Photograph by Mike Spinak
What's your project?
Growing Up Humming is a true-story picture book about Anna's hummingbird chicks growing up on the nest. It's the first in an ongoing series of picture books about nature subjects.
You can learn more about it, here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1000834452/growing-up-humming
To use the business lingo, what problem are you trying to solve?
A lot of children's books are made in a way that doesn't respect children much. They're often designed for the lowest common denominator, made to appeal only through bright colors, cuteness, talk about candy, and the like. The quality of the writing and illustrations is often merely functional rather than artful. Also, many other kid's books these days are too highly commercialized, made as part of a spinoff from a children's cartoon show, with tie-ins with toy manufacturers, etc. Very few children's books treat kids as the brilliant beings they are.
I know that kids love to learn, and have minds which absorb knowledge like sponges. My book is made to excite them and inspire them to learn, while entertainingly weaving substantial scientific concepts and perspective into true life nature stories.
Additionally, by being both the photographer and the writer, I can create a kind of book which can't usually be created by writers who didn't also do the photography. When an author writes about nature from only ideas in her / his head and then finds photos to match the story, the result tends to be somewhat lacking, in terms of reality and substance. Because I witnessed everything myself, I was able to make my book rich in the kinds of authentic details and insights which can only come from firsthand experience. Combine that with my knowledge as a naturalist, and the result is a children's book like no other.
What sort of work did you do before starting your company?
I made tie-dyed clothes.
How long have you lived in the Santa Cruz area, and what are your favorite placed that only locals know about?
I've lived in Santa Cruz on and off since 1989.
There are so many great places around the Santa Cruz area to see and enjoy nature, I hardly know where to start. Natural Bridges, Big Basin, Henry Cowell, The Forest of Nisene Marks, Pogonip, the U.C.S.C. arboretum, and Davenport Beach are some of my favorites.
Do you have any superstitions or quirky work habits?
I don't really have any superstitions. I have plenty of work habits that are probably quirky. For example: I never practice my photography nor writing at all. In other words, I don't do any dry runs just for the purpose of learning. Instead, I consider every opportunity to make a photo or a piece of writing a chance to make something worthwhile, and I always approach it with the intention and effort to do so.
Clean desk or messy desk?
I only have a virtual desk (my computer), no actual furniture-desk. The screen desktop on my computer is usually modestly messy, due to working on multiple projects.
What’s something important you’ve learned in the last year?
In the business realm, I've learned that the traditional book publishing industry is so broken that I'm better off circumventing traditional publishers than working with them.
In the personal realm, I've learned that it's not enough to let my loved ones know that I love them, that they make me happy, and that I'm thankful they're in my life. I've learned that I also need to make sure they truly know that I'm committed to being there for them in their times of need.