or, perhaps Olive the Woolly Blogger...

Month: May 2012

Olive the Woolly Bugger app update

As many know by now, Olive’s Kickstarter campaign was very successful, exceeding the goal and allowing for additional features in the app. Many thanks to all who supported the project and a very special thanks to the corporate sponsors: Angling University, FlyFishMap.com, Redington, Orvis, Mill River Fly Rods, Fly Fusion Magazine, Peak Fishing, Montana Fly Company, Blue River Fly Company, and Al Ritt Flies.

Development is nearing completion for the book part of the app, which is a condensed version of the stories from Olive the Little Woolly Bugger and Olive and The Big Stream (books 1 and 2 of the 3 book series). In addition to the illustrations and story that have made the printed books popular, there are many additional features in the app that make it a more robust learning tool for young readers. For example, kids will be able to tap an object or a word and the definition will pop up. In this instance, the words “woolly bugger” are highlighted in the text. When tapped, this screen will load:

Another example is the word “trout”, which when tapped displays this screen:

Many of the illustrations have simple animations that play when the reader taps an “animate” button. Not all pages are animated as I didn’t want animations to become too distracting or gratuitous. The animations are very short and simply bring a little bit of added dimension to the reading experience. But kids will be kids, and no doubt they will want to play the animations over and over. I know I will.

This is going to be a popular button.

I’ve really enjoyed creating the graphics for the app and it’s been a thrill seeing it take form through several beta versions. I guesstimated that I would spend about 80 hours on the app myself. I passed that mark a looong time ago. It has been much more work than I originally estimated, but it has really scratched my creative itch. I’ve gotten to wear many hats during the process: animator, illustrator, interface designer, etc. Working with the guys at The Pixel Rebel, the app developer, has been great. Their suggestions, expertise and enthusiasm has really helped the app take shape into something we’ll all be very proud of. Kudos to Jonathan Foos for his technical wizardry in being able to implement everything I’ve wanted to do. I hope I haven’t driven him crazy, yet 😉 We’ll see. The next phase of the app will be really cool once it’s completed and I can’t wait to see how it turns out…

A bonus feature in the app is a simple game called, Chuckin’ Bugs. It’s really just for fun although there are elements of real world fly fishing as a basis for the game. For example, the fish don’t always cooperate and there is always the threat of getting skunked! Kids love games, there’s no denying that. As an author and someone who worked in educational software development years ago, I really want to offer kids something with some substance. But when I got the idea for this game I just couldn’t help but indulge myself. Besides, if kids are going to be playing a game, it’s best that it be something that gets them thinking about fly fishing, right?!

If all goes as intended, the app will be completed within the next few weeks. After de-bugging (a term that seems oddly fitting) the app will be submitted for approval by the powers that be at Apple. Once that has been accomplished the app will be available on iTunes. At least that’s how I think the process will go. Once all is said and done, then comes the vastly important part of the app’s success: spreading the word.

You’re going to want to acquire an iPad if you don’t already have one.


Author visits are cool, but recess is cooler!

This past week I had an opportunity to visit a local Montessori school and give an author presentation to about 30 kids, kindergarten through 3rd graders. Both of my kids attended kindergarten at this school (many years ago), so it was a homecoming of sorts for me, and a lot of fun.

As is the case every time I visit a school, the enthusiasm level of my audience ran very high. Because kids are easily excitable, sometimes I think that an author of a book titled, “How Paint Dries” would be a big hit with a youthful audience. But then I realize that kids are fascinated by fishing and fish.  When I asked the group to raise their hands if they like fishing, nearly the entire room was filled with up-stretched arms. Not all of them had gone fishing, but they were all enthralled by the prospects of fishing.

Some of the audience members had even been fly fishing before, and while my presentation obviously emphasizes fly fishing, it’s really more about fishing in general. After all, the chances are much greater that kids will have dunked a worm or salmon egg than wet a line with a fly on the end.

The first phase of my presentation is Powerpoint slide show in which I reveal the great things about fly fishing: Having fun with friends and family; seeing beautiful new places; seeing cool things in nature, like wildlife; and of course fish. Then I talked about the process of writing and illustrating the Olive books. This always gets kids in the mood to do some drawing, so next up I drew Olive on a whiteboard.

It’s always fun to hear the kids’ reaction as I do this. Then, much to the horror of my audience, I erased my drawing!  Next, I drew Olive again, but this time step-by-step as the kids followed along with each stroke of the pen. I love to see the widely-varied results of their efforts. Kids are very creative.

Lastly I asked the kids to each draw something having to do with fishing and write a short description of their artwork. Again, this was very entertaining and the subject matter ranged from a military tank made to look like a fish, to a fish tank with goldfish, just like the one in their classroom. One little boy even drew his own fishing fly in the style of Olive.  One little girl named Brooke signed her name to her drawing, Brooke Trout!

At 2:44pm (my visit was scheduled to conclude at 2:45) one little boy, who had been particularly engaged throughout my presentation, came up to me and reminded me that I had to leave soon. I looked at the clock on the wall and told him that I didn’t have to dash out the door right away–I was enjoying the chance to observe all the creations the kids had just finished. He insisted that I had to leave at 2:45. Then I realized why he was so concerned that I leave right on schedule: recess began at 2:45.