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Life Arts    H2'ed 5/29/13

Help Giraffe Heroes' Ann Medlock Celebrate Her Birthday with Great Project

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Ann, then and now
Ann, then and now
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My guest today is Giraffe Heroes Project founder, Ann Medlock. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Ann.  

JB: It's been thirty years now, since you founded the project. But there are still plenty of people out there who are not familiar with it. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch to get us started and we'll go from there?

AM: I was looking to provide an antidote to the apathy-inducing plague of Oh-My-God-Look-At-This-Horrible-Thing reporting that besieges us and makes people pull the covers over their heads, feeling hopeless. It seemed to me that the world was/is indeed a mess but if you look deeper into most grim stories, SOMEbody's sticking his or her neck out to fix things. I wanted to find those people and tell their stories. In the beginning, I recorded interviews with these brave people, calling them Giraffes and getting actors to read scripts about them. I sent LPs (!) of the stories to hundreds of radio stations to be used as public service announcements. From that audio beginning 30 years ago, we've mutated repeatedly and now are mainly online, with a website, an ezine, a Facebook page" the social media "works." Oh, and a huge part of the work has been developing a curriculum teachers asked us to create. The curriculum is based on our stories of over 1,400 Giraffe Heroes and runs the gamut from kindergarten through high school.

JB:You and the Giraffes have certainly come a long way, Ann! You turned 80 this month. And you have a very untraditional way of celebrating this milestone.

AM: Yes, I'm told that it's a bit odd. Sort of goes with starting the Project at 50--the first fundraiser for Giraffe was, "Don't send presents--help me start this nonprofit." So now, 30 years later, I still don't need presents but I want everyone to help the nonprofit create the world's most amazing popup storybook--about how the giraffe got its long neck, by being brave and caring, of course.

It's called Two Tall Tales, and it's already written and recorded. We just need the capital to create the books, which will be tall--13 inches by 5 and when the giraffes in the words get long necks, the giraffes in the drawings will too, right on the page. It's a perfect book for movable pages. And it'll include the audio track we've made. I am SO excited when I think about little kids having this book in their hands.

I don't know how you feel about popup books but I find them enchanting. The wonderful effects are made from hundreds of hand-assembled pieces and the books cost the world to produce so I'm on Kickstarter, looking for crowd-funding, a way that lots and lots of people can invest small amounts that build up to what's needed to do the job.

Even people half my age seem to have no idea what Kickstarter is and I have to keep explaining how it works. So here's my quickie explanation for the perplexed: an inventor, entrepreneur, writer or artist has an idea for something they want to produce so they describe it on Kickstarter and potential backers look it over and consider the "rewards" they'll get for investing. They pledge for the reward they want and--if the campaign reaches its goal in a set time, the pledges are activated, the idea becomes a reality and the rewards are delivered. (Said rewards can range in value from $1 to $10,000.) If, on the other hand, the campaign falls short by even one buck at the end of the campaign, all pledges are erased, the product isn't produced, and said inventor, entrepreneur, writer or artist goes into deep mourning.

Seriously, it's a wildly stressful system. I'm trying not to obsess, to not check the list of new backers every hour, to not dream about more ways to enlist parents, teachers, aunties, granpas, lovers of popup books, giraffe collectors" I now have a little team of Kickstarter survivors who tell me this demented behavior is normal, that they've all done it.

But did you look at the book's description on Kickstarter? Two Tall Tales is here . I mean how cool is it? A magnificent artist, a world-renowned popup engineer, the best stories you could possibly tell a child. It just has to make it. Everyone has to want the kids in their world to have this book.

JB: It does sound exciting but stressful. And I'm not sure I get how it works. How much money do you have to raise, how much time do you have to raise it? And what's the story with pledges and rewards? How do you raise money if you have to pay it out as rewards? That isn't clear to me.

AM:  Good question.  See if this helps.  Paying the popup engineer, the illustrator, and the printer (plus Kickstarter's cut) will cost $68,000. That buys us 5,000 32-page, illustrated books, the minimum print run, each book including the sound track. Some books will be sent to backers as rewards and some will go to bookstores and libraries. Nobody gets money as rewards--it's all books and art and fun stuff like our Giraffe trading cards, and some interesting experiences.

The end of the campaign is June 5--in the afternoon for East Coasters. Right now we're at 48% with 7 days to go. Kickstarter history is that there's a surge in the last days. It's nerve-wracking.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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