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inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #0 of 228: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 9 Jan 02 19:03
    
_Rhode Island A to Z, Coloring/Learning Book, A Creative Approach to the 
History and Natural History of Our Nation's Smallest State_.  From 
johnnycakes to quahogs, from the Block Island Lighthouse to the Providence 
State House, this beautifully illustrated book gives readers hours of 
creative coloring fun as well as a wide array of fascinating facts about 
our nation's thirteenth colony.

Adam Gertsacov - the author of this book - is an internationally known 
theatre artist and educator. Adam is on the Rhode Island State Arts 
Council Education roster, and the NEFA touring roster. His work as an 
actor, director, clown, and playwright has been described as original, 
offbeat, hilarious, and thought-provoking. He has performed his original 
shows from Boston to Brazil with standing ovations and sold-out crowds. 
Adam is a graduate of the Ringling Brothers Clown College, the University 
of Pennsylvania, Trinity Rep Conservatory, Rhode Island College, Dell'Arte 
School, and has studied with many clown luminaries, making him the most 
educated clown in America (barring certain elected officials.) Adam is the 
first and only Clown Laureate of Greenbelt, Maryland.

Adam has written plays, reviews, and articles , and has been published by 
Whole Earth Review, The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog, New England 
Theatre Journal, Factsheet Five, Focus Magazine, and East Side Monthly.

This is his first book.

Illustrator Donna Atwood is an award-winning artist and (my personal 
favorite) graphic designer with over 25 years of professional experience. 
She has owned her own design studio for more than 20 years, and her 
clients have ranged throughout all sectors of industry, including real 
estate, commercial, non-profit, banking services, educational, and 
manufacturing. Her work has won dozens of design awards.

Since 1997 she has published and illustrated three coloring/learning books 
about the Southwest. Little Lords of the Desert, Ancient Harvest, and 
Sonoran Desert A to Z , which received a 1999 Glyph Award from the Arizona 
Book Publishers Association for best book from a new publisher.

Leading the discussion with Donna and Adam is David Greene, a corporate 
software trainer who lives with his wife and two puppies in metro Boston.   
A native New Englander, he's been active on the Well since 1998, and 
co-hosts the East Coast conference. David has counted both Adam and Donna 
as friends since shortly after joining the Well.   As a regional native, 
he has a lifelong appreciation for all aspects of New England culture and 
is particularly excited about the collaboration of Adam's writing and 
marketing skills with Donna's legendary artistic talent for this 
remarkable book.

Please join me in welcoming Adam, Donna, and David to inkwell.vue!
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #1 of 228: A blank stare, then hide under the bed (dsg) Thu 10 Jan 02 06:30
    

Thanks, Linda, and thank you to Adam and Donna for your remarkable book.
Donna has extensive experience with publishing, but Adam, how did all this
get started?  Where did the idea for RIAtoZ come from?
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #2 of 228: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Thu 10 Jan 02 06:43
    
It's good to be here!  

 Well, Donna was visiting me in Rhode Island, and she'd shown me her books 
all about the Southwest, which I thought were fabulous, and we started 
talking about how it would be  great to have her do a 
coloring/learning book all about Rhode Island, and she said "Well, you 
would have to write it."  So I did!

Actually, I didn't write it in one fell swoop.  We talked a lot about what 
each of the letters was going to be, and then we did four sample pieces. 

I then applied to the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts for a grant 
to print the book.  They came through with some money (although not the 
whole kit and kaboodle that we asked for), but enough for us to know that 
we were going to do the book.  

The whole process took about 18 months from beginning idea to finished 
book.  (Not full-time, naturally!)
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #3 of 228: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Thu 10 Jan 02 06:48
    
Another thing that may be interesting to note is that the WELL was fairly 
important in doing and completing this book.

Donna and I met via the WELL.  (I've been on the WELL for over 10 years, 
primarily as the host of the theatre conference)  

Donna had been on the WELL for about 3 years, before we started the book.

We used our WELL accounts to send back and forth quite a bit 
information about the book, trade ideas back and forth.

(Donna lives in Arizona and I live in RI)
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #4 of 228: A blank stare, then hide under the bed (dsg) Thu 10 Jan 02 06:49
    

Living near Rhode Island most of my life, I've noticed that Rhode Islanders
sometimes believe that people don't know where they are and how many
wonderful attractions their state has to offer.  Was this book in part
intended to instill a little more regional pride?
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #5 of 228: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Thu 10 Jan 02 07:13
    
Ummmm... Hmmmmmm....  That's a good question.

I'd say that the state does have an amazing amount of things to offer, and 
that yes, we wanted people to know and learn about those things (or 
re-know and re-learn-- many of the subjects in the book are subjects that 
I knew about, it's just that I didn't KNOW about them until I started 
doing the research.)

The book for me, was and is a cool and fun project to collaborate on.  
From the moment we started discussing the book, I knew it was something 
that would be great to do, and that I wanted to be part of.

I guess regional pride was part of it, but it was more about creating a 
really great and clear pointer to exciting and unique things in Rhode 
Island-- a sharing of knowledge more than a sharing in pride. (Although 
being proud of the invention of the diner here in Rhode Island, or 
the United States first navy, or our official state mollusk (the quahog) 
is all part of it)
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #6 of 228: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Thu 10 Jan 02 07:19
    
When we wrote the grant application, we were asked to come up with the 
goals of the project.  Here they are, and I'd say they are pretty accurate 
(although they are a little grant-speakified)

*Study and understand the relationships of plants, animals, people, and 
their shared environment.

*Communicate that understanding using methods with commercial and 
educational appeal.

*Bring high aesthetic values to subjects often poorly portrayed or 
neglected in existing materials

*Underline the value of art in science, history, and education.

*Produce marketable art which honors the environment without 
depleting it through the use of recycled papers and humane production 
procedures.

* Sell all of the books that we create to happy and satisfied 
retailers and customers. 
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #7 of 228: A blank stare, then hide under the bed (dsg) Thu 10 Jan 02 08:14
    

Donna, you have a well-deserved reputation for remarkable artwork.  For the
most part you've concentrated on the Southwest.   Did this new setting make
an appreciable difference in how you apprached the subject matter?
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #8 of 228: Donna Atwood (bratwood) Thu 10 Jan 02 09:44
    
Yes. My Southwest titles are very much focused on natural history. The
Sonoran Desert has such remarkable biodiversity that it's easy to find
26 popular and worthy subjects to cover with a simple overview. On the
other hand, the east coast is significantly more urban, older, and
more steeped in history. Adjusting to that difference took some
re-visioning for me. I tend to dote on plants, animals, and their
relationships. Years of commercial advertising with a focus on the
man-made may have created that obsession with nature. But after
completing a few images, such as the lighthouse and the carousel, I am
more enthusiastic about man-made subjects. Still, I'll throw in some
natural element wherever I can, like the gulls I put into the
lighthouse and yachting compositions or the addition of the parrot and
rhododendron in Kingscote.
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #9 of 228: David S. Greene (dsg) Thu 10 Jan 02 09:49
    
One of the first things I noticed when leafing through RIAtoZ is that
it isn't the prototypical children's coloring book.  Although kids will
likely enjoy the lettered topics, there's a slightly different feel to
it.  Had either or both of you determined a targeted age group
audience for RIAtoZ?  Is the audience looking now the way you thought
it would? 
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #10 of 228: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Thu 10 Jan 02 10:03
    <hidden>
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #11 of 228: Donna Atwood (bratwood) Thu 10 Jan 02 10:52
    
I think "prototypical" coloring books are often about sheer
entertainment and visual development for very young children, some who
don't yet know their a-b-c's or how to read. That approach has proven
itself to be enduringly popular and useful (and perhaps more limited
than the medium really allows). Many of my books have been used in the
classroom by third, fourth, and fifth-grade teachers who copy the
illustrations for their students to color while they discuss the
various topics. It's a great way to stay focused on the lesson and
coloring a subject anchors the information firmly in the student's
mind. Once you've colored a Gila Monster, you'll never spot one in the
wild and be unable to identify it. All my books, especially Rhode
Island A to Z, are meant to endure over the childhood of the owner.
Kids grow fast. What they didn't absorb last year, they'll get next
year. But regardless of age, three to ninety-three, there's always
something to enjoy.
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #12 of 228: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Thu 10 Jan 02 12:41
    
The targeted age for the book was (and is) ostensibly ages 9-12 (Grades 
3-6)  However, we both wanted to include enough interesting stuff so that 
adults could read it and enjoy it. 

In the month of December I did 8 book signings.  I had a lot of adults 
tell me they were buying the book for their friends, or their parents, or 
for an older teenager, even.  And I had a lot of teachers tell me that 
they are planning on using the book in the classroom.

I like to say that it's not so much a coloring book as a book you can 
color.  The coloring is like an added bonus.  You don't have to color, if 
you don't want to.  (But why wouldn't you want to?)
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #13 of 228: Donna Atwood (bratwood) Thu 10 Jan 02 12:57
    
(Too busy playing games on the Handspring.)
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #14 of 228: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Thu 10 Jan 02 14:24
    
I've created a special page on our website for our inkwell.vue compadres.

<http://www.riatoz.com/inkwell/>

This will be the place to find some of the images that we discuss in the 
book.
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #15 of 228: David S. Greene (dsg) Fri 11 Jan 02 09:37
    

A question for either (or both) of you:  Is RIAtoZ the beginning of a
series?  Could there be more AtoZ's?   If so, which one might lend itself
particularly well?
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #16 of 228: Donna Atwood (bratwood) Fri 11 Jan 02 09:49
    
Massachusetts is next. I've had California on the title list for a
while now. My reps have been asking for it. But Adam's done such a
great job getting Rhode Island out, it's hard not to want to work in
New England. After all, they invented Basketball in Springfield. And
Cape Cod is irresistible. And Harvard is chocked full of tasty
architectural embellishments. I've already illustrated the Chickadee.
Throw in a handful of cranberries and yummy-yum!
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #17 of 228: Donna Atwood (bratwood) Fri 11 Jan 02 10:12
    <scribbled by bratwood Fri 11 Jan 02 10:12>
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #18 of 228: Donna Atwood (bratwood) Fri 11 Jan 02 10:13
    
scribbled redundant post
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #19 of 228: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Fri 11 Jan 02 11:30
    
Yes, we are in the planning stages now for Massachusetts...

Usually when I am out and about, people are ALWAYS asking, "So, are you 
going to do all 50 states?"  On one level, it's very appealing to me to do 
all 50, and have this complete boxed set as it were.  I mean, it seems 
like a natural idea.

On another level, I'm not sure that I'm up to marketing in faraway states.  

From a marketing perspective, the book is easy to market because Rhode 
Island is small.  In the course of 3 days I can drive to just about every 
one of the stores that carries our book.  Even in Massachussets, it will 
take 2 weeks to drive through the entire state (and there are many more 
stores than I could ever go to)  And Montana (I don't want to even think 
about!)

The other thing is just a financial thing.  Producing the Rhode Island book 
was made easier by the fact that we got the grant (and then the books sold 
through relatively quickly)  But if we even had 10 or 12 books out, then 
we'd have a HUGE amount of money out in inventory waiting to be sold.  That 
means that we'd need to rent a warehouse to hold the books in, hire people 
to guard the warehouse, fill the orders, call the people who haven't paid 
yet, etc. It's a level of business that we'd really have to think long and 
hard about before we pushed it up to that notch.

Right now, I'm really happy in the "cottage industry" phase of publishing. 

Donna and I are wearing all the hats for this book.  (Of course, Donna and 
I also are wearing the hats for our other respective projects and 
businesses as well-- me as clown, and Donna as artist and publisher of her 
other books.)

I don't know if I'm ready to move up to "publishing mogul" phase (or even 
if I want to)

I do think that it will be fun to do the Massachusetts book, and then we'll 
see where we are!
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #20 of 228: David S. Greene (dsg) Fri 11 Jan 02 13:31
    

Personally as a Bay State native and resident, I'm all excited to see a
MAAtoZ book.  So many possibilities in our neck of the woods....

Adam, you mentioned that you and Donna wear other hats.   For you this is a
brave new world.   Could you briefly tell us about your "day job", and the
challenges of moving from the performing arts to the written arts?
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #21 of 228: David S. Greene (dsg) Fri 11 Jan 02 13:57
    

In other words, what kind of clown are you (he asks with a wry grin)?
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #22 of 228: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Fri 11 Jan 02 14:00
    
Well, I'm a professional clown and actor.  I have a small clown company 
(basically myself) and I produce touring shows that travel around the 
country (and even the world).  I also teach clowning and acting in 
schools, conservatories, and wherever else I'm invited.

I'm perhaps best known for my show The Acme  Miniature Circus, which is an 
authentic Victorian style flea circus.  I'm  also the reigning Clown 
Laureate of Greenbelt Maryland!

As a matter of fact (switching hats) I'll be performing the flea circus in 
Boston  on January 19 at the Puppet Showplace in Brookline.  You can call 
them  directly for more information and reservations. 617-731-6400

(Hat changed back)

One of the things that is really interesting about switching from 
performance to literary art is that the product is tangible-- I can hold it 
in my hand....  When you are a clown, people have their program and their 
memory of what transpired, but the artwork is not tangible.  

I like having something to point to, and say "This is the work I do." vs. 
what I can do, will do, or have done.
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #23 of 228: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Fri 11 Jan 02 14:08
    
David slipped in-- I'm a very serious clown.  VERY SERIOUS!

I should also say that I'm not a newbie to the book business or even to 
writing.  

I used to have a job writing articles for a local monthly.  In addition, 
I've had several book reviews published by various places (including The 
Millenium Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, Fact Sheet Five, and 
New England Theatre Journal.

I also ran a bookstore for 3 years (a fine arts bookstore in Providence RI 
called Accident or Design)  I was responsible for the marketing, business 
management, and special events for the store.  

And I also had a job selling encyclopedias!  (Encyclopedia Americana!)
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #24 of 228: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Fri 11 Jan 02 16:30
    
>Many of my books have been used in the classroom by third, fourth,
>and fifth-grade teachers who copy the illustrations for their
>students to color while they discuss the various topics. 

I've recently been exploring a similar technique for myself -- drawing
while listening.  It's fascinating.  I'm the kind of guy who starts to
take notes while listening to a radio show, and one day I decided I'd
start drawing pictures instead.  It really does open up a new way of
listening-knowing-remembering.

>I'm perhaps best known for my show The Acme Miniature Circus, which
>is an authentic Victorian style flea circus.  

Wow!  I know a children's book that mentions, "a trainer of fleas,"
but I always thought it was a made up occupation.  Say more.  How do
you train them?  What do they do?  (no sense strictly limiting out
topic here, I say!)
  
inkwell.vue.136 : Adam Gertsacov and Donna Atwood: Rhode Island A to Z
permalink #25 of 228: It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Fri 11 Jan 02 18:38
    
The fleas pull chariots, walk on tightwires, and the finale of the 
show, they get shot out of a cannon,  through a flaming hoop of death, and 
then into their lavishly decorated trailer.

Rather than derail this topic with a whole new thought, I urge the curious 
to check out my website <http://www.trainedfleas.com> where you'll find 
lots of information and articles.  There's also a discussion about the 
show in the theatre conference here on the well <g theat> and see topic 
138 <theatre 138>  (This is only available to WELL subscribers-- So, nu, 
what are you waiting for?  Subscribe already!)  <keta> you are already a 
subscriber, so feel free to poke around there.
  

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