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Nonfiction Matters
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Letter from Vicki Cobb — On Multimedia

I see WIP as being about the content of books-in-formation. But Vicki wrote to tell me about a way she is turning a book into a multimedia project that I thought you all should know about. This is an ideal marriage of different forms of media — I hope it suggests other such partnerships to all of us.

The Lure of Show Business

By Vicki Cobb


It has always been my secret fantasy to write a best-seller that is made into a movie.  I was resigned to it remaining only a dream since I write science books for children, not exactly box-office material.  (I once tried writing fiction; my novel is still in a drawer.)

            Enter Mark Weinstein of Skyhorse Publishing.  Two years ago he called me to inquire about the rights to my books with Kathy Darling, Bet You Can’t! and Bet You Can! , which sold over a million copies each and were followed by three other very popular hands-on activity books. He opened the conversation by saying, “I loved these books when I was a kid.”  He had me at, “Hello!”  The result is our new book, We Dare You! Hundreds Of Fun Science Bets, Challenges, And Experiments You Can Do At Home.  It is a revised, updated, augmented compendium of five books rolled into one huge book, with a new index by curriculum subject so that teachers can use it to spruce up their science lessons.  And it revived my desire to go into the entertainment business.

            Times have changed.  The popularity of You Tube makes it seem like everyone is creating videos these days. Why not ask people to make videos of kids doing the tricks in the book?  I started putting the word out last September at my school visits.  Despite enthusiastic promises, no one sent me anything.  So I decided I would have to learn how to make movies myself.  I bought my first camcorder and pressed my school-age grandchildren into service.  I bought a MacBook Pro and took lessons in I-Movie to learn how to edit what I shot. I’ve learned how to be a director, a film editor, a voice-over narrator, and a webmaster posting the videos on my website (and a few on You Tube).  Several schools I’ve visited have contributed videotapes and there are now a couple of dozen videos published on my site: (click on the “WE DARE YOU! Videos” button). Since there are 286 tricks in the book, these videos are meant to “prime the pump.” There’s a lot more work to be done and I’m inviting the world to join me in this multimedia adventure so we can all get bitten by the show-biz bug.

            I like to think I’m setting up a win-win situation for everyone.  Here’s how it works:  A description of the project and a release form for parents are downloadable from my website: . The We Dare You! book is the script.  Kids can act, direct, write, bring their own creativity to the work.  Since these videos are only about a minute long, it’s not like anyone has to be Cecil B. DeMille.  It’s an opportunity for self-expression, combining language arts, performing arts and the potential for stardom while (and here’s my not-so-hidden agenda) learning something about science.  I’m editing the videos, which should ensure some minimal quality control.  I’ve made a conscious decision to make the videos pure entertainment without the scientific explanations.  I’m hoping to create a video reference library so teachers and kids can use the videos as motivators to go back to the book to learn the science. (You’ll see that I include the page reference for each video.)  I feel that often the science concepts can be better learned by reading, where there is time to ponder and process ideas. 

            To my knowledge this is the first time that an author is using a multimedia, audience participation approach to learning hands-on science. I invite you to join me. This is an experiment. So what else is new?   It’s the story of my life.


  1. Tanya Lee Stone says:

    What a fantastic idea–thanks for sharing it with us. Experimenting is indeed the way to live!