I have spent most of my summer researching, writing, and preparing for an upcoming writer’s conference. What makes this conference so special to me is its focus on children’s writing. I’m practically pinching myself and have already packed several chapters of my novels along with a few other pieces in anticipation of sharing them with fellow writers.
While stacking printouts yesterday I started thinking about how I went from writing in my diary as a kid, to writing as a hobby in college, to writing freelance and now working on young adult and children’s stories. I thought about people and books that made an impression on me and thought it would be fun to do a series about what I learned from those who followed their passions, inspiring me to do the same.
First up is Fred McFeely Rogers, or “Mister Rogers” as many of us lovingly referred to him. When I was little I used to watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood every morning. I would sing along with “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” while Rogers zipped up his famous red cardigan and changed into his blue tennis shoes. (Later in my marketing days, during a rebranding campaign, I realized how powerful that sweater was for his image.)
I spent the next thirty minutes of my morning in a make-believe place where a trolley took me to see owls that talked and tigers that lived in clocks. When we arrived back in the living room I got to “help” feed the fish before looking at a picture that magically transformed, showing me how erasers and crayons were made in their respective factories.
Rogers took me on a virtual field trip to see an art museum, a ballet studio, and introduced me to Yo Yo Ma whom I now listen to as an adult. I saw people on his show I’d never have the opportunity to meet in real life, and in some way seeing those people in creative careers encouraged me to follow suit.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was children’s programming at its finest. It was educational and fun, teaching kindness and generosity. I genuinely believe Rogers wanted his audience to feel special, to know that they were created and packaged with gifts and talents to be used in various ways. And he brought people on his show to give viewers a glimpse and an appreciation for what’s out there—at least that’s what he did for me.
You see, I studied music, choir and dance in school—that’s where I learned not everyone was made to play oboe and piano, which was okay because I believed I would eventually excavate those things that made me special, those things people like Rogers said were inside me.
All of this brings me to present where I am fondly reflecting on past inspirations that helped shape me for what lies ahead. Fred McFeely Rogers had a passion for people, life, culture, the arts, and he influenced my generation to do the same. And for his contagious joy and far-reaching contribution to children’s television, I am grateful.
I’d love to hear about your influences, people, movies or books that inspired you in some way. For example, I read The World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers, and it was filled with wonderful sayings and teachings. I posted a picture of it sitting on my bookshelf. If you have any to recommend, I’d be glad to check them out.