We welcome Sal Barbera to PUYB Virtual Book Club! Sal is here today to talk about his children's picture book, MARY ELIZABETH THE SPOTLESS COW. Ask him a question in the comment section and we will pick one of you to win a copy of his book! The contest will begin today and end on December 8. Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Only those leaving comments and an email address are eligible to win. Residents of the United States and Canada are eligible for a hardcover copy. A digital copy will be provided to an international winner.
More about Sal:
Hartman-Barbera llc, a family media & entertainment company, he is also an animator, sculptor, painter and all around fun guy. Sal lives the phrase: “A day without laughter is a wasted day”. To that end, he uses his writing, illustrating and animation skills to create endearing characters and comedic stories.
Sal's sense of humor and empathy for his characters explore personal and social situations in ways that makes it enjoyable for both adults and children to experience together. Born in New York City, Sal moved to North Bergen, NJ where he grew up on a steep hillside neighborhood with his four older sisters. He currently lives in sunny Arizona with his wife and artistic partner, Sheri, who he defines as his inspiration. On any given day Sal might be painting, sculpting, drawing, animating, writing or enjoying one of his favorite pastimes: cooking, television, movies and golf.
Visit Sal Barbera’s website at http://www.salbarbera.com.
The story of "Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow" takes us on the journey she travels to figure out how to get the cows at a new farm to like and accept her.
While she hopes to find friendship at her new home, instead she learns what it means to be different from everyone else. (Spotless!) Mary Elizabeth uses clever ideas and a sense of humor to help her on her quest for friends at the new farm.
This inspiring tale shows how perseverance in spite of obstacles, using a sound thought process to arrive at solutions and the importance of having fun, using humor and enjoying playtime can build friendships.
When you buy this book, 50% of net proceeds go to Phoenix Children’s Hospital Child Life Program to make a difference in the lives of children with critical and life threatening illnesses.
Thanks for coming today, Sal. It's great to have you with us. In addition to your writing, you are also an animator, a sculptor and a painter. How do you channel your creativity for various projects?
Sal: I like challenging myself through as many mediums as possible, which keeps me thinking creatively. Plus the variety motivates me to create art in different forms. For me, focus and creativity go hand in hand. When I start a new sculpture, drawing or painting I generally don't stop until it's finished. Animation and video are different. I know those will be extended projects that may go on for days or even weeks at a time. Mentally I approach them differently from other art forms. I know they're a long, evolutionary process that will eventually become a completed film. Or, as is the case right now, a full blown web series.
Do you feel your other creative outlets help with your writing? Why or why not?
Sal: I do feel all of the creative outlets I use help me. I might discover new characters from a painting or sculpture I'm drawing at the museum. Or, I might see something outside my window when I'm painting like a quail family chirping and bobbing and pecking the ground near a bush or a rabbit jumping straight up into the air. Both of which I've seen. Either one of them could inspire a new character. Characters may also arise from people I know or have met. It's a lot of fun to create the personality for a cow or bird or another kind of animal.
In interviews, you’ve stated that you wrote Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow to cheer up your mother-in-law, who was battling cancer. Now you’ve also released Ernie The Dysfunctional Frog. Did you intend to write more books in the beginning or was this decided later?
Sal: I didn't intentionally set out to write a book series at all. When I wrote Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow for my mother-in-law, I was so excited that I'd written and completed my first story that I didn't want to stop. I"ll never forget the feeling of how the ideas just kept coming. New characters, new theme, new story - it just flowed. The next thing I knew, Ernie The Dysfunctional Frog had come to life and the story evolved quickly right after I completed Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow. More stories came after that one.
What common themes run through your writing?
Sal: Friendship, kindness, 'being who you are' and acceptance are common themes in my stories. And of course, there's humor. It's got to be funny. At some point, you need to laugh. This might be created through funny situations and/or humorous dialogue.
Then there are the big comprehensive themes of personal and social behavior of one character vs the behavior of society at large. In Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow, an all white cow arrives at a new farm. She hopes and expects to make friends there. But the cows on this farm are all spotted and because she's different from them (spotless), they don't want anything to do with her. I tend to write stories about serious subjects, like prejudice and discrimination, in a lighthearted way. I hope this helps kids understand how to deal with these type of situations (through my characters) using humor, intelligence and diplomacy.
You’re in the process of developing the Sweetles™ Web Series. How did this come about and what can you tell us about it?
Sal: The idea for the Sweetles TV Show started out as a variety show, like the Carol Burnett Show, but focusing on skits to teach kids about good social skills and behavior. Sweetles is the host, and my story book characters mixed with puppets, toys and live talent are the guests. The original idea was to pitch a TV show. However, kids are using tablets, cell phones and electronic devices constantly now, so the internet became the logical choice and we decided to create a web series. The concept behind the show is Sesame Street meets Monty Python. That is, educational content mixed with entertainment in the form of silly, wacky and oddball skits. It's a fun way to show kids the difference between good and bad social skills and behaviors and have a lot of fun doing it.
What is your involvement with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation? How did you go about selecting them as the recipient of proceeds from your books?
Sal: My wife and I are volunteers for the the Phoenix Children's Hospital helping out at events and fundraisers. During the holidays a huge group of us help install over 55 trees throughout the hospital to bring holiday cheer to the kids and their families. We've been able to see firsthand how the staff are with the kids, and we admire the Hospital for constantly improving their facilities and developing new ways to help children get healthy again. One of their programs we're very enthusiastic about is The Child Life Program. It has specialists who work closely with the entire family during a child's hospitalization to attend to a child's "developmental, psychosocial, educational and emotional needs – which can be critical in the treatment and healing process."
It's the perfect match of goals and values. Our goal is to help kids learn to get along with their peers and families, and community in general, and ultimately develop into valuable members of society. The Child Life Program helps children go back home and fit into society after they've been at the hospital. It's the perfect recipient for a fundraiser with book sales.
Sal: Yes, I do plan to write more books on Mary Elizabeth's adventures because she's a delightful character and I enjoy drawing her and creating her story. I've also started James The Lost Homing Pigeon, Alfred the Flying Pig and Carina the Ballerina Javelina. I still have writing and illustrating left to do on all of them. Outside of this book series, I am completing a comic book about the Sweetles™ character. His motto: "Have fun, learn and play - that's a Sweetles day!" is the driving force behind the comic books. All in all, it's a pretty exciting time!
Thank you very much for inviting me to share my thoughts with you. I appreciate it.
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