I hope this newsletter finds you well - especially those of you who have been battered by the weather in the past month. Like many of you, we have friends and family in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, and our hearts (as well as our donations) go out to them as they rebuild.
I hope we finally learn the lesson that we are having an effect on what happens on our planet. I live in a paradox - the ongoing crises we face, and the fact that I am not, right now, part of the suffering that seems part of living. Things are bad, and I'm good. What shall I do with that?
I know my situation could change in an instant, but one of life's main challenges is recognizing one's privilege and appreciating the luck, fortune, and blessings when things are good, along with being available to others who don't have those things.
Selfie at the Grand Canyon
I had a great summer. The highlights included a wonderful tour in the Northwest, the marriage of our son Dylan, and a solo road trip from Los Angeles to Boston in ten days.
I took the trip across the country as research for a book I'm currently working on. Without giving away too much (who knows if it will even get published?), it's about a fifteen-year-old adopted girl and her nine-year-old brother with autism driving across the country by themselves the week of the eclipse.
So that's what I did - driving from LA to Boston, partly following old Route 66, a side-trip to the Grand Canyon, across Arizona, New Mexico and the panhandle of Texas, through Oklahoma into Missouri, through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and New York. I mostly camped out at state parks that had lakes, stayed with friends, and spent a night in a hotel for laundry (my least favorite night). I stopped at diners, visited a couple of very local bars (the kids in the book won't do that), stopped in Okemah, OK (Woody Guthrie's birthplace), saw the total eclipse, and made an amazing discovery about my family in Indiana.
About that discovery. My dad grew up in a small town, Fountain City, Indiana, just north of Richmond. I was born across the border in Ohio. Next door to my dad's very small house is the Levi Coffin House (they moved into town when my grandfather, still a young man, died unexpectedly). Coffin was a Quaker, considered the "Station Master" of the Underground Railroad, and had a hand in the escape from slavery of 3,000 people. He never lost a one. I was raised Methodist, and when I became a Quaker my grandmother mused that there might have been Quakers in our history, and she believed they came from North Carolina in the 1820's.So I took a tour of the Levi Coffin House. It was a quiet day, and I had a solo tour with two guides. I talked about my dad, told them my grandmother’s maiden name (Mote) and they said, “Oh, yes, that family moved here at that time. They were part of the Great Quaker Migration, moving out of a slave state, North Carolina, to a free state. The Mote’s were Quakers here, during the period of the Underground Railroad”. Standing in the kitchen that had seen thousands of runaway slaves pass through, my heart beat out of my chest. This heritage was mine. Somehow, I’d come back to it in my life.
On the other hand, another side of the family was probably mixed up in the founding of the KKK in the same area, which nobody liked to talk about.
Which story shall I choose to tell? The question of heritage and identity is one we all face. The answer to the story we are telling is found in our actions.
The big news this fall is that Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year is now a play, adapted by Jessica Chase and will be performed for two weeks at the Gamm Theater in Pawtucket, RI. We are completely delighted with what they've done with Charlie. Who knew? If you're in the Rhode Island area, please make an effort to see it - I'll be at the 2pm show Saturday (10/7) - with a talk back afterwards...would love to see you! We're hoping it has a long life, and many thanks to the folks at the Gamm for their dedication.
I’m in a Faulkner reading group this year, and it’s great to rediscover his language and stories of a culture wrestling with its own story (see above). So I just re-read the Bear. When you read Faulkner, and you see how Marquez honored him, and that he was somehow related to Whitman’s poetry, and that literature is not the same because of him. I’m looking forward to the coming year with Billy.
I was floored by George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo. A truly beautiful and gut-wrenching book about Lincoln, the loss of a child, the beauty and sadness of the world, and the legacy the Civil War and slavery has left us.
Have you ever had a book fall in your lap by accident and wonder how you’d missed it? I pressed the wrong button on a library download and ended up with A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin, a book I hadn’t heard of, that I couldn’t put down. It’s about mathematics (about which I know little) and fathers and sons, and redemption and everything else. I’m doing a lot of reading on autism too, which changes my perspective on whether anyone is normal. I especially enjoyed Following Ezra by Tom Fields-Meyer.
The latest Charlie Book, Charlie Bumpers vs. His Big Blabby Mouth came out in September. It’s about Charlie, his dad’s job, and how you deal (or don’t) with a rumor that gets out control. I like the story a lot, and hope you will too. There’s an audio version of the book, too, as there are for all the Charlie Bumpers titles. I’m now in a rewrite of the seventh (and last ☹) Charlie book. Pretty good so far!
We have a lot of other stuff in the works, including a couple of recordings (more on those soon), a play I’m thinking about, and a trip to India in February. Fall trips include festivals in PA and AL - as well as lots of author visits. Please check my calendar to see if I'm coming close to you.
This is what slowing down looks like. Because today, I’m at home, I picked raspberries in the morning and played guitar, and when I finish this I’m going for a bike ride, then having diner with Debbie, my son Dylan, and his new bride, Marken.
If you hear me whine, just give me a smack on the head.
It's "Back to School" season, so we're going to celebrate it with "Fun Songs!"
First up is I Wanna Play, and the title track is says it all! Also includes: I Like to Sing, At Your Library and Barbie's Head is Missing
Next is 50 Ways to Fool Your Mother. Please note that none of the ways listed are guaranteed to work. Also includes: Having a Party and I'm On My Way.
We also have One More Time a collection of greatest hits and the story "Alicia and the Little Monster." You'll never be scared of the monster under your bed again!
The last selection is Big Big World. The title song is fun and very dance-able, but you can also boogie down to I Don't Wanna Wait and Pizza Shake.
All CDs are $10 each and the full album download is $4 each. Enjoy!
Sale ends 10/31/17