Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Mentor, Pete Seeger

 Pete Seeger called me for the first time in 2008, to offer advice as I was planning the first global Solstice Sing for Peace event.  Over the next several years, we communicated by phone and mail.  He mentored me in my efforts for peace, and later agreed to be featured in a book I hoped to get published about everyday peacemakers.  His openness, encouragement and kindness struck me immediately and continuously.  I will be forever grateful for his generosity of spirit and how it inspired me.  Following is a recollection of our only face-to-face meeting, which occurred in September 2008 in Brattleboro, VT.

Some people are compelled to perform.  Pete Seeger is one of them.  Whether he’s on stage, with a small group of people or talking on the phone, this legendary folk singer/songwriter will break out in song.  Yet, in many ways, he’s like any other grandpa. He built his house with his own hands, taps his trees for maple syrup and loves homemade strawberry shortcake.  He’s personable, has a million stories to tell and still carries a bit of boyish charm.  
I have heard that the singer can be ill tempered, but I have spoken with Pete a few times and interviewed him in person once, and each time he has been more warm and charming than the last.   Like many other performers I know, Pete infuses each conversation with his art, in this case, the art of song.
            When we met in Brattleboro, Vermont, the then 90-year-old was preparing for a concert with his grandson, Tao Rodriguez Seeger. Pete had agreed to take an hour or so from his busy day to speak with me.  Yet his grandson seemed hesitant about our meeting.  The two had traveled to Brattleboro with their publicist, who would accompany Pete to the hotel room for our interview.  She was both his protector and his aide.  She explained that she and Tao were tense, because they and Pete had experienced an “unpleasant fan incident” on their way into the hotel.  Pete seemed unfazed.
I had brought my daughter and a cameraman along, and about halfway through the conversation, Pete taught us a new song.  We sang together for a few minutes.  Later, when we had finished our chat and my cameraman was putting his equipment away, Pete stood, strapped his guitar to his back and stared out the window at the nearby mountains.  “I’m going to climb those someday,” he declared quietly. 
I don’t remember if I responded.  I was struck by the beauty of the moment, and by the image, so simple and so profound.  Pete seemed at once a fully empowered man used to setting goals and achieving them, and a little boy dreaming of adventure. 
To read the rest of the chapter about Pete Seeger from the unpublished book, "Everyday Peacemakers," or to request Pete's recipe for Strawberry Shortcake, contact me

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Taste of Science

“That was fascinating,” Kenzie said as we stepped onto W. 21st Street.  She had to speak above the din of the Manhattan afternoon. 
“Really?”  I wondered if my teen was being facetious.  “You seemed to be staring at your iPod the whole time.”
“I was playing Temple Run.  It’s mindless, so I can stare at it without having to think.  That way I can listen.”
Of course! How could I have forgotten the meetings at the start of each school year from kindergarten through 6thgrade, when I would explain to the new teacher that my daughter would seldom look their way during lessons, would appear to be staring out the window or at the floor, but would be fully aware of what was happening.  Why had I expected this to change just because she is older and more socially aware?   Of course it wouldn’t have changed.  So while I was interviewing the founder of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Real World STEM, and my daughter appeared to be playing a game on her iPod, she was in fact listening intently.
“It seemed like it wasn’t going that well at first,” Kenzie said.
“Yeah.  Some interviews are like that. I had to really draw her out.   But what did you find so fascinating?”
“I guess what she said about whole foods.”
The interviewee had a lot to say about whole foods, versus fractionated food.  She was drawing a connection between quantum physics and food.  I had booked the interview expecting to find out the science behind taste, and learned something completely different.
Kenzie and I chatted a bit more about the interview and how it would connect to the mushroom experiment that she and her friends in the Real World STEM teen corps had conducted at our shoot in June.   
I’ll begin editing the footage in the next few weeks.  The experiment video and the follow-up interview will be live on the Real World STEM website later this fall.
Video production is expensive, and so is website development.  There are people to pay; materials to purchase in order to conduct the experiments; and travel expenses to get to interviews, like the two we did in Manhattan last week.  Every contribution makes a difference and goes toward creating an awesome curriculum supplement for teens in need of a little educational boost.
Wondering what you’ll get in return?
If the warm, fuzzy feeling of being helpful isn’t enough, check out all the goodies available to you for supporting theReal World STEMindiegogo campaign!  There are only 40 days left to contribute at www.indiegogo.com/RealWorld, so please don't delay.

Rebekah, Kenzie & the Real World STEM teen corps

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wildlife Sighting by Moonlight

The sound was what caught my attention.  I looked up, presuming bats were flying near my head. Saw only the full moon.   The sound grew closer, like hoof beats. I felt the breeze as the animal whizzed out of the shadows behind me, followed closely by two larger creatures.

 I stopped walking, and held my breath.  They hadn't noticed me in their hunt, and I didn't want them to.  As they sped past me and into the town common, I could see them more clearly: something like a silver fox stealing away from two coyotes.  They gave up their pursuit, regrouped, and ran behind the library into the open field.

A Burst of MicroFiction

Jeannie pressed the envelope against her chest, then to her lips, and slipped it into the post box. To ensure the letter would reach him, she had  covered the envelope in huge letters spelling his name: Samuel. She thought of nothing else and no one else on the long walk home. Then, entering the house, Jeannie saw her father at the table with a brand-new Barbie doll just for her, and she quickly forgot about Samuel.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Traveling for Peace

I've started exploring my travel options for Everyday Peacemakers. There's a lot of travel required to finish researching for this book.  
OFF THE RECORD: I don't really love flying. In fact, I intensely dislike it, but it's a means to an end.
So I'd like to begin in Costa Rica, where I'll meet with Rita Marie and her colleagues. More importantly, I'll get to see her work up close.  We've spoken over the phone.  Rita Marie is remarkably forthcoming about personal events in her life that motivate her to work for peace. The TX native founded two non-profit organizations in Costa Rica to teach kids & adults peacemaking methods.  She swears by the program, and I want to see it in action.  
Also, I want to feel what it's like to be in a nation with no military.   Can you imagine?
Thanks for dreaming with me.  Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we'll all be able to hold a book called Everyday Peacemakers in our hands, sit in our favorite comfy spot with a cup of tea or cocoa, and read about Rita Marie.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Trailers & Other Self-Promotional Videos

Someone sent me a link to their book trailer via twitter last night.  Or at least I thought it was a book trailer while I was watching it.  The images seemed totally disjointed from the text scrolling across the screen, and the music, while evocative, was also unconnected to the text and images.  It turns out the trailer I was watching was an advertisement for a self-help writing program.  Interesting idea, poorly executed in my opinion.

Off the Record:  If you're going to put a self-promotional video online, make sure the message is clear!

I think the message is clear in the self-promotional video I produced last week to raise funds via kickstarter.com.  You can see it here:  http://kck.st/yHWJiE

I posted a comment about this on my linked In writer's group.  Someone responded:
"One of the issues I've had is trying to find cheap background music that will fit the theme - I think I've got one now off of Incompetech, but it took a lot of searching. I also just created my first totally original animated .gif! Fun! But I am worried about it coming out just a bunch of images and music...so what makes a trailer good & what makes it suck?"

My answer:  
The trailer has to make sense, the way a movie trailer does. It gives you a taste of the storyline, without revealing too much. A good book trailer hits on the central conflict of the actual book. The book trailer must be compelling in its own right. The music should fit the tone of the book and, in my opinion, the protagonist's character. 

Here are a couple of great examples.  The first is for a memoir; the second is for a YA fiction book.



In answer to the last post: YES!  I am back into the dumpster! (...well, not literally.  I just clean my food wrappers, fabric scraps & odd bits &  save them for art projects.  I don't dumpster dive.  People who know me know I'm a wee bit too squeamish and pre-occupied with cleanliness to crawl, dive or even reach into a vessel filled with refuse.)  The point here is that TRASHION will reign in my small town again for one glorious night.

Since joining the Local Cultural Council, I've had opportunity to foster all sorts of artsy fartsy activities.  When we realized we had some extra cash in our coffers, I humbly suggested my peers consider the idea of holding a trashion/re-fashion ball.  To my amazement, they agreed without even batting an eye.  (Realize, this is a somewhat conservative small town in Massachusetts, folks, not Brooklyn or New Haven).  

So... we booked a DJ, booked a space, put out a call to all locals to save their trash, and have begun collecting prizes from local biz for the most glamorous, silliest, and creative costumes.  We will have a community trashion creation event prior to the dance, for those folks who'd rather not surf these wild waters alone.  Food, dressing rooms, extra duct tape, safety pins, and contact paper...  it's not too much work, and we're looking forward to having a ton of fun.  

OFF THE RECORD:  I already made some barrettes from magazine pages.  And today I bought an extra large bag of rice.  We will eat all that rice eventually, and the bag will make a nice base for my flapper dress.   I'm inspired by the many trashionistas who have gone before me, and who are devoting their entire artistic lives to this art form now.  

Check out this video of an intense fabric scrap recycling process. This is not just fashion; it's engineering!