How Things Happen Part III

RavenJackson

Things happen through metamorphosis sometimes. I wrote a kids yoga story recently called Kate Caterpillar and the Curious Change. (I’ll put it at the end of this blog)  It got me a little curious about what actually happens when a caterpillar changes into a butterfly. It’s one of the most overused metaphors, but the actual facts are pretty sweet. There are some different ways that it happens depending on the species of caterpillar, but in a small nutshell, what happens is this: the caterpillar sheds its skin, that skin then becomes the chrysalis. Then inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar breaks down into imaginal (pretty awesome word, right?) cells. Imaginal cells are like stem cells, they can become any type of cell. And then through the course of a couple weeks or so the caterpillar rebuilds itself into a butterfly.

A cool article and video http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/14/3-d-scans-caterpillars-transforming-butterflies-metamorphosis/

What I take from the butterfly as a metaphor is that it’s not all pretty and majestic. If we are going to change or go through significant metamorphosis the first thing that happens is the shedding of skin. I don’t know how it feels for a caterpillar, but for humans shedding skin, even if it’s metaphorical, is not a painless process. And that’s just the first step, next there’s the breaking down into imaginal cells. Since this is a metaphor currently, I picture the human mind turning into some mushy, globby, formless ooze. All of our ideas and beliefs and prejudices and outmoded systems get broken down. I can’t imagine this being a painless process either. For some people change is the hardest, scariest, most unimaginable concept. And then, after all that, it’s time to rebuild and that’s some of the hardest work in the world.

So in this kind of “How things happen” scenario a complete transformation is taking place. I don’t make a conscious habit of putting myself or my writing though a full metamorphosis too often, though I’m sure it might be beneficial. But the audio book for One Day as a Raven did recently go through a transformation of sorts.

If you haven’t read the previous blog “This is How Things Happen Part 2”, please do so now because otherwise you won’t fully understand the trials and torments I put Daniel Grant and Max Winne through for a second time.

Let’s start this story somewhere at the end of May, 2013. It’s at the house that I used to live in with Patrick, the illustrator, in Cherry Creek. There’s juice for the kids, wine for the adults, a veggie platter, some hummus and chips. It’s a party, and there’s somewhere between 20 and 30 people there all together. So many things had to happen to make this come together: There was the 3 ½ years Patrick spent illustrating the book, the 4 or so years since conception followed by subsequent drafts, edits, rewrites and so on for me to write the story, there was the several months of making the audio book, there was the few months we spent working with the printers, then the Kickstarter campaign, and the zillion other little things we had to do along the way. This was our official release party for the book. We put up a slide show on a projector, played the whole audio book and had ourselves a rip-roaring good time. It was good, it was fun, it was fine, but I look back on it now and even with all the uncountable steps taken to get there, I just see it as one little baby step in getting to where I want to be as a writer. I hope that doesn’t sound egotistical or ungrateful, because I still think of that evening as one of the greatest accomplishments of my life so far, but I have some pretty lofty dreams for myself and my writing career. This is just how things happen on the way to where we’re going, which is where we are currently.

We’re going to be jumping around in time a lot, so try and keep up. March or April 2013 Patrick and I started looking around for printers. Lots of calls, lots of emails later, we settled on P&L Printing. Some friends recommended them, they are based in Denver, they’re a worker owned, union shop, environmentally friendly printer and we wanted to support them. What was supposed to be a couple week process took well over two months and pushed us far past our deadline. I don’t know why I was expecting this to go smooth and easy, since nothing else had, but it was about 20 times m ore difficult than I imagined.

Getting the colors and details right in the illustrations was the first hard part. To go from the original illustrations into a digital form and then back into the physical book form is quite a ridiculously tedious process. It took about 5 or 6 proofs before it was even remotely right. And even after all that our first 300 books were pretty pathetic looking, too light, painstaking artistic details missed, just amateur really. But I’m getting ahead of myself because before the printing we had to format all the words into the illustrations. And it was here that I realized how many words this children’s story really has. This prompted several edits, redrafts and back to the drawing board sessions, after I had thought that I couldn’t edit the story any more, ha! famous last words of any writer. So now we’ve got the digital forms of our book done. It looks great on the computer screen and we’ve worked out several thousand kinks along the way, but now comes the printing. It’s sort of a Goldilocks situation, oh this print is too dark, this print is too light, this one’s just right except for the cover which is too dark, and on and on. Still, I remember the day I sat in front of our 300 or 400 copies of the book and the joy and relief I felt. Followed by a serious heart-breaking moment when I opened a copy and saw that it was way lighter than the proof that we had approved, and generally sad looking. Alas, it was out of my hands.

April 2013 I discovered an amazing little thing that I never knew existed called crowd funding. What an insane idea, thought I, any idiot out there can make up a project, or an idea, or a business and go out on the world wide web to beg for money from strangers. Boy, now I’ve seen it all, I continued to say to myself, it’s like e-begging. But I was curious so I decided to try it out. I looked over a few of the biggest sites and found that Kickstarter would work the best for what I was trying to do. I set it up, all the while suspending my belief that such a thing could be possible. I set a $2,000 goal, which is quite low, but still higher than I thought we could ever reach. We met the goal in a week or two, we surpassed it, almost doubled it in a month, and we ended up earning around $3,400. It was unreal, it actually worked. Not only did it work, but it went beyond my highest expectations. There are so many people to thank for the successful kickstarter fund. We got donations from $5 to $500. And everyone that made a contribution made such a difference, not just in making the book come together but in my life personally. It was the first time I’ve ever felt like something I’d written and created had value to other people outside of myself. It was the first time I felt like I could actually do something with this writing of mine, actually make a life out of the words I so helplessly am a slave to.

The link is still up: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/349491876/one-day-as-a-raven-bring-our-childrens-book-to-lif

May-Septemberish 2013, the end of being a writer, or illustrator, or creator of something, and enter the world of sales. I’m a terrible salesman, I learned that a long time ago, I’m slightly less terrible when it comes to my own product and something I personally believe in. But over these months we sold maybe 400 or 500 books. It’s sort of an ok number, but when you break down the amount of time invested, the cost of printing, and all the other expenses it adds up to a negative number. Still, I tried, oh did I try. I ended up getting a few books into a couple library districts, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties. A few stores: Second and Charles, Twist and Shout, Herbs and Arts. We did several presentations for preschools and elementary schools. I worked markets all summer and fall long selling Radicle Botanicals and One Day as a Raven. We sold out our first print and got a second print, which looked much better. But still, it didn’t add up. Not really complaining, I just have to state the facts as they are. One Day as a Raven as a business so far has been unsuccessful. However, One Day as a Raven/ the writing empire of Levi Andrew Noe has barely even begun to manifest.

This brings us to Octoberish 2013, when I met Elisa Romero of BE Publishing (Bepublishing.org and on facebook). Elisa is in the process of launching a publishing company created to support and empower individuals to share their stories and have a voice. Any genre is acceptable, as long as you’re BE-ing yourself. Elisa introduced concepts that were completely foreign to me, but are absolutely essential in the success of an author, like branding, social media, networking, and selling an idea, not a product. She’s been working with me since then trying to redefine what I want and who I am as a writer. Many, many thanks to you Elisa Romero.

This has inspired a re-launching of One Day as a Raven under BE Publishing, which inspired an e-book, a hard cover edition and the new audio book. Which transports us to November-March 2013/14. I approached Daniel Grant with some new ideas for a remixed, re-mastered, remade audio book. Surprisingly, he agreed enthusiastically. I approached Max Winne as well, he agreed, not quite as enthusiastically, but full of support nonetheless. And so the toils began again.

The idea was to have 2 or 3 complete songs for the audio book. These songs would double as bonus tracks at the end of the audio book, and as background music throughout the audio book to make it more cinematic in quality. Dan composed two fantastic, stupendous, triumphant, ridiculously sweet jams. The first is the Raven Song. It’s composed primarily on keyboard and electronically. It’s so rocking, I shouldn’t pick favorites, but it’s my favorite. Sneak peaks will be coming soon. The second is the Coyote Song. This song was played and recorded by Dan’s band, Electric Thinking Machine. It’s jazzy, groovy, simple and complex, and a masterpiece. It’s comprised of drums, bass, piano and organ, and it’s so, so good.

These songs then became background music throughout the audio book. Small sections of the songs highlight thematic moments and the overall effect is to make the audio book into a work of art, a dramatic, cinematic composition, a thrill ride for the whole family. I could go on, but it would seem like I’m tooting my own horn (even though I had very, very little to do with how awesome it is), but you’ll just have to hear it for yourself. Again, sneak peaks and trailer swill be coming soon.

And now here we are, at Now. The audio book was completed and mastered last week, and now production begins. Putting the e-book together is currently the most daunting task. It has to be perfect and it has to play along perfectly with the audio book. I’ll keep you posted on that. Then we’re finally getting hard cover books, which I’m incredibly pumped about. The tentative release date is meant to be March 20th, but that seems a little ambitious with the current time frame. So I’ll just say this Spring, prepare to get your mind blown. I’ll be posting on facebook and on this blog as things happen, so if you’re not already find me on facebook and find One Day as a Raven. I’m also on twitter @leviandrewnoe. Though I don’t really “get” twitter yet. But stuff is happening! And I can’t thank all the friends, family and associates that have helped make it possible enough. Onward and upward!

And here’s that story I talked about ages ago at the beginning of this blog. It’s meant to be accompanied by yoga postures, so if you’ve got a kid, try doing it with them. This is a story that I do in my business Little Lotus Yoga of Denver LLC. Enjoy.

Kate Caterpillar and the Curious Change

1. Plow

Kate Caterpillar woke one morning from a very deep sleep. She had been dreaming strange dreams. Something about her friends disappearing and some flying creatures taking them away, she couldn’t really remember, but they made her feel strange, nervous, unsure.

2. Bridge

Kate woke up slowly, letting herself unfold bit by bit. She stretched her body up tried to shake off her bad dreams.

3. Fish

And last, but not least, Kate stretched out her neck nice and gently. After a bit, she thought she was ready to take a walk to go see her friend Michael.

4. Shoulder Crawl (Caterpillar Crawl)

Michael lived only at the next tree, but at a caterpillar’s speed it would take her a long, long time. She was hoping that Michael would meet her halfway like he usually did, but she crawled and crawled and he was not in their usual meeting place.

5. Tree (From knees bent, crouching, to full tree)

She came to Michael’s tree and called his name, but he did not answer. He must still be sleeping, she thought. So she climbed the tree, slowly, bit by bit.

6. Mountain

She couldn’t find Michael anywhere, but when she came to Michael’s sleeping spot she found some strange, shiny shell-sort-of-thing. She had never seen anything like it before, she didn’t know why but it scared her. It reminded her of her dreams.

7. Forward fold

So, as fast as she could, but still very slow because she was a caterpillar, she scurried down the tree.

8. Caterpillar Crawl

Kate wanted to see her friend Claire, maybe she would know where Michael was. So she crawled as fast as she could, which was very fast for a caterpillar, but still very, very slow, all the way to Claire’s bush.

9. Five pointed star

She called to Claire but got no answer. She crawled through the bush and up to Claire’s bedroom. She did not find her anywhere, though she looked and looked,

10. Mountain

but she did find a similar green, glowy, strange-kind-of-casing-thing. She was very scared now. She remembered her dream all at once and she had seen things like these. She thought: Oh no! Aliens! Or, or some strange caterpillar sickness that must be horribly contagious!

11. Caterpillar crawl

She caterpillar crawled as fast as she could, which of course was still very slow, away from Kate’s bush on to her next friend Owen’s house. Same thing, no Owen, just some clearish, leafish-looking, crusty-kind-of-case. Kate was scared now, she went to see all of her friends and found the same thing over and over. No Josie, no Weston, no Tomas, no Patrick, no Han, no one. No caterpillars were left anywhere and she was so scared, so terrified that she could do nothing else but- eat?

12. Tree

Kate Caterpillar did not know why, but she climbed a tree.

13. Five pointed star (folding over slowly)

She did not know why but she found the biggest leaf she could find and started eating. She knew she should be running, the aliens or monsters or sickness was coming to do to her what had been done to all of her friends. But she felt so, so hungry, she just couldn’t stop eating, and eating, and eating. Until that whole leaf, that was ten times as big as her, was all gone and in her belly.

14. Plow

Again, she did not know why, it was like someone else was in control of her body, but she crawled up a thin branch of the tree and started to hang over the edge.

15. Shoulder stand (or mountain for younger children)

She secured herself with some caterpillar silk and began to hang until she was upside down, turned around, and topsy turvy. And there she got so tired. So terrifically, totally tired! She wanted to do nothing but sleep. So she slept, and fell into the deepest sleep she had ever known.

16. Butterfly (variations, twists)

She woke up from her long sleep and the sun was shining, a warm wind was blowing softly and someone was calling her name. “Kate! Kate! Kate Caterpillar, is that you? It’s me, Michael.” Kate looked up and down and all around but did not see Michael. The only thing she saw was some bright, fluttery, thing with wings dancing in front of her. The thing called her name again, and then she realized that thing was Michael. She jumped backwards and fell off the branch. Oh no! She was falling so fast! And then her arms opened up, her arms? Caterpillars don’t have arms! But she looked at them and they weren’t arms at all, they were wings, just like Michael’s. She could believe it, but it was true. She was not a caterpillar anymore, but something new. And now you know too, it’s not always aliens or monsters, sometimes the things we think we’re afraid of are just changes we’re going through.

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