This post was created in updating my online writing portfolio at www.joshoaktree.com/portfolio
In 2017, my cousins and I published a book about our grandfather. Did You Boscov Today? is an anthology of memories about Albert Boscov, the retailer and philanthropist, as told by the people who knew and loved him.
I'll be writing a series of blog posts about how to apply lessons from the book to creative writing and running a small business. Before I jump into the meat of the post, here's a little more about the book my cousins and I wrote.
If you've never met our grandfather, Albert Boscov was a teddy bear, the Barnum and Bailey of retail, as warm and silly as he was hard-working. He grew his father's corner store into Boscov's, a family-owned department store based out of Reading, PA. When he passed away in February 2017, thousands of letters arrived from the community by mail, email, and Facebook, sending love, prayers, and in those letters, hundreds of stories.
In putting together the book about him, my cousins and I continued to learn from our grandfather thanks to all the stories everyone shared with us. Many of those lessons I apply on a day-to-day basis in how I go about my writing and in starting a business.
In June 2020, I started Oak Tree Comics. We're pretty brand new! We're an indie publisher making comics for kids.
In this series of blog posts, I'm going to explore how the lessons in Did You Boscov Today? can be applied to creative writing and in creating a business, so...
Without further ado, here is the first entry in the series:
"Success is Never One Person."
As a writer, I often sit at a desk alone. Writing can be solitary. But being imaginative while alone is not the entirety of the experience or even the most important part of the job. Any book, movie, or comic you see would not exist without a large, supportive community behind it.
Creating Did You Boscov Today? taught me that lesson. It took over a hundred people contributing stories as well as their time and efforts to create the book. Flipping through the hundred-plus stories and the acknowledgement section only begins to allude to the amazing collaborative process.
Whenever I begin a project, I remind myself of my favorite lesson featured in the book: "Success is Never One Person." The people who make a project successful, in my opinion, are people who make good teammates. They are people who you can connect with on a creative and personal level. Often, if they are not already friends, soon they will be.
Whenever I begin a project, I ask myself who will help make this project a success. Careful! The question is not who has already obtained quote-unquote success, or how do I get them to work with me. Whether someone has an impressive resume and an Oscar is not what matters most for forming a constructive and enjoyable collaboration.
To truly appreciate the lesson, let's look at the emphasis in the sentence:
"Success is never one person."
The emphasis doesn't land on "success"; the sentence ends on and emphasizes "person." "Success" is secondary to developing great relationships. If you value and appreciate the people around you, then only good things will follow. That's the philosophy. Maybe it's a little hokey. But I like hokey! It keeps me honest and positive.
How have I applied the lesson to Oak Tree Comics?
When you start a small business, the instinct is to do everything yourself. Your budget is likely low, and you want to avoid unnecessary costs. But you can't do it alone, and you don't have to spend a lot of money to benefit from and appreciate the wonderful people in your life.
Hundreds have contributed to Oak Tree Comics' success already. The support on social media has been so empowering. Hearing from friends who I hadn't heard from in years is not only encouraging, but it's just a joy to reconnect with everyone!
On Zoom, I've talked to many friends and family members about their field of expertise. Some have run small businesses. Others are teachers and have contributed ideas for what would be useful for them to see on Oak Tree Comics' YouTube channel. On the channel, I teach creative writing to kids. I owe everyone I talked to so much thanks (and a cup of coffee, at the very least)!
Then there's the core team. There are the artists working on projects and, also, my mom who fills my email inbox with ideas for slogans, articles to read, and books that I might enjoy.
Last but not least, there is my Amelia. Amelia is my main person. She is my cousin and Oak Tree Comics' Creative Director. She reads everything I write. She's in art meetings and sounds off on everything from website design to company philosophies and more. I like to call her the Creative Overlord overseeing everything at Oak Tree Comics. Really she is my sounding board, support system, and like-minded creative collaborator all-in-one.
As any project grows, "success is never one person" becomes more and more important. How to be a good collaborator, I believe, is a matter of self-growth. It is something that I continually strive to be better at. As Oak Tree Comics grows, at some point, I imagine I will follow up on this entry as I learn from any mistakes I make and hopefully successes, too.
There are many more life lessons in Did You Boscov Today?, which I apply to my writing and life on a day-to-day basis. Some are:
"Begin Every Day With A Song."
"A Full Stomach is a Happy Person."
"Close Your Eyes and Dream a Little."
"Nothing is Impossible."
One day, I'll write entries on some of those lessons and how I apply them to my writing at Oak Tree Comics. To garner the full meaning of each, it helps to read the fun anecdotes that accompany them in the book. You can get a hard copy from Boscov's Department Stores, or you can always download a free PDF.
For even more stories, visit the book's Facebook page, Memories of Al. On the page, we'd love to hear any stories you have about our grandfather. Feel free to share them there.
Did You Boscov Today?