Dylan Dreyer, MISTY THE CLOUD: Friends Through Rain or Shine

Dylan Dreyer, MISTY THE CLOUD: Friends Through Rain or Shine

Former CBS News correspondent and guest host Julianna Goldman interviews NBC News and Today Show meteorologist Dylan Dreyer about her Misty the Cloud picture book series. Dylan shares the original idea that inspired her to create Misty, how she incorporates real weather facts into each story, and what it is like working at the Today Show. Julianna and Dylan also talk about the importance of introducing young girls to STEM subjects and what she’s been reading recently.


Julianna Goldman: Dylan Dryer, thank you so much for being here.

Dylan Dreyer: It’s so nice to be with you.

Julianna: Tell us about Misty the Cloud. Who is this mysterious character?

Dylan: This mysterious character was just a figment of my imagination. I’ve always looked up at the sky as a meteorologist, but beyond that, thinking, what if there was this really cool world up in the sky? like when we’re little and we’re scared of thunder and your mom says, it’s just the angels bowling. What if there were actually clouds up there doing something that made the weather as it is? In the case of the first book, it was Misty having a bad day. It turns into this thunderstorm. In the second book, it’s about sunshine and clouds competing for the same space in the sky. They have to learn to share, compromise, and work together. Beautiful things happen when they do. In this case, a rainbow.

Julianna: Do you think you had to be a mom to come up with this concept?

Dylan: It’s funny because my husband and I first came up with this concept years ago when we first moved to New York City before we ever had kids. The book didn’t come out until last year. It goes to show how much goes into trying to pitch an idea like this, trying to sell this idea to somebody. Then once we had kids, over the course of that time, we really changed how we approached the book. I had to find a coauthor who could write in the voice of a children’s book author. I realized that I didn’t know how to write like a children’s book author because I’m a scientist. I also didn’t have kids when I wrote the first iterations of the book. Now that I have kids, I read to them all the time. I realize it’s just a cadence. It’s a different way of writing. It’s a way that is fun for adults but also enjoyable for kids to listen to. We definitely had to change a lot. Kids played a big role in that once we got closer to actually getting this done.

Julianna: What’s an example of something that you wrote before you had a kid that then you changed?

Dylan: First, the book was called Puff instead of Misty the Cloud. It had to be more specific. I realized Puff could be really anything. Obviously, in our minds, it’s “Puff the Magic Dragon.” It was so much wordier. I realized when I wrote the first couple of books, it was this Word document that was so many pages long and so detailed and so wordy that it was almost tedious to read out loud. Now I notice, okay, let’s let the pictures do a lot of the talking. Let’s keep the dialogue nice and short. Let’s make it fun for kids and easy to understand. We definitely simplified it a lot. Rosie, our illustrator, Rosie Butcher, put so much of the context into the pictures themselves, so we didn’t have to say everything with words.

Julianna: The graphics are so beautiful and so fun and whimsical.

Dylan: Thank you. It was incredible that what you see is literally what was in my head. The fact that Rosie was able to take my abstract descriptions of what I wanted the characters in this world to look like and put it into something like this book, I don’t know how she did it. She’s amazing.

Julianna: One of the things that I loved so much in the book as a mom — I have two young kids. I can’t wait to read this with them. On days when it’s raining, I’m like, the clouds are crying. See, some days, the clouds have sad days too. Admittedly, sometimes I’ll say the clouds are peeing just to try and break up a fight or something.

Dylan: We have tried to work that in, but we’re not sure, appropriately, we can do that yet.

Julianna: Really? I love it. I endorse. I love that there’s a little bit more science to this. There are other things that could be going on in the sky aside from the clouds crying or peeing.

Dylan: That’s what I’ve been having so much fun with. The first book, it really made so much sense to me to correlate this feeling of waking up on the wrong side of the bed and having things seem to pile up. Your frustrations and your anger develops over the course of the day. You just explode in this really bad mood, kind of like how a thunderstorm develops over the course of the day and explodes into a thunderstorm. With the second book, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t like every time it was raining, Misty’s having a bad day. In some areas, it can rain a lot. I want Misty to be a happy character and a character that everybody can relate with. I want kids to be able to relate to being in a bad mood. Also, in this particular book, it’s just, they’re playing a fun water game. You never know exactly what’s happening as to why it’s raining in your particular area here on earth. I wanted to give so many different options. That’s what’s been so fun.

I first come up with a weather element that I want to talk about, whether it’s thunderstorms — this one happened to be rainbows. In the future, I want to talk about fog. I come up with the science behind, okay, here’s why it happens. How can we work that into some emotions? There’s this odd parallel between the weather and our emotions. I think it dictates how we feel. I know there are times where I want to go out and grab a drink with some friends because it’s nice and sunny. Then all of a sudden, it gets cloudy. I’m like, I just feel like sitting at home. It dictates how I feel all the time. That’s what’s been fun. It’s like this little puzzle to put together. What would be happening up in the clouds from an emotional standpoint that would make a foggy day, that would make a sunny day, that would make a tornado or a hurricane, some severe weather? It’s really been a fun puzzle to put together. We have so many ideas in the pipeline of what we could actually do with the science behind it because I love that element to it.

Julianna: I think it’s so brilliant to link weather patterns and emotions. I know even just dealing with my own kids this morning and finally getting them off to school and feeling like I had just experienced a tornado. Also, it teaches kids that — it reminds them the emotions that they feel are what we feel also. It relates that back to them, which is really important.

Dylan: Exactly. That’s one thing I’ve learned now having three kids of my own, especially my oldest son, who is just sometimes an emotional roller coaster. I want to talk about emotions, and not-great emotions too, like when you feel angry or feel frustrated or you just want to scream. I feel like they have all those emotions. It’s okay to feel that way. What’s important is what you do with those emotions because the way you react to something or the way you act in general impacts people around you, just like whatever happens in the weather world, it impacts all of us here on the ground, whether it’s raining or it’s sunny or it’s a drought because it’s not raining. Maybe there’s an issue going on there. I want the book in and of itself to be about emotions and how you handle those emotions and how you talk about those emotions and relate those to what kids can understand. We don’t beat you over the head with the science in the book. Yes, it’s kind of the backstory with weather. The back pages are for the science. There are some kids who really just have this passion for weather and have always loved it. That’s where I can explain the science behind a thunderstorm or a rainbow or fog or whatever the weather element is. It helps teachers, too, and parents who are trying to explain this. For the kids who don’t want to get into the science, they like weather but don’t want to know the backstory, then they could just skip those pages.

Julianna: I appreciate you saying that about your son because I often feel that way about my son as well. I feel like sometimes these kinds of books might be a little more gendered and speak more to girls versus boys. It’s so nice that you read this, and it doesn’t feel that way.

Dylan: I’m glad you say that because that’s what I was hoping. We kept the main character as female. Me being a female meteorologist, it was also, on one level, important to show that girls can be really good in science. Science for girls and STEM and all that kind of stuff, I wanted to promote that because that’s the upbringing I had, was being introduced to science early on and loving it, and math and all that. I also raise boys. I notice there are so many books that go in one direction or the other. This is weather. That’s why there’s Misty, and she’s a girl. There’s Clare, and she’s a girl. Their friends are boys. I grew up with older brothers. I’m big into girl power and stuff, but I want to be a proponent for boy power too in a good way, raising kind boys, raising boys who are respectful of the girls they’re having playdates with. I want to raise good boys.

Julianna: One hundred percent. Tell us more about Dylan the scientist.

Dylan: Dylan the scientist was quite the nerd. I actually went to school for engineering. For some reason, I was never really exposed to weather growing up in school. I loved the weather. I loved sitting on the front porch with my brothers watching thunderstorms roll through. I’ve always had a thing for the weather and watching clouds in the sky and all that kind of stuff. I don’t know why I didn’t know it was something I could study. When I went to school, I thought, I like math. I like science. I’m going to be an engineer. That’s what I’m going to go to school for. As my freshman and sophomore year went on, I was like, oh, but I can study meteorology. Let me take this class because I like weather. It turns out all my math and science credits could switch over easily to meteorology. I just pursued that path. I was going to go into research or forensic meteorology or a desk job as a scientist. Then when I had an internship at WCBS in New York City, I was like, it’s kind of fun to do all this research and do all this work and work on the graphics and make the forecast and then get to talk to people about it. It really happened organically. There was no big goal to get on TV someday. That’s just how it happened.

Julianna: If you weren’t on TV, would you still be in science or doing meteorology in some form or another?

Dylan: For sure, because TV was a curveball. That internship, I decided, that’s awesome. I love this side of things. If I never had that internship, I would’ve just stayed the course, working at the National Weather Service or maybe working for an airline or maybe starting a company and making my own personal forecast for other companies that need it. I would’ve definitely stayed in that lane. I love weather so much.

Julianna: That’s what makes you so great at what you do. That passion jumps through the screen.

Dylan: Thank you. It’s easy to talk about something when you really like it. Sometimes when I talk to schools, they’re like, “Are you nervous when you go on TV?” I get more nervous when I’m interviewing a celebrity or if I’m — weather, I can just talk about. I can wake up in the morning and find out, oh, Al’s off today. I need to go do weather. I can talk about weather. It’s what I know. I especially love explaining weather in a way that people can understand. It can be a complicated science. I like to break it down in a way that makes it tangible and easy to understand.

Julianna: I just want to draw that passion out a bit more. Take us back to sitting on your front porch or what you love about it, what you find so interesting.

Dylan: I grew up in a house my dad built. It was the only house I knew growing up. I could walk through the whole house with my eyes closed. I can just feel the feelings of walking out the front door. I can hear the door shut. I would just sit there on this black bench, very uncomfortable bench that my parents had on this covered porch kind of thing. We lived in the woods, so there wasn’t a lot of sky that we could see, but you could hear the wind get more and more intense through the trees. I always knew that lightning was dangerous. If you were in a car, you were safe because of the rubber on the tires. I thought — nobody corrected me, probably because my parents didn’t know any different. I would put sneakers on my hands thinking the rubber soles on the sneakers would protect me. Clearly, I didn’t know the science behind electricity at the time. I would sit on the front porch, listen to the wind, hear the rumbles of thunder, and see everything just light up. I’d be sitting there on the bench with my sneakers on my hands.

Julianna: By yourself?

Dylan: By myself. Sometimes I’d drag my brothers out there with me. I’m glad I lived to tell about it.

Julianna: I feel like that should be a scene in one of the next books.

Dylan: Don’t do this.

Julianna: Lessons from Misty the Cloud. Being on TV, you sort of have two lives. There’s the life in front of the camera and the life behind the camera with three young boys at home. What does your life look like on the other side?

Dylan: There’s a lot of joy. Yeah, there are some times where I get really stressed, usually when I’m not sleeping. The good thing about this job is — all my notes for the show that day are sitting on my desk when I come in in the morning. I have my routine. I’m spoiled because somebody else does my hair and makeup, so I can sit there and read my notes while that’s all getting done.

Julianna: Give yourself some credit. What time is that in the morning?

Dylan: It depends. If I’m in for Al, that’s five o’clock in the morning. If I’m just doing the 3rd Hour, that’s seven o’clock. That’s reasonable.

Julianna: It’s reasonable, but it’s still…

Dylan: It’s still early. I don’t have to bring my job home with me. When the show’s over at ten, if I don’t have a shoot that day or something to do that was scheduled through work, ten o’clock, I can usually get home, get something done, make lunch for the boys. Then they’ll go take a nap. Then I’ll cook dinner. My day, it’s on a pretty tight schedule. If we’re not eating dinner at five o’clock, it’s like, what’s going on right now that we’re not eating dinner at five o’clock? Five o’clock is when we eat dinner. As soon as dinner’s done, we’re going to take our baths. There’s a strict schedule in the house. The boys, it works for them. Seven o’clock, the baby’s asleep and in bed. Then 7:15, we’re reading books. I’m reading a book with Oliver and Calvin. Then seven thirty, they’re in bed. I think they do better having that routine. When things get thrown for a loop and I get stressed out, things can sometimes take a turn. I feel like when I’m stressed, it makes the kids stressed. I’m always just trying to take a deep breath.

The other day, I had to drive up to Boston for a book signing. There was a car service that picked me up because — it’s a whole long story. I had Ollie and Rusty, the baby, in the car. Everything was going nice and smooth. Then the car starts overheating, so we had to keep pulling over to the side of the road. I keep asking if everything’s okay. We’re trying to get another car. Now the kids are awake from their little nap here. They’re crying. They’re upset. Throughout the whole time, I just took this deep breath. I’m like, this is out of my hands. There is nothing I can do. The driver even said to me, she’s like, “How are you being so calm? This is really stressful. This has turned into a six-hour drive.” I said, “Can you do anything about it? No. Can I do anything about it? No. Let’s just roll with it.” Ollie’s laughing in the background. I try to find joy where I can. Yes, some days are stressful, but sometimes, what can you do?

Julianna: That sounds like another scene from a future book. I love what you said about routine also because so much about being a mom is carrying the mental load. I, at least, appreciate that. When you can have some semblance of a routine, it makes the mental load that much easier. It just takes a few items off your plate.

Dylan: I agree. Even if, say, dinner doesn’t happen at five and it happens at six instead, let’s reset at seven. Seven’s when the baby’s going to go to sleep. There’s always those times you can strive for to reset.

Julianna: Where did you find time to write the books?

Dylan: It’s a long process to write a children’s book between the editing and the going back and forth on the actual words in the book and then going back and forth on the actual illustrations in the book. It’s kind of all spaced out. I feel like every week, I can block out some time to get it done. For example, the other day during the queen’s funeral, there’s was a lot of standby time. Because of the hurricane in Puerto Rico, I was going to do a weather hit, but it just never really worked out. During that time, I was actually editing our fourth book, which is a Step into Reading book. I was able to read through it and make my corrections. Then I’ll look at it again later and make more corrections. Then I’ll send it to my coauthor and see what he thinks. When I have a moment where I can just sit here, I’m waiting for something or I’m in the doctor’s office, you can always do things a little bit and then do a little bit more later. Otherwise, you’re so overwhelmed trying to think, I have to do this all at once. I’m a big of fan of — even when I watch TV, my husband’s like, “You don’t have an hour to watch the last episode of Better Call Saul.” It’s like, “Yeah, but I’ve got fifteen minutes, so I’ll watch fifteen minutes. I’ll come back to it later.” He doesn’t understand how I can do that.

Julianna: That’s still some pretty baller multitasking.

Dylan: It’s nice to hear that because I don’t really look at much more than just filling up the time.

Julianna: It’s how I get things done. You’re editing. You’re working on a fourth book. That means a third book is on the way.

Dylan: In the works. Yes, it is. The next two are Step into Reading books, early readers, which has actually worked out great because Calvin, my oldest, he’s five and a half. I kind of looked to him for the first two books. I would read him every iteration of the book. If he liked it, I kept that line in. If he didn’t like it or he looked confused, I reworked that line. The next two books to come out are going to be right in line with him in his reading journey as a little kid. I can’t wait for him to see the next ones and get his opinion on those.

Julianna: My son is five and a half too. I was thinking that he would really love, at the end of the books, the activities. Will the early readers have those activities as well?

Dylan: I wanted to do the activities in the early readers, but we kind of pulled back. The science is more worked into the story, which is difficult as an early reader. It’s science, so there are some words —

Julianna: — Big words.

Dylan: Even temperature and equator. There’s science words. You have to figure out how to say it a different way, which is really tough to do. The first two books with the science in the back, we thought that’s what made it different and made it stand out. With the Step into Reading books, we wanted to work science into the story, which we think is different than a typical Step into Reading book. I also didn’t want to take away from future picture books and do something so involved that I would want those back pages. The Step into Reading book, the first one that we’re doing is about a sea breeze. It’s a very basic concept that I can work into the book. There wouldn’t really be an experiment, I would think, on a sea breeze. I’d have to think about it. We kept the concepts a little simpler.

Julianna: I can’t wait to see those. That’s exciting.

Dylan: Thank you.

Julianna: One thing I wanted to ask is — something that’s so unique about the Today Show is that so many of the principals, the anchors, are mothers. Can you talk about what that’s like working in that kind of environment? I think that’s pretty unique, whether it’s in media, in TV, or any other business, where you have all these high-level women working together who are mothers, and mothers of young children also.

Dylan: I think that’s what makes it really different. Al Roker is the only one who has older kids. Sheinelle’s kids are a little bit older. We are all kind of in the same boat. I remember when I was pregnant with Calvin, Savannah was pregnant with Charlie. Hoda and I are actually neighbors. Our kids are basically the same age. The oldest is five and a half. I think her youngest is three. Ollie’s turning three soon. They’re so close in age that they’ve become really good friends. We eat dinner over at each other’s homes. It’s special because we get it. There are times where I’m just, say, stressed about traveling or whatever. I remember when we were over in Korea for the Olympics several years ago before COVID. Savannah and I both had — Hoda too. We all had one-year-olds at home. It just makes it easier. It’s like, oh, my gosh, I don’t want to do this. I can’t believe I have to leave my one-year-old for three weeks. Okay, you’re doing it too. You’re doing it. How are you going to get through it? Good. All right. If you can do it, I can do it. There’s a buddy sort of thing. When your friend is going through the same thing you’re going through, it just makes it like, okay, I’m not alone. If she can do it, I can do it. As simple as that.

Julianna: Was it helpful during COVID also, especially?

Dylan: Yes, because we were all trying to maneuver working from home. It was almost refreshing when our kids would pop into the scene or something would happen where we couldn’t keep our kids hidden in the background. I think that’s what made COVID special from a Today Show standpoint. We’re bringing people in our homes, literally. We’re in your home every day. We’re trying to navigate this whole new world too. Our kids are at home while we’re trying to work from home. Things don’t always go as planned. We all just rolled with it. It certainly made it easier knowing everybody was in the same boat.

Julianna: It’s so nice because at the same time all of you, and I see with you especially, you show what it’s like to be a parent. You post pictures with your kids. It helps you guys internally ease the isolation, but also externally with viewers and people who are watching at home. They see that they’re also in a similar boat.

Dylan: I don’t know if it was a decision my husband and I talked about, if we were going to put our kids out there on social media. When you work at the Today Show, certain times of the year we tend to put our kids out there. We always post pictures of our kids during the holidays. We’ll always do a Mother’s Day special. Our kids surprise us in some form or another. I knew working at the Today Show our families would be out there for the public to see. My husband, he puts together really funny videos of our kids. He captures moments in our house that I think are really special that I just like to share. I’m an open book. I don’t really hide anything. I’m a terrible liar. I just put myself out there. I’m a regular mom just trying to get by. My house is a mess. Oftentimes, any video you see that happens in my house, the house is a disaster because there’s not enough time to clean up the house. I’m not necessarily a neat person. I find when I post something like that, I get more comments. Thank you for showing your house is a mess because my house is also a mess. Again, that whole thing of, it just makes you feel better knowing someone else is going through the same thing.

Julianna: Totally. It’s not just you. It’s not just your kid. Thank you. I know you mentioned Better Call Saul, but on the book front, what do you read for fun? Any book recommendations right now?

Dylan: It’s very rare that I actually get to read for fun. Although, we had someone on the show a couple weeks ago who recommended Hotel Nantucket. I took a copy home with me because it was just sitting there on the table. That’s by Elin Hilderbrand. That’s what I’m actually reading before bed. It’s been one of the best things. Normally, I’ll try to watch something on TV before I go to bed. It has been the thing I look forward to. When the boys are asleep, I snuggle up in my bed. My dog’s sitting right next to me. I read a chapter or two before I fall asleep. I remember why I liked reading so much. It just takes you to another place. You’re escaping for a little bit. I do tend to like books where I can escape, a mystery or a romance novel or something I don’t have to think about.

Julianna: Amen, sister. Dylan Dreyer, thank you so much for the time. It’s been great chatting with you.

Dylan: You too. Thank you so much. Bye.

MISTY THE CLOUD: Friends Through Rain or Shine by Dylan Dreyer

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