Four inches of snow on the ground and the birds around our feeders, which hang outside our bedroom windows, are piled on top of each other. Chickadees fly in, take one seed, and fly off. Same with the titmice. House finches sit on the feeder for five minutes at a time, shooing everyone else off. Goldfinches prefer the thistle. The nuthatch throws ten seeds on the ground for every one it keeps. The red-headed woodpecker shows up, scaring everyone off by its size, then sits on the feeder, completely clueless about what to do with a sunflower seed. Before I know it, I've spent half an hour staring at the birds when there are other things to do. A good waste of time. I highly recommend it.
Birds at the feeder who help me waste time
The big news around here is we've weathered the flu (nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty) and are packing for a trip to India. Debbie and I are excited and a little apprehensive - every one of our friends who have been to India have said, "You will be charmed and challenged and - you won't come back the same."
I'll be working at the American International School in Chennai for the first week, then we'll travel down the southeastern coast for the next week to Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, and Madurai. We'll send some pictures and I'll write some notes about what we see along the way.
I’m really happy to announce the release of a new recording of stories, Further Around the Bend – More News from the Town Around the Bend. It's already gotten some great reviews, and a lot of you have let us know how happy you are to have more stories of my quirky little "home town of my mind". It's getting airplay on a lot of kids radio shows, and Sirius/XM Kid's Place Live is doing several extended plays of the stories. And of course, you can order a cd or download it from our website. WHICH WE REAALLY APPRECIATE!
This is where I remind you that artists make a living through producing material and having people pay for it. You can listen on Pandora and Spotify, but we essentially get paid nothing for it. Supporting artists you like is a simple thing - buy some of their stuff every once in a while.
After six years of work and waiting, I'm thrilled to announce the premier performance of "Weedpatch", an opera written by myself and Paul Phillips. It will be performed March 17, 18, 24, & 25, by the North Cambridge Family Opera. The work tells the story of Sarah Rondell, a migrant from Oklahoma to California 1940 , whose talent for singing is discovered by a music teacher at the Arvin Federal Migrant Camp, outside of Bakersfield, California (the setting for part of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath). It's about family, and change, and the power of music and art to transform. Paul and I are hoping it has a good long life, but mostly, we're excited about its premiere. If you're in the Boston area and are interested in seeing it, visit the North Cambridge Family Opera Company for more details.
I’m putting on the finishing touches on the seventh and last Charlie Bumpers book, which will be out in the Spring of 2019. We’re currently talking with the Gamm Theatre, who produced a play based on “Charlie Bumpers vs the Teacher of the Year”, to produce another play this Fall based on “Charlie Bumpers vs the Really Nice Gnome”. I’m so glad to be working with this great theatre on work for children and families.
My year long immersion into Faulkner continues, and I feel like I’m a near-resident of Yoknapatawpha County –for better or worse. I finished Absalom, Absalom and Light in August, and it all has me thinking more about race, slavery, and inequality – how they’re all intertwined, and how we still don’t know how to deal with them in our country. Other than Faulkner, I was really enchanted with Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith – a philosopher who has spent an inordinate amount of time hanging out with octopus and cuttlefish. We don’t need to go to Mars to see strange things – they’re right here. This book changed the way I look at things, which is about all you could wish for in a book.
I’m also really enjoying John McPhee’s book on writing – Draft #4. I’ve always loved McPhee’s writing, and this series of essays is just great. Highly recommended for all you folks who write, or aspire to.
Also, I’m a big fan of Masha Gessen, and really love her disturbing book The Future is History about Russia and authoritarianism. A really good read – it’s good to remember how tortured and confused the history of that country is, and Gessen is a great observer.
Projects ahead In the next year I’ll be focusing on two things – finishing the first draft of a YA novel, tentatively titled, On the Way to Boston, On the Way to Lynn, and figuring out how to provide content – all my stories and music – in a new way. We’re looking at podcasts as one approach, and are excited about the challenges and possibilities. It’s still months away, but we’ll let you know as we go along, and may even ask for a little help in getting it all going. Just a head’s up!
Here's to you and yours and - the coming spring!