There are times when writers have the need to try something different, and in a sense, to reinvent themselves when it comes to the type of work they do. I’ve written for a variety of magazines, newspapers, and web sites over the years, which has brought me a great deal of satisfaction. However, with various moves from one town to another, or even to a new state, I’ve had to seek out new opportunities. I’ve always preferred writing for local publications, which has been quite successful for me.
In 2008, I changed it up a bit, and started writing letters to children from Santa. During the past couple of seasons, my small business has grown quite steadily. This year I decided to do something a little different that has proven to be successful in a creative as well as financial way.
Last July, I began a small business called Story Time Adventures. Essentially, this is a program where I take my favorite children’s books and do story time presentations at libraries, schools – anyplace where children are present, and I dress in costume to fit with the theme.
My first appearance was at a local coffee house located down the street from me. I did three during the summer, on a pro bono basis, but this was primarily and to see what the response would be from the community. On my first day, I was afraid no one would show up, and that it would be just me reading to my sons. I’d planned an elaborate presentation – Buccaneer Bay: Pirates, where I dressed in a pirate costume and read pirate-themed books. We spread the word via FaceBook, email, and flyers posted around town. I am delighted to say that 72 people showed up – 60 of them children. My next program was about animals, and the final one was about transportation. Each time, we had the same amount of people. I was thrilled.
As Fall approached, I purchased a delightful scarecrow costume that a friend had made. During October, I began visiting schools as ‘Sadie the Scarecrow,’ reading books about Halloween. I even did weekend appearances at our local county fair and at a popular pumpkin patch.
As Fall turned into winter, my next idea was to purchase a Mrs. Claus costume. I printed up business cards and passed them out to friends and neighbors, and, again, posted on social web sites that Mrs. Claus was available for school and youth group events. I even became an official member of the Northern California Santa Claus Club. I was willing to go anywhere to do my Mrs. Claus story time. During the season I performed at two different YMCA after school programs, at a group home for children, an abused women’s shelter, and several other venues. Each program proved to be a great deal of fun, and it was wonderful seeing how delighted the children were to have Mrs. Claus visit them.
Besides reading books to the children, I came up with my own scripts that I could use along with the stories. I created songs and finger plays that fit in nicely with each theme. I became Julie the Pirate Queen for the Buccaneer Bay program, and Jungle Julie for the animal presentation.
At first, the pay was rather minimal, making $50 per appearance. But as time progressed, my fee increased to $100 per performance, with the top dollar, so far, being $150 per hour. I’m pleased that I am able to make money on the side doing this, but it really is gratifying to see how much children enjoy being read to. I’m also pleased that I’ve been featured in various publications, such as OCFamily.com, AOL Business and, in February 2011, another article will appear in Bay Area Parent for the San Francisco area. My web site is http://www.storytimeadventures.wetpaint.com. You can reach me at Jengelha – at – aol.com.
Julie Engelhardt is a freelance veteran with more than 20 years’ experience writing for various publications throughout California and Nevada. She lives in Central California with her husband, two sons, and a 12-year-old Dachshund named Oscar. Engelhardt is excited about her new venture, and wants to spread the word about the importance of reading to your children–no matter their age. She still reads to her 8-year-old son (who is a great reader) before he goes to bed.
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