035: Gwen Gordon – The Wonderful W

The Power of an Adult Picture Book About Play

Gwen Gordon is an Emmy award-winning creative director who began a life of play designing and building Muppets for Sesame Street.

She is the author of The Wonderful W, a picture book for grownups.

Today, Gwen continues to spread the gospel of play to organizations and individuals as a contributor to the Huffington Post, speaker, consultant, facilitator, and coach.

On this podcast, she talks about miracles and her process of writing a children’s book for adults.

What We Discuss with Gwen Gordon:

  • The tiny miracles she’s giving to other people
  • How walking into the Sesame Street studio changed her life
  • From a playground to a proving ground
  • How the idea of writing her book came about
  • Writing for your readers to really listen to you
  • The feedback she got from her friends who read her book
  • Get the Guide to Finding Your Wonderful W eBook

[02:35] Creating Tiny Miracles for People

When she was 14 years old, Gwen was into gymnastics and had an accident on a trampoline. 

Her mom gifted her with 50 pounds of porcelain clay to keep her occupied and she began making tiny sculptures of 3D stars and painted them with bright colors.

She then gave these miracles to whoever came and visited her.

Those miracles were a symbol of stepping into the unknown into a whole new realm of possibilities and letting go of something you love.

[05:55] Designing for Sesame Street

When Gwen became more mobile, she began sewing stuffed objects, until finally, sewing her own clothes.

By senior year of high school, she went to Holland and decided to do a children’s book for grownups which was about her life story as a rabbit. She illustrated it and sent it off and got accepted to college.

When she was a Sophomore in Cambridge, she made her first crocheted blue bird puppet and sent it to Sesame Street as if she was applying for a job. She also showed her book and got the job.

Gwen then moved to New York and built Muppets for two years – a total dream job!

[09:50] From a Playground to a Proving Ground

Two years after, Sesame Street turned “corporate” and the culture was just changing at the workshop until they eventually moved out.

Because of the culture change, people got disheartened and this affected their creativity.

They basically transitioned from a place of joy and creativity to “serving the beast,” having to prove themselves, which sucked the joy out of it.

[16:10] The Wonderful W

The idea of this book was born from her creating a Welcome poster for her friend who moved to the Bay Area.

When she visited her once, the W was missing and thought the W was quite important since she didn’t feel very welcome. That’s when the idea popped of how important W’s are.

Then there was this idea of “whole” and “hole.”

Her friend has this habit of focusing on what’s wrong, bad, and missing. When she had her 40th birthday, Gwen gave her a new “W.”

This also formed part of her story about a shift from thinking about “holes” to “be whole.” So the W is a state of mind that can shift that perspective from what’s missing to what’s already enough. She wrote a story which she read for her friend on her birthday.

Gwen went on a 6-day silent meditation retreat without any writing so she ended up writing on 69 pages of her journal.

[23:50] Creating with Delight

We are shaping ourselves in the same way we’re shaping our own projects.

Unfortunately, people don’t like to talk about their own deficiencies and you could feel you’re alone sometimes.

[28:23] Getting Feedback from Friends and Publishing the Book

Sharing the book to her friends, Gwen received overwhelmingly positive feedback on her book. She also gave her friends some W necklace charms to remind them of their wholeness.

When she sent the book to agents and publishers, they didn’t know which genre it belonged to. But she went ahead with self-publishing it!

[35:22] Gwen’s Advice to Aspiring Writers Yet Unsure

Sit long enough and see how tolerable it is to not write it. See how that feels. If it’s easy to write it than not to write it, then clearly, that’s what you need to follow.

Keep following your joy in the writing and keep following your flow.

Episode Resources:

Buy a copy of Gwen’s book,  The Wonderful W and also get Princess Willa’s Official Guide to Finding Your Wonderful W for free.

Check out Gwen’s website!  

Watch Gwen’s TEDx Talk:

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035: Gwen Gordon - The Wonderful W035: Gwen Gordon - The Wonderful W

035: Gwen Gordon - The Wonderful W