It has become trite to discuss the ups and downs and emotional nadirs suffered by our nation over the past year. What we need, however, is to find answers to the problems and solutions to the sacrifices and stresses our children have suffered throughout this Covid-19 pandemic time period, especially within underserved and at-risk communities. Nancy Ganz, a parenting and executive coach and Harvard-trained mediator is aiming to combat these stressors by launching a gorgeous 12-book youth literature collection called Feel Good Fables.
ABOUT FEEL GOOD FABLES
The Feel Good Fables Collection is designed to help children and parents cope with all the myriad of complex emotions children undergo, in a healthy and age-appropriate manner. These stories guide children to become empowered decision-makers. To navigate through life’s ups and downs and grow an appreciation of the diverse world around them.
Tina Searches for Her Dream is the first of the twelve books in the collection, which will be released in February 2021 — and my two girls and I are absolutely enthralled. Not only is it a gorgeous story, but Nancy Ganz is on a mission to donate 1 million copies of her upcoming 12 books to children living in low-income communities over the next three years.
And to top that, Tina Searches for Her Dream comes with 3 different beautiful covers. Each featuring a little girl with a different skin tone. (To Pre-Order Tina Searches for Her Dream, select your Tina with a deep, medium or light skin tone.)
I was lucky enough to interview Nancy Ganz and delve into the hows and whys of launching her literature collection. Read our interview below and learn all that she aims to accomplish in parenting, writing, executive coaching and launching her incredible 12 book collection, the Feed Good Fables.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background? You’re an executive coach and parenting coach. At what point did you decide that embarking on an ambitious 12 story collection was your next necessary move? What was the message you needed to get out?
A lawyer by education, businesswoman by vocation, and writer by avocation, my greatest dream was always to be a mom. As a parenting and executive coach, I love working with adults to brush aside the debris of doubt blocking their road to success. Arming them with tools for effective communication and strategies to achieve their vision professionally and interpersonally.
My Feel Good Fables collection of children’s stories helps to nurture confidence, self-love, empathy and purpose in the early years by teaching children how to navigate through complex feelings. They are designed to set children up for a lifetime of personal success. Each story touches on a key theme or emotional challenge that is relevant for children today. For example, learning how to deal with isolation and being separated from friends, celebrating your unique differences, and overcoming bullying.
I released my first book of original quotes in 2019, Finding Peace at the Center of the Storm, which aims to help adults live an empowered life, by identifying mindset shifts that code for positive thinking. Like the quote book but for kids, each Feel Good Fables teaches an essential life lesson to children that, when learned young, creates positive pathways toward logical thinking and problem-solving into adulthood. Tina Searches for Her Dream is the first book in the series.
The story is about ballet and sports and equestrian, but it’s mostly about empowerment. What was your creative process in finding these analogies?
My writing process begins by clarifying the various messages that I would like to get across. Then I seek allegories and analogies through characters that face particular challenges to communicate these. When I sat down to write Tina, the story just poured out of me. I chose to start the story with ballet because it’s an environment that does tend to breed insecurity as the mirror reflects back your own challenges and the perception of others’ excellence.
So many adults feel “stuck” in their lives yet feel too afraid to make a change. This story teaches children, at a young age, that it’s important to “go for it” in life. Without letting the fear of disappointment, judgment, failure or doubt stop us. What I love about analogies in children’s storytelling is that each person can pull different layers and messages from what appears to be a very simple storyline. Although there are numerous meanings that arise through Tina’s journey, you’re right that they fall under the overarching message of empowerment.
Is Tina about yourself, your daughter, a composite of American children?
I believe there’s a little Tina in all of us. The book touches on a number of human experiences and feelings that most children or adults confront at some time in their lives.
Further, there are also implicit messages for parents throughout the story. When children are young, they need to feel the freedom to try and stumble as they are finding what really brings them joy. Oftentimes, these may not be the talents or directions you had hoped for your children. Creatives are often born to engineers and vice versa. And even children within families may excel in completely different lanes. As a parent, it’s helpful to notice and then nurture natural strength as they start to become evident.
When my son was four, the music teacher pulled me aside. He believed my son had singing talent and a great ear for music. I laughed it off because I couldn’t discern the difference from his “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and the other adorable kids’ in the class. And when my daughter was that age, the instructor gave the same assessment of her. Turns out, one of his “tests” was changing keys mid-song and seeing which kids had the ear to modulate with him.
I came from a sports-minded family and, like Tina, had my children try every single sport. But, both of my kids gravitated toward the arts. So, we re-directed their training, focus and effort into the performing arts. They trained like athletes, but in their area of strength.
The illustrations are complex and beautiful and creative. You can tell hours of careful consideration went into the poses, outfits, hair. My girls were mesmerized by the detail. What was the collaborative process with the illustrator and were these visuals something you had mapped out in your head?
To me, the relationship between writer and illustrator is like a beautiful dance. Our illustrator, Michelle Baron, is a magnificent artist and working with her is a dream.
My daughter, Sara, and I had a very clear vision of what we wanted for Tina. Down to the most minute details. And Michelle would not only bring those visions to life but then added her artistic eye and creative talent to each character and every page.
I’m so happy your children were so aware of all the details and thought that went into each aspect of the book. It was such a special process bringing Tina to life. From the initial sketches and mood boards to the final published book. Michelle has just begun working on two of the upcoming books in the Feel Good Fables collection.
I know the emotional vicissitudes and stresses of quarantining during Covid, especially within underserved communities, was an impetus in the launch of Feel Good Fables. Was it brewing before then or did a light go off in March?
At the beginning of COVID, I began offering free group Zoom sessions called “Finding Peace through Times of Distress”. The aim of providing tactical tools and mindset changes to help individuals navigate through really complex feelings of grief, loneliness, learned helplessness, “survivor’s guilt”. The idea that if you’re not the worst off in this environment that you’re not entitled to pain, and how to find moments of normalcy, self-care and gratitude through the turmoil.
Each of the Feel Good Fables stories has that same intention but for children. Taking them through journeys that are deeper and more meaningful than stories may typically be for young children while providing the awareness to help children get through it.
My “COVID silver lining” was that my adult daughter left New York and has been home with me since March. With her as my partner in this initiative, the timing was finally right to launch the Feel Good Fables brand and kick off our broader mission of donating 1 million books to children in need.
Each child is gifted, the question is…at what? And to find and then focus on those gifts is the key to boosting self-confidence, experiencing joy and feeling more in the “flow” of your life.
Did you train in ballet? What superpower of yours ended up being your version of equestrian?
Funnily enough, I wasn’t talented at ballet because I had no turnout. But in my twenties, I took my first modern and jazz dance classes and absolutely loved it.
My version of Tina finding horseback riding was deciding not to practice law. My passion had always been business, yet I found myself in law school fulfilling my mother’s dream, not mine. Instead of continuing on a path that I didn’t love, one that I’d invested time, energy and resources into, I pivoted to finance. My strength has always been communication. Understanding how small changes in language and strategy can completely rewire a brain toward a desired outcome. And interestingly enough, it was through bridging communication gaps that I built a successful career in business.
One of the quotes from my book that I would share with my kids while they were growing up is “have the courage to be different, you are anyway.”
I love writing stories that nurture children’s confidence to show up as their authentic, essential selves.
What were your favorite children’s books you grew up with? Are there any grown-up books that deliver the same message as Tina Finds Her Dream? I love your epiphanic message regarding YOU needing to find YOUR dream and superpower and not trying to fit as the square peg into a round hole. This needs to be taught starting Kindergarten!
Especially as a martial artist, I emphasize to myself to FOCUS and HONE your strengths. Don’t focus on your weaknesses. This book resonated with me so much. It means so much to me as a mother of two young girls whose automatic response is to compare themselves.
I have always been a seeker of morals and truth. Searching for a deeper window into human nature and better understanding of how the world worked beyond the confines of my neighborhood. As a child I gravitated toward the classic fables and fairytales. Even the stories I didn’t love prompted me to think and analyze. I often found myself “rewriting” stories that I thought could have been communicated more clearly or had a more profound message.
For example, take the fable of the scorpion and the frog. The scorpion promises not to sting the frog. After getting the frog’s help to cross the pond, stings him halfway through the journey. Now ensuring their mutual demise. The moral being that a scorpion will always be a scorpion. Yet to me, had I been writing this story, the ending would’ve been that you’re not a victim to your nature. You can change your perspective and behavior, although sometimes it takes an extreme circumstance or realization to shift. Needless to say, I didn’t read that story to my children. But, it inspired me to think how stories could be told.
When my own children were young, I couldn’t seem to find current, morality-driven stories.
Like the ones that I had loved as a child. Instead finding a plethora of stories where beautiful visuals took priority over a constructive message. When my kids were too young to read the words, I’d often show them the pictures. Then change the story as I read. Like the story of Rainbow Fish. A fish born with radiant, multicolored scales who is ostracized until he gives all of his scales but one away to each of his friends. He had to lose the parts of himself that he loved the most in order to be accepted and have friends.
In my “re-worked” version, every time the rainbow fish gave up one of his scales, a new more sparkly scale appeared. So, at the end, he shone even more brightly through his acts of generosity and kindness. I wanted my kids to know that they never had to dim their light in order to fit in.
One of the quotes from my book that I would share with my kids while they were growing up is “have the courage to be different, you are anyway.” So many children try to, as you said, fit a square peg into a round hole – wanting to be or act more like someone else and judging themselves against others’ performance. I love writing stories that nurture children’s confidence to show up as their authentic, essential selves.
Each child is gifted, the question is…at what?
And to find and then focus on those gifts is the key to boosting self-confidence. Experiencing joy and feeling more in the “flow” of your life. Your study of martial arts is such a great example of this. It takes discipline and tremendous focus. But, the payoff of concentrating on a strength or a passion is that you’re more likely to excel.
You set up an incredible donation program. Can you tell us about that and how it came about?
Literature is such an important part of a child’s growth and development. Books are portals to other worlds, fostering imagination and helping children to develop a discerning and creative mind. My daughter and I have both tutored in underserved areas, and it breaks both of our hearts to know how many children throughout the U.S. have never owned their own book.
Launching our donation component was a central tenant of our Feel Good Fables. We just launched our book drive where individuals and corporations can sponsor a single child, a classroom, or a community. And we handle the logistics to seed the books throughout the areas in the U.S. Through this program, children will receive a new, hardcover book that was purchased specifically for them. Tina features diverse characters and the ability to choose your lead from one of three options. With only 22% of children’s books featuring any diverse characters, we are customizing our deliveries of Tina to match the demographics of the area. This ensures that children are seeing themselves represented in the books they receive through this program. As we launch the twelve Feel Good Fables stories over the next three years, our goal is to build each child’s “Feel Good Fables” library.
++ Thank you so much, Nancy. The message you are delivering for the betterment of the generations ahead is invaluable. Thank you for your guidance and for this interview.
++ Thank you, everyone, for reading. Now go outside and find your strengths. xo
To donate books to children in underserved communities, visit: www.feelgoodfables.com/
To Pre-Order Tina Searches for Her Dream, select your Tina with a deep, medium or light skin tone.