Bill Harley - Genuine, Irreverent, Universal, Ridiculous, Original

Winter 2017


Dear Friends,


I hope this note finds you well. We’ve got snow on the ground, but it’s fast melting away. The chickadees are calling in the trees and snowdrops are pushing themselves up, suggesting they’re ready for spring. I am, too.

Our beach shack in Cabo Polonia, Uruguay
Noah in Colonia, Uruguay
Gaucho stuff for sale at the Saturday market in San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Saturday market, San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Street tango, San Telmo
Tango couple, San Telmo
The Ateneo Bookstore - most beautiful bookstore in the world, in an old theater in Buenos Aires

My son Noah and I had an incredible trip to Argentina and Uruguay. We got along really well and he even lent me a pair of his socks. We hung out with tango musicians, stayed up later than I knew I could, walked on a beautiful beach beneath a billion stars - including the Southern Cross, got a guided tour through Borges’s haunts, got haircuts at a local salon and met dozens of interesting people. My Spanish got better, although my head exploded, and at one point found I could find neither words in Spanish or English to speak. We even paid a visit to the Trump Tower being constructed in Punta del Este, Uruguay. They would not give us a tour. Maybe if Noah had shaved. Or we had turned our camera off.


A few words on current events

I’ll address the elephant in the room so we can get on with other things. I’ve watched (and thought and acted) in the past couple of months with growing concern about where our country and the world seem headed. I have friends and fans across the political spectrum, and while I’m outspoken in other venues, usually not here – most often my work is about finding common ground because I truly believe that all people want the same things. But I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my fear for the direction and health of our country. I disagree vehemently with the course the President and Congress are plotting and am just as deeply concerned that we have lost our ability to listen to each other. Civility is at the heart of a healthy culture and that does not seem to be on the President’s agenda. It’s on mine.

In the coming year, I’ll try to act accordingly, with clarity and compassion and humility. I hope not to alienate people. When things are in crisis, as I believe they are now, we sometimes lose sight of each other. I hope you all bear with me, as I will with you.


And so… the arts and the humanities


Recent reports indicate that the President and Congress would like to eliminate funding for the Public Broadcasting System, and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. This to me seems breathtakingly small-minded and shortsighted. The pittance the federal government allots to the arts and humanities is nothing compared to other programs (one bomber, maybe?), but does a world of good.


In fact, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be an artist today without local, state and national arts funding. I learned my trade years ago, thanks to the very small amount of money afforded me by state arts councils, which depend on federal funding. I know this to be true of hundreds of artists – novelists, playwrights, poets, choreographers, painters, actors, songwriters, storytellers, and a dozen other disciplines. Without the small amount of funding I was given by arts councils thirty years ago, I would not be doing what I do today. I doubt I would have been able to do as much good as I’ve managed to do. Funding artists is a way to build culture, and I’m a product of that funding.


We will all be poorer if this funding is cut, regardless of our political stripe. And ironically, the greatest damage will be done in smaller communities in the middle of this country, away from larger metropolitan areas.


In addition, for the last six years, I’ve been honored to be on the board of the Rhode Island State Council on the Humanities, which funds community projects in history, literature, documentary film, and culture. The goal of the Council is to help us tell our stories. In doing so, it helps us to build stronger communities and foster understanding and a wealth that isn’t measured in dollars. It does this with a very small budget.


All these arts and humanities projects, funded by government, are good for economic development, too. I avoid that argument, since I am not much of a bean counter, but it’s been proven time and again. In short, cutting this funding is not about fiscal responsibility.


So, all of us, but especially those who are in a district represented by someone inclined to cut funding, have a duty to let our representatives know that we don’t want these programs cut. I’m asking you to please let them know. Postcard, call, e-mail… or, all three.


Okay, enough of that.


What I’m working on


I’ve got a busy couple of months coming up with trips to Indiana, California, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania as well as schools close to home. Yikes – I didn’t realize how much I’m traveling until I wrote it all down. You can check out my calendar to see if I’m near you.


In between the travels, I’m also working on the seventh (and final!?!) Charlie Bumpers book. As a matter of fact, I’m writing the first chapter as soon as I get done with this newsletter. I can’t even begin to unravel all the thoughts and feelings that go along with wrapping up Charlie’s adventures.

***We've just found out: Book 6 will be "Charlie Bumpers vs. His Big Blabby Mouth" and it'll be available this Fall***


I’ve just finished recording "Further Around the Bend – More Stories and Songs from the Town Around the Bend". We’re working on artwork and publicity now, and it should be out by fall. I’ve heard from so many of you over the years about "The Town Around the Bend" being a part of your families – I hope these stories make a place, too. And, I actually have enough stories for a third recording when I get around to it.


One School, One Book Rocks


I’m hearing from more and more schools that are using one of my books in their all-school reads. When I get a chance to visit those schools, it’s always an amazing experience. If you want to get a feeling for what happens when I come, check out the video Michele put together.


What are we reading


In an attempt at normalcy in these troubled times, I’ve found myself making sure I read (from a book) every day – it’s decidedly quieter and more focused than paying attention to the noise and I highly recommend it. For research on an upcoming book I’m writing, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about autism, Asperger’s, foster care and adoption. All the reading is changing my perspective on these topics and the world. In particular, I’ve been moved by Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, and To the End of June – the Intimate Life of American Foster Care by Cris Beam – both about foster children. Heartbreaking stuff. More on the book I’m writing when I get there.  Beyond that, I read a couple of Argentian novelists during the trip – Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto and Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz, another book by the great writer, Kate Atkinson – Started Early, Took My Dog, and A Plague of Doves by the completely wonderful writer Louise Erdrich – I love her books.


Deb’s reading – Well, honestly, mostly I’ve been quilting (two of our nieces are starting college in the fall!) – but I can highly recommend A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.


Last Words


Want to hear a new song? Gloriously dumb – check it out.

From the Office
Now Digital  

Coyote by Bill Harley album cover

Bill's first folk recording "Coyote" has only been available in vinyl and on cassette...until now! We've taken the plunge and now you download it! And it sounds great. Check it out at our online store and it'll be available at all the other download places soon.  
While it's still winter, it's getting closer to spring, so let's celebrate with some fun stuff! This month's "On Sale recordings" are Big Big World and Wacka Wacka Woo. Big Big World because it makes you want to dance and jump around and Wacka Wack Woo because it's silly and fun. CDs are $10, full album downloads are $5. Until the end of March!

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