We were all psyched to kick off our project together with buddies from China!

Well, some of us were psyched. OK, fine, I was psyched. Lu was reading his Donald Duck and Li was threatening the camera with his Nerf bazooka. Oh well.

Warning: don’t try this at home! I’m in the middle of the Advanced Module of the book project where you bring in a separate family to write the book together with them.

After our first success (The Secret of Kite Hill), I was raring to go on Book #2. We’re biting off quite a bit by doing it together with another family, but I’m determined and when I’m determined, I’m unstoppable.

My goal is to write the book “together” with the four boys and the other dad with them as “creative consultants.” I know, I’m a little crazy. I don’t expect them to write much (unless they’d like to), but I mostly want their creativity. As I’ve learned, they have it within them, you just have to dig it out.

Enthusiasm is supposed to spread like wildfire, be infectious, uh, ripple effect, trickle down, OK, at least be noticed! My boys were acting really weird when our Skype video call was just about to happen. Li was out of sorts, making up weird excuses why he couldn’t come to the camera. Lu picked up his Donald Duck book and wanted to eat his chips. I was alone on camera with the other half of our crew while my guys were flat out abandoning me. What was going on?

Remind yourself that you’re dealing / working with kids.

My mom is in town and she reminded me that kids just aren’t great on the phone. Worse yet, video calls. Lu still does googley faces and makes his latest signature wild animal call which is something like a moaning penguin. It’s not pretty. Add to that the fact that I’m asking them to do a video conference call with two boys they’ve met but only once and even though the dad and I are as thick as thieves, they barely know each other.

But that’s OK. I want them to get to know each other better. The dad and I will stay friends forever so the kids are going to get to know each other whether they like it or not … so might as well get started.

But back to the Skype call. The WiFi was really choppy and low quality from the McDonald’s in Beijing. They were having breakfast (15 time zones ahead of us on Saturday morning) and we were winding down our Friday. My kids were wired and nervous and oddly shy while Rich’s kids were just awake and zombies. The video was pretty bad and we couldn’t talk much and got cut off several times before we finally gave up.

So our big kickoff call turned into … not much. But that’s OK. Chin up, move on. Rich and I talked later and we’re going to do some quick “video clips” of the boys individually answering questions about their characters or story lines and we’ll try to do the Skype calls to just check in and have a bit of fun.

Lessons Learned

  1. These are kids. Not actors, project managers or even adults.
  2. Kids aren’t very comfortable on the phone. At all.
  3. Don’t force it. Go with the flow. If it works, it works.
  4. But do it anyway. Next time will be better

So it was a bit of a bust, but it’s OK. We’ll look back and laugh at the start of something that went onto become so big started with such a stutter. It’s OK, we’re not dead in the water. We’re just moving along, slowly but surely.

Launching our book project with a trans-continental Skype conference call. Bad WiFi from the McDonald's in Beijing.

Launching our book project with a trans-continental Skype conference call.

  • Possible: don’t try to connect.
  • Impossible: connect with huge success.
  • Repossible: do it anyway.