I have known Sarah Towle since my early days of writing. Back before I moved from Nice to New York and she moved from Paris to London. One day we may actually end up living in the same city! We share passions for travel and for history and how children’s literature can turn kids onto history in their own and other cultures. As well as being a gifted writer, Sarah is a go-getter, no-quitter, spearheading accidental entrepreneur! Try saying that ten times fast before your morning coffee. I reviewed her first middle grade story, an enhanced E-Book, Beware Mme La Guillotene, two years ago. When encountering a gap in the market with this story and platform , she decided to set up her own publishing company, Time Traveler Tours & Tales, to promote history across different media platforms. I have supported her company and kickstarter campaign from the get-go and I want to give my readers the opportunity to find out a little more and in the final days of the campaign, throw in their support if they wish. Sarah’s first story was set in Paris. But the story with which she is launching the company is written by author Mary Hoffman, and about the Michelangelo’s creation of the David. This books florentine setting meant that naturally her first launch here included buonissimo Italian affair such as Prosecco and Tuscan cuisine. Sarah has had launches in four cities in three different countries (and is planning a fifth) and as I know each city very well, I asked her how she had prepared her presentations differently for each nation.
Thank you, Miss Marple, for inviting me to guest post on your blog today. In fact, as I enter the final days of my burgeoning company’s Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for our launch title, I am grateful for the support of so many kidlit people around the globe who’ve reached out to embrace my concept. Many, like you, have been behind me from the start and remain very much by my side today. You’ve encouraged me along these past several years, even when I thought the project was DOA; you’ve buoyed me these past months as I surfed the final pre-launch waves; and you’ve lifted and carried me to the starting gate in the weeks and days leading up to our official roll out.
Since our launch on 19 May to introduce In the Footsteps of Giants by Mary Hoffman, dozens more have joined in to help us maintain a steady momentum and welcome more than 200 new members to our community. There are so many people to thank. But in this post I’d like to highlight the hosts of our four launch parties in the US and Europe: New York, Paris, London, and Nice. Apropos your blog’s diversity theme, Miss Marple, I thought you’d get a kick out of how each event boasted its own unique character and flavor appropriate and authentic to each cultural setting.
New York City – KidLit TV
We kicked off in New York City with a glamorous party and presentation hosted by Julie Gribble, founder of KitLit TV. A high-powered crowd of 70+ people, many from the KidLit author/illustrator community as well as librarians and members of media, gathered to toast our launch with prosecco in real glass flutes and a catered meal on a Tuscan theme.
Three guest speakers from the NY children’s book world spoke on “the power of story to unite us, no matter the format.” These were Elizabeth Bird and Frank Migliorelli, both of the New York Public Library, and Rocco Staino, host of KidLit TV. Speeches were followed by introductions of the Team TTT&T members who were present as well as Roxie Munro, creator of the map of Florence that will illustrate Mary’s app. Everyone seemed to know all about Kickstarter and crowd-sourced funding, and an open appeal was made for all to please participate. iPads were circulated to help grab donations right there and then. The campaign was already 22% funded when the event came to a close that night; it would go on to achieve 60% in next 6 days.
The entire KidLit TV camera crew was on hand that evening to live-stream the event, emceed brilliantly by TTT&T Curriculum Developer Marcie Colleen, and blast it into living rooms the world over. Virtual guests showed tuned in from as far as New Zealand. Many of them chatted with each other in the live-stream web-page comments as they watched the action unfold in New York.
David came to the party dressed in nothing but a fig leaf and for much of the party donned mardi gras beads, boa, and mask. It was loud; it was crazy; it was fun. And it provided our campaign with an incredible start. I am forever indebted to Julie Gribble and her generous contribution of such an energetic and timely kick-off.
Paris – In the Footsteps of Giants Introduced at the Foot of the Eiffel Tower
TTT&T friend and supporter, Nancy Janin, opened her beautiful apartment on the Champs de Mars to us to welcome literary friends from a decade of living in Paris as well as many curious others.
No prosecco was served here, “mais non!” But we popped more than a few bottles of champagne during an exhilarating evening that went on for five hours and drew such a large crowd, I had to make my presentation twice. They first wave of guests brought in mostly families of school-aged children. And I’m delighted to say that the kids were just as enthusiastic as their parents – one nine year old offered me her entire life-savings as a campaign contribution: 12.90 Euros. Their questions centered more on the future apps user experience; while the second wave of Paris participants really drilled deeply into our business model. This was an older crowd. They wandered over to Nancy’s together, passing directly under La Tour Eiffel, after an author event at the nearby American Library of Paris. They were less interested in how to obtain and use our future products, and more interested in my company as a potential investment opportunity.
While the questions and responses of each group differed, the entire evening had the air of a 1920’s-styled artist salon. We sat, or stood, in a large circle, sipping bubbly and eating finger foods from fancy napkins, discussing the pros and cons of digital technology in education as well as the good and the bad of “screen time” for kids. David was there, without fig leaf this time. Nor did he deign to dress up in funky plastic glasses and beads. This was a calm, chic, intellectual affair.
London – From a Historic Loft Overlooking the Thames
This was a most bookish event, indeed, also attracting a highly literate crowd, but one very much on the inside of the children’s literature community. “Be careful about coming right out and asking for money,” I was warned by hosts Michelle Lovric and Mary Hoffman. “The Brits aren’t likely to respond to a direct appeal,” they coached. “It must instead be hinted at.” Needless to say, we had no iPads cued up and at the ready here.
Michelle and Mary also insisted that I stay home and rest on the afternoon of the event. I was not to be bothered with preparing shrimp and mango, mozzarella and cherry tomato, and chicken satay skewers. Nor was I to touch the dipping sauces of hummus and guacamole, or lift a finger to slice fresh nut bread. Rather, I should arrive fresh along with the other guests at 6:30pm. So I did. And the gorgeous preparations and exquisite setting just swept me off my feet: a converted loft in a former 18th century wharf building, ancient exposed beams and all, overlooking the River Thames and appointed with a gloriously eclectic collection of art, furniture, and antique bric a brac.
To me, this event felt like a coming out party for me among UK kidlit literati. I took my cue from our Paris literary salon and appealed to the crowd: “Would you like me to introduce you to my back story, explain how I came to be working with Mary Hoffman today?” I asked them, “Or would you prefer that I explain to you all about crowd-sourced funding and Kickstarter?”
“Both!” came the unanimous cry. And so sparked a brilliant Q&A that ran to 45 minutes and focused mainly on the artistic challenges of producing digital books and apps. Mary then took the floor to introduce the story concept for In the Footsteps of Giants, reading an excerpt from her book, David, upon which her future StoryAppTour will be based.
David posed discretely off to one side of the gathering of 30+ people. He wore a fig leaf again, but only because our youngest guest was six. She, however, was not to be fooled, wondering aloud why we’d bothered to cover his “willy.”
Nice – A Literary Salon
Last but not least, the only event I was not able to attend in person, Lucille Turner invited a cast of 20 very bookish ladies to lunch at her home on the famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice. They lunched and shared synopses of their most recent favorite reads. Two guests shared their current publications, one a children’s book illustrator, the other a non-fiction author. Then Lucille presented our campaign video and fielded questions from the crowd like a champ. Those queries she could not answer she handed back to me in a group email the next day. The entire party was cc’d, and so the conversation continued with me looped in via the Internet.
David was not on hand, but the sun was shining and the party’s talk punctuated by the ebb and flow of the Mediterranean Sea.
Florence – Chilled Prosecco at the Enoteca
Last on the agenda will be our Florence event, which will bring our global Kickstarter to a close on Friday, June 26. Our goal for that day – just one of many small steps we’ve set along the way – is to be fully funded by the time our Italian counterparts clink their first glasses of prosecco that evening. This will take place at about noon in NY on Friday at the new bar of TTT&T Florence friend Vincenzo Ferrara’s Osteria del Porcellino.
If your readers wish to help get us to this goal, I invite them to view our campaign here: http://kck.st/1PyGzKO. And to raise a glass as well this Friday in our general direction.
Thanks for reading, everybody!