You Are Loved
Podcast #78 — Aired December 21, 2015

“You are loved.” That’s the message children’s book author Nancy Tillman shares in her beautiful, best-selling stories. This week on BetterWorldians Radio we’re talking with Tillman about some of her books, including On the Night You Were Born, Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You, and You’re Here for a Reason.

 

 

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Nancy Tillman
Author, On the Night You Were Born

Nancy Tillman created her first book, On the Night You Were Born, to convey to children at an early and impressionable age, "You are the one and only ever you." Additionally, Nancy has written and illustrated the best selling titles: I’d Know You Anywhere, The Spirit of Christmas, Wherever You are My Love Will Find You, Tumford the Terrible, and The Crown on Your Head. She illustrated It's Time to Sleep, My Love, with Eric Metaxas. And, Nancy had the opportunity to work with Archbishop Desmond Tutu to illustrate the book Let There Be Light. Together, Nancy's books have sold in the millions.

Episode Transcript

Gregory Hansell
Hi, welcome to BetterWorldians Radio. BetterWorldians Radio is a weekly broadcast whose mission is to uplift and inspire you to make the world a better place. Im Greg Hansell. BetterWorldians Radio is brought to you by the family team that created the popular social game on Facebook called A Better World. It rewards players for doing good deeds, while helping to raise money and awareness for charities. To date over thirty-five million good deeds have been done in A Better World by more than three point five million people. Good deeds include expressions of gratitude, acts of kindness, and sending notes to real world sick children, just to name a few. Today we have the pleasure of talking with childrens book author Nancy Tillman. Nancy Tillman created her first book, On the Night You Were Born, to convey to children at an early and impressionable age, "You are the one and only ever you." Additionally, Nancy has written and illustrated the best selling titles: Id Know You Anywhere, The Spirit of Christmas, Wherever You are My Love Will Find You, Tumford the Terrible, and The Crown on Your Head. She illustrated It's Time to Sleep, My Love, with Eric Metaxas. And, Nancy had the opportunity to work with Archbishop Desmond Tutu to illustrate the book Let There Be Light. Together, Nancy's books have sold in the millions. Hi Nancy, thanks for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

Nancy
Well hi Greg, thanks for having me.

Gregory Hansell
Thank you for being here. So youre first book On the Night You Were Born was originally self-published, which I think is amazing, I love that. Can you tell our listeners about the inspiration for that beautiful story and what its all about?

Nancy
Well I used to have a greeting card company Greg, and one of my cards, it was one of my most popular cards was the first page of On the Night You Were Born, and I loved it so much I just wanted to expand it into a book. I wanted all children to feel unconditionally loved, I tried really hard to convey that to my children, and I just couldnt think of a better message to spread.

Gregory Hansell
I think its so great, I think that first page, I actually have the book open in front of me, its so magical, because its this idea that theres never been anyone like you ever in the world. And I think with children when they hear that, it makes them feel so special.

Nancy
You know, I think it does too. When I talk to children Im always careful to say, lets just say that theres five Johns in the room, I will say, you know, you may be named John but youre all very different, theres no one like you in the whole world, and they like hearing that.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, yeah. Well it went from being self-published to being picked up by a publisher and is now a New York Times best-seller. So what reaction has the book gotten from fans, what do you hear?

Nancy
Well I get lots of emails from people all the time, from On the Night You Were Born, and other books, and you know, I hear what it means to children that as they go through their life and they see things from the book, like bees flying overhead or the moon up in the morning, it resonates with them and reminds them of the message that theyre the one and only ever them. And so that is wonderful. But I also get so many emails from adults who feel that the message is something that they didnt hear as a child.

Gregory Hansell
Thats wonderful.

Nancy
And that they loved getting the message at that time. Or I get it from adult parents who give it to their adult children, because they want to make sure they underline that message to them.

Gregory Hansell
I think thats great and I can totally see that. I mean, the message is so sweet and it really makes you feel so special that I can see having children from, you know, nine months to ninety-nine, you know. So lets talk about some of your other wonderful books. Youre Here for a Reason has a really special message, what is that?

Nancy
Well it does, I mean you were just talking about what you do there, which is just so wonderful, about good deeds, and the message of Youre Here for a Reason is that whatever we do goes on beyond us. Both all the good things we do, the accidents we have, and in this particular book, a child loses his kite, hes helping an elephant cross the road and two things happen. The elephant goes on to do good deeds because of that for others, and the kite goes on to become a sled for some foxes and the tails are used for playtime for tigers, and the little girl around the world. So, its really about how were part of a big puzzle, and were a piece of that, and sometimes we cant see the whole picture while were in the midst of life.

Gregory Hansell
I absolutely love the idea, the kite as metaphor I thought was really successful because first of all, I love how the kite evolves and changes to be these different things, and you obviously see in the book, and everyone at home has to pick this up to see it, its so incredible how the kite goes from being a kite to being like you said, a fox with the fox tails and everything. But what I also like is that a kite for kids, and I remember this when I was a kid and even a couple times playing with kites with my daughter is some of it connects children, you know, to the beyond, you know, to something thats much larger than them. So I think if when they see a kite at, you know, playing this role in the story it connects to that magic of something thats so much bigger and so much more powerful than them, you know.

Nancy
You know, I think it does and I never thought about that when I was illustrating it, but there is something very magical and universal about a kite. Youre absolutely right. So Im glad, Im glad if thats the way you feel about it.

Gregory Hansell
I love it, I love it. Now another one of your books, Wherever You are My Love Will Find You is a promise to a child that they will always be loved. This is such a sweet, sweet book. Its an important message. What was your inspiration there?

Nancy
Well every child just needs to know that, when theyre going off to school, when theyre going off to playtime, its just wonderful to know. I tried to create a little trail of stars that they could visually see that their parents love was with them. And I feel that its been successful in helping children feel that. I also hear from people that parents that are in prison read it to their children, our troops often record it and read it to their children at home.

Gregory Hansell
Love that.

Nancy
And that is wonderful to hear, and a lot of people email me that the book means something to them from people that have passed away in their lives. That they feel like that person is still speaking to them.

Gregory Hansell
You know, I think its one of those things that you cant tell children enough.

Nancy
Oh you cant.

Gregory Hansell
And I feel like every time you say it, I mean children really know when you mean it, you know.

Nancy
They do.

Gregory Hansell
Even young children, they have the ability to somehow tell that youre being earnest, and when they see that look in your eyes and that tone in your voice, it touches them. I mean, one of my earliest memories is my father, who you know I work with, but my father telling me that he loves me. I can remember it really clearly. And I hope that my daughter has memories like that, and my son as well, as they grow up and I tell them all the time.

Nancy
Well, its difficult to do this, but my dearest wish in my book, is that I can give parents words to say that they already feel for their children in a different way. Thats what I really hope to do. So its really about what you say to your child.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, thats wonderful. So lets talk about the Spirit of Christmas, which is of course, perfect for this time of year. What are you hoping that children take away from that story?

Nancy
Well first of all, I just love all of the illustrations that show all the different things that we celebrate and all of the wonderful things that we just get so excited about over the season. Whether its sledding, or snow angels, Christmas caroling, all those wonderful things are just fun to think about this time of year. But as the book says, it only took love to begin it, and its not really Christmas if love isnt in it, and thats really what its about, is spending the holidays, spending Christmas with those that we love. That is the takeaway from this book.

Gregory Hansell
I love that, I love that. And I think its a message that gets lost often times in the holiday season, you know, with presents and running back and forth to malls and what not, and I think.

Nancy
Right.

Gregory Hansell
To be able to kind of, whats the phase, to really get back to the basics and look at whats important about this time of year is special.

Nancy
Right.

Gregory Hansell
So the artwork in your books is just so beautiful. Tell our listeners about that process.

Nancy
Well, you know, I do it in a very unusual way, its all done digitally on the computer. So nowadays I can pick up a Wacom, which is like a computer tablet and I can use my Wacom pen and paint and what I paint shows up on the computer screen and I can print it. Now I use Photoshop, so I start with probably a hundred, two hundred layers of things.

Gregory Hansell
Thats great.

Nancy
And then I flatten them and I use a program called Corel Painter and paint on top of that. So to illustrate a tiger for instance, I may use eighty different pieces of tiger to get a composition that I like. And then I paint on top of that.

Gregory Hansell
And youre bringing in a lot of real world textures it seems sometimes.

Nancy
I bring in real world, its really like a collage, each illustration is like a collage, and I just bring in whatever I want to bring in. Whether its musical notes, whatever feels right at the time to kind of give the feeling that I want the illustration to impart.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, its interesting that you mentioned the music, I noticed music and dancing are a theme in a lot of the books. Why is that special to you?

Nancy
Well I think people are looking for joy, I like to see something that makes me feel joy and it just comes naturally to me to want to put them in the illustrations. I want to do something that makes people smile right away and just feel the joy of living.

Gregory Hansell
Well I think you definitely accomplished that, you know, when Im looking at the books, and it was great to prepare for this show because I read them all back to back and I noticed some of these things that came up again and again and delved really into the illustrations and noticed how, you know, mysterious they were. And I think all the different textures that you use and the way you pull in all these different things, you find yourself just starring at them and kind of contemplating them, so.

Nancy
Well good, I hope so. And, you know, I like children to sit in front of them and just look and always see something different every time. The Spirit of Christmas, as you just mentioned, has actually got the spirit of Christmas on every page.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I noticed that.

Nancy
Children love looking for the spirit of Christmas on every page. So thats kind of a fun element in that book.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I think thats really neat, I think thats really neat. And again, it adds to that kind of mystical feeling of something magical is happening here, and I think it, the tone then of the whole book, of all the books are that way, feels even more magical as they read it. But speaking of the amazing illustrations, I see you also sell some of the prints from your book, is that right?

Nancy
Right.

Gregory Hansell
Can you tell us about that?

Nancy
Well I simply just upload the illustrations to, its Posters dot com, and Art dot com, and they actually print them off and send them off to folks. A lot of people have asked for merchandise based on the books, and so I do that for my fans.

Gregory Hansell
Thats great, thats great. And I encourage the people at home, if you dont know Nancy Tillmans work, please take a look, Im sure youll want one of these prints, theyre incredible.

Nancy
Well its just another way that my fans tell me of kind of surrounding their child with love. They like to put them in the nurseries and so that when the child sees a visual of that, hes just reminded once again, of the message of the book.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, and I think these are a great Christmas gift, a great holiday gift for anyone looking for that kind of thing. Now I know you also illustrated a book written by Desmond Tutu called Let There Be Light. How did that partnership come about?

Nancy
Well my agent called me, this was just a delightful story for me, I was told that the Archbishop was reading one of my books Wherever You Are, there was a child riding a hippo across a stream and he giggled, his famous giggle, and he asked that I illustrate this book for him, The Creation. And I read his rendition of The Creation and it was just told in his wonderful South African voice and I was just so excited to do it. And I got to meet him as we were working on the book together, and hes just as you would expect, hes just full of joy and life and jokes and laughter, and it was a pleasure to work with him.

Gregory Hansell
Well thats incredible, I love that story and I love that you can take something like creation and turn it into one of these beautiful books for children to find accessible and magical, which of course it is.

Nancy
Thank you.

Gregory Hansell
We need to take a break now. When we return well talk more with childrens book author and illustrator Nancy Tillman. By the way in the spirit of the holiday season, our game on Facebook called A Better World is now one hundred percent free until the end of January. Through February 1st the only currency accepted is acts of kindness and other social good that you can do in game. Were challenging our players to perform one million good deeds total by the end of January. When they do A Better World will release funds to provide new coats for children in need nationwide through our partnership with Operation Warm. Well be right back.

Gregory Hansell
Youre listening to BetterWorldians Radio. Were speaking with childrens book author Nancy Tillman. So Nancy, weve talked about this a bit, but you end many of your books with the line, you are loved. Why is that?

Nancy
Oh theres just no more important message. No matter how old or how young you are, I just dont think there is, but as a child especially, and you have children Greg, so I think youll agree with this. The first few years of a childs life, they just dont have any barriers to what youre telling them. They just absorb it all, and to know that you can get that message into a child when theyre that young, they just never forget it. Just like you never forgot what your dad said to you about how much he loves you. Its just, theres just no more important message.

Gregory Hansell
No, I think thats right, and I think that if a child feels love, they feel safe.

Nancy
They do.

Gregory Hansell
They feel comfortable, they feel, they feel like they belong in the world. So everything builds from that foundation of love, so I think that.

Nancy
Well theyre able to love because they are loved.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, yeah, I think thats a good way of putting it. Now you mentioned earlier that you heard from many adults that your books also for them, that they comfort them in some ways. Tell us a little bit more about that.

Nancy
Well theyre just a lot of hurting, broken people in the world that are going through all sorts of things, and these messages in my books are for anybody at any age. And it depends on the particular book. Id Know You Anywhere My Love, for instance, theres a woman who wrote me that her daughter was going through a transition, that she was becoming a man, and this book built a bridge for them, and it was able to get them through that time together so that they were able to bond and move on and still be loving parent and child.

Gregory Hansell
Thats amazing.

Nancy
I get, you know, books from people, I mean notes from people who had lost someone and the books mean something to them. Or people who read them to their children when theyre in the NICU at the hospital, even when the children are born at like four or five months and they read them every single day. Those are just great stories to get.

Gregory Hansell
I love that, that its been used in so many ways for so many reasons. I think, like we were saying earlier, it just strikes a universal chord, you know?

Nancy
Well it does. Well the book is for every person no matter what their religion, no matter they believe, no matter where they live, theres just, theyre no exceptions to any of the books.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I think thats great. Now you were telling me about during the break the partnership with Kohls Cares and how, you know, tell us a little bit about that actually.

Nancy
Well Kohls Cares is a wonderful program, this is my second time to do books with them, and plush, and a calendar as well this year. Every book, we have a hardback book, and every plush and every calendar is sold for five dollars with all the money going towards national charities for children, for education and health. Kohls does a wonderful job with this every year, I think theyve been doing it for almost a decade, its been very successful, I think theyve raised close to two hundred million dollars for kids.

Gregory Hansell
Thats incredible.

Nancy
It could be more than that.

Gregory Hansell
I mean it doesnt get any better than that, you know, people get to.

Nancy
No it really doesnt.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah.

Nancy
Im really proud to be a part of it.

Gregory Hansell
Im sure you are, Im sure you are, thats wonderful. I didnt know there were plush versions of the book, thats really great.

Nancy
Yeah they have plush, that a company that covers of each book, and theyve done a great job at creating them and once again, theyre just five dollars, theyre really high quality plush.

Gregory Hansell
Oh thats really, really nice. Its a shame, you know, my daughter her first On the Night You Were Born was a hardback and she loved it so much that she mangled it. And you know, its such a beautiful book, and so Griffin has the board book, I guess theyre called, thats my son, and but the plush would be great too. Because he loves those, because theyre big and theyre fun and the big pages and everything. So well have to get that for him as well.

Nancy
Oh good.

Gregory Hansell
Now another thing I noticed in the book, we were talking about the themes earlier and the magical quality of nature plays a role in almost all the books, if not all the books that I read. Why is that a recurring theme?

Nancy
Well, you know, as a child it was important to me, my imagination was always out in nature playing with animals, and I think today especially, a lot of children dont get access to the wide open spaces that I like to paint, and some of the wonder that I like to paint in the natural world. I actually try to paint the world as we know it with a little extra wonder added in. Its just to open the eyes of childhood to all thats possible.

Gregory Hansell
You know, I love that, you know, I think, I always think that the best artwork, you know, brings out the inherent qualities in things, you know, that are maybe hard to see or you dont see it, notice it in every day life. And I think some of those wide open spaces youre talking about really are innately wonderful, you know, and powerful. And sometimes we forget about it, because we walk by them every day or we dont have the opportunity to see it, like you were just saying. So I think its great that you bring that in.

Nancy
Yeah, I love it, its a lot of fun to paint, and I imagine children imagining themselves in those situations when they look at the illustrations. I hope they do.

Gregory Hansell
And I know my daughter does, she definitely does.

Nancy
Good.

Gregory Hansell
So let me ask you, what do you hope your books help parents bring out in their children? I know you mentioned earlier that you want parents to find words through your words. So what are you hoping for?

Nancy
Well thats just it, I want the message to really get inside each child how much their parents or their caregiver loves them. On the Night You Were Born is a little different in that its for any child, it could be an adopted child, it doesnt really matter, it could be read by anyone. And I try as much as I can to do that with all the books so that it can be from a mom or a dad, or two dads or two moms, or grandparents, or foster parents, or whomever is taking care of that child. Its all about the child, its all about the child. So as far as Im concerned, theres never any politics involved in any of it and every child, everywhere, without exception.

Gregory Hansell
Thats wonderful. I think thats a wonderful message. Every child, everywhere, without exception.

Nancy
Thats right.

Gregory Hansell
Well let me ask you one last question, and its a question I ask every week of all of our guests. In your case, how do you hope your stories, your illustrations, can help to make the world a better place?

Nancy
Well, Greg, if youre spreading love, thats what youre doing. And thats what Im hoping to do. As I said earlier, and I think if you love yourself, if you truly believe your love and your parents love you, and youre loved by those surrounding you, its just much easier to share that love with other people. Because what we need, it might sound cliché, but its what we need at our deepest core.

Gregory Hansell
No, I think thats exactly right. I think you hit the nail on the head and I think, as we were saying during the break, we need it now more than ever, there is so much discord, so much disharmony, and people talking past each other, you know, in so many different ways, you know, if we have more love in the world, more empathy, more care, I think that would go a long way to solving all of our problems.

Nancy
Well and I hope my books show as children read them that we have much more in common than we have differences.

Gregory Hansell
Yes.

Nancy
I want people to look at that more than they look at the differences we have. You know?

Gregory Hansell
Absolutely. I love that and I agree with that, and I think that one of the things we have in common is the love, is the wonder, is that specialness, that uniqueness that we all see in ourselves and in our children definitely.

Nancy
Thats right.

Gregory Hansell
So thank you for bringing that into the world Nancy, I appreciate that.

Nancy
Well you are so welcome Greg, Im glad its resonated with you and for all of you listening, I hope it resonates with you as well, that youre loved and your children are loved.

Gregory Hansell
Well wed like to thank you for joining us on BetterWorldians Radio today Nancy, thank you very much.

Nancy
Well you are so welcome Greg.

Gregory Hansell
You can learn more about Nancys work by going to Nancy Tillman dot com. And again you can find some great Christmas and holiday gifts there, these books are wonderful for children, theyve been wonderful for mine, I hope you enjoy them. As we end our show we like to share our BetterWorldians mission. We strive to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone. We focus on positive thinking, positive values, and positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the BetterWorldian in everyone, so that we can all make it a better world. And so until next time, please be a BetterWorldian.