Emotions 02

Time for some new artwork for I Want A Pet Turkey.  Our illustrator, J Zamora, is working hard to bring the story to life.  In doing so, a range of emotions have to be created to make our main character jump off of the page.  Part of J’s process is running through some character models to showcase the character with different emotions.  This week’s is Sadness!

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I am pretty sure that he is sad because he really needs a new pet / best friend.

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Paper Bag Puppet – Cat

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Paper Bag Puppet – Cat

Please enjoy a free craft from Moose Egg Productions.  Now you can make your very own paper bag puppet of a cat.  Please send us a picture of your kiddos finished cat puppets so we can post them on our gallery!

Enjoy!!!

Emotions 01

Time for some new artwork for I Want A Pet Turkey.  Our illustrator, J Zamora, is working hard to bring the story to life.  In doing so, a range of emotions have to be created to make our main character jump off of the page.  Part of J’s process is running through some character models to showcase the character with different emotions.  This week’s is Happy!

Happy

Is it just me or is this little guy ready to be made into a puppet!  Hmmm!

Interview – Puppeteer David Manley, Up In Arms

Today we are talking with someone who has an amazing job!  I personally met David Manley at a puppet workshop a few years back called Beyond the Sock (http://www.beyondthesock.com).  Each year, puppeteers (amateur and professional) come from all over the world to learn how to make and preform puppets and the workshop has connected so many people all with the same passion–puppets.  I got to talk with David about his puppet work in New York.

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Good morning, David!  Let’s start off with you telling us about yourself and what do you do?

Good morning!  I’m a puppeteer who travels to schools, theaters and libraries in New York and New Jersey mostly, but nationally as well. When I was young, I knew I wanted to be a puppeteer but peer pressure caused me to put it aside. I rediscovered it my adulthood and began my puppet company, Up In Arms, in 2012. I produce Broadway-style puppet musicals – the kind I wanted to see as a kid. Our shows include messages about learning, bullying (kindness and respect), health and wellness and our latest family musical “Pirate Song” about a young pirate princess searching the world for her song.

That is so cool that you get to teach children with puppets!  What is your favorite part of being a puppeteer for school-age children?

I love the sense of wonder they have. We can hear them calling out from behind stage and their questions during our Q&A makes me feel like we’re imparting that same sense of magic I felt about puppetry when I was their age. As adults, it helps to remind us that magic still exists and to be producing it is amazing.

Out of all of your different programs you have done over the years, which one is your favorite?

Hands down, “Helping Drew”, our anti-bullying musical. As a kid who encountered some bullying, it was important for my own personal journey to experience being part of the solution instead of feeling like a victim. I’ve had so many comments from adults thanking me for the program having their own experiences being bullied.

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What upcoming shows you do you have coming up?  How can people come see the shows (say if they don’t go to one of the schools that your group preforms at)?

“Pirate Song” premiered October 13 in Newburgh, NY at a local library. One of our earlier shows, “Welcome Park” plays The Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck, NY in November 2018. We perform for libraries mostly in the summer in Northern New Jersey and the Mid-Hudson Valley region of New York. Folks who are interested can follow us on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/upinarmspuppets) to find our public shows. We’ve played as far away as Las Vegas, NV and down the east coast to Maryland and Virginia as well so, you never know where we might be performing.

Alright, time for one last question!  What Muppet / Sesame Street character best describes you and why?

I’m kind of a cheerful, organized Scooter type with a strong Cookie Monster sweet tooth and a Grover who just wants to share love.

Perfect answer!  Thank you so much David for taking the time to talk to us today.  It is so awesome to see someone following their dream and providing inspiration to children all over the country.  If you want to keep up with Up In Arms please go to http://www.upinarms.biz or check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/upinarmspuppets.  If you have seen an Up In Arms production, please leave a comment on how you liked it and if you are in the area check out Pirate Song David’s next big production!

 

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I always feel like somebody’s watching me!  Awesome new artwork for I Want A Pet Turkey.43392402_2098568833522944_5046185465804226560_n

Interview – Children’s Author Pat Zietlow Miller

Today we are talking to New York’s Bestseller children’s book author – Pat Zietlow Miller.  Pat has written some really amazing children’s books.  One of her books, BE KIND, has already been released and she has two other books coming out next year, Remarkably You and When You Are Brave.  I was lucky enough to get to talk to Pat about her experiences writing and some of the inspirations that helped her along the way.

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Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you want to become a children’s author?

I’ve loved books since I was a kid. Books took me wherever I wanted to go – safely – and exposed me to people like me, people different from me and people I could aspire to be.  I remember being in my school library at Merrill Elementary in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and trying to find where my book would go on the shelf once I wrote it. Now that I have written books, I always send the Merrill Elementary library a copy because my elementary-school self would have been so happy to have her books on those shelves.

How cool to have your books in the same library that you grew up going to!  So what was your favorite book growing up?

My favorite book was THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin. I got a copy for Christmas one year from my aunt who was a librarian and I read it and read it and read it. I loved that it was a mystery solved by a determined girl. I loved the quirky cast of characters in Westing Towers. I loved that – spoiler alert – Angela was the bomber. I loved that the author lived in Wisconsin, like me. I still have that copy.

I also adored ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY by Judith Viorst. It’s one of the best-written picture books I know, and it’s funny and so true to life. In fact, if you want to write picture books, you should read every one ever written by Judith. She’s outstandingly talented.

Please tell us about the importance of children’s literature and what it has meant to be a part of this industry?

I don’t think you can over-state the importance of children’s literature. Books help children grow up to be the best version of themselves. They offer information, perspectives and glimpses beyond whatever world the child usually lives in. They reaffirm the good things in life and offer hope that the bad things can get better. They encourage empathy and imagination and problem-solving. They build language and life skills. I wake up every morning so grateful that I get to be a part of getting the right book in the hands of the right child just when that kid might need it most.

Wow, I love that saying (probably going to steal it, lol) – “They reaffirm the good things in life and offer hope that the bad things can get better.” 

So, if someone asked you for same wisdom about being a children’s author, what would you say to them?

The best thing I can suggest is to read hundreds and hundreds of children’s books. It’s the best way I know to improve as a writer and respect the children you’re writing for. And, as a bonus, doing this is so much fun that it’s not even work.

When I started actively pursuing writing for kids, I went to the library and checked out every book ever written by some of my favorite picture book authors. I sat on the floor, surrounded by stacks of books and read and analyzed and learned. I still do this.

You’ll find some titles you don’t like, and that’s helpful, too, as you develop your own writing voice. But there’s so much quality work out there. Reading is like your own personal master class in how to be an author. And it costs nothing but your time.

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of some of my favorite picture books.

So back to BE KIND, your newest book, what was the inspiration behind the book?  I mean the message is timeless.  Tell us about it and where we can pick it up at?

BE KIND came out in February 2018. It’s about all the ways to kind to one another and how even the smallest acts of kindness can make a big difference. It’s available in libraries, bookstores and online. I think its message is one that is resonating with people now. It’s being used in a lot of schools, and it made the New York Times bestseller list.

Finally, our last question, and it is a very serious question – would you rather be able to fly or walk through walls?

Hmmmm. That’s a good one. I’m going to go with flying. There are lots of times in my life, I want to be somewhere, but don’t have a good way to get there. Being able to fly could solve that. Of course, if I could apparate, like the wizards in Harry Potter, that would be even better.

Awesome choice!  Thank you so much Pat for talking with us today.  Everyone, be sure to check out BE KIND and look for Pat’s new books coming out next year:  Remarkably You and When You Are Brave.  Thanks everyone!

New Feature

We have a new feature debuting this week called Questions To Inspire.  One of my favorite things is talking to others.  I love stories and I love to hear the stories and inspirations behind other people’s lives.  And one thing I want to do is inspire people.

I want to showcase some really amazing people and how / why they do what they do.  Our first interview is this Thursday, so look out for it as we talk to New York Times bestselling children’s author – Pat Zietlow Miller!

 

Illustrator

Picking an illustrator is a difficult decision.  You need someone who can bring your creation to life; who will take your dream and make it a reality.  I had a tough time working through illustrators.  I talked with illustrators from different countries, different backgrounds, and different ages.  Each had their good points and each had exceptional artistic abilities.  Hiring someone you don’t know can be a little scary, because you don’t know if they will be able to give you the quality and depth you are looking for.  Crazy thing was though, I was surrounded by so many artistic people.

It took a bit of relentless asking, pestering, begging, but I finally convinced my friend J to come on board as the illustrator.  Not only is an amazing artist, but he has also been a key part of Moose Egg Productions throughout the years.  He has starred in puppet videos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbjwKp4-_sg) and helped out during a few of the live events we have done.

J has created an amazing character design for the two characters in I Want A Pet Turkey – Matt and the Turkey.  Why tell you about it when I can show you a behind the scene picture of the storyboard and the first page!

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Never Forget

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Dragon Ball Collision

Back in 2011, Funimation Entertainment started their own online retail website called Zstore.  Zstore’s physical location was in a small town called Decatur, TX.  I was fortunate enough to work there from 2002 to 2008.  I started out as internet customer service, where my job was to answer everyone’s email questions and research the shows (i.e. getting paid to watch the anime), to eBay sales, to ending my time there as the shipping supervisor of one of the three warehouses.  Working in a place that sales DVD’s, shirts, and toys of Japanese cartoons, there was a lot of time and ways to get into trouble and the people that worked there and myself were always finding new ways to make work a little more interesting.

One of the biggest sellers of Zstore were the action figures that would be released each season for Dragonball Z, which was the biggest show that Funimation had the rights to.  We would sell thousands of these figures.  Palets of figures would come in and we would ship them right back out.  With that many action figures coming through the door there was a small percentage that would come in damaged – meaning the packaging would be crushed and unfit to sell.  Normally those would be sold on eBay for a special price, but sometimes the packaging was too far damaged to sell and the toy was scrapped.  Inside these action figure packaging would be three small plastic and orange dragon balls (pictured below).  They were hard plastic and what the guys in the warehouse found out is that they did two things:  bounced on the cement floors of the warehouse and hurt when you were hit with one of them.

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Once we found out that they hurt and they would bounce on cement, the game became clear.  Dragon Ball Dodge Ball was born.  Every day, people would find dragon balls and put them in their pocket.  They would wait for the right time and then send one sailing towards someone else.  Once it hit and the ball started bouncing then anyone could grab it and use it later in the day.

One day, Oscar, Pete, and I were busy filling and packaging up orders to be shipped out.  They would pull the orders that I printed out, I would in turn package them up and put shipping labels on them.  We hit a lull as all of the orders were completed so we were taking it easy.  That was when Oscar threw a dragon ball and hit me in the back.  The next thing you hear is ding, ding, ding as the dragon ball started to bounce away.  We all three knew what to do when we heard the sound.

There was a brief pause before we all started towards the runaway dragon ball.  I was closest (since I had been hit by it), Pete was right behind, and Oscar was closing in fast.  The dragon ball started bouncing and rolling toward one of the large warehouse racks filled with merchandise.  If it made it under the rack, it would roll out, but I was determined to get there before it did.  That was when I noticed the large, round metal pillar standing in between me and the dragon ball.  I tried to stop, but Oscar didn’t.  Oscar slammed into Pete, who slammed into me, who slammed into he pillar.  We all three hit each other and I hit the pillar and we all were down for the count.  Oscar sat up laughing, while Pete started to stand up.  I laid there for a second and then started to pick myself up when I turned around to look at the guys.

Their faces stopped smiling and they started to ask if I was okay.  I laughed it off saying that I was fine, just a bit disoriented.  They kept staring.  That was when I noticed the blood running down my face.  My forehead had hit the pillar dead-on and I now had a cut on my eyebrow.  I was fine, but I didn’t look it.  All at once, we knew that I had to get cleaned up and get out of the warehouse without anyone seeing me.  This wasn’t our first accident in the workplace and we had all been warned about goofing off and horseplay.  So I walked through the back doors of the warehouse, Pete gathered my things from my office, and Oscar went to clock me out.  I was able to get out without anyone seeing me and left work early to avoid getting in trouble.

When I returned the next day, everything was fine, except Oscar held up the runaway dragon ball.  He had went and found it after I left the day before.  In a second, he threw the dragon ball and it hit me in the arm.  The game was afoot.

There is no mercy in dragon ball.

Getting A Game Plan

I had the dream, I had the story, but nothing was really happening.  I needed to get serious about it, but I had no game plan.  I had no next step.  So the story took a backseat.  That was until a lunch with the students at Beyond the Sock.

Beyond the Sock is something pretty special.  It brings people from all over the country together working on the same goal:  learn how to make and preform puppets for TV.  In the years that I have been a part of it, I have met people from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Sri Lanka, the Arctic Circle, and all over the US.  It is a crazy five days of the workshop, but it is a blast.

One of the lunch breaks, I was eating at a local restaurant that is walking distance from the workshop.  There were about 10 of crowded around a table talking about everything from shows we had watched previously, places we have worked, to goals and dreams.  I then mentioned my children’s book.  I explained what I wanted to do, but that I didn’t have a good game plan.  The others were very supportive and two really great things came out of it.

First off, a fellow volunteer Jennifer was a full-time puppeteer and an artist.  After talking with her, she helped to draw out some preliminary artwork and character sketches.  Working with her I was able to get a visual on how I wanted the book to look and a better feel of the author / illustrator relationship and work dynamic.

Second, one of the students that year was Jess.  When she heard my story, she instantly offered her help.  We talked and worked out a plan.  She became my editor.  The rough draft was sent over to Jess and after a few weeks a detailed report came back.  It was amazing, very well thought out, very constructive and informative.  She then setup ‘homework’ for me to do on how to get into the writing and publishing game.  I had articles to read and books to buy.

It was because of these two ladies that I Want A Pet Turkey has any forward movement.  They are both on the list to receive copies of the book when it is published.

Light Bulbs

When working in an office, you are entering into a relationship with a group of strangers that you previously would have no reason to be around.  Sometimes you are able to work with people that connect with you and share your same ideas, interest, and humor.  Sometimes you are forced to work with people who are your polar opposites.  Working with people different from yourself is good though.  It can force you out of your routine, develop skills on how to deal with other personalities, and allow you to play some of the best practical jokes ever.

When I worked for Quatris Health, a small re-seller of medical software, I had an office between two people:  Chris, my supervisor at the time, and Karen, another co-worker in the accounting department.  These two could not be more opposite, but they did have one thing in common, they didn’t like using the overhead lighting in their offices, but preferred to use a floor lamp.  For the most part they seemed to work in harmony, never bothering each other.  Until the day that one of the light bulbs died and Chris was left in the dark.

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New light bulbs had been ordered, but before they arrived, Chris decided to borrow Karen’s light bulb while she was at lunch.  The next day, Karen noticed (you read that correctly, she didn’t know that her office was dark for an entire afternoon).  She then took back her light bulb from Chris’s lamp.  When Chris came into work, he waited and took the light bulb back.  Back and forth it went from office to office.  Finally, in our weekly department meeting, it was brought up.  Karen asked if she could please have her light bulb back and wanted Chris to stop taking it.  That was when I offered up a solution.

“Karen, you know what we do in our house?”  I asked.  “We take a sharpie marker and write our names on the light bulb so that we always know where they belong.”

Chris and I were silent after the comment.  Both of us were waiting to hear someone speak up calling my statement into question, but no one did.  A group of professional adults accepted that as a normal action.  It was never brought up again and the light bulb replacements were delivered that afternoon.  All was well in the office.

Skip ahead six months later.

Karen was no longer with the company and we were moving offices.  Everything had to be packed up and ready for the movers.  Since Karen was no longer an employee, Chris and I had to pack up the items in her old office.  As we were packing up the effects from her desk and filing cabinets, Chris was moving the floor lamp out of her office.  He took the light bulb out to disassemble the floor lamp and noticed that Karen had in fact written her name on the bottom of the light bulb.  We kept that light bulb long after it had burned out as a trophy of how gullible someone can be.  I wish we could of asked her about it.  Did she actually believe that people write their names on their light bulbs?