Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest today Gerry Renert. Gerry has been a writer/TV producer for over twenty years. He began his writing career when he was eleven years old (under protest) on the blackboard of Miss Peterson’s sixth grade class.
Once out in the real world, he wrote television commercials, which led to his meeting a TV star, who gave him a shot at writing TV sitcoms. Luckily, he wound up writing episodes for two of the highest rated TV series for CBS Television and received an award from the Writer’s Guild of America for having written for series considered to be among the top 101 shows in TV history.
In 2002, he co-created the animated preschool TV series, ToddWorld, which aired on the Discovery Kid’s Channel and in most countries around the world. The series has won three Parents Choice awards, an iParenting Award, two Humanitas Awards (“For entertainment that enriches…and motivates love within the human family.”) The series has also been EMMY nominated three times for “Outstanding Animated Children’s Program.”
His first storybook App, Brave Rooney, is available in iTunes stores around the world. The title received a “Kirkus Reviews Star of Remarkable Merit” and was included in the informative “iPad Kid’s Apps,” part of the For Dummies series.
The book app has been in the top 150 selling book apps on iTunes in the U.S, UK and Australia. The second app in the series, Brave Rooney and the Super-Sized Superheroes, takes on Childhood Obesity.
It’s also available now in iTunes and is the winner of a “Mom’s Choice” Gold Award. Both apps are also available as eBooks for the Kindle and as part of several online kid’s reading clubs.
Gerry live in Pacific Palisades, CA with his wife and Border Collie, Marcello.
Norm: Good day Gerry
and thanks for participating in our interview.
What was the first story you ever wrote, and what happened to it?
Gerry: The first story I ever wrote was a spec script for a feature film. It was a very personal project about a 13 year old, somewhat nerdy boy — a sports autograph wizard— who reluctantly helps a sports groupie try and meet the man of her dreams. The nerdy kid learns an awful lot along the way. The script ended up being optioned and re-written and re-optioned several times. Although the movie was never produced, the fees I received became the down payment on my house.
Norm: Where do you see book publishing heading?
Gerry: I think that depends on the age group. Although digital is still growing for picture books, I believe a sizable amount of parents will still want a print book to read at bedtime and to hold onto as a keepsake. I think for the older kids, digital will get even stronger.
Norm: Why have you been drawn to children's stories? As a follow up, are there aesthetic advantages and disadvantages peculiar to them? Do they have a form
Gerry: I like the simplicity of children’s books and the importance of art working well in conjunction with text. My very first writing ‘job’ was in advertising and I particularly enjoyed the challenge of having art and text work together to form a uniquely creative message. I think the aesthetic advantages come back to what I said above about the beauty of having art and text work either together or to play off each other. The disadvantages are you really can’t go very deep into a subject for obvious reasons, which can be frustrating — especially if you find yourself unconsciously and excitedly going deeper into a story than you originally anticipated.
Norm: What helps you focus when you write? Do you find it easy reading back your own work?
Gerry: I’ve tried numerous ways to help me focus, but either the laser beam is on or it isn’t. Oddly enough, sometimes taking breaks from my writing takes some pressure off me and brings me back with even more focus. I find it very easy to read back my own work as I learned early-on that the secret of writing is re-writing.
Norm: Could you tell our readers something about ToddWorld and Brave Rooney? What are they about? What purpose do you believe your stories serve and what matters to you about them?
Gerry: ToddWorld was a TV series for preschoolers, based on the books of artist/illustrator Todd Parr, whom I collaborated with. The series was based more on his signature book, “It ’s Okay to Be Different,” and was meant to teach acceptance, tolerance, diversity and instill self confidence in a wonderfully quirky way — similar to the tone of the Todd Parr books.
Brave Rooney is the story of the only regular kid who ends up at an elementary school for superhero kids. Talk about a tough crowd to fit into. Rooney, however, ends up demonstrating heroic qualities of his own and eventually wins the respect of his superhero classmates. I think my stories mostly serve as a means to try and boost kid’s self-confidence and to get them to feel they can do anything they set out to. There is a little bit of the ‘underdog’ in all of us, and most kids experience bouts of insecurity as they grow up and face new people and new social challenges.
Norm: Has the writing of sitcoms influenced in any way the writing of your stories for children and if so, how?
Gerry: It definitely helped me in learning how to create dramatic tension, the height of which usually ends with Act 1 in a sitcom. It also helped me in learning how to better effect resolutions and how a character’s emotional arc works.
Norm: Which of your
books/stories are you most attached to and why?
Gerry: I’m most attached to Brave Rooney because it’s all about a kid fitting in with his peers. I struggled with this challenge in elementary school, middle school and High School. I believe a lot of children face the same challenge.
Norm: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Gerry: I would say keep writing and submitting until you find a voice you’re comfortable with that has some commercial appeal. As to wondering if you’re good enough and if your voice or vision matters, these are thoughts even some of the great, classic authors constantly wrestled with. I like to use Woody Allen’s quote, that “90% of success is just showing up."
Norm: What do you think of the Internet for writers today?
Gerry: I think it’s a research tool like none other in history. It’s also an enormous retail and promotional venue, if used properly.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
Gerry: MY WEBSITE
Norm: After your
phenomenal success with Todd World and Brave Rooney as well as
your other achievements, what, if anything, remains "undone"
for you? What is the one thing you haven't done, that you are still
"itching" to accomplish?"
Gerry: I’d really like to take Brave Rooney onto other platforms, especially television which I’ve had some success with.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you ave liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Gerry: I would have liked you to ask me who Miss Peterson was. In fact, she was my 6th grade teacher who put up with my class clown antics and never gave up on my abilities, especially the ability to be creative.