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by Ruth Spiro

In 2003, I sold my first picture book manuscript, Lester Fizz, Bubble Gum Artist, as the result of a contact made at the SCBWI Annual Conference. In the five years between the sale and my book’s release in 2008, I had plenty of time to think about innovative ways to promote it. Yes, my marketing plan included the tried-and-true mailings, signings and presentations, but I also wanted to do something a little different. That’s just me.

With a moderate investment of time and money, in 2006 I created my own holiday, “Bubble Gum Day.” Unsure of my publication date at the time, I chose the first Friday in February because aside from Groundhog Day, there’s little else going on. This year, Bubble Gum Day falls on Friday, February 4.

The premise is simple: On Bubble Gum Day, kids pay fifty cents to chew gum at school, with the proceeds used for any project or charity the school chooses. Kids have fun, schools benefit, and my name and book title get valuable publicity.

Six years later, it’s become a fun and effective promotional tool that has increased my visibility as an author and “Bubble Gum Expert.” It has also gained me exposure in both print and broadcast media, including The Washington Post Express, The New York Daily News online and Good Day Sacramento, as well as on radio stations in both large and small markets. This holiday with kid-appeal has been celebrated in countless schools, public libraries, children’s museums and community organizations.

Most importantly, schools and community groups have used Bubble Gum Day to do some wonderful things. One school raised enough money to buy a goat for a village in Africa through Heifer International. Another used their proceeds to purchase snacks, which they sent to soldiers in Iraq. Yet another school collected used books instead of money, and wound up with over one thousand books, which they donated to local women’s shelters.

Frankly, when emails with these stories began appearing in my mailbox, I stopped thinking about the holiday as a promotional tool—it’s become so much bigger than that.

This year, I’ll spend Bubble Gum Day with a group of second and third graders in Oak Brook, IL. The money they collect will go to Reading is Fundamental. They don’t know this, but I plan to chew lots of bubble gum too, for which I’ll also make the required donation!

Then, as in past years, I’ll eagerly anticipate the emails, photos and packages of letters I’ll receive over the coming weeks, as schools tally up their proceeds and continue to make Bubble Gum Day a sweet success!

Win a signed copy of Lester Fizz and a bubble gum prize pack! Send a photo of your most creative bubble gum bubble—in a group (like your class), individually, or like one of Lester’s unique bubbles. Email photos to bubblegumday@gmail.com with the sujbect line “Tara Lazar contest” by February 7th.  Ruth will select a winner and some bubble photos will be featured here. Good luck!

Ruth Spiro is the author of Lester Fizz, Bubble-Gum Artist, published by Dutton. Her essays and articles have appeared in FamilyFun, The Writer and Woman’s World, as well as The Right Words at the Right Time: Your Turn, edited by Marlo Thomas, and several Chicken Soup for the Soul titles. She frequently speaks at schools and conferences. Visit her online at www.ruthspiro.com. Learn more about Bubble Gum Day at www.bubblegumday.com.

ruthspiroRuth Spiro is my hero. She’s the only children’s book author I know who invented her own holiday. And what could be more fun than Bubble Gum Day? Celebrations are “popping up” all over the place!

Bubble Gum Day participants raise money to support schools by blowing bubbles. And, of course, they read Ruth’s hilarious picture book Lester Fizz, Bubble-Gum Artist.

Never heard of a bubble gum artist? Lester comes from a long line of artsy ancestors, but he hasn’t inherited traditional talent. One day Lester visits his Uncle Edgar, whose inspiration has waned. When Lester’s bubble bursts, Edgar’s statue gets covered in pink, donning her with a lovely tutu. Hmmm, where have I seen that ballerina before? Sure, Lester helps his uncle out, but he still hasn’t found his fine art calling.

Lester might create drab doodles and pitiful paintings, but he soon discovers his unique talent for blowing beautiful bubble art. Spiro’s clever tale offers tons of fun for kids, but it also winks at parents with spoofs of Picasso, Seurat and other masters sprinkled on its pages. Lester‘s theme is about finding your place in the world, despite what others think. In fact, it serves as a wonderful lesson for aspiring authors.lesterfizz Write from the heart. Find your voice. Keep writing no matter what anyone else says.

Ruth Spiro’s journey to publication was a pretty sweet ride. Lester was her first picture book manuscript and her first sale. The story was also a winner in the 72nd Annual Writer’s Digest competition. But how did she start writing?

Ahh, glad you asked. I knew I liked Ruth’s work for a reason. In 2000, she took a class from one of my favorite picture book authors, Carolyn Crimi (The Louds Move In, Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies). She gained a firm writing foundation and then found inspiration from her family.

One day her daughter said, “What if I could blow bubbles like that guy at the birthday party who made animals out of balloons? Wouldn’t it be cool if I could blow a bubble shaped like a dog?” With that, Lester’s story was born. And Ruth’s career took another turn.

“Once I sold my book and started selling articles to magazines, I also started receiving calls and emails from ‘friends of friends’ who were looking for advice on breaking into print. It seemed everyone had a drawer full of poems or a children’s book manuscript, but they didn’t know what steps to take next.

“I realized I was spending a lot of time putting together resources and reading other peoples’ work, so why not make it official and get paid for it?”

Ruth created the Writing for Moms program to help other women develop their craft and sell their work. Several of her students are now published authors, too.

And now the burning question: what kind of bubble gum does Ruth prefer?

“I was actually a Bazooka gal until Bubble Yum came out–so soft and sweet! While I don’t like to state a preference for a particular brand, I find Dubble Bubble is a good all-around bubblegum, and I usually have a big pink bowl filled with it at my events and signings!”

As if I needed another reason to attend her signing! Oh Ruth, you had me at “Bazooka.”

lesterfizzLester Fizz, Bubble-gum Artist
Story by Ruth Spiro
Illustrations by Thor Wickstrom
Dutton Juvenile, August 2008

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