Thursday, August 2, 2007

Comic Making Tournament Part 1: Planning

Finally, my multipart summary of the Comic Making Tournament begins.

The idea for the tournament came to me around March 2007, when I found out I'd have to move in the summer to a new city. I felt that the CCP had become big enough that it shouldn't just end. It deserved a finale of sorts, something entertaining and grand.

The basic concept was simple: a full day version of a Create a Comic Project session with kids competing against each other. It would be a way for them to demonstrate the skills they'd learned during the CCP and reward them for attending regularly. At the same time, it'd be open to everyone so that the whole community could enjoy it.

This presented the first issue with designing the tournament: how to convince kids to spend hours in a tournament. Simply earning bragging rights wouldn't be sufficient incentive in all likelihood. Prizes were the logical solution; to get them I turned to local businesses for help.

It still amazes me how readily the people I asked for help were willing to provide materials. The local comic book store - Alternate Universe - had already been helping advertise the CCP with a flier in their window. They quickly agreed to provide stuff for the kids come tournament time.

Next, I approached a used book store, the Book Trader Cafe. The owner gave me $50 worth of books and gift certificates on the spot. I was very pleased, to say the least!

The good fortunate continued, with over half of the companies I asked for help agreeing to provide me with things. This included the Yale Bookstore, New Haven Reads Book Bank, Hull's Art Supplies, and Yale University itself! Those who turned me down had down so because they'd already used up their charitable donation budget (basically, tax breaks only go so far in making it beneficial to donate stuff).

Still, in all, I'd managed to acquire enough prizes to suit the needs of the tournament. And all I'd had to do was ask.

With prizes secured, I then turned to the other logistical issues: location, timing, and advertising. Fortunately, the New Haven Library had a large Program Room able to hold dozens of people. I quickly reserved the room for use. For timing, I scheduled the tournament on the only Saturday between my graduation and moving.

Advertising did not go as smoothly. I created a flier and registration form for the tournament. These were then distributed to all my CCP students. However, a series of mishaps at the New Haven Library forced the cancellation of several CCP sessions, meaning I wasn't able to get the fliers to as many students as I was counting on.

Fortunately, the Dixwell-Yale Community Learning Center mailed the forms to their 300 member mailing list. Unfortunately, the DYCLC was also holding a very popular soap box derby on the same day, which drew away many of the students from that area. Additionally, summer soccer had begun, reducing the audience at the DYCLC workshops and further decreasing those who got the fliers.

Looking back I should have done more than count on fliers. A librarian had told me about a radio station aimed at New Haven youth. I should have taken the time to record an ad for them to get exposure via the airwaves. Also, I should've created a CCP mailing list for the main session, which would've allowed me to contact past participants about the CMT directly.

With future tournaments, I'll definitely work on correcting these shortcomings.

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