One of the favored questions that readers ask me is: where’s it all come from? Until recently, I couldn’t have begun to explain, because I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it. When you’re busy writing up a storm and blogging, your mind is more on the present or future, not the past. The problem with that is that you can lose your way. Remember the saying: If you don’t know where you’ve been, you won’t know where you’re going?
Back in the late summer, I started watching a few of my favorite childhood films with my toddler. That brought on the realization of how I came into being a writer. Or, at least, it spoke to me of what inspired me to tell stories. Both film and books have been a hefty part of my life, and I’m not talking about the average watcher/reader. Clearly. After all, I have pursued a degree in film as well as writing.
The films I brought to my little girl had a common thread, beyond genre. They were each touched by a master storyteller: Jim Henson. From the time I was very young, Sesame Street streamed into my home along with the Muppet Show, and all the subsequent films.
It often feels like there is not a thing he didn’t touch with his genius. If asked, I am certain that most filmmakers today would list him in their top ten–safe to say top five, even. That’s a seat earned and deserved. And, I believe he’s responsible for me, too.
Jim Henson’s desire was to touch the lives of those he entertained and educated with his puppets and stories. He wanted to inspire. Sadly, his time to do so was shorter than anyone dare guess. Yet, the work he made lasts through to today. Forever thankful, I share these works with my daughter, still finding the spark in them that has had power over my own life.
Finding out where it all comes from is really important to continuing forward. That’s the path to maintaining the inspiration. Without direction, we often flounder. I’m not okay with just flopping about from pool to pool until something sticks. That’s one aspect of finding my way alone in the publishing world that I have detested. I much prefer teamwork and mentorship. If only more people had the ethic of cooperation that Jim Henson did. Cooperation and caring were lessons he weaved into all of his work. Think about it…
Although my work is not geared toward children and takes quite dark turns, I find the essence of Henson couched within the narrative. The fantastical characters and hero journey are just the wrappings on that inspired gift. Dig a bit deeper and you’ll start to see the similarities.
Think of Maiel, for one. Much like Sarah, she is drawn into the Labyrinth and set on a journey to not only save children important to her, but to realize her truth. The Baron is no Jareth, but he serves the same purpose, obsessed and lovelorn in his own way. The pair fight over the salvation of Dominic. Will Maiel prevail and Dominic rise up, or will the Baron defeat her and they become his goblins? The main issue is that Maiel is not entirely aware of her own truth–her own story. Realizing that she is in control of fate, the Baron loses all power over her, and his bid to conquer her becomes tenuous. The Trailokya Trilogy drives on from there.
Henson also liked to pay homage to history. As I said above, knowing from where you came helps you best gauge where you’re headed. Also, it makes for great storytelling. Messages hold more weight and have greater ability to be assimilated when they’re told in the form of stories, especially fable-like stories, which is an aspect of historical fiction writing.
Most similar is the love of educating and entertaining that I hold. What Henson did was special and this world needs more people like him. His children carry on his legacy, but they should not be alone in that. Their father touched the lives of millions, and many of them are also out there working on their own stories.
Growing up with Henson to watch was a blessing. Having his work to consume to this day is a reminder of that opportunity. Sharing it with my toddler gave me new perspective on these old friends, and I can feel the rivers of creativity flowing strong from the source.
That’s where it all comes from…