Monday, December 29, 2014

Good Job, Disney!

Translating Stage to Screen

Background: For over thirty years it has been my privilege and pleasure to direct over eighty stage musicals for community groups and high schools, so I have seen and heard a lot of shows, many of them numerous times. Being in a theater watching and listening to live performers has a special magic for both performers and audience. It’s true of live theater of any kind, but music enhances theater. It heightens emotions, increases perceptions and sometimes sweeps us away if it is performed well. As a director I tend to hold my breath through each performance, and it thrills me when the audience leaves smiling. Even more when they are smiling because they saw a satisfying production, and wiping their eyes at the same time because they’ve been moved by the story and by our performance.

I am not a big fan of most films that are adaptations of stage musicals. Oklahoma! was OK (sorry, pun intended). It has been years since I actually watched the film and there must be a reason for that. I really, really, really hated Carousel. Hollywood outdid itself in wrenching a stage musical I love (partly for very personal reasons) into a B movie; leaving out some of the best parts, miscasting the film – I could go on and on about this one. Fiddler on the Roof was not bad, but it seemed to me it dragged terribly. The stage production is very long, the movie seemed interminable.

I liked 1776, but the powers that be were wise enough to use the same team that had made the show a success on Broadway – director, writer, and producer – and many of the original cast members for the film. I love 1776 and loved directing it. The Broadway cast was brilliant and that brilliance translated well to the film version. There were very few changes (some cuts were restored for the most recent DVD). There was very little filler.

Of more recent films, I found Sweeney Todd very disappointing. Some of Sondheim’s best writing for ensemble was completely eliminated – it seemed to be a movie about two very fine actors attempting (and failing) to sing a very difficult, wonderful score. Maybe more than disappointing. I will never watch it again. Tim Burton made me laugh, finally, with all the gore. It became ludicrous. I don’t know, maybe that’s what he was after.

Disney, with Sondheim’s guidance, absolutely nailed Into the Woods. Another great Sondheim show, another show I love, another show I loved directing. The musical numbers that were omitted made sense; the first act finale isn’t needed when there’s no intermission and I liked the way the film continued the story rather than stopping and re-starting. One of my favorite songs in the show (“No More”) was cut but that also made sense in the context of a film and keeping the flow of the story.

The cast was exceptional, and it seemed to me they were all very much aware how much an ensemble piece Into the Woods has to be. My opinion is that the film is a good show for kids as the musical may not be – some of the edges have been smoothed. In the stage play it’s pretty evident that Cinderella’s Prince and the Baker’s Wife have a tryst (good word). In the movie, it can be taken as a “moment” (maybe a little kissing?) but what actually happened is left to the imagination of the audience. There’s no blood, though we understand people die.

No doubt there are those who will object to the changes, but it makes the movie much more accessible to a larger audience. I think it's great that so many people will have the opportunity to see this wonderful musical. Not everybody can afford a ticket to a Broadway show (have you checked the prices recently?!). Not everybody can get to New York to see a show, or even is near a venue for a tour. And those tickets are not cheap either. I saw the film at a matinee at the local Cinemark for $5.75.

Even though they are fairy tale characters, the characters aren’t gorgeous and perfect (well, except for the two Princes – but they have to be). They come across as real people and we care about them. The special effects are excellent and the music is performed expertly, enhanced by a new orchestration. To a purist some of the music may seem a little slow, but again, for an audience that’s unfamiliar with Sondheim and his wonderful texts, I think it was a good choice. Every word is clearly understandable. “The Last Midnight” is extremely well staged. “Agony” was the highlight of the film for me; I can’t imagine how it could possibly have been better.

Give yourself a real treat, go see this film. Even better, take a ten-year-old – but explain the premise first. There’s something beyond “happily ever after” and actions have consequences. And take tissues. “No One Is Alone” always makes me cry. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Nice Christmas Gift

Thanks for the Review

From time to time I check my books which are listed on Amazon, and I was delighted today to see a review of Eli’s Heart posted on Christmas Eve by a reader from the UK. That in itself was a gift, to think someone totally unknown to me ─living in another country ─ had read my book and cared enough to write a review. I began writing in May of 2013, primarily for myself; once How I Grew Up was complete, I wanted to hold it in my hands. I wanted to give other people a chance to read the story. I began writing Eli’s Heart almost immediately, and it’s a very good feeling to learn that this second book has crossed an ocean.

It was a very honest review, positive for the most part. There were a couple of things the reviewer suggested I might have done better – or perhaps differently, and I accepted the criticism in the spirit in which it was tendered … just that, a suggestion as to how I might improve my writing. Of the many nice things he had to say, the one that pleased me most was his comment that he cared about my characters and found them very believable; actually, he said: These fictional figures become utterly real to the reader, helping to develop a connection that will make you need to know what is coming next. He further commented I had created a world he could also believe; the book takes place in the mid-twentieth century. His comment about the book making a good film was definitely a bonus.

This kind of response is a gift. Knowing that the characters who were the product of my imagination apparently became as real to this reader as they are to me was a great compliment. He apparently found the book a good read and was absorbed by it. It was a good review, and I so appreciate that he took the time to a) read Eli’s Heart and b) review it with such thought and care.

There are probably hundreds of thousands of indie authors who are self-publishing these days, many through Amazon’s fine program, CreateSpace. So I am very much aware of the competition for readers, and I am thrilled when I receive this kind of review. I am thrilled when anyone local stops me in the supermarket/parking lot/school auditorium and says: “I read your book and I thought it was great/loved it/thoroughly enjoyed it.” And if they add they borrowed it from a friend or relative, that’s fine. They read it! You can’t give an author a more wonderful gift than to take the time to read her book.

So here’s the self-promotion you knew was coming: Eli’s Heart is a good story, and apparently Eli and Krissy come alive for the reader. You can find the book on Amazon (my favorite place to shop for just about anything, by the way), currently selling for $10.94 for the paperback edition and $3.99 for the Kindle edition. Nice reading for a snowy winter’s night. I believe you will be glad you decided to spend time with these devoted, passionate people who share a difficult life with grace and courage.

Book cover by Tristan Flanagan

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

You Are My Song/Eli's Heart

Two Musicians    

     Writing You Are My Song has been a very different experience from writing Eli's Heart. Eli Levin's story is full of drama because of the two challenges he has faced from birth: a prodigious talent and a frightening congenital heart condition. I recently described Jamie Logan, the young tenor in You Are My Song, to one of my readers as “an ordinary guy with an extraordinary talent.” Jamie has an unusually beautiful singing voice and excellent musical instincts, and he works hard to develop his talent. 
     It’s interesting to compare Jamie to Eli Levin. Because Eli was born with a prodigious musical gift, it’s a given that he will be a professional musician. The only question for Eli is how he will use his remarkable skill as a pianist: as a virtuoso, performing solo recitals and orchestral appearances? That is the manner in which most pianists endowed in this way spend their lives.
     Eli chooses instead to work with other musicians, as an accompanist or collaborator. The early part of the book includes descriptions of his battles with his mother over this choice. Because of who Eli is, with these dual challenges there is of necessity the sense of a fairy tale in his story. He’s different from most of us. He’s very different from most of us. He was performing professionally as a soloist at the age of twelve. When he is twenty-four, he’s completed his master of music degree and has embarked on a busy career as a collaborative artist that takes him all over the world.
     Jamie, on the other hand, starts his adult life with an associates’ degree in business and an early marriage that is in trouble. In high school he had enjoyed singing, and like most of us, sang in the school choirs and the high school musicals. Unlike Eli, Jamie has actually heard very little classical music until a voice teacher plays him a recording of a tenor singing a particularly beautiful and moving aria. Jamie is excited by what he hears to the point of wanting to go back to college at the age of twenty-three and eventually attempting a career in opera.
     Many professional opera singers don’t begin serious study until high school or even college, as opposed to instrumentalists who sometimes demonstrate talent and even genius at a very young age, as early as three or four. Serious singing requires muscular and mental development that doesn’t begin to take place until the mid-teens for most men, and the early to mid-teens for women.
     One difference between Jamie and Eli, it seems to me – and I know them better than anyone does – is how they perceive their talent. Eli has the ability to play anything to near perfection the first time he reads through it. Yet he practices hours on end, striving for absolute perfection. He has a very revealing moment in the book when talking with his psychiatrist (I think I did him a great service by putting Pete in his life):

     Eli was aware of how quiet it was in the room. They were high enough above the street so that traffic noise wasn’t audible.
     “You know something, Pete? Nobody ever asked me if I liked playing the piano. It came easily to me, and I could sight read anything, so everybody figured that’s what I should do. What else was I going to do?”
     Eli thought a minute. “I love music, Pete. I don’t mean to say that I don’t like playing piano, because really, I do. I’m hard on myself sometimes because I want it to be perfect. But when I’m working with another musician, it can be exciting to feel what’s happening.”

     Jamie, on the other hand, has come much later to music and the realization he might have a career as a performer. But he battles self-doubts, partly created by the early marriage that ended badly after only two years. More than once these doubts surface as Jamie works hard to become as good a performer as he possibly can. At one point his second wife asks him:

     “What do you want, Jamie? I mean what do you see as the fulfillment of your dream?” She was surprised she had never asked him this. She knew he wanted to sing. She wasn’t really sure what would make him feel he’d “made it.”
     He said without hesitating, “Singing Don José at the Met.” He looked a little troubled. “It may never happen. But I guess it’s good to have a goal, and that’s mine.”

    Eli's Heart is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle, and You Are My Song should be released by mid-January. They are both good stories, both about classical musicians. I have a friend who says everyone has a story, and I believe she is correct. It's been absorbing, challenging and rewarding to follow Eli's and Jamie's paths. 


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

For Love of Music

Why We Make Music

            “We don’t choose music. Music chooses us.” This is something I say to my voice students who seem to have a passion for singing; those who eagerly learn and perfect as best they can the sometimes very difficult songs with which I challenge them. The students who express a desire to continue their study past high school; those who apply to a music program, prepare for auditions, eagerly listen to music I share with them. I caution them not to try to do this, become a performer, unless it seems if they don’t try it they might die. That seems extreme, but while it is an immensely rewarding life, it can be very difficult. It’s important they understand what they are pursuing.
            In one chapter in my book Eli’s Heart, Eli is given the difficult task of preparing the piano part for the Brahms Piano Quintet in a very short amount of time. The professional string quartet-in-residence at the music conservatory he and his wife Krissy are attending have their scheduled professional pianist cancel a concert less than two weeks prior to the performance. Eli was a child prodigy and they are very much aware of his talent, and they ask him to perform with them. He eagerly accepts the invitation, but begins almost immediately to have second thoughts. Eli the perfectionist likes to practice, and he fears he will not have the time to bring his performance up to the standards set by the quartet members.
            He goes through the emotional, visceral experience many … perhaps most … musicians do while preparing to step on stage for this performance, concerned he won’t play as well as he wants to. The best musicians set very high standards for themselves, sometimes almost impossibly high. Perfection in a live performance is very elusive. But at the same time, these musicians must perform. Music has chosen them.

Excerpt from Eli’s Heart (Note: “Walter” is Walter Bergman, the first violinist)

     The night of the Quartet concert he paced the floor outside the Recital Hall for the entire first half of the program, his score for the Brahms quintet in his hands. He’d only rehearsed twice with the Quartet; he wished they had rehearsed more. He was convinced it would have been better if their original pianist were playing it with them. He knew when he walked on stage his hands would be shaking, and he would play terribly. He still didn’t feel he had mastered the long first movement. He wished he still had some of the medication Pete had prescribed for him. It would help.
     He asked Krissy to sit in the auditorium for the first half of the concert, two Bartok quartets. She wanted to stay with him, but he told her he’d really rather she didn’t. She tried not to look hurt, but he saw in her face she felt he was shutting her out. She was right. He needed it to be him and Brahms right now. He studied the score, his hands trembling.
     At intermission Walter told him not to worry, it was going to be great. Krissy found him and walked into his arms, and he held her tight. She didn’t say anything, just held him as close as she could. He relaxed enough to feel he could walk out to the piano. “Hold these for a minute, will you?” He handed her his glasses as he wiped his face and hands with his handkerchief. It distressed her to see his hands shaking. Have I ever been this nervous before a performance? he thought. Krissy replaced his glasses and kissed him, and he relaxed a little more. She smiled and caressed his face, love and concern in her eyes, and went back to her seat.
     As Eli waited to go onstage with the Quartet, he tried to turn his thoughts inward, to find that place in himself where he had gone so many times to find the muse. He knew she was there; she was always there. He caught a glimpse of her and held onto it as he walked onstage. He sat at the piano, opening the score. He looked at the score as he heard the strings tuning, focusing on what Brahms was asking from them to bring the printed notes to life.
     Think about the music, Eli said to himself. Think about the muse. He heard the music in his head. His hands were no longer shaking; they were steady as he lifted them. He looked at Walter and nodded slightly; he was ready. On Walter's signal Eli brought his hands down on the keyboard, a brief thought crossing his mind: Here we go. He felt and heard the opening unison passage, all of them moving as one.  Eli attacked the keyboard for the rapid arpeggios that followed, playing them cleanly; he heard the strings accenting what he was doing. He caught Walter’s signal as they began the main theme, and the music swept through him. He became caught up in the beauty of what they were doing together and the connection he felt with them.
     The first movement went almost perfectly, and he began to feel more confident. Eli loved playing with these men. He was part of a team; it was the musical equivalent of playing in the infield with the New York Yankees. The nerves were gone. By the time they began the third movement ... the Scherzo ... everything felt right. His fingers flew over the keyboard with surety, elegantly arcing phrases, weaving the piano part perfectly with the strings. This was why he played; this incredible feeling of making the music soar. There was another rush of adrenalin as they approached the end of the final movement; after the last strong chords there were glances and smiles exchanged on stage. Eli breathed a huge sigh of relief, feeling slightly giddy, elated by the joy of having lived music here in this hall with Brahms, with his colleagues, with this audience. The audience stood and responded with enthusiastic and prolonged applause.

I need to thank my dear friend Scott Besser, a near-genius pianist himself, for some of the insight he gave me in writing this section. Scott’s are the hands that grace the cover of Eli’s Heart, which is on sale on Amazon currently at $3.99 (a steal!) for Kindle and $11.34 for paperback (sale price).

Cover design by Tristan Flanagan

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Different Look at Giuseppe Verdi

Thoughts on a Young Composer

     One of the first operas I ever heard, and one which undoubtedly influenced my passion for opera, was Giuseppe Verdi’s magnificent Othello. I was a young high school student, I believe a sophomore, and the recording was lent to me by a friend of my mother’s. When I first heard it, I had no idea of the huge leap forward Verdi had made with this opera which broke all the traditional rules: no overture, very few arias, orchestration far beyond what he had done with earlier compositions, intricate and complex choral writing. I was simply caught up in the beauty of the music and the visceral reaction to both the story and the musical telling of it.
     Eventually I went to music school where the master was part of my course of study, and I understood better why Othello is such a powerful composition. It remains to this day, many decades later, my favorite opera and the one I consider as close to perfection as is humanly possible. People may argue that Falstaff, his final opera, was actually Verdi’s masterpiece. No matter, Othello speaks to me as no other opera does.
     A biography of Verdi by Vincent Sheean, Orpheus at Eighty, became a favorite book while I was a college student. I still find it a fascinating read, an in-depth portrait of a complex genius and his life and work, as well as a study of the Italy of his day and how closely integrated he was into the changing politics of the country. Actually, the rebirth of Italy as a country.
     Recently I have been re-reading this book, after a period of several years. It’s interesting to see the annotations I made; some for a classical music program I hosted for a couple of years on the local university radio station, no doubt some because they struck me as important when I first read the book. But during this reading I am considering things about the young Verdi: the boy, really, of eighteen through his early twenties, I had been aware of the disappointments and tragedies he suffered at a young age, and thought of that part of his life as having an impact on his music for the rest of his career.
     The first image of Verdi I ever saw was the well-known portrait by Boldoni painted when he was in his seventies, I believe. That was how I most often thought of him. I hadn’t considered Verdi the boy, Verdi the youth, and how terribly painful for him that time of his life was. While he was enduring, he had no inkling of the prolific and celebrated – in fact, revered ─ composer he would become.
     Perhaps I am viewing him differently because I just wrote two books about young men who were gifted musicians and who had struggles and tragedies of their own. My protagonists are performers and not creative geniuses, but the similarities struck me, nevertheless.
     In his mature years, Verdi liked to self-style himself as a peasant. In actuality, while he understood farming and loved the earth of his native Busseto, he was hardly a rube. He had a good education – Shakespeare was an early passion ─ and from a young age his musical ability was recognized by his family and the professional musicians who worked with him.
     He received fine musical training and was conductor and performer, as well as composer, by his teens. At the age of eighteen he was sent off to Milan to apply to the conservatory, with every expectation he would be accepted and continue his musical education. The fact that he was not granted admission was the first blow to befall him.
     In today’s world, eighteen would be the age most people are applying for a college-level music program. In Verdi’s world, most applicants above the age of fourteen were generally not admitted. Verdi was an extraordinary talent, but according to what we know, one of the judges felt his keyboard ability was sub-par and he was turned down. This was a terrible disappointment for both Verdi and his benefactors. However, he did remain in Milan and continued his study of music as a private pupil, eventually returning to Busseto as a professional musician.
     The rejection rankled all his life. It is said when the conservatory many years later wanted to change its name to honor him, he refused. “They didn’t want me when I was young. They can’t have me now that I’m old,” or words to that effect, was his response.
     After marrying his sweetheart Margherita Barezzi, the daughter of his benefactor, Verdi returned to Milan to compose opera for La Scala.  The La Scala of the mid-nineteen century was quite different from the prestigious opera house of today, but Verdi was doing what his soul demanded … writing for the theater. Giuseppe and Margherita had loved each other since they were seventeen and were married when they were twenty-three. Two children arrived during the next two years. That must have been a brief period of happiness for the young composer.

     Within a year after the birth of the second child, both children had died. Not long afterward the death of his adored and no doubt very loving wife totally devastated the young composer. Giuseppe was twenty-six. It seems he sank deeply into despair and depression, vowing to never write another note of music so long as he lived.
     He did, of course. But what a struggle it must have been for him to cope with these blows, two children – little more than babies, really, a loving wife, all ripped from him in a matter of months. And after his wife’s death he was required by contract to complete the composition of a comic opera, the opera which was the most abysmal failure of his career. No wonder he never wrote another comedy until many decades had passed and he presented the world with Falstaff.
     My heart goes out to this young man, bereft, grieving, feeling his life has ended. All of the passion and emotion of this period I feel he poured into some of the most beautiful melodies, the most skillfully wrought orchestrations, the most thrilling opera choruses,  the world has ever heard. Without this tragedy, this angst, would he have been the same composer? 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thoughts on Camille and La Traviata

The Lady of the Camellias

     Very recently I watched the 1936 film Camille for the first time. It surprises me that I had not seen the entire film before, because I love the story and was very much aware of the Dumas novel being the basis for both Verdi’s beautiful opera La Traviata and this movie. I’ve seen and heard the opera many times and never tire of it. There are musical moments in this opera, as in many of Verdi’s operas, which are so achingly beautiful and so moving it’s impossible not to respond to them exactly as Verdi intended we should. 
     I have to admit, though, I’ve never read the novel, and I’m surprised that I have not. There were moments in the film in which the dialogue is nearly word for word the same as those scenes in the opera; in particular, the scene between Marguerite/Violetta and Armand's/Alfredo's father. I have to correct that; I need to read the novel, but I wish I could read it in French. I’m still not sure I understand why the film was entitled Camille and not The Lady of the Camellias, English for the book title La Dame aux Camélias.
     In the novel, Marguerite Gautier is a Parisian courtesan who lives by being “kept” by men of wealth (I won’t call them “gentlemen”). A woman of great beauty, she came to Paris from the country and grew to love the life of luxury these men afforded her. She’s battling consumption, though, and is doomed to die young. But before she does, she meets the great love of her life, Armand Duval, a younger man who has been hopelessly smitten with her. They have a summer together. She eventually dies in his arms.
     Since I knew the opera better than the film … or the novel … one of the things I appreciated about the movie was learning more about the characters. While the music paints the emotions of the characters as words alone cannot, there are some things about them we don’t learn in the opera. Marguerite is happy in the country because she came from the country, and she appreciates such things as the care of livestock. Verdi’s Violetta doesn’t show or tell us that about herself. However, she has an aria (“Sempre libera”) about her determined pursuit of living for herself that ignites the stage more than any dialogue or monologue ever could.
     Greta Garbo struck me as not just beautiful, but luminous. Radiant. I know it’s an old film, but I thought it was the most romantic movie I have ever seen, primarily because of Garbo’s Marguerite. What a remarkable actress the woman was. A lesson in what an actor needs to do to create and express a character – voice, face, body. It made me curious about how many sopranos who perform the role of Violetta study Garbo’s Marguerite. They should.
     The primary reason I wanted to watch the film was because the protagonist of my book You Are My Song, tenor Jamie Logan, sings the role of Alfredo – Verdi’s version of Armand. I had my own ideas about how Alfredo (or Armand) should be portrayed, and was enchanted with what Robert Taylor did with the role. I believe Armand was Taylor’s first major film role, and I’m sure it was daunting for the young actor to be performing in a film with the divine Garbo, but I found him wonderfully convincing in the role. It was exactly what I had hoped it would be.
     (An aside: Robert Taylor, whose real name was Spangler Arlington Brugh, began life as a musician. He was a serious cello student and followed his teacher from Doane College in Nebraska to Pomona College in Los Angeles. While a student there he became part of a theater group, where he was spotted by a talent scout. Those things do happen sometimes!)
     So here is a brief moment in You Are My Song (to be released January, 2015) concerning Jamie’s first appearance as Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata.

     Meredith attended the final dress rehearsal and loved what she saw. Marco’s staging called for an instant attraction between Violetta and Alfredo, and they were in each other’s arms almost from the moment the two of them were alone on stage. Meredith thought Jamie’s Alfredo was just about perfect; he played the role as a very eager, very young man, almost a boy. Arlene’s Violetta was at first seductive and sophisticated, then became a woman truly in love, entranced by Alfredo.
     Meredith thought of the old film Camille with Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor, which is based on the same story. She had thought the film the height of romanticism when she saw it. Marco was producing the same effect with two fine singing actors who had the voices, the looks, and the chemistry between them to make it work well.
     After the rehearsal Meredith said to Jamie and Arlene, “It’s wonderful. Just steamy enough. Who says opera is stuffy? You are both absolutely fantastic.”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Back to the Past

Stuck in the Fifties

     You Are My Song is nearing completion and I hope to have it released by early to mid- January. This whole writing adventure started in May of 2013 with a first novel, How I Grew Up, based on a true event from the mid-twentieth century. The awful slaughter of three members of one family by an unstable son-in-law turned my hometown of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, upside down. My close friend Anita’s parents and another brother-in-law were shot in one murderous evening while everyone in the family was at home except Anita, who had gone to the movies.
     This happened the weekend before our high school was holding auditions for the annual spring musical, which that year was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Anita was expected to have one of the leading female roles in that show. She was an exceptional actress and singer.
     The show’s directors opted to delay the auditions for a week, and Anita won the leading role of Julie Jordan. Carousel is an emotional story, and somehow Anita portraying Julie gave her the strength to deal with the horrific tragedy she and her sisters and their young children were faced with.
     That production of Carousel has resonated throughout my life and I eventually directed high school productions of the show twice. Each time, I was reminded of Anita, and her remarkable courage and poise. Finally I gave Anita a voice and wrote How I Grew Up at the encouragement of a friend to whom I had told the story.
     Even before my first novel was in print I had begun Eli’s Heart, based on two characters who first appeared in How I Grew Up. And before Eli’s Heart was made available I had the idea for You Are My Song, following yet another high school student who had been part of that memorable Carousel production through hills and valleys as he embarked on a career in opera.
     So without even planning it, I am finishing up the third book in a trilogy of sorts. I say “of sorts” because each book stands on its own, yet they all have their origins in that one high school production, and some characters from each book appear in others. I’m not even sure what to call it, and I’ve been wandering through the maze of print on demand and eventually self-publishing along with writing. I suppose at some point I could re-release How I Grew Up on Amazon through my now favorite place to publish … myself, by virtue of some computer skills and a great staff at CreateSpace … so the books could be tied together somehow.
     I like my protagonists. I wrote How I Grew Up in the first person and tried to recall some of Anita’s speech patterns as I wrote. She said “that” a lot. What a surprise. She also said “really” a lot, but I took many of those out before releasing the book. It was a challenge in Eli’s Heart to become the third person narrator (I never had any formal creative writing courses). I’m still not sure I quite understand what the third person narrator is or isn’t allowed to say. I’ve had different people give me different advice.
     You Are My Song had another challenge; creating a protagonist who was born totally in my imagination. Well, maybe not completely; when I created Jamie Logan in How I Grew Up, he was kind of a combination of two high school students I had been acquainted with. But Jamie became more and more his own person, and his second wife, Meredith, is definitely a product of my imagination. I like Jamie and Meredith.
     And obviously, I like revisiting the past. The high school years are formative as few other periods in our lives are, and my sons would read this and shake their heads and remind me I am a master of stating the obvious. But I think writing these books made me more aware of this than I had been.
     It was also great fun to revisit my college years in Eli’s Heart. While the book is fiction, there are some elements that are autobiographical, especially the student rebellion. (Ha! A hook!) There actually was one in my college, and I played a small part in it.
     Now that You Are My Song is nearing completion, I am considering what to write next. It still surprises me that at this stage in my life I’ve discovered I have this passion for writing, but there it is. After a long, full life as a musician/teacher/musical theater director I’ve found a new outlet, one that is gratifying in a whole new way. I think I’ve followed through on all potential story lines from the first book. Time to move forward in time, I think!
     Here’s the shameless self-promotion you’ve been expecting: both How I Grew Up and Eli’s Heart are available on Amazon, paperback and e-book. My kind readers tell me they are good stories.
And if you’re curious, here’s the link to my website