A Different Perspective on Class Clowns

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A Different Perspective on Seeing Your Students — A Suggested Resource from Dr. Kralovec on Class Clowns

Dr. Etta Kralovec is Associate Professor of Teacher Education and Director of Graduate Teacher Education at UA South. She holds a doctorate in philosophy from Teachers College, Columbia University.

I am back from Finland and will be ready to share that experience soon. For now, I wanted to share this new project on the Class Clown. I know that we all have had class clowns in our rooms and they are very hard for new teachers to deal with. This new book and Class Clown App is worth looking into and sharing with the class clowns in your classrooms. The short statement below on class clowns is written by Stephen Mooser, the author of over 60 books for children including his latest title, Class Clown Academy, the basis for his Interactive online school. For more information, go to: www.classclownacademy.com

From Stephen Mooser:

 If you search for “Class Clown” online, what comes up most often are teacher strategies for dealing with disruptive students. You’ll also discover plenty of amateur psychologists diagnosing the range of mental illness from which these clowns surely suffer, starting with ADD and ending with schizophrenia. A disruptive student, prancing around the room making faces, poking their fellow students, throwing things, or shouting at the teacher is not a class clown–it is a disruptive student with some serious problems.

A real Class Clown, as the name implies, is someone who is funny and makes people laugh-hopefully not at another student’s, or the teacher’s, expense. From my experience as a class clown throughout my elementary and middle school years, and of talking to others who have also held the position, there are a number of very good reasons why someone would take on the role of class clown . First, they happen to be funny and can’t help themselves. Most likely they have spent much of their spare time perfecting the craft of telling a joke, posing a riddle or twisting a pun. He or she is no different than the boys and girls who master video games in their room, or the ones who draw in class all day, doodling their way toward a career in art.

But there is another reason kids become class clowns. It is very often a defense against bullying or social ostracism. Stories of how and why a Class Clown learned his or her trade are not hard to find. All you have to do is skim through the biography of any comedian, and you’ll discover, most likely, their first gig was working the room in the third grade. Humor not only makes you a lot of friends, it can often disarm a tense situation. I am not necessarily arguing for special recognition of Class Clowns. Though it might be fun to put on a Class Clown Pride Parade down Fifth Avenue complete with a whoopee cushion band and a paper airplane flyover just to see what kind of a turnout we might get. And though we might want to petition Congress for some kind of non-discriminatory legislation I have my doubts it would ever reach the floor of the Senate or the House–this despite the fact there’s a majority of clowns in those chambers.

Seriously teachers, when it comes to class clowns the only thing I am arguing for is the same thing Rodney Dangerfield wanted for himself–just a little respect. 

Interview

A Conversation about Self Publishing

Author Stephen Mooser shares his experience and insights with blogger Lee Wind, M.Ed.

 

Class Clown Academy: SCBWI’s President Self-Publishes his latest book (after more than 60 traditionally published titles!)

Author Stephen Mooser

Stephen Mooser has written both stand-alone books (like his first published title, 101 Black Cats (Scholastic), Orphan Jeb at the Massacree (Knopf) and Shadows on the Graveyard Trail (Dell Yearling); series, including The Treasure Hounds (Troll), The Creepy Creature Club (Dell), The All-Star Meatballs (Dell) and Goofball Malone, Ace Detective (Penguin); and also nonfiction books about the weird and strange, including The Unknown: Nine Astounding Stories (Lippincott) and The Man Who Ate A Car and Tons of Other Weird True Stories (Dell).

A co-founder of the SCBWI, Steve has had over 60 books for children and young readers traditionally published.

His latest book is Class Clown Academy, and it’s one that he chose to self-publish.

This news was so unexpected (and fascinating) that I had to find out more. Here’s my interview with Stephen…

Lee: Hi Steve!

Steve: Hi back

Lee: So, you’ve traditionally published something over 60 books for young readers, and now, you’re doing something different – self publishing?

Steve: Yes, the last book I wrote, Class Clown Academy, a Wayside School type format failed to sell for a number of reasons. Normally I would not have considered self publishing but I believed in this book and also believed it had certain aspects that lent itself to self publishing

Lee: Okay, so you have a book you really believe in that isn’t getting traction the traditional route. What were the factors that made you decide to self-publish rather than continue to try the traditional publishers?

Steve: We had tried all the traditional publishers. 3 agents had tried. What made the book special was that it lent itself to becoming a virtual school. Over 3 years my team built the school www.classclownacademy. The school will drive people to the book, which is available in the student store.

Lee: So it’s a website that’s a virtual school, and in the school bookstore readers can buy your book?

Steve: Yes, and yes. They can also buy hats and bumper stickers and much more. Now my job-a huge one – is to drive people to the site!

Lee: I spent some time on the site this morning, reading in the library about how to tell a joke… (and laughing at the movie “Farts and You” that was screening in the CCA Theater.) Did you envision the project being MORE than a book when you were originally going out to publishers, or was the expanded universe of the story something that came about as you plotted how to successfully self-publish the book?

Steve: I thought of the school early on, but I didn’t envision so much the cost or the time. But I had a great team, a book editor and formatter, programmer and artist and once I started I wanted to finish.

Lee: so, really, you didn’t so much as self-publish a book as become a self-producer of an online website and a book – you had to hire that team, right?

Steve: Yes. Here is the thing about self-publishing. First you have to have a good product and believe in it. Then you have to think about how to sell it. You are now a small business and basically on your own. It is a big risk, but doing it right gives you a chance to reach a readership.

Lee: It used to be that self-publishing was viewed as the realm of the impatient, the “easy” way to get published. You’re not making it sound easy.

Steve: It is not easy but then selling a book to a traditional publisher is not easy either. There are thousands of talented people you are competing against. Amazon has something like 3 million unique titles on its site. How can anyone find your book. And then want to buy it? Most projects fail badly. Mine might too, but. And I say this often. Where Digital Books are going no one knows but wherever it is heading we are all in on the ground floor.

Lee: Now the perception of self-published books and the ‘stigma’ they might have had 10 years ago, that seems to have changed, hasn’t it?

Steve: Yes, it has changed. More and more people are self-publishing. But, again, I can’t emphasize enough you need to do a professional job and put out a book that can compete with traditionally published books. As an aside there are some areas where it makes sense to do a limited edition. Books, for instance on something like autism where there is a need and you can target the audience have had success

Lee: Sort of niche-self-publishing

Steve: Sure, I have talked to many people who did books because they saw a need and filled it. For the most part self-publishers should do Print on Demand so as to keep costs down and just print as orders come in

Lee: that way your car trunk (and/or garage) aren’t filled with books you haven’t sold yet!

Steve: Yes, don’t carry inventory. Also, the people that will do large print runs are often rip-offs. Always look at Preditors and editors before giving anyone your money.

Lee: Good advice. So how do you set your expectations when you’re self-publishing… How do you keep the stories of the Amanda Hockings and Christopher Paolinis and their superstar level of success from taking over?

Steve: Good question. There is nothing wrong with dreaming. It is why we are writers. But don’t embark on self-publishing without setting a budget and believing the possibility of losing it all. Start before investing anything by thinking long and hard about “how will I sell this?”

Lee: Yeah, sending a notice out to all your facebook friends is a one-time thing, and not a marketing plan. No one wants to get two announcements that you have a new book out!

Steve: Right. Having someone with a million followers tweet your book will probably sell less than 50 books because that’s not your audience. You have to be creative and, again, have a great product. As I said Amazon has millions of books. But I built a website. Well, there are now over a billion websites. It’s a hard climb but there are steps along the way if you are willing to look for them

Lee: Well, I imagine a lot of those steps of being ‘discovered’ are the same dance, whether you are traditionally or self-published.

Steve: Exactly

Lee: Like pitching your book…

Steve: Of course. And when it comes to making the sales the marketing departments of traditional publishers are relying more and more on the authors anyway

Lee: Okay… So, pitch us “Class Clown Academy!”

Steve: If you are 6-10 years old, or have the mind of one–as I do– then you will find lots to do at the Academy. At the end of the day you can go back to the principals office and print out your diploma, as I did, and become A Master of FineFarts. And if you like the school I promise you you will love the book

Lee: So that’s really pitching the website… is your main strategy that playing there will lead to book sales?

Steve: Yes, I do visits and conferences and sell copies, but I’m counting on the website to bring notice. Also, putting out a book, or a website is opening yourself to many possibilities. Will some father in the film business look over his kid’s shoulder and think that might be a good title for a film or animated series. Or would someone want to buy the site and add it to their own multi-game site. As I said dreaming is part of the fun of any project. And I know since I used to be a treasure hunter

Lee: Ha! I loved learning about your ‘treasure hunter’ past in your bio! So, for your next book, would you consider self-publishing again, or would you take it the traditional route? Or is it too soon to say?

Steve: I would not do this again unless I had a way to market it in advance. I am working on a sequel to the book Class Clown Academy Summer School, but will just fold it into the site

Lee: I hope you find treasure there! Thanks so much, Steve!

Steve: Thank you.

* * *

And that’s our interview. You can check out the Class Clown Academy website here, andSteve’s website here.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

Interview

Stephen Mooser was recently interviewed by Janelle Bitikofer who authors a blog for writers of children and young adult books. Here is an excerpt from that interview.

Ms. Bitikofer: “Stephen, many children’s and YA writers are concerned as we watch bookstores closing in our towns and digital publishing becoming more and more popular. Yet I have heard you speak of this new era as just another opportunity, another change in a long line of changes you’ve seen over the years during your life as an author and President of SCBWI. Will you share with us your thoughts on this new world of publishing, and why you have hope as we enter 2013?”

Stephen Mooser: “There is no doubt that in the last few years the children’s book business has been shaken by the rise of digital publishing. You would have thought the industry might have seen this coming after witnessing the upending of the music business, but most publishers, I think, never thought books would be impacted so quickly. Now they are scrambling to adjust, some starting e book lines, others laying off staff, a few others jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon by starting what I believe are dubious divisions not that much different from a vanity press.

What does this all portend for the children’s book author and illustrator? I believe it offers a lot of new opportunities and possibilities. No one is quite sure where this is all going, but one thing is clear, we are in on the ground floor. That’s a fortunate position because those already familiar with the creation of children’s books are far ahead of anyone coming in with nothing but digital knowledge. Like anything in this world, what counts is having something unique that people—adults and kids—will want to read, and pay for.”

View the entire interview with Stephen Mooser