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KICKSTARTER CRAB

Written on Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 [permanent link]

Kickstarterlaunch

And to finish off the 10th anniversary year of Chester Comix: A PLEA FOR MONEY!

No, see, this really does make sense. Chester Comix LLC launched in 2003 with generous financial help from many friends and family members. And a few credit cards. The business has continued to grow with important and timely support from many sources. Revenues have climbed steadily, but the capital expenses are big — when you have to spend $12,000 to reprint just four of your 31 titles, the search for $$$$ is ongoing.

So it’s been obvious for several years that MOBILE is the answer. Selling stories that don’t require me to print on paper and ship books in boxes is a good way to smooth out the revenue stream and expand Chester’s audience. And tablets and smartphones are where many of today’s reluctant readers are actually reading (texts, social media). In 2010 I got three Chester stories into iTunes to be read on Apple’s iPhones and iTouches. In 2011 I got eight of Chester’s books into iBooks for Apple’s iPads.

But that’s not enough. I have more than ONE HUNDRED stories in my printed comix that I could turn into fun stories on smartphones. For the past two years I’ve been drawing new panels for those stories to add MORE jokes and MORE fun details that the textbooks miss. But as I gleefully drew, the technical requirements to get these stories onto the iPhone got thornier and thornier. It became like Gatsby’s green light or Ahab’s whale — the goal that remained stubbornly out of reach the closer I got to it. An Apple rep told me last summer what it would take to build on the existing Chester story apps. His solution requires more intense programming. And that requires more money.

So: KICKSTARTER. Kickstarter is for artists what venture capitalists are to Silicon Valley. It’s crowdsourcing — a way for me to raise small amounts of money from fans far and wide and add them into a big project. I love that part of the Kickstarter model is that I give the supporters unique rewards. Check out the link to the project to see some of the fun (everything from free copies of the stories we make to signed copies of full Chester pages to a drawing of yourself in one of the stories!).

The other big part of the Kickstarter model is that the projects have a limited time to raise the funds. We have 30 days. LET’S GET IT!

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Book Review: Measuring America by Andro Linklater

Written on Monday, August 11th, 2008 [permanent link]

I just spent a week in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Boy Scout camp with my youngest son, Truman, and while he was off practicing first aid and woodcarving I got to sit under the cool shade trees and read! (Yes, yes, I also recertified in Red Cross CPR and kept a watch on all the Scouts, but the chance to sit and read quietly away from any computer or deadline was a real treat!)

One of the books I read was this study of how measuring expressed populism, economics and democracy — a book that sounds horribly dull until you start reading it. This was a mirror image of Dava Sobel’s popular “Longitude” book from 1996 — but better. Linklater told me things about Jefferson I didn’t know and wrapped politics and big ideas and economics into the simple act of surveying land. (This book gives you a great feel for how the young George Washington surveyor image connects with the old George Washington land speculator.) I was taught in college all about Jefferson’s belief that a nation of small farmers would preserve our virtue and our democracy, but this narrative connected all that to my gradeschool lessons about the metric system in the 1970s! And I’m from Ohio, so Linklater’s opening passage that set the action in the Northwest Territory was particularly fun. And he never forgets the Native Americans who inhabited the land before the settlers started marking the trees and claiming the streams, so he keeps the book from shrinking into just European intellectual history. (Don’t worry – the ideas are big, but the many illustrations help the story speak in a language that a modern reader understands.)

The only trouble is: Linklater gets at least one big, basic fact wrong, and that calls me to question every single absorbing detail he offers in the book. This English author tells us in two separate passages that Jamestown was founded in 1609. No. It was 1607. What else so basic did he miss?

(His story is further hampered by the book jacket, which sets the expectation that this will be about “How the United States Was Shaped By the Greatest Land Sale in History,” which caused me and friends to expect something about the Louisiana Purchase. But Linklater is not talking about the greatest land sale, he’s talking about the greatest land SURVEY, which converted America’s vast public lands into private property. It’s not one sale, it’s millions and millions of sales in individuals. That’s not Linklater’s fault but the marketer’s.)

 

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Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute groupie

Written on Sunday, July 27th, 2008 [permanent link]

Teachers at Jamestown

Finally, after four days of me trailing after them from Jamestown to the slave cabin at Colonial Williamsburg to the taverns to the costume shop, one of the teachers said, “Honestly, who would follow after a bunch of social studies teachers?!”

Me. I’m a hardcore groupie! I love hanging with those who think it’s important to teach the next generation about the highpoints and problems and vital choices of our past. I think it will affect our future.

I’ve worked with Colonial Williamsburg staffers in many ways since I moved here in 1992, but it was still a welcome surprise when CW invited me to spend a week shadowing one session of their summer Teacher Institute. For almost two decades, CW has given master teachers a chance to renew their knowledge of Colonial times and pick up new tricks for making history vital. They bring in about 600 every year from across the country, many of them paid for by donors in their home state. I jumped at the chance.

I did learn some new things myself and corrected some misconceptions that had creeped in to my own knowledge base. But mostly it was just fun to see these folks from Texas and California and Wisconsin and Washington play around the Historic Triangle — they acted like it was history teacher Disneyland. One woman had spent time in Virginia as a girl in segregated days and was happy to see the story of slavery portrayed so well at Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg. One woman had worked summer school in her Florida district so she could pay for this and make it a vacation with her daughter, who also teaches. Many had never been to Colonial Williamsburg and were awestruck at the detail this place offers. At the end of the week one young teacher said, “I can’t WAIT to get back and NOT use my textbook!”

What can I say, I’m a history geek. Yes, yes, it’s good business for me to hang with them — these 29 teachers found my comix in the various gift shops around town and went nuts for them, but that’s not why I did this. My interest in education and history and kids is so strong that the transition between all the hats I now wear feels seamless to me. Often during the week I would pivot in an instant from being student to being a teacher of history. But it’s ALL advocacy!

Send me a message or post to this note if you’d like more details on what I saw and did with the Teacher Institute! You can also find official info on CW’s website: www.history.org/history/teaching/tchsti.cfm

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Chester crab comics