Fall 2014


Hello friends,


Hope this newsletter finds you well. The nights are cooler and the tomato plants are weighed down with the summer’s harvest – it’s hard to believe there’s such a thing as too many tomatoes, but every year at this time, here they are. What to do with them all. Debbie’s got a recipe for roasted tomatoes that takes care of a lot of them – and by December they’ll be a distant memory.

Home grown tomatoes

In This Issue
From the Office
Quick Links

We’ve had a wonderful summer. Great trips to North Carolina, California, and Washington state, and just back from the wonderful Timpanogos festival in Utah. Summer was spent writing the next Charlie Bumpers book, rehearsing some new stories, working on the opera Weedpatch, and spending time at home.

The paradox of having a good summer while being aware of the tenor of world and national events is confusing. But it’s caused me to reflect, too. In the Quaker tradition, there is an advice to work to “take away the occasion for war”. For me, this doesn’t just mean “don’t fight” – it means to try and create an environment in which understanding, tolerance, and generosity can thrive. That’s about working to create a culture for all of us. I want to work harder at that.




Debbie and I will be traveling to Japan for a month at the very end of October; I’ll be doing some concerts in schools, presenting at a language conference (JALT), and doing workshops with teachers in a number of cities on Honshu, the main island. This was all started by a fan who lives with his family and teaches in Hiroshima where I'll be doing a family concert (check out his website: bilingualmonkeys.com) Everyone we've worked with has been so helpful, and I’m really looking forward to experiencing Japanese culture firsthand.


The latest Charlie


Charlie Bumpers vs the Squeaking Skull


The third book in the Charlie Bumpers series, Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull is out, and I’m very happy with it. Charlie faces his fear of horror movies, learns to tell a ghost story, and has a wardrobe malfunction.

Now it feels like a series – and I’ve just finished the major draft for the fourth book, which will come out in Fall 2015. Working on a series has sharpened my writing and plotting skills. When I finish the series, it will take me a while to get out of the fourth grader’s head and start writing longer sentences. But for now, I’m pretty happy.

The first book in the series, Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year is now out in paperback, and I’m hoping if you haven’t gotten a copy yet, you’ll get one now. They're all on audio books, too, so you can hear my reading of it, if you’d prefer that.




I’m happy to announce that my two middle grade novels, The Amazing Flight of Darius Frobisher and Night of the Spadefoot Toads are available as eBooks. I’ve run into a number of kids who are using e-readers, and you can put these on your device for your reading pleasure. Available from Barnes and Noble and Overdrive.


New story recording


At this moment we’re putting finishing touches on a recording of stories performed in Jonesborough, Tennessee, where I was Teller-in-Residence for a week in June. We’ve put together a group of stories and songs recorded live, and will have it out by the National Festival in October. It’s titled “Nothing for Granted”, and captures a bunch of stuff I’ve done over the last several years (but not, alas, “Build Me Up Buttercup”). We’re psyched about having a new recording.


Weedpatch – the opera


A good part of the summer was spent writing the libretto for the opera Weedpatch, commissioned by the North Cambridge Family Opera Company, scheduled to debut in spring of 2016. Paul Phillips is doing a wonderful job with the music, and there’s some interest from other groups in the piece. The deeper we get into the project, the more excited Paul and I are.


What we’re reading


I had a great reading summer. Here are some of the books I read and enjoyed


The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez – beautiful book about a man negotiating his family's past, entrapped in the drug wars in Columbia. But it’s not about the wars, it’s about people.


Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo – a non-fiction account of incidents in a slum in Mumbai. Just about the best account of poverty I’ve ever read, presented as story. About as compassionate a piece of writing as you’ll ever find.


The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse – embarrassed to say I hadn’t read Louise Erdrich until now. A great book about a priest on an Ojibwe reservation and his/her (yes, there’s some shape shifting going on there) struggles with identity, Native culture, and faith. Really, really rich.


The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell – it seems to me like David Mitchell can write anyway he wants, and do so like a master. Different from some of his other books, which almost border on science fiction – or at least time travel – this is a straightforward historical novel about the opening of Japan to the West. Great characters.

And while we’re on culture, Debbie and I really enjoyed Richard Linklater’s new movie – Boyhood.

Let us know what you're reading - michele@billharley.com


From the Office
Back to School Sale  

From the Back of the Bus coverWe know going back to school is never easy - getting up early, catching the bus, deciding whether to go with the 64 pack of crayons or opting for the colored pencils. Here are a few of Bill's school stories that you can easily download for 50% off!

And we know there are a lot of choices, but you can't go wrong with any (or all) of them!

Extra Credit:

***You can get the entire download of "Lunchroom Tales: A Natural History of the Cafetorium" for 50% off as well!

Sale ends September 30, 2014

Read it? Review it!  

While it's nice to get a good review from "Kirkus" or "Publishers' Weekly", our favorite reviews come from you, Bill's fans. If you've read Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull or any of Bill's books, send us your review. It can just be one line telling us the part you liked best.

If you're really ambitious, feel free to post a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any other site where you go to find good books to read!

Phantom Tollbooth Documentary  
  Bill has mentioned in past newsletters that he was contributing to a documentary about "The Phantom Tollbooth". We wanted to follow up and let you know that it has been released and is available for purchase. If you grew up loving the book or have never read it and want to know what all the fuss is about, check it out here at PhantomTollboothDoc.com.  


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