Finally, a newsletter! I have, I guess, as some people have been writing about, been “languishing”, not motivated to tell you I’m stuck at home. But I can feel the shift in our lives and have been thinking about the past year. Certainly, it has been brutal and sad and scary and exhausting.
Here’s some good things that happened in my life in the past year:
- Cooking – stuck at home with no restaurants, I started cooking more. While I’ve always cooked a little, my wife Debbie has always been the main cook around here – she loves it, plus, she plans ahead – quite a concept. But I’ve raised my game and am really enjoying it. The New York Times cooking app rocks. So does Ottalenghi.
- Beekeeping – not traveling so much, I’ve been able to pay more attention to my hives, and I can see this year is going to be the best year I’ve had as a beekeeper. Of course, it’s swarming season, so that could all end tomorrow. So far, so good.
- Piano- Piano was my first instrument and while I’m still playing a fair amount of guitar, I’ve spent time each day practicing piano. Here’s a rule of the universe – if you practice, you get better.
- Knowing where we live – Debbie and I have focused on our home in the past year with a lot of projects, and that includes working in our yard and garden – we know the birds around our house better than ever before (a Carolina wren is our mascot, announcing himself very early in the morning – reeeaaallllly loudly), and have become very familiar with the trails around here where we walk Django. From wood frogs to spring peepers to spadefoots and green frogs to bull frogs; from skunk cabbage to cinnamon fern, we can see the progression through spring.
- Watching performers from around the world – virtual performances are not, and never will be, the same as live performance and I’m ambivalent about it as a medium, but there’s no doubt that I’ve reached people I never would have reached with my online performances, and have seen storytellers and musicians from around the world I never would have known. While we’ve been trapped in our small environments, there are all sorts of connections we’ve made that wouldn’t have happened without the challenges of the past year. In that way, our world is bigger now.
In this issue:
While I don’t think I’ll ever travel as much as I did before the pandemic, I do look forward to live performance in the next couple of months. I have several live outdoor shows locally this summer (check out calendar here), and festivals in the fall. I’m hoping that in the fall I’ll be able to return to doing some schoolwork. I have to say, mostly I miss kids’ faces looking up. If you’re interested in having me perform or do author visits, let us know.
Now You Say Yes
I usually temper my excitement, but I am very excited about the release of my new book, Now You Say Yes, August 1, 2021. I think it may be my best book, and the advance reviews of it have all been really positive. You can read about it here. And you’ll be able to order copies from us (happy to autograph), from your local independent bookseller, or online at the usual places. The book is aimed at 10 to 14 year olds. The adults seem to like it, too.
Quentin Manning: Detective for Justice
My radio drama, Quentin Manning: Detective for Justice, about a romantic, idealistic, slightly clueless middle schooler who decides to be a detective, is going into production next week. BYU Radio has assembled a topflight cast and production team. I’m really excited (again!) about the show and really can’t wait for you all to hear it. Plus, I wrote myself into the script as Quentin Manning’s mad computer scientist father. We’ll let you know when it’s available.
Along with a lot of you, I’ve done a lot of reading in the past year. Some highlights – Vassily Grossman’s totally epic (in the real sense of the word) novels Stalingrad and Life and Fate are monumental. Um, quite long, too. I really liked The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, a very compelling look at identity and race. Also, Uncanny Valley by Anna Weiner – a sobering, though entertaining look at the underbelly of the Silicon Valley culture; Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela’s autobiography which I finally read, and am really glad I did, My Story as Told by Water, a book of essays by one of my favorite writers, David James Duncan, and finally Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake – about mushrooms and mycelium – just pretty mind-blowing. Let us know what you’re reading – I love to hear.
And a note about podcast
My favorite listening in the past couple of months was an essay read by the wonderful Robin Wall Kimmer – The Serviceberry – An Economy of Abundance. You can read it at the link but taking a walk through the woods while I listened to her was pretty close to a transcendent experience. Here’s the link: emergencemagazine.org/essay/the-serviceberry
Enjoy the coming summer – picnics, bike rides (wear your helmet!) – and being in one another’s company again. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other.