Every week, host Adam Sockel interviews a popular member of the literary world about their passions beyond what they're known for. These longform, relaxed conversations show listeners a new side of some of their favorite content creators as well as provide insight into the things that inspire their work.
Kermit in the chaos with Brad Meltzer
On the second episode of Passions & Prologues, Brad Meltzer joins the podcast to discuss a passion that he and Adam share- THE MUPPETS! They talk about their first memories of watching Sesame Street, how they bonded over a mutual love of the holiday classic Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, and why they both see themselves in Kermit the Frog. Brad then shares a few family memories with The Muppets themselves before transitioning to talking about his research into Dolly Parton for his latest children’s book.
Brad is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of countless thrillers for adults as well as the creator of the wildly popular Ordinary People Change the World series for children. The latest book in that series is I Am Dolly Parton and it’s available wherever you buy books. Also, be sure to watch the incredible PBS series based off the books, Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum.
You can view the episode transcript here.
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Speaker 1 (00:21):
You're listening to passions and prologues a literary podcast for each week. I'll interview an author about a thing they love and how it inspires their work. My name is Adam SoCal, and you can think of each of these episodes as a conversation with someone you might know about a thing you might not be expecting. Today's interview is with Brad Meltzer. One of my good buddies for a long, long time in the literary world. I got to meet him a long time ago now in New York city when I was there for work and we bonded over what will be the topic we're gonna discuss. And I'll get to that in just a minute. But before I do that, I want to share some of the feedback that you all sent me over the past week from episode one. And I just wanna say, thank you.
Speaker 1 (01:01):
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. A thousand times over for all of the kind words, all of the wonderful things that you all said. I'm gonna read a couple of reviews from apple that I got. And as a reminder, you can email me at passions and prologues, gmail.com. And if you leave a review for me send a, send me a screenshot of it at that email address. And I will give you some customized book recommendations, but you can also find me on Instagram and TikTok have passions and prologues. I'm pretty good at Instagram. I'm working on my, my TikTok game, but the things that you all said about not only the way that the conversations flow and the rapport that mall O me I have, but just the overflowing amount of comments about how much you liked the body positivity aspect of the conversation and how Mallory and I both talk about trigger warnings and things that have affected us.
Speaker 1 (01:55):
I didn't expect that to be one of the biggest takeaways, but you all really seem to appreciate that. And I appreciate you all letting me know. So again, I'm gonna just read one or two reviews really quickly just because they mean the world to me, but it also feels a little icky to read these things about myself, but I do wanna share with them cuz the, these kind words definitely brought me to tears when I read them early in the morning. So this one is from Roxy and it says whether you're an inspiring reader or writer, a diehard Bilio file or someone who is just naturally curious about life in people, passions and prologues will bring bookish joy into your life. Adam SoCal is a compassionate, engaging person in the literary world of a loyal following from his previous work. His conversations with authors are refreshing and super fun.
Speaker 1 (02:39):
And his unique angle for these interviews is something you'll appreciate and won't find anywhere else. I'm looking forward to listening while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea at home and brightening my commute to work with Adam's new much anticipated podcast. Roxy, thank you so so much. And here's just one more and then I'm gonna be done with this aspect of the podcast, because again, a little, <laugh> a little weird to read these about myself in front of all of you. But this one is from Jay cross 17. Adam is great at interviewing authors and keeps the conversation flowing. This podcast gives such a unique spin on author interviews because we get to see the authors beyond their writing. I highly recommend listening. I love that you are all picking up on this theme of this being very, very different and a nice different approach to authors.
Speaker 1 (03:23):
Cause that was my hope the whole time. And I really appreciate that. You all feel the same way again, semi screenshots of your reviews. Let me know any feedback, any questions you have for some of these authors after you listen to the podcast, especially these first two months, there are people that I'm pretty friendly with. So I will be happy to see if I can reach out and get answers for you. Okay. I wanna give you two book recommendations today. Before we get into the conversation with Brad, one of them connected to our story and our discussion and one of them a little bit less. So, so the first one is Netline bone by tea, king Fisher tea, king Fisher writes phenomenal horror books, and I just love everything they do, but this one is more of a dark fantasy slash fairytale. And it is about this print, this princess named Mara who is a covenant covenant convent raised third born daughter.
Speaker 1 (04:11):
One of her daughters married a prince who's evil and she ended up dying. This happens like right away and then her other sister goes and in Mary's this same prince. And what ends up happening is Mara has to find a way to murder this prince to save her sister. And so she finds a powerful grave witch. She finds a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former night, and a chicken possessed by ed demon and this ragtag group of characters, try to find a way to save her. Sister's so really, really great. If you're a fan of this is gonna sound strange, but if you are a fan of things like money Python again, or fairy tales of any kind I think you'll like this because there's humor woven throughout this story, but it is a little bit on the dark side. It kind of reminded me of the dark crystal in the Labrinth a little bit, which gets to my next recommendation and the conversation I'm about to have with Brad.
Speaker 1 (05:03):
The second book I wanna recommend today, a little bit older, but it's the best biography I've ever read. It's Jim Henson, the biography by Brian J. Jones, who for my money is the best biographer in the world. He's just done incredible work. He wrote one about Dr. Seuss here at one about urban Washington all sorts of great stuff. It shows a really great biography of the life of Jeff Henson, which gets to what Brad Meltzer and I discuss today, which is the Muppets and Sesame street. And then we transitioned into talking about his brand new book. I am Dolly Parton. If you're not familiar with Brad here, it's for adults and children, his children books are the ordinary people change the world. So think I am Rosa parks. I am Martin Luther king. I am George Washington. I am Jim Henson and his newest one. I am Dolly Parton.
Speaker 1 (05:49):
In fact, I'm doing a giveaway of, I am Jim Henson and I am Dolly Parton on my Instagram page. So definitely go follow along over there. Brad also writes for, for adults. He has written one of my favorite types of thrillers. His adult books tend to remind me of national treasure along those lines. One of his adult books that just came out recently is called the lightning rod, which is phenomenal. He's also written books that are kind of historical thrillers. One of them being called the first conspiracy, which was all about this plot to kill George Washington. It's a true story, but it is written and it reads like a thriller. He's just an incredible, incredible writer. And his ordinary people change. The world. Children's series has been turned into a wonderful series on PBS called Xavier riddle. So I highly recommend checking that out too. Again when Brad and I first met, we bonded over the Muppets and Emmett Otter and all sorts of things. And so this conversation is kind of a culmination of all of the discussions we've had in the past without further ado. I am just overjoyed to tell you that today's episode is a conversation with Brad Meltzer on passions and prologues.
Speaker 1 (07:00):
Hey everybody, it's Adam. I'm really, really excited for this conversation for everybody else who will be on this podcast, the author themselves gets to pick the thing that we're going to discuss. But my guest today, Brad Elzer and I have done many, a podcast interview and every single time we start talking about his books and inevitably end up talking about the Muppets. So today we're gonna start with the Muppets because it's a thing we are both equally passionate about. So first off, Brad, thank you for joining me today. Oh, so appreciate it. This is what I love and what no one realizes is that what was happening offline is exactly what just happened 30 seconds ago. You literally said, Hey Brad, we're gonna talk about them up, but you have no choice in this. And I said, let's go with it. And you literally hit record.
Speaker 1 (07:42):
And you just did that, your, your intro. And so what you see is, is without preparation or anything else. Exactly. I just an authentic conversation about the Muppets and the way that I'm gonna start it. And normally other people will have a chance to think about this. So I'm sorry if I'm throwing you off, but do you remember your first experience discovering any of the Jim Henson related content, whether it was Sesame street or the Muppet's like, do you remember that first time you discovered them? That's a good question. So my first, I mean, there's no question. My first memories of them are Sesame street. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> just cuz of age and that, you know, I literally that generation of Sesame street, Sesame street, I believe was launched in 69. I was born in seventies, so I literally was that first kind of like immediate generation that was raised on them at two, three years old.
Speaker 1 (08:26):
We just were like, what's that? You know, I know that. So I can tell you this, my, my, the reason now why I wanna say this is my favorite. And first memory is my mother and she rests in peace, had a laugh that was just like Ernie. She had like a kinda laugh. That was her natural laugh. Not even cuz she liked Ernie or liked anything like of that nonsense that I liked, but that's how my dad would always kind of like be like, oh, there goes Ernie. You know? So I, so that, so Ernie and Burt were in terms of first memories it's Ernie and Burt for me. And then my, my obsession was Snuffleupagus. Yeah. I don't know why maybe cuz he was just the big one. But like when I, if I go back and I say what's the very first thing it's like Snuffleupagus Hooper.
Speaker 1 (09:13):
I think I was one of those kids who was like, and I can't tell if this is me rewriting my own history or not, but felt like when it came to snuff, cuz I was one of those kids who was like, what do you mean? You can't see him? I can see him just fine. And I think that's, I'm probably one of those kids that they changed things for when they were, you know, figuring out that this is not so good to say. We don't believe children for all the G a bit horrible reasons. I was one of those children who was like, well I can't you see him? So those are the, those are my initial ones. And I always remember that Ernie and Burt were funny mm-hmm <affirmative> like, and I don't mean just like, oh, I was too and using to laugh.
Speaker 1 (09:49):
Like I just remember being like there super funny, funnier than anyone else on that show. Yeah. And then for like the Muppets proper, I suppose we'll call them. Do you remember like experiencing those for the first time? Cuz I strangely, like I know growing up, I'm the youngest of four and I'm in Manasa it was like kind of that perfect time where I was introduced to the Muppet show and everything. But the first thing I like my, my core Muppet related memory is something you and I have talked a lot about, which is Emett oter like we watched Emett oter every Christmas Eve. And so I know that I saw Sesame street before that, and I know that I saw like the Muppet show probably before ETT, Otter, but that's the thing I remember specifically it's like, do you remember the first time you saw whether it was Emett Otter or if it was an episode of the Muppet show, like your first experience with just like the pure insanity and, and chaos of the Muppets?
Speaker 1 (10:41):
Yeah, I can't, I can't separate the Muppet show from ETT oter I don't know which came first. I can tell you that they were, they are simultaneously the same in my head. I, and I'm talking to, I have like, you know, we all have our little things on our desk that like show us who we are. And on my desk there's like a bronze statue of Charlie brown. There's a Lego set of the justice league when I wrote the, the justice league. And there is a homemade handmade Emett Otter puppet that my sister made for. It had made for me, from someone in Etsy that she paid, God knows how much she paid for this thing. Cuz obviously Amada dolls do not exist. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> but it does on my desk right now. I'm staring right at 'em with this little blue hat and scarf and everything.
Speaker 1 (11:26):
Outdoor wear my sister and I were obsessed with Amada and we were obsessed with Muppet show and we would just wait for them up. Show seemed to start. I remember it was nothing like it, it felt like I had grown out Sesame street and here were the full on Muppets and, and Kermit was in charge. And even though it was years later because the Muppet movie happened, I just remember even going to when the Muppet movie first came out and seeing Kermit on that bicycle and just being dumbfounded as a child going, how is that physically possible? Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, he's still talking, but he's on the bike and I can see his legs moving. And I couldn't, I, you know, obviously now I can, but I couldn't figure out then how it was possible. But those things to me, what is the year, which one did come first, Emmett Otter came out in 1977.
Speaker 1 (12:22):
And so the Muppet show debut was let's see, that was 1976. So wow. That was like back to back. Yeah, they were back. I mean, that's what I said, they're the same thing. So I'm six and seven years old when those two things come out and I'm in the I'm in the, and the weird thing was, is I think at six and seven you would probably maybe even still be in assessment street. We were not mm-hmm <affirmative> we wanted that mu we felt like that was the show made for us with all its subversive stuff that, you know, Jim Henson and Frank OS were putting into it. The thing that I feel like has stayed with me that's like kept the child alive inside my spirit is the fact that, and I mean, there's so many of these videos now of the, you know, the actors kind of using the Muppets, like actually making them into real living and breathing characters is like, when they say cut, like they keep acting and like, you know, all the, all of the like outtakes are of them actually like it's like Kermit outtakes, you know, it's not Jim Henson outtakes and things like that.
Speaker 1 (13:22):
And like, I just feel like they created these characters that are so fully realized and they like, I, in my heart of hearts, I believe that, you know, like Kermit the frog exists, not the people who are doing the frog things like in my brain. And so, you know, what is it about these characters that has stayed with you all of these years? You know, it's funny and you're talking to someone who literally wrote a book. I am Jamenson, that's how obsessed I was with it. And, and when, when, when I write the, I am books, the ordinary people change the world books, you pick these people that you love, and then you really see how much do you really love them. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and you really take not the childhood dive, but like the deeper intellectual historian dive and pull apart, all the ugly and the good and the bad.
Speaker 1 (14:12):
And then if you come out still loving them, then there's something good there. And that's my long winded way of saying that I didn't realize what I loved about the Muppets and couldn't intellectually break it down until I did the book. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and, and by the way, in the book, if you get to the back, I'm hidden in every book, Chris alos hides me in every book. And the one thing that I asked in the script is that he puts my sister and I standing in front of while we're looking at Emma's drug band, Christmas, the poster. So if you go in the back, you can see us in there. And, and for me, what I love about him, that it says this in the book is the Muppets are chaos. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, they're absolutely utter care. Anything. They plan goes wrong, everything they plan goes awry.
Speaker 1 (14:56):
It never goes the way it's supposed to. And the show never goes off as they plan. And the guest never does what the guest is supposed to do and is always gonna be some total screw up, which I couldn't see that format as a little kid. It just seemed fun. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> but at the core is Kermit right at the core is this semblance of I'm holding this together for all it's worth. And then somehow through sheer will and you know, good nature. It works because Kermit at some point insists it works mm-hmm <affirmative> and I've realized over the course of now 50 plus years, that's how I approach my own life. And not only how I approach it by not by choice, but it's how my childhood was my parents. This will turn into a deeper story than you anticipated. That's okay. I love it.
Speaker 1 (15:45):
My, my, my dad just was a creator of chaos. He just, he was a wonderful dad. He loved me to his core. He just would dynamite and blow up everything around him. He'd blow up friendships, he'd blow up businesses, he'd blow up, you know, how to deal with things financially. It was just, you know, he once got so angry, he flipped over a pool table and anger like a pool table is a really hard thing to lift. Yeah. You know, and he would just have these moments where he would just scream and explode at the world. And for me, I was, I became because of that very, very controlling in terms of wanting calm mm-hmm <affirmative> I wanted to control. So I would not have that chaos. And I, I, again, don't think for one second, this is why I love come at the frog growing up.
Speaker 1 (16:28):
But when I went through and did I am Jim Henson, I realized that's how I feel. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> I feel like all this chaos as a kid was around me and I was always trying to just hold it together. And, and it was probably wishful thinking that just being a good person would do just that. But I think for me, that's where the core of them up it's, you know, there's that great onion shirt that says, I appreciate them Muppets on a much deeper level than you do. Yeah. I appreciate the Muppets on a much deeper level than most of these listeners. I'm just gonna say it. Right. I know you and I like have our deep level, but like that's where it always hit me. It wasn't just, oh, that's funny. That's cute. And it, it was like, this was like a need in me that was being filled.
Speaker 1 (17:10):
And even like, not a step further, but I would say like a step next to that is how like Kermit, especially, but all of the characters, like they're allowed to show emotions. None of them are, are one beat thing. So like you said, like, yes, there's pure chaos going around around Kermit. And he is the, the thing holding all of this together. But like, it's not like he does it. And like, you know, he's like, there's just how many gifts and, and moments of, of Kermit saying like, you know, good grief or like, they like show you, he see is like face shaking or like he'll yell at animal or Fozzie or somebody. And it's like, it almost, it, I feel like it taught me as a kid. Like it's okay to feel things, I guess, like it, it's strange to have a, a puppet be the one who shows you that.
Speaker 1 (17:55):
But like, I just feel like even, like you said, even beyond Sesame street where you're kind of learning those core emotions and you're getting this core of education, like, I feel like the Muppets that you say, like when chaos is all around you, it's okay to acknowledge that there's chaos all around you and then how to step forward. See, but interestingly, I'm gonna, I'm gonna arm share psychologist, you and say, that was your need. Right. Your need was, you were, I can't tell me what sounds right. But like, you had the need for, I, I am having a hard time expressing myself. Maybe I shouldn't express myself. Maybe it's not okay to express myself, but that was your need. Yeah. And so you saw what you need, you know, I, I firmly believe that the, you know, when nostalgia really comes from, it's not just it's old and you like it, that's not what nostalgia is.
Speaker 1 (18:40):
Nostalgia is it brings it's old, but it brings you back to some place that you really miss some deep thing within you. And for some people, you know, star wars does that for some people, comic books does that for some people it's like the smell of an old perfume does that. For some people it's like, you know, fancy old vintage clothing. Like we all worship something. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> everyone worships something, cars, you know, some people plain people like whatever your, your, your, you know, kind of kink is. And I mean that in the best way. Yeah. What's bringing you back to is not just, oh, that was fun. When I was young and life was simpler then, but it's like, you had this need that had to be filled. And that was yours. And for me, that Kermit thing was mine. I didn't know it at the time.
Speaker 1 (19:21):
You didn't know it at the time. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, but you just liked it. And, and that, but you liked it as much as you liked it. Cuz of that, that makes perfect sense. And then like just every iteration of the puppets that I see that comes out, whether it's like a clip of them doing a music video with, you know, Ben folds or more recently like the newer haunted mansion store that they did in the fall on Disney plus like every single time you're at, like, I see it. And I still, I feel like it's twofold. One. I do get that nostalgia of like, oh man, this feels like putting on a, you know, a comfortable cardigan or something, but it's at the same time, it's still funny. Like they're still relevant and they're still humor and like storytelling that is well crafted. It's just, it impresses me.
Speaker 1 (20:05):
And obviously there's a, you know, myriad people now involved in the process, but I continued to be blown away that I can see these puppets and say, oh wow, this that's a really entertaining story. Listen, I I'll tell you, you know, I don't know if I told you this. Maybe I did the, you know, there was a show years ago was called. It was called like celebrity bucket list was the name of the show. And celebrity bucket list would take quote, unquote celebrities. And, and this is a term I'm gonna apply very loosely. Cause they included me in it. Right. So, but they basically asked people of whatever shape form they worried that they could define celebrity with. You could do anything you wanna watch on your bucket list. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and then you'll be on the show and we'll make the, we'll make your dream come true.
Speaker 1 (20:44):
And then we'll film it. Yeah. And I said, they came to me and I said, I, I only wanna be on your show for one thing. And they said, well, you gotta give us a list of five things. We can't make every bucket listing happen. And I said, no, I only wanna be on if there's one thing that we're doing. And they said, what's the, what's the thing. And I said, I wanna go to Sesame street. I want to go, I need to, I wanna meet the Muppets. And they said, well, give us a, like two others. And I said, no, no, that's all I wanna do. <Laugh> I wanna take my kids to meet the Muppets. That's it like, that's the only thing on my list. I've been to the white house. I've done the other stuff. I don't need to jump out of a claim.
Speaker 1 (21:17):
That's all I wanna do. And to their credit, God bless 'em they made it happen. And we went down to the hence of workshop, all, you know, we get there. We're all being nice. We walk in there's one of the, one of the Emen oter puppets is there mm-hmm <affirmative> I almost die was just walking. It's when everyone walks past, it's like behind the door that no one cares about. Yeah. And then cuz everyone's focused on like, you know, Kermit and big bird and you know, everything else that's there. And then they say to us, okay, who do you wanna see? Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and I'm like, you're serious. Like yep. Who do you wanna see? So immediately I'm like, okay, where's Bert, Ernie bring up. They bring up bet. And Ernie and they, and they've got, you know, some puppeteers there and they're doing things.
Speaker 1 (21:55):
And he basically takes my kids. He's pulling them out. And now my daughter has Grover on her hand. Incredible. As a little girl, she's like eight years old then comes the count. I'm like, okay, now I'll bring everybody, let's get 'em all going. And at one point he, he wakes up Snuffleupagus and there's a moment where myself and my son have our hands in Snuffleupagus mm-hmm <affirmative> and he's tea, which he does Snuffleupagus now too. He's making it work for them. And I'm literally having this out of body experience. <Laugh> because I'm like, how am I here with my children, with my, you know, doing this with these characters and, and you know, in the Jewish faith, you know, there's that saying? It would've been enough. Like if you just did this, just seen right. Diana for Emett Otter. If I just came in and saw the Emett Otter Muppet, it would've been enough.
Speaker 1 (22:46):
Yeah. And, and I called my sister and you know, of course that's all we could talk about. It's just, that was this, the experience where they made a Muppet in your likeness? They, no, that was a different one. That was someone else made one that's that's that's a different moment of my Muppet journey. Yeah. I mean, someone actually made one and they brought it in and the funny part was when they first brought it in, they put it next to me and I'm a pretty pale guy, but it was like too pale, even for me <laugh> and then they went back and then they spray painted it, like from white to eggshell. And they were like, yep, that's you now mm-hmm <affirmative>. And if you go on my, if you go on my Facebook page or Instagram page, you scroll all the way down back, you know, 10 years ago you will still put in my name and Muppet and you'll see it come up. And it's the craziest thing, cuz he was imitating me doing me. And you know, if you really wanna look in the fun house mirror, see them up at version of yourself,
Speaker 1 (23:39):
We'll be back with more passions and prologues after this break. And now back to passions and prologues.
Speaker 1 (23:56):
One of the questions that I'm kind of asking everybody is how do you think the thing that you're passionate about, which is the mothers in this case, how do you think your love of the Muppets and your kinda lifelong experience with the Jim Henson content has affected your writing? And I'm going to not let you use the fact that you literally wrote a book about Jim Henson. So other than that, like how would you say this passion has kind of influenced the way that you write your books? Listen, when I was five years old, a man named Jim Henson on TV taught me, I could use my creativity to put good into the world. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> that is all I'm trying to do today is use my creativity, put good into the world. In fact, even in, and, and again, even to avoid what you said to avoid, even let's take away the kids books.
Speaker 1 (24:44):
Yeah. In, in my thrillers, the main characters, a character named Zig mm-hmm <affirmative> and Z's whole belief in the universe is if you're a good person that you will make the world a better place. And that is a completely beautiful idea. It's a completely naive idea. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> but it's an idea worth fighting for, and that's my fictional alter ego. And I know it's, you know, yes, he runs around and they fights and they there's murders and these solving crimes and that's what the lightning rod and all these other books are about. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> but at their core is still that, that Muppet lesson, that Kermit lesson, right. It's like, it's that moment from the Muppin movie where he says, I just wanna, you know, millions of people happy mm-hmm <affirmative> make millions of people. That's what gets Kermit out of the swamp. Right. It's just that belief of like, I'm gonna make millions of people happy it's I don't sit around and have that Kermit version of it, but man, do I have that Kerm version of it?
Speaker 1 (25:38):
You know, like that is still just the, my characters, my, my own philosophy of life. It's all based on that. And I can tell you, even from Emma autos drug band Christmas, it's the same thing. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> yeah. I, I know exactly what you mean because I I just, I finished up recently a manuscript of a novel that I'm just now starting to query and doing all that good stuff. And like I had somebody work on editing it for me, just for, for grammar and my horrible tense switching sometimes in between sentences. And he said to me, he is like, this feels like a book that you wrote because you wanted to put good out in the world as opposed to like very sad books. And he, I didn't realize I was doing it when I was at the time, but he was absolutely right.
Speaker 1 (26:16):
Like exactly what you said. It's like, I wanted to just, I want a story where, you know, if it's, if it gets published, some people can pick it up and feel good about themselves. And I, that makes all the sense in the world. To me, you mentioned, you know, Kerman saying, you know, millions of people out there, the ability to make them happy and to transition to your, your newest ordinary people change the world book. I am Dolly Parton. Speaking of someone who makes millions of people happy. Tell me a little bit about the new book and your, your experience doing a deep dive into do Partons life. You know, listen, I think we all dive into the things and, and when you ever examine someone's life, you're seeing what you wanna see. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> right. You wanna search for dirt? You'll find dirt.
Speaker 1 (26:57):
You wanna search for the good you'll find good. I mean, and so maybe it's just my, but, but it's a, it's a very similar story in terms of, of her view of creativity that Jim Henson does have. And I'm not so saying that, cause I'm talking to you. <Laugh> I mean, she's someone who you know, is so poor that when she's born, her father pays the doctor for delivering her with a sack of corn meal. It's it's her mother who feeds her love of books. And one of the first books that Dolly Parton loves is a little girl, is this book called the little engine that could mm-hmm <affirmative> and that's what Dolly Parton is. She's the little engine that could, and they tell her, listen, you know, you're gonna be a country singer. She's like, I'm gonna sing for all audiences. They say, you're gonna wear these kinds of clothes.
Speaker 1 (27:40):
She's like, I'm gonna wear the fanciest glittery, butterfly covered outfits you've ever seen with the biggest hair you've ever seen. I say, you're just gonna be a musician. She's like, no, I'm gonna be a movie star and I'm gonna open my own amusement park. And then I'm gonna start my own charity. She calls it the imagination library, and it's gonna give away books to millions, 50 million poor kids around the country, crazy amounts of free books. You know what, the first book they gave away was a little engine that could of course, and then, you know, and, and, and when it comes to creativity for her, what I love is she shows just like in the Jim Henson vein success is not a straight line success. Isn't easy when she's a little girl, her mother makes it this code of many different patches of fabric. And she proudly wears the school thinking it's so beautiful.
Speaker 1 (28:29):
Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and everyone says, it's so ugly and great secret of Dolly Parton. And this is where she does veer on her own path is when she's different. She's actually sad and lonely. She feels very different than everyone else because where she was from, no one wanted to go to see the other side of the world, but she always wanted to know what was on the other side of the mountain. And she used to believe that butterflies would physically pick her up and carry her there that's the lesson I want for my kids. That being a dreamer is a good thing. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> that the very best thing in life is to see where your dreams take you. And that's, what's at the core of, I am Dolly partner as a kids book, you know, Chris Polis draws her so beautifully, but no buts, the, the core of it though, is still, you know, kind of following your dreams and letting them float to, to different places for listeners who maybe have not read one of these books yet, which I implore you, whether you have kids in your life or not, these, the ordinary people change the world books are just some of the most inspiring and uplifting stories.
Speaker 1 (29:30):
I love them so much. And like you said, Chris's, you know, illustrations and all of them are exceptional, but for people who either have, or have not read them, what they may not know is like, you do extensive research in here and, and you kinda, you pull, like you mentioned her having this, you know, kind of multicolored, you know, piece of clothing that she thought looked beautiful. Like you find these small stories that might not know that people might not know about that help really frame these, you know, these heroes. And I am always fascinated by your research in them. So what was your research process like for this one? Like, did you get to meet Dolly? How did, how did it work for, for this one? Cause I know it varies from book to book. Yeah. I mean, the truth is we usually don't do people who are alive.
Speaker 1 (30:12):
Yeah. And, and the obvious reason is cuz they can still screw it all up. Right? Like you're just, especially in today's world. You're just one bad story away from like, oh that person's not a hero, but there are some people who I trust. Right. When we did IM Jane Goodall, Jane Goodall weighed in on the book when we did, I am Billy Jane King, Billy Jane King spent two hours with me on the phone correcting even what color her sneakers were. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> in each different match. She knew when we did IM Dolly Parton, it's like, this is Dolly Parton. Now man, do not mess this up. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and we sent it off to like her quote unquote people. And what was so sweet and so nice. And it was so generous and like let us have songs and, and, and pictures of her when she's little and helped us with reference stuff.
Speaker 1 (30:55):
But when the comments came back, even the comments, I mean, it basically was like, Hey, listen, can you make the doctor who delivered me, feature him a little bit more? Cause he was really important to, you know, to daddy. And you're like, even that you're like, so I can't, you know, I don't wanna ever say, oh, she read it and loved it cuz I, I just don't wanna EV you know yeah. But it came back with comments that I felt like my gosh, who else knows that little detail, but her mm-hmm <affirmative>. And it was just, even in those, even though those little tiny tweaks that we're making here and there, they were solely about giving more credit to people from her deep, deep past mm-hmm. And I was like, that's amazing to me, that was just the nicest thing I'd ever seen. And so obviously we always, you know, I, I always try and write the best book that I can write mm-hmm but I always give it to the expert in the field.
Speaker 1 (31:40):
And in this case obviously went right into the imagination library into the Dolly Parton, found the Dolly wood foundation. Yeah. Oh, that's amazing. That reminds me of at, when I, my previous podcast, the professional book nerds, we interviewed Lois Lowry. And like, that was one of those moments. Oh, that's great. Yeah. It was just one of those moments where we were sitting on the phone. She gave us like an hour and a half of her time, but she was telling us the story of how her books came to be like, how number of the stars came to be. And like just hearing her all these years later, like she was talking about the giver, but really focusing on a number of the stars. She was going through these people that she knew and she met and like, like, it was the same thing. Like you're talking about that, like the attention to detail that she still was, was conveying about these important people.
Speaker 1 (32:25):
So many years later. I, yeah, it was, that was one of those moments. I also think what we love about Dolly port is she never forgets where she comes from. Right. Mm-hmm they tell her to build Dollywood. They're like, first of all, it's never gonna work. Country stars. Don't have amusement parks and two don't build it in frigging Tennessee, that's gonna be a disaster. Right. You gotta build it in like Florida in Orlando and where, you know, California, where there are places where people go to amusement park. She's like, no, I'm gonna do it right here in my hometown. Cuz my hometown is gonna need these jobs. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and I'm gonna help people. And I know she seems like this almost caricature with the hair and the whole thing, but like what we love about her, at least what I love about her is just how authentic she is.
Speaker 1 (33:06):
And that's her message. Right? You go to her concerts and you can see there's old. And then there's young and there's rich and there's poor and there's gay and there's straight. And then there's the city folk in the country folk and there's black and white and everyone in between. And she doesn't judge any of 'em. She loves 'em all. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> as long as you're being true to yourself, I have one more question about the, the books before I kind of ask you like one or two last questions, but after Dolly in September of this year, you have, I am Superman and I am, I am Batman coming out. So you're kind of starting a new series of these, these, you know, it's not, it's no longer just ordinary people change the world. It's, you know, stories that change the world. Listen, I, I think part of it was I'm someone whose life was influenced as much by fictional people as they were real people.
Speaker 1 (33:52):
Yeah. It's fair. I mean, I, I, I mean, I just am, right, right. Whether it's permit, whether it's Batman, whether it's Superman, my, my sense of right and wrong in the world came from those imaginary characters. In fact, it was a recent study, a few years back. It said that people change their habits and their physical actions more based on fictional characters than on real people. Now, whether you're reading about dumb door or scout in Atticus that like those fictional ideals represented in, in fictional characters is more, has more of an influence on your life. You wanna be a better person because of Superman or Batman or Spiderman or whoever your person is. And so we felt like, you know what? We, we wanna show that. So, so we, yeah, we start with, I am Superman and I am Batman. We're also doing, I am wonder woman.
Speaker 1 (34:37):
And we have just so loved doing this. Wait until you see the Iman book. That's all I'm gonna say. Like, just wait and you'll understand in one moment why this character is the influence that he has. Well, and listen from a, from a selfish standpoint, I'm born and bred outside of Cleveland. So I'm, I'm excited that we've got that, you know, for people who don't know, Cleveland is what people. And we like to say where the birthplace is Superman. That's where listen, if you go to the Cleveland airport, there's a giant statue of Superman and my name is on it. Cuz I help pay for that thing. I took the profits that you guys pay me for books. And I bought a Superman statue to help tell everyone, look at this in Cleveland. So next time you go take a picture and send it my way.
Speaker 1 (35:21):
You'll see it on there. And I'm I love the fact that we got to do that. Oh. And in fact we, we, we put in the book, we tell the last page of the story, tell the story of Supermans creation by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster to show them that the two 17 year old boys mm-hmm <affirmative> two 17 year old kids from Cleveland came up with the idea of Superman. I don't think there's any better way to teach your kids. Their imagination can change the world. Yeah. That's amazing. Okay. Last question. Before you, you're a, you're a busy, busy guy. You're taking a lot of time with me. I appreciate it. I like to end with having my guest give a recommendation of something you're enjoying lately. It could be a book, a TV show, a movie. It could be a, a restaurant, just any, just something that you're really enjoying that you think more people should know about man.
Speaker 1 (36:08):
E everything everywhere all at once. Just knock socks off the movie. I, I just think in this time where and listen, I love my star wars. I love my Marvel movies. I love all the TV shows. I love all the stuff, but it's still all regurgitated property. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> right. It's still stuff. That's just, we've seen it. And now doing a better meeting, we could do it a little better, but we've seen it. Everything everywhere all at once. Just feels like a breath of fresh air. Like it's someone kicked down the door and said, you wanna see what the power of a brand new idea is, eat this <laugh> and it just is amazing. So I highly recommend you go see that film and support films like that. That is absolutely perfect. Brad, you were literally the top of a list of people I was hoping to get to talk to. And I wanted to launch this podcast and, and you saying yes, meant the world to me. So thank you for joining me today. Love doing it. Congratulations on the, the new one. And I can't wait to see what other people weigh in on, cause it's gonna be really good at the best part is, is you think you're doing a thing about what you love, but you've just created the greatest fetish podcast of all time. <Laugh>
Speaker 1 (37:13):
Passions and prologues is proud to be an evergreen podcast was created by Adam. So it was produced by Adam. So and Sean rule Hoffman. And if you are interested in this podcast and any other evergreen podcast, you can go to evergreen podcast.com to discover all the different stories we have to tell.
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