Performed by Val Cole
What is your novel about?
This novel is about an adventurous young Panda named Mei Meng. She travels with her parents deep into the mountains of China to escape the destruction of her habitat by human beings. When she is swept away by a raging river, she meets all sorts of fantastic animals on the journey home. Some of them want to help her. Some do not. Surprisingly, her best allies are the human children she meets along the way.
What genres would you say this novel is in?
It is definitely a fantasy. It is a children’s book, aimed at the middle-grade audience. It is one hundred twenty two pages without any illustrations. It defies classification as most children’s books are not that long.
How would you describe this story in two words?
Child explorer. If this story was on Disney Family Channel it would be something like “Panda Meets World.” Mei Meng leaves her little corner of the mountain where she lives, and becomes a world explorer. At the end of the book she even has a telescope so she can keep track of her human friends.
What movie have you seen the most in your life?
It is a tie between “Forrest Gump” and “American Graffiti.” The Forrest Gump character exemplifies the triumph of the simple man, the pure at heart.
American Graffiti has a great story line and a cast of a dozen or more actors who went on to have outstanding careers.
An example of why I like this movie: when Harrison Ford (aka Bob Falfa) drives into town in his jalopy to challenge Paul Le Mat to a race, his license plate is THX 1138. Why is that important? This is the title of the first George Lucas feature film, a science fiction classic. I probably saw “American Graffiti” ten times before I picked up on this.
How long have you been working on this story?
It took me a few months to write. I did a lot of research on interesting Mandarin names for the characters. For example, Mei Meng’s good friend is a funny snow leopard named Chun Bao, which means Silly Leopard. A scary Siberian tiger is named Di Zheng, which means earthquake. He is so huge that every step he takes shakes the earth.
Do you have an all-time favorite novel?
I’ll nominate two books. One is “The Magic Barrel” by Bernard Malamud (although it is a collection of short stories that won the National Book Award in the nineteen fifties) and “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway.
What motivated you to write this story?
I felt like writing something lyrical, fantasy-world that would go deep into mythology and have a totally sympathetic main character. It was also meant as a “welcome to the world” present for my daughter. This is not “Kung Fu Panda” by any means. It moves at a slower pace and is more emotional and mystical than slapstick. It also emphasizes the importance of the family, both panda and human.
If you could have dinner with one person (dead or alive), who would that be?
Leonardo Da Vinci. I would ask him, “How did you accomplish all the things you did in so many different areas?” Unlike Da Vinci, I write my ideas down in spiral notebooks, instead of an ornate leather bound Codex (which Bill Gates paid millions of dollars for). Maybe that’s the secret.
Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Being outdoors. Hiking in the hills, kayaking, white water rafting, paddle boarding. I am a fan of American college football and find the games more exciting than the usual NFL product.
What influenced you to enter your novel to get performed?
I wanted to hear different voices speak the lines of dialogue and the narration. I also hope to attract some interest for the book. At the very least I would like to find an illustrator. I would like to have the illustrations done in the style of traditional Chinese paintings. All the different animals and natural environments would allow an artist to create many interesting canvasses. If I were to engage in a little “exponential thinking” I would like to:
Have the book translated and published in China.
Have the book made into a movie for the Chinese market.
Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Inspiration can come from anywhere at anytime. Sometimes your subconscious pulls together elements from events in your own life and combines them with elements from literature and mythology. There is a flash of lightning in your head and suddenly you know what your project is about. This has been my experience.
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson