We had the good fortune of connecting with Annie Caldwell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Annie, do you have any habits that you feel contribute to your effectiveness?
Working with a coach and being teachable. I have a note on my desk: “I don’t need to be right. I need to be growing.” The best coach I ever worked with helped me define my OWN goals and then helped me determine what actions to take to make them happen. There was a built-in accountability team of others who were being coached at the same time and we all encouraged each other. Also, being in the arts can make us loosey-goosey about schedules and taking care of ourselves physically. Part of this coaching program included making time to take care of our main instrument – our bodies – to be sure they were always ready for whatever we asked of them. So things like having a more regular sleep, exercise, and eating schedule, along with better nutrition, really make a difference. Building in daily habits is still a challenge but it’s one of the most important things I’ve done in the past couple of years.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Those are such big questions! I’ll give it a shot. Q: About me. I’m known as The Balloon Storyteller (www.balloonstoryteller.com) in Southern California. What’s Balloon Storytelling? Imagine this: It’s theater-style storytelling with balloons. I’m the narrator, kids from the audience are the actors, the balloons are the costumes and props, and everyone in the audience provides the sound effects. It’s a 100% interactive show that encourages kids to read and get more involved in creative writing. I perform at schools, libraries, preschools, and private functions all over the USA and occasionally I perform and teach internationally. I’ve been performing with balloons since 1998, I’ve written two children’s books, and my husband Buster Balloon and I are featured in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not,” (August 2008) for my balloon wedding dress (he made it, I wore it). I’m originally from Colorado, where I performed in opera and musical theater and had plans to teach high school music. Since I discovered balloons, I’ve traveled around the world, moved to a new state, married a balloon twister, and had much more fun than I expected. Q: Challenges/lessons I’ve learned? I’m continuously learning, like all of the artists I know! I’ve been involved in the arts since 3rd grade when I joined the school band with a flute that my mom had to pay for in installments. We were a single mom family with two little girls, struggling in the 1970s with few programs or social support. It’s the first really valuable thing I ever owned and I felt very pleased to do something so important. As I grew up in the unremarkable suburbs of Denver, Colorado, I saw so many of my classmates drift away from school for one reason or another and often wondered what made some of us different. Why did I stick with school when I had the typical teenage attitude that most of the classes were useless? It’s because of those bright spots like band and choir that not only brought me joy but a sense of purpose and view to a future as a performer. In subjects I didn’t enjoy, I did enough to barely pass the class, but I was at every single rehearsal and performance. I’m passionate about keeping the arts in schools and building a school community that encourages kids to find whatever they want to learn about. Looking back at high school, I’m convinced that the arts were the only thing that kept me in school and I know for sure that the only reason I didn’t start smoking or get into drugs or drinking like my family and friends is that I didn’t want to damage my voice. We can’t expect kids to just go to class and do what the adults expect without giving them these things to get passionate about. Who cares if they change their minds later in life? (Alas, I’m not a famous musical theater star!) If we do whatever we can to inspire kids to be learners, no matter what it is that they’re excited about learning, chances are they will continue to be lifelong learners. My husband is a great example of someone who struggled with dyslexia and had very little parental support but he loved magic so much he figured out a way to learn because he was obsessed. And he’s been a full-time entertainer since the mid ‘90s. (You’d enjoy talking to him as well. He’s fascinating.) So the arts not only make us into well-rounded humans. For some kids, the arts are the only lifeline they can grab onto. OK, now I’ll get off my soapbox. If you ever want to hear my theories on building kids’ self-esteem, I’ll hop back on. 😉 Q: What do I want the world to know about my brand and story? On a practical level: My husband Buster Balloon and I are full-time children’s entertainers, mostly working with libraries, elementary schools, and city events. Hire us! (www.BalloonStoryteller.com, www.BusterBalloon.com) On a bigger level: I’m all about helping kids discover their own capabilities and building a community that supports their efforts by having the patience to let them experiment, fail, succeed, or just experience stuff that challenges them. My husband and I are also community builders within our entertainment community. The more supportive a community is, the better the art (or whatever you create) will be that we all produce. Our community is one of the things that has really helped a lot of entertainers during the pandemic. We all reach out to each other to make sure we’re all okay and help when we can. So many artists and entertainers don’t have strong biological family connections to fall back on in tough times, so we spend years building our chosen families instead. I hope that was what you are looking for with these questions. Be careful, I can talk all day and often need an editor. 😉
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Whew! This is an easy question — we have more friends who live out of town than who live in SoCal! Disneyland, of course. We live 10 min from there on purpose and were annual passholders until they stopped the program. And we’re always up for a visit to any other kid attraction or theme park. Favorite restaurants: Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles [https://www.roscoeschickenandwaffles.com/], Zombie Donuts [https://www.instagram.com/zombeedonuts/?hl=en], Chomp Sushi [https://www.chompsushi.com/], Fourth Horseman Pizza [https://www.the4thhorsemanlbc.com/], Umami Burger [https://www.umamiburger.com/], Lee’s Sandwiches [https://leesandwiches.com/], Rutabegorz [https://orange.rutabegorz.com/mobile/], and The Olde Ship [https://www.theoldeship.com/fullerton]. We also love exploring mom & pop restaurants all over SoCal for cuisine-specific discoveries. Favorite place to shop: Old-Town Burbank for vintage and horror merchandise (lots of our friends are in the scare community). My personal faves: The closed Pinup Girl Boutique [available online at https://pinupgirlclothing.com/] Unique Vintage [https://www.unique-vintage.com/pages/store] and Dark Delicacies Bookstore [https://www.darkdel.com/#/] Speaking of that, Midsummer Scream [https://midsummerscream.org/] is a scare convention in August where we help with the kids area, and if people can make it then we always invite them along. One thing I love to do when people visit is to join them on whatever touristy things they want to do. It gives me a chance to broaden my horizons a bit — there’s so much tourism here that the locals never take time to appreciate. A lot of our friends are in the variety arts community and there are so many wonderful opportunities to see live performances here. Our local friends perform in burlesque, side-show, theater, magic, storytelling, belly dancing, balloon art, and vaudeville. (I know I’m leaving something out.) During the summer, there are always library summer reading program shows that feature us or one of our friends. Even during a busy summer, we all try to go to at least some of our fellow performers’ shows. One of our favorite weekly shows is Boobie Trap [https://boobiela.com/] (not for kids!) where performers have a 4-minute stage spot to do pretty much anything. You never know what’s going to happen but it’s usually a wonderful and memorable evening. Strangely enough, probably the last thing we would probably be asked to do with our friends is go to the beach. (We’re indoorsy-types.) Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Ziv Raviv, founder of Kivi Media (kivimedia.co). My husband Buster Balloon (busterballoon.com) has also been one of my main mentors as we grow our brands together. He was the first to encourage me to really focus on the part of the business I’m now well-known for and the part that’s still my absolute favorite.
Other: I also have https://www.facebook.com/BalloonStory but I have hardly updated it since the pandemic. I’ve been focusing on health coaching during the pandemic. Speaking of health, most of my social media accounts have pics that are from 70 pounds ago. I hadn’t realized they were all a couple of years old. I have had a serious change in my look, so I need new promo pics. In fact, I’m going to try to take a couple this week if I can. The only new pics I have are without balloons!
pic 3: Richard Faverty, https://beckettstudios.com/