The Children’s Book Review | August 5, 2014
Jimmy Vee spends his days making things up and joking around (that’s how his kids and clients describe it). He got his creative start acting with action figures, building high tech gadgets out of trash, tooting made-up tunes on his trumpet and practicing the ancient arts of magic and ventriloquism. In real life, Jimmy is the co-owner of an advertising agency and has co-authored numerous books on sales and marketing, including the bestseller Gravitational Marketing: The Science of Attracting Customers. He is also children’s entertainer and regarded by his peers as one of the leading professional ventriloquists and kid show entertainers performing today.
Jimmy has dedicated his life to helping people discover what makes them unique and showing them how to capitalize on it.
The Children’s Book Review: Little Jimmy Says, “Same is Lame” is all about self-acceptance and embracing differences and personal uniqueness. As someone who has co-authored business books for adults, what was it that inspired you to write an inspirational book for children?
Jimmy Vee: As well as being a CEO and marketing guy, I am also a children’s entertainer. I put myself through college doing magic and ventriloquism shows for kids. I have continued to do that into my adult life. Because of that experience, I have both a love and an appreciation for kids. I also seem to relate to them well. Potentially that’s because of my height (I’m literally five feet tall). I have always loved kids books. I loved Dr. Seuss growing up and the amazing art in picture books. The phrase and concept of “Same Is Lame” came as something I would teach business owners and CEOs. I experienced the impact it had on these adults and figured it could even have bigger impact if I were able to teach it at an earlier age. So that’s how I came up with the idea of incorporating my love for kids and children’s books and the “Same Is Lame” philosophy. It’s a bit early but it seems to be working.
TCBR: With its picture book format and eye-catching illustrations (which we’ll get to in a moment), it would be easy to pigeon-hole the appropriate age range to around 4- to 7-years-old. And, due to the nature of the message, it could also be deemed for all ages—yes, grown-ups, too. Which age range do you find enjoys Little Jimmy Says, “Same is Lame” the most?
JV: This is a really hard question. As a marketing guy I am frequently teaching my clients to narrow their target base of customers. Broader and bigger is not necessarily better in marketing. But I’ve had trouble following my own advice with this project. I have a two-year-old son who asks me to read the book to him every night. I have had mothers tell me their tween and teenage kids love it and I have both adult men and women thank me and tell me they wish they had read it when they were a kid. I guess the prime age is the 4-to-8-year-old range because they are old enough to get the message but don’t necessarily think picture books are only for babies. It’s a universal message and I’m just happy it’s making an impact on so many people.
TCBR: Mike Motz is responsible for your illustrations. How did you come to end up working with him?
JV: As a self-published author, I found it very difficult to find a professional illustrator that was willing to work with an individual. Most of the illustrators that have done a lot of picture book work are only willing to work through major publishers and are busy with commitments. I really wanted to work with someone who was at the top of his/her game. I wanted this project to be top notch so I was reaching out to many illustrators whose work I had seen and admired. All of them declined. That’s when I luckily found Mike Motz online. Mike runs a website that specializes in working with self-published children’s authors. He represents several illustrators and connects them with authors looking to self-publish. I contacted Mike about my project and he liked the manuscript, my vision and my enthusiasm so much that he asked if he could personally do the work. I was eager to work directly with the artist so I agreed and it was a phenomenal collaboration. I can’t wait to work with Mike again. He is talented, brilliant and a true professional.
TCBR: How closely did you collaborate on all of the fun happenings going on behind your text? The pictures certainly raise the humor level and add an intelligently safe amount of light-heartedness to your message of embracing one’s unique qualities.
JV: I initially wrote a description of what I thought would be happening on each page. Mike suggested I start with that. I wanted the book to have a bit of circus/carnival/sideshow feel. In many instances Mike took my suggestions and brilliantly brought it to life in a way that exceeded my vision. In a few cases, Mike recommended a change to my concept and suggested something completely different. I embraced that. It gets me excited when an artist puts himself/herself into the project that they see and feel something radically different and are willing to suggest a different idea.
TCBR: Let’s talk about your ability to rhyme. From where do you think you draw inspiration, or, does the ability to rhyme just come naturally to you?
JV: That’s an interesting question. I did a lot of research before I wrote this book and many of the books I read about writing kids books said NOT to attempt to rhyme. I love rhymes and some of my favorite books growing up rhymed. So I wanted to write a rhyming book. I think my ability to rhyme is half natural ability and half practice. I have been writing radio and television commercials and sales scripts for my entire adult life. Rhyme and cadence are very important when writing advertising copy.
TCBR: You’re a pretty busy guy: A CEO, husband, father, advertising copywriter, kid show entertainer, magician, stand-up comedian and a ventriloquist. When do you find time to write?
JV: I consider myself a writer doing all those other jobs. I believe the ability to write is the most versatile and important skill in life. You can do so much with it and it truly is both an art and a skill that few people can do well. Each one of the careers you mentioned require the ability to write so I try (and am sometimes forced to) write often. The draft of this book came to me about five months after I had written down the goal to write a children’s book in 2013. I woke up with a few lines in my head out of nowhere. I had programmed my subconscious to work on it in months in advance and then it came to me. After I had the first few lines I was able to complete a rough draft by then end of the day. It took months to refine that draft and craft the final product (and I’m still tinkering with it).
TCBR: Do you think any of your experiences and skills used as a kid show entertainer helped you to execute this first children’s book?
JV: I think it gave me the confidence that I could—and maybe even should—write for them. Having entertained kids for so many years empowered me and helped me realized that they needed this message and would greatly benefit from it.
TCBR: Are you working on anything new?
JV: I’ve been bitten. I can’t stop thinking of children’s book ideas. I’m keeping a list and I’m working on new ideas and bits every day. I have joined the SCBWI and am going to a workshop. I think my next career is going to be as a full time children’s book author. Aside from children’s books, I have been working on a business parable book for the last two years. I was planning to self publish it but a fabulous agent contacted me and I am confident we’ll have a publishing contract before the end of the year.
TCBR: What were your favorite childhood books?
JV: The Berenstains’ “B” Book by Stan and Jan Berenstain. I had that book memorized when I was a kid. I also loved Wacky Wednesday by Dr. Seuss. Today my favorite kids books are And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss and My New Teacher and Me! by Al Yankovic.
TCBR: Before we end, do you have any parting words of inspiration or anything in general that you would like to share about Little Jimmy Says, “Same is Lame”?
JV: On the surface, the message of Same Is Lame is all about self-acceptance and the acceptance of others. Simply, being comfortable with who you are and understanding that it’s okay to be different and it’s okay that others are different. But at a deeper level, I’m trying to get people to realize the power of fully embracing the traits that make you different and give you the confidence to leverage them, capitalize on them and exploit them. Only when you fully embrace your differences—not just accept them—will you truly be able to stand out and use them to your full advantage and leverage your true authentic self.
All the proceeds from this book are going to fund the Same Is lame Foundation for kids. It’s a non-profit organization (501 C3 pending) I created this year to support exceptional children with extraordinary talent. Kids who want to leverage their gifts but don’t have the financial or emotional support. I’m excited to see what kind of impact the book and foundation can make on the lives of both children and adults.
Read The Children’s Book Review‘s full review of Little Jimmy Says, “Same is Lame”.
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