyway, here's the ad...

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

I also Present for Adult

Texas Author Julian Franklin speaking in Washington DC

This past weekend I was invited to lecture on two different topics at an international convention of children's entertainers. The event is called Kapital Kidvention and it brought in almost 400 face painters, body painters, magicians, clowns, balloon artists, jugglers, and puppeteers from all over the United States, Canada, Europe, and even Iceland! It's a particularly interesting convention for me because I was also invited to lecture at this event a decade ago the very first time the convention opened. Even though I don't speak publicly for entertainers any more, I felt a nostalgic sense of obligation to go back and see what it had become.

My head is still swimming with ideas I picked up. Whenever I wasn't speaking, I was sitting near the front row taking notes from the other speakers. It was an amazing collection of talent and I was both honored and humbled to get to be a part of the evening gala show with such world-famous performers as Silly Billy from New York City, Christopher T. Magician from greater Los Angeles area, and Duane Laflin and his wife Mary who have been headlining theater shows in Branson, Missouri for almost twenty years.

They were all amazing performances...but I was the only one with a puppet who can do magic tricks.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Magic Island Slated to Re-Open

The iconic “Magic Island” restaurant and live theater venue which first opened in the 1980s has been shuttered since 2008. However, all my magic buddies in Houston, and around the world really, are excited to hear that plans are underway (though slightly behind schedule now) to reopen the 10,000 square foot entertainment venue.

It would be difficult to count the number of times I've been to Magic Island. I used to go at least once every other week, usually every week. New acts were brought in twice a month and I made sure to go see every act that came through. Sometimes acts could only stay for a 1-week run and I'd go more often. Sometimes acts were so good that it was worth seeing them more than once.

I remember the food being good, but not great. However, the entertainment was well worth it all. Not only do you get the stage show that features world-class acts that you might otherwise never get to see outside of Las Vegas (where the tickets would cost 3X what dinner at Magic Island will run you).

On top of that, you get to see some amazing close-up magic. We magicians categorize the type of magic we do and “close-up” means exactly what it sounds like. It's magic that happens not on a stage, or in a large box, but rather, right in front of your eyes, and some times LITERALLY in your own hands. Cards, coins, tiny colored balls just larger than a marble, scraps of paper, and pieces of rope or string are transformed into the makings of miracles.

Keep your eyes and ears open for more information about the imminent re-opening date and then make plans to visit. You won't be disappointed.

Here's a link to a news article about Magic Island Houston Reopening.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Resolution Traditions in Our Family

I'm not overly fond of the usual “New Years Resolutions” process. The whole thing has become sort of a caricature of itself. The idea has spawned far more jokes than it has success stories, in part because it is based on poorly constructed ideas about goal setting that are implemented in poorly constructed ways by people who are not always particularly motivated to actually pursue or accomplish the goals/resolutions.

But, aside from the faults of making a half-hearted promise on January 1st to stick to a year-long commitment, I am still a big believer in goal-setting, and I think that New Year's is a great time to sit down and get serious about it; so much so that in our house, it has become something of a family tradition.

Usually it doesn't happen EXACTLY on January 1st, but it almost always happens within the first week of the new year. We discuss basic goals, and help each other refine them a bit, all in preparation of the “ritual” we have. You see, by that time the Christmas tree has gotten to the point that it's time for us to get rid of it. But rather than have the waste management company throw it into the landfill, we chop it up and burn it in a little camp fire in our back yard.

This “Burning of the Yule Log,” as we call it, is when we sit around and tell each other about our finalized goals for the new year. We can share as many or as few as we want, but everyone at the campfire (friends, neighbors, and distant cousins included) is strongly encouraged to share at least one, so that we develop some accountability. Usually there are financial goals, fitness goals, organizational goals, relationship goals, travel goals, and all sorts of goals that are more difficult to categorize.

One of mine, for example is to be more consistent with creating social media content including blog entries like this one, videos for my YouTube channel, and actually spending LESS time on my personal Facebook page and MORE time on my professional FB page.

Side note: The last book I wrote was finished the year before I got on FB. I don't think it's coincidence that I haven't finished a book since I started posting on FB! I've told my wife many times: If I'm ever going to write another book, I'm going to either have to get more disciplined about FB or shut it down.

Friday, December 28, 2018

More Kind Words about My Winter Festivals Show

I know, I know. I started blogging in 2006 (12 years ago!). But then stopped for almost 2 full years. Now, suddenly, I'm back at it, and I'm posting like every other day. But when you are self-employed life is like a roller coaster when it comes to time and money. Some months I'm so busy I can't think, and other months I don't have enough work to buy a cup of coffee.

So, I've decided to use my free time to get back into writing more. More blogging, I'm also going to do more video, since that seems to be a popular medium. And this blog post will be using both. Here's a short clip of a teacher who saw the very last Texas school assembly show I did this year. It was a show I do called "Arctic Express" and it's about all the holidays people celebrate during the winter time.

For more videos, testimonials, funny clips of my shows, etc. be sure to visit my YouTube channel.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Kind Words about "Arctic Express" (my show about winter festivals)

Because of the way the holidays fell this year, the last day of school assembly shows for me was just 2 days before Christmas Eve. So our family was feeling a little rushed to get everything settled, bought, wrapped, etc. before our scheduled trips to see all the family.

Now, here I am, AFTER Christmas and things have settled down a little bit, so I had time to edit and post a few videos of some things clients this year had to say about my show, The Arctic Express. The show is a multicultural exploration of all the winter holidays people celebrate around the world.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Kids Say the Funniest Things!

Texas author Julian Franklin performing as a train engineer.
One of the educational school assemblies I do is a show about all the winter festivals the people celebrate around the world: Diwali, Thanksgiving, Ramadan (not always in the winter but I include it), Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, New Year and, of course, Christmas.

At one point in the show I talk about Chris VanAllsburg's book, The Polar Express. I say, "The boy knows he can have any gift he wants. But all he a bell."

A girl on the second row yelps out "I know Isabel!"

I've been doing this show for 14 seasons now and I have to admit, this one caught me off guard. It took me until that moment in the NEXT show before I even realized what she was talking about. I totally heard it as it came out of my mouth, and now I can't NOT hear it. But I've been doing this show for so long, it is hard for me to change the script in my head.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

What's all the rage about video?

Okay, listen: I'm NOT a Luddite! I'm no technophile, but I'm not a technophobe either. I'm rarely "cutting edge" or "new introducer," but I'm usually in front of the 50% curve...usually.

Or not.

Anyway, the point is that I haven't written a blog entry is almost TWO YEARS! Do you know what 2 years is? It's 14 dog years! My dog could almost be driving a car by now! My head hurts.

So people always call the office phone (next blog entry about how we're about to cut the land line once and for all) to ask questions about which of my fifteen educational school assembly shows would be best for their Texas author visit. While I love talking to my clients, I'm usually out performing assembly programs and can't answer the phone. Even when my wife is at home answering the phone and booking summer library shows or school author visits she doesn't always have the time to engage in a lengthy discussion about every single show I do.

We have a teenage daughter living at home! And your school districts are requiring ever more paperwork from us, so, please, cut us some slack, okay? I'm sorry. Did I say that out loud?

Anyway, I finally joined the 21st century and actually recorded and uploaded some YouTube videos describing my various shows. I'll be blogging (I hope) more frequently and will include links to descriptions of all the shows I do. So you can hear it straight from this horse's mouth (most folks accuse me of talking out of my...never mind, but it IS related to a horse).

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cross Selling in the Library

A couple of years ago in our family we instituted a rule where we were not allowed to see a movie based on a book unless we had read the book. The idea was spawned several years ago when I first started doing a presentation on author craft and style and how to elaborate. In the show I use a lot of award winning books as examples of great writing and I noticed something interesting.

Virtually all the children were familiar with both the movie and the book version of Chris VanAllsburg's "The Polar Express," as well as both the book and movie versions of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But almost no one knew that Shreck is a book by Caldecott winning author William Steig. Similarly not many children were familiar with the fact that Jumanji, Zathura, Bridge to Terabithia, and a host of other very popular movie titles began as great books.

So in my show "Set Sail" I talk about how to become a great writer by reading the works of other great writers. We discuss using interesting words, dialog, implying so that readers can make inferences, the use of similes and metaphors, and the use of adjectives and adverbs to bring writing to life.

But, by design, all the books I chose are award winning books and many (but not all) of them have been made into movies. My goal was not only to improve the writing of children, but also to inspire them to find out about the books that gave rise to some of their favorite movies.

The books always reveal a bit more of the story than a movie ever can. My hope is that I can turn on a few borderline readers and inspire them to grab a book in which they already know how the story ends and read it from cover to cover anyway.

So the next time someone checks out the video of "Bridge to Terabithia," be sure to mention that it is also available as a Newbery winning chapter book.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Wearing Pajamas to Work

Performer wearing pajamas
One of the best things about doing my Chris VanAllsburg tribute show is that I get to wear pajamas to work.

This picture shows how comfortable I get to dress, how much fun I have doing my version of "work," and it might hint at how much fun the students are having while we learn about author craft and style through the works of a great American artist.

Unfortunately, it also captures how much I enjoyed eating over the holidays and has inspired me to double down on my upcoming New Year's Resolutions.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Kids are Funny

A book titled "Cat Speak"
Saw this book in another school and had to add it to this post!
A boy and a girl were in the library while I was setting up this AM.

Me: Do you speak any languages other than English?

Girl: English, Japanese, and a little bit of Spanish.

Boy: English...and I make cat noises.

Me: 'Cat Language'?

Boy (with total sincerity): Yes.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Can I Borrow a Pencil?

Okay, this is not my joke, but it's so funny I had to share it. It starts with a funny meme that was circulating and then someone added a few extra bits.

Student: Can I borrow a pencil?

Teacher: I don't know. Can you?

Student: Yes. I might add that colloquial irregularities occur frequently in any language. Since you and the rest of our present company understood perfectly my intended meaning, being particular about the distinctions between “can” and “may” is purely pedantic and arguably pretenttious.

Teacher: True, colloquialism and the judicious interpretation of context help us communicate with nuance, range, and efficiency. And yet, as your teacher, my job is to teach you to think about language with care and rigor. Understanding the shades of difference between one word and another, and to think carefully about what you want to say will give you greater power and versatility in your speech and writing.

Student: Point taken. May I have a pencil?

Teacher: No, you may not. We do not have pencils since the state cut funding for education again this year.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Marketing with Posters

I love when libraries use the FREE promotional materials we provide!
We always send out several full-sized posters to every school and library that books one of our assemblies. Not everyone uses them, but the ones that do seem to have great attendance.

Sometimes selling "free" services can be harder than selling things for a fee. Non-profits can learn from the private sector how to let your patrons know what's happening in your LMC.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ride Your Bike to Work Week

Load in for "The Know Show" game show assembly
Next week is national Ride Your Bike To Work Week. I love cycling but today I traveled 112.8 miles round trip and THIS was my load in for my shows. I'm not sure I could handle this on my mountain bike.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Half-Day School Assemblies near S. Padre Island

I only had two shows today so I was done in time for lunch on South Padre Island. Now for a little swim...or do I have to wait 20 minutes?

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Happy Birthday to Jan Brett

Happy Birthday, Jan Brett. Thanks for bringing so much fun to story time for my daughter when she was younger.