Summer 2015


Dear Friends,


Summer is my favorite time of year. You try to get things done, and you can’t. Someone calls up and says they have tickets to the ball game. And if your arm still works and your knees are bending, there’s that softball game on Sunday. There are blueberries on the bushes you can pick and put on your breakfast cereal. You drive home from the pool with the smell of chlorine on your skin and it feels just like it did when you were 9 years old.

Bill in the garden


Busy, busy spring. Too busy and my fault. But I’ve finished up a number of projects, and the decks are cleared. This summer, I’m trying to take a breath and see what emerges from the open space. Horrific at doing this my whole life, who knows?


Summer Shows


I’ve got some local shows this summer, a trip to DC for an appearance at the Smithsonian with Norton Juster to talk about the Phantom Tollbooth and view the wonderful documentary about the book, family concerts in Columbia, MO and a trip to the National Storytelling Conference in Kansas City, where I’ll be performing and offering a performance workshop. Hope to see some of you this summer!

Dr. Harley  

In May, I was given an honorary degree (Doctor of Letters) from my alma mater, Hamilton College, in Clinton NY. I’m still a little flabbergasted by the whole thing. Having operated in a very strange little corner of the world – a landscape of storytelling, children, music, and gym floors - I’m deeply appreciative that Hamilton recognized my work – the trip back there was wonderful.


So Long Paul Cuffee


Ten years ago I started working as artist-in-residence at the Paul Cuffee School, a public charter school in Providence. I wanted a place to try things out, and I wanted to see how song and story affects the culture of a school. I thought I would do it for a year or two. Next week, I’ll pay one more visit and say good-bye. During that time, I’ve produced a recording of songs written by every class, written a musical about Paul Cuffee (black Quaker sea captain and ship owner, son of a freed slave and a native American, and an incredible, forthright human being) performed every year by the fourth graders, started a storytelling unit for third graders (every third grader learns and performs a story), and sung on countless Monday mornings with the whole school. Along the way, I’ve made a lot of friends, been incredibly moved any number of times, and helped to build a culture that is warm, welcoming, and caring. Last week, the school had a farewell assembly for me and it was very overwhelming. 

I’ll be back – thanks to everyone there for making me feel so welcome over the years.

drawing of Bill playing the guitarportrait of Bill

Several of the students did portraits of Bill.

Work, Work and more Work    

On other fronts, I’ve wrapped up the libretto of an opera, "Weedpatch" to be performed next spring by the North Cambridge Family Opera Company. The opera takes place at Arvin Federal Migrant Camp (known as "Weedpatch") outside of Bakersfield, California, in 1940. My friend Paul Phillips is hard at work on the music. We’ll let you know what happens as we move along. (Thanks to the Puffin Foundation for their grant to aid in the writing of the piece!)


I’ve also finished a rough draft of the next Charlie Bumpers book (untitled, but about his miserable soccer team). The next Charlie Bumpers, Charlie Bumpers vs. the Perfect Little Turkey will be out in September, and you can hear the song I wrote for it in the player below.Charlie now has established a permanent residence at our house - at least until I write all eight books about him.  I'm delighted that the first book, Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year, has been nominated in 16 different states for a readers' choice award through State Library Associations. Go Charlie!

Finally, one more month and my folk song album, "Songs We Sing" will be mixed. Not sure about the release date, but we’ll let you know.






Too much time on the airplane has one upside – time to read. Here are some books I’ve enjoyed in the past couple of months  - The Orenda, by Joseph Boyden (about the Hurons' interaction with missionaries and the Iroquois); The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (a Tasmanian doctors experiences in WWII prison camp – beautifully written, and pretty harrowing); Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (long, but great summer read – stayed up way too late, about a lawyer/mayor from Natchez who finds himself embroiled in a conflict with some very bad KKK types), Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller (great literary detective novel –a bad description), and Plato at the Googleplex by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, which takes another look at what Plato has to say to us. 

But this pile by the bed isn’t any smaller!!


Cool Tee Shirts


Grownups Are Strange tee shirtsJust in time for summer. After years of dithering, we have entered into the clothing business for adults and children, with highly fashionable tee shirts. Now, every time I need a clean tee shirt, I just pull one out of the box. Three different designs, featuring words from my songs. You will be "cool in school" when you wear one of them. Or on the beach. Or at one of my concerts. Check'em out!

From the Office

Teacher Guides


While we know it's the end of the school year, you might find this useful for next year (or over the summer if parents would like to use them) we're happy to announce that several of Bill's books have great teacher guides to use with them.

Right now we have guides for Night of the Spadefoot Toads and Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year. We're expecting to have more for the Charlie Bumpers vs. series, so we'll let you know when we do.

Getting Social  

We email like pros, we get creative with YouTube, we muddle with Facebook and we bumble with Twitter, but we're trying to get better. We've added Google plus to our list of social apps and are thinking of expanding to Pinterest. It'd be great to hear from you and learn how you're social online and if what we're doing is fine or if there's some way you think we should expand or improve. We've always been a "word of mouth" operation and social media is fundamentally "word of mouth". How do we best get the word out there? Email with your thoughts.

Summer Sale!  

For those long trips and short jaunts, here's a few tunes and stories to make the journey more fun!

CDs for $10:

High Dive

It's Not Fair to Me

I Wanna Play

Blah Blah Blah

Digital Downloads stories:

Grandma vs. the Headless Man - $2.00

King of the Clams - $1.50

High Dive - $1.50

Battle of the Mad Scientists - $2.00


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