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January FableFriday: Melissa Schoeller, Associate Producer

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Melissa Schoeller is a woman of many talents. As an Associate Producer at FableVision Studios, Melissa helps to manage the studio’s technical and creative teams in the development of small and large scale educational media. Although her journey to FableVision was slightly roundabout, she always had an inkling that this was the career she was meant to pursue.

“In graduate school, the curriculum was project-based and teams were small, so I had to learn to do a little bit of everything,” shares Melissa. “However, every time I made a 3D model, designed an animated character, or created other content, I also kept jumping in to monitor the schedule, budget, and scope. At one point, I promised myself I would be on a project just as an artist, but by the end of the first meeting, I single-handedly created our entire communication infrastructure without meaning to. I can’t turn it off!”

Along with being a talented producer, Melissa also makes sure to maintain her creativity and passion in her life outside the studio as well. Outside of her work at FableVision, Melissa freelances as an artist and module writer for an upcoming tabletop role-playing game, she designs games, and she bakes delicious treats that she shares with family and friends.

A project manager, game designer, linguist (she learned four languages!), book collector, musician, and baker—Melissa embodies the importance of cultivating your interests both inside and outside of work. Join us as we learn more about how she came to FableVision, what a day in the life of an Associate Producer looks like, and what her favorite holiday recipes are!

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What is your “journey to FableVision” story?
FableVision and I had a bit of an accidental encounter. After receiving my masters in Entertainment Technology from Carnegie Mellon, I spent the summer interning in California and figuring out what I wanted to do next. Because I was exhausted from all of the moving around, I told myself that I needed a couple of weeks off in my home state of Massachusetts before I could start seriously looking into what city was going to be my new home. I was telling this to my friend at MIT when she asked me if I’d heard of FableVision. I replied yes—they’re pretty well known in the educational games community—and then she asked if I’d like to work there.

It turns out that she and Peter Stidwill, FableVision’s Executive Producer, had met a few weeks prior, and he mentioned that he was hiring new FableVisionaries for the production team. “I know you said you were going to take a break,” my friend said. “So if you think I should ask someone else…” I cut her off. How could I ever pass up the chance to combine my two great loves: entertainment and developmental/educational work? Interviewing and meeting the FableVision team only solidified my decision.

My last day at my California internship was on a Friday, and my first day at FableVision was the following Tuesday!

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You have a background studying psychology. What brought you into working in entertainment media?
When I was getting my undergraduate degree, I actually wanted to be a creative writing major, but Bryn Mawr College only had a minor and a concentration. I felt that the minor was more rigorous, so I picked psychology as my major in order to gain a better understanding of how people think and process the world around them. Even though I wanted to be a writer, I’m someone who puts all of their energy into whatever path they’ve chosen. So, once I became a psychology major, I became a true blue researcher, thesis and all.

Once I graduated, I applied 50/50 to writing and psychology jobs. Ultimately, I found myself at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Child Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Program as a research coordinator. It was an awesome place to be, and they were doing important work in autism and anxiety treatment. However, more often than not, the best part of my day was when I would entertain children in the waiting room by teaching them how to draw, or by helping them come up with fantastical stories. Psychology requires one hundred percent dedication, and my heart was really in storytelling.

What are your favorite parts of working as a member of the production team?
I love being at the intersection of different specialties. I get to see an idea transform as it travels from person to person, from artist to animator to developer, into a game or animation. The best moments are when the entire team is hunkered down together, brainstorming across the studio, making creative chaos. It’s invigorating to see it all come together and to be a part of it.

What does a day in your shoes look like at the studio?
I’m sure everyone says this, but every day is so different! It’s consistently true that when I come into the studio, I review the list of tasks on the docket for the day and make sure everyone on my projects knows what they need to get done. From there, I could be recording scratch voiceover, reviewing design specs, updating budgets, brainstorming with a client, or checking a game for bugs. All of the producers are on multiple projects—I’m on four at the moment—and they’re all in different stages of development, so meeting each project’s needs requires vastly different work.

You also design games! What are some of your side projects and how are they similar to or different from the work you do at the studio?
I know, I can’t stop working! Every once in a while I get an idea for something fun, new, or just ridiculous! My brain just gets stuck on them, like you would a song, and I can’t stop thinking about the idea until I’ve brainstormed the entire thing out.

I think my favorite side project is a continuation of research I worked on at Carnegie Mellon called the Presence Project. My team made this exploratory game for virtual reality (VR) that was trying to prove that you can tell a story in VR without assigning the player a character role—“3rd-person VR.” Not only did it work, but a couple of universities were interested in continuing the research. So, in my off hours (usually early in the morning because of the time difference), I’m on the phone with labs in Norway, turning a tiny four-person lab into an international design consortium. It’s nuts!

We heard that you come from a musical family. How was that experience growing up and what instruments do you all play?
My mother plays piano and my father plays the guitar (as did his parents). When I was a kid, my brother and I took after our dad and learned guitar as well. I have a lot of really wonderful memories of getting ready for bed while Dad played music in the living room, and my brother and I would sit on the floor and sing along. And as we all got better, my brother and I soon played guitar alongside him. My real love, though, is singing.

My parents are big supporters of pursuing your passion, so long as you put in the effort. In middle school, I wanted to get into my school’s audition-only choir. I knew the only way to do it was to practice, so my parents signed me up for lessons and I pushed myself every day. Once I got into that choir, I needed to practice to get a solo, and so on, all the way up to college a cappella. I only sing for fun now—with my friends, mostly—but the lessons that I learned about pushing myself apply to everything I do.

We also heard that you love testing out new recipes. Care to share one of your favorites with us?
I’m famous for my pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, but my favorite thing I have ever made is a pumpkin Yule log with cinnamon vanilla frosting. Swiss rolls are challenging, because you have to get the right consistency and make sure to roll it perfectly before the cake cools. My biggest problem, however, is that I’m terrible at presentation. I tend to get really messy with piping frosting. So, even though the cake was super tasty, the yule log looked incredibly unappetizing.

I tried my hand at a new one this past Christmas. It looked better, but it didn’t taste quite as good.


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More About Melissa:

Favorite animated movie: Up! I cry every time.

Hardest language for you to learn: Spanish. I’m still awful at it. I can’t roll my “r”s!

Favorite board game: That’s like choosing a child! I can’t! Not to mention I tend to rotate. But, the current game of the hour is Photosynthesis. It’s a turn-based strategy game where you try to grow more of your own trees than other players’ trees. Environmentally conscious AND competitive!

Favorite book genre: I love realistic fantasy—books that weave magic into the everyday.

Best thing about winter: I should probably say skiing (my whole family skis), but I think the best thing is when you’re drinking hot chocolate on a walk through Boston Commons with the trees all lit up and big, and fluffy snowflakes start falling.

Favorite music genre: I love everything, but lately my Spotify has been filled with a lot of folk music.

One thing you couldn’t go a day without: My bullet journal! It’s my schedule, my sketchbook, my to-do list—I’d fall apart if I didn’t have it.

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Top 10 FableVision Moments of 2018

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From left: Michael Fogarasi, Gary Goldberger, Amanda Severin, Keith Zoo, Tone Thyne, Sarah Ditkoff, Keith Lockhart, Dennis Alves, Peter Stidwill

From left: Michael Fogarasi, Gary Goldberger, Amanda Severin, Keith Zoo, Tone Thyne, Sarah Ditkoff, Keith Lockhart, Dennis Alves, Peter Stidwill

FableVision’s animated accompaniment to Leon Jessel’s “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” on the big screen at the Holiday Pops

FableVision’s animated accompaniment to Leon Jessel’s “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” on the big screen at the Holiday Pops

FableVision team with Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart following the Holiday Pops performance

FableVision team with Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart following the Holiday Pops performance

2018 was an incredible year filled with new and exciting projects, growing friendships, and giving back. We finished strong with our exciting collaboration with the Boston Pops for the 2018 Holiday Pops season! FableVision provided the concept, art and design, and animation for Leon Jessel’s “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.” The animation played on a 40-foot screen in the Symphony hall and accompanied the musical composition performed by the orchestra.

Partnerships like these are one of the many things that keep us excited for and committed to our work. So, join us for a trip down memory lane as we recount our top 10 FableVision moments of 2018!


1. Community Building

2018 was a year for getting out of the studio and into the community (and letting the community into the studio)!

  • We celebrated Women’s History Month in March by recognizing the women in the FableVision office and the “sheros” who inspire us every day!

  • We celebrated our first Rose’s Garden Storywalk on the Greenway in August, inspired by Peter H. Reynolds’ book Rose’s Garden. The book and the storywalk commemorate Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy and the spirit of the community.

  • 179 countries made their mark for the 10th anniversary of International Dot Day on Sept. 15-ish, a day to celebrate creativity and making your mark with Peter H. Reynolds’ The Dot.

2. Another Award-Winning Year

We might need to build another shelf in the trophy case! We are so grateful for the recognition. Check out our award-winning and festival-featured pieces this year:

From left: Tone Thyne, Gary Goldberger, Leigh Hallisey, Sep Riahi

From left: Tone Thyne, Gary Goldberger, Leigh Hallisey, Sep Riahi


From left: Michael Fogarasi, Adam Landry, Peter Stidwill, Loren Lee-Flynn, Attorney General Maura Healy, Leigh Hallisey, Mikaela Johnson, Gary Goldberger

From left: Michael Fogarasi, Adam Landry, Peter Stidwill, Loren Lee-Flynn, Attorney General Maura Healy, Leigh Hallisey, Mikaela Johnson, Gary Goldberger

3. New Partnerships

We’re always looking for new partners who want to help us move the world to a better place! Take a look at our new collaborations from 2018:


4. Continuing Partnerships

Our partnerships are important to us; we keep our relationships strong so we can continue to make stories that move, stories that matter.


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5. FableFridays

Our partners are always up to date with the latest in education, technology, and game-based learning. Get to know the people behind our collaborations with our 2018 client FableFridays!


6. Thought Leadership

FableVisionaries truly represent what it means to be thought leaders. Whether it be as keynote speakers, workshop leaders, or best-selling book authors, our staff are no strangers to the spotlight!

Our co-founder Peter H. Reynolds continues to make waves in children’s literature, releasing his new books The Water Princess, The Word Collector, and I Am Human: A Book of Empathy, which debuted at the prestigious #1 spot on the New York Times Best Seller List. Peter was also honored with the 2018 Children’s Literature Award from the Massachusetts Reading Association.

Twin brothers, FableVision co-founders, and writing duo Paul and Peter H. Reynolds made their rounds at conferences, sharing their story and inspirations with others. Here are just a couple of their keynote stops:

Peter Stidwill, Executive Producer, made headlines in a University of Cambridge article for his expertise in edtech. Peter also had shared the epic journey of Zoombinis at the Connected Learning Summit, and speak on the importance of immersive, game-based learning in a session at SXSW EDU with Georgia Public Broadcasting.

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Creative Director, Leigh Hallisey, was featured in a Funimation article centered around her experiences as a woman in game development. She shares insights on how she got started in media and how far the industry has come. Representation matters!

Senior Developer Matt Brelsford led a workshop: Animating with Code: Making Things Move for Fun & Profit. With more than 10 years of experience programming games, web apps, and weird interactive toys, Matt had a lot to share with less experienced coders!

Another tech-star, Associate Director of Technology Jordan Bach, led his own workshop focusing on teaching game development skills! In the workshop, Jordan went through thedetailed process of making a full blown interactive/gaming application with a pure HTML5/Javascript front-end.


7. New Hires

In 2018 we added five fresh FableVisionaries to the team! They’ve hit the ground running with their creativity and unique ideas. We can’t wait to see how they continue to grow!


8. Social Media Banners

Spring  designed by Artist and Animator  Hannah O’Neal

Spring designed by Artist and Animator Hannah O’Neal

Summer  designed by art and marketing interns  Avital Dayanim  and  Sam Xu

Summer designed by art and marketing interns Avital Dayanim and Sam Xu

Fall  designed by Production Designer  Christina Kelly

Fall designed by Production Designer Christina Kelly

Winter  designed by Production Assistant  Allie Caton

Winter designed by Production Assistant Allie Caton


From left (back): Peter Stidwill, Melissa Schoeller, Mikaela Johnson, Bob Flynn, David Welsh, Michael Fogarasi  From left (front): Gary Goldberger, Sarah Ditkoff, Allie Caton, Hannah O’Neal, Christina Kelly, Loren Lee-Flynn, Brian Grossman

From left (back): Peter Stidwill, Melissa Schoeller, Mikaela Johnson, Bob Flynn, David Welsh, Michael Fogarasi

From left (front): Gary Goldberger, Sarah Ditkoff, Allie Caton, Hannah O’Neal, Christina Kelly, Loren Lee-Flynn, Brian Grossman

9. Doing Good in the Community

We welcomed women from across the field of education into the studio for a night of Q&A and intellectual conversations for the Women in Education: Galentine’s Day Networking Fundraiser. The money raised was donated to Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Then, we sponsored a reception at Connected Learning Summit 2018. Connected Learning Summit is dedicated to increasing access to participatory, playful, and creative learning through empowering researchers, educators, and developers.

We also gamed for good for 25 hours with Extra Life! We surpassed our original goal of $5,000 and raised $6,609 for sick and injured kids at Boston Children’s Hospital.


10. Extraordinary Intern Projects

We’re so proud of this year’s interns for their hard work and creativity, especially on their independent projects! Check out their incredible work, ranging from interactive games to practical and fun seasonal guides:


Coming up next year:

2018 sure was an exciting year, but we’re just getting started! We already have plenty of new and exciting projects and events lined up for 2019! Catch the FableVisionaries at the ED Games Expo, Kidscreen Summit, and SXSW EDU!


Has our work caught your eye? Message us with YOUR toughest challenge and we’ll help you meet it in 2019!

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December FableFriday: David Welsh, Production Assistant

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David Welsh is a classic example of how it’s never too late to follow your passions. After spending a few years in the workforce in customer support and software training, David realized that he wanted to do something different in his professional life.

“[Customer support and software training] gave me fantastic opportunities to learn about project management and technology,” says David. “But, as someone obsessed with toys and games, I found myself wanting to transition into a creative field.”

Then, in 2014, David attended FableVision’s Creative Juices Art Show. He walked through the double doors, past the Wall of Inspiration, into the studio—and immediately felt a connection. From there, he went back to school, earned a communications degree, interned at FableVision in the marketing department, and returned a year later as one of FableVision’s  production assistants.

In his current position, David is a vital part of the production team, assessing games for bugs, recording voice overs for animations and games, and bringing the creative and technical teams together.

Let’s jump in and hear about David’s long history of storytelling, what goes into writing a stellar game, and where to buy the best flannels!

What inspired you to start working in educational media production? Is there any particular moment where you knew that’s what you wanted to do?
I consumed an extraordinary amount of media when I was a kid. I loved Beverly Cleary books, Nintendo games, and Hanna-Barbera reruns. But I also loved going to school and admired my teachers. When I graduated high school, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a children's author or an elementary school teacher.

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How does your experience as a former marketing intern at FableVision inform your work as a production assistant now?
It was an open secret that I was more interested in production than marketing, and the studio provided wonderful opportunities to learn about production. As a marketing intern, I got to meet with the producers when I wrote case studies, and these meetings taught me about their process and projects. I also valued the coffees and chats I had with members of the producer team.

Through the marketing internship, I also produced FableFolk, a video diary series about the studio. Sarah Ditkoff and Mitul Daiyan’s mentorship taught me a lot about project management and delivering a polished product, and being able to study under their guidance was the most valuable experience of my internship.

What is your favorite project that you have worked on during your time at FableVision?
Parade of the Wooden Soldiers was one of my first projects, and it was such an exciting one! FableVision partnered with the Boston Pops to create an animation for their live performances this holiday season. It was a wonderful introduction to the FableVision animation process, and I got to work with amazing FableVisionaries across the studio like Sarah Ditkoff, Gary Goldberger, Tone Thyne, Keith Zoo, and Didi Hatcher. The producer for Parade of the Wooden Soldiers was Michael Fogarasi, and it was an excellent opportunity to learn from him as I got on board with the studio.

Writing games seems to be one of your specialties! Thinking back to when you were working on Katanas & Trenchcoats and Aethera Player Companion – Intrigue Manual, can you tell us about what goes into writing a successful game?
These books were amazing to work on because roleplaying games are collaborative experiences. As a contributing writer, I got to play in the game designer’s sandbox. My job was to work with the team to write lore that fit the setting and would inspire players to create their own stories through play.

Understanding these parameters, I had to remember that less is more. The more details I wrote, not only was I taking up precious page space, but I risked limiting the player’s imagination. To write a successful game, you need to put the player first and be willing to share your toys.

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With your amazing story-telling skills, it’s no wonder you’re a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast! What’s your favorite part of running a game of D&D?
My absolute favorite part of Dungeons and Dragons is when I have to tear up my notes because the players pushed the story in a direction I didn’t anticipate. I love the communal storytelling of Dungeons and Dragons. Roleplaying games are a fantastic creative exercise, and each game feels like making a movie with your friends.

I was thrilled to run a game for the studio at Extra Life 2018 and see a different side of my co-workers as they worked together to overcome traps and monsters.

So you have two adorable dogs. What’s your favorite thing to do together?
Scooby is our 13-year-old Italian greyhound. I’ve always treated him like a roommate, so my favorite thing to do with him is watch movies on the couch and share snacks.

My wife and I adopted Prince just a few months ago. He is a four-year-old retired racing greyhound. We enrolled him in obedience school, and I really enjoy the bonding we’ve had through our training. I’m proud to say that our dog is top of his class!

You’ve been an Extra Life participant even before working with FableVision. Can you tell us about your experience with the fundraiser and what you’ve taken away from it?
I participated in Extra Life 2010 with a local board game store I worked and blogged for. It was one of the first years of Extra Life, but the idea clicked with us immediately. We could play games all day for a good cause. I think the concept is beautifully simple, and in my experience, people playing for Extra Life always prioritize the fundraising over the gaming.

I brought my nephew to Extra Life at FableVision this year, and he was proud to have helped raise money for Boston Children’s Hospital. When the day was over he said, “That was fun, but next year we should try to raise $7,000!”

(But it’s not too late to cross that line this year. You can still donate!)

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Tell us about A Blumhouse Divided. What has podcasting taught you about storytelling?
A Blumhouse Divided is a podcast where my wife Ashlee and I discuss movies from the film studio Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, Get Out). We started the podcast because, after we began recognizing the company’s logo on some of our favorite horror movies, my wife said she wanted to watch every movie they had made. I was looking for a project where I could practice my production skills, and this seemed like as good a premise as any.

Our film discussion and analysis is casual, but I’ve learned a lot about storytelling by watching these films in context of their franchises or other films from the studio. Making the show has also taught me about finding compelling topics to discuss and creating interesting segments.

Jason Blum, the head of Blumhouse, has a philosophy of capping a film’s budget at $5 million. Watching the movies with an understanding of the restraints they were under helps me appreciate how a great project can get made when you know how to allocate limited resources, so A Blumhouse Divided has also given me insight into the production process.

You’ve also dabbled in poetry, what sparks your creativity and inspires you to write?
Dabble is the right word to use because I wouldn’t call myself a poet. I’ve worked with so many different ways to tell stories—short stories, blogs, podcasts, comics, film, games. I think what sparks my creativity is that I get excited by everything and I have to put that creative energy wherever I can. That’s why I love working at FableVision. On any day, I could be recording audio, editing video, or brainstorming game ideas.


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Fun Facts/More about David:

Favorite video game: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Best mythological creature: Minotaur
Most recommended book: My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Favorite horror movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Fictional world you wish was real: Toontown
Best place to get flannels: Old Navy
Best comic book character: Nightwing
Favorite snack: Cape Cod Potato Chips
Favorite cartoon: Adventure Time

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November FableFriday: Jordan Bach, Associate Director of Technology

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Eight years is a long time—especially in the world of educational technology. When Associate Director of Technology Jordan Bach joined the studio eight years ago, FableVision was using Adobe Flash as our primary development tool for interactive media, and we were delivering that media online in web browsers. These days we use a variety of different tools, from Unity and HTML5 to Augmented Reality, to make interactive experiences. Jordan is one of the driving forces behind keeping us on top of tech trends, helping choose tools that best serve the educational goals of each and every project in our portfolio.

“Here’s what hasn’t changed, even after eight years—the technology is transparent to the learner. FableVision works hard to keep it invisible so that the learning is what’s happening,” shares Jordan. “We don’t use new technology because it’s new, but because of its potential to tell stories and aid learning.”

The technical solutions available to us have evolved and Jordan has evolved too. By working closely with our creative team and clients, Jordan utilizes his own, and everyone else's talents, to create the best projects possible. Learn more about how he approaches his work in making games, apps, and interactives for the web, tablets, phones, and beyond!

Edtech has made great strides in the past few years as new technologies continue to emerge. What are some trends that you think will have a big impact in the years to come?
It’s exciting to think about how augmented reality (AR) apps can be used effectively in teaching and learning. With our partners at Reading Is Fundamental and EDC, we’re exploring how AR can help struggling readers engage with books in a new way, and ultimately help them improve their reading skills as part of our Phase I SBIR project. I’m excited to participate in such a meaningful exploration of a new technology.

From UX|UI designers, to artists, to animators, our developers have to work with an entire team of people and ensure that everything we create works in tandem with each other. How do you help maintain this well-oiled machine?
A big piece of my job is communication, and helping everyone on the team to communicate clearly about technology. At the beginning of a new project, I make sure we’re all on the same page about what we’re building and the tech we’re using. During a project I help with the pipeline from artist and animator to developer, sometimes even making tools to help manipulate and set up files. And when a project is complete, I help take what we’ve learned and apply it to our process for the next one. Because the technology we use is always changing, the entire team is always learning and improving our process.

Tell us about a challenge you encountered with a project and the creative problem solving it took to get the job done?
After we finished the relaunch of the classic Zoombinis game with TERC a few years ago, we switched gears and helped EdGE at TERC create a special research version of the game. This version, used in participating classrooms, tracks a ton of data about how kids solve the puzzles. So that researchers could better understand the data, we created another version of the game that, when given the test data, simulates the original gameplay at different speeds. One of the more tricky tasks I’ve done at FableVision, it couldn’t have been accomplished without working closely with the researchers at EdGE and their other development partners. It’s a great example of how working together allows you to create something better and more complex than you could have done on your own.

Jordan giving a talk on making a full blown interactive/gaming application with a pure HTML5/Javascript front-end.

Jordan giving a talk on making a full blown interactive/gaming application with a pure HTML5/Javascript front-end.

What does it take to be a developer at FableVision?
In addition to being skilled at the craft of coding games and interactives, developers at FableVision need to understand what’s going on outside of the developer box. They need to understand user experience, implementation of learning theories, and what makes a compelling story. They care about learning, and demonstrate it every day by learning themselves.

How does your formal training in music influence your work as a developer?
In so many ways! Here’s one: While performing, a musician puts a lot of energy into giving the audience a certain experience. While preparing for the performance, you practice all of the details needed to create that experience. As a developer, my number one priority is not to program in certain ways or to use certain techniques, but rather to create specific learning experiences. I’m interested in identifying and focusing on all of the details that are most key to the overall experience.

One more: when you’re on a stage, you have to have done all the hard work to get there. You can’t let the audience and your fellow performers down. It’s the same as a developer: you work hard to support the team and the kids using what you made.

As a computer science wizard, you spend a lot of time making magic on the screen, how do you find ways to take a break from your computer?
I absolutely need a break sometimes. Here’s one way: I’ve decided not to look at any screens on my commute. I take the subway and bus and it’s a lot of time every day.  I’ve read so many great books over the past eight years on my FableVision commute!

As we’ve seen at our annual Creative Juices art show, you work with a lot of different mediums for creativity outside of work. What special non-tech related project are you currently working on?
I’m making a quilt for my nephew! It’s still a secret, but here’s a pic of one I made for my niece.

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More about Jordan:

Delicious tea to drink and relax with: I love Keemun. And I have Earl Gray every afternoon in the office.

Best gardening secret you’re willing to share: If you choose plants native to where you live, they’ll be easier to take care of. And as a bonus, they’ll support the native fauna that has coevolved to live with your plants, so you’ll see more birds and other critters. Have shade? Plant a spicebush and get this caterpillar.

Three works of literature we should have read yesterday: Whatever interests you the most! Books have to come to you at the right time in your life. I read a lot of contemporary books, but lately I’ve been fascinated by stories from and about the past. Middlemarch is often cited as a long, challenging book to get through. It’s actually really engaging, and insightful about relationships. I’m working my way through the Palliser chronicles by Trollope, mostly because it’s entertaining but also because it’s fascinating to read about the political struggles of another time. I also like Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth because the characters are fantastic.

Your go-to recipe for making new friends: Join groups related to your hobbies! Everyone is there because they love the same thing you love and want to make new friends. Chances are it’ll work out.

Current favorite hand-made thing you’ve created: A stuffed bunny and cat for my two nieces. Making stuffed animals is how I originally got into crafting!

An inviting library or bookstore you love: The Montague Book Mill is an old water mill in western Massachusetts that’s been repurposed as a used book store, a performance space, a couple of restaurants, and an art gallery. It overlooks a waterfall.

Most addicting game you’ve played recently: Hollow Knight. It’s a little old fashioned, beautiful, and fun.

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Introducing “The Water Princess” Animated Film from FableVision and Weston Woods

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Susan Verde’s Gie Gie is unlike any princess you’ve met before, and her story isn’t quite a Disney or Brothers Grimm-infused fairytale. In fact, The Water Princess’ tale is all too real, and no less extraordinary.

Gie Gie’s story springs to life in FableVision’s recent collaboration with Weston Woods, an animated adaptation of Verde’s award-winning text. Inspired by the childhood of model and activist Georgie Badiel and published by Penguin Random House in 2016, The Water Princess’ young protagonist rules over a village in Africa, singing a song of “can”s: “I can almost touch the sharp edges of the stars” she speaks with pride, “I can tame the wild dogs with my song, I can make the tall grass sway when I dance… I can make the wind play hide and seek.”

Gie Gie’s strength and positivity, combined with Verde’s poetics, Peter H. Reynolds’ rich illustrations, a brand new soundtrack and voice-over dialogue, and two new visual scenes offer an exquisite, thought-provoking narrative that brings the global issue of clean water access to light. Gie Gie’s struggle is a reality for nearly one billion people globally; she reminds younger and older audiences alike that that they share the “earth and sky” with so many others, and that, though we have many miles to go before these issues are solved, there is always room to dance on the way. Moreover, The Water Princess features a resilient woman of color as its lead and role model. Like Badiel, whose efforts have transformed Western African lives and encouraged greater universal awareness, Gie Gie redefines what it means to be a princess and to truly care for the space and communities around you.     

Ultimately, Gie Gie’s magic lies both within the natural world and herself (sure, Cinderella could talk to birds, but I found Princess Gie Gie’s “powers” much cooler). And, though Gie Gie has no time for fancy ball gowns, she does have time for dancing (“the miles give us room to dance”), which she does alongside her mother as the two journey across Gie Gie’s African “kingdom” in search of water—the one thing that, try as she might, she cannot summon. Princess Gie Gie refuses to lose hope that “someday” things will be different, dreaming of clearer water and change.

Peter Reynolds’ fun whimsical drawings truly brought Gie Gie and her environment to life. With rich earthy tones and expressive actions, FableVision created an engaging animation following the story and emulating Peter Reynolds’ illustrative style. Experience Gie Gie’s journey for yourself; get the film on Weston Woods’ site here and get your own copy of the book here.

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