Santa Cruz, CA—When artist Norman Calmese created a building-sized mural in 1997 to cover graffiti in a “Painting the Community with the Arts” program, he had no idea it would lead to publishing a powerful children’s book years later. At the time, Calmese simply wanted to involve children in helping to paint his sports story with hopes of improving community pride.
The mural about a boy who loved sports was expanded to a written story called “The Sports Kid” by a group of children in Illinois. The stylized drawings in black and white told the story of a boy who wanted to focus on sports but not homework. Yet the story ended by showing that both sports and school are cool.
Inspired by efforts of various sports leagues to promote reading, California-based publisher WeWrite and Calmese are bringing the timeless story to new life by releasing the book this spring. It is the core of WeWrite’s new literacy program, “Sports Kids Read to Lead,” targeting early readers. Plans include additional books spotlighting current children’s topics as Eddie grows up, along with songs and music to accompany the books. The easy-to-read story sports something for all ages with Fun Facts, games, and a secret message.
Calmese is excited about the project, as he and many of his friends lived Eddie’s story of struggling to incorporate their passion for sports into their education. “This is awesome and has huge potential,” he said. “Now children everywhere can read this powerful, yet simple story that began so long ago in Springfield, Illinois.”
With sports leagues, community groups, and visionaries leading the literacy effort, WeWrite and Calmese are offering the book for sale as well as sponsorship opportunities in customized printings of the book.
Mike Pittman, Illinois community leader, entrepreneur, ex-professional baseball pitcher and publisher of the newspaper, Capital City Courier, could be the poster boy for The Sports Kid. “Like Eddie, I loved all sports, especially baseball, and even became a professional pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Like Eddie, I decided to stay in school and it helped me achieve success in more ways than just in sports. The Sports Kid is great for every kid and we want to help promote this campaign.”
An illustration from the book Mr. Lincoln and the Time Train
Writers and publishers face a daunting task of keeping literacy and love of reading strong with younger generations who may one day grow up in a world where physical, ink-on-paper, non-electronic books become an antique speciality item.
The Ben Lomond-based company WeWrite is doing the work of keeping literature alive with young people in a very direct and literal way. WeWrite publishes books for children, written by children — and not individual authors who happen to be kids, but groups of children, conceiving and writing stories while working together.
Over the course of almost 20 years, the company has released around 50 titles of short fiction and non-fiction illustrated books on everything from science to history. The release of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," for instance, has revived interest in WeWrite's 2003 book "Mr. Lincoln and the Time Train," a fanciful "It's a Wonderful Life"-style tale of what America would have looked like had Lincoln not delivered the Gettysburg Address.
The company's president Delores Palmer said that she brings together a hand-selected group of children typically for two three-hour workshops led by an adult facilitator and illustrator.
"We didn't want children to think that a book just pops up out of thin air," said Palmer. "We want them to know that it's going to take a lot of work."
Palmer said she likes to work with groups of about 10 to 12 children, with no more than three years in age separating the oldest and the youngest.
The first day is spent working out the narrative storyline on the theme of the day. To prevent a few of the more outgoing or demonstrative children from designing the whole story, plot points move forward on the basis of a vote of the whole group.
After the first session, the kids are given a copy of the book's first draft. They then review and edit what they've created thus far. At the end of the process comes an attractive storybook complete with illustrations, photos and/or supplemental material.
The idea began back in the mid 1980s when Palmer was working as a library director in central Illinois. The state established a Young Authors program for children and she decided to publish many of the submissions to that program.
"We published about 80 titles that first year, and about 120 the year after," she said.
She began the company in the days before desktop publishing was widely practiced in 1993, and relocated from Illinois to Ben Lomond 10 years later.
Palmer said that the books published by WeWrite are conceived with eye toward a specific market or demographic, and the company courts companies or organization to act as funding sponsors. A WeWrite book titled "All Dried Out," for instance, that focused on water conservation was sponsored by Santa Cruz's Ewing Irrigation.
Palmer said that she also focuses on creating markets for the books "for kids, by kids." A WeWrite title called "We're All Moving" -- a 2012 update of a 1999 volume -- is about a group of four-eyed aliens who move from Jupiter to Earth.
"It's really about what happens when you have to move from one place to another," said Palmer, "and addresses what kids feel when that happens."
To sell the book, Palmer reached out to various moving and storage companies as well as real-estate agents, two commercial groups that could use the book in their own marketing.
WeWrite is also developing e-book applications for their books, and is involved in reaching out to WeWrite alumni, kids who helped author a book who are now adults.
"The thing about these books is that they're not dated," said Palmer. "They remain relevant for a long, long time."
Copyright 2012 Santa Cruz Sentinel. All rights reserved. (Reprinted with permission)
WeWrite has begun releasing previously published titles on iTunes as ebooks in the Apple iBookstore. WeWrite is pleased to announce that A Goo Idea! and We’re All Moving! are now available on iTunes for only 99¢ each. Mr. Lincoln and the Time Train is available for only $1.99.
For more information go to our iTunes release information.
Rick Woodbury of Commuter Cars Corporation, creator of the Tango - the world’s fastest urban car, understands the openmindedness of children to new and forward-thinking ideas.
“I like the idea of allowing kids to create the story instead of adults because the kids haven’t learned to be limited as to what ‘can’t be done’ yet. It’s the same reason that kids get the Tango. I’ve presented my idea to adults and kids from all over, and the kids ‘get it’ right away.”
WeWrite encourages children to use their innate creativity to examine problems in the world and seek out solutions. Rick shares this point of view.
“We have many problems in the world today: war, crime, poverty and so on. I don’t know how to solve those problems, but the commuting problem I do know how to solve, and that’s what keeps me going.”
WeWrite and Commuter Cars hope to collaborate in the near future.
WeWrite is proud to announce a strategic alliance with LightMoves to create and publish a series of books that give children a voice in their future and in preserving our natural resources. James R. Helmer, President of LightMoves is convinced of the importance of empowering children by giving children a voice today. “Today’s decisions must be made in such a way that these decisions protect our natural resources and the quality of life for generations.”
International Dark-Sky Association also supports this effort. Johanna Duffek, Outreach & Education Manager is excited. “We are looking forward to…an introductory book about the negative impact of too much artificial light at night…. We don’t want kids to grow up being afraid of the dark and not knowing the wonders of a natural night sky.”
Robert L. Eramia of Seattle, Washington joins the team, bringing his expertise, interest in astronomy and the natural wonders of outdoors. Robert provides research for potential contacts and sponsors for funding of this first-ever project.
About WeWrite LLC—
WeWrite LLC, an acknowledged leader in kid-to-kid literature since 1993, specializes in publishing books by kids for kids. Over 50 group-authored books have been created within book-writing workshops, with an illustrator sketching while children share their kid-wisdom with the world. http://www.wewrite.net/
LightMoves, founded by James R. Helmer, with over 30 years of transportation and lighting expertise, provides public agencies and companies innovative roadway lighting and transportation solutions in a safe and sustainable way. http://www.lightmoves.us.com/
About International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)—
IDA’s mission is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. http://www.darksky.org/
Paul Yeadon (left), owner of AIM Mail and Print Center, Los Gatos, California welcomes WeWrite Kids and parent Cathy Phipps (right), for their book-writing workshop.
AIM Mail and Print Center, Los Gatos, CA hosts a session of the We're All Moving! book-writing workshop on April 25, 2009.
Mike Aguilera, producer of the Baby Boomer Senior Expo 2009, Santa Clara Convention Center peeks in on the progress of the We're All Moving! story during the show, April 26, 2009.
A literacy program designed to get children reading by involving them in the nuts and bolts of publishing a book, and giving them the pride of authorship, is targeted at kids who don’t customarily like to read.
“In that way, we’re unique in the publishing business,” said Delores Palmer, president and CEO of WeWrite LLC, a Ben Lomond-based publishing house. “We’ve been doing this for fifteen years. We gather the kids together, and capture their words.” The firm will sponsor book two writing workshops to be held April 25 at the Aim Mall and Print Center in Los Gatos, and April 26 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The event will feature several area children, a nationally known illustrator, and a musician who will create a song for the project.
“The kids come up with the ideas for the book,” Palmer said. “What we’re trying to do here is get kids hooked into reading.”
The children are provided a theme, and led by a facilitator, given free license to think up the book’s story while their comments are noted down and an illustrator sketches their ideas. The end result is a 64-page full-color educational book that becomes available for purchase at participating book stores across the country.
An average print run is 10,000 books, at a total production cost of $70,000 (individual books retail for $11.95 in bookstores). The cost is made back by sales to the general public, or corporate sponsorship and distribution. Companies sponsoring a book can use it as a marketing tool, for promotion of a particular industry, or as a fund raiser. A writer and former library director in Illinois, Palmer founded WeWrite in 1993. She said the idea of involving children in the production of books proved an instant success. “Children just flocked to it,” she said. “The children get the experience of a lifetime. They see their names on the book, and they get their pictures in the back of the book. They’re so proud.”
The children vote amongst themselves on what ideas go into a book, and also take part in the editing process, offering ideas on what changes should be made. Angela Hesse of Ben Lomond, 13, said the fun was making up a story. “It was awesome to be a part of it,” she said. “It’s fun to be creative.”
Palmer said the experience also gives the children a chance to interact with adults who value their comments and ideas.
Past efforts produced a book about children’s thoughts in the aftermath of the 9-11 Trade Center bombing titled “War? I’m Scared!” Another envisioned what the world would have been like without Abraham Lincoln, titled “Mr. Lincoln and the Time Train,” voted best children’s book on Lincoln by a historical organization, the Lincoln Group of New York. Yet another project is all about a family moving from Jupiter to Earth titled “We’re All Moving.”
Palmer said the joy of authoring a book generates enthusiasm for both writing and literacy. “The children say to themselves, I can do this,” Palmer said.
People interested in the program may call 831-336-3382, or go to company’s website at Wewrite.net for more information.More news…