Amy Krouse Rosenthal, J87
By Kristin Livingston
Fifteen years ago Amy Krouse Rosenthal, J87, of Chicago, Ill., was at a McDonald’s with two of her three children when she had a “McEpiphany”: she was going to give writing a real shot. But what started as a need to put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard—has since morphed into a catalogue of interactive works, from bestselling children’s books to a radio blog to reader meet-ups, all sharing the same message: connect with each other and the world—and savor life.
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life is Rosenthal’s 2005 autobiography of those loud, calm, funny, spectacular, or simple moments that remind readers to take more stock in the everyday. One lucky reader who submitted the 100th “Purple Flower Moment” to Rosenthal (see page 167 of Ordinary Life for instructions) received a homemade pie in the mail. Audience interaction bloomed from there.
Duck! Rabbit!, Rosenthal's bestselling picture book, tells the story of two minds that think alike in unique ways.
What we might make together
In 2008, Rosenthal made a short video called 17 Things I Made. She writes, “I just went around my house and filmed things that I had made, from my kids, to a book, to a mess, to a sandwich, and a whole hodgepodge of things.” The close of the video invited viewers to meet her at “The Bean” (officially known as the Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park) on 8/08/08, “because I was thinking, who cares about the things I made? What’s really interesting is what we might make together as a group.”
Hundreds of enthusiastic fans showed up to support a surprised and humbled Rosenthal. “It was incredible. It was a beautiful summer evening and the crowd that was there was sort of self-selecting. The invitation was pretty vague, but you knew it was going to be something bringing people together, rooted in connection, adventure, and a bit of mystery, with a vibe of positive energy.”
What happened was a series of happy moments catalyzed by Rosenthal. Fans have since occupied the Bean every year to “collaborate with the universe” by sharing stories and cultivating love and confidence.
The result, on 11/11/11, was the YouTube premiere of the feature film, The Beckoning of Lovely. Thousands leant their voices, talent, and perspective into this collage whose message is clear: “we are all one.”
“It started off as this tiny thing,” she writes, “a seed in the palm of my hand, but once it sprouted it became so big. I was just tending to it, and then it became everybody’s.”
Make the most of your time here
Of the happy beginnings sprung from Beckoning, she writes of a college student who met the love of her life that night at the Bean. “And I hear from people from other parts of the globe who find the project right at the moment when they’re going through something. They find the videos and the message speaks to them at that moment in time to help them.”
The first gathering on 8/08/08 for The Beckoning of Lovely
One viewer was a nurse caring for a 20-year-old patient dying of a heart defect. “She was really moved by his outlook on life and ended up telling him to make the most of his time here”—the last message of the film. “He wrote down the message in her journal and she had a tattoo of ‘Make the most of your time here’ done in his handwriting.”
Inspiration like this, writes Rosenthal, is threaded into every part of every day. “It’s life; there’s no secret other than this is what you’re excited to do, wired to do, and paying attention to do.” Her passion for creativity, collaboration, writing, and observing all factor into what’s on the horizon—and while she is passing the 12/12/12 baton to new hands (“I want it to have symbolic space between my official role in this and passing it on to the world”), anything is possible.
Watch, read, listen, respond, or sing along to Rosenthal’s works at whoisamy.com.