Ceramic Stories E-Book Launch

Excited to announce that I have a new e-book for sale! Ceramic Stories: Storytelling & Gardening Workshops

On a white background an image of terra cotta pots in bright paints on top of a table. Brushes, open cans, and scrap paper can also be seen around the project. Above and below the image the title and subtitle are situated in a handwriting like font.

On a white background an image of terra cotta pots in bright paints on top of a table. Brushes, open cans, and scrap paper can also be seen around the project. Above and below the image the title and subtitle are situated in a handwriting like font.

This text is a step-by-step guide to the Ceramic Stories I program I run over the summer. It’s a program that combines sensory play, nature play, and storytelling! Below is the introduction from the e-book.

Introduction

In the winter of 2017 I was at an open mic at Word Up Books in Washington Heights. The host encouraged us to chat with our neighbors during the set-up and their gregarious energy coupled with the free wine convinced me that perhaps I should, in fact, chat with my neighbor.

I was sitting next to the Community Engagement Manager for the New York Restoration Project (NYRP). I hadn’t heard of the organization before so we chatted about their work creating and maintaining community gardens around the city. Conversation eventually turned to what I did for work, so I talked about the poetry workshops I was running at Rebecca School.

At the end of the open mic we talked more and they mentioned that NYRP was looking for new programs. Would I be interested in bringing my workshops into one of their gardens? 

Of course I was! 

Community garden tucked between tall New York City buildings. In the foreground can be seen pavers marking a path, benches, compost bin, rain bucket, and array of trees and bushes. The side fencing of the garden is painted teal with red, poppy flowers painted eye level. Above are hung red and white cloud-human figures from a recent public-art exhibit.

Community garden tucked between tall New York City buildings. In the foreground can be seen pavers marking a path, benches, compost bin, rain bucket, and array of trees and bushes. The side fencing of the garden is painted teal with red, poppy flowers painted eye level. Above are hung red and white cloud-human figures from a recent public-art exhibit.

At this time I was still a teaching assistant and part time Creative Writing Teacher at the Rebecca School.  This was an opportunity to bring my workshops into a new location and how cool that they could be in a community garden?

After a few follow up emails and some site visits, I found myself workshopping in the beautiful Lucille McClarey Wicked Friendship Garden on West 150th Street.

In this first year I ran my Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops in the garden, combining movement and literacy learning, treating it much the same as I would a classroom session. I was too nervous to differentiate or deviate from my design.

The sessions went well enough, but when I was invited back to do it the following summer I knew I wanted to do something special, something unique to the space. This was a garden after all, not a classroom. I wanted to take my sensory ideas and infuse them with Nature Play.

Nature Play is a concept I first encountered at SXSWedu 2017. In a nutshell, it’s using nature as a means of experiential learning, especially in early childhood education. As an avid hiker and backpacker this thought engaged me and stayed with me well after the conference, but I had yet to find a way to incorporate it into my teaching.

Then inspiration struck. 

I was looking at some flower pots that my partner had painted in our apartment and thought: why not paint flower pots in the gardens…but paint stories. I thought of Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn” and the way ancient civilizations throughout the world told stories on their pottery. 

I decided to play on that concept by letting participants tell their stories on flower pots. Then, once the paint dried, we planted in them. When planting we had a sensory exploration of soil, pebbles, rocks, all that messy, garden stuff, and then at the end the children and families would had a potted flower to take home.

With the success of that summer’s program Ceramic Stories was born.

Terra Cotta flower pot with a painted green alligator. The alligator has a rainbow coming out of its mouth and flowers around it. The pot is sitting on a wooden bench and in the background is the greenery from a bush and ferns.

Terra Cotta flower pot with a painted green alligator. The alligator has a rainbow coming out of its mouth and flowers around it. The pot is sitting on a wooden bench and in the background is the greenery from a bush and ferns.

This text is a guide to run your own Ceramic Stories project. It includes an outline for each of the sessions (storyboarding, painting, planting) with example pictures, materials lists, storyboard, and a suggested resources list at the end. Throughout the text, participants will be referred to as gardeners.

As with all my work, please adapt Ceramic Stories to meet the needs of your gardeners. Even though it’s broken into three parts, it doesn’t need to be completed in three sessions. Take your time and have fun!

Get your copy of Ceramic Stories today!

Rhythmic Reading

I've started two YouTube playlists on Rhythmic Reading, or how I use affect and rhythm to bring picture books to life.

They're very much a work in progress, but I'm excited to share them with you all as I learn along the way.

The first playlist has read alouds in which I read picture books the way I would in classrooms and workshops.

The second playlist uses these same books, but now I take pauses in the reading to discuss the hows and whys behind my reading style. It's a free video class on an easy to learn technique that I hope parents and educators can use!

This is my first time filiming in earnest and I have a lot to learn, so any feedback and comments are welcome!

Also, please let me know if there are any books you think I should record. I have a list already that I'm working through, but I'd be happy to make some additions!

Edupreneur: Self-Publishing

I love self-publishing! As a poet I used it for a couple of my more experimental projects and when I entered into this business I knew I wanted to continue the craft to make my work available for anyone.

While many entrepreneurs are into self-publishing and understand it as a way to showcase expertise and build a little passive income, there can sometimes be a misplaced sense of doubt. There’s a sentiment that exists that unless your work is published by a traditional press or publishing house:

  1. No one will read it

  2. It won’t be taken as factual or valuable

  3. You won’t make money on it

While that certainly might have been true at some point, today the industry is so over saturated with books that anyone can write, make money, and become an expert without a company, big or small, backing them. A 2013 Forbes article [1] cites that there are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000,000 books published every year and I’m sure that’s only risen in the six years that have followed the article’s publication. This seems daunting, but I actually think it’s exciting! Publishing has become is less about industry and more about your audience.

What do I mean by that?

People aren’t reading 1,000,000,000 books every year. It isn’t physically possible. But from those million, people are finding the authors and ideas that they’re most interested in and, what’s more, they’re willing to get specific. From stock market tricks, to bird watching on specific lakes in specific states, to running poetry workshops for students with developmental disabilities, self-publishing allows authors with a niche to profit. Presses and Publishers would have to pass on these texts, no matter how well written, because they’re too specific and wouldn’t attract a wide enough readership for the production of the books to be profitable. Self-publishing, however, allows these authors to get their ideas and information out to the readers who need and want them. It might only be the people on your mailing list, but that’s still a stream of income. And it’s an income that strengthens your relationship to your clients and customers as they get an in depth look at your thoughts.

Obviously, people push-back saying that self-publishing allows lower quality, under researched books to enter into the market. And that might be true. But have you read some of the books that are being published by traditional houses today?

If you don’t know how to go about making a book, that’s fine. I didn’t either. That’s why my first two education texts are simply downloadable PDFs. I like this format because it doesn’t need to be hosted by a third-party site like Amazon, the reader can download it to read digitally and print a physical copy if they want, and it allows me to keep costs lower without the production over head that goes into having a paperback made.

At it’s simplest you can just type up a word doc and export it as a PDF. Done.

I’d recommend getting a bit fancier and cleaning it up in InDesign. That said, it took me time to learn that (both the lesson that texts are worth cleaning up and InDesign) myself. I ended up using the free month trial of LinkedIn Learning to get an InDesign tutorial. There’s a lot of great content out there both behind pay gates like LinkedIn Learning and for free on YouTube to help you navigate InDesign and similar programs that can spruce up your document.

I took the InDesign course specifically because I knew I wanted to start putting together collections of children’s poetry again and for that to happen I’d need to work in with trade sizes and industry formats. In terms of actually getting a book made, there are a couple different platform options out there but my favorite three are: Lulu, Ingram Spark, Amazon KDP

I ended up using Amazon in part because it has instant market recognition, when I say my book’s on Amazon people know what to expect. It also has an easy interface and payment method.

(As a side note, Lulu is great for working on books with students because there’s an option to publish privately. This keeps the work only with in the community you choose and still results in market quality books.)

My intent was to make How Do You Butterfly into an e-book for Kindle as well as paperback, but making the e-book proved too difficult. My partner who works in publishing pointed out later that children’s books are rarely e-books unless they have the backing of a big publisher. The reason for this isn’t because of any philosophic standard or anti-screen time ethic of the publishing industry, but rather, it’s just too difficult to make a good looking children’s e-book. The old software still being used for both the Kindle and Nook simply can’t handle all of the illustrations on a page of children’s literature being directly uploaded.

Publishers have employees who can reformat the image files and slowly upload them to look good with this old tech. I do not. I still wanted to offer an e-copy though, especially because I could keep it a little cheaper for readers, so I went to back to my old friend the downloadable PDF.

With three books currently out and more in the works, it feels so good on a personal level to have my work out in the world for people to read and on a professional level it’s nice having a little money coming in for something I only had to work on once.

Self-publishing is a technique I'd definitely recommend to anyone out there with an idea they want to share. Don’t wait for someone else to give you the okay! It’s your idea! Worse case scenario, no one buys it. Even then, you have a piece of content you can bring with you to pitches, interviews, conferences, and the like to showcase a history of your thinking and that you have the self-discipline and skills to put your vision out into the world.

Sources

1 https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorgan/2013/01/08/thinking-of-self-publishing-your-book-in-2013-heres-what-you-need-to-know/#736a7e2414bb

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