Thank You for Listening

Last week, I heard about the blackout in New York City, 42 years after the Blackout of 1977, which lasted 36 hours. I noted that it was interesting, and went back to typical weekend preparation for the week to come.

The next day, over lunch, I was catching up with social media, and I read about a challenge issued by singer Amanda Palmer to write a song inspired by the blackout… due in a week. (That’s tonight, Sunday, July 21, 2019.) I thought, “It might be fun to collaborate with Liam on that.” Liam, my son, is 14 and has been composing on piano and GarageBand for the past few years, and taking classes with the incredible folks at Access Contemporary Music in Chicago.

But there was the day job to focus on, and life and writing and summertime kid-shlepping, so I tried it put it out of my head again.

Except I couldn’t. The song kept writing itself in my brain, much like poems and stories do. The more I try to not write them, the louder they respond in my head. So… I opened a window and kept jotting down notes.

That night, after putting the kids to bed, I turned sheepishly to Stephen and told him I had written a song, except it had to be under 5 minutes, and it was 10 minutes long (and I had already cut 1/3 of it.)

He laughed and read it over with some suggestions—he’s a wonderful editor—and the next morning before work, I handed the lyrics to Liam and asked if he’d be interested in writing the music. After I explained the challenge and the deadline (thank goodness it’s summer vacation), he enthusiastically agreed; and we asked my youngest, Lana, who’s 12, if she’d like to sing.  She also agreed, and away Liam went—and 24 hours later, we handed Lana the lyrics and music for a four-and-a-half minute song, currently titled “In the Dark.”

If we had another week, my oldest daughter, Maya, would have created animation to accompany the song, but the deadline is tonight, so we’ve posted it with the lyrics to YouTube.

One of the things that I appreciate about Amanda and Neil Gaiman, and their extended circle of creative adventurers, is their eagerness to collaborate and encourage collaboration. It was a collaboration that brought them together, and our mutual friend Kyle Cassidy had a part to play in that—and several other collaborations orchestrated on the internet over the years. I watched with great interest Neil and Amanda’s 8in8 experiment with Ben Folds and OK Go’s Damian Kulash back in 2011, when they committed to work together to try and create and record 8 songs in 8 hours. One of the songs that came out of that, “The Problem With Saints,” is a family favorite.

Liam, Lana, Maya

So this Blackout songwriting challenge provided me with the first actual opportunity to collaborate with my kids, and I’m really proud of them for working together (no small feat for this preteen and teen). It’s our first attempt at doing something like this, Lana’s first try at singing in public (she’s shy), with the added challenge of trying to sing an “Amanda Palmer” song, in a lower vocal register than she would usually sing.

Honestly, I’m not sure I would have been able to do that at their age. While Liam has been composing songs for a few years, they have been instrumental only and usually classical or EDM (electronic dance music). I handed them the lyrics, and they did the rest.

Thank you, Amanda, for being the art catalyst. I love it when art makes ripples like this. In today’s day and age, making good art is as important as ever, and I’m happy to be a part of it, and to show my kids that, working together, we can do amazing things.

I look forward to listening to the other entries now that we’ve submitted ours. If you’d like to review the hundred responses, you can find them on Amanda’s Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/posts/sunday-contest-28370965

I’ve been smiling all evening because of the absolute joy of this. There are some great entries for the contest, a few submitted by friends of mine; and for me and the kids, it was really never about the destination, but all about the journey. We got to make something together. That is a gift.

It will be fun to see what evolves out of this.

Thank you for listening to this proud Mama.

xxo

 

With a Little Help

To try and get more work done on the most recent book (announcement this week!) with its rapidly approaching deadline, I decided that I needed to take a little time away for focused progress.

Katelan Foisy agreed to come with me on a roadtrip to stay at a mutual friend’s house and work on our respective projects (and hopefully brainstorm about a collaboration or two down the line.)

We ended up driving into a bit of a blizzard, stopping first for a quick bite at a cute cafe and to peek into a 100+ year old theatre:

We made it safely there, unpacked and settled into the snowy evening with our books and notebooks, a bottle of wine and some spicy veggies and pasta for dinner.

There is something so satisfying about fragrant, colorful foods cooking while the world outside the windows is white and cold.

Now we’re camped out on the comfy couch with blankets and laptops and mugs of warm beverages for work before bed. (Thanks to everyone pitching in back home to make this time and space possible. It continues to take a village, and I am so grateful.)

#sweetdreams #amwriting

New Year, New Blog Design

Looking back on my attempts to post here more regularly, I realized that one of the reasons I was avoiding the blog was because I had grown unhappy with the design of it and was unsure how to fix it. Thanks to Stephen’s help, the website has a much-needed facelift, and I’m going to try to once more cultivate a realistic once-a-week routine. Maybe as I find my rhythm, I can do more. Certainly the goal for 2019 is a lot more writing—creative and otherwise.

Reflecting upon the year that passed, much of it was focused on putting the pieces in place for the kids and household after several transitions. My hope is that this year we can all build upon that foundation the things that we need and want.

With a still-secret book deal that is due to the publisher at the end of February, we’re hitting the ground of 2019 running. Stephen and I are coauthoring another nonfiction book! (We will share more as we are able.)

In the meantime, thank you. Thank you for reading the things I have had published and shared, for offering support and checking in on me when I seemed too quiet, for being patient while I retracted from the world to deal with all the things.

There is a lot of work to be done—on large and small scales. My 2019 wish is that we can all move forward to try and make this world a better place with courage and compassion, with humility and reflection, hand-in-hand with collaborators and loved ones. I hope that you can find the right partners to share your dreams, to hold you up when you get tired, to hug you when you are ready to be hugged, and to dance and laugh with you when there is joy to be celebrated.

Thank you for being part of my circle. Happy New Year!