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Mind Your Business: Spotlight on Secret Book Club

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03-19-mindyour-photoIn spite of its name, the Secret Book Club isn’t really a book, not the traditional four corners of a printed page way, or even the 21st century Kindle sort of presentation. It is, well, magical. It is organic and interactive storytelling. Cynthia Salbato, who signs her emails “superpowered wishes” and ids as the Raven of the Secret World, gives us a glimpse into this App.

Rogue Valley Messenger: Was there an “a-ha” moment that you realized you wanted to design a new App?

Cynthia Salbato: We had two inspirations that led us to our a-ha moment. The first was our desire to preserve the viability of TreeHouse. This 38 year-old children’s bookstore is one of the last of its kind and as stewards to this special place our mission has been to make it more valuable for our community. With that in mind we began creating community events. 

Our second inspiration was to model our events around story genres. It started out simply: Harry Potter made it so everyone wants to go to wizard school, so we created a fantasy genre storygame called the Wizard Academy. We enjoyed that so much we created a year-long calendar of monthly games. Each games melds a story genre with a life skill: science fiction with goal setting, mystery with mindfulness, fairy tale with positive psychology, action adventure with physical fitness, etc. 

RVM: The recent success of Pokemon Go would seem to be encouraging for the Secret Book Club.

CS: Our goal is to connect the inner world of imagination and creativity with the outer world of our daily lives. The stories that kids read and write get woven into the community game. For example, our February game includes a month long “random acts of kindness” treasure hunt that sends kids out on a quest to find Power Pets, the Secret Book Club version of Pokemons.

RVM: While this isn’t necessarily a book (in spite of its name), the Secret Book Club does draw from storytelling. Is there a concern that an app like Secret Book Club will leave paper books feeling somewhat two-dimensional?  

CS: Our goal is always to augment reality with story. Neither of us owns a Kindle. We read real books. Each storygame encourages you to choose one genre specific book to reach each month, and while you can read them online, we are very partial to a tangible book you hold in your hand. But whether it is real or online, the ultimate goal of the Secret Book Club is to make us conscious of the stories we are consuming and creating.

RVM: Did you have test markets or focus groups of young girls?

CS: We have been working with groups of middle school age children for the past five years. Probably the most helpful input we have had from these whimsical magical groups of creative kids, most of them girls, is that where the Secret Book Club gets most engaging is in that intersection of imagination and the real world.

RVM: What is it about southern Oregon you think supports startup businesses?

CS: I’m not 100 percent certain that southern Oregon is supportive of startups. It’s more of a necessity for people who live here to try to create their own thing, and in that way I think southern Oregon is just ahead of the nation. The corporate job model is declining and smaller more sustainable economic models of entrepreneurship are taking its place.

So with that in mind, this is a very good place to test out ideas. It is a small, contained environment and yet there is also a lot of stimulus with arts, education and entertainment. You can get your idea in front of a curious population willing to explore new ideas.

Right now our community seems to more focused on restaurants, food and entertainment but I believe we can get excited about more complex offerings.


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