Order – I Want A Pet Turkey

Have you ever wanted a new pet? Matt sure did and when he saw a turkey in his backyard, he knew he found the perfect pet. How do you get a turkey to be your pet, though? Everyone has a choice they have to make: to be nice to others or not. Matt will learn a very important lessons about his choices having consequences.

Moose Egg Productions first children’s book is now available online. If you would like to order a copy for yourself, your classroom, or your church this is the place to order them! This book is meant for preschool thru 2nd grade children. I Want A Pet Turkey has been used in churches, story-time events, preschools, daycare’s, and puppet shows! We hope you will enjoy your version of this new children’s book and hope that one day you get your very own pet turkey!!!

I Want A Pet Turkey – Children’s Picture Book

Haven't you always wanted your own pet turkey? Matt sure did! He is about to learn an important lesson about the choices we make. Will Matt choose between the good way on getting a pet turkey by being nice or the bad way and trying to capture the turkey. This story (based on real life events) will teach your child that the choices you make have consequences and that the best pet is the one you love!

$14.95

Order via Amazon
Order via Barnes & Noble
Order via Good Reads
Order via Indie Bound

Interview – Entertainment Writer – Shea Fontana

Today we are talking to the amazing Shea Fontana.  Shea has many credits to her name including developing and writing DC Super Hero Girls TV specials, movies, and graphic novels, working on Disney’s The 7D, Whisker Haven Tales with the Palace Pets, the new Muppet Babies series, and a show that is pretty much on non-stop in my house, because my two little girls love it – Doc McStuffins!  Shea has been on the NY Times Best Sellers list and has won multiple awards for her writing, including the 2018 Ringo Award for Best Kids Comics/Graphic Novel.

Shea

Shea, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with our readers today!  I have read and watched so much of your works.  Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started being a writer?

I grew up in a tiny town in Utah. We lived in an area where there weren’t other kids in walking distance and my brothers were all substantially older. So, a lot of my childhood was spent entertaining myself. I’d make little movies of myself acting all the parts, put on elaborate shows with my dolls, wrote, drew, made crafts. Pretty early on in school, I found that writing was easier for me than it was for other kids. I loved going home after school and writing overly long reports and stories (and I still write overly long…). Initially, when I started college, I was pursuing journalism, but it soon became clear that my passion was actually animation and family entertainment.

You have been a part of a lot of amazing projects, DC Super Hero Girls, Doc McStuffins, Wonder Woman, and the list goes on.  Out of all you have done, what stands out as one of your most favorite you have written?

DC Super Hero Girls was such a great experience from the beginning and it’s so incredible to see how it has taken off. I love seeing all the kids in their DCSHG costumes and hear from parents how much it has meant to their superhero-loving kids who didn’t previously have a lot of options. I had a lot of creative freedom, especially with the graphic novels, to tell the kind of stories I wanted to tell, and it’s very fulfilling to see it succeed.

So I am a father of two girls (6 and 4 months) and my oldest loves DCSHG!  A lot of your writing features strong female leads.  How important is it for you to inspire younger women and girls in literature, art and entertainment?

I absolutely want to empower girls and inspire them to be the heroes of their own stories. But I also think it’s extremely important not to limit strong female leads to an all-girl audience. Boys need to see female leads just as much as girls do.

DC Super Hero Girls

Great point! Since I have two girls and we have watched EVERY single episode of Doc McStuffins, so much that I can sing all of the songs now, what was your favorite part of writing for Doc?  It is really a unique show teaching children about medical situations that could come up in life.

Doc touches and inspires all kids who watch it, but it is particularly important and impactful for kids who have medical conditions. One of the episodes that I wrote (Factory Fabulous) featured a toy character who was “manufactured” without a limb and the message was how that was a perfectly “fabulous” way to be. When the episode premiered, a mom posted on the Disney Facebook page about how much it meant to her son who was born without a lower arm. For the first time, he got to see a character like himself on TV. Not many shows have the chance to really effect kids like that and it was such an honor to be a little part of it.

Doc McStuffins

What a really cool moment that must have been!  I know that you have written a lot of comic and graphic novel stories.  If you had the chance to write for any character, for any publisher, who would you want to write about?

I have been incredibly lucky to have written just about all my favorite characters! Between DC Super Hero Girls, Wonder Woman, Disney on Ice, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz and many of the other branded properties I’ve been involved with, I’ve written many of the greatest, most famous characters in the world. Next up, I’d love to write more originals and get some of my own characters out there.

What new projects are you working on and are excited about?

The problem with the long production time of animation is that all the things I’m working on now haven’t been announced yet! I recently wrote and story edited a new Polly Pocket series, which is now available in many countries around the world and will be coming the US soon.

That is hilarious, because I just overheard my wife telling our girls about Polly Pocket a few weeks ago.  What advice would you give our readers if they wanted to be an author?  What advice were you given that really stuck with you?

Of course the first — and most generic (but it really works!) — advice is read a lot! Read whatever you can. I also tell kids to try a lot of things. Even if you don’t love soccer, gymnastics, horseback riding, painting or chemistry, it’s incredibly beneficial to know about a wide breadth of things as you can use it stories. You can’t only “write what you know” (I don’t can’t fly and I write plenty of flying characters!), but the more you know, the more you have to write about. Everything you do, especially the things that take courage and help you meet different kinds of people, is great story fodder. I always reframe bad experiences as “that will be good for a story one day…”

Growing up, what was the book that you read and reread over and over again?  Why was that book important to you?

I’ve never been much of a re-reader, but I did love the Little House on the Prairie series. It had such great female characters.

This one is kind of silly.  You write a lot about super heroes.  What super power would you want if you could have any of them?

Teleportation! I love travelling, but going to the airport and flying is such a pain.

Teleportation would be amazing.  Go anywhere and no lines!  Last question, we want to end with something that inspires you.  So, what in this great big world, inspires you to do what you do and follow your dreams?

Meeting kids who have read or watch things I’ve written and loved them is incredibly inspiring and encouraging. Not many people get an opportunity to share hope, optimism, relief from loneliness, and encouragement to a mass audience, and I’m always thankful that I get to be one of the lucky ones.

Thank you so much Shea for spending some time today talking to us about your inspirations and your passions.  For any of our readers who want to find out more about Shea’s works like DC Super Hero Girls, Polly Pocket, or any of the new projects that Shea is working on please check out her website.  

Thanks everyone and remember to like this site to see more interesting interviews as we continue to ask Questions to Inspire!

Coloring Sheets – Fruits of the Spirit

Peace
Love
Joy
Self-Control
Kindness
Patience
Gentleness
Goodness
Faithfulness

Please enjoy a free craft from Moose Egg Productions.  These coloring sheets are great for children’s church, preschools, or just a fun activity.  If you like them, please feel free to let us know in the comments or send us back a pic of your child’s finish art.

Enjoy!!!

Interview – NASA – Patrick Taylor

Hey everyone! This week on Questions To Inspire, we have an amazing interview. We are going to talk with someone that works at the NASA Langley Research Center – Climate Research Scientist – Patrick Taylor!

Patrick Taylor atmospheric scientist photo by David C Bowman/NASA Langley

Good morning, Patrick.  Let’s start out with you telling us a little bit  about yourself.

I have worked for Langley Research Center in Hampton VA for thirty years now. It has been a great place to work and supported my education, from community college all the way to a PhD. For the last seven years, I have also taught for American Military University’s graduate space program. My name is Patrick Taylor and I am a Climate Research Scientist. I received my Ph. D. in Meteorology from Florida State University in 2009. My job entails designing and performing studies and experiments to better understand how our climate works so that humans can thrive on a changing planet.

Most of my work day is spent at my desk reading climate science papers written by other scientists, doing data analysis to test my own ideas, and then discuss the new ideas with my colleagues in the lab. My laboratory is called NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA and I have been here for 9 years.I have worked for Langley Research Center in Hampton VA for thirty years now. It has been a great place to work and supported my education, from community college all the way to a PhD. For the last seven years, I have also taught for American Military University’s graduate space program.

Let’s talk about you working at NASA, what was your reaction and what did others say when you told them you were working for NASA?

First let me say, working at NASA is awesome. I could not have found a job in a better organization. It is so fulfilling to know that each day the research I do is enabling a better tomorrow for everyone. When I tell people that I work at NASA, most of the time they say, “Wow, that’s cool.” However, I also hear things like, “I didn’t know that NASA is did weather, climate, and clouds.” One thing I like to reminds folks of is that Earth is a planet too. So, NASA studies all of the planets and that we have a keen interest in our home planet.

Many people don’t know how much NASA does for the scientific world and for environmental studies.  I think the consensus is that it is only about space.  Can you talk about your area of NASA and what are the goals that you hope to accomplish?

NASA is much more than space and human exploration. It turns out that the vantage point of space to view the Earth has a lot of advantages. NASA’s preeminence in all things space uniquely positions us to monitor the Earth system including the ocean, atmospheres, land, ice, plants, and animals. All of these areas of the Earth system are pieces of a puzzle that composes our climate system. My specific piece of this puzzle is to better quantify and understand how energy flows and is exchanged within the climate system.

My research focus over the last 10 years has been the many influences that cloud have in these energy flows, from reflecting sunlight back to space, redirecting infrared energy back to the surface, and the key role clouds play in precipitation. Better understanding how clouds modify the flows of energy throughout the climate system is necessary to improve our ability to better predict climate change. The ultimate impetus for this research is to improve life on Earth and help sustain human society. Critical systems that underpin our society, including food, water, energy, and security, are climate vulnerable.

This means that the access to and available of food, clean water, energy and safety is affected by the climate. Improving our ability to predict weather and climate will enable society to better “roll with the punches” associated with climate change, including a more sustainable future.

Patrick Taylor atmospheric scientist photo by David C Bowman/NASA Langley

How important is it for children to learn STEM skills and what was your favorite subject during school?

Education is critical. I would argue that education and STEM education is more important now than ever. Our world is changing fast. Technological advances seem to be move at the speed of light. Think about it, the iPhone is only 10 years old. Can you picture life without a smartphone? In order to cope with and understand the rapidly evolving world that is being thrust upon us, it is critical to have a grasp of STEM subjects. The technologically-driven world is showing no signs of slowing down. In light of this, it is as important for folks pursuing non-STEM careers as it is for those pursuing STEM careers to grasp STEM subjects. My favorite subject was always both science and math. I found them both very interesting. I have used what I have learned in those classes both inside my profession and in everyday life.

You have had an amazing career. What is your greatest accomplishment (so far)?

My greatest accomplishment would be being awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2014. I received the award for my research furthering our understanding of the role that clouds play in Earth’s energy budget. As part of the award I was invited to the White House and got to meet then President Obama. It was a great honor that continues to motivate me today.

Winning the PECASE award is amazing! Any achievement like that though takes others around you inspiring you through your career and life. Let’s talk about inspiration. What was the best piece of advice that was given to you that has really stuck with you through your life?

The best piece of advice that I can give is to say ‘yes’ a lot. This leaves your open to new opportunities. One that you may not have known existed. The word ‘no’ closes doors and ‘yes’ opens them. Second, do not be afraid to tell your story. This will help you connect with people and you will be surprised to learn just how much you have in common with others. In addition, nobody tells your story better than you do. Go tell it!

That is great advice (and something I will probably be borrowing)! Thank you so much Patrick, for talking to us today. I want to end on one last question and it is incredibly serious. If a group of astronauts and a group of cavemen got into a fight, who would win?

Oh, most certainly NASA astronauts would win. Astronauts are some of the most intelligent, fit, and agile Americans—the best of the best. Plus, zero gravity is a physically demanding place and astronauts are trained for that. But, astronauts would only fight as a last resort. They are some of the most outgoing people and would certainly be able to defuse the situation with their wit.

Another point for astronauts! Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions for us at Questions To Inspire and thanks everyone for reading. Be sure to check out some of our other interviews and stay tuned for new interviews in the future!

Coloring Sheets – Days of Creation

Day 1 – God made the Light and the Dark
Day 2 – God made the Sky and Water
Day 3 – God made the Land, the Seas, and Plants
Day 4 – God made the Sun, the Moon, and Stars
Day 5 – God made Fish and Birds
Day 6 – God made Man and Animals
Day 7 – God Rested

Please enjoy a free craft from Moose Egg Productions.  These coloring sheets are great for children’s church, preschools, or just a fun activity.  If you like them, please feel free to let us know in the comments or send us back a pic of your child’s finish art.

Enjoy!!!

Interview – Singer / Songwriter – Robynn Shayne

Welcome to Questions To Inspire, where we interview people to find out what has inspired them in their careers and lives. Today, I am really excited to speak with a friend of mine Robynn Shayne. Robynn is a country music singer and has been making quite a name for herself with her music.

Robynn, thank you so much for talking with us today. Can you please start out telling us a little bit about yourself?

Good morning! I am a flight attendant for a major airline and also a singer / songwriter. I am based out of Austin, TX. Later this summer I will be going to Nashville to start a new record, probably July/August.

Let’s talk about what drew you into a music career, I mean other than having a singing voice?

We didn’t have a lot of money, but my parents had saved and saved to take us to Six Flags over Texas, and be able to splurge and let my brother and I do all we could that day at the theme park. I always thought I could sing, but never told anyone. That day, I begged my parents to let me sing at the karaoke recording studio. That was the first time they had ever heard me sing and were quite pleasantly surprised. I felt like a superstar that day! Ha! My senior year in high school I decided to sing at a talent show. In a nutshell, I had never performed in public before and my nerves got the best of me. It sort of scarred me and kept me from pursuing music at that time. A few years later, my brother passed away. I inherited his guitar and as a challenge to myself and a tribute to him, I decided to learn how to play. Once I could play a few songs, I started going to open mic nights. With my mom’s help and encouragement, I started writing songs. I was hooked. I realized music could touch people…maybe even heal them somehow. Maybe one of my light-hearted songs cheered them up on a day they were feeling down? Maybe one of my sad songs let them know they weren’t the only ones going though hard times? Music has a way of doing that. 

So people might not know, but you had a video on YouTube that went viral. It was you singing the song Royals by Lorde while you were on a flight. I remember the day that the video took off. I was in a meeting at my job and people were playing your video of the singing flight attendant. When they finally showed it up on the conference room screen, I was floored. I had to pull up a picture of us hanging out before anyone would believe that I knew you. So tell us what happened and how did it feel when the video went all over the world.

That video going viral was so crazy and exciting! Ha! A co-worker posted that video clip and a couple of days later I woke up to a text message from a friend saying he just saw me on the Today Show! I had no idea what he was talking about! Sure enough I turned on the TV and there I was. Lorde had shared the video saying “Robynn, I love you!” That’s how it got around so fast! I was beside myself. It brought some cool opportunities. For instance, American Airlines asked me to be a part of “Salute to the Troops”, a trip where they take wounded soldiers and their spouse on a trip as a thank you for their service and sacrifice. It was a very humbling experience. That year it was in Las Vegas. I got to open the show for Gary Senise and The Lieutenant Dan Band on Freemont Street in front of thousands of people! To say I’m thankful for that video and the opportunities it brought my way is an understatement! 

That is amazing. I just checked the YouTube and the video has over 1 million views!!! What advice would you give someone who wants a career in the music industry?

Nothing is handed to you in the music business. (or any business!!!) If you want success, you have to work for it…and know your worth!!! Thick skin is a must have! Not everyone will like your music, but don’t let that keep you down. You’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok. 

Very good advice! What inspiration did you have growing up that has really motivated you through your life and career?

My parents always taught me that if you want something, you work for it! Nothing comes for free! People always tell me how lucky I am, but the truth is, I don’t really believe in luck…I believe in hard work! Sure, you can be in the right place at the right time, but if you aren’t prepared for it, nothing will come of it in the end.

What upcoming shows do you have coming up?

The best place to get the most up today shows are on my website, www.RobynnShayne.com.

And isn’t one of your shows in Ireland later this year?

I am playing the Texas Red Dirt Pub Crawl In Ireland in November and I’m super excited about that one! Ireland is just an absolute dream land! I went there on vacation last year and can’t wait to go back. To be going with lots of my musician friends will make it even that much more fun!

Out of all of the shows and events that you have done, what sticks out as the most amazing?

A few of years back, my husband bought us tickets to see Kacey Musgraves at ACL Moody Theater in Austin, TX. During the show, I told my husband “one day I’m gonna play that stage.” 2 years later, I won an IHeart Radio contest and got to do just that! I got to open for Easton Corbin, Jarrod Neiman, and Bobby Bones and The Raging Idiots. It was such a huge milestone and a magical night! I have also had the opportunity of playing the iconic Bluebird Cafe in Nashville! 

Finally, we have our last silly question. We always ask our guest one random question. So here is yours: You have to switch places with another singer in an established band, but not country music. What band are you now the lead singer in?

Hands down, it would be Guns N Roses! I’d make a killer Axl Rose! Haha!

I would buy that album! Robynn thank you again for taking the time to talk to us about your inspiration. If you haven’t please go check out Robynn Shayne’s music I have one of her album in my phone right now (I love her album Rebel Child)!

Thanks everyone and remember to like this site and share these interviews to see more interesting interviews as we continue to ask Questions to Inspire!

Interview – Children’s Author Hena Khan

Today we are talking to children’s book author – Hena Khan.  Hena has written some really amazing children’s books.  One of her books, Amina’s Voice, has already been released and she has man other children’s books, like Under My Hijab.

Hena Khan headshot cropped 300dpi

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you want to become a children’s author?

Like a lot of authors, I’ve always loved writing. But I didn’t always believe I had a story to tell that anyone would be interested in reading. That probably had something to do with the fact that even though I was an avid reader growing up, I never saw myself reflected in the books I read. I started writing books for different series published by Scholastic book clubs, and realized I loved writing for kids since that was when what I read spoke to me the most. And I got my first piece of fan mail, realized that actual kids were connecting with my words, and was hooked. After I became a mother I realized I wanted to write the books I didn’t have a child for my children. This meant books with characters who looked like them.

Hena, what were some of your favorite books growing up?

I loved so many books! I loved Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, and looked at the illustrations and scenes and imagined stories with the characters for hours. I adored everything by Beverly Clearly, especially the Ramona Quimby series, since I idolized her. My favorite book of all time was Little Women though, and I’m excited to have a middle grade novel coming out this fall that is inspired by that book! It features four Pakistani American sisters and is called More To The Story.

Let’s talk about Amina’s Voice!  I have two small girls (ages 6 and 10 months) and I have been preparing myself for years on how to help them fit in with other children as they grow up.  You have such a unique story to tell because not only do you have the fact that Amina is trying to fit in with just other children (which is hard enough), but also a different culture and background.  Tell us more about Amina?

Amina's Voice_cover

Amina is a child of immigrants, like I was, and is balancing having a different culture at home than her peers at school with being a regular American kid. I think it’s amazing to see how kids like her, from any background, are able to adapt to different settings, and to create a new identity that fits all the elements that make up who they are. It was important to me that Amina be a relatable girl, who is dealing with universal challenges like lacking confidence, facing changes in her friend circle, and living up to her parents’ expectations, as she lives life as a Pakistani American Muslim. I also didn’t want her to suffer from insecurity about who she is, or to feel embarrassed by her culture or background. Instead, it’s just a part of her, and many of her struggles are types of things any child might face. But at the same time, her background and culture are a big part of her and are important to her.

What would you say to people struggling to fit in with others?

It’s so hard to recognize that being different, which can make us feel out of place, is also what makes us special or interesting until we’re older. I don’t think I ever really felt like I fit in when I was growing up, even through my twenties. I didn’t feel American enough with my American friends, and I didn’t feel Pakistani enough with my Pakistani friends. I didn’t speak Urdu well, or feel like I understood things about my culture even though I wanted to. As a Muslim, I wasn’t sure where I fit in terms of my practice and understanding of the faith, and grappled with that for many years. I thought I cared more about my relationships than others did, didn’t feel cool, and so on! But in hindsight, I see that I wasted a lot of energy worrying about things I couldn’t change. And the good news is, I eventually realized I was fine that way I was. And hopefully knowing what that feels like to be out of place, helped me to have empathy for others, and to be a better writer. So I would say, be patient, and one day you’ll see you’re just fine the way you are—and there are so many other people who feel exactly the same way as you do, even if they don’t seem like it or admit it!

UnderMyHijab_jacket_7-19-18

Out of all of the places that you have traveled, what has been your favorite?

I’m very fortunate to have had the chance to travel quite a bit, even though I’ve lived within the same five-mile radius my entire life, and it’s impossible to choose just one favorite place! I’m a bit obsessed with southern Spain, since I did a study abroad there when I was in college and got to know it well, and because I still have a dear friend there I’ve gone back several times. But I also really love the country of Turkey and the city of Istabul in particular, with its fantastic sites, kind and friendly people, and delicious food. Recently, my family visited Vietnam, which we also fell in love with and didn’t want to leave! And the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona just took my breath away and felt otherworldly! I hope to be able to continue to travel and discover new favorites.

What is your favorite type of stories to write about?

I love writing middle grade realistic fiction that highlights the ways we all have so much in common, and that draws from real life. I had a blast writing a series called Zayd Saleem Chasing the Dream that came out last year, about a boy who is scrawny but has big basketball dreams, and the main character is based on a combination of my husband and my younger son. And Zayd’s wacky family is inspired by other people in my life, like my mother. I think kids of all backgrounds deserve to be the heroes in books, and to have lighthearted, fun books that aren’t about overcoming hardship or oppression. So it makes me happy to be able to write them!

If you could give a piece of wisdom to our readers who want to pursue working with writing, what would it be?

For anyone who wants to write, I would borrow from NIKE and say JUST DO IT. So many people tell me that they want to write a book, or have an idea for a book. But so few of them have actual done it. It’ll never happen if you don’t start. So I would say, silence your inner doubt, and go for it! Your first draft will probably be pretty crappy, but they always are, no matter who you are! And then keep working at it. Like anything else, writing takes practice and persistence!

Where can we find your work at if someone wants to purchase it?

Preferably a local independent bookstore if you have one in your area. If not, my books are all available through online retailers. You can purchase in bulk through my publishers’ distributors in case you want a big box of them! No matter where you buy, or if you borrow from the library, I am always grateful for readers, and for reviews and feedback!

Bounce Back Cover high res

Time for our last question which is usually pretty silly and random?  You had to trade in your vehicle for one of the following, what would you choose:  hot air balloon, submarine, or jetpack?  (I like to throw questions that hopefully you have never been asked!!!)

Yikes. Well, I’m a huge scaredy-cat and pretty much afraid of everything—rollercoasters, roller skates, etc. But out of these choices I’m probably most afraid of a submarine. I couldn’t even go into one that was parked at a dock for a tour because I felt too claustrophobic. A jetpack sounds absolutely terrifying, so that’s out. So I would go for a hot-air balloon since it seems the most peaceful and slow moving, and because I’ve always sort of wanted to be in one ever since watching the Wizard of Oz movie as a kid.

Who wouldn’t want to ride in a hot air balloon!  Thank you so much, Hena for talking with us today.  Be sure to check out Hena’s website.   

Thanks everyone and remember to like this site to see more interesting interviews as we continue to ask Questions to Inspire!

Interview – Author Elizabeth Hyde Stevens

Today we are talking to author – Elizabeth Hyde Stevens.  Elizabeth has written some really amazing books.  The one that I am most familiar with is, Make Art Money – Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career.

elizabeth-stevens-03-1

Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a writer and writing teacher, and I got there in a pretty conventional way, which is to attend an MFA program for writing. I remember when I took my application to the post office, and the man there said I shouldn’t be applying to graduate school. If I wanted to be a writer, I should go out and see the world. He said I should actually live so I have something to write about. I’m glad I didn’t listen to him, because I think everyone has a life that teaches them enough to write something meaningful. And what I got from my MFA program at Brooklyn College was really priceless, an introduction to the life of the working writer. It gave me a day job that could fund my writing, and I found I really liked teaching. It showed me how publishing works and how to get published.  It was amazing. It gave me – for the first time – a voice.

I found your works by reading Make Art Money – Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career.  What inspired your to write this book?

I usually say it was desperation – because I have so much trouble trying to make it, financially, as a writer. But when I think about it, it all started because I attended a grant-writing workshop at Brooklyn College, because they asked you to think of a sample project you could try to fund. I thought, if I had funding, I’d love to go interview the guys who made the Muppets – Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson.

Elizabeth Stevens 01

I didn’t write that grant or interview them, but the Muppets-research idea started to germinate in my mind. What I really wanted was to go back in time and join them. Because jobs like that – creative cultures like that – are rare. I decided to start exploring it, what made it unique, and what made it profitable, with the hope of recreating – for my own situation in 2012. I dug up every article in the Brooklyn College Library’s databases about Jim Henson and the Muppets, and I made a big archive. Basically, I wanted to find “the secret” of the Muppets. I wanted a life like Jim Henson’s. I wanted to make art like Jim Henson and somehow get the money to do it. This book was a way of thinking through my own financial path as an artist.

That is amazing!  What would you say is one of the biggest lessons you have gleaned from Jim Henson’s life and legacy?

To never give up. Henson’s work ethic was famous – he was a man racing against the clock. Sometimes he didn’t even sleep. That spirit stuck with me. When Jim Henson was pitching The Muppet Show, he got rejected by every major American network. That didn’t stop him. He just kept working and pitching his idea until he found traction. You can’t let the market tell you what it wants, essentially. You have to keep putting yourself out there until the market realizes it wants you.

So new readers might not know, but you are also a Harvard Instructor.  I know you have taught a few interesting classes like “Muppets, Mickey, and Money”.  What has been your favorite class you have taught and why do you love teaching?

I love teaching my current class at Boston University on about video games. My students are all gamers, so they’ve spent thousands of hours in these other worlds, other dimensions, other planets. Through their writing, I get to experience all that—without having to spend any more of my life in front of a screen. We look at problems of money and art in the gaming industry. But what’s really exciting to me right now is reading theories about what video games will be like in the future – with virtual and augmented reality – and imagining how our entire lives will become gamified in the future. The fitness industry is one example, with peloton virtual bike races and the CrossFit Games Open leaderboards, where technology lets people enjoy something more by making it more like a video game. Then there’s the idea that we will use virtual reality games in Uber cars, or augmented reality games with holographic glasses overlaid on reality. It’s really wild to think about the possibilities.

Tell us about your favorite book growing up and what is your favorite book as an adult?

Growing up, I loved the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. My mom read them all to me when I was little. Later on, I kept re-reading The Magician’s Nephew, because it was just so cool to me to see the planting of the tree that the wardrobe came from, how the lamp post got there, and to know that Narnia was just one world you could access through the reflecting-pool portals in an enchanted forest.

I think my favorite book as an adult is Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges. I can still pick it up and be amazed by the diction, the plotting, the kindness, and the intelligence. The pacing in his stories seems to slow down time and let you think, existing as he did (especially after he went blind) in a world of pure intellect and beautiful sound.

Let’s talk about what has inspired you personally.  Who was the person in your life that inspired you to be who you are and do what you do?

Well, you already know about Jim Henson. As a writer, I think I was most inspired by Kurt Vonnegut, who had such a powerful voice and made it seem like anyone could be a writer. Which is completely true. But in terms of how to live and be a human, I wrote my college admissions essay about my dad.

Elizabeth Stevens 02

My dad took care of my mother for nine years while she suffered from a terrible neurodegenerative disease called Lewy Body Disease (Parkinson’s with Dementia), the condition Robin Williams had. It was heartbreaking to watch someone you love disappear. My dad kept bringing her to doctors, to new therapies, and then to an Alzheimer’s daycare, taking her on trips, feeding her. Being a caregiver is so hard.

But now, fifteen years later, my dad is really happy. He found a group of friends in the local folk music scene, and he runs a camera at a local music studio. He’s cooler than I am. Growing up with him as a role model inspired me profoundly. He’s not good with money, but he can strike up a conversation with anyone, because he’s so kind and positive. He’s like a big kid. When I was growing up, he ran his own business painting old houses, and he showed me how to paint and wallpaper. He had a huge record collection with Neil Young and the Zombies and Love. And all the Vonnegut novels I read were from his book shelf.

Can you tell us an inspirational saying or lesson that you were told that has really stuck around with you through life?

One thing that keeps popping into my head is JFK’s “we choose to go to the moon” speech. He promised the country we would go to the moon in that decade, an accomplishment which is mostly a symbolic gesture. The phrase I keep remembering is, “We choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” When you’re in the middle of a long slog, as with a novel you for some reason undertake to write, it’s good to remember you chose that slog, and you chose it because it was a slog.

I love that speech and recently just heard it again during a documentary for NASA.  One last question, it is time for our Moose Egg random question.  Out of all of the Muppets and other Jim Henson creations, what character would best describe you?

I’m a real mix of all my favorites – Gonzo, Kermit, Rowlf, Ernie, Super Grover, Mokey Fraggle, Red Fraggle, Boober Fraggle – all the sort of laid back, yet driven weirdos who know their idiosyncrasies well, chase their dreams through it all, and live life on their own terms. Maybe it would be more illuminating to say the Muppet who doesn’t describe me – Elmo. I’m not naturally extroverted and confident. That takes effort for me, to overcome fear. I’m also not simple or happy-go-lucky like Elmo. I’m not comfortable being cute. I have big plans, like going to the moon.

Great answers all around!  Thank you so much, Elizabeth for talking with us today.  Be sure to check out Elizabeth’s website.

Thanks everyone and remember to like this site to see more interesting interviews as we continue to ask Questions to Inspire!