Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Kickstart This! Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

A couple of weeks ago I got an email asking me to take a look at the press release for a new Kickstarter project about a book featuring stories for girls or something. I have to be honest, I get several of these kinds of requests and I was a bit busy at the moment planning for a family trip, and so I put it on the back burner for a couple of days. But then I had a quiet moment to go through my to-read messages, and OMG y'all! Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls - 100 tales to dream BIG by Timbuktu Labs is the book we have been craving!

Can I just take a minute to fangirl a little about this book?! I love love love this project! I love the idea of the project. I love the way it's been put together. And I love the artwork and the video and the coloring book. I love everything about it.

I love it for all the little girls who go to sleep with dreams of space ships and microscopes and tennis rackets floating in their heads. And I love it for all the kids who desperately need to see women doing amazing things so they can create a future where everyone is welcome to follow their dreams.

More importantly though, I want a copy for myself. And the coloring book. And the stickers! I want them all. In the time since this project has gone live, I've raved about it to no fewer than a dozen people.

Co-creator Elena Favilli was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about this fantastic project and her work with Timbuktu Labs designing creative and fun play spaces for kids. Clearly she's no stranger to creating amazing things to inspire young minds.

SRPS: First of all, can you tell me a little bit about yourself? What's your background? What inspires you?

EF: I'm a journalist, originally from Italy, a small town near Florence. I've always had a great passion for the business side of digital media so in 2012 I left my job as a foreign politics reporter to start my own media company, Timbuktu Labs.

SRPS: You mention in your Kickstarter video that you moved to the US from Italy to pursue your dreams. Can you share a little about that experience and your adventure to find your way to where you are now? What was it like creating Timbuktu?

EF: In 2010 my Master's Thesis was selected to participate to a startup competition in Italy. I presented a project for an iPad magazine for kids called Timbuktu Magazine and I won the first prize (about $20,000). With that initial grant I put together a first small team of designers and artists to work on the first issue of the magazine. We were immediately featured by major publications like Wired US, Mashable, PBS, and many others. So we decided to move to Silicon Valley to raise money and build a real company! After just one month in San Francisco, we convinced Dave McClure of 500startups to invest in Timbuktu Labs. We've never stopped since then!

SRPS: What inspired you to create Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls?

EF: I've been working in the children's media space for the past 5 years and I've witnessed from the inside how gender stereotypes still permeate books for children of all ages. Parents are offered little resources to counter this trend and they are especially concerned about the lack of strong female role models in children's media. Plus, I've experienced first hand how much harder it is to be a woman. Last year I wrote an op-ed for The Guardian talking about my personal experience as a female founder of a tech startup in Silicon Valley. I simply shared the many sexist situations in which I had found myself, and how you're supposed to not complain about them if you want to be considered successful. Soon after the article was published, I received a death threat via Twitter. Then many other abusive comments came through the comment section of the article itself (some are still there, unfortunately). Apparently it's a very common pattern. The Guardian just published the results of a research into the 70 million comments left on its website since 2006. Of the 10 most abused writers, 8 are women. I decided that my next project would be something designed to empower young women.

SRPS: You are quoted elsewhere as saying a rebel girl is someone who "breaks things to make things!" I love that. Can you expand on that a little? Does this describe you and your work to break open the literary world to share more stories of amazing women?

EF: Yes, absolutely! I constantly feel that I'm breaking stuff to make stuff happen! Be it a book, an app, or a video! I think we should give more real examples of women breaking things to encourage young girls to experiment without fear of failing!

SRPS: I see that the list of artist working with you for the illustrations are also all women. Was that a conscious decision on your part? What do you think women artist bring to their work that enhances the stories you're telling?

EF: Yes, that's a conscious decision. We think it's our duty to give voice to the amazing work that female artists are creating every day, in every corner of the globe. Because women's voices are underrepresented everywhere.

SRPS: Your Kickstarter project also offers a School Kit. Why was this important to you to include at this level?

EF: The school kit is important because school is one of the places where children first experience gender stereotypes. We think it's important to also give teachers – and not just parents – more tools to avoid passing them on to kids.

SRPS: Where else can folks find you and your work online?

EF: You can see most of my work at www.timbuktu.me.

In the week since I started writing this blog post they've met and exceeded both their initial goal as well as their first stretch goal, which includes an audio book version. Next up? Stickers! And I'm sure they're going to meet that goal as well. I can't wait to see what they've got in store for Stretch Goal #3! Seriously, y'all... go check it out and buy a copy for yourself as well as any little rebel girls in your life!

[Update: Their Kickstarter has ended, but you can still preorder the book here.]

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