Saturday, December 10, 2005
LOCAL & STATE
Dot-to-dot puzzle guy links up with
the kid in all of us.
"CONNECTIONS" By JIM MEMMOTT
Sometimes David Kalvitis can seem puzzled by his own success.
"They're just dot-to-dot books," says the Brighton resident.
Maybe so, but they are clearly dot-to-dot books that have connected with people both young and old.
In a high tech, dot.com world, Kalvitis has created low tech, dot.fun puzzles, stress relievers for the new millennium.
JAY CAPERS staff photographer
David Kalvitis says his dot-to-dots are "the best thing I've ever done. I've had more fun doing this than any job I've ever had."
In a bit of whimsy, and/or trash talk, Kalvitis called his first dot-to-dot book, The Greatest Dot-to-Dot! Book in the World.
It came out in 2000 and sales were slow at first - just 1,677 copies in the first year. But thanks to word of mouth, interest began to pick up.
Under the auspices of his company, Monkeying Around, Kalvitis, who is 43, has since published three more installments of the Greatest Dot-to-Dot! Book in the World.
He has also published two volumes of The Greatest Newspaper Dot-to-Dot! Book, collections of his puzzles that appear weekly in some newspapers (including two papers in Slovakia - yes, Slovakia.)
Since 2000, Kalvitis has sold 135,000 books.
"This is the best thing I've ever done," he says of the dot-to-dot books. "I've had more fun doing this than anything job I've ever had.
The key to his success is that Kalvitis has taken dot-to-dots to a new level.
Think back. As a young person you may have been into dot-to-dots, at least for a while.
Your first- or second-grade teacher handed out a sheet of paper that may have had a picture of Little Bo Peep without her sheep.
But wait, you saw some numbers beside Bo Peep. You carefully connected the 1 and the 2 and the 3, and so on, drawing lines until you had traced in the outline of a sheep. You were, at least for the moment, an artist with math skills.
Kalvitis, who grew up in Fairport and went to Monroe Community College and Syracuse University, liked doing those dot-to-dots puzzles as a youth, though he didnÕt find them all that complicated.
Then, when he was in his 30s and working as a graphic designer, he had the idea to create some puzzles himself.
Kalvitis' hope was to produce dot-to-dots that would appeal to children and adults. His wife, Irene, encouraged him to give it try. And he did, though it took several years to develop the first book of puzzles.
Working on a computer in his home office, Kalvitis designs puzzles with lots of dots, many more than you would find in a children's dot-tot-dot. He adds little twists, sometimes breaking up the lines, sometimes using symbols rather than numbers.
His puzzles, which also appear in Games Magazine, are also mysterious. There aren't clues hinting at the hidden pictures. The numbers, at first, seem like randomly scattered spots on the page.
"It looks like a mess," Kalvitis says. "But when you get done, if you've done it in the sequence, you have a nice picture."
You do. In the spirit of this column - it is called "Connections," after all - I successfully completed one of the free sample dot-to-dots from the Monkeying Around website.
I didn't know what I was creating, but within five minutes (OK 10 minutes), I had sketched in a sailing vessel.
The whole process was challenging enough to be diverting, but not so hard that it was frustrating. It was a stress reliever, not a stress creator.
Kalvitis gets all sorts of thankful e-mail for his puzzles. People also send their own dot-to-dots.
Before publishing a dot-to-dot, he has his part-time assistant give them a try. Kalvitis' wife and their two sons, Aaron, 4 1/2, and Nathan, 10, also test drive the puzzles.
Kalvitis says he'll continue to do more puzzle books.
"The nice thing about this business is that I'm having fun making the puzzles, and people are having fun doing them," he says. "I'm not saving lives or anything, I'm just helping people relax and smile for a minute or two. And I can't believe I'm making a living at it."
Reprinted with permission from the Democrat & Chronicle