Monday, July 31, 2006

Summer of 2003 at the Library Changed My Life

Lately I've been posting about how Summer Reading Club in Texas has impacted my life. In 2003 the theme was "Mission Possible: Spy a Book". I wrote a show called "TOP SECRET" a show about reading and World Geography.

It was a lot of fun to write, especially creating all the "spy" marketing and promotional materials. The show itself was very fun to put together and, like ALL the shows I create, I learn a lot not just in the writing of the show, but also in the performing.

In my programs, kids ask questions or make comments and, quite frankly, I don't always know the answers. So I have to go study and research more before I present again. It pushes me to learn new things. I like that.

2003 was also the year that I really began reading a lot of children's literature. I've rediscovered the joy of reading fiction again. I am a voracious reader, usually consuming 50+ full-sized non-fiction print books each year and another 40-50 audio books each year. Almost all my reading is non-fiction and I really enjoy it.

But there is something nostalgic about sitting down and reading (usually in a single evening, and often times in just an hour or less) a fiction novel written for a middle school student. If you doubt this for even a moment I highly recommend you visit your local library and check out any book by Gary Paulsen. As a sailor I particularly liked "The Frog", but I also enjoyed all the other books of his I've read.

I also now read about 100 or so books written for elementary age children, which can be read in about 5-20 minutes each, so that's no real accomplishment, but there are some that have brought a tear to my eye including "Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man" by David A. Adler. The pictures are simple, but when combined with the story, you can't help but get a little choked up at the end.

In fact, you can read the blog post I wrote about Lou Gehrig earlier this summer.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Summer of 2002 at the Library Changed my Life

In 2002 I presented my very first performance at a public library. Prior to that time I was a teacher in public schools here in Texas and did some magic shows at birthday parties and such on the weekends. My first show was "The Wild West Reading Show" and in it I taught the audience about the value of reading while also covering some basic points in Texas History.

The result was that both I and my wife would stop working as school teachers and devote our full time to our performance business within just a few months.

From the 75 or so library programs that I delivered my first summer in the business I began getting phone calls from school librarians, principals, PTA/PTO leaders, and other school officials who wanted to bring me into the public schools to motivate, educate, and inspire their students.

From there it was like an atomic chain reaction.

I got approval from my principal to take a few days off and do these three schools who wanted me to work for them. But at the end of each of those days, there were two, three, sometimes FIVE messages from other schools who had heard about me from the officials at the school where I was that day and they wanted to book me for THEIR school.

I went back to my principal and talked to him about it and asked if it was okay for me to use a few more of my sick days to help these other schools.

"They are your sick days. You use them however you want." He told me.

So I always arranged my own substitute in advance and went and did these additional shows. But each of them led to several others and before long my sick days were gone (I had 40 at the beginning of the year saved up from previous years), and I was still getting calls to the tune of one or two a week wanting to book me.

My business has continued to explode every year since then and I still end up booking shows 12 - 24 months in advance, almost all of it as a direct result of the word of mouth of my loyal customers and clients.

That's how the summer reading club of 2002 "Read Across Texas" changed my life.

Over the next few days I'll post about how the other years' have also altered my life. In the meantime, if you want to check out the shows that I wrote for each one of these year's programs, visit my Library School Assembly Programs page.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Summer Reading Club Makes Me a Better Person

Every year I write a new show for public libraries in Texas. I tie it into the theme for the summer reading club for that year and write it so that it promotes the summer reading club as a summer activity as well as promoting the very act of reading for pleasure. It is critical to teach children early on the joy of reading. If children associate reading only with laborious school work, they will NEVER learn to read for pleasure.

And I am very big on inspiring children to read for pleasure. Children who read for pleasure score higher on standardized tests, they have fewer discipline problems, and are more successful academically. Not to mention that all the great knowledge of our time and times past is held in books, most of which are absolutely FREE at the local library.

Excuse me, while I step down off this soap box before I hurt myself.

The purpose of this post was to make note of the fact that every year I present my new show it affects me in a minor, but significant way. And, no, "minor" and "significant" are NOT mutually exclusive as I'll demonstrate with examples from my life.

…Starting with a post in two days. Come back and visit then. Find out how each of the following summer reading programs at Texas Libraries have literally changed my life in powerful, but (usually) very unobtrusive ways:

2002 Read Across Texas
2003 Mission Possible: Spy a Book
2004 Color Your World - Read

2005 Go Wild! - Read
2006 Reading: The Sport of Champions

Friday, July 21, 2006

Booking Two Years in Advance

I'm already getting bookings for 2008 and we aren't even through July of 2006 yet. My 2007 is filling up really fast and it isn't that uncommon for clients to reserve a date on my calendar two years out.

Of course, this gets everyone into a frenzy!

My clients start worrying they need to book two years out. My competitors think I have some sort of ninja mind control. And those who don't know me and happen upon my site think that I've misprinted the dates on my calendar.

None of these is true.

Unless you have a very specific date in mind, you usually do not have to book two years out (though it does lock you in against any price increases). For most of my clients nine to twelve months advanced booking is all that is required, so don't worry.

However, even that can be deceptive. Three weeks ago I booked three additional events for THIS summer. Three dates in a very full schedule.

One was a program that had to cancel due to the floods that occurred last month here in Houston, TX (you probably saw some of that on the news). Another was a charity event that I do each year performing for children with special needs while their parents enjoy an evening of respite (that one is tonight!). Since I spent 8 years as a teacher in a Special Ed. Classroom I felt a calling when they asked and I've been back every year since.

The last was a library that had an unknown conflict with another community event and had only 2 people show up for the summer reading program. I performed a special show for those two kids but rescheduled to come back into town to do my real program when we had a full audience. We found a hole in my schedule and I did the show for free.

So, my schedule fills. Be sure not to dally around. But don't feel that you have to book 2008 just yet, unless you have a particular need. Bridge City wanted to be sure to get me for their kick off since 2008 is the 50th anniversary of the Texas Reading Club, summer reading program. They also missed out on the 2007 date they wanted because Wednesday mornings go fast. If you want to make sure I am at YOUR library for a specific date, then go ahead and reserve. Otherwise, relax, enjoy the summer, and just figure out when you want me in '07!

--Julian Franklin

P.S. Some of you might be wondering why I would do a show for free. Is he an idiot? Is he just so incredibly benevolent that he won't accept the money? No. On both accounts.

I collected my fee once, but I am not going to take library funds to perform a show for two kids. This is actually a very SELFISH decision. I know that if I can promote the reading club in a way that increases attendance, boosts participation, and bumps up circulation, then I end up getting to come back. This means I need to do whatever it takes to make YOUR library program a success. From free full-color, full-sized posters, to sending out mailings to MY list at MY expense telling them to come see me at YOUR event, to refusing payment for a show that only has two kids in the audience. If YOU are not a success, then I am not a success.

P.P.S. When I returned to that library we had over sixty kids in attendance, which was one of her largest showings in this small community. It was worth driving out there twice.

P.P.P.S. My schedule is posted on line at

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What's up with Cell Phones in the Gym?

This post has nothing at all to do with my life as a professional school show performer, but I had to get this off my chest.

Why would anyone spend their time in the gym sitting on a weight bench talking on their cell phone? Can you not find a better place to carry on a conversation than a crowded weight room? Maybe you don't really want to work out anyway and the phone is a convenient distraction? I can't imagine anyone being so subservient that they can not arrange to have even 30-60 minutes (at 5 AM no less!) to finish a work out uninterrupted.

I also work as a consultant to other performing artists, and I write regular columns in two different industry trade journals where I have advocated staying accessible to your customers, clients, and prospects. I even write a free e-newsletter every other week where I discuss (among other things) how to available to your people. Cell phones are one great way to do this. I even wrote an article that's posted on my web site about this very thing and in it I stress that being connected does NOT mean being available 24/7.

You have to have family time, bathroom time, and occasionally time at the gym and these need to be done WITHOUT cell phone conversations.

There, I feel much better now.

--Julian Franklin

Sunday, July 09, 2006

You asked for it!

I had three people e-mail me asking why I didn't include a picture of me dancing with my daughter. So, if you really want to see what I look like dancing ballet, I decided to go pull out a photo from just over ten years ago.

Yes, this really is me. A head full of hair, thin face, and athletic build. A lot can happen in ten years!

People ask if my ballet experience as the lead danseur with The Woodlands Civic Ballet has any relevance to my current role as a school show presenter and motivational children's performer.

On the surface, no. I mean, I don't dance in my library reading programs. I don't even script much movement into my educational assembly programs, even my Sport of Champions program which is about mental and physical training as well as some fun math concepts.

But it is relevant. I was never schooled in dance as a child and didn't get into ballet until I was out of college. But I went in with a hungry quest for knowledge and within just a few years was the lead danseur and stayed the lead until I left a few years later.

An example of how we can do almost anything we decide to do as long as we are willing to pay the price necessary to get there.

--Julian Franklin

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Father Daughter Dance Recital

We just got back from a fun family vacation in the Texas Hill Country. I always enjoy spending time there and we were lucky enough to encounter a very rare cool front that brought the day time temperatures down to 78 degrees F.

So, things have been so busy with summer library programs and getting ready for the trip that I didn't get a chance to write about our recent Father-Daughter dance recital.

Madeleine is such an amazing girl. She loves ballet and is really quite good at it. She just turned four less than two months ago but her teacher wants to put her in the class with 5-7 year olds.

I always said I would never be one of those parents who thought that their kid was the smartest, fastest, most beautiful gift the earth had ever recieved. My wife and I made a pact on it, in fact.

And then, as fate would have it, our dauther actually IS the smartest, fastest, most beautiful gift the earth has ever recieved.

You may wonder where I am in the picture. This is from her solo. You aren't missing anything good.