by Edwin L. Carpenter, Editor – The Dove Foundation
If you have never checked out the website, www.EccentricRacingNetwork.com, you should. This website was designed by a mother and son team, namely Lynne and Justin Ruttkay. They worked hard to create a unique world, and they added interesting characters such as RV the Racer Aardvark. In addition, these two visionaries from San Diego County collaborated on ideas for a book which Lynne wrote. The book was recently published, and it features the racer aardvark as the hero. The book is titled, RV the Racer Aardvark—Eccentric Racing Network.
Lynne and Justin collaborated again recently as they both spoke with us here at The Dove Foundation to talk about the genesis of the book, the website, and their future plans.
“This has been a family dream of ours since Justin was about thirteen,” said Lynne. “Both of us have a background in the action sports industry. I’ve been an artist in the industry and Justin has been a surfer and a skater and worked with Transworld in Quicksilver. One of our friends, Mike Hill, owned a skate board company, “Alien Workshop”, in Ohio. They used to make these paper mache sculptures. They would use them for skateboard graphics and he gave us some of those sculptures. One of them was this aardvark character. We named him RV and he’s really been a member of our family ever since!”
She added that Justin’s cousin Brock would dream with them about what they could do with the character of RV. “Maybe one day he’ll be a cartoon,” said Lynne, in her best teenage boy voice. “About four or five years ago when the boys were all grown up we started talking about what we needed to do to make this happen. That’s kind of where it started.”
“So, was the book the first thing that happened or the website?” we asked Lynne.
“The book came before” replied Lynne. “We wrote a story. We really didn’t know we were going to be doing all of this. We developed the website, the virtual world, that’s based on the book and the characters in the book and the world that’s in the book.”
We asked if this was Lynne’s first book and she confirmed that it was. When we commented that it must have been exciting for her, she replied, “Well, it was a lot of work!” She did admit it was gratifying once it was actually published.
We asked Justin about his input regarding the book. “Well, like my mom said it started out as a story while growing up,” he said. He alluded to the paper mache characters which Lynne had mentioned. “I used to have them in my room,” said Justin. “My friends would come over and see the skateboard decks we would skate on and the character that was on a skateboard back in my room. We talked about turning them into something. As my career got kick-started I went to college and started working with friends and we worked on brands in the surf and skateboard industry.”
“That’s when my mom and I started to take more of an initiative to make RV and the characters around RV something more than just a paper mache character. So as far as the story’s concerned, I would have to totally give credit to all the actual legwork my mom put into it. She’s the one that actually wrote everything. I co-authored it with her in the sense of the story plot and the character development, the different characters and the different scenes and all that I worked on with my mom from day one.”
He likened deciding what ideas to keep to “throwing spaghetti up on the wall to see if it sticks.”
Lynne added that Justin has an extensive music background and contributed some stories from music and songs which inspired him and he created the character of E-Racer, as well as other characters in the stories. “Justin said we needed a character named E-Racer who would erase some of the characters who were competing in the races,” said Lynne.
“What kind of feedback are you getting from people who have read the book and visited the website?” we asked Lynne and Justin.
“We launched the website last month” said Lynne. “So everything is brand, brand new for everybody. It’s exciting to see people’s responses but we showed the website to hundreds of families at the Home School Convention here in California and they loved it because it’s different and it gives parents something to do with their kids. If you‘re homeschooling it’s like edu-tainment. It’s fun and you’re getting the educational element in there. There are all these fun tools because there are kits which go with the whole film lesson and the lesson guide combination. There’s something for families to do together so that kids aren’t just on the internet all the time.”
There are free lesson guides available on the website which local teachers from San Diego Public Schools wrote. The character lesson guide was written by Dr. Ed DeRoche, Ph.D, and Director of the USD Soles Character Development Center so these are solid studies which are available.
“It boils down to the thought that there are little to no schools doing what we have done” said Justin. “I don’t say that boastfully like we’re on the eclipse of something huge here, but to take a book and actually create a virtual world that is fun , easy, and it’s educational for the kids and parents and even home school teachers will like to go on while reading a book—that’s something you don’t see authors doing. I mean to see the authors themselves doing it themselves and putting their own time into it, you don’t see it.”
Justin added that it has been thrilling to see the reaction to these kits at trade shows and particularly at a recent Christian trade show. “It’s phenomenal,” he said. “To see everyone from five-year-old kids to grandmas and grandpas engaged with not only the imagery we created– but they were inspired by our story. And where we came from as a Christian mom and son who wanted to do something that was creative and yet educational to encourage them to learn about skateboards or rocketing or something like that.”
Justin added their fires get stoked every time they see someone react in a positive way and he mentioned they have received several positive reviews from magazines and various sources.
Both Lynne and Justin wanted to reach out to home school families and families of public schools and with the help of the California Board of Education they have done so. All the lessons meet national as well as the State of California standards. “They can be used by home school or public school teachers,” said Lynne.
In conclusion Justin said the challenges in getting the website up and running and the book finished were day to day challenges. “We’re just two people and we’re working full-time jobs on top of doing the Eccentric Racing Network,” he said. “We haven’t had a ton of money or resources since we’re just two people.” That forced them to look outside the box for people to work with them, people such as 3-D animators, musicians, artists and etc. “Cheap, fast and good!” is what Justin said they searched for in people to come alongside and help. “The number one challenge was patience,” he added.
“The rewards have been in overcoming everything and the obstacles every day and seeing people respond to it. It’s not been monetary by any means!” he joked.
Lynne chimed in, “The one thing I would add as far as challenges and rewards is when you’re working on this, and we are doing this ourselves, you have to find the solutions all the time and sometimes things can take too long and you can see that and you have to find another way to do them. The films were the biggest challenge. We weren’t video editors…well, we are now!” she laughed. Lynne said they ended up doing a lot of work they didn’t plan on doing themselves but “that was actually a reward because we overcame and learned a new skill.” She mentioned that the inspiring quotes of the characters actually helped at times as she would hear one which was timely, especially when the going was rough.
Future plans including updating the website to allow kids to social network with each other as they create new race car characters for themselves. They will also be adding a new female character and, Justin said, “working on book two.”
This mother and son are a dynamic duo and we have the feeling we will be hearing more from Lynne and Justin Ruttkay in the future.