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Kids Get a Jump On Self-Publishing

by Erin J. Simpson

The thrill of having a stranger or an acquaintance or even a close relative appreciate your accomplishment is a sensation that cannot be replicated. But having someone recognize or praise your hard-earned achievement can take years of work and perseverance. In a world where the biggest actors, the strongest athletes, and the most vocal political figures continue to dominate the air waves and demand our attention, it can be easy to content yourself with wallowing amongst the unsung masses.

Enter Anna Barber and Josh Jones, two entrepreneurs from California who struck upon a brilliant idea. Why not give children control of their own creativity and provide them with an outlet to see their work come to life? After a feverish plane ride, where they hashed out the details of their new venture, they founded Scribble Press, a media company that allows children to share their own stories and fulfill a dream: to become published writers.

In 2008, Scribble Press opened retail locations where children were invited to write, illustrate, and publish their own books. They were similar to the incredibly popular Build-A-Bear empire, but instead of going home with a stuffed something-or-other that will wind up in a dusty corner, children could leave with their names in print and an invaluable lesson that creativity yields tangible success. With spaces in New York City and Santa Monica, books began flying off the press at a frenzied pace.

“Producing a book by yourself is a very different experience than buying a book off of a shelf,” says Elizabeth Chandler, one of the company’s initial advisors, who has since taken over for one of the original founders and now helps manage the business.

But, while Scribble Press’s physical presence in malls and shopping centers was clearly geared toward children, what the founders did not expect is that this program would appeal to people of all ages. Scribble Press’s retail stores eventually became too cumbersome to maintain and, this past year, Chandler explains, the company decided to capitalize on the self-publishing trend, shuttering their physical doors and creating an app for the iPad. Now, the company is seeing users as young as age six and as old as 65 using the app to share their stories.

The app, which is currently available only for iPad users, will eventually branch out to other devices, including the Android. For now, Scribble Press is finding plenty of success with Apple users alone, with parents, teachers, and creative types across the globe downloading the digital device. In 2013, Scribble Press’s biggest markets included the United States, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and New Zealand.

Darrin Jenkins, a contributor to techie-buzz.com, says he was searching for creativity programs last year for his daughter, then in the third grade, when he came across Scribble Press while browsing the app store on his iPad.

Since Scribble Press no longer gives users the option to print, the only way to share stories is through email. In an age where gadgets age with alarming speed, the program lacks the permanence of a true book. Jenkins, who has since given up his iPad, no longer has access to the app or his daughter’s stories. But, he still highly regards the program and his daughter loved it. “She was pretty proud of her creations,” he says. What the program lacks in permanence, it makes up for in ingenuity.

For those still itching to own a hard copy of their story, Scribble Press has handed the physical printing process over to Make Meaning, a creative learning center where children can try their hands at everything from cake decorating to soap making to book publishing. If kids can become published authors all in one day’s work, can you imagine what they will do in a lifetime?

That is exactly the question Chandler wants to help answer. She explains that one of the biggest differences Scribble Press’s app presents is the ability to create anywhere and anytime. “It’s making writing a part of kids’ daily lives and making it easy to create stories. It can be done anywhere and really capture the moment,” she says. And, the ability to think and create spontaneously is something Chandler hopes will become second nature to children as they grow and mature, becoming a routine habit throughout their lives.

“I like that it has templates to help children get their creative juices flowing,” says Jenkins. “The illustration tools are nice, too. It was fun to see my daughter’s stories come to life with her illustrations in them.”

The program differs from other online writing tools because it offers users a clean slate to create, as opposed to a more rigid template. Teachers have eagerly jumped at the opportunity to incorporate technology into their classrooms. Now, students can enhance what they are learning in a textbook by creating their own study aides that will be more useful and tailored to their individual learning styles.

Scribble Press is capitalizing on the digital realm to help teach the importance of communication. The irony is not lost on them. Continually chastised as the destroyer of communication, the Internet and all its progressive technology is considered largely to blame for the dearth of person-to-person communication. But Scribble Press recognizes that the digital realm offers a unique opportunity for children to learn at an early age how to express feelings and give voice to their ideas.

As Jenkins so rightly points out: “We have so much technology now, and various ways to communicate, but there still seems to be such a lack of good communication. Being able to communicate is vital to a successful society. I believe this app is beneficial because it provides an easy medium to get children thinking about writing.”

Sharing stories and new ideas is what makes Scribble Press such a successful online publishing platform. Parents view the tool as a bridge between technology and tradition, and are using the app as a family to teach valuable lessons and impart important values. In their stories, children can express gratitude at Thanksgiving or reflect on memorable moments for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, creating stories that serve as lasting memories.

Will Scribble Press help turn the tables on our communication conundrum? By using the very tool that so often stifles our inclination to talk openly and serves as a mask to hide behind, will one app help to begin the slow process of reinvigorating our dialogue and stirring the stories within us? We hope to find out, one story at a time.

Web: www.ScribblePress.com

Photos courtesy of Scribble Press.
Feature photo: From Flop the Frog by Lauren Reifowitz.

When she’s not writing or climbing the corporate ladder at her publishing job, you can find Erin scouring Brooklyn for good food and unique finds. www.ErinJSimpson.com

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