or, perhaps Olive the Woolly Blogger...

Month: April 2011

I’m not a real author (well I am, but read on…)


I’ve given presentations at schools before, and it’s always a very rewarding experience that also entails a lot of planning, especially where significant travel is required (I’m not real big on travel and avoid it whenever I can). A few months ago I was invited to participate in a different kind of author visit—one that didn’t involve travel. At all. This “author visit” took place just last week.

My presentation was to a group of about 50 kids who are part of the Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA).  My “visit” was the first of it’s kind as part of what they called the Visiting Author Virtual Adventure (VAVA). After a dry run a couple of days prior, to make sure that everything was working from a technical standpoint, I felt confident that being a virtual author would be a snap. Much easier than if I were playing the part of a real author.  In fact I wouldn’t even have to shave and get a hair cut for this appearance.

On the day of the virtual visit when it was time to arrive at the school (log in to the virtual classroom), I strapped on my headset and microphone and settled in to my office chair- a very familiar place.  I felt somewhat like a radio disc jockey about to go on the air for the first time.

After an introduction by one of the teachers (whom I never met in person), I began my presentation the same way that I do when I’m a real person at a brick and mortar school – by asking a question designed to get kids involved:  “How many of you like opening presents?”  Usually a room full of hands is enthusiastically extended skyward, but in the virtual world, there were no hands.  Instead, a bunch of smiley faces appeared on the screen next to the names of the students.  Relieved for the response, I proceeded into my presentation. “Good.  Well, fishing is a lot like opening presents, because there’s always a surprise.”

I waded through my Powerpoint slide show which includes photos of wildlife, scenery, kids fishing, and of course fish. Without the occasional distractions that come when you assemble 50 youngsters in a room together, my delivery was smooth and confident.  So confident was I that at one point I made a subtle attempt to interject some humor. Without having a real flesh and blood audience to giggle at my marginally funny statement, the awkward silence was deafening, even with headphones on.  Luckily none of my virtual audience could see me squirm in my chair and I decided not to attempt any more clever acts for the remainder of the presentation. Tough virtual crowd 😉

At the end of 50 minutes my formal presentation had concluded and it was question and answer time.  Assuming it would follow a similar display where a virtual hand would be raised so that I could call upon each child to type a question, suddenly the dialog box was flooded with rapid-fire questions, typed out at lightening speed. These are kids that are comfortable on a keyboard, and as I tried to read one question aloud, 5 more would appear and force me to lose my place. Frantically scrolling through the list I was relieved that one thing never changes: the nature of the questions being asked is the same everywhere, whether the kids are sitting right in front of me or if they appear as avatars on a screen. Familiar questions such as:  “How old are you?” “Do you have a dog?” “You must be a really good fisherman- what’s the biggest fish you ever caught?” I was happy to answer all questions except that last one. I could have lied, since that’s what fishermen do. “Oh, look at the virtual digital time display – we’re all out of time, kids!”

All in all it was a great experience and the presentation was well-received by all in virtual attendance. At least that’s what the virtual teacher told me, via email, following the visit.   I did receive a nice ‘Thank You’ card in the mail a few days later. It was made from real paper and had handwritten notes from real teachers inside. It was nice to hear from them that the presentation was very popular and had received great feedback from parents and students.  And the virtual visit resulted in some real sales of real books, so luckily there are some real kids out there who may get hooked on fly fishing with Olive.

Thank you to all the real teachers, kids and families behind the virtual curtain at WAVA. It was a pleasure to meet you all.

Take Kids Fly FIshing

There’s a new kid on the block, or rather there’s a new kids site on the internet…Take Kids Fly Fishing.

The site is, or is destined to become, a comprehensive hub of information for all things kids fly fishing related. From the ABOUT page:

Getting kids into the wonderful sport of fly fishing is an exciting endeavor, and one that comes with the need for certain equipment and helpful information.  For parents it can be a daunting challenge because you cannot walk into most fly shops and find a wide selection of gear for kids. Searching the internet can be frustrating because again, there isn’t one single location that sells all manner of gear for kids.

At Take Kids Fly Fishing we hope to simplify your quest for kids fly fishing gear by providing a comprehensive listing of manufacturers of all manner of gear, from rods and reels to waders, boots, clothing, accessories, books etc. We also aim to bring you other helpful information that will help enhance your kids fly fishing experience.

If you are a manufacturer, a guide or casting instructor, please contact us so that we can add you to our listings.

Please bookmark this site for future reference.

Stay tuned, tightlines, and take a kid fly fishing!

Word on the street is that there will be a kids contest in the near future, with some seriously excellent prizes for several winners.  Sounds like a win-win for everyone so bookmark Take Kids Fly Fishing and stay tuned!




Olive at the American Museum of Fly Fishing

My friend Leland Miyawaki, who is the fly fishing manager at the Orvis shop in Bellevue, WA (and father of the infamous Miyawaki Beach Popper), was recently in New England for the annual meeting of all the top dogs at Orvis (and apparently they invited the fishing managers as well).

Leland writes:

Last Monday evening, I attended a reception with all of Orvis retail execs as well as we fishing managers at the Museum. To the left under the staircase in the bookstore on a shelf was the Olive display. I was surprised and quite proud of our boy Kirk…Yes indeed. Kirk Werner and Roderick Haig Brown.

Olive on display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing, photo courtesy of Leland Miyawaki

Roderick Haig Brown is a god in terms of fly fishing literary history, so that’s an outrageous statement. But I’m certainly very proud that Olive found her way into the bookstore of the American Museum of Fly Fishing.

For those who do not know, the Museum is located in Manchester, VT— roughly 500 feet from the Orvis flagship store, (and just a bit further from what appears to be The Bean Mexican Eatery and Bar, at least according to Google Maps). The museum was established in 1968 by a group of interested anglers, with the purpose of preserving and exhibiting the treasures of American angling. Fly fishing obviously has a very rich heritage in New England and it seems fitting that the region is home to such a treasure trove of fly fishing memorabilia.

I’ve never been to that part of the country. You can bet it’s on my ever-expanding bucket list.

Thanks to Leland for the report, and thank you to the folks at the American Museum of Fly Fishing for letting Olive be a small part of your gift shop.

Olive is #1 (and #3 and #6)

I was recently informed that Olive the Little Woolly Bugger is ranked 1st according to sales in the category of Childrens Books & Videos with Angler’s Book Supply,  the leading supplier of books and videos about fly fishing, fishing and hunting to retail stores world-wide.

Olive and The Big Stream is ranked #3 and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride is ranked 6th.

While this is obviously the kind of good news an author likes to hear, Olive can do better.

These sales figures show that the first book is outselling the others, which on one hand makes sense because it’s the first in the series.  I’d like to see the other two books sell just as many copies as the first.  It is, afterall, a series.

So remember, if you purchased Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, and you liked it, there are two more available and they’re equally as fun, engaging and “edutational”.

Thanks for the support from all of you who have gotten hooked on Olive!


Long live the (printed) book

A recent article Angling Trade (March 2011) featured an interesting article about books and how they factor into the fly fishing industry.  The article, titled “Now Read This” by Chris Santella, takes a look at how books factor into the revenue stream of fly fishing industry. It also examines the technology trends in e-book readers and how that is changing the book industry, and to some degree the fly fishing book segment of the market.

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to books.  While I acknowledge the benefits of e-readers I still prefer the organic appeal of a printed book.  I like the smell, the texture, the physical cover art and the tactile ability to dog-ear a page when I can’t find my book mark.  I am not a complete technology dinosaur, mind you, and even bought my wife a Kindle for her birthday this year.  It’s a neat little device.  But I don’t want one.

Some of my reservation stems from the fact that as an author of printed books, I feel just a little threatened by ebooks. Not enough to cause me to lose sleep over it, but enough to make me to pay at least some attention to the trend.

For kids books, however, e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook are not the platform. Even as they build color technology into the readers, the screen display is too small to provide the experience of a large format, illustrated picture book (emphasis on picture).  There are e-publishers who specialize in creating books for the Apple iPad, but even that screen is small by comparison to an 8.5 x 11 or larger format of a printed book. Like any piece of software, an e-book does have the ability to build in interactive features to further enhance a child’s reading/learning experience, and I even went so far as to talk to one such publisher for the iPad. I was disappointed that the publisher wanted to limited the length of their childre’s titles to 15 pages and build in gratuitous animations that were limited in scope and didn’t add anything of significant value to the book. As a former software artist/animator I suggested interactive, animated games and lessons. The publisher said it would be too expensive to build those features. And that is the extent of my experience with e-book publishers for kids.  If I’m going to have my books published on the e-platform, I do not want them to be scaled down or devalued in order to fit a certain software development template.

Then I stumbled upon a Publisher’s Weekly article by Bill Henderson that speaks to another aspect of e-books that many may not have considered: the negative environmental aspect of producing these battery-operated devices.

Some think that the e-reader will save trees. Soon, according to a recent New York Times article, we will possess over 100 million e-readers. What a savings in our forests, right? Wrong.

We often think of the traditional publishing industry as a waste of trees, water and energy sources; chemicals and inks used in printing as bad stuff.  Well, more and more printers are greening up their printing practices by using non-toxic inks and bleach-free recycled paper stocks, etc.  I don’t know enough about the global practices of the printing idustry, but the manufacture of e-readers makes the printing process, to me, seem rather benign by comparison. From the Publisher’s Weekly article:

Here’s what an e-reader is: a battery-operated slab, about a pound, one-half inch thick, perhaps with an aluminum border, rubberized back, plastic, metal, silicon, a bit of gold, plus rare metals such as columbite-tantalite (Google it) ripped from the earth, often in war-torn Africa. To make one e-reader requires 33 pounds of minerals, plus 79 gallons of water to refine the minerals and produce the battery and printed writing. The production of other e-reading devices such as cellphones, iPads, and whatever new gizmo will pop up in the years ahead is similar. “The adverse health impacts [on the general public] from making one e-reader are estimated to be 70 times greater than those for making a single book,” says the Times.

Like I said, I’ll stick to printed books. I like reading them and writing them.

So go into your local fly shop and ask for Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, Olive and The Big Stream, and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride.  They should have them in stock, and if they don’t they can get them through their distributor.  Just don’t expect to find the Olive series in an e-reader format anytime soon.

That’s my story and I shall stick to it, all the way to the poor house.


Olive on the Big Screen

I’ve decided that Oprah is not going to be the person to help get the word out about Olive the woolly bugger. I tried to reach out to Oprah by tagging her on Twitter posts, emailing her via Oprah.com, applying to be a recipient of a Harpo Hookup, and even following her on Facebook. I posted several blog entries, hoping to capture the attention of her internet staff. In the end, I realized that getting the attention of Oprah was just another pipe dream…a bucket list item that will remain at the bottom of the bucket.

But I have not given up hope or stopped dreaming. In fact, my new goal is to bring Olive to the Big Screen. That’s right, the motion picture industry is next on Olive’s list of things to achieve.  The fly fishing industry needs a boost, which I wrote about on my other blog. However, the suggested solution of getting Clint Eastwood to make a Dirty Harry fly fishing film was clearly riddled with tongue and cheek humor (although it did speak to the real necessity to drive new participants to the sport of fly fishing).  The fly fishing industry needs another blockbuster hit like A River Runs Through It.  All this time I’ve been sitting on the solution and wasn’t even aware of it.

I figure that with the help of a talented team of script writers, the story of Olive the Little Woolly Bugger can be fashioned into a full length, animated feature.  There is an established cast of characters and the framework for a fun story that is unique and engaging, has already been established, and even contains valuable lessons in conservation and life. And I’ve got my eye on two studios:  Dreamworks and Pixar.


The animation branch of Dreamworks Studios seems like a logical fit for Olive. Heck, just look at their logo: the little boy on the moon is fishing…for what? A trout, or a bass? Perhaps the next great story for a film? Is he dangling a woolly bugger at the end of his line?  Seems encouraging to me. The studio has produced no shortage of great, engaging animated films including such notables as Shrek, Madagascar, Antz, Megamind and many others. I’d like to suggest to the executives at Dreamworks that you add Olive the Little Woolly Bugger to that list.

But I have no allegiance to any one particular studio. I’m shopping Olive around.

Disney’s Pixar Studios needs no introduction. Their list of movies reads like an all-star lineup: Cars, The Incredibles, A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., and of course there’s that other one–Toy Story, I think it’s called…? Pixar has proven that they can draw bugs and fish, so I see Olive the Little Woolly Bugger equally at home there.

What I learned from my dead-end attempt at getting Oprah’s attention was that I appeared too desperate in my quest for her help.  Nobody likes a needy beggar, so I’m taking a different approach this time: I’m going to sit back and wait for the call from Dreamworks or Pixar. I’m sure it won’t be long after the communications departments for either studio pick this blog post off the RSS feeds. Whomever calls me first gets the contract.  Any guesses on who it’s going to be?

Olive’s dream is alive, and I’m sitting by the phone.

Outdoor Alliance for Kids needs Fly Fishing

The Outdoor Alliance for Kids (OAK) is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with the common interest in expanding the number and quality of opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors. There is great national attention on the matter of getting kids outside, moving, recreating and enjoying the natural resources that our great country has to offer, and as I have stated many times before, fly fishing is a great activity that fits nicely into this mission. Fishing is the #1 gateway activity according to the Outdoor Foundation, which means that fishing is tops in leading kids to explore other outdoor endeavors.

With this knowledge in hand, it makes good sense that the fly fishing industry should be represented in the membership ranks of OAK. The company/organization that signs on as a Partner Member will be representing not only themselves, but the entire fly fishing industry, which is good for everyone concerned.  Fly fishing needs to attract more newcomers to the sport, and kids make up a very important demographic.

Take a look at the Partner’s Resolution page on the OAK website. Read up on what membership stands for. Look at the Steering Committee Members. There is room for the fly fishing industry to be represented here. Read through the list of the Member Organizations. You’ll see Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever and other wildlife organizations. Trout Unlimited should be listed as well.  How about the Federation of Fly Fishers? The Discover Fly Fishing arm of the AFFTA should also consider participation. Any fly fishing manufacturers that target kids with specific gear would also benefit. Redington comes to mind.

I hope that these and other organizations/businesses will take a good look at the Outdoor Association for Kids and consider getting involved. It’s good for kids, the outdoors, and fly fishing. Sounds like a win-win-win to me. Heck, the OAK logo even features a kid fishing…perhaps with a presence we can turn that fishin’ pole into a fly rod.