Header.gif (10828 bytes)

home       MEDIA CENTER       books        gum        family        events         contest        contact us

CONTACT
Keith Eldred
gimmygum@gimmygum.com
home 814-695-7631
work 814-686-2395


ARTICLES AVAILABLE:

Family Sticks Together With Writing,
Illustrating and Chewing Gum Making

click here

From Mom to Ms. Excitement:
My Family's Adventures in Writing,
Illustrating and Chewing Gum Making

click here

 

DOWNLOADABLE IMAGES AVAILABLE:
click here

 

ARTICLES

Article 1
Family Sticks Together With Writing,
Illustrating and Chewing Gum Making

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pennsylvania, October 1, 2005 -- It started with a workplace conversation about being unable to blow a gum bubble. It blossomed into an ongoing family project that so far has produced two nine-month newspaper serials, a published book, a touring bubble blowing contest and a regional chewing gum brand.

Keith Eldred, 40, a copywriter and marketing executive from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, had long wished to write a book; he'd made several aborted attempts. In 2002, he was irrevocably determined to complete a young readers' novel, but not alone. He dragged in his whole family--wife Janet, director of the regional library, and sons Ethan and Emmett.

 "I didn't want to be shut off from my family as I wrote. So I simply wouldn't quit talking about it," Eldred says. "I began a plot with one small idea and bounced ideas off everyone until we built a story together. I drafted it as bedtime stories, and the boys further shaped the work. Then we recorded it as an audio book, and I included their better ad-libs."

The central idea: A boy who feels out of place in his own loving family. He can't blow a gum bubble, but his grandfather owns a bubble gum factory. He's a pathetic baseball player whose dad is a big league all-star. The boy's one talent--effortlessly taking things apart--is a problem, too, because he's no good at reassembly. Along comes an important project perfect for the boy's odd skill. He has to overcome sabotage and danger to see it through.

After a solid year of collaborative writing, "Jimmy Gimmy and the Raid on Burkey Run" grew to sixty-six chapters, then was cut to thirty-six. Eldred offered it as a serial novel to the local newspaper, the Altoona Mirror. The father and sons shared a Mirror paper route at the time. "Somehow, the Managing Editor saw potential," Eldred marvels.

"It sounded crazy at first," says Ray Eckenrode, now General Manager of the Altoona Mirror, a daily with a circulation of 35,000. "But the Eldreds made a very professional presentation, and it was a great story. We decided to go for it."

The Mirror went for it in a big way, promoting the newspaper serial heavily to schools participating in the national Newspapers in Education program. It ended up being read weekly through the entire school year by over 1,700 students and teachers in thirty area classrooms. The Eldreds spoke in schools as Team EEK!--a family pen name composed of the sons' and father's intitials, with an exclamation point for Mom.

"We give tips on both writing and illustrating," Eldred says, "because the serial and the book also feature illustrations by the boys. Kids are inspired to see that other kids have helped create a book."

Eldred, an executive with award-winning direct marketing company New Pig, pumped out promotional ideas: buttons, team shirts, letters, flyers, a web site, ad concepts. Buzz grew about the local authors. After the Mirror decided to publish the story in book form, a full-page ad revealed that it would be dedicated to a local man who helped Altoona win a national baseball championship nearly fifty years earlier. It was a surprise announcement.

"They nailed me," says Carl DeCaspers, 65. "I'm sitting reading the Sunday sports pages, and boom, there's this old picture of me in my baseball uniform. I swore out loud, but it was a great honor. My pastor even mentioned it in his sermon that morning."

The book has many other community ties. Eighteen local people are featured in cameo appearances or as inspirations for characters or character names. It's featured in local bookstores and made the local news. Janet Eldred persuaded her library's board and several other libraries to sell the book as a fundraiser. Partial proceeds from every sale also benefit the local YMCA, undergoing an ambitious expansion project. The Executive Director of the YMCA supplied the foreword for the book.

"In their group process of composing and illustrating this tale," wrote Tom Kopriva, "the Eldred family represents the mission of YMCA--building strong bodies, minds and spirits--in a marvelous manner."

To expand awareness of the book, the authors also conducted a touring Bubble Blowing Contest for five months in 2005. Sponsored by local gum supplier Blair Candy, Team EEK! gathered contestants in malls, libraries, churches and community centers, with categories for all ages. The leaders were featured on the family’s web site, GimmyGum.com. The Contest Finals, held at a local community fair, culminated with a championship bubble of 13".

The latest development: actual Gimmy Gum, handmade with rarely-used natural rubber gum base. Team EEK! worked with a local company, McIntyre's Candies, to make up gum to offer for sale. "There are microbreweries," said Eldred, "so why not a microgummery?"

Through the 2005-2006 school year, the Altoona Mirror is running another 36-part Team EEK! serial, the sequel to the first book. The authors are making lively appearances featuring a host of beach balls that represent the large cast of characters.

"My goals with all this," says Eldred, "are learning, fun and to maybe make some college money. We're all learning a lot and having fun, though it's a ton of work. So far, we haven't made money, but we haven't lost much. We've set a stake in the ground to create fifty books as a family. We have two down, we’ve outlined the third, and we have ideas for a dozen more books. And we’re having fun with the gum. So we'll just keep working toward making it a profitable business."

The persistent promoter throws in this final comment: "Our whole family enjoys Harry Potter. But ‘Jimmy Gimmy and the Raid on Burkey Run' literally has baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and mom, plus bubble gum. And the boy has Hispanic roots, which you learn much more about in the sequel." Stressing his first and final words, Eldred emphasizes, "Our hero is American!"

CONTACT:
Keith Eldred
Team EEK!
home 814-695-7631
work 814-686-2395
gimmygum@gimmygum.com
http://www.gimmygum.com

BACK TO TOP

Article 2
From Mom to Ms. Excitement:
My Family's Adventures in Writing,
Illustrating and Chewing Gum Making


By Janet Eldred, Hollidaysburg, PA
The Mom in Team EEK! and
Director, Hollidaysburg Area Public Library

Here's how a shy librarian became a walking exclamation point, and a family found itself in the chewing gum business. It's my story of pursuing big dreams partnered with an idea man.

Keith and I have been married for fifteen years. We're a classic pairing: English majors who met as bookstore employees. Now I manage a library, and he manages advertising copywriters. Stereotypically for our professions, I'm quiet, and he's full of ideas. We balance each other well.

Keith had long wanted to write a young readers' novel; he made several attempts as our sons, Ethan and Emmett, grew to ages 9 and 7. Then Keith had a new idea (watch for that phrase again): We would write a book as a family. This time, Keith didn't give up, maybe because he didn't want to disappoint his co-authors. Or maybe because he had painted himself into a corner by building up the project to us.

The plot started with a tiny idea--a boy who can't blow a gum bubble--and grew with Keith's persistent prodding. The tale became an ongoing bedtime story, and our sons' reactions guided the writing. If they laughed and begged for more, it was on the right track. If they fell asleep, it wasn't. Keith worked in the boys' better plot ideas and ad-libs, so they are true co-authors. (They also helped shape what I'm saying here.)

One of my major contributions was saving the life of the mother in the story; I vetoed the idea of making her a ghost. Instead, the main action of the story grew around a surprise gift for the mom. Much better!

After a year of effort, the novel ballooned to sixty-six chapters and finally gained a great ending. As we prepared to submit it to national publishers, Keith had a new idea (there's that phrase again): To offer it to the local newspaper as a weekly serial.

"It could be a stepping stone that would help our chances," he said.

"A serial for sixty-six weeks?!" I said.

"Well, let's see what they say."

We hit upon a visionary managing editor, Ray Eckenrode of the Altoona Mirror, who said yes! But only after we cut the story to thirty-six chapters, to better suit local student readers who would follow it for the length of a school year. It also helped that Keith, a visual artist as well as a writer, showed that he could illustrate the installments himself.

Then Keith had a new idea. He convinced the editor to let Ethan and Emmett do the art, as an inspiration to other kids that they could not only be authors but illustrators. This meant that Keith had to coax dozens of charming but pale pencil drawings from two grade-school children, then digitally scan and color them. One day, he spent sixteen hours straight on this effort at the computer in our home office. But the work paid off in distinctive art that made us all proud.

Finally, we finished the manuscript and illustrations and could get back to searching for a national publisher and living at a slower pace. Or so I thought.

That didn't happen because Keith had lots more ideas; these were to promote the serial. He sent ad concepts to the newspaper, built a web site and designed a promotional button. We had many meetings with potential serial sponsors.

For public appearances, we all got matching shirts to appear as Team EEK!--our family pen name composed of the guys' initials and an exclamation point for me. I'm not crazy about wearing a shirt with a huge exclamation point on the chest, but it actually works well for us. Audiences get a kick out of seeing a very shy "Ms. Excitement."

Team EEK! soon started appearing at schools, libraries, churches and stores. We once came home from a windy Boy Scout Camp covered with dust. Another time, we had to step carefully while following horses in a parade. We broiled in the sun and shivered in the cold.

In the dwindling time left over, it was hard to keep up with the laundry and bill-paying (an understatement). Keith and I had many discussions about how much to promote ourselves locally, rather than to national publishers. As you know, "discussion" is sometimes a code word for "argument."

Most (not all!) of the discussions were healthy. One of the ways I balance my idea man is what I'd call course correction. He's the bicycle racer charging in red strain over the crest of a hill; I'm the race marshal standing there in a day-glo T-shirt, frantically gesturing to remind him how the course was laid out. Sometimes, the flushed racer pulls over and tells me he wants to change the course; sometimes it's an improvement, sometimes I talk him out of it, sometimes I can only reluctantly change my map.

As the serial wound down, the newspaper published the story in book form, though we retained the right to offer it to a national publisher. And--you guessed it--Keith had more ideas for promoting it. We worked with the YMCA and local libraries--including the one I direct--to offer the book as a fundraiser. At Team EEK! appearances, we started using various colorful beach balls to represent our large cast of characters.

Here's where the gum comes in.

Because the story involves a bubble gum company, one promotion was a five-month touring Bubble Blowing Contest, which culminated in an overall champion bubble of 13". As another means of promotion, Keith poured hours into working with a local candy company to offer actual packaged chewing gum based on the book. Ethan and Emmett helped make the experimental batches. So now we're not only authors, illustrators and entertainers, but chewing gum makers!

In the midst of all this, Keith led us through creating the sequel--another 36-part serial that the paper is currently running. We're outlining the third book in the series, and Keith has declared a goal of creating fifty books together as a family! So much for the hope of returning to a quieter life.

We have made submissions to national publishers, so far yielding only rejections, which of course is not unusual, especially for first-time authors. Perseverance is a frequent topic at our house. So are business expenses. I often ask questions like, "Do we really need this bubble gum machine? And five gallons of bubble gum ice cream?!"

I can't make predictions about being nationally published, but I do know that being Team EEK! has become special for all of us. There have been more ups than downs, and more gains than costs (unless you mean financial!). Ethan delighted us both by writing a touching essay for school about appreciating his dad's influence, and Emmett has shined at attracting passers-by to the Bubble Blowing Contests. At appearances, they both draw Oohs and Aahs with their large demonstration bubbles.

Our family has been tested and come out stronger. We have less free time but more bonds to each other. Life is more complicated but has also streamlined. Now we fit the other demands of life around what we're doing, rather than the reverse. We have a host of memories and are refining our dreams.

Balancing an idea man is difficult, but it's also a blessing. And I'll say that in a shirt with a big exclamation point!

CONTACT:
Janet Eldred
Team EEK!
home 814-695-7631
work 814-695-5961
gimmygum@gimmygum.com
http://www.gimmygum.com

BACK TO TOP

DOWNLOADS
Click on the images below to view 300 dpi images for download

EEKatEagleMedium.jpg (81044 bytes)

Team EEK! (l-r) Emmett, Ethan, Keith and Janet Eldred
The family pen name is derived from first initials.
They collaborated to write and illustrate the young readers' novel
Jimmy Gimmy and the Raid on Burkey Run.
See more information at www.gimmygum.com.

JimmyGimmyCoverSmall.jpg (128584 bytes)

The first novel written and illustrated by Team EEK!, a family creative team from Hollidaysburg, PA. A fun story with baseball, bubble gum, bad guys, big barking beasts and a boy battling to do his best. Originally a 36-week newspaper serial. Aimed at readers ages 8 through 13, but can also be enjoyed by older readers.192 pages, softcover. See more information at www.gimmygum.com.

TornadoCover.jpg (123748 bytes)

The second novel written and illustrated by Team EEK!, a family creative team from Hollidaysburg, Pa. As in the first Jimmy Gimmy book, captivating story lines weave around the families, friends and enemies connected to the rival Gimmy Gum and Burkey Beef Jerky companies. Currently appearing as a 36-part newspaper serial in the Altoona Mirror (see www.altoonamirror.com). Aimed at readers 8 through 13, but can also be enjoyed by older readers. See more information at www.gimmygum.com.

Back to top