February 2015


Dear friends,


We got about two feet of snow, and now there’s more coming down. Around New England, people are kind of proud of putting up with it, and then resigned to it, then just downright annoyed by it.

Me – if it sticks on the ground and stays around, I love it. And if the power doesn’t go out.

So it’s coming down and I’m sitting here looking at the window at it - thinking about my cross-country skiis...

January February snow is Seekonk


While the internet has made it possible to keep working, there’s still something in me that relaxes and says “Uh oh, can’t work”.


That’s okay. I could be doing my taxes.


At home and at work


After our incredible trip to Japan, we’ve had some quiet time at home. This, too, comes with the passing of my dad, Max Harley, in November. From him, I got an appreciation of literature and music, a mind that can tend towards the slightly too critical, and a concern for common people. He lived to be 94 years old, which is a pretty good run. A farm boy from Indiana, then an ensign in the South Pacific during WWII, a small town lawyer (who lost to the dry cleaner when running for mayor), then an editor in Indianapolis and New York City, he was a classy guy. I’m lucky I was his son.

So, there’s that.

Meanwhile, I’ve just finished the fourth Charlie Bumpers book, tentatively titled Charlie Bumpers vs the Perfect Little Turkey, out this fall. In it, Charlie tries to enjoy Thanksgiving, while putting up with his annoying younger cousin. It’s got turkey, yeast rolls (!!!), brussel sprouts, soccer balls, superheroes, water rockets, and too many guests. Sound like your house?

I’ve also been working on the libretto for the opera WEEDPATCH set for its premier in March of 2016 by the North Cambridge Family Opera. It’s a very challenging, and exciting project.

Hiroshima Follow Up  


Construction of the family houseOne more thing about Japan: While we were in Hiroshima I did a concert to raise funds for a Family House on the grounds of Hiroshima University Hospital. It will be a low cost place where families can stay while a loved one is in the hospital. Roger and Adam sent us these photos: presenting the check to the hospital staff and, the construction site. It's scheduled to be finished by the end of March. Happy I could contribute.Presenting the check


Spadefoot Toads say "Waaaaah"


Night of the Spadefoot Toads

Last year, my book, Night of the Spadefoot Toads, was adopted into the New York City fifth grade curriculum, and recently, I’ve visited several schools in Queens to talk with fifth graders about the book. I had a wonderful time there (along with other visits to Middleboro, MA schools who read it). When I think of the years and years it took for the book to be published, I’m incredibly grateful that kids and teachers are reading it and loving it, and I get to share my work and concern for the world we live in.

And spadefoot toads really do say “Waaaaaaah”.
Charlie Bumpers - great news! Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year  



We just learned that Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year has been nominated for a Golden Sower Award in Nebraska and named to the 2015-16 Virginia Readers' Choice master list. I love knowing that more kids will read about Charlie and his tribulations! 


Speaking of Books


In toiling over the libretto for “Weedpatch”, I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Stephen Sondheim’s books, Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat, which feature his lyrics and comments on lyric writing. They’re great book for lyricists and songwriters, and for those who like musical theater, they’re really fascinating. Sondheim is incredibly perceptive, and honest and critical of his own work, as well as that of others. And as far as writing lyrics go, I’ve recently discovered that Merriam-Webster’s Crossword Puzzle Dictionary is a great resource for writers, when you’re looking for the right word, or one that might have a rhyme.

Several months ago, I read a wonderful book by Robert MacFarlane, The Old Ways, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in walking or hiking, and the connection between memory and place. In it, he recounts a number of hikes he has taken and how they affected his life and perceptions. Last summer, I was lucky enough to meet one of my heroes, the poet Gary Snyder, and I liked the book so much I sent it to him.

Debbie and I have been enjoying listening to New York by Edward Rutherfurd – one of those big, sprawling historical novels that fills you in on everything you felt you should have known, but didn’t. Recommended!

Debbie recently read (and loved) Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (quirky, fast, funny!) and is plowing through The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman - also set in NY - a great read. 

Let me know what you’re reading. It’s always interesting to compare notes.


Deal of the month


I'm Gonna Let it ShineOver twenty years ago, I produced an album I’m Gonna Let it Shine of Freedom Songs from the civil rights movement. We recorded twenty songs with some of the original SNCC Freedom Singers (Cordell Reagon, Betty Mae Fikes, Chuck Neblett), the Carawans (Guy helped to bring “We Shall Overcome” to the Movement), and a bunch of rabble-rousing singers, including Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, Charlie King and Kim and Reggie Harris. In honor of “Selma” and the continuing struggle for everyone to get a fair shake, we’re offering a deal on that CD and digital download. It’s a great sing-a-long recording, and it’s got legs – it still works and we still need it!


Looking ahead


I'll be at a playwright's workshop in Utah in February with an old mentor, my pal David Kranes, then on to work in the San Diego area in March. In May I'll be in Sarasota, Florida for their InspireSarasota Festival and then off to West Texas A&M University after recording the next Charlie Bumpers book in Atlanta. In June I'll return to the Buffalo Commons Festival - but I'll write more about summer when the snow is gone! We're working on a trip to Montana in the fall, and various other places. If you're interested in booking me, call earlier than later -  I'd love to see you. 

Best to you all.

Take care of yourselves

Take care of each other,

From the Office

Goodreads Giveaway


Book 2 in the Charlie Bumpers vs. series, Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome is coming out in Paperback on March 1st and we thought we'd celebrate by having a giveaway!

Visit Bill's Goodreads page or click on the link below to enter!

Goodreads Book Giveaway


Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome by Bill Harley

Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome

by Bill Harley


Giveaway ends March 04, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win


Cool in School in stock!  

Cool in School


While Cool in School is always available as a digital download, we were out of CDs. But we've rectified the situation so if you know a kid or a grownup that NEEDS to own "Zanzibar", now is the time to get it!

Digital Download Cards  

For a few select titles we are selling Digital Download Cards.

What is a Digital Download Card? Glad you asked.

Ours are a 4 inch square sticker of the cover of the album. After you download the recording you can put the sticker anywhere you'd like! (well, not on your sister's head. Or over your Dad's mouth. You should probably ask your Mom where she'd like you to put the sticker and do that).

Titles available are: There's a Pea On My Plate, Dinosaurs Never Say Please, The Best Candy in the Whole World, Down in the Backpack, Play It Again, One More Time, and Monsters in the Bathroom. 



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