Following in Footsteps

Sherman’s begun composing! She was reading a book by Julia Donaldson she’d borrowed from the library, and in it there were words to a song without music. Naturally, she began setting those words to her own melody. You can watch the video HERE.

We have the proof!

We’re so sorry about the delay!  We know the estimated delivery for your rewards was October, but we’ve had a few small hiccups (superstorm Sandy caused our publisher to be without power for several days…!) and we just wanted to tell you that our book (and music) will go on sale in just a couple more weeks now!

We just received the proof copy, and a few minor changes will be implemented after the weekend, after which it’s off to the printer!

I’ll be sending most of our backers a Kickstarter mail very shortly, requesting information (which ebook format you prefer, for example, or your physical address if applicable) so please watch out for that and send your replies back to us so that you can all receive your well-deserved rewards as soon as they are ready!

Oh, and one last thing. After much discussion with others and amongst ourselves, we have decided to delay the release of the app until next year. There’s already been a lot of buzz surrounding the release of our book and music, and we have promotional events and marketing opportunities scheduled, and we wanted to build up awareness of our product and brand before unleashing the power of our flagship app. We assure you though that it’s coming, it will be so full of features and really fun to play with, and those of you who are in line to receive it will be the first to get it…!

More news to come in the lead up to our products’ release… Thank you all so much again!

Los Angeles

We’re back.

Yes, it was a sudden decision, but one to which we gave a lot of careful thought, and one we made with a heavy heart.  We have moved back to LA.

Our KinderBard products will begin to be released very soon, and with such events comes the responsibility to market – we plan to attend the annual convention of theNational Council of Teachers of English in Las Vegas in November, the American Library Association conference in Seattle in January, and more, and for that we have had to give up our Parisian dream.

We arrived last Friday, 3 days ago, and my iMac arrived just now via DHL, so here I am, writing this in the late autumn heat.  Can’t wait to catch up with all our family and friends here.  Meanwhile, here’s to continuing exciting developments on the business front, and thanks again for all your love and support.

Watch this space for more news!

Robert Young

Hello everyone, I’d like to introduce you to Robert Young. Not only is he a fellow backer of our KinderBard Project, but as Director of Education at the Folger Shakespeare Library he oversaw and made invaluable contributions in the final stages of the making of our book. Finally, he honoured us with a very special foreword and we are so thrilled to make this announcement to you. We really feel that our small family project has gone legit!

Thank you to Robert, and thank you to all our backers for your feedback about our cover and the title of our book. Here’s what it’s going to look like – we have now sent everything to our publisher and you’ll all receive your copies as soon as it’s printed!

Our English Summer

Our family has been spending the summer in my wonderfully generous uncle and aunt’s house in the English countryside, working hard on our project, and we’re very much on schedule…

My wife has been extremely productive, creating illustrations for each of the sixteen songs that will comprise KinderBard Volume 1, and I just have a few final touches to go on the music production side back in Paris at the end of the month.

So I’ve been able to take a good break after the craziness that was the Kickstarter campaign, spending lots of time with the children, trying to leave their mother in peace to work in her little study with a lovely view of the back garden – very inspiring, as you can see from the photo!

I have also been contributing to the Englishness of our project in a unique culinary way, by taking on most of the cooking duties, and feeding my wife lots of roast, bangers and mash, baked beans, shepherd’s pie, Yorkshire pudding, apple pie, rhubarb crumble and custard, scones, and even kedgeree.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know how it’s going – we’re just quietly plugging away, and we promise to update you if anything really exciting happens!

  • Last Day in Studio
  • Last Day in Studio

Happy Summer Holiday!

Congratulations to Sherman who today recorded the last of her songs for our as yet untitled KinderBard volume 1 album. Now she can have a great summer break in England – she deserves it!

The Most Generous Place on Earth

I hear a lot about the generosity of backers, ordinary folks like you and me, who help to fund artistic projects on Kickstarter. There are more than 2 million of us, who have taken part in successfully funding 23,000 of these things, and I have to admit, it’s an addictive pastime: you find a project that wows you, you become literally invested in its progress, you root for its success, more often than not sharing in an exhilarating final few hours as you watch it surge across the finish line, and dreams become reality.

What I don’t often hear about is the generosity of the project creators themselves, but it only makes sense that like would beget like on such a platform. It’s no accident that some of the most storied projects are the ones that are all about ‘giving.’ Jordan Stratford‘s steampunk children’s book is for and about girls, and it encourages an interest in math, science, history, and literature. Cory Silverberg‘s What Makes a Baby aims to include all children in its story of where babies come from, regardless of how many people were involved, what the orientation, gender identity, or other make-up of the family is. And as Amanda Palmer wrote on her blog, even if her Kickstarter project hits one million dollars in pledges by the campaign’s end, it doesn’t mean she’ll suddenly “be loaded” – it means that she’ll be able to create even more valuable products for her backers and for the general public – and “we’ll all win.”

The generosity of these artists manifests itself on a very personal level too. Having myself been inspired to try my hand at a Kickstarter project, I was suddenly hit with the pre-launch jitters with just 24 hours to go. So, in desperation, I cold-called four creators of past projects (completely going against Jane Friedman’s advice), including both of the children’s writers mentioned above. I received a personal response from all four, with encouragement and pointers. They expressed approval of my project and offered to give it a shoutout to their own backers (I did only contact creators with whom I shared a large target demographic). Ross Williams of the Shakespeare Sonnet Project gave details of strategies he used during the entire duration of his successful campaign. Peter Friedrich of Shakespeare Iraq told me that the majority of his backer support came through Oregon Shakespeare Festival subscribers, and put me in touch with one of their producers.

And that is how I learned to crawl out of my shell, stop worrying and love the community. Having been living and working in isolation for so long, I finally found a place where I could forge real relationships with artists who have this is common: they are all trying to create something of value outside of the system, and they are all generous with their dreams and resources. And isn’t this exactly what we want, and expect, of our artists?

So if you haven’t yet, go ahead and find a project to back. Let this be the beginning of a connection with the creative world for everyone, the beginning of a change in the way things are done, with backers and artists being very much one, a part of the same movement. And in time, maybe you’ll launch a small (or ambitious!) project of your own. You all have one inside you. And we’ll be here waiting, in case you need us.

Exclusive Handmade KinderBard Bags

As you may know, Sohyun has her own Etsy store and imported fabric business.  Her bags, “handmade in Paris,” are just beautiful and have begun to garner quite a following.  So when she suggested that we should offer some as a special prize for early backers of our upcoming crowdfunding campaign, I couldn’t say no!

So there are THIRTY canvas bags (made with cotton and linen blend Japanese designer fabric (Echino)) with the logo “I backed KinderBard” up for grabs, and TEN messenger bags (made with Japanese oil cloth (also Echino) which are sturdy, water-resistant, and highly fashionable!

We are also offering one of each for FIVE high rollers…

Watch this space for the campaign launch date!


My Creative Process

They say it all starts with the inspiration, so I’m fortunate to have the best muse one could wish for – William Shakespeare himself.

They say that this is the fun part, getting inspired, and it certainly is for me, because I get to sit in bed, propped up with pillows, and just read.  Rereading Shakespeare takes me back places.  Memorable theatre performances…  I suddenly remember a school field trip to a Kabuki-style The Tempest performed entirely in Japanese, with the coolest Caliban ever.  None of us spoke Japanese, and dare I say it, somehow that made the experience even better – the performance transcended language.  I have countless memories of school productions, cinematic experiences, or just periods of solitary reading.  Happy memories.  They relax me.

But my mind is searching.  As I read, I’m subconsciously looking for pieces of a puzzle, something that will fit.  I’m thinking about how it feels to be four years old, my daughter’s age, what her life is like, what moves her.  I’m looking for a gesture, a sentence, a particular situation in the play I’m reading, when I’ll suddenly have that ‘eureka’ moment and I’ll think, “My daughter would totally get this, if only it weren’t written in iambic pentameter!”

I’m not so presumptuous to I think that my job is making something from nothing.  Because it’s already right there, all in the text, in words that were written four hundred years ago.  When, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream,  Helena says, “Sickness is catching: O, were favour so, / Yours would I catch, fair Hermia, ere I go;” I know that children have wondered whether their best friend is more popular, or more beautiful than they.  When Beatrice and Benedick bicker in Much Ado About Nothing, I remember that I was once a prurient boy who tried to disguise my curiosity by tormenting the objects of my affection.  And even one isolated line like “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him,” brings back my own fond memories of grandparents and affectionate older friends long gone, and suddenly I’m a child again.

So I’m reading and understanding Shakespeare using everything I’ve learned, all my adult tools, but I’m having to see his words through a child’s eyes, and finally, to express that essence in song, using a child’s words.  Once I’m in that childlike state, the song just comes, taking the form of any one of a multitude of nursery rhymes I’ve absorbed over the years, and this completes my creative process.

They say that “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”  Actually, Picasso said that.  And in my case, it’s problem solved, because my work takes me back to that childlike state again, and every time,  it feels as if the stars are aligned.

Addressing Children’s Issues

Something that’s become an important part of this songwriting process has been to find children’s issues that can be addressed through these songs – it gives the children something tangible to identify with, and it’s kind of therapeutic for them to have their personal issues addressed.  Here are some examples of my songs and the issues they address:

CORDELIA from King Lear – “I Don’t Know What to Say”

A song for when you’re feeling shy, or you don’t know the words to express how you feel.

JULIET from Romeo and Juliet – “It’s Just a Name”

For when they call you names, or get your name wrong, or don’t know your name…

HELENA from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – “The One Thing I Can’t Catch”

When you’re afraid that your friend is prettier or more popular than you.

DROMIO OF EPHESUS from The Comedy of Errors – “You Treat Me Like a Football”

What should you do when you’re bullied?

ACHILLES from Troilus and Cressida – “Butterflies”

For when you’re afraid, lacking the courage to do what you have to do…

Some of these are pretty serious issues that young children confront in their daily lives.  Some of my other songs address slightly lighter concerns.

OLD SHEPHERD from The Winter’s Tale – “What Is This Thing I Found”

When you find something that doesn’t belong to you…

QUEEN MARGARET from Henry VI part 2 – “Crocodile Tears”

When someone is faking…

PETRUCHIO from The Taming of the Shrew – “I’m Going to Make You Love Me”

If you know what you really want, don’t give up!

IMOGEN from Cymbeline – “A Horse with Wings”

For those times when you miss someone who is far away…

Of course, I have plenty of silly songs whose raison d’être is just to gain a laugh or a chuckle, but even a song like my “Donkey Head” (sung by Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) has the potential to be something more than just a song about your head turning into a donkey’s.  It could be about how your friends might be afraid by your changed appearance (a nasty bruise? or braces, as Sohyun suggested) but it’s still you underneath.  I’d better go away and do a rewrite of that one!  If any readers have ideas of other children’s issues that I might address, please feel free to leave suggestions in the comments…