CMA’s Third Annual StoryTime took place on Monday, November 18. There was an excited crowd of people present, enjoying the good food, drinks, and company. They also placed final bids on Silent Auction items. As the event began, everyone settled into their seats, eager to hear stories on the theme of reflection!
Read on for snippets and short summaries of what the storytellers shared from their reflections…
As host for the evening, Carly kicked off the event with a welcome and a personal story reflecting on her own past. Carly described the sibling rivalry she had with one of her younger sisters, and how the rivalry heated up when that sister auditioned for their local community theater show and got the leading role (even though theater was Carly’s thing!). During the show, Carly’s sister ended up having to cover for an adult actor who had forgotten his lines. This blew Carly away, helping her realize that her sister was really talented and deserved the role she had. This was a turning point for them, and their rivalry faded away and transformed into a strong, supportive friendship that lasts today—with both of them being each other’s biggest fans. Carly’s sister even stands up to Internet trolls on behalf of Carly!
Rosemarie’s reflection was, as she described it, “brought to you by the letter M, for mentorship” because her career path was defined and strongly influenced by the presence of invaluable mentors in her life. She attended Douglass College at Rutgers University because of the impact of mentors, and while there her mentor guided her from clinical psychology to the developmental psychology path. Later, that same mentor encouraged her to apply to a program at the University of Kansas, where there was a junior colleague model and a strong culture of mentorship from which Rosemarie would benefit. Rosemarie’s next move was to Teachers College, Columbia University, where she got the opportunity to be a mentor herself. For the last 23 years, her work at Sesame Workshop has been a form of mentorship, as well. There, she has identified issues in kids’ lives for Sesame Street programming and interventions to address, and her recent book Sesame Street: Ready for School! A Parent’s Guide to Playful Learning for Children Ages 2 to 5 is a guiding force for parents. For Rosemarie, it all comes back to mentorship!
As Dan began his work in kids media, he realized he was more interested in content with a reason to exist, beyond just fun characters. He wanted to tell stories that helps kids be kinder and more resilient. This led him to the field of Positive Psychology, which Dan likens to going to the doctor for preventive care, rather than when you’re already sick. Dan made the effort to include its tenets into his children’s books in a non-pedantic way that reinforces positive attributes like empathy, self-esteem, and paying it forward. Dan then read one of his recent picture books aloud, Morris Mole (which you can check out here!), to exhibit how he combined Positive Psychology with a fun and memorable character to tell a powerful story about the importance of being yourself.
Halcyon took reflections to the next level by telling not one, but three reflective stories from her life—all connected to each other! They all started with how when Halcyon was five years-old, what she wanted more than anything was to own a Cool Teen Ariel Doll. When her parents confirmed that she and her brother would both be getting the dolls as Christmas gifts, they were thrilled. On Christmas morning, however, Halcyon didn’t get Cool Teen Ariel, she got Ariel’s friend, Cool Teen Shelley. Halcyon was heartbroken and felt little connection to Shelley, who was Black, as is Halcyon’s father. The next story Halcyon shared was about her parents’ interracial marriage, which began at a time when interracial relationships weren’t as common. She then told the story of the Cool Teen Ariel shopping trip from her parents’ perspective. While Halcyon’s mom wanted to get her the Ariel doll she craved, her dad was adamant about getting Shelley for Halcyon, so that Halcyon could see part of herself reflected in the doll. When Halcyon received Shelley and ultimately rejected her, it was hurtful to him. Looking back, Halcyon understands that there was no “right” choice her parents could’ve made. Overall, these reflections drove home the importance of representation in kids media and why Halcyon is so thrilled to be working hard to ensure that all kids see themselves reflected in the media they consume.
Livia, the founder of CMA, took the opportunity to reflect on the organization’s beginnings, as well as her own beginnings in children’s media. Livia ended up in kids media after having an epiphany while jogging in her hometown. She realized it was a perfect combination of all of her interests, so she made her own children’s media-focused college major and went on to work at Noggin and on Dragon Tales. She worked steadily until 9/11, when she could no longer find work in kids’ media. She worked in reality TV in the meantime, and had the spark of the idea for CMA at a networking event with other passionate kids media producers. A little while after that event, she gathered with all of her friends in the industry (over chocolate martinis at the now-defunct Mars 2112 restaurant) and discussed how the children’s media industry was disjointed and the need for connecting the dots in order to fill the seats with kids media specialists and people who were truly passionate about being there. Fifteen years later, there are now three thriving branches of CMA that are growing in membership and influence everyday!
Steve opened up by sharing that he’s always felt like an outsider in kids media and that someone else should have been the host of Blue’s Clues. Part of this being because when he moved at 21 to New York City, his intention was to be the next Dustin Hoffman—a serious, gritty actor. When Steve got the Blue’s Clues audition, he thought it was a voiceover part. When he eventually realized it was a live-action role, he didn’t know what to do. He found some solace in the fact that the character didn’t know what to do either. The shared uncertainty between Steve the actor and Steve the character helped him find his character’s truth and motivation. So, he went into the audition and gave it his all, asking the camera “Do you know?” as earnestly as he could. His sincerity worked and allowed him to connect with kids in an undeniable way, which ultimately got him the job! While he was part of Blue’s Clues Steve kept on with his Dustin Hoffman aspirations, always working furiously and trying to be as “true” as possible. Now, Steve is in a constant state of reflection because he is regularly presented with the image of his younger, greener self from former fans who are now grown up and in part because of the current franchise reboot, Blue’s Clues & You. Steve continues to struggle to make meaning for others, but he is certain of one thing: content is best if kids can hold onto it like a lovie, or stuffed animal, and that these things don’t necessarily have to be tangible—moments, songs, and stories can all make meaning for kids that they’ll carry with them through life.
Thanks so much to the CMA community for all of its support—the StoryTime event and Silent Auction raised over $5000 for future programming and events!