Celebration of Lexington Authors

Last week my local library, Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, hosted a lovely Celebration of Lexington Authors, a group of over 660 of us! My husband, Alan Ticotsky–who writes science books for teachers–and I were among the invited guests.

A new authors’ panel was unveiled in the beautiful reading room, and there were refreshments, an opportunity to schmooze, music by the terrific Lexington musician Jon Dreyer (who’s my friend), and speeches. I was honored to be one of the authors chosen to speak on the topic “Why I Write.” We were told to limit our remarks to three minutes! This was a challenge for me. I’m not exactly a woman of few words (ask my kids, and they’ll roll their eyes.) But I honed my speech, practiced, and pared, as I thought a lot about my dad, a legendary advertising creative director who taught me less is more. The audience’s laughter as I spoke and afterwards the many people who found me to say how much they liked my speech was very gratifying. And I clocked in at 3 minutes! (Sorry, kids, I don’t plan to make brevity a habit.)

Library Director Koren Stembridge gave an informative, moving introduction. Behind her is the updated panel of 660 plus Lexington authors.

Sharing with the over 100 attendees “Why I Write”

The gorgeous new podium was created by the amazing woodworker (and my friend) Steve McKenna.

Lexington authors in attendance (power couple Al and I are front right.)

Doreen Buchinski, the wonderful designer and Illustrator of the new edition of Me and the Weirdos and I show off our hot-off-the-press book

I Fell for Fall Into Reading

I really enjoyed being part of the Fall Into Reading Picture Book Festival at the Salem, NH Barnes and Noble. The staff was welcoming,  accommodating and enthusiastic! The children’s department was attractive and well-stocked. I got to read What’s Up with This Chicken? to an audience of cuties. And I got to hang out with other children’s book authors/friends.

Here we are: Alison Goldberg. moi, Ellen Mayer, Kirsti Erekson Call, Carol Gordon Ekster, and Sara Levine.

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Sara reading Carol’s You Know What? and Carol reading Sara’s Fossil by Fossil, with Sara’s bone display, complementing her comparative anatomy books.

Alison reading Ellen’s Cake Day and Ellen reading Alison’s     I Love you for Miles and Miles

I’m reading Kirsti’s The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall, and she’s reading my Paulie’s Passover Predicament. What fun to get to know each other’s books and each other better!

Awesome New Poetry Anthology

I’m pleased to be a contributor to a fun and beautiful new anthology of illustrated animal poems called An Assortment of Animals: A Children’s Poetry Anthology. The poems’ forms are as varied as their animal subjects. Well-known authors including Jane Yolen are contributing poets.

The illustrator and designer of my new edition of Me and the Weirdos, Doreen Buchinski, designed this gorgeous anthology and illustrated some of the poems (including mine!)

See cover reveal link

Order from Amazon

Stunning, clever cover by Brian Lies

Weirdos are Back!

Reading the script for the musical Me and the Krinkles and thinking back to all the letters I’d received over the years—from children and adults—about how much they loved Me and the Weirdos and wished it were still available, I started thinking . . . I should get it back in print.

In Utah I mentioned this idea to the young playwrights Ashley Berrett and Eva Perkins, and  their eyes lit up!

My star children’s book writing student Josh Funk suggested I not wait around for a traditional publisher and go through KDP.Amazon’s  print-on-demand program. I took his advice and got started! The new edition needed updated artwork, so I hired another of my talented students, Doreen Buchinski, to design the book and create a new cover and illustrations.

I’ll be writing more posts about the journey to republication, but for now I’ll just say that Doreen did a fantastic job and share the exciting news that the Weirdos are back! Yes! The new edition of Me and the Weirdos is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle, and can be ordered through any independent bookstore or Barnes and Noble.

Charming, eye-popping cover, created by Doreen Buchinski

Show Time! ME AND THE KRINKLES Premiere

Thirty minutes until the premiere of Me and the Krinkles. We were all excited, nervous, amazed that this was finally happening— the playwrights, their families, the cast, me…
Programs were handed out—attractively designed, of course by the Renaissance young women Eva Perkins and Ashley Berrett. They were communicating with the lighting crew and their cast, had arranged for Al and me to sit center stage with their families, and saved a temporary seat in the front so I could quickly join them on stage when they called me up. After years of appearing in productions themselves and directing younger students, they were astonishingly professional.

Many audience members thanked Al and me for coming to the premiere.
I paced in the hall for a few minutes, memorizing my remarks to the audience.

The lights dimmed.

Spotlight on the young creators, who addressed the audience before the play began

 

The girls spoke about their wonderful experience writing the play and directing the cast, how much its message of acceptance and the ability to grow and change meant to them, and then they said they had a surprise— the author of ME AND THE WEIRDOS, the novel upon which the play was based, was there (my cue).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spoke from my heart, talking about reading Ashley’s and Eva’s initial email—the sweetest, politest one I’d ever received,  how impressed I was by their composing and writing talents, as well as “the warm welcome Al and I received from Eva’s and Ashley’s families and the whole town!” Almost starting to cry,  I said, “It’s deeply touching to me that the humor and the message of the book, that it’s OK to be different, still resonates.”

The girls presented me with a large play poster signed by the cast, now proudly displayed in my home. To see more photos of the performance and the girls’ and my speeches, see this article, with accompanying slide show and videos.

Now the colorful set—created by Eva’s father—was revealed, and its terrificc details, before even a line was spoken, brought my book to life! Then the play began …

Roger Snooterman, played by Elijah Ward, tells Cindy Krinkle, played by Saylor Perkins, that her family is weird.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two-act play was delightfully entertaining, as well as moving. There were many lines that made the audience roar with laughter, and beautifully sung songs that brought us close to tears. It was a thrill for me to hear the talented middle school actors say the lines I had read in the script. And to hear how well the music with its pleasing, hummable-afterwards melodies meshed with the lyrics that effectively elucidated the plot. Eva had even composed music to play between scenes.

Ashley and Eva had done a terrific job casting the middle school students in their parts and directing them. The Krinkle family, visitors and friends were all portrayed expertly by the young actors, who sang well, too!

The staging was quite sophisticated, with actors popping up behind scenery to echo lines, adding to the humor of the production and allowing more actors to be involved. Sometimes two separate groups acted out scenes simultaneously, quite a feat.

The cast receives a well-earned standing ovation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the play, posing with the talented Elijah Ward (Roger Snooterman, the paperboy who sets the play in motion) and Toby Ward (Smith Krinkle, the odd but lovable father.) We were all thrilled to meet each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post-play, we were beaming next to a poster. I told Eva and Ashley how absolutely wonderful I thought the play, music, staging, and direction were, and they told me that creating it had been a life-changing experience.

Busy Day in Blanding: Part 3

Before the premiere of Me and the Krinkles, the playwrights/directors Ashley Berrett and Eva Perkins asked me to come talk with the middle school cast. The young actors were already in costume and extremely excited to meet the author of the original book.

I received quite the ovation before saying a word! I had planned a presentation, but the kids had so many questions that it turned into a Q&A. Several wanted to know why my book was out of print. Some checked their phones on the spot and said things like, “Whoa! Someone’s selling it on Amazon for $214!” 

When their directors Eva and Ashley gave them permission to line up for autographs, they jumped up from their seats and stood in line.As each approached me, they would tell me what part they would be playing … in about an hour from then! 

I signed many programs, a hand, and a phone case.

These enthusiastic middle school students thanked me for my autograph and for coming to the premiere. Did I mention that they were adorable? They were!

Now we all needed to wait for show time.

Busy Day in Blanding: Part Two

After the museum, we headed for San Juan High School, where the premiere of Me and the Krinkles would be performed that night. Adding to my excitement and the size of my already swollen head was this sign: 

…which did alternate with a sign welcoming one of my breakfast mates:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I talked to several high school classes about my writing process, always a treat for me. I learned that in one of the English classes, students were writing children’s books and that almost half of the student body is Native American. One group was a drama class, with the playwrights Ashley and Eva in attendance. It was fun to share some aspects they’d never heard before about the evolution of Me and the Weirdos, my book they based their musical on.

Why am I showing a slide of myself in kindergarten? Because, I tell the students, “I always liked to write.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here I’m encouraging students to read aloud or have someone read their work to them when they revise..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Al and I had a short rest back at our motel and an early dinner at a great little restaurant in town called Patio. In my head I kept revising and memorizing and re-writing the remarks I would give that night before the premiere. Sorry, Al, I know I was not a good conversationalist that day. Then back to the high school …

Busy Day in Blanding, Part One: A Fascinating Museum

The day after we met the Berrett and Perkins families, Al and I got up early. We had a busy day ahead. First, we savored our delicious, homemade breakfast at Stone Lizard Lodging. One of the guests in the breakfast room was an unusually pretty, perfectly made-up young woman. Now, before the trip I’d made arrangements to talk to high school classes about my writing process. And I had been told that besides yours truly, the school would have another special guest the same day. A light bulb went on above my head.

Miss Utah 2017

“Are you Miss Utah?” I asked.
When she responded in the affirmative, I told her that both of us would be speakers at San Juan High School that day. Her topic was anti-bullying, and I suddenly realized that my book-musical, with its message that being different is nothing to make fun of, has a similar message to what she wants to convey to students. We smiled at the closely related themes and went our separate ways.

 

 

Later, I remarked to Eva that I had met Miss Utah at breakfast.
“Yes, she told me,” Eva responded.
“Miss Utah talked about me!” the voice inside my swelling head said.

But it wasn’t time to head for the high school. Our first stop was the fascinating Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum, located right in Blanding. Actually, it’s not just a museum but is also an Ancestral Puebloan archaeological site. As we approached the desk, an employee asked where we were from, and when the magic answer was “Massachusetts,” he said he’d been informed (by Eva’s mom, Kd) that the visiting author was coming and then gave us a personal tour. You guessed it: I was again soaking up the feeling that my fame in Blanding preceded me.

We enjoyed the museum, learning a great deal about the history, culture and art of ancient peoples. At the same time, I was thinking about what was coming next: three presentations at the high school, one to the middle school cast, and the premiere of Me and the Krinkles that night! Plus, the night before, Eva and Ashley had asked me to say a few words to the audience. What exactly would I say when they called me up on the stage? As I admired the ancient pottery and other exhibits, a speech was formulating in my head…

Edge of Cedars Museum, with beautiful snow-covered mountains in background

 

Inside, the museum has an amazing repository of ancestral Pueblo pottery.

It was so cool to recognize patterns of the pottery shards we’d seen at Bears Ears the day before, here whole and stunning.

Behind the modern museum is a village inhabited by ancient Puebloan peoples from AD 825 to 1225. Pretty amazing.

 

We Meet, at Last!

The young playwrights Ashley Berrett and Eva Perkins and I had communicated many times via email, some texts … but we’d never met in person.
After our wonderful day touring the area, courtesy of Ashley’s parents’ company https://www.riversandruins.com/ Ashley’s mom, Spring Berrett, invited Al and me to their home for dinner, where we got to meet both playwrights and their large, lovely families. It was a magical evening…

The girls and I were so excited to finally meet in person! From left, that’s Eva, me, and Ashley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone in the family was so warm to both Al and me, appreciative of our coming so far to see the play and for my granting permission to turn my book into a musical and providing feedback on the script and lyrics. I responded that it had been an absolute pleasure and that I was so impressed with these high school seniors’ work.

 

Now Al’s in the picture. The Berrets and Perkins welcomed him enthusiastically, too, and appreciated his accompanying me, which I did, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eva’s mom, Kd, told me how much she loved ME AND THE WEIRDOS as a child and was eager to share it with her daughter. I was especially touched when she thanked me for allowing the girls to change certain aspects of the plot in the musical.

We all “hit it off” and felt like old friends right away. We learned about each other and our lives. We heard how the parents had pitched in at rehearsals when the girls had other obligations and had built the set. Everyone in both families was charming, including the adorable little siblings. On paper, we are very different–suburb near big city for us, little town far from a large city for them, etc. But  we shared a similar sense of humor and love of fun. The food was delicious, too!

We discovered that though Ashley and Eva and I live 2400 miles apart and I was 10 years older that they are when I originally wrote the book, we all had the same goal: through an entertaining piece of art, to show readers/audiences that being different is just fine.

And then, Eva and Ashley asked if we’d like to hear them sing a couple of songs from the musical before opening night. Yes!!!!

Ashley and Eva sang one of the musical’s songs, with music Eva had composed and written lyrics for. Their voices were lovely, and it was a pleasure to hear how the lyrics, which I had only read previously, went perfectly with the music and effectively explicated the plot.

Rachel Berrett joined in on another terrific song. At the end of the performance, we all hugged. I was so moved that I almost cried.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It had been an absolutely amazing day. We couldn’t wait for what would come next–opening night!

Exploring the Wild

Our next day in Blanding, Al and I were treated to a surprise trip, courtesy of young Me and the Krinkles co-playwright Ashley Berrett’s parents, Jared and Spring Berrett of Four Corners Adventures and Wild Rivers Expeditions! We had our own private guide, Louis Williams, who drove us to wild areas we could not have reached in our rental car.

Louis had a suggested itinerary but invited us to choose other places we wanted to see. We ended up driving and hiking in Bears Ears National Monument–a fascinating, gorgeous area that made us truly appreciate why it needs to be preserved, Valley of the Gods (wow!), and Goose Necks State Park (another wow!)

Jeep that took us on dirt roads we’d never have dared to drive our rental car!

 

Along a hike in beautiful, fascinating Bears Ears National Monument, Louis pointed out rock features, plants with medicinal uses, spots significant to his Navajo culture, and evidence of ancestral Pueblo people’s life.

The end point of our hike was the fascinating cliff dwelling, Monarch Cave Ruin. Louis, Al and I were the only 3 people there!

Many, many shards around the cliff dwelling, left by ancestral Pueblo people who once lived there

Al and I were thrilled to learn so much from Louis and to be in such an amazing place, just one of 100,000 archaeological sites in Bears Ears!

Our next stop was stunning Valley of the Gods, with its deep red rock formations, all Rorschach test-worthy, against a bright blue sky. In January, we had the vast area to ourselves!

Views were vast. From Valley of the Gods, we could see Monument Valley in the distance.

Our final stop on our tour was Goosenecks State Park, a highlight of our trip with our children back in 1994. It was as awesome as we remembered. So for the second time we got to ooh and aah from an overlook way above the meandering San Juan River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The whole day of natural wonders left us sooooo glad we had made the journey to this corner of Utah. And that night held even more wonders…