MarbleSpark Launches Project OpenBook
Omaha, you have to meet Phil. Actually, I have to meet Phil! We ‘met’ through a mutual Twitter friend, Susan, of s.n.baird communications. I mentioned Phil briefly in my article on Twitter. He and I have exchanged many emails, and we have talked on the phone. He saw my red VW bug one day as I was driving into my neighborhood, and we discovered that we live eight blocks from each other! Yes, it is a small world.
As an illustrator, I am THRILLED to be a part of Phil’s charity, Project OpenBook. I wanted to share with you Phil’s story, so I decided to interview him in his own words. It is people like him that make Omaha such a fantastic place to call home.
So what is MarbleSpark?
We’re an independent publisher of unconventional books. Our first book is called Following Featherbottom, a personalized children’s book that tells the story of the child’s name. It’s about a stork (Felix Featherbottom) that travels the globe finding the letters for your child’s (or grandchild’s) name. For a child named Jake, Felix might go to Jamaica, Antarctica, Kathmandu, and Ecuador to find the letters for the name. Customers can choose which locations Felix visits, choose from several different hardcover options and add a custom dedication. Like snowflakes, no two books are exactly the same!
What’s with the name?
The name MarbleSpark represents our hope of igniting imaginations. Marble is meant figuratively, as in brain, noggin’, or noodle—like, “Have you lost your marbles?” And Spark means ignition or explosion.
How In the World Did This Happen?
So, 5 years ago when we were expecting our first child, I sat down to write (and illustrate) a personalized book for my future-child. I figured it would be bad; did I mention I can’t draw? But I thought it would be cool to tell my kid “Look, I made this for you!” I thought my wife and kids might see it, maybe I’d show it to my sister and parents. I called it Bobby Blew a Bubble. And I finished it…and it was horrible.
But it sparked an idea for a personalized book—a book that revolved around the child. So, I started a book called Asparagus to Zucchini, Your Name In-Betweeni (I think that’s the first time I’ve ever admitted that publicly). And over the next two years the idea evolved into the manuscript for Following Featherbottom. Then fate lined me up with the world’s most amazing painter and the world’s best web developer. None of us knew what we were getting into. We didn’t have any idea how much work was ahead. But here we are, five years later with what I 100% believe is one of the world’s most remarkable children’s books. Now, if we can just get Oprah to say so…
What’s Project OpenBook?
On January 1st, 2010 we launched something we call Project OpenBook. It’s a community-generated children’s book for charity. Basically, it’s a bunch of writers and illustrators (amateurs and professional alike) who have gotten together to write a book of poems and donate the proceeds to charity. We’ve published around 50 original poems/illustrations so far. Eventually we’ll publish a book of the best works and donate the profits to Room To Read, an organization that builds schools and educates girls in developing countries around the world.
It’s been a moving and humbling experience. I’ve met a bunch of extremely talented and generous people, each giving their time and talent (and often cold, hard cash) without a promise of anything in return. Many of the pieces we’ve published are shockingly good. Of course, some aren’t—but that’s the whole point. We’re a rag-tag group of do-gooders trying to change the world one poem at a time. It won’t always be beautiful, but I’m convinced that something amazing is going to come out of it in the end.
To see Following Featherbottom in action, go to: www.MarbleSpark.com
To learn more about Project OpenBook, go to: www.MarbleSpark.com/blog/OpenBook
Thanks so much Phil! (I feel a bit like an announcer). So, what do you say readers? Will you email/Facebook/Tweet tell your friends to help promote both books? The holidays will be here before you know it. Phil does all this in his spare time. He has a full time day job and a family with 2 little kids. He is busy! Maybe you would like to write/illustrate a poem? Maybe you know Oprah. Have you noticed I am not as shy as I used to be about asking for help?
One last thought: “it takes a village” to educate a girl.