Archive for the 'Project OpenBook Updates' Category

Spotlight on Allie Biondi

Friday, November 11th, 2011

I was introduced to Allie through poet-extraordinaire Jesse Anna Bornemann. As you can tell from this snapshot, Allie once drank from a bottle labeled “Drink Me” and shrunk a bit.

Oh, did I mention: she’s also hilarious and awesome.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an illustrator/animator/all around crafty type girl living in Brooklyn. I currently work with preschoolers by day and work on comics and freelance illustrations at night. I like to make up little songs about whatever I’m doing when I’m doing it. My socks rarely match.

What’s your passion? What makes you tick?
I love the most, of everything the way I see it. When I was little I used to dream of the day where I had the ability to draw the things in my head – and feel happy everyday for that gift! Sunshine, tiny animals, playing bass guitar, skiing, surfing, and being surrounded by trees makes me the happiest.

What’s your wildest dream for Project OpenBook?
That it continues to connect artists/writers together to help children in need. Giving creative types a way to make a happy dent in the world is a beautiful thing.

Where can people get more of you?
My artwork can be seen at, where there is a link to my blog.

Allie’s OpenBook Works
A Lemon’s Plea

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Spotlight on Chris Leavens

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

When I bumped into Chris Leaven’s work, I was totally blown away. He creates mind-bending worlds filled with fantastical creatures. So I was more than stoked when I reached out to him about collaborating on Holey Cow! and he said yes. As it turns out, Chris is also a terrific guy and so I’m honored to introduce you to him and his amazing work (with his permission, I’ve included his wonderful “Dudleya” below).

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an artist/illustrator who likes to draw strange worlds and creatures. A lot of monsters, twisted landscapes, funny situations. I like surreal and bizarre imagery, but my work is generally positive, joyful, and free from violence and morose themes. I create most of my work digitally using Adobe Illustrator and have worked on art for a wide variety of media including computer/video games, print, TV, feature films, and web. In other words, even if you don’t like me it’s hard to avoid me. I currently live in the Los Angeles-area foothills with my wife and our daughter and son.

What’s your passion? What makes you tick?
I don’t know if there’s one particular thing. I love my family, the outdoors, digging things up, planting things, building things, drawing, laughing, traveling, watermelon, cherries, and Christmas.

What’s your wildest dream for Project OpenBook?
Upon reading the finished book, the heads of every bad guy in the world would explode and confetti would come out. (You did say “wildest.”)

Where can people get more of you?
The best places to find out more about me are via my website and my twitter feed.

Chris’ OpenBook Works
Holey Cow!

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Looking Back (And Forward)

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

About this time last year we launched Project OpenBook. 365 days into the adventure, this seems like as good a time as any to recap where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

Some quick stats:

  • 53 poems published. (One per week on average, though it wasn’t nearly that smooth.)
  • 30 contributors, from award-winning authors and illustrators to students and amateurs.
  • $1,000 in freewill donations contributed toward educating girls through Room to Read.

What we’ve learned:

  1. The world is full of good people. I have met a bunch of incredible folks on the first leg of this adventure. All of our contributors have donated time, talent and/or treasure to this cause with nothing promised in return. Indeed, for our artists/illustrators, it’s a leap of faith that anything beyond a blog post will result from their hard work. To me, that’s just amazing. And I could never say thank-you enough.
  2. Starting a movement is hard work. I’ll admit something: I grossly underestimated the amount of work that would be required to organize, push and sustain a project like this. From writing, to recruiting, to making connections, to editing and posting the work and contributor-spotlights, to pushing and cajoling… It all adds up to a ton of hard work. I’ve never avoided work – I often say I’m 10% talent 90% drive – but I admit that I’ve been overwhelmed at times.
  3. Having a baby complicates point #2. We were blessed with a third boy on November 16th of this year. (Things are going great, thanks!) As a result, Project OpenBook sort of went dark for the last couple of months. Some of you have poems or illustrations waiting to be published. We’re finally getting into a rhythm so we should get caught up soon.

Where we’re headed:
I’m excited about what this year might have in store for Project OpenBook. Here’s my vision for 2011:

  1. Launch a book. From the start, our vision was to publish an awesome book. We still think that Project OpenBook will make the most impact once we have something to trade you for your donation. If we’ve been able to raise $1,000 simply by working hard, just think what we’ll be able to do when your donations also get you a book. Our goal in 2011 is to publish a bunch more poems, to curate an amazing book, to launch and market that book, to hopefully sell a boatload of copies and use the proceeds to do amazing things for people in need.
  2. Put Project OpenBook on the iPad. I started this update with a teaser (see image above). We’ve begun concept work on creating a version of Project OpenBook for the iPad. There is still a ton of work to be done. And the amazing dude that is making it happen is doing so in his spare time (see, the world is full of good people). I’m sure there will be bumps in the road – but with a little luck, we hope to launch Project OpenBook on the iPad yet this year.

I would be remiss not to stop and thank the folks that are making Project OpenBook happen: Adrian, Brad, David, Jaime, Ben, Chloe, Avril, Sandy, Jess, Richard, Matt, Marcia, Susanna, Alan, John, Ann, Christy, Nina, Mike, Sharon, Barb, Karen, Courtney, Rachael, Jen, Jesse, Renee, Jodi, Seth, Alan, Maria, Nicholas, Sarah, Fiona, Lynn, Amanda, Rex, Judi, Alexandra, Rahul and every single one of you.

Thank you all! Do good,

P.S. You can donate directly to Project OpenBook here.

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Why Support Girls OVER THERE?

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

We’ve had people ask — and you may be wondering too — with all the problems here at home, why is Project OpenBook supporting girls on the other side of the globe? The video above is an awe-inspiring answer to that question.

The Girl Effect is a joint collaboration between the Nike Foundation and the NoVo Foundation. We happen to be supporting girls via Room To Read, but the goal — and the girl effect — is the same.

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Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Many of you have asked for a one-page flyer that would help explain Project OpenBook. Click the flyer above to download a high-res version that you can print and share with your favorite language arts teacher, pin to the bulletin board, or send to your writer/artist friends.

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Spotlight on Avril

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

AvrilTell us a bit about yourself
I’m a 5th grader from Omaha, Nebraska. I am originally from Thailand and moved to the United States. I like writing poems, both funny and serious.

What’s your passion? What makes you tick?
I love singing, dancing, writing, and math.

What’s your wildest dream for what we might accomplish through Project OpenBook?
I hope to raise enough money to help the children in Nepal. I come from Thailand where there is a lot of war and the Karen people are slaves to the Burmese people. I want to help others like my Karen people.

Avril’s Poems
End of School?

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Why no art?

Friday, March 26th, 2010

When we started this journey, Brad Sneed and I (Phil here) envisioned a bunch of poets AND a bunch of illustrators building Project OpenBook. Here we are a few months later and we’ve got some momentum behind building a group of talented poets. But so far, Brad has created all of the amazing illustrations.

On the upside, that’s great because Brad’s work is utterly, shockingly amazing… But…there’s a downside.

Problem #1: Brad is a mere mortal
Brad Sneed is an amazingly talented artist. But he is human. He’s DONATING a lot of time to Project OpenBook. And he wants to keep doing that. But realistically, he can only create a couple of illustrations each week for Project OpenBook (on top of his other projects). Which leads to…

Problem #2: A growing backlog
There are about ~20 poems waiting in the wings. If we wait for illustrations and post ~2 poems per week, then we’re forcing people to wait several months to see their poems hit the site. That sort of turn-around is OK for government work, but it doesn’t exactly encourage folks to keep contributing here.

So our hope is to post more than two poems per week. Ideally, we’d love to post one poem every business day (let’s all take the weekends off, shall we?). We want this to be a site you can check once per day with your kids and count on seeing something new. We want language arts teachers to be able to come back once per day and read the poems to their classes. We want art teachers to come back once per day and check the artwork with their classes (and be able to contribute to un-illustrated poems).

So…here’s what we’re going to do about it. We’re going to start posting some poems without artwork. On those poems that don’t yet have artwork, we’re going to disable the ratings. That way we’re not unfairly putting those poems at a disadvantage for high ratings (remember your ratings determine what eventually goes into the book). Then once an artist submits artwork for the poem, we’ll repost it WITH ratings.

We hope this will:

  • allow us to post more poems, more often
  • show the work of more contributors
  • get more illustrators involved

We hope you’ll agree that this is a good idea.  But we’re very open to making adjustments as we go.  If you have thoughts (good or bad), let us know what you think in the comments below.  As always, thanks for writing and reading along!

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Project OpenBook In The News

Thursday, March 18th, 2010


Project OpenBook made the nightly news last night. Lance Schwartz features special interest stories in a series called “Lance’s Journal” for 10/11 News in Lincoln, Nebraska. His stories are uplifting and inspiring, a truly welcome break from many of the stories that violently force their way into the nightly news.

Lance did a terrific 2 minute video on Project OpenBook. He somehow found a few soundbites to make me sound halfway intelligent (not an easy task). This news piece also gave me a great excuse to meet Jaime Kubik and her sons. A huge thank-you to Jaime for contacting Lance (among others) and spreading the good word. It’s through the generous work and contribution from folks like Jaime that Project OpenBook will continue to grow toward its full potential.  We’re just waiting for Oprah to call back…

My only regret is that the footage of my son reciting Magic Tricks got clipped in the editing room. Thanks to Lance for creating such a terrific piece.

You can watch Lance’s Journal here or by clicking the image above.

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Spotlight on Chloe Ramirez

Monday, March 15th, 2010

ChloeI’m proud to introduce Chloe Ramirez, author of The Giant and fourth-grade extraordinaire. Chloe is our first young contributor.  (The rest of us can only claim to be young-at-heart.)  It’s awesome to read the storytelling of a 9 year old. My personal favorite nugget from Chloe: “He gives no wedgies / That very nice guy”  I see big things in Chloe’s future…

I hope Chloe is the first of many more young poets and artists to contribute.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Chloe and I’m in fourth grade. My favorite subject is science and I want to be a scientist when I grown up so I can make vaccines and help people that are sick. I also like history and learning fun facts so I can quiz people.

What’s your passion? What makes you tick?
My passions are (more…)

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Meet Ben

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Meet Ben Curnett. Yesterday, we posted Ben’s awesome poem, Super Spy.  Dad. Naturalist. Outdoorsman. Lover of white-water. Poet. Copywriter. All-around terrific dude. To get a sneak-peek into Ben’s mind, read on

The team working behind-the-scenes on Project OpenBook continues to grow.  Most of us have never met in-person.  But it doesn’t feel that way.  It’s a thrill and honor to work alongside talented folks like Ben.  Join us?

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