Author Spotlight: Corey Olds and His Young Storytellers

Corey Olds has a passion for education, innovation, students, and storytelling. He’s combined all these into an exciting program for students in grades 5-8. We caught up with this educational entrepreneur to see how this unique and exciting tribe of Kid Scribes came together:

How did you come to be interested in developing young authors?

About two years ago, the parent of one of my former students asked if I could recommend any creative writing programs (that culminated in students publishing a professional-quality book) being conducted in the Bay Area during the summer for children in grades 5-8. Offhand, I couldn’t think of any and, after casually searching online, I didn’t find any. Since it is part of my job as an educational entrepreneur to create innovative programming within schools, the design and delivery of Kid Scribes presented itself as a logical next step after the publication of my own children’s books.

bio photo (bw)

What inspired you to start making books initially?

My interest in publishing books began with a much earlier interest in self-publishing a news magazine in the summer of 1989. By the mid-nineties, my interest had shifted to handmade books in unusual sizes (e.g., 5.5 in. wide by 4.75 in. high). What really flamed my passion for making books was the appearance in 1995 of Penguin 60s Classics, which were mini-paperbacks containing extracts from the unabridged Penguin Classics. The small format of these canonical works made me rethink what a book was or what it could be. If the physical dimensions of these books (4.1 in. wide by 5.4 in. high) could be marketed and sold, so could a series of books for children by children.

Who are your favorite authors?  

More authors will number among my favorites as soon as I “discover” them for myself. Right now, my favorites range from oral, collectively “authored” epics like Sundiata and Mwindo to individual authors such as Dr. Seuss, Cervantes, Borges, J. K. Huysman, Charles W. Chesnutt, Nella Larsen, Chester Himes, Richard Wright, Ann Petry—and others.

What did you love about your favorite teacher? 

Fortunately, I have had a handful of favorite teachers. One, my college mentor, impressed me with his scholarly and Socratic (as opposed to professorial and didactic) approach to the study of the humanities and with the very wide orbit of his knowledge. Of course, I love that he both appreciated and “guided” my eagerness for learning.

If the physical dimensions of these books (4.1 in. wide by 5.4 in. high) could be marketed and sold, so could a series of books for children by children.

Where is your favorite place you’ve lived and why? Is there anywhere you would like to live someday? 

Paris in 1989 was definitely festive. I was on an Oberlin College study-abroad program and my roommate was a trumpeter from Baltimore who studied in our Conservatory. We had a large room with a very shallow balcony. I remember him blowing tunes and crowds of tourists gathering on the sidewalk and clapping below our window. Today, I would love to split my time between Stockholm in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter.

What is your most treasured possession? 

My memory of the trove of more than 2,500 books that I lost in storage.

What would people say is your most prominent personality trait or personal characteristic? 

For some time now, people have referred to or pigeonholed me as shy, thoughtful, passionate, smart, nerdy, weird, crazy, preppy, disciplined, funny, and philosophical.

christopher (bw)What makes you excited about working with students? What is your favorite thing about what you do? 

When it comes to students, I am most excited by the prospect and realization of them learning, applying, and creatively adapting what they have learned to create something tangible and enriching that they can share with the world. In the case of Kid Scribes, I am excited by the entire process of students learning the elements of storytelling, conceiving an original idea for a story based on those elements, writing a story, having that story published in a professional book format, and sharing that book in a public reading in front of their peers and family. Teaching, facilitating, organizing, promoting, thinking about, and nurturing all of that make up my favorite thing about what I do.

What type of book would you like to make for yourself? If you were a student in your program, what would yours have been? 

If I were enrolled in Kid Scribes, I would write and publish a book about a boy artist who becomes both famous and infamous for his forgery of childhood paintings rendered by famous artists (both living and dead) during their childhood.

When it comes to students, I am most excited by the prospect and realization of them learning, applying, and creatively adapting what they have learned to create something tangible and enriching that they can share with the world.

Working on anything new and exciting? What projects can we look forward to seeing next from you? 

Although twenty-something books have been published in sixteen months, Kid Scribes is just beginning. The new and exciting work is feeding the evolution and expansion of Kid Scribes to the point where more students across America can become young authors through it. In a manner similar to that of the John Lennon Bus, which brings audio-video recording and production to youth across the country, Excelsus (my foundation) is newly courting sponsors to bring storytelling and digital book publishing to elementary, middle, and secondary students throughout America and elsewhere. Of course, bringing Shutterbugs, my work with young photographers, to a wider array of students is also something that Blurb and its readers should look forward to.

Thanks Corey! We’re inspired by Kid Scribes, and we’re excited to see the projects come through the Blurb world. We’ll keep a lookout for more to come.

Have a great idea for getting kids involved in book making? Have a Kid Scribe in your family? Let us know in the comments below!

Comment

  • Corey Olds says:
    Sep 30 at 08:26

    Thank you for the wonderful post, Jessica! My family and friends are enjoying it.

    By the way, students in grades 2-5 have participated in Kid Scribes since its inception.

    reply
  • Corey Olds says:
    Apr 6 at 02:36

    Excelsus Foundation plans to use Blurb to help parents/caregivers prevent the “summer slide” in learning by teaming up with their kids to publish books and zines. For more information, write to excelsusfoundation@me.com.

    reply
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