The North Star Interview
Back in May FableVision's creative director Peter H. Reynolds was the guest via telephone of the positive radio talk show David Essel Alive!. Peter was in France at the time. For those who didn't get a chance to listen in, here's the transcript:
David Essel: My guest right now, Peter Reynolds who is the author and illustrator of The North Star, a fable that makes people think about their life journey and how to navigate their potential, calling us, I guess we are calling him in France, Peter welcome.
Peter H. Reynolds: Thank you. Bonjour!
DE: Bonjour (laughs)! Now this is quite a little story about my producer Greg Bell having to go back a few years to try to come up with enough French to find your room.
PHR: That's right, they don't speak English in our hotel, so he did a terrific job of tracking us down, in fact he even pulled out a map and found the little town we are in, a little town called Annecy in the French Alps.
PHR: We are here for a film festival.
DE: Yeah what are you doing there?
PHR: We are showing an animated film that I wrote and produced called The Blue Shoe. It's a love story about a blue high heeled shoe searching for her soul mate.
DE: (laughs) I love it!
PHR: We are going to be showing that, and...
DE: How long are you there for?
PHR: We are here for a week.
DE: Okay. And have you been to a film festival like this before in the past?
PHR: Um, yeah I've been to a couple of them. This is the first time in France, the first festival in France, so we are really excited.
DE: Yeah. How difficult is it navigating through a country and a hotel that does not speak your language? Do you know French?
PHR: Uh, I remember it from high school, or let's put it this way, I learned it in high school. I don't know how much I remember.
PHR: I remember just enough to get me in trouble, but uh, you know there are a lot of universal hand signals.
DE: Yeah, I was just going to say sign language like that, right.
PHR: And people are very understanding.
DE: Yeah, I bet they are.
PHR: Yeah. So I actually called down to the desk clerk and I asked for a towel, and, he told me he would deliver an alarm clock to me, so you know its serendipity; you get unexpected surprises along the way.
DE: Right. Well you know it's not going to dry you off but maybe you'll need it in the morning.
PHR: Yes, that's true.
DE: You know, there is a reason for everything. Let's talk about The North Star.
DE: It is a fable, and the illustration, I know that you have done that, and you wrote the book as well. It is really beautifully done.
PHR: Thank you.
DE: Who is it for?
PHR: Well, it is a book really for children of all ages, and that includes you and me, and my parents and grandparents. It is really a book for anyone who wants to be thoughtful about their journey, but it is being especially embraced in schools, where I think people are realizing that in school we need to do a little bit more than train the mind and body, that there is also something called the spirit which needs to be inspired and that is what this book is for, people who are looking to be inspired, and I know that is what your show is all about and I have been a big fan of yours for years so it is really exciting to share this book in particular with you and your audience.
DE: Thank you Peter. We have been talking, ironically enough, today about going after dreams, and one of the comments I made with an earlier guest was that so often, and this where I think your book is, I know it is drawn and looks like a children's book, but a lot of adults can benefit from it too, because so often we totally lose the concept of dreaming once we pass eighteen, or for some of us even twelve. We've lost that energy that comes from fantasizing and going "Wow, wouldn't it be great if I could do this?". Could your book help someone in that position?
PHR: Absolutely. Yeah, it does look like a children's book, but I think that is why it has been so well received by adults too who also happen to love children's books, and it gives a message through really whimsical, delightful ways, but it's got some really serious stuff, and I hope that it really helps parents and teachers especially, to help us redefine what a successful journey is, that it is not all about test scores and the SATs and memorizing, it is not about drilling information. It is really about throwing (?) out the magic that is inside of us, the magic that is there really early on, and we see it in children and we wonder where does it go?
PHR: You know, I think we get really busy teaching the rules and, uh...
DE: And following the rules.
PHR: Yes, and following the rules, and I think we lose touch with what inspires us, you know... what sparks us, what's the thing that gets us going, and it doesn't necessarily.... you know.... you don't necessarily find it in a text book. Sometimes the thing that excites you is something, uh, it might be a movie, it might be a person, it might be a talent, it might be a...
DE: A cause even.
PHR: Yeah, a cause, a passion, a mission, and I think we all need to spend more time thinking about that.
DE: I like that. We are speaking with Peter Reynolds, from France by the way, he is there for a film festival, about his book called The North Star. When did you know that illustrations, drawing, writing, would be a passion of yours?
PHR: Uh, well, I guess that, you know, as a child, I loved drawing and my parents were great about having pencil and paper around the house, all over the house, and art supplies, so I loved drawing just as most kids do, but I always tell, when I talk to kids in school, I say I guess I never stopped, I kept going.
PHR: And I actually had a great math teacher in seventh grade, Mr. Matson from Chelmsford High School, in Massachusetts, and he noticed that I liked to draw a little bit more than pay attention in math class, and so he called me up after class, and rather than yelling at me, he said, "Hey Peter, how would you like to tell a story that taught other kids math using your art and your words?" and for me it was like a lightning bolt hit.
DE: Boy, what a creative man!
PHR: Yeah, he connected a couple of stars for me and he also introduced me to an animation teacher and helped me make my first animated film, and that animation teacher introduced me to a great teacher, Tom Snyder, who started a software company, an educational software company, who I later on went to work for; I spent fourteen years with Tom Snyder. So that one conversation, that teacher, that adult, seeing, connecting my stars in my constellation, and honoring that and allowing me to explore that changed my life.
DE: And so The North Star is autobiographical in some ways.
PHR: Very actually, very.
DE: Do you have more books like this that you are planning on doing?
PHR: Yeah I've got a couple books right now, I've got a story called Living Forever, which is a story about sharing our gifts with each other, and I've got a sequel to The North Star, called The North Star Voyage, and I am also working on an animated film of The North Star, which is really exciting.
DE: I bet. And how can people get a hold of The North Star?
PHR: Well, they can get it for free on the Internet.
PHR: We actually are giving the whole kit and caboodle away for free on the Internet on our website which is www.fablevision.com. So it is there and you can actually chose whether it is a boy or a girl on the voyage, and they can also hear, well you'll like this, a radio version of the story.
PHR: And they can use their imagination. And they can also order, if you want, we still believe in the handheld book, I don't think it's ever going to go away.
DE: It never will.
PHR: And if people want to order that, they can order that at 1-800-343-5540.
DE: We've got about a minute left here Peter, did anything happen through the process of writing or publishing that surprised you with the book? Did you ever look at this whole thing you went through and at the end of it think, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe it actually came out like this," or "I'm starting to think more since I am rereading this story that I wrote, about my dreams and my passions and my path, and I need to start changing where I am going", anything like that?
PHR: Absolutely, I mean, you where saying that it is autobiographical, and it is. I was brave enough to step off the path, I had been working for an educational software company, and I noticed that we were designing things for schools, what schools were asking for, but for me when I started writing the book it was at that moment that I realized, well maybe there are things that schools need, that students need, that are not on the to-do list, and I wanted to step off the path and explore those things, you know what are the things that really help us to be better brothers and sisters and better neighbors, and how do we follow our beliefs and our dreams, so the book, The North Star, I wrote the book three years ago, and it's not like I finished the book, I am on to other books, this book lives with me every day, I have North Star conversations with taxi cab drivers, with friends and neighbors, it has been terrific.
DHE: Peter we have got to run, but good luck with your film festival and it has been nice to have you with us. Peter Reynolds from France, The North Star is the name of the book.