Emmy Award-winning ABC TV producer and writer John R. Green is a proud dad. His 8-year old twins inspired him to create companion children's books that transform bedtime rituals into whimsical adventures.
Green's twins, A.J. and Francesca, had issues when it came to getting a good night sleep. That prompted the New Jersey resident to develop Dream Grabber and Dream Jumper (Archway Publishing) based on his real-life experiences with his children.
"Two miracles happened in my life eight years ago when my children were born. I was a 45-year old first-time dad. I had just been diagnosed with cancer. There was no guarantee of what my future would be or if I would be alive to watch my kids grow up. When that happened I said this is the time for you to double down and puruse passions outside of work, pay it forward. Everything that I had put on the back burner I put on the front burner. First and foremost was taking care of my kids and making sure they had a nice environment to be in and would prosper as they grew older. About three years into being a dad my kids started suffering from sleep issues. For my son A.J., the problem was he was scared of nightmares. My daughter Francesca had a different problem. She just didn't want to be alone at night."
That led to the 26-year ABC News veteran to tap into his creative mind for some solutions.
"I created some rituals. The ritual I created for A.J. was by rubbing his head I could actually see the bad dreams inside of his head , and with my magic powers, I could pull those dreams out, throw them up into the sky."
Then A.J. questioned "What would he dream about now since there's nothing left in there?" Green quickly replied that through his dad's magical powers he could also see the good dreams flying around, visibly in the sky, and grab them and put them into his son's head.
Green says that became their ritual at night. It worked for A.J. He started to start to fall asleep and lost his fear of nightmares. That's the genesis of Dream Grabber.
When it came to Francesca, who was fearful of being alone at night, Green created a safe world where he could jump into her dreams.
"Every night before she goes to bed, and we still do this today when she's eight years old, we sit and creatively brainstorm about where we want to go, some exotic place on Earth or what kind of dreams we want to jump into together. The very first one she wanted was to slide down a rainbow with me into a pool of teddy bears. That was the inspiration for Dream Jumper."
What is the biggest difference from writing and producing prime-time news and entertainment specials for ABC and authoring children's books?
"You're writing for a specific audience, kids between the age of four and seven, and most of them will be read the book by their parents. I wrote the books in verse. My kids love rhyme and most of the kids I know love rhyme. I definitely don't my write documentaries in verse or news or news packages in verse (chuckles). I don't know if I could do that. That was a lot of fun. I think the challenge in writing children's books in my experience is making the words that will evoke images, I want the words to also feel illustrated."
Green says he's also thrilled with the illustrations by Susan Shorter in his new books.
Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts, a long-time colleague , friend and business partner of John R. Green, endorses both books and shares, "Dream Jumper will have you jumping for joy! Such a heartwarming read with beautiful illustrations."
Green has enjoyed his role as Executive VP of Rock'n'Robin Productions in New York City.
"She has always been a colleague and friend that nurtured my passions. About six years we started a production company together. She's just a true beautiful human being. Everything you see, when you see her on Good Morning America or other shows is exactly who she is."
Looking back at his amazing career at ABC News that he's not giving up, Green says he will never forget when he was running the live show for Good Morning America on September 11, 2001.
"That experience led to weeks and weeks of round-the-clock coverage on September 11, the aftermath and recovering of the victims, the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and our fight against terrorism, I just thinked that changed everybody's life. It's similar in a way to how the pandemic has changed everybody's life but the pandemic story is not over yet. We're kind of in the middle of it right now."
Has Green discovered something new about himself by writing Dream Grabber and Dream Jumper?
"I would say yes. That part is the child in me. Going through the process of writing these books and spending the time with my kids, especially now that they are able to communicate and we can share stories with one another, I feel transported back in time to when I was eight years old. The kids are fascinated to hear the stories of what my life was back then. We called them Little Johnny Green stories. They love hear about those stories. The thing I've learned about my myself is that I'm still that kid. I'm kind of living my childhood again through my own kids."
Green admits he too has experienced severe sleep issues for many years.
"I actually have suffered, on and off, with nightmares and even night terrors where I wake up screaming. It doesn't happen as often as it used to when I was in my 20's and 30's but I sought help from a doctor. What they said was you're just one of these people who harbors a lot of your anxiety and a lot of your thought processes in your head as you're going to sleep and you don't have great sleep habits. You don't do anything to put yourself in the right mode for a peaceful night of sleep and they're right. I'm on my work email up until I turn the light out. I know of course have an iPhone in my hand. I don't do what the doctors recommend so I have myself to blame. I get a pretty good night of sleep I would say six out of seven nights a week but there's always one night a week where I'm awakened by a nightmare."
John R. Green is a multiple Emmy and Peabody Award-winner who currently serves as Executive Producer of Special Programming at ABC News. The St. Louis, Missouri native and graduate of the city's esteemed Washington Unviersity holds a master's degree in Mass Communications from Boston University.
Green and his husband, Anthony, reside in New Jersey with their twins A.J. and Francesca.
Both children's books are now available for presale through Amazon and will officially be rleased at Barnes & Noble and Amazon on November 10 through Archway Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster.
Green has also establashed a website for more information at timetodreambooks.com.
Click above to hear the entire conversation with John R. Green including a look back at some of the other major stories he's covered for ABC News and his thoughts on legendary anchor and jazz fan, the late Peter Jennings.