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The Toymaker

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We enjoyed this account of a man and his team’s efforts to design, build and market a high-tech toy. Bigelow structures the story around the more obvious quest for a successful product, but the piece is of course made more compelling by his focus on his protagonist’s personal story of risk and determination. We appreciated Bigelow’s depictions of the company’s team members. (Notice the ways he builds character through both background and scene.) We learned, in the meantime, a good deal about business and product development.

Bigelow sent us these comments about the story: “The publication of the Toymaker represented a small triumph over some buffeting changes for me that followed the 1992 merger of the morning San Diego Union and afternoon Tribune. After losing my science beat in the merger, I was initially assigned to rewrite suburban news stories from zoned editions as briefs for the final edition of the Metro section. I later began writing about computer hackers and technology, and moved to the business desk at the end of 1994.

“Keenly aware of my lack of knowledge about business, I proposed a story to Paul Eichen about following Eichen’s start-up company as a way to learn more about running a company. I monitored Eichen’s progress by interviewing the entrepreneur every two or three months. I accompanied Eichen to Rokenbok’s debut at the toy industry trade show in February 1997, which proved crucial in gaining insight about the company. An intense period of additional reporting and writing followed. The editor was Susan White, who provided key guidance about the narrative style.”