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Twinkle winkle dreams 

An inscription in Mike Filippello's children's book, Miratambo Moonsong, reads, "This is just the beginning..."

            It's not a general statement; Filippello is a committed man. He published the 39-page Moonsong, the first in a trilogy set on the imaginary planet Twinkle Winkle, in 2004, through PublishAmerica, a print-on-demand service. It followed Tales of Twinkle Winkle, an ebook published in 2001 that didn't really take off. "How many people really sit down and read their kid a book off the computer?" he asks.

            Filippello, both writer and illustrator, has ideas for 20 more Twinkle Winkle stories, including a Christmas tale. He is also his own agent and promoter, and his efforts have landed him in the local media a few times. But he has national plans.

            So he's written 80-plus emails to Oprah. "Nothing negative," he says, "I don't want them to think I'm some crazy guy. Most of the time it's introductory: 'My name is Mike Filippello, I have a children's book that was published, it's a magical place.'" He writes every message from scratch, even though he hasn't heard back. He's placed calls and sent press releases to USA Weekend, The View, Live with Regis and Kelly, and People ("That's a hard nut to crack," he says). He made a promotional tape and sent it to Ellen DeGeneres, and he sent the book to Wegmans to see if they'd carry it --- "They didn't say no, but they didn't say yes."

            It's not like Filippello doesn't have a day job; he does. So why all the effort for something that has generated less than $10 in royalty checks?

            He has a recurring dream. In it, he and his wife are on their way to a country store. Crowds of people are surrounding the store, and when he gets closer, he realizes they are buying Twinkle Winkle toys. "It's really kind of a cool dream," he says. He creates the books because he loves to, he says. But Filippello is also --- bravely --- willing to acknowledge that he'd like some recognition for his art.

            "It would be nice to find an audience and just be out there quietly," he says. "But at the same time I kind of want to shout it from the mountaintops. If Oprah were to call me, no questions asked, I would be there." He's had some of the book's characters made into stuffed animals.

            "There's that saying, 'Every man is an island,'" he says. "Well, if I could add to that: I'm an island just waiting to get discovered."

            In March, Filippello will have his first opportunity to read his book to children. He's been invited to participate in a reading program at an elementary school.

            "I have never done anything the easy way," he says. And if that makes him stronger, then, "I must be Hercules, I swear."

            You can see Filippello's book at publishamerica.com.

--- Erica Curtis


Ren Square sees light

Poised to go down in MonroeCounty history as one of the largest public projects with the least public feedback, Renaissance Square is actually going to get some talk time thanks to the Genesee Transportation Council.

            The GTC is making its draft 2005-2010 Transportation Improvement Program Update available for public review and input through February 22. The draft TIP is basically a list of transportation projects the GTC is recommending for funding through 2010. And on the top of the list of public transportation projects sits Renaissance Square --- the combined bus terminal, arts center, and MCC campus proposed for Main and Clinton --- which the GTC is recommending for $12,500,000 in state and federal funding.

            Anyone looking to provide input on Renaissance Square or any of the other proposed projects can attend one of two public meetings: Wednesday, February 9, Henrietta Town Hall, 475 Calkins Road, 9 to 11 a.m.; and Thursday, February 10, Rochester Public Library, Gleason Auditorium, 115 South Avenue, 7 to 9 p.m. Written comments can also be sent to tipcomment@gtcmpo.org

--- Chad Oliveiri


Paper trail

On the first day of this month, a new breed of journalistic creature debuted in the nation's capital --- a free weekday tabloid called The Washington Examiner. And more Examiners could be set to spread across the nation and into Rochester.

            Of course, a free daily in itself is nothing new. The idea has been quietly gaining steam in the nation's largest cities for a few years now. Both of Chicago's major dailies have unrolled what are called "commuter" dailies --- slick tabs designed to squeeze the morning news into a short, easily digestible package for riders of public transportation. The Washington Post produces its own version in The Express. These publications tend mainly to wrap compressed wire stories around advertising and call it a newspaper. The Luxembourg-based Metro has even built a global newspaper chain --- including editions in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Toronto --- using that model.

            What makes The Examiner different is the handful of locally-based staffers it employs to gather local news and write original articles for its beltway editions. (In addition to the D.C. version, there's one tailored for Northern Virginia and another for Maryland.) It's also distributed door-to-door, in addition to the standard street-side boxes.

            This model itself was pioneered by The San Francisco Examiner, after the struggling paper was purchased by billionaire Philip Anschutz's Clarity Media Group a year ago.

            Last fall, Clarity Media Group filed trademark applications for the Examiner name in about 70 cities nationwide, including Rochester.

            The company has said that it has no immediate plans to launch versions in other cities. But there are hints --- including quotes from editors at the D.C. paper --- that if the Examiner business strategy succeeds in Washington, Clarity could launch a national chain, or at least expand into other markets.

            Clarity Spokesman Jim Monaghan warns against reading too deeply into the moves.

            "There's not really much to say," he tells City Newspaper. "We don't speculate about what we're going to do until we do it." He downplays the notion that The Rochester Examiner could be headed your way anytime soon.

            Anschutz's foray into media with the Examiner papers was the result not of a master plan but of specific opportunities, says Monaghan. "If others come up, we'll take a look at them."

            In the meantime, the trademarks ---which are based solely on population --- are simply a prudent step to keep such potential opportunities open for the future, he says.

---Krestia DeGeorge

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