A new memoir from the National Book Award-winning author of "Middle Passage." He writes about the art and craft of writing and what he calls "the truth-telling power of fiction."
Julie Andrews shot to stardom early in life as a singer and actor. Her four-and-a-half-octave vocal range was showcased in hit musicals like “Mary Poppins,” “The Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady.” Disastrous throat surgery in 1997 left her with permanent limitations on her ability to sing. But she found other ways to use her voice. She and her daughter are the authors of a best-selling series of children’s books. The latest tells the story of a girl who faces disappointment as a singer. She relies on pluck and courage to pull her through. A conversation with Dame Julie Andrews.
- Julie Andrews singer, actor, writer.
- Emma Walton Hamilton author, editor, educator and theater professional, she has co-authored numerous books for children of all ages with her mother, Julie Andrews, and serves as editorial director for the Julie Andrews Collection publishing program.
Read An Excerpt
Excerpted from “The Very Fairy Princess Sparkles in the Snow” by Julie Andrews. Copyright © 2013 by Julie Andrews. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Julie Andrews Sings “My Favorite Things”
Julie Andrews Sings “A Spoonful Of Sugar”
12-Year-Old Julie Andrews Auditions For MGM British Studios
Julie Andrews Sings “Your Crowning Glory”###
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Dame Julie Andrews is best known for her starring roles in "Mary Poppins," "The Sound of Music," and more recently, "The Princess Diaries." Among her honor, she's won an Oscar and two Grammys. She's also the author of a best-selling memoir and numerous books for children. She and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton have co-authored more than 20 books for young readers. Their latest is titled "The Very Fairy Princess Sparkles in the Snow."
MS. DIANE REHMDame Julie Andrews joins me. You are welcome to be part of the program. 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Well, welcome back to you, Dame Julie.
MS. JULIE ANDREWSOh, thank you so much, and hello, Diane. It's great to see you again.
REHMAnd it's wonderful to see you. You are now Dame Julie.
ANDREWSWell, I have been most privately and happily for awhile, and I don't speak about it very much. It's more something that you feel. It's so wonderful to be honored by your country...
ANDREWS...and it's just a personal, private feeling inside.
REHMTell me what that ceremony was like.
ANDREWSOh, my gosh. For me, it was one of the loveliest days because London was -- it had been raining and then the sun came out and London looked like a beautiful water color. All the great buildings were, you know, sparkling and lovely, and then you were invited to the palace, of course, and lots of protocol and sweeping of the car before you go in and all of that. But then to walk down the halls and see the pictures -- the paintings, not pictures, the paintings of let's say, Queen Victoria's coronation.
ANDREWSI mean, they there were all on the walls. It's awesome. It's -- and Her Majesty is the most gracious and friendly lady. She really is. And she's so small, and she does such an incredibly big, big job, and she's worked so hard all her life.
REHMShe really does. Yes. You were at the ceremony last night at the Kennedy Center.
ANDREWSYes. For my chum -- the Mark Twain prize for my chum, Carol Burnett.
REHMWhat a thrill that must have been to see her receive that.
REHMAnd you spoke?
ANDREWSI did. I talked -- I told some stories about us and how she always brings out the worst in me in a most playful way, and how she -- whenever we're together somehow there's a role reversal and because she makes me so naughty, it seems as though she's Mary Poppins, and -- but she's been a chum for 55 years.
REHMAnd what kind of a chum?
ANDREWSOne of those that is unswervingly loyal. We've had such joy in our relationship, and fun, and yet we've been through the births of our children, and marriage, and really dramatic incidents in our lives, and yet I wish we saw each other more often than we do because we both lead very busy lives.
ANDREWSBut when we do get together, it's as if we never stopped talking, and we just pick up where we left off.
REHMYou were here several years ago, and since then you lost your dear husband.
ANDREWSMy darling mate, yes, Blake. And that's been -- it's going to be three years this December, and I'm still dealing with it, really, Diane. It's a hard thing. We were married 41 years and together, really, for 44, and that's a long time.
REHMSo you have dog?
ANDREWSHow do you know about...
REHMI know you have a dog.
ANDREWSI have two.
REHMYou have two dogs?
REHMWhat kind are they?
ANDREWSThey're both poodles. One is a miniature and one a Moyen, which is the middle size.
ANDREWSAnd they are great friends, and they make my life full of -- well, just of joy, and they are so lively, and that's been very good for me since Blake passed.
REHMThat makes a huge difference, I think.
ANDREWSIt does. And everybody always told me that. I've -- the whole family has, we've always had dogs, but these particular two -- the second one I bought after Blake passed, and I thought I was buying it for the dog that was with us, and I suddenly realized I was buying it for me.
ANDREWSAnd it was bringing life into the house and...
ANDREWS...taking care of puppy again, and all of that was wonderful.
REHMWell, you've been busy with children's theater as well.
REHMTell me about "The Great American Mousical."
ANDREWSOh, well, it's a book that Emma and I wrote a few years ago, and it's really an homage to theater. It's about the theater, and it's -- but it's about the theater in terms of mice. And it happened that several years ago in the theater when I was performing, there was a mouse in my dressing room, and in the wardrobe, and I said, oh, please don't kill it. Give it a humane trap and take is some -- I mean, little thinking that the place was probably riddled with them.
ANDREWSI took care of this particular mouse and said, take him out to Brooklyn somewhere. And I think my wonderful hair dresser at the time said, well, this little creature probably came up just to see all the stars, and a light bulb went off in my head and I thought, gosh, to write a book about what the mice see and what they do in their own world in terms of translating that into theater for mice. So it's really a band of mice that live beneath the boards of a great Broadway theater and they perform their great shows and -- but they're all kind of bastardized, but they are so full of love.
ANDREWSAnd it's become this enchanting musical which has been adapted, which I directed last year at the Goodspeed -- under the auspices of the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut, and now this year -- next year, I beg your pardon, I think it's going to be doing a small tour. We've reworked it based on what we learned, and it's going to tour a little bit.
REHMI hope it comes to Washington.
ANDREWSWell, it would be my dream, from your lips to someone's ears, Diane.
REHMI hope so.
ANDREWSIt is charming, I have to say. And the music is wonderful, and the book is funny, and you really fall in love with the characters.
REHMYou know, that was a book you wrote with your daughter, Emma.
ANDREWSWith my lovely daughter, Emma. Yes. One of the money.
REHMYes. And she is going to join us a little later in the program.
REHMBut I want to hear the story behind the "The Very Fairy Princess Sparkles in the Snow."
ANDREWSWell, that's -- it's another one in the series of our "Very Fairy Princess" pictures books for children, and it is -- obviously it's about this little girl who is convinced against, you know, all evidence to the contrary that she is a very fairy princess. Then, of course, her socks are about her ankles and -- but she insists always on wearing her crown and her wings and so on. And the book is about individuality and celebrating your inner sparkle and all of that. And each book in the series, this is the sixth to come out, and there's a seventh that's coming out next year, and an eighth that we've just delivered.
ANDREWSSo the series is doing so well, and it's about this wonderful little girl who sort of more than anything resembles my granddaughter, Emma's daughter. But this particular story has a kind of funny back story because it deals with the fact that Geraldine, or Gerry as she's called, hopes very much to sing at the school winter concert, and she's convinced that because she does try and she sings so well, that she's bound to be asked to do a solo or two. Well, in fact, they actually get a local well-known lady who is hired to do and she's mortified.
ANDREWSThrough a certain set of circumstances, the chance does come her way, and -- but she gets to the school and realizes she's just about to go on stage in her beautiful costume, and she's forgotten to bring her pretty little fairy slippers because...
REHMShe's got on some boots.
ANDREWSShe's got on some boots. So she thinks, well, what can I do? I can't go on with my snow boots on stage and sing. This story is based on something that happened to me. When I was very young, I traveled and toured a great deal, and I sang, and I said to my mother one day, Mom, I'm going to pack for myself. You don't need to do that. I'm old enough now to know better, and I'll help. So I packed my bag and we got to the venue and it was pouring with rain, and I was in very heavy thick brogues and rather mud spattered socks by the time I got in, and I suddenly realized I hadn't packed my fancy, you know, little sparkly ballet shoes.
ANDREWSNow, my mother, with great presence of mind said, oh, my. There was not a shop open, it was a bank holiday. There was not a dancer or anybody on the program -- it was one of those rather formal concerts -- that I could probably borrow a pair of shoes from, but I did have my rather mud spattered socks which to my chagrin had a hole in toe. And my mother said, well, not to worry, you did at least bring the white paint that I do the ballet shoes with to keep them clean, and she said, I'll paint a shoe on your sock.
REHMAnd she did.
ANDREWSAnd so we used that story for this little book.
REHMMarvelous story. And Julie Andrews is with me. I know many of you want to speak with her. Shortly, after a break.
REHMAnd welcome back. If you just joined us, my honored guest is Dame Julie Andrews who, as you know, is such a huge star out of "My Fair Lady," out of "The Sound of Music," our of "Mary Poppins." But what we have for you right now is an audition that she did at age 12. I want you to hear the sound of this voice.
UNIDENTIFIED MANLadies and gentlemen, I have great pleasure in introducing to you, our youngest soprano from "Starlight Roof," Julie Andrews. Well, Julie, this is the first time you've ever made a demo for a record?
ANDREWSOh, yes. Is this your first record too?
MANNot exactly, no. How old are you?
ANDREWSI am 12. How old are you?
MANI think I better ask the questions. What are you going to sing for us?
ANDREWSI'd like to sing, (unintelligible).
MANOh, lovely. Just the kind of (unintelligible) light.
ANDREWSOh, my gosh.
REHMDo you remember that very day?
ANDREWSOh, I do. I remember it so well because of course I did have wonderful, wonderful training by a marvelous singing teacher.
REHMWhen did you begin the training? You were 12 when you...
ANDREWSWell, no, I was 12 when I sang that.
ANDREWSWhich was really my first big debut in London. But I actually started singing when I was about seven. My stepfather was a fine tenor. I don't know where my inherited, where if I inherited the voice, because my stepfather was the one who sang. My mother was a pianist and they were in Vaudeville. And he decided to give me singing lessons to sort of keep me quiet, so to speak, because my school had been shut down due to the escalation of World War II.
ANDREWSAnd I was probably horribly underfoot and hanging around the house. And so it gave me something to do. I simply hated the singing lessons with him.
ANDREWSBut to his surprise and my mother's, there was this four octave, four and a half octave range. And as you heard, it was incredibly wide and incredibly high.
ANDREWSAnd I could do all these amazing calisthenics. So it became my stock and trade. And very quickly, he passed me on to a wonderful teacher, who was my teacher for the rest of her life. And oh my gosh, I toured and toured around England endlessly and paid my dues. And then I got fortunate enough to be asked to come to America. And then my world opened. But it was really my teacher who have me a great technique and foundation for singing. And I'm forever grateful to her.
REHMNow, talk to me a little bit about the commencement speech you gave at the University of Colorado at Boulder this past spring because you spoke then about the adversity you encountered when you no longer had...
REHM...that beautiful voice.
ANDREWSThat's right. Well, I really mostly said -- actually, I wish I could remember the speech better. But I mostly said that there will be, in spite of all the knowledge that the young students acquired, there will be adversity and it will hit. But that when it hits, don't just say poor me, poor me. Lie down and -- get up and do something. There are so many, many, many things that you can do in the meantime while you're struggling with whatever it is you're going through.
ANDREWSA wonderful author, T.H. White, was a friend of mine and he wrote the most wonderful piece that Merlin taught the young King Arthur. And it was that the best thing for being sad or down, said Merlin, is to learn something, to learn about the world and why it works and you will never ever be bored. You will never feel sorry for yourself. It's a wonderful speech. It's huge. And so I quoted that to the students.
ANDREWSAnd in truth, when I lost my voice, I was really in mourning because, you know, I had an operation and it hadn't gone well. I decided that I simply couldn't do nothing. I mean, it was -- I didn't want my life, my career because my voice, I felt, was my entire identity. And to my great surprise, I learned a lesson that it actually -- of course it was, but it wasn't. And I began to start writing these little books with my daughter Emma.
ANDREWSAnd so enjoyed it. And my world, I began a second career really. And I think I may have mentioned to you before that I was bemoaning my fate one day to my daughter when we were writing and she said, oh, mom, you've just found a different way...
ANDREWS...of using your voice. And the penny dropped and the world was put to right. And so that's the essence of what I said that day to the students. Don't give up, keep doing something. Nothing is wasted in life. It will all come back to you and be there for you. And this has been a great lesson for me.
REHMWhat was it that led to that operation?
ANDREWSOh, overwork. I mean, I had been on Broadway in "Victor/Victoria." I was supposed to be -- I was contracted for a year and in fact I did it for 20 months. And, you know, the early Broadway days, I was three and a half years in "My Fair Lady" and a year in "Camelot" and so on. And Broadway takes its toll, there's no doubt about it. You slam vocal chords together...
REHMOf course, yes.
ANDREWS...enough times. And I think you would know what I'm talking about.
ANDREWSAnd you'd develop what I now know to be striations in chords, not exactly nodules. I never had nodules. But occasionally my vocal chords would swell and so on. And I was asked to go on tour with "Victor/Victoria" and I said I cannot, I need to rest. And then I was asked again and I said I cannot, I need to rest. And then I was asked again.
ANDREWSAnd my vocal gentleman at the time said, if you do this, you will need an operation because you could get into trouble in Chicago or San Francisco and people wouldn't know your throat and what it's been through. And I foolishly agreed to the operation and regretted it hugely.
REHMWhat happened during that operation?
ANDREWSWell, it's something I'm afraid I sort don't wish to talk about too much. Actual fact I ended up just missing -- actually missing tissue, which shouldn't have been removed.
ANDREWSAnd so the chords don't meet as they should. But it's the past, and it's the way it was and I still have about five great bass notes in my voice. So I could give you a very good rendition of "Old Man River" if you wanted it, Diane.
REHMBut here is what you have done. Not only have you transferred your voice to your books, but you've done something else with your voice.
ANDREWS(Singing) Some girls are fair, some are jolly and fit, some have a well-bred air, or well-honed wit. Each one's a jewel with a singular shine, a work of art with its own rare design. Dear little girl, you are terribly blessed, but it's your heart of gold I love the best. And that will be your crowning glory your life through. It'll always be your crowning glory, the most glorious part of you.
REHMNow, that is what you have termed talk-singing.
ANDREWSTalk-sing. And that was not too long after the operation that I managed to pull that out. It's not what I call singing in the glorious way that I enjoyed. I don't mean that I was particularly glorious, singing and was glorious. There's nothing more beautiful and joyous than singing with a great orchestra.
REHMThan the sound of the human voice.
ANDREWSWell, yes, and you can't -- you don't see it in the mirror. You just -- it's a very personal thing. I do think that it's, in some way, singing is like revealing ones soul. You just open up and say, well, here I am. And singing with an orchestra is beyond divine. But now that talk-singing has become even more important to you.
ANDREWSIn a way. I don't do it very often, Diane. But I do -- funnily enough, the thing I wanted to mention was that in the books that Emma and I do, we package them with as much music as we possibly can, an album. The spoken word maybe if it's a collection of poems and rhymes which we have two beautiful and anthologies that we've published and that has background music. And so children can listen to the words and enjoy the music behind it.
ANDREWSSo -- and then developing some of the properties that we've written for the theater. We developed a beautiful -- into a beautiful piece, a little book that we wrote called "Simeon's Gift." And that is symphonic and I cannot tell you what that was like to hear it realized as a symphonic piece with narration. And we performed it, oh, several years ago now.
REHMI wonder if you're also doing music and the book reading for the iPad.
ANDREWSYes. That's in fact being done.
ANDREWSYes, some of our books are just being translated to that...
ANDREWS...because it's a whole new world.
ANDREWSIn fact, I think, Emma might be able to address that a little more than I because she's a little more involved in that.
REHMAnd that's a great way to those children not only to watch and listen, but to read. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm going to open the phones. We've got lots of callers, 800-433-8850. First to Jean in Wellesley, MA. Hello, you're on the air.
JEANHi, thank you so much. Hello, Julie. Hello, Diane.
JEANJulie, I want to thank you so much for all the joy you've brought into my life from when I was a little girl and now I'm 57 years old.
ANDREWSOh, thank you.
JEANI've seen you a few times and I admire you for reinventing your life. I was going to ask you what the tipping point was in learning that you had a future and a life and happiness ahead of you and you answered that about your daughter's quote. So I just want to say that, do you find that you have more interaction with people now that you're writing books and doing tours? And you've opened up Julie to a whole new generation of children.
ANDREWSWell, thank you. Yes, I do. I love meeting people, and I always have. But now, with the book signings that I do and the promotion for the books. The greatest thrill is when someone comes up to me and says, oh, your book was the first I ever read and it made me want to go on reading. And that is a huge, huge reward for me.
REHMI hope that answers it, Jean. Thanks for calling. Let's go to Sarah in Tamarack, FL. You're on the air.
SARAHHi, Julie. Oh, my God, this is so exciting.
ANDREWSThank you, Sarah.
SARAHIt is because I grew up watching you, especially in "The Sound of Music." My family can tell you. I know literally every single word in the musical, especially, you know, the little debate you have with Christopher Plummer. My question to you is, what was it that inspired you to sing? And how did you break into the music realm? Because I am a musician and, you know, like, music to me is, you know, important. You know, so hearing you talk, you know, is just, you know, a big honor.
ANDREWSOh, thank you.
ANDREWSHow did I break in to the music world? Well, I was very, very fortunate a gift which was that I could sing. I mean, it was discovered by my stepfather as I was saying a little earlier and my mother. And they were in Vaudeville. And so for a long time, I joined them in their act as we toured. And then eventually I went out on my own. And I did a lot of radio and very little television because there wasn't that much around in those days.
ANDREWSBut then eventually I was performing in London and had really gone about as far as I could go. I was in a Christmas show, off Cinderella at the London Palladium. Somebody came to see that show that was actually taking the "Boyfriend," which was a British production to Broadway. And they asked if I would like to be in that company and travel to America. And at first I said, no, I simply couldn't. It's too long, too far. I take care of my kids.
REHMHow old were you at the time?
ANDREWSI was then 18.
ANDREWSAnd just couldn't think and I was being asked to sign a two-year contract. And finally, my dear father said, Julie, it could only last two months or two weeks. Just go and open up your head and bless his dear heart, because I did. And, of course, it changed my life. And that production was extremely successful, which led to "My Fair Lady," which led to "Camelot," which led ultimately to Walt Disney. So how lucky can a young girl get?
REHMAnd Tom Hanks is about to...
REHM...play Walt Disney.
ANDREWSYes. At "Finding Mr. Banks" I think is the title of the movie, which is coming out at Christmas and it's about Walt Disney's search for -- actually not search. It's about his tenacity and his finding P.L. Travers who wrote "Mary Poppins." He'd long wanted to buy the book.
REHMHe wasn't old, that nice person.
REHMAs it comes out in that film. We'll take a short break. And when we come back, talk further, take your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Dame Julie Andrews is with me. She is, of course, singer, actor, writer. She won the Academy Award for her starring role in "Mary Poppins" nearly 50 years ago.
ANDREWSI know. It's unbelievable.
REHMUnbelievable. And her latest book written with her daughter Emma is titled "The Very Fairy Princess Sparkles in the Snow." And I can attest to the fact that this book is just charming. You will love it. It's part of a Best-Selling children's book series co-written with her daughter Emma, who will join us in about five minutes. I want to talk to you a little bit about Dr. Steven Zeitels.
ANDREWSOh, I'd be thrilled to talk about him.
REHMHe was profiled in a wonderful article in the New Yorker last March. He has given you great hope.
ANDREWSYes, he has. Not only hope to me but hope to thousands, millions of people.
REHMMany, many singers.
ANDREWSHe's a gentleman that is probably the foremost throat larynx surgeon and doctor in the world now. He's in Boston and he is -- oh, he lives, breathes, eats -- I mean, really his life is dedicated to this work. And he has pioneered so many amazing things concerning this (word?) so that people who rate -- I'm talking about lawyers and people of the church who have to speak...
REHM...and radio broadcasters.
ANDREWSYes. And of course people with cancer and massive operations of the throat. He is able to restore voices and bring back -- save voices so they can still speak. And he is developing this amazing thing. We call it quote "the stuff," which is -- the hope is that it would be injectable and able to make, let's say, a frozen vocal cord or anything like that function again.
ANDREWSAnd it -- you cannot imagine, this is micro, micro surgery. And what you have to pioneer is something that -- forgive the expression -- is soft as a baby's behind and able at the same time to move...
REHMTo be resilient.
ANDREWS...to be resilient, to not be absorbed by the body and also to vibrate at such a rapid speed. I mean, it's asking for a miracle. And this has to be injected, so it must go through a needle. It must not cloy or clog or become stiff. It has to work. And I am speaking for him whenever I can. His foundation is phenomenal. I urge anybody with a really serious throat problem to go talk to him.
REHMSo that you have said, I understand, that even if something like that were to help you for as little as six weeks, you'd be up for it.
ANDREWSWell, I said to him -- no. I think that's what helped keep him going. I said, listen, I don't care if I come back in every six weeks, get another injection. I mean, to be able to sing again would be fabulous. Now in all honesty I don't fool myself. I'm older now and I probably -- it might be too late to my vocal cords but my God, what it will do for young singers on Broadway who, as I say, clash those vocal cords together. So many -- you know, eight performances a week and develop problems.
ANDREWSAnd voices should be maintained. You shouldn't keep away from a doctor. You should have maintenance while you're singing, so importantly. It's very, very important that you do that.
REHMJulie, I know you miss that beautiful four-and-a-half octave voice.
ANDREWSI do. I do.
REHMYou miss it but have you, in your heart now been able to move on?
ANDREWSOh, yeah. No, I have. I think I will always miss it in truth. It's a little bit like my lovely spouse. I'll always miss him.
ANDREWSBut yes, I have a very good life. I'm very busy. I'm thrilled at the amount of music I'm still able to embrace. And by that, it's the books. I'm on the board of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I'm a very, very proud member of the board. And I'm just swamped with glorious music which is all part of what I love. I think I have as good as it could possibly be these days. I'm a very lucky lady.
REHMAnd let's very shortly get Emma on with us. She really is your pride and joy.
ANDREWSWell, I have five lovely kids.
REHMI know you do.
ANDREWSBut this is the one that I work with in terms of the books and it's such a joy.
REHMEmma, are you there with us?
MS. EMMA WALTON HAMILTONI am. Good morning, Diane.
REHMI'm so glad to hear your voice.
HAMILTONWell, it's lovely to speak to you again.
REHMThank you. Emma, tell us about your role in the book and the musical "The Great American Mousical."
HAMILTONOh well, all our books that mom and I collaborate on together are co-written in a very sort of organic process. I wish I could describe properly but it really is very, very collaborative. And so we co-authored the book, although the original idea of course was inspired by this little story about a mouse in the theater where mom was working. I, when we wrote the book, at the time was running my own small regional theater out here in (word?) Harbor where I live. And my background was in theater and there were plenty of mice and other human characters to draw upon.
ANDREWSAs there are in most theaters.
HAMILTONYeah, so all the characters in the book are characters we know and love from our own shared life in the theater. And I wish I could say I'd had a more active role in the musical -- in the actual creation of the musical. I was very involved in the collaborative process leading up to production in terms of developing the scripts and the songs with our wonderful co-collaborators Hunter Bell and Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich who wrote the music and lyrics.
ANDREWSAnd they are good. I have to say, they are good.
HAMILTONAnd they are superb.
HAMILTONBut the show being produced at Goodspeed, which is in Connecticut, is in another state. And my day job and my family commitments here didn't allow me to be a part of the actual rehearsal process. So it's a great thrill to be there on opening night as a member of the audience.
REHMYeah. And what I've said is that I'm really hoping that that will come to Washington. It would just be a great treat for all of us.
HAMILTONWell, from your lips to whomever the powers that be in Washington's ears, Diane.
REHMI think they are listening. Here is an email, Julie, from Larry in North Dallas who says, "There is a scene in "Thoroughly Modern Millie" where Julie sings at a Jewish wedding and Larry says, "I want to compliment and thank her for her impeccable Yiddish." How did you manage to do that?
ANDREWSI had somebody help me.
REHMYou had someone help you.
ANDREWSYes, of course. I mean, you know, this incredibly sort of British lady -- white-bred English lady as they say. And I really had no idea how to go about it. And a wonderful lady came and coached me, let's say. And...
REHMEmma, did you ever hear your mother sing in Yiddish?
HAMILTONOh well, not before that moment, but many times since.
REHMThat's wonderful. Emma, I know you wrote a book titled raising bookworms. Tell us how you help children develop a love of reading.
HAMILTONOh, thank you, Diane. Yes. Well, I wrote the book really for two reasons. One, because it was in response, in an attempt to answer the questions that my mom and I were continually hearing when we went on speaking engagements and book signings together. And that was, how do I get my child to put down the electronics and pick up a book?
HAMILTONAnd also because of course I'm a mom and I have the same questions myself in my home. So I did write that book as a real exploration of the answers to that question. And, of course, also in my professional life I spend a lot of time attempting to answer that question. By most of my work outside of what I do with mom is in relationship to Stony Brook Southampton, which is the satellite campus of Stony Brook University. And I work for the MFA and creating writing and literature there. I teach children's literature.
HAMILTONAnd I run a children's literature fellows program for people who want to write children's books. But I also work in an outreach with high school and middle school students in our area and in New York City, bringing fiction, poetry, essay, playwriting, screenwriting workshops into the schools.
REHMWonderful. And I was asking your mother earlier about bringing your books to the electronic platform, onto iPads and iPods. What happening there?
HAMILTONWell, that's very much in process. And of course is very much the wave of the future in terms of the publishing industry. And many people, you know, argue is this reading if we allow our kids to read on electronic devices and so forth. But I'm a big advocate for it. My son has an eye issue that makes it challenging for him to read. And audio books provide a great solution for him. So audio books, e-books, I'm a big fan of all of those.
HAMILTONAnd we're just actually working right now with -- of course our publisher Little Brown has been great in terms of developing audio books and apps for all of our books, including "The Very Fairy Princess" series. And we're also working with a company called Weston Woods to make a short film of "The Very Fairy Princess" that will go out into schools and libraries.
REHMAll right. And...
ANDREWSIn fact, we're discussing the franchise of being developed for either a small series on television and things like that. There's a lot happening with all the books.
REHMWonderful. Julie, I asked you earlier about your commencement speech in Colorado. You talked to the students about fear. And I'm wondering at this stage in your life, what makes you fearful?
ANDREWSOh heavens, gosh, I think...
ANDREWSEmma, thank you.
ANDREWS...and balloons. Anything that explodes without my being able to have any...
ANDREWS...control of it. Exactly. It's a control issue. But I -- something about my ears being super sensitive, I don't know. But fireworks, I usually go and hide in the bathroom or something. But no real fear. I think it's always present in all of us. And what did I say to them about fear? Oh, I turned my fear of audiences and, you know, was I going to be good enough and all of that stupidity -- I turned it into the pleasure of giving. And once I discovered that, a great deal of the fear went away.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm going to quote what you told that audience.
ANDREWSOh, thank you, my dear.
REHMYou said, "Fear is just part of life."
REHM"The trick is to recognize it and press on anyway. The real trick, however, is to stop focusing...
REHM...on yourselves and start focusing on others."
ANDREWSYeah, and the giving, yeah. And that made all the difference for me. It was something that took me years to learn, you know. But it's true. I found it for myself and I highly recommend it.
REHMWe cannot let this hour pass without one of everybody's favorite musical from Julie Andrews.
REHMAnd you might just talk about that film coming out about the author P. L. Travers.
ANDREWSWell, I met her. She was quite a character. She was a tough, tough lady . And when I'd just given birth to Emma she literally called me the day after I gave birth and said, This is P. L. Travers. And I said, oh, hello Ms. Travers. I'd never met her. And she said, I understand you're going to be playing the part of Mary Poppins. And I said, yes. She said, well, talk to me. And I said, well, what can I say? I'm feeling a little exhausted right now. I just gave birth to my lovely daughter.
ANDREWSAnd she said, well, she said, you're far too pretty for it of course but you've got the nose for it. And then the movie is about Disney and how he wooed her for something like 20 years. Actually he was the honey bun. She was the toughie.
ANDREWSYes, indeed. And I can attest to that.
REHMAnd what about the Banks family itself?
ANDREWSWell, the Banks -- actually what the movie is about mostly is, as I say, Disney's wooing of Pamela Travers. But actually the basis of the film is all about her background and what led to her -- what influences led to her writing Mary Poppins. And it's a very interesting story.
REHMI'll look forward to seeing it. Most of all I'm looking forward to reading your next book, seeing you again. The book "The Very Fairy Princess Sparkles in the Snow" by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton. What a joy to see you.
ANDREWSOh, you too, Diane. And Emma, I'll see you soon darling.
HAMILTONLove you, Mom.
REHMThank you so much and thanks all for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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