We’ve got a Norway maple at the edge of our backyard. It seems there’s one day in October when the color of it goes from green to a brilliant orange. That’s what happened yesterday. There are twenty-five grackles ransacking the bird feeder. Stink bugs are invading the house. Must be fall.
In this issue:
We’re just back from the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee and had a wonderful time. The audiences were large and enthusiastic, and I loved performing for them. I can’t begin to tell you how much performing feeds my soul – people asked me “Are you happy? Are you having fun?” But it seems to me these things – happiness and fun, come and go, but more rewarding is a sense of purpose and satisfaction at doing my job well enough.
Then, I come home. No large crowds applauding me feeding the bees or walking the dog. Just the work to be done.
Debbie and I had a wonderful summer (overlooking foot surgery and a bout with COVID!) We took a great trip to Ireland, where Debbie was the celebrant for our dear friend, storyteller Clare Murphy’s marriage to Matthew Lintott. The ceremony was near the Hill of Tara, where the Irish kings were crowned – walking over that land, you could feel the thousands of years of history. Then we headed west, where I sang in a couple of pubs, including the one in Doolin, where I met storyteller and musician Micho Russell, forty years ago. I wrote a song about him “The Piper’s Chair” on Coyote, and sang the song in the same pub on this trip. Players at the session knew Micho and were delighted.
There were many highlights, but one of them was a visit to the new Blasket Museum in Kerry, overlooking the ocean, with the Great Blasket Islands in view. The Blasket Islands played a great part in the preservation of Irish culture and story, and the museum is an incredible and beautiful tribute to the islands and the people who passed on stories and language.
And while I’ve mostly been home lately, it seems like years of work is finally finishing up, all around the same time. Here’s a list of things:
Quentin Manning: Dectective for Justice
What began as a book about twenty years ago is now a radio drama series, produced by BYU productions. You can listen to the first two episodes at byuradio.org
A little backstory – After I read Don Quixote for the second or third time, I started asking myself – what would it look like if a kid were Don Quixote? Quixote has read so many books about knights, he decides to become one himself. What would a kid do? I came up with the idea of a sixth grader falling in love with detective novels, and one series in particular. Like our guy from La Mancha, Quentin is a total romantic fool who sees the world as he thinks it should be, and talks his buddy Sam (get it? Quixote and Sancho, Quentin and Sam?) to be his ever-starving accomplice, dreaming of a perfect dinner. They can’t quite do anything right, but don’t notice it.
In the radio piece, they blunder through one mystery after another, always one step behind the dubious Bermick twins.
Well, I think it’s funny. Hope you will, too.
Now You Say Yes - now in Paperback
My middle grade novel about a fifteen year old girl looking for a family, driving across the country with her nine year old adoptive brother, has touched a lot of people, and now it’s out in paperback. I’m very proud of this book. One recent post on Twitter said “If you wanna cry at the ending of a book, read this one.” Click here to learn more!
As for other books, I’m still wading through the first draft of a long novel for kids about storytelling. Almost finished. I am, at times, very excited, and then overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s a monster. We’ll see
Walking Each Other Home
I recently remixed a recording I’ve been working on for years for adults, eleven songs in a singer songwriter vein. Walking Each Other Home is available both on cd and as a download, and you’ll be able to find it on whatever streaming service you’ve got soon.
No Problem: Stories of Accidental Mayhem
Adult recording? Family recording? Kid recording? I’ve never been comfortable choosing, but here are 3 stories about growing up filled with accidental mayhem. It was great to get these stories down, and I can still listen to them, which is a good sign. It includes “The Desk-Tilting Olympics” about me and my idiot friends in seventh grade English, “No Problem” about making 92 gallons of lemonade in the bathtub, and “The Cup” about Little League, fatherhood, and a plastic protector. To listen to preview clips, click here.
Digital Media for all the cool kids
We’ve sold USBs with various collections of songs and stories in the past, but we’ve finally got our act together and polished them up! We have 4 collections, each with 7 albums:
“You’re Driving Me Crazy” is a collection that’s great for the whole family. Albums included are I Wanna Play, Down in the Backpack, There’s a Pea on My Plate, Big Big World, You’re in Trouble, 50 Ways to Fool Your Mother and Songs We Sing (which has never been released!)
“92 Gallons of Lemonade” is a collection of mostly stories about growing up, schools, friends and childhood adventures. Albums included are High Dive, The Teachers’ Lounge, Battle of the Mad Scientists, Weezie and the Moonpies, Grownups Are Strange, Cool and School and the very new recording No Problem.
“A Strawberry Peach Sky” is a collection of mostly stories that are great for younger kids (ages 3ish and up). Albums include Further Around the Bend, The Town Around the Bend, Best Candy in the Whole World, Wacka Wacka Woo, Come On Out & Play, Dinosaurs Never Say Please (featuring Michele’s favorite Bojabi) and 4 extra stories!
“A Music in What Happens” is a collection of stories and songs geared towards adults. Albums included are Stickeen, Same Moon, Nothing for Granted, First Bird Call, Mistakes Were Made, Sitting On My Hands and the new album Walking Each Other Home.
What are You Reading?
It’s been a while since I sent a newsletter, and my list of books read is too long to list here – so just a couple. My son Noah gave me “The Ministry of the Future” by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s amazing – a novel that tries to imagine what we’re in for in the next forty years on our planet, with climate change affecting everything. While it’s horrible and challenging, Robinson also begins to look at what we do about it – yes, it’s bad, and there’s no avoiding it, but then what? It changed the way I look at our crisis.
I also read two Bern Heinrich books simultaneously – “Winter World” and “The Trees in My Forest”. I’ve enjoyed Heinrich’s writing for years in Natural History magazine, and also his “Mind of the Raven”. Heinrich is an incredibly focused observer of nature, finding magic in the smallest things.
Finally, along with our trip to Ireland, I’ve been reading and re-reading the poems in Seamus Heaney’s “100 Poems”. Debbie and I went to a wonderful exibit about his life and work in Center City Dublin. I love his poems and work.