Philip Isles

Let's talk about interactive children's entertainment, children's literature, and magic

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July 11, 2012

David Byrne Saves The Day

I'm putting down my David Byrne story because it's one--if not the--best celebrity encounter story I have.

First off, this all happened around Snowpocolypse, during the winter of 2010 in New York City. I was supposed to fly to Morocco the evening of the storm, but the moment the snow started falling like it did, I could tell it was going to be a problem. I watched Delta's flight staus updates as my flight was slowly but surely cancelled, and when I called them to reschedule, the next flight out they could offer was basically a day before I was supposed to return home to LA.

A friend of mine who happens to be an expert at working the travel industry told me to buy a different ticket out of Washington DC and let Delta refund me. Once I did that, I realized I had to get to Washington DC. It was almost impossible to do so. I dragged my bag through the snow. New Yorkers looked at me with looks that said, "where do you think YOU'RE going?"

I barely got to Penn Station, let alone the train to DC. The train was delayed for many hours, during which there was nothing to do in Penn Station but accept the challenge of finding the least unhealthy food possible, which tookthe form of smoothies containing beet and other assorted fruit. Nothing was working and by the time I was in DC I felt like I should've been in Tokyo considering the length of time it had taken me to get there.

This is all to say that I was totally locked into my trip by the time I reached the DC airport. There was no turning back. If I did turn back, there would be no way of getting back through the snow-wrecked transportation system to New York.

So you can imagine my displeasure when I went to the airport restroom to use the facilities, only to discover that my urine was red. I was convinced my kidneys were failing and this was a sure sign I was going to die in an exotic destination with less than stellar medical services, further hindered by my my less than stellar  nonexistent proficiency with the Arabic language.

And that's when I remembered my encounter with David Byrne.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It had been the week before, at a restaurant where my mother and I had gone to for dinner. We hadn't had a reservation, and neither had David Byrne, apparently, because the three of us had wound up, among others, sitting at the counter. It had slowly dawned on me that my mom was sitting between me and David Byrne, and so I chose the most subtle method I could devise to tell my mother the news: typing "You're sitting next to David Byrne" into my phone and showing her.

"You're sitting next to David Byrne?" My mother read aloud. "I don't get it."

Thankfully David byrne was polite enough to pretend this hadn't happened and we all got around to exchnaging pleasantries. My mother mentioned how good the beet salad was because we all happened to be eating the same thing. David Byrne nodded emphatically and said, "makes your poop turn red!" And went back to eating.

And we didn't say anything else to one another.

Little did I know this conversation would totally save my adventure a few days later. Had I not had the conversation I would never have suspected that the beets in the smoothie I drank in Penn Station might have something to do with my current predicament. It was just one of those things I'd never learned that everyone else seems to know.

It took a good twenty minutes to put everything together, before which I had convinced myself that I was stuck in Washington DC with dysfunctional kidneys and no way of getting anywhere until the East coast recovered, which was never.

So yes, David Byrne--love how eccentric he is, not just because that's what make his music so special but because normal people wouldn't talk about how the food they're eating next to you affects bodily functions.
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July 10, 2012

Moshi Monsters - Sample Writing

Image representing Moshi Monsters as depicted ...

One of my favorite consulting gigs was for Moshi Monsters, the stupendous and amazing Kids Media Experience that has swept the interactive entertainment industry by the sheer force of its creativity. I was asked to work on 2 projects with them, which I always include in my writing samples when pursuing writing gigs.

I loved this project, because of the sheer quality of the license--a perfect example of rich entertainment content utilizing new media to its fullest.

Character Descriptions

I was asked to provide a small dispatch from each of the original Moshi Monsters, a sif they had been asked to write something to their young fans:


A story outline for a web-series based on the characters, including all the major characters:
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July 06, 2012

Word Counts

A post by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Agency has been making the rounds in the forums, and it's an excellent reference for specifically how many words are generally found in each type of children's book manuscript.

Most interesting to note on this topic is the incorrect assumption people make when I tell them I write children's books. I tell them I have been working on my last manuscript for almost two years, and they imagine me slaving over a 500 word version of Goodnight Moon. This has happened so often that I now say "I write children's adventure novels like Harry Potter."

I hide from writing by focusing on its numbers, reinforcing my online presence, and playing with software designed to help me write. That said, numbers can help any process, no matter how subjective it might be. This is probably because the entertainment business is ultimately a business and business is about numbers. If your creative, subjective material does not have  the correct equivalent in numbers, it is not going to find the support necessary to reach the audience for which it is created. 

That's why word count is so crucial to writers. You can dress up those words with all the formatting your heart desires, but at the end of the day, your writing is a number of words. You arrange them as you see fit, and that arrangement is your many you arrange is a crucial part of your decision-making process as a writer.