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According to Right Brain

MarbleSpark Launches Project OpenBook

Local Creatives Design Children's Book and Charity
MarbleSparks' website
Published on August 29, 2010 : 8 comments

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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!

Following FeatherbottomFollowing Featherbottom

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?

Phil Haussler of MarbleSparkPhil Haussler of MarbleSparkI’ve always written. I once wrote 30 pages of a would-be NY Times best-seller—then I turned 16 and forgot all about it. I have started and scrapped a half-dozen writing projects since high school.  

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:

To learn more about Project OpenBook, go to:

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.

The Magic Trick - Original IllustrationThe Magic Trick - Original Illustration


Today I learned a magic trick
To pull a cobra from my ear.
Now the only trick I need
Is to make him disappear.

Written by Phil Haussler
Illustrated by Brad Sneed
See over 50 poems at:


AnnDbugzAnn Troe (@AnnieDoodlebugz) is graphic designer and illustrator.


Anonymous (not verified) says:

August 31, 2010 : 13 years 37 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

An awesome project to write about. Project open Book is a wonderfully creative effort. Omaha should be happy and proud to have people like you guys who are reaching out! Hats off to you and the people of MarbleSpark. Whoooo Hooooo!!!!! Lucky Omahans!


AnnDbugz says:

August 31, 2010 : 13 years 37 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture


Dad (not verified) says:

September 1, 2010 : 13 years 37 weeks ago

Dad's picture

Hey, did you tell everyone that they can help select the poems that will be included in the book by going to the Marblespark page and vote? I know that you have not written any of the poems but how many of the poems have you illustrated? ;-)


AnnDbugz says:

September 2, 2010 : 13 years 37 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Shameless Plug Dad”,
Ummmm thanks for the shameless plug of the illustrations I have done and have been added to Phil’s site ;-) It has been great fun for a wonderful cause.

I have illustrated 5 poems so far and thanks to all who have already voted 5-STARS! It would be great fun to make the final book. Here is my “page”, scroll down to see the list of the 5 poems.

Thanks for having my back Dad! Love Ann

SNBaird says:

September 13, 2010 : 13 years 36 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

I love the way you approached this story, Ann! Can’t believe it took me so long to read it! By letting Phil share his story in his own words, you not only help us feel more connected to him, but you also inspire anyone who reads it to go check out this wonderful charity.

I think it should also be mentioned that the fact that you donate your profits from your illustrations (outside of Marblespark) to charity is also very cool.

I’m so glad the two of you hit it off, and one of these days I’m going to contribute a poem! :)

AnnDbugz says:

September 13, 2010 : 13 years 36 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Hey Susan!
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! for introducing us through Twitter. He has a great idea going with his charity Project OpenBook. I have gained SO much by helping him and illustrating for his project.

Phil (not verified) says:

September 14, 2010 : 13 years 35 weeks ago

Phil's picture

Thanks Ann for the opportunity! Thanks Jo, Susan and Dad for the kind words of encouragement!! Do good,

Dawn (not verified) says:

December 14, 2010 : 13 years 23 weeks ago

Dawn's picture

Dawn and Derek

We have a vision of reaching out to the younger generation, through inspiration, to empower these young individuals into having strong, confident, and positive minds and prepare them for a bright future ahead. We are in the process of putting together and publishing a series of childrens books that can offer the best chance to place the right book in the hands of many children. We hope that you will see our vision as a wonderful experience for any child to learn and grow from. Visit our blog… Angels of Inspiration.