I hope the turn in season finds you well. This past weekend, Debbie spent hours in the garden pulling out all the tomato vines and gathering the too many butternut squash. I tightened up the beehives and started feeding them. At this time of year, you mix ten pounds of sugar with one gallon of water and offer it up to them, hoping they’ll build up a big enough store of honey to last through the winter. A most unhealthy diet for some of us, but not all of us.
Butternut squash pie anyone?It was a busy crazy summer. Not so much for performing, but with writing and recording. I finished drafts of a couple of books, wrote a couple of new songs, and managed to finish two recordings (see below). Passing each other in the kitchen or her office, Debbie and I would acknowledge our insanity and keep going. And then, I watched the Red Sox. Yeah, I’m glad they’re in the play-offs, but wonder about the black-holeness of it all – all those hours following something which has nothing to do with my life, unless I make it so. I will be the Buddhist baseball fan. Maybe. And then be relived when it’s over and I can get my life back. As Jerry Seinfeld noted, at this point in professional sports, you’re cheering for the laundry, not the players. Still, I cheer. Then try and walk away.
I’m getting ready for a busy month of festivals and then a winter of projects mostly around home. I’ll be at the National Storytelling Festival where I’ll do John Muir’s Stickeen, some old favorites and a couple of new things, too. While I’m performing my own work there, I’ll also be the musical accompanist to my pal Kevin Kling’s “Best Summer Ever”, which I helped him develop this summer. I love being in Jonesborough – if you’ve never gone to the National Festival, you really should consider the trip. It’s an amazing thing, and I’m happy to be part of it.Then, I’ll back in town for the RI Festival of Children's Books and Authors where I’ll speak and watch the Gamm Theater's premier of “Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome”, adapted and directed by Jessica Chase (more on that below!). The next week, I’ll be at the Evanston Public Library Storytelling Festival in Illinois, and catch up with a bunch of my storytelling chums. Then, happily, home.
You never know what will last. Yesterday in our e-mail box we found a long, heartfelt e-mail from a long-time listener who grew up listening to my cds. He was in Zanzibar. He corroborated that the song in “Zanzibar” was by and large correct, and that his family still listened to my stories, after twenty years. Thanks to Andrew for his e-mail, and this picture from Zanzibar, which is on my bucket list.
Off the coast of Afrikee
I have two new recordings of stories. One is “Stickeen”, John Muir’s story of his adventures in Alaska with a strange little dog. It’s one of my favorite stories. If you’re a dog lover, or know one, this is the recording for you. I’ve been meaning to do it for fifteen years, and finally checked it off my list!The second recording Same Moon was recorded in our barn over two nights this summer, with an audience of locals providing warm accompaniment. It’s got old and new stories and songs that have not been captured to this point: The tee ball story, “Going for the Dog”; “Same Moon” about my search in vain for a particular folktale about the moon; and “Santa Doesn’t Wrap” about assembling the dreaded Playmobil pirate ship on Christmas Eve. While you have more control in the studio over performance and sound, these stories lend themselves to a live audience, and are better for it. You’ll feel like you were there.
I am really happy to remind you (or tell you for the first time) that this month the Gamm Theater will be premiering the new play, Charlie Bumpers vs. The Really Nice Gnome, based on the second Charlie Bumpers book. Charlie’s plans to be the Evil Sorcerer in the class play are ruined, and he’s left with the one role he doesn’t want - the play (and the play within the play) is about everything going wrong, and still going right. I’ve been going to rehearsals and having a blast - the cast (same as last years for “Teacher of the Year”) is hilarious and brings the best of the book to life. If you’re in the Rhode Island area, please make an effort to get there. I’ll be at some of the performances to say “Hi” and participate in a talk back, including the one at the Rhode Island Festival of Children’s Books on October 12th. If you’d like to bring your school - there are still openings in some of the matinee performances during the week of October 15th - call Tracey in the Gamm’s box office for info - 401-723-4266 ext 111
And don't forget - the Gamm has moved to 1245 Jefferson Blvd in WarwickCALENDAR OF PERFORMANCES
I’m working on a couple of other projects which I’m pretty excited about, but nothing is definite yet on any of them, so I’m keeping mum. More as soon as it seems any of them might live. This is just to let you know I ain’t sittin’ on the back porch, drinking RC cola and eating moon pies. (Do not send me any more Moon Pies, please – I have a lifetime supply from you already)
I write that heading, and realize I’m not being completely honest. While I read for about an hour a day, Debbie and I find ourselves (probably like you) listening to audiobooks almost as much. I’m genuinely interested in what the difference between listening and reading is – how stories and ideas enter our brains and psyches, whether one form of presentation triggers memory or mental image more than the other. I like both – I know there’s a difference between the two, but am not sure what it is.
That said: I recently read and enjoyed Richard Power’s The Echo Maker which is about, among other things, brain science, sand hill cranes, Nebraska, and the hubris of the medical profession. Powers has a knack for raising big questions and weaving disparate things together. A really great writer.
I’ve also been reading a lot about slavery, the Underground Railroad, and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920’s. I think I’m working on a performance piece about it – not sure yet, but it seems so. In particular, I really enjoyed reading The Reminiscences of Levi Coffin – the memoirs of the “Grand Station Master” of the Underground Railroad. My father grew up in Fountain City, Indiana, right next door to Coffin’s house, and it seems now that my family may have played some part in the Underground Railroad work. Coffin’s journals make for some fascinating reading.
I also read (okay listened…) to Paul Simon - the biography by Robert Hilburn. I highly recommend it to anyone who knows and loves Simon’s music. A complex dude. But maybe that’s what it takes to create what he’s created.
While I’m not doing four hundred shows a year anymore, I still really like visiting schools, telling stories, singing songs, and talking to kids about my books and writing. If you’re interested, contact Debbie and we’ll see if we can work something out for your school.
From the Office
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