Having a routine is important, as it helps keep you on track. Take this morning – I realised that it was Thursday, then realised that I had missed uploading my blog yesterday. It woke me up early and so here it is! Certainly no writer’s block here, as we have years of videos and books planned. And here is our most recent bit of excitement … shout out to Andy Marshall our illustrator, who has cracked the code for our logo:
I forgive myself for sometimes failing in the discipline or organisation department – it’s not the end of the world. Especially since last night, after putting Elijah to bed, eating and admin, I was busy from 9-1 re-doing the draft Elijah and Crumpet book video. I incorporated all of the feedback received so far into version 2 and decided to start releasing this to influencers and followers around the world.
Now, you might think releasing our material early is not wise – what if someone takes our ideas? Yes, I had exactly the same thought, but once something is released, even as a blog or YouTube video, copyright rules apply. Then what if someone did take our work? Well, the attention from the uproar that would cause once they were found out would actually be quite good! That old saying applies – ‘Bad publicity is still good publicity’ (disclaimer, that might not be the saying, but it’s something like that)! Finally, if they are not Elijah and Crumpet, what would they want with our work??? On the other hand, what about the benefits of sharing early?
Well, doing my research on Kickstarter, for our upcoming campaign, I see the successful campaigns have engaged their audiences. Involving you, our supporters, brings many benefits:
You know what you want, so you can provide great feedback.
It’s fun for you since you feel special.
You are keen to see the project succeed.
You are part of a team, building a community.
We feel the love and that is appreciated.
There is a wide range of experience out there, which we tap into.
You have your own network of contacts, so hopefully you will tell all of your friends about us, then they tell their friends, and so on.
You may get to win the odd perk – ideas welcome!
By you signing up for emails, I will able to send out things which don’t appear elsewhere, such as the paragraph below in the book which didn’t make it in (it’s not the place to be ruining the Crumpet ‘secret’ for the little ones. It would be like a Christmas book with Santa at the end having Dad pull off the wig saying, “That’s the last year I’m doing that!” … not the best idea!):
And sometimes he tells everyone, What they're not meant to hear, That Crumpet's really played by Dad, That might be true, I fear.
So please, if you haven’t already, sign up for emails. As a reward I will send you the link to the draft book, so just click the ‘OUR NEW BOOK EMAIL’ button at the top. Please click ‘FOLLOW’ and I will see you twice a week, or thereabouts. Please tell me what you would like to be reading about and I will see what I can do. Thanks for your support. Have a great week, Rob
Have you ever thought about writing a book? Is it on your bucket list? Are you not sure how to start, but intend to find out one day? If you answered “Yes” to all of these, then I know how you feel! Since starting Elijah and Crumpet I have been thinking about doing a book, but there was just never enough time and it kept getting put back on the shelf for another day.
When I first started the YouTube channel, I didn’t have a clue about YouTubing, but the advice I learned from watching my first ‘So you want to be a YouTuber’ video was to JUST GET STARTED! I chanced upon a group of video creators with the hashtag #nosmallcreator which had been started by Cody Wanner in the U.S.A. and so I started to network. One of the group was Andy Marshall from South Australia, who was vlogging about a career change. He wanted to become an illustrator and was showing how he created the artwork for his own children’s book project.
I liked the cartoon style and, since collaborations are an important part of growing a channel, I reached out in April and asked if Andy wanted to draw Crumpet. Andy was up for the challenge and I was blown away by what he produced! Here it is:
Now, I have read thousands of kids books over the years and my favourite are the rhyming ones. Dr Seuss are the classics but I like the more modern ones (The Gruffalo, Stickman) even more. Elijah loves to finish off the sentences and so rhyming sentences have been great for developing his memory recall skills. I also like to write songs and I find rhyming quite easy, so I began to get some poems onto paper.
Later on I did an Instagram live chat (as Crumpet) with Andy, for his Creator Chat project. When you engage with someone in this way, you get to know them, or at least you feel like you do. If they are genuine and tell their story, over time the trust builds. One day I was listening to Andy talking about having to mow lawns to get some money coming in. It was the end of August and we were about to appear on national T.V. for the second time. It came to me that we could work as a team on a series of books. I could provide Andy with paid work as an illustrator and he could help us get the book done. I sent an Instagram DM (Direct Message) to Andy and he thought the idea was great. He was in.
Neither of us had any experience in doing this, but we both had the motivation to make it work. We both knew from learning to do YouTube videos and other things that problems are not barriers, just hurdles you have to navigate (jump or, as I used to, push over), so we looked up contracts, figured out some pricing, came up with a plan which also allowed Andy to continue documenting his journey … and we had a deal. Contracts signed.
Finally, I found podcasts. I know, I’m a bit behind in many regards! Take Instagram, for example – I didn’t know how to use it a year ago, but I am very willing to learn and now we have over 4,000 followers and try to post daily! So listening to podcasts on my hour drive to work and back, I learned about self-publishing and then about crowdfunding. More research online followed and I decided that the best way to reach more people would be to run a Kickstarter campaign.
If we had backers, we would not have to settle for the cheaper paperback and we could also engage with these backers, adding in fun bonus perks like stickers, drawings, videos and special offers, like the chance to appear in our books! If we were funded, we could really advocate for disability and inclusion by getting our message out there, with free books to influencers, plus reaching out to schools, libraries and the media. More about self-publishing and crowdfunding in later blogs and emails (please sign up).
And here we are, with our first book underway. Andy has completed Stage 1, which is the style guide. We needed to be happy with the representation of Elijah (Crumpet was easy as it was already done). The brief was to ensure that Elijah was recognisable, but still in cartoon style rather than a true-to-life image. As you can see below from Andy’s Instagram account @andycmarshall, over time it came together.
The text has been completed, so the next stage is to finish off the storyboard, which we have already outlined. Then the final page illustrations will begin. In the meantime, the text for book 2 is also done, but we’ll keep that one under wraps for now!
Thanks for visiting. Please click FOLLOW to receive notifications about the next Blog. I will try to write two a week, but timings may vary. It would be good if you could sign up for email updates (see link at top) – then we can email updates to the Kickstarter campaign directly to your inbox (if you really want to get behind the project, you could then resend to all of your own contacts!)
Thanks for coming back for the second half of the article I wrote initally for The Voice (the magazine of Down Syndrome Australia) back in March. It was modified for our feature page on the YOOCANdoanything website. Then some final changes on here. If you have come straight here, please stop reading and go to the previous blog for the first half!
(Also, while I have your attention, if you would like to be kept informed about how you can help launch our upcoming children’s book and its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, please provide us with your email address. We will keep it to ourselves and send you updates – you can even help develop the books with us! Thank you for your support, Rob 🙂 )
So how did Elijah and Crumpet come about? Mum first used a monkey puppet to encourage Elijah to learn words and sounds, which was very successful. I was always impressed at how Elijah would interact with his puppets as if they were living things, even if he sometimes did a double-take at me trying to be a ventriloquist! Elijah always tries to copy Thomas, which has been really good for his development. When Thomas started talking about YouTube and becoming a YouTuber, Elijah was quick to declare that he was going to be a famous YouTuber too. This was the seed for the idea that grew into reality. Embracing social media technologies seemed like a good way of showcasing Elijah’s strengths and as we thought about it, there were many other benefits: from our SRV (Social Role Valorisation) training, I knew that being a YouTuber was a highly valued role amongst his peer group; Elijah would have to practise content, which would assist his learning; the show would allow others to connect with Elijah, as they would learn about his life and have something to talk about; it might assist other parents of children living with Down syndrome, or anyone seeking information about what life was like living with Down syndrome.
We googled ‘how to start a YouTube channel’ and the advice was to just get started, so we did! Filming started with an old camcorder on a pile of books and I had a month free trial for editing software. The feedback was positive and I hoped that friends were not just being kind, but as time went by we developed content and slowly the channel took shape. Below are our very first 4 video thumbnails, before we learned about theming and logos! You can still find these videos (with better thumbnails now) on YouTube.
A new camera, tripod, green screen, editing software and many hours later (nobody told me it takes 4 hours for a 5-minute edit), we were fully immersed in Elijah and Crumpet. Elijah and I discuss each show, sometimes writing out the plan. If there is reading involved, Elijah has to practise until he is confident as it is important that we show him in the best possible light. We do a lot of ad-libbing as Elijah will make a funny statement and we then follow that lead. There is such a lot of content in the pipeline that it is hard to know what to do first. We are trying to appeal to a wide range of viewers, so we might do a chocolate video and then do a Japanese language learning video, then dancing, then wildlife, then travel.
Filming takes the least amount of time. Promoting and networking on social media takes more time and editing takes the most. We were doing daily uploads in order to get the content out, but we are now concentrating more on Instagram, since this has a lot more engagement. We have a strategy to build both channels. While subscriber numbers are not a priority, it’s always nice to see a show of support when someone clicks Subscribe (links at the bottom of this blog so you can support them all)! Ultimately, more followers means more advocacy and influence, which is a real motivator. It means a lot when someone messages to say that they were feeling low and our show picked them up. I often get woken up by Elijah wanting to do a show, or when I get up I find Elijah in his room reading the words to a song. He really wants to practise and do a good job. It has accelerated his learning and given him some real goals – you just have to watch Elijah rattle off 30 words at high speed in Japanese to see what he is achieving! The routine we have is a good one and it’s a fun activity for us to do together – great ‘father-son’ time!
We have connected with some great people from around the world in the YouTube, Instagram and Twitter communities and also the world-wide Down syndrome community and there are many exciting future opportunities which have opened up for us. We are making shows of interviews with other children living with Down syndrome from around the world. We have a world-first international art project using 21 acrylic on canvas paintings. We are seeking supporters who wish to be involved (all you need is a video camera, or even use your phone). In addition to Elijah’s emerging work as an artist (see our hashtag #NoSmallArtist), we intend to publish a book and also produce educational material for an international audience. We also have several TOP SECRET international projects, aimed at tackling discrimination, which we would love to tell you more about, but … !
With over 130 shows uploaded, we are nearing 1,000 subscribers on YouTube and we are on track to reach 10,000 followers on Instagram by the end of 2019. We value your interest and the momentum it creates. With your support, the Elijah and Crumpet show might just go on for longer than we expected … watch this account!
Thanks very much again. I hope you enjoy reading this and, if you did, please follow and click the notification bell, or whatever you have to do on here! Since I am new to blogging, please send any feedback you have to: ElijahandCrumpet@bigpond.com – you can ask any questions and I will try to build the answers into my blog. I’ll be guided by you!
(Sept 2019 update to the figures above … we now have nearly 200 shows. We went past 1,000 on YouTube, which was a major achievement through hard work for a year. Instagram is now over 4,000 but they have changed their rules which means we are not able to advocate to as many people as before, unfortunately. We could still get the 10,000 but I think 6,000 is more realistic now. In addition, I have finally got the hang of Twitter, so that is growing.)