Skeletons come to life at CyberINK

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Some times you just have to drop everything to pursue your dreams, right? That's what Jean Latz Griffin decided to do when she stepped away from the world of news media and founded her own company called CyberINK.

If you check out the site CyberInkOnline.com, you'll see a number of cool office products that can really give your desk a nerdy feel. But you'll soon see that the company is about more than just funky mousepads, as Jean Latz Griffin tells me about the history of the company; what her objectives are for CyberINK; what inspires her to create; and what some of her favorite geeky pastimes are:

Geek To Me: Can you tell us a bit about CyberINK?

Jean Latz Griffin : CyberINK is an independent publishing company that also produces quirky skeleton-themed products. I started it in 1998 after I left the Chicago Tribune after 21 Years as a reporter. At first the focus was finding clients who needed writing, editing and strategy work done.

One of my  first clients was a political consulting group in Chicago, whose owner had been one of my sources at the Tribune. In the midst of planning campaign strategy, writing text and choosing images for direct mail, I came across an amazing CD by DigitalVision of skeletons doing every day activities – riding a bike, taking a bath, drying their hair. There were skeletons of dogs – sitting, running, crouching – and an amazing view of skeletons strolling home from work through a snowy village.

I had never seen anything like it. I bought rights for the images before she even knew what I was going to do with them.

First I created calendars, because I love calendars, then added posters. When I ran out of fresh images I dropped the calendars, but before the run ended, the skeleton calendars had hit the top of the charts for science calendars on calendar.com for two years.

A few years later, one of my best clients had a Body Worlds Show coming. He wanted mugs, mousepads and water bottles. So we made those and they have been sold in museums with Body Worlds exhibits in Portland, Oregon; NYC, Chicago and San Jose, California, and right now are in the Anchorage Museum, being sold during the first Body Worlds exhibit in Alaska. They are also sold in many bookstores across the country.

Geek To Me: Where did the idea come from?

Jean Latz Griffin : The name CyberINK represents the freshness of the Internet but the tradition of solid writing. It also came from a nick-name one of my friends gave me, CyberChick, because way back in the 1990s I already loved everything online. The idea was that I wanted my one company and the opportunity to explore lots of stuff. It turned into a publishing company when I self-published two books in 2007, In the Same Breath and One Spirit: A Creation Story for the 21st Century with two women artists.

Geek To Me: Where do you look for inspiration?

Jean Latz Griffin : Nature, music, Tai Chi and magazines with edgy design.

Geek To Me: Do you consider yourself more of a nerd or a geek?

Jean Latz Griffin : I would have to know how you define each! I think a bit of a mix of both.

Geek To Me: Which would you rather have for a pet: a Mogwai or a Tribble?

Jean Latz Griffin : Only because I prefer things with faces, I believe a Mogwai.

Geek To Me: Star Trek or Star Wars?

Jean Latz Griffin : Definitely Star Trek. Have watched the entire original series, some episodes many times. Loved Voyager, saw most of the movies, have at least one serious Trekker son. Also have a son who is a long-time Star Wars fan, so toys and gadgets through the years, well into adulthood, have run the gamut. Then throw in Dr. Who for the third son, and it was pretty much a pop-culture, geek-nerd house.

Geek To Me: Favorite science fiction or fantasy writer?

Jean Latz Griffin : Orson Scott Card, read every book in every series, favorites are Enders Game and Seventh Son;  and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens is a major influence on my current writing; now reading American Gods.

Geek To Me: What else would you like Geek To Me readers to know about you or CyberINK?

Jean Latz Griffin : This is an exciting time for CyberINK.

On the Skeleton side, we are launching a new product line of skins and cases for smartphones  and tablets and sleeves and pouches for laptops. We had a Twitter and blog contest to crowdsource the images to be used. The blog is is skeletons3among3us and Twitter is @Lucy_of_Hadar.

(FYI: "Lucy of Hadar" is the oldest skeleton in the world. E.)

Also, on the publishing side, I'm working on a trilogy of historical fiction with a heavy dose of magical realism. Magical cats protect immigrants as they settle into 1700s Philadelphia; Josephine Baker meets Odin and together they help some Latz families through trying times in 1930s & 1940s Europe; and in 2043, three descendants of the six intertwined families followed in the first two books use their super-geek skills to save the world from a "new darkness" and annihilation. I hope to combine online and traditional  methods to publish the books.

Geek To Me: Thank you for taking the time to talk about CyberINK!

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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