Jack Straw Productions has just posted an interview with me about Story Chairs – it has clips of music and readings and has a lot of charm. You can listen and download on their front page and I’m posting it here as well. Stellar interviewing and production by Jennie Cecil Moore. CJ Lazenby was in the booth. Thanks, guys!
I also wanted you to know that we will have a reading for the Story Chairs authors and musicians on Friday, June 7 at 7:00 pm. It will be a fun opportunity to see and sit in the chairs as well as hear the work of some of the contributors to the project. There will be music. There may be dancing. And all of it will be recorded – come be a part of our story.
Listen to the podcast.
We turn to spring in a few days and as day equals night it seems right that the Story Chairs project should be readying for installation and my website, another long term project, should be new as well.
The Story Chairs will install at Jack Straw this weekend in their new lobby space. It was important to me that the audio have a place to live online, where others could experience a little of what I did last year as the writers came through the recording studio, adding their voices and stories to the mix. I’m thankful for everyone’s contributions.
My new presence online loses some of the custom design that made the old site so pleasing, but because it is hosted on WordPress I can easily update the site myself. I’ve also brought my blog under the same roof as my artwork and writing, where I can tell a little more clearly the story of all the things I do.
Listen to the delicious stories and music from Story Chairs. Click around the site. I am still updating portfolios but you can get a sense of the artwork I’ve done. Take a look at the letter my Grandma Violet sent me just before I turned four years old. Welcome.
Without these people much of this would not have been built: Moe Provencher who is a dream of an engineer, has a nose for story and knows how to manage a wild eyed writer; Jeffry Mitchell who helped dream up the Story Chairs; Ben Oblas who built them; Craig Marois and Michael Helland, the programming swat team; Dana Sullivan, master cat herder and graphic designer, Joan Rabinowitz and Levi Fuller at Jack Straw; all the writers and musicians who brought their work to the project and waited patiently for the installation; Jill Beaumont of Firefly Design, my web maven; and Vic Oblas who floats my boat 24/7. It’s good to have friends and family.
Come out to the opening on the 27th from 5:30-8:00 pm, Jack Straw Productions, Seattle, or drop by during business hours.
I dearly love this poem by William Stafford, and many years ago printed it for our holiday card. My Mom and Dad thumbtacked it up in their spare bedroom where I saw it whenever I went home. It’s a good reminder, especially in the dark of winter.
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out — no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
Moe and I spent the afternoon editing and sequencing audio for the Story Chairs yesterday, and got the lion’s share done. It was exciting to see the renovation in the lobby actually underway. The contractors were just installing the original cast glass radios in the lobby interior, that date from the era when the building housed KRAB-FM, a big part of Jack Straw’s history. Though the installation of my project has been delayed, I did get to see the spot the Story Chairs will go. The new lobby and office will be light-filled and welcoming and is the first phase of a renovation that will see the exterior painted with graphics and new signage.
I am betting that it will be February before the chairs are installed and ready to be experienced – and that’s fine by me. It feels good to have the time to honor all of the stories and music recorded, as well as the writers and readers, by tweaking levels, taking time to shift things around and think through the experience for the listener.
For this moody end-of-year weather I’d like to share Jack Straw Writer, Gabriela Denise Frank’s dreamy piece she recorded this fall.
Nepenthe by Gabriela Denise Frank
I am in Oakland for the last Christmas in the house my parents built together. It’s time for Mom to make a new home, one where she will be surrounded by friends, can walk to to the market and to see a movie, and that will be easier to maintain. All of her girls are here, in all of our unruly glory. In honor of the gathering I’m posting a piece about our lives on the mountain, the cabin in Estes Park where we spent part of most summers when we were growing up.
Ride That Bronco
Moe and I started sequencing the audio for the Story Chairs yesterday. Two hours of listening and thinking and guessing, turning to each other when we rediscovered something great and sitting quietly with a piece that didn’t quite fit with the other stories and poems, before we assigned it a home. We worked to keep too much sorrow and loss from clumping together and added sparks of joy and delicious voice as leavening to one or the other list. After the rough sort, and without the music, each of the two chairs has a little over an hour of audio. There are almost 60 pieces and they run the gamut of emotion and voice. I’m glad to have two young readers in the mix, some challenging poems and enough funny to knit it all together. Now I have to sit down and listen to all the audio again and make the play lists. This will likely happen after Christmas when I have some days off work. I look forward to those listening sessions.
I am especially grateful for the generosity of writers who recorded the work of others, those who couldn’t come to the studio because they lived out of town or couldn’t find time in their schedule. My friend Gwen Demombynes recorded a story by LK Gardner Griffie, who I know from Twitter and now her books, and gave it a life I hadn’t read on the page. Here she is reading her own story, The Man on the Train.
Yesterday I joined about thirty other people for a walk through of Like a Valentine, Jeffry Mitchell’s remarkable survey exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery. Five of us, including Jeffry, talked for five minutes about one work each. The afternoon was relaxed and intimate and a fine excuse to return to the show. The work just keeps on giving.
Experiencing the show again before the walk through, I thought about Jeffry’s love of the alphabet and its recurrence in the work, and about the steady return to other iconic imagery: elephants, flowers, Asian and American ceramic conventions, even the color pink. To me, this beloved imagery is like an alphabet, holding every possibility for telling his story, whatever it may be, just as the alphabet holds every story within its construct. The exhibition gives that sense of richness, the abundance of life offering itself up in beauty and loss, light and shadow, a tale spun from nothing and everything. The exhibit remains up until January 27. Run, don’t walk.
For my Story Chairs I’ve been writing a series of stories about encounters with animals, bears among them. This story is about the first bear I had a direct experience with. Some details may be slightly off – was I in a car seat? Was it me next to the window and not my sister? No matter – memory is a storyteller in its own right.
I’ve been working on audio all summer, preparing to install my Story Chairs at Jack Straw. It’s been a pleasure and a reverie, to write and record these very short stories from my childhood and adult life, about my experience with animals.
As we prepare to elect our President I feel open and hopeful and also as if standing in the dark. I remember distinctly the day Reagan was elected for a second term, how the landslide shattered and disillusioned me. Then Bush 1 and Bush 2, their tenure a kaleidescope of error and obfuscation and a diminishing of what I thought America should be. This is partisan politics, I know.
Regardless of how we all felt at the time, we survived. I survived, hope intact. And so, as we step into the Great Dark of winter, as our northern days diminish and we hover in the twilight of the year, I want to share my favorite recording from the summer. In it I tried to express the hope that is springtime in the midst of winter, the unexpected beauty of the force of life as I slogged through the last days of this season we are moving into now. However the election turns out, we will endure. And good things will come.
When you make work for a lot of years – writing, artwork, anything creative – you come to know that there will be down time. Life happens and you have to deal with it, or you’ve had a period of intense activity and the creative well runs dry. You might be in the bottom of a pit and having a hard time getting out, or maybe someone you love is in trouble or gone. But sometimes you just have to have a life.
I have come to trust those times without a lot of production because they are always followed by fresh starts. It’s as if we are the garden and we need time to rest and absorb all that nourishes us before new seeds can successfully sprout and come to fruition. For me, this timing often works out in opposition to the seasons. I often complete a project or body of work in the spring, and start something new or return to works in progress in the fall. But sometimes it’s hard to pick up the threads and get back to full speed. I do best when I go into the winter fully engaged, one reason I love NaNoWriMo, for its insane November effort that provides grist for the winter months.
So I was excited to put together a few days of pure enjoyment, made up of good food, walks and bicycle rides in the cool sunshine of late September, time spent with my husband and writing pals and just the right amount of focused work. Riding through the landscape of small farms near Fall City along roads edged with blackberries, inhabiting my body, I was purely happy. The fields were turning, though still full of pumpkins ripening, purple and green cabbage and kale and late summer flowers for market. I knew I could begin again after a summer spent away from major projects, that I was looking forward to returning to the enamel panels waiting in the studio and that hard-to-finish novel on my laptop, instead of feeling guilty for my lack of progress over the summer.
This too is summer’s bounty, the turning to fall and its new beginnings.