|Cover for Catherine's new book:|
image used with permission
Chloe: A Wrinkle in Time is a story that has been significant to Boomers, Generation X, and now younger generations. You wrote in your memoir that the movie was about giving others a chance to create a new narrative for their generation. As the producer, you chose Jennifer Lee, a Gen Xer, to write the script, and in the movie, the father (played by Chris Pine) stands out as distinctly Gen X because of the pop cultural references he makes. The heroine in the story is Meg, a Generation Z girl (played by Storm Reid) who has a beautiful mind and a big heart. Would you say this is a story that connects generations?
Catherine: Absolutely! The enduring wisdom of A Wrinkle in Time is that we are all on a journey to discover who we fully are and our place in the universe. I think everyone wants to believe in the power of love and Madeleine reminds us that love is action, not just a feeling. My hope is that Gen Xers will find something familiar in a memoir told from a Boomer's point of view.
Chloe: My own reference point for Wrinkle is that I remember seeing it on the desks of my elementary school classmates in the mid-1980's. I was intrigued by the way the book seemed to have a mysterious or even mystical presence to it, so I checked it out from my school library and experienced the story for myself. Not only does the story fit into the sci-fantasy genre, it also covers the spiritually esoteric concept of tessering ('wrinkling' space and time). What would you say initially intrigued you most about the book when you first discovered it as a child in the 1960's?
Catherine: I wasn't a great reader before a I read A Wrinkle in Time. I wanted to be outside climbing trees or playing kickball. I never knew books could inspire in me the desire to find answers to so many questions. Who were Euclid, Michelangelo, and Buddha – all mentioned as fighters in the story – and what did they have in common with Jesus? I was also very excited to discover that a girl – even a girl who was trying to get rid of her faults – could be a hero. Most significantly, the book gave me hope when President Kennedy was assassinated.
Chloe: Even when we have some of the connections to help us achieve a dream, we still have to work incredibly hard and forge through roadblocks to make our dreams tangible. In your memoir, you write about your journey of becoming a fighter, a warrior, in a way that can help others do the same. Someone with a dream they are working toward could read your book and use it to help them as a sort of roadmap to overcome their own obstacles. Can you share your thoughts on this?
Catherine: No two journeys are the same, but hopefully reading about how I overcame my obstacles will inspire others to find ways to overcome their own. I found great wisdom in Robert Louis Stevenson's quote, "It's better to travel hopefully than to arrive." My hopefulness was my guide that sustained me, I think one other thing to remember is that a dream is a living idea – it will evolve as you evolve. Mentors and supporters can be found in the most unlikely places – no one achieves a dream on their own. As you build your team, learn from others, and let your dream expand with new insights to make it better!
Chloe: What was the best part about reading A Wrinkle in Time as a child in the 1960's, the best part of producing the movie (2018), and what was the best part about writing your memoir which you are now launching?
|Times Square when the movie was released - and a beautiful moment in|
the heroine's journey of Catherine Hand (Image used with permission)
Catherine: The best part of reading A Wrinkle in Time as a child in the 1960's was the excitement I felt when I discovered that a young girl could do something her father couldn't, and learning that the darkness I felt after President Kennedy's assassination could be overcome. The best part of producing the movie was seeing the Disney logo come up on the screen. It was such a meaningful connection to the promise I made to myself 50 years prior. The best part of writing my memoir was to discover why I spent those 50 years trying to bring my childhood dream to fruition. Why did I do it? I feel very satisfied with what I found and hope readers of my memoir will too.
Chloe: Because many of the readers of this blog have a strong interest in generational issues and the historical events interconnected with those issues, I wanted to mention how fascinating your life story is. You found yourself right at an intersection of American politics and culture through the decades of your career. Your father worked for LBJ, you met Reagan, and you worked for the Obama administration – you were present for events and conversations that affected history. And because you worked in Hollywood with Norman Lear, helping to shape the sitcoms that became the backdrop of politics and pop culture of both the Boomer and Generation X experience, you have a deep understanding of the fabric of American culture. If you could boil down the wisdom you have gathered from all of these experiences, what would that advice be?
Catherine: Wow – that is a tough question. I would have to say the simplest and best advice I received from Norman Lear, Madeline L'Engle, and my parents – in different words, but the same meaning is this: You can go through life two ways – seeing the glass half empty or the glass half full. I have found seeing the glass half full provides a richer, more meaningful life. We cannot give up on our country – ever. There were many people throughout history who never gave up on a more hopeful future. It's our turn to do that now. Seeing the glass half full gives us the hope we need to find the common threads that can bind us together.
Chloe: Readers of this blog are primarily Generation X, so it is especially appreciated that you chose a Gen Xer, Ava Duvernay, to direct the film. She has an impressive portfolio including the amazing Selma, and the stunningly beautiful video, Black America Again. What wisdom and perspective did Ava bring to the project that you want to make sure people learn from?
Catherine: Ava's vision to hire a diverse cast and crew brought the story into the 21st century and it was the absolute right vision for the time in which we live. She brought such passion to the project and really cared about telling this story through the eyes not just of a young Generation Z girl, but one who is also biracial. Her vision matters and will impact young people in ways I can't even imagine. Who knows? Maybe there is a ten-year-old girl – or boy who sees the film and is inspired by Ava's vision as much as I was by Madeleine's in 1963 and creates something remarkable because of it.
Chloe: In your book, you talk about how the connection between Ava and Oprah was like the one between you and Madeleine L'Engle – can you tell us more about that?
Catherine: It was wonderful to see how much they admired and respected one another and very apparent how proud Oprah was of Ava. I had the same kind of support and encouragement from Madeleine which made it even more poignant for me to watch them interact with each other. Madeleine was a great mentor in every sense of the word. I feel very grateful to have had her in my corner and I'm sure Ava feels the same about Oprah.
Chloe: My daughter and I recently watched the movie together and loved it. For Christmas this year, I plan to give her a copy of A Wrinkle in Time and a copy of your memoir along with it. As women, it is so important for us to make promises to ourselves that are kept – to have dreams we commit to. Your book discusses feminism and the ways you experienced the glass ceiling you had to break through to accomplish your dream. As we look at the work that women of your generation did, and continue to do, to lay the groundwork for women in the future, what advice would you say that Gen X moms should give to our Generation Z daughters?
Catherine: The Boomer Generation had more opportunities, because of the hard work of the women before us. I was amazed at how much had changed and for the better when working with the Gen Xers on the film. There were more women in roles of authority and responsibility. When we were looking to hire a screenwriter for Wrinkle in 1980 there were no women screenwriters with any kind of track record. In 2018, Jennifer Lee, the screenwriter for A Wrinkle in Time, had just come off Frozen, one of the most successful films in Disney's history and she won the Academy Award for her effort! Don't let setbacks set you back. One of my mother's favorite sayings has become mine, too: When God closes a door, he always opens a window. You will have challenges just like the generation before you and when you think a door has closed, look for the window.
Chloe: Because Madeline L'Engle was from the GI Generation, she had a lot of wisdom from all she experienced throughout the 20th century. She was born in 1918 at the time we last experienced a pandemic, and experienced the Great Depression and lived through multiple wars. She was one of the greatest minds of our time both in science and theology, and she was the person who gave you spiritual direction through the transitions and hardships of your life until she passed in 2007. What advice do you think she might want to give us at this point in history in which we find ourselves?
Catherine: I can't possibly know what advice Madeleine would give us. However, there are two words she often spoke about that came to mind when thinking about your question: free will. I love something she once said to me and I share it in the book: "God created us with free will so that we do have a say in our own story. It's not taken away from us, we are not manipulated, and it's not pre-ordained. If I have to say what I believe about God, it is that we are called to be co-creators. God didn't make a universe and finish it!". We do live in troubled times and we have the free will to change that.
Chloe: You have moved through the journey of your life with a calling and a divine spark. What struck me most deeply about your memoir, as you made your way through life-altering loss, is the prayer you prayed: "Help me find the light within." Was this a prayer you created yourself or was it one you learned from someone else?
|(c) Tony Powell - image used with permission|
There is the heroic journey Jennifer Lee took to believe in herself as a screenwriter, the heroic journey that Ava Duvernay took from a journalist to an activist filmmaker. There is the heroic journey of the main character in Wrinkle who finds love as the ultimate answer, and there is the heroic journey of Catherine Hand, who did not give up on a dream through the course of five decades. In the the struggle of those years, and on the journey of staying true to herself, she found an infinite and eternal light.
Whether you are on a hero's journey, or a heroine's journey, may you find the light within this holiday season and into the new year.
(c) 2022 all rights reserved - interview by Chloe Koffas
All images used with permission from Catherine Hand
"Life at best is a precarious business and we aren't told that difficult or painful things won't happen, just that it matters. It matters not just to us but to the entire universe."