November 23, 2011

My Guest Blog Post

I was asked by Deb Prado, who runs (the host site where I have my MBCT website), to write a guest post for her new blog about the arts and entrepreneurship.  She asked me to write about my experience with fundraising on for the Bohemian Book Project.  Here is the post below, but you can also read it on her blog.

My friend Amia Yokoyama and I met last year in the Czech Republic.  We were both students at New York University’s Gallatin School, and we were on a three-week study abroad program studying art and culture in Central Europe.  Amia comes from a visual arts background with an interest in stop-motion animation.  I’m in theatre – a director and writer.  We had both chosen to study art with the Czech Republic program because it introduced us to Artmill, a sustainable farm and art residency tucked away in the countryside of Bohemia.  Our days were filled with running through mud, chasing animals, swimming in the lake, going for walks, drinking tea by the fire, picking vegetables in the garden, helping in the kitchen, and, of course, sitting in our studios drawing and painting and building and filming and thinking thinking thinking.

This past spring, Amia and I met up to discuss how we could return to Artmill.  We had fallen in love with the land and the people, and we knew that we needed to return to the inspiring Bohemian air to collaborate on a project.  A book!  A children’s book!  With Amia’s art and my storytelling, it was the perfect match.

Over the course of a couple weeks, we met in Amia's Brooklyn apartment to lay out our project, which we called the Bohemian Book Project.  We wanted to tell a story that linked the past with the present through Czech traditions and the sustainable practices at Artmill.  We poured over Czech and Slavic folktales at the library, noting common themes and motifs among them.  We brainstormed plots, characters, and mythical creatures; we argued morals; we shared artwork; and we went back and forth with ideas until it became obvious that we just needed to get back to Bohemia.  We needed to breathe the air of the countryside, run around the farm, and soak in the magic of the land itself.  But first we needed to raise money to help pay for the travel costs of returning to the Czech Republic.

And this is where the real Bohemian Book Project kicked in.  How does an artist raise money for a project?  We didn’t have anything to show – we had not yet made any art or written a story; all we had was an idea.

So, that was when our meetings changed from brainstorming book ideas to making videos about the project itself.  We joined Kickstarter, a fundraising website for creative projects.  There we chose a monetary goal ($3000), a deadline (30 days), and uploaded a video and text describing our project.  We listed rewards for different levels of donations and added photos, videos, and messages to update our donors as the project grew.  If we didn’t make our goal in that amount of time, we wouldn’t be able to keep any of the money.  You can check out our page here:

Spoiler: we made our goal plus $26!

But how did we do it?  How did we raise $3000 in 30 days?  It was the quite the challenge.

Fundraising is a big old pain in the arse, a lesson I learned years ago.  I have been self-producing theatre for the past several years in New York City, and raising funds has taken up as much of my time/energy/tolerance, if not more, than actually writing and directing the plays.  It is hard, very very hard, to find investors when you are an individual artist (opposed to an organization, though even then it’s still extremely hard), and harder still when you aren’t an established name.  So I knew from first hand experience that simply posting a video was not going to help Amia and me find strangers who wanted to throw hundreds, thousands, millions of dollars at us so we could write a children’s fairytale about Bohemia and the environment.  We had to target people we knew.

Social networking was our friend.  E-mail, Facebook, blogs... we updated and updated and bugged the heck out of everyone we knew.  Everyone.  It is simply amazing who will come out the woodwork to offer $25 for your project.  Old high school friends, people we haven’t talked to in years, friends across the world – and $10 here and $50 there really adds up.  Some days the line on our Kickstarter graph would suddenly jump up and we'd prematurely celebrate our success.  But other days, the line would plateau, and we’d panic that we'd never meet our goal.  And then days would go by and the line still wouldn’t budge; that’s when we knew that we had to be proactive and make another video, post more photos, or write another blog entry.  And then we'd Facbeook and e-mail the bejeezus out of it.  We made sure that everyone knew what we were up to, how much more money we had to make, and how much time we had to make it in.  Yeah, sure, we knew we were bordering on annoyance, but we really believed in our project, and we really needed the help and support of our community.  And our community came through.

Fundraising is a big old pain in the arse, and it will never get easier.  But it works if you stay proactive.  Amia and I are extremely proud of our successful campaign, and we're extremely grateful for the generosity of our supporters.  As the Bohemian Book Project progresses, we expect to either use Kickstarter or some other fundraising method again.  Because in the end, it is all about the art, but our art can only survive with the support of the community.


Miriam’s blog:

Amia’s webstie:

the Bohemian Book Project’s Kickstarter page:


August 20, 2011

Ari and Elana and Art

I just met my friends Ari and Elana for brunch -- they're visiting the East Coast from Denver -- and we had a really interesting conversation about art.  Elana is a beautiful painter, and I was trying to relate her experience in the studio arts to mine in the performing arts.  Realism, for instance, has an entirely different meaning for her than it does in the theatre, and just the process of labeling one's work is a heady, overwrought one.  I have been categorized as both traditional and avant garde, and though I have fought against and distanced myself from these labels, I have also slowly started to embrace them.  I'm getting sick of being between categories -- lost somewhere between straightforward and weird.  I mix genres, styles, and techniques not so much to create a new art form but rather to enhance and amplify the storytelling traditions that originally sprung the theatre we know today.  And Elana has had a similar struggle.  In her world, labels are there to box you in and remind you that you are a painter, this is what you do, and this is what you must fight against if you are going to go "rogue."  She too finds herself caught between categories, and rather than describe how she paints, she has chosen to just paint.  She defines herself not as a still-life or portrait realist, but as a painter.  And from her I learn to say that I am not an avant garde revisionist or an adaptor of classics or an auteur-director, but rather I am a theatre artist.  I trust my imagination, I write, I direct, and I do.  And if it happens to be weird experimental downtown theatre or a naturalistic rendering of a classic, then so be it.  But today, this is where my whim has led me, and today this is where I follow.

August 13, 2011

Bohemian Dreams

I'm back in the States after two wonderful weeks in Bohemia, the land of dreams.

Amia and I worked on our book project, and we now have a solid skeleton of story and illustrations.  She is still traveling around Europe, and when she returns we will hunker down and re-collaborate on the book.

Amia, always gorgeous
For now, I am focusing on editing the text and finding the right words to describe the otherworldly, dark, mysterious, ethereal world we are creating together.

me too?
While in Bohemia, Amia and I also taught at Artmill, an international arts camp in the wilds of Bohemia.  She taught animation and I drama.  The kids were hilarious and inspiring, and the other teachers were crazily awesome.  We made some incredible life-lasting friends and found a whole new community of artists.

Bohemia is an artist's dream for inspiration:

July 31, 2011

And back

And here we are, back again at Artmill.  Amia and I are having a wonderful time.  We are finding such inspirations for our book.  Just look at these wonderful surroundings!

And my newly discovered favorite plant - the hawthorne berry trees:

July 27, 2011

Here we come, Bohemia!

Amia and I leave this evening for Bohemia where we will be working on the Bohemian Book Project and teaching at Artmill's international arts camp.  We are very excited to get to the Czech Republic and immerse ourselves in the unique culture and environment of the farming countryside.

We will be posting updates about our project here, so keep checking back.  To Bohemia we go!

(If you'd like to support the Bohemian Book Project, please visit Amia's website.)

June 18, 2011

We did it!

With 54 minutes left of our fundraiser, we have made our goal -- with change!!!  We asked for $3,000, and you helped us reach just over 100% at $3,026.  We'll be sure to spend that extra $26 well -- probably on beer.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our Bohemian Book Project.  Amia and I cannot wait to get over to Bohemia and start collecting materials, creating collages and still lifes, taking photos, and writing the story for our book.

We are both extremely passionate about finding new ways to talk about taking care of the environment and appreciating the land around us.  In the Czech Republic, there is a rich storytelling history, and by modernizing a traditional folktale we hope to show children that the earth provides us a myriad of wonders from the practical, like food, to the abstract, like natural beauty.

If you would like to donate to our Bohemian Book Project, please visit Amia's website. There are rewards for every level of support:

  • Pledge of $5 or more:
    • an e-mail from us thank you for your generous donation!
  • Pledge of $5 or more:
    • the above + a postcard sent from the Czech Republic with an update on the project!
  • Pledge of $50 or more:
    • the above + your name included in the acknowledgements in the book!
  • Pledge of $100 or more:
    • the above + an original illustration created by us while in the Czech Republic!
  • Pledge of $250 or more:
    • the above + a signed copy of the book!
  • Pledge of $500 or more:
    • the above + a special thank you message and an original illustration from the book!
  • Pledge of $750 or more:
    • the above + hand-bound, limited edition signed copy of the book!
  • Pledge of $1000 or more:
    • the above + a commissioned art piece

Thank you again for supporting this important and exciting project!

June 17, 2011

24 hours to go!

We only have 4% left and only 24 hours to go!

Please help us reach the end of our goal at kickstarter.

Amia and I are really excited about how close we are, but just need a tiny bit more of help to finish.  Thank you in advance!