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RT: Tyler and his Solve-a-Matic Machine has enjoyed tremendous success in its first year of release. Congratulations on winning the 2007 iParenting Media HOT Award for Juvenile Young Adult Books. What have you found to be the most enjoyable part of this past year? Is there anything you will do differently as you prepare to launch Book Two?

Jennifer: The most enjoyable part has been hearing feedback from the kids and parents, particularly the difference the book has made in their conversations about entrepreneurship and business. When a kid for the first time understands the word “entrepreneur” or says, “I want to start my own XYZ business” because he/she read the book, that’s priceless. I never tire of hearing feedback like that.

As we prepare for the launch of Book Two, we will be doing a few things differently. First, we will focus marketing the series as a whole, as opposed to the single book itself. The second book will emphasize the importance of networking and build on the lessons in the first book. So a focus on the series will be imperative. Also, we will probably submit it to reviewers sooner. We waited nine months after publishing the first book. Reviews have been extremely valuable to us, so we won’t want to wait that long the second time around.

RT: Like Tyler, you recognized your interest in being an entrepreneur early in your life. At 12, you were working in your Dad's business. Did you have certain ideas about what kind of business or product you would create back then? Have those ideas followed the path you envisioned?

Jennifer: As a kid, I had this idea that I wanted to write and direct TV commercials. I wrote poetry and songs, but rarely prose that my teachers didn’t force me to write. I never dreamed I would be a prose writer. As an adult, I took a different path — a long windy one through technology and web development — that eventually did lead me to marketing and dabbling in video creation, but never writing and directing TV commercials…at least not yet.

RT: Is there a particular (youth) business model (e.g., 4-H, Junior Achievement, Student Success Manifesto) that you used as the framework for building Tyler's business venture?

Jennifer: No, for the business aspect of it, I really drew on my own experiences and observations in various industries and job roles over the years. I also took note of advice by great business leaders and entrepreneurs — such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie; friends of capitalism. I simplified those lessons to make them appropriate for a kid audience. Since I have a sort of simple way of looking at the world, this was the easy part. Then I looked to what parents and teachers were saying about best selling books (the good and the bad) and tried to adopt the good and avoid the bad. Finally, I asked kids to read the manuscript. I used their feedback to tweak the language and concepts for the audience.

RT: Do you think there was a pivotal moment in your own life that drew you to writing Tyler and His Solve-a-Matic Machine? Was the machine that can help with homework your own inspiration or one that came from someone else?

Jennifer: The pivotal moment came for me back in 2004-2005 as several things in my life came to a head: China and India were starting to produce capitalists, and America faced serious competition; I completed reading Ayn Rand’s masterpieces and tribute to capitalism The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged; I was watching my college-educated friends’ jobs go overseas and realizing we were all educated to be employees and never taught the skills needed to be entrepreneurs. And if this wasn’t enough, there was my daughter. Her innocent little face reminded me of how important it is that we work to secure our childrens’ future.

As for the machine, it is a symbol of all inventions that have propelled the human race forward through innovation — not unlike the calculator, the typewriter, the word processor and the PC that have all taken their place in our history as tools that help us do our homework (or work) faster.

RT: Tyler and his Solve-a-Matic Machine is the first book in your Future Business Leaders™ series. It is also your first children's book, both as an author and publisher. Did you find anything particularly surprising or challenging in the process?

Jennifer: The most challenging part of the process - but not the most surprising - is getting the word out when no one knows who you are.

RT: I saw on your blog that in May (2007), you said you wanted to get Book Two published this summer, before kids go back to school. Given the February 2007 invitation, that would seem to be a tight start-to-finish schedule for the book. Now, two months later, is the book still on target? Did you have a similarly tight schedule for Tyler?

Jennifer: I am working to get the book into manuscript format by mid-summer so kids can read it and give me feedback before we print & publish it in the Fall. Even so, this is still a very tight schedule for me. I am heavily focused on the plot and characters now, hoping to start the dialogue and descriptions of settings by the end of June 2007.

RT: Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect in the next book? Will Tyler remain the central character or will he transition to an ensemble role?

Jennifer: In the second book, Giselle takes center stage to help Tyler market his machine. Tyler will still be around as Giselle’s first and primary customer, but Giselle is the star of Book Two. Each book of the series will highlight another kid in the city of Nessibus. Different businesses, different lessons, different adventures, but the same town and same cast of characters.

RT: A number of people who have read the book and offered their comments or written reviews have suggested that the book belongs in schools. Have you had much interest from schools? If so, for what grades? And in what parts of the United States?

Jennifer: We completely agree, and we have started with schools here in the Atlanta metro area where we are realizing some successes. We also have realized interest from non-profit organizations that cater to kids. As to grade levels, our concentration is in the 4th to 8th grades.

We listen to our readers and welcome their feedback. We have heard from focus groups, readers, and fans that the message is universal and it crosses all geographic, gender, racial, and socioeconomic lines empowering kids to reach for their dreams while learning real life lessons.

We also believe that forums like this help to get the message out to schools in other regions.

RT: What suggestions would you have for parents who either have children interested in business or who want to encourage their child to develop/use the life skills that Tyler developed in the book?

Jennifer: Start a conversation about business and entrepreneurs. After reading the book, parents will find it easier to start that conversation. Explore your kid’s gifts and talents; ask them what they think it takes to start a business and if they want to start one, talk about what type of business. Help them imagine it: how it would be set-up? how it would make money? who of their friends could they hire as vendors or employees? Remind them that business is about networking and give them small tasks to start their businesses. The book, the subsequent conversations, and the tasks to execute will help them lay a great foundation to build on as they grow up. Finally, enroll them in Jr. Achievement to take their interest to the next level.

RT: On your blog, you share a vignette about reading with your daughter. What were your favorite books as a child? (Up to five titles).

Jennifer: As a small kid, I loved Dr. Seuss, especially Wacky Wednesday. I liked WW because it was taboo. I think there was a picture of a fanny in it, and as a result it was the most worn book in the entire school library.

As I got older, I enjoyed Encyclopedia Brown because it always had a different ending everytime you read it…and I also had a thing for smart boys.

But my absolute favorite books were those of the Nancy Drew series. She was my role model. I would read them in my bed by the light of a small lamp after I was supposed to be sleeping. My father’s popping ankle would warn me he was coming down the hall and approaching my room for a final “check.” I would throw my book down and turn out the lamp so he wouldn’t catch me up passed my bedtime. Only Nancy Drew could entice me to break the rules like that.

RT: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Jennifer:We have videos of kids and parents talking about the book on our website. Be sure to check them out and see what they have to say. You can order the book at any major bookstore and on Amazon.com. We also love to hear readers’ feedback. We can be reached by email info@boujepublishing.com.

Thanks for all that you and your organization do to help kids learn to read.

Website: http://www.boujepublishing.com


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