John R. Green: “Do not be fearful of making grammatical or syntax errors”

I want all parents, especially fathers, to understand the value of engaging with nurturing bedtime rituals with their children. And I want children who read the books to understand how powerful their imaginations are and how fun it can be to go to sleep thinking about fun dreams they will have at night. As part of […]

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I want all parents, especially fathers, to understand the value of engaging with nurturing bedtime rituals with their children. And I want children who read the books to understand how powerful their imaginations are and how fun it can be to go to sleep thinking about fun dreams they will have at night.

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing John R. Green.

John R. Green is a multiple Emmy and Peabody Award-winning TV news and documentary writer. He is a 25-year veteran of ABC News, where he currently serves as Executive Producer of Special Programming, as well as Executive Vice President of Rock’n Robin Productions in New York City. A St. Louis, Missouri native and graduate of the city’s esteemed Washington University, Green additionally holds a master’s degree in Mass Communications from Boston University. Green and his husband, Anthony, reside in New Jersey with their twin children, AJ and Francesca.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

I have been working as a journalist for 30 years, most of that writing and producing news and documentary programming for ABC News. But when I became an “older” father of twins at age 45 I reacquainted myself with all the classic children’s books, both the classics I remember from my youth, and newer stories that have become popular in recent years. When my kids started having trouble falling asleep because of bedtime fears, I created rituals to help them fall asleep feeling safe and secure, which became the inspiration for the two kids’ books I recently wrote, Dream Grabber and Dream Jumper.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

The most impactful story I ever covered as a journalist was the September 11th terror attacks of 2001. I was running the live control room at “Good Morning America” and had to digest what was happening in real time while guiding our on-camera team through our coverage. It was terrifying, but also confirming that I made the right career decision because I knew we were all helping the nation understand what was happening and what to do in the weeks that followed. On a lighter note, my most interesting career moment came in the late 90’s when I was fortunate to travel to Cuba for the Pope’s historic visit there. While in Cuba, the news anchor and I had the pleasure to meet and interview a 100-year-old man named Gregorio Fuentes in a small fishing village. That man was a friend of Ernest Hemingway and the inspiration for “The Old Man and the Sea”, one of my favorite classic novels.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?

My biggest challenge in becoming a writer of non-fiction came very early in my career when I needed to learn more about the fundamental rules and standards of journalism. I was fortunate to get accepted and receive a scholarship from one of the nation’s leading Communications graduate schools and spend two years learning from some of the most experienced writers in America. That gave me the foundation and confidence to move forward with a career as a television writer and producer.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was a 23 year-old entry level part-time news writer for a local TV news station in Boston. It was election night, and I was assigned to monitor the local city and county races and update the news anchors. After proudly filling out my first update for the anchors which I thought was reportable, the anchor came over to me and chastised me for sending her election results without any reference to the percentage of votes counted. (only 1% of the vote was tabulated at that point!) I was embarrassed, but I learned a valuable lesson about election coverage.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am currently working on several documentaries, including one on the famed Tuskegee Airmen, and another on the “Women of 9/11”, a deep dive into the stories of female heroes and relatives of the fallen that will air in September 2021 on the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

My books are based on real bedtime rituals I created for my young children a few years ago when they were struggling at bedtime. My son was afraid of nightmares. My daughter was afraid to be alone in her bedroom and in her dreams. The stories I created explained the magic powers I have to remove bad dreams out of my son’s head and replace them with good dreams floating invisibly in the air. And for my daughter my magic made it possible for me to jump into her dreams with her so we could be together while both asleep in our separate bedrooms. These rituals came from my imagination, but I repeated them night after night with my kids for several months until their fears were gone. Several years later, and now 8-years old, the twins often ask me to tell them these stories.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

I want all parents, especially fathers, to understand the value of engaging with nurturing bedtime rituals with their children. And I want children who read the books to understand how powerful their imaginations are and how fun it can be to go to sleep thinking about fun dreams they will have at night.

Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.

I truly believe everyone has a story that is worthy of becoming a book. My 5 suggestions for becoming an author are…

  1. Write about what you know. In most cases that’s something authentic to your life.
  2. Don’t worry about writing about mundane things you experience because what is mundane to you could be very inspiring and relatable to others.
  3. Take notes the second an idea, memory, or motivation for your story hits you. You really have to grab those thoughts and memorialize them before you forget them.
  4. Before the actual writing begins, decide how you want to begin and end the story, and then fill out the essential beats of the narrative you want in between.
  5. Do not be fearful of making grammatical or syntax errors. There are great copywriters and editors all over the country.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?

My passion for writing fueled my interest and whatever talent I may have as a writer, and it started when I was very young. At 10-years-old I was fascinated with reading and analyzing the structure of our hometown newspaper, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and it inspired me to start writing and publishing a family newspaper. I typed it (only one copy) on my mother’s beat up type writer and posted a one page edition each week on our refrigerator. Not quite a commercial success, but hey, writers have to start somewhere, right?

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I draw inspiration from biographies and auto-biographies because they often tell the story of the power of one individual’s spirit, and those subjects deserve great credit for putting their personal lives out there in the public domain.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would start a kindness movement that would promote acceptance and validation of our fellow man (and woman). No matter where you come from, what G-d you pray to, what you do for a living, what you look like, or what your politics are, every single human on this planet deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. What many people don’t realize is that being kind to others is, ultimately, a gift to one’s self.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My Instagram is @JohnRGreen526 and my twitter is @JohnGreenABC. Information about me and the books I have written can be found at or by following @timetodreambooks on Facebook and Instagram.

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