An Accordionist, Painted Cows & Flame Pits

Meet Big Joe Burrell

Big Joe was a much loved Burlington jazz/blues saxophonist/singer who passed away in 2005. Big Joe Burrell played in both B.B King’s and Count Basie’s band and moved to Burlington, Vermont in the mid-70s. Here he’s playing his sax forever on Church Street in downtown Burlington.

Ken and I spent a happy afternoon there after we left Montreal. The city elders have very wisely closed off the streets, creating an open air mall lined with shops, bistros, and… cows.

Plus, there is an assortment of street artists, one of whom is the very talented Leanna Therese Inzalaco. We loved watching her perform on her beautiful red and brown accordion.

Isn’t she amazing? Even the dogs agreed!

We loved it that Church Street is named Church Street for the elegant and historic Unitarian Universalist church at the top of the street. Happy 200th birthday! That’s 200, people!

And okay, my last video from my stay in Vermont is too good to not share, even though I didn’t catch the entire song, and the filming is shaky [...]

Uma Krishnaswami–"Out of the Way! Out of the Way!"

While I was still in Vermont, I was able to catch my colleague, the amazing Uma Krishnaswami, to chat about her brand new picture book, Out of the Way! Out of the Way!, which is illustrated by…ahem…Uma Krishnaswamy. No, they’re not the same person with variations on the spelling of their last names. But they have joined together to create an utterly charming new book, one that has all the makings of a classic.

Uma is the author of several picture books and novels for children. She lives with her family, which includes four cats, in Aztec, NM. She is also the author the wonderful blog, Writing With A Broken Tusk, a blog about “story, overlapping geographies, and the creation of books for children.”

Out of the Way! Out of the Way! is published in nine different languages by Tulika Books in India, and will soon be released by the Canadian publishers Groundwood Books.

Uma teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I’m so fortunate to call Uma my friend.

By |August 1st, 2010|Author interviews, Books, Cats|Comments Off on Uma Krishnaswami–"Out of the Way! Out of the Way!"|

Rita Williams Garcia Talks About ONE CRAZY SUMMER

UPDATE: Rita’s book was just named a finalist for The National Book Award! Hooray!

Despite the busy schedule of the summer residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Rita Williams Garcia took time to talk about her new book, ONE CRAZY SUMMER.

What are you waiting for….go get a copy and read it!

VCFA, Cats and Rita Williams Garcia's Dream House

I’m here at Vermont College for the summer residency. But leaving home is always a little bittersweet.

I love being here, but I do miss those cats. And seriously, people, have you ever seen anything cuter than Hoss and Peach in their snuggle mode?

Purrrrrr…

Then again, Rita’s dream house is pretty darned cute too, not to mention the lovely Rita herself…

Wish you were here!

Leslie Ullman–Poet, Teacher, Ski Coach

When I arrived at Vermont College, I had the great pleasure of meeting poet Leslie Ullman. I managed to talk her into visiting with me (and my flipcam).

As a bonus, she read one of her beautiful poems, a poem for poets everywhere.

Wasn’t that lovely?

Something else that Leslie does is make “poem beads.” Here’s a quick look at one.

Calloo, callay!

By |July 10th, 2010|Author interviews, Books|Comments Off on Leslie Ullman–Poet, Teacher, Ski Coach|

Laurel Johnston–Unraveling a Sweater

I’ve met a LOT of book reviewers, but music reviewers? Not so much. So it was my good fortune to be able to sit down with Laurel Johnston of Denton, TX, who reviews bands for www.mydentonmusic.com and to talk shop for a few moments. We met at the Classic Cafe in Roanoke, TX.

Laurel’s reviews and articles have become wildly popular on the Denton music scene.

Some of her photos:

However, her writing interests aren’t limited to music, so she’s begun a blog so that she can spread her writing wings: Naughty Modesty.

Laurel comes from a writing family. Her mom, Lissa Johnston, is a successful children’s book author. So, Laurel’s skills could be genetic. I’m just saying…

Rumor has it that she’s getting ready to pack up and move to Los Angeles. Look out, you Angelenos! One fine writer is coming your way.

P.S. What was with those cicadas!?!

By |July 5th, 2010|Author interviews, Books, Music|Comments Off on Laurel Johnston–Unraveling a Sweater|

Five Texas Authors/Five New Books

Here we are!

On June 11th, I had the great privilege of joining four other authors here in College Station for a Reader’s Theater, those other authors being Jenny Moss, Janet Fox, April Lurie and Varian Johnson.

The performance was held at my church, the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Brazos Valley.

In between rehearsal and the performance, I managed to catch a few moments with each one of them.

Here’s Part 1:

And here’s Part 2:

And just so you won’t feel so bad about missing the show, here are a couple of snippets that my hubby, Ken, caught on my beloved FlipCam:

We’re talking serious fun here, people. Along with the five authors, there were some friendly faces in the crowd…

(Annie is my student from Vermont College. She drove all the way in from San Antonio. She gets the gold star!)

Fellow author, Dotti Enderle, was also in the audience…

Here are some folks from my church..

Roger was our valiant director!

And…

Valerie played a crucial role. She had a very important single line. Thanks Valerie!

And there you go, my brothers and sisters–“Five Texas Authors/Five New Books.”
Let us know if you want us to come perform at your school or conference. Have books, will travel.

Bethany Hegedus–Downtown

This past weekend, the local writing group Brazos Writers offered a seminar in Reading Like a Writer, led by Bethany Hegedus. Bethany is an up-and-comer in childrens’ books, and a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Austin, but drove over for the night, and I got to spend some quality time with her.

On the first Friday night of each month, the city of Bryan has a big citizen’s night out called First Friday, and Bethany sat at a table in front of the old Carnegie Library and signed her new book, Between us Baxters. It was so hot that I’m surprised she didn’t melt right there on the sidewalk. But she was a real trooper despite the blazing hot sun.

(And yes, there were tuba players in the background).

With Bethany were Mark Troy, Rhonda Brinkman, and Janet Fox.

Then, the next day, Bethany led her seminar at our local Barnes and Noble, including reading from Between us Baxters.. Everyone was inspired.

Not only does Bethany write, she also co-edits the YA and Childrens’ Literature section of the literary journal, “Hunger Mountain,” along with Kekla Magoon. Bethany and Kekla do school presentations together, too.

And if that isn’t enough, she also works for the Writers’ League of Texas in Austin.

I know the smartest people!

Oh, and here’s a bonus…the book trailer for Truth With a Capitol T:

Adios for now, y’all.

Mari at Martha's

It seems like no matter where I am, there is a fellow colleague nearby who is associated with Vermont College of Fine Arts. Mari Jorgensen is an alumnus from there, and I had the pleasure of joining her for lunch at a wonderful place called Martha’s Bloomers in Navasota, TX.

Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for Mari, she is getting ready to head to California where she is marrying fellow VCFAer Erik Talkin, who I’m proud to say was a student of mine.

I managed to get a few words of wisdom from Mari before she left town. Enjoy!

Here’s to you, Mari and Erik!

Life is good, y’all!

By |June 8th, 2010|Author interviews, Books|Comments Off on Mari at Martha's|

Dana Proulx-Willis: Playwrite, mime, teacher

Earlier this week, my dear friend, Dana Proulx-Willis stayed over for a visit. She’s a remarkable woman, and very graciously allowed me to interview her.

Her play, “Fairy Tale Courtroom,” has been produced hundreds of times all over the world. In fact, if you’re anywhere near Wylie, TX, you can catch a performance on June 25.

I think you’ll agree that she’s amazing, and I’m so lucky to call her my friend.

Calloo Callay, y’all!

By |June 6th, 2010|Author interviews, Books, Family and Friends|Comments Off on Dana Proulx-Willis: Playwrite, mime, teacher|