Full details: One Voice Project Virtual Micro Opera Festival

Composer Lisa Neher and Librettist Kendra Leonard present the One Voice Project Virtual Micro Opera Festival, a weeklong festival of micro opera world premieres. Every day from March 22-26, a new 5-minute unaccompanied opera written by Neher & Leonard will be released on YouTube. 

The operas feature acclaimed opera singers from across the United States, including tenor Hugo Vera (Metropolitan Opera), mezzo Margaret O’Connell (Center for Contemporary Opera), soprano Audrey Yoder (Pacific Opera Project), tenor Zach Finkelstein (New York City Opera), and mezzo Lisa Neher herself (Opera Theatre Oregon). 

The festival channels the artistic brilliance of opera singers who have frequently found themselves without work and artistic outlets during the pandemic. Each opera is a self-contained story, with plots that address women in sport, the life of musicians during the pandemic, and resilience in the face of obstacles. Several works were composed in collaboration with the singers, with plots drawn from their experiences over the last year. These operas are offered through a Pay as You Can model as a way to make opera accessible to all. 

Immediately following the final release on Friday March 26, audiences are invited to a donation-based Talkback and Q&A Reception with the artists, hosted by Gina Morgano of the Practice Parlour Podcast. 

WHAT: The One Voice Project Micro Opera Festival
WHEN: Mon March 22 – Fri March 26, 2021 |5:00 PM PDT: Operas Released Daily

Fri March 26, 2021 | 5:10 pm PDT: Zoom Talkback and Q&A Reception 

WHERE: Operas Released as YouTube Premieres: https://www.youtube.com/LisaNeher
COST: Pay as You Can. We invite you to make a donation to @Lisa-Neher on Venmo or lisanehermusic@gmail.com on PayPal in support of the artists. Consider donating your one-hour salary. All proceeds will be split evenly between the artists. 
TICKETS/LINK: https://forms.gle/Ks8HZN193bQ72URUA

Register to receive a link to each day’s micro opera premiere and to RSVP for the Talkback and Q&A Reception with the Artists. 

Schedule:

Monday, March 22 | 5:00 pm PDT Wide Awake in a New City: Hugo Vera, Tenor
Tuesday, March 23 | 5:00 pm PDT Par for the Course: Audrey Yoder, Soprano
Wednesday, March 24 | 5:00 pm PDT Momentum: Lisa Neher, Mezzo-Soprano
Thursday, March 25 | 5:00 pm PDT Woman Waits with Sword: Margaret O’Connell, Mezzo-Soprano
Friday, March 26  | 5:00 pm PDT Now Available: Zach Finkelstein, Tenor
Friday, March 26  | 5:10 pm PDT Talkback and Q&A Reception with the Artists, Hosted by Gina Morgano of the Practice Parlour Podcast

Program Notes

Wide Awake in the New City

When you move to a completely new place in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, things are not exactly normal. Raul struggles to unpack and settle into his apartment, wondering if he can serve his students while teaching virtually and finally questioning what he’s doing in his life. His despair turns to excitement and hope with a little change of view.

Wide Awake in the New City acknowledges the uncertainty and doubt we all feel while keeping the flame of hope alive for the future.

This opera was written for tenor Hugo Vera and is based in part on his own life experiences moving during the pandemic. Thanks to Hugo for suggesting the inclusion of Spanish phrases in this opera and consulting on grammar. 

Par for the Course

 

One of the greatest athletes of all time, Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias excelled at every sport she tried. She won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 summer Olympics and later turned to golf, winning 10 Ladies Professional Golf major championships. She often faced sexism in her work and from reporters who criticized her involvement in athletics and her unladylike personality. Known for her brash confidence, she would often say at competitions, “Okay, Babe’s here! Now who’s gonna finish second?”

 

Sport has played an important role in both of our lives and we are passionate about representing women in sport on the opera stage. We were drawn to Babe by her confidence, her passion for sport, and her example of excellence in spite of a society that was often against her. This micro-opera envisions the moment in which Babe learns that her attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open has been rejected. 

 

Par for the Course was written for soprano Elisabeth Halliday-Quan for Rhymes With Opera’s 2020 Pocket Opera Workshop. 

Momentum

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an officially registered competitor, registered under the initials “K.V.” Switzer. At this time, her own coach believed that a marathon was too far for “fragile women” to run, even though Roberta Gibb had become the first woman to run Boston (without a registration) the year before.

During the race, Kathrine was attacked repeatedly by race manager Jock Semple, who yelled, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” (referring to her race bib, number 261). As her boyfriend at the time, Tom Miller, fought him off, Switzer describes feeling frozen with fear and embarrassment in the face of the assault. She wondered briefly if she should quit, but she kept going, finishing in 4 hours, 20 minutes.

After her run, women were banned from racing in men’s events. In 1972, the Boston Marathon established an official women’s race. 

Woman Waits with Sword

Woman Waits with Sword celebrates self-reliance. In 17th century France, Alberte-Barbe D’ernécourt, Dame (noble lady) de Saint-Baslemont, has been protecting her people from invaders during the Hundred Years’ War. But when an intruder tries to claim her home and ignores her because of her sex, she becomes the Chevalier (knight or noble lord—assumed to be a man) de Saint-Baslemont and challenges him to a duel he cannot turn down.

This opera was written for mezzo-soprano Margaret O’Connell. 

Now Available

A singer stuck at home expresses anxiety and frustration about his musical career and the treatment of artists by opera companies and ensembles. He wonders how Covid-19 will change the shape of future performances and how to create art during such a challenging time. Amid these struggles, he finds a reason for optimism.

This opera was written for tenor Zach Finkelstein, and the plot was developed in conversation with Zach about his experiences and feelings as a professional singer dealing with the artistic and career ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Towards a works list for Julia Perry

UPDATE: All of the PDFs I have are now posted at the Julia Perry Working Group on Humanities Commons at https://hcommons.org/groups/julia-perry-working-group/documents/.

I know, I said I wasn’t going to do work on Julia Perry, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help other people research her music and life. Or maybe make an edition or two. So here is a list of the copies of manuscripts I have, a beginning of a works list for her. This list is compiled from the Walker Hill Collection at the American Music Research Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and other documented sources (such as the presumed lost Viola Sonata, which is referenced in documents of the Conservatoire Américain de Fontainebleau). You’ll notice that these do not have dates–I’ll try to add those as I I discover them. I have PDF copies of all of these; please email me if you want any of them.

As far as permissions for recording or creating editions of Perry’s works, well, the situation is difficult. In her 1992 book Piano Music by Black Women Composers: A Catalog of Solo and Ensemble Works, Helen Walker Hill lists Lucie Perry Bigbie as the representative of Perry’s estate. I have not been able to locate  this person anywhere, which leads me to think that Perry’s works may be orphan works. However, I searched the Copyright Office’s Public Catalog, and there is also no record of many of her works being copyrighted, which puts them in the public domain.

A Partial Works List for Julia Perry

“Alleluja” for Medium Voice and Organ. Full Score. Manuscript. Dedicated to Virginia Shuey.

“Be Merciful Unto Me, O God” for Chorus of Mixed Voices, with Soprano and Bass Solos. Piano-vocal score. Printed.

The Beacon, for 2 English Horns, 2 Tenor Saxophones, 2 Bassoons, and 2 Trumpets. Full Score. Manuscript.

“By the Sea,” for High Voice and Piano. Text by Perry. Full Score. Printed.

“Carillon Heigh-ho” for four-Part Chorus of Mixed Voices (divided). Full Score, with piano for rehearsal only. Printed.

The Cask of Amontillado. Opera in One Act. Libretto by Julia Perry and Virginia Card. Full Score. Printed.

Contretemps for Orchestra. Full Score. Manuscript.

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in Two Uninterrupted Speeds. Full Score. Manuscript.

Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra. Full Score. Manuscript.

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. Full Score. Manuscript.

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. Piano-violin reduction. Manuscript.

A Dance for Chamber Orchestra. Full Score. Manuscript.

Divertimento for Five Wind Instruments. Full Score. Printed. Edited by Helen Walker Hill and Christopher Hahn.

Fisty, a play. Typed text.

Frammenti: dalle lettere di Santa Caterina for “piccolo orchestra, coro e solo voce (soprano)’. Full Score. Manuscript.

“Free at Last.” Voice and piano. Printed.

“Graves of Untold Africans.” Typed text.

Homonculus C. F. for Percussion and Harp. Printed.

Homage to Vivaldi for Orchestra, Full Score. Manuscript.

“How Beautiful are the Feet.” Voice and Piano/organ. Full Score. Printed.

“Hymn to Pan” for SATB and organ or piano. Full Score. Manuscript.

“I’m a Poor Li’l Orphan in this Worl,’“ for Voice and Piano. Full Score. Printed.

“Lord! What Shall I Do.” Voice and Piano. Full Score. Printed.

“Miniature” for Piano. Full Score. Printed.

“Parody,” for Voice and Piano. Text by Patricia Sides. Full Score. Manuscript.

“Pastoral,” for Flute, 2 Violins, 2 Violas, Cello, and Bass. Full Score. Printed.

“Our Thanks to Thee,” Anthem for Thanksgiving, or General Use for Chorus of Mixed Voices, with Contralto Solo. Vocal-organ score. Printed.

“Popping Popcorn,” for Piano. Full Score. Manuscript.

Prelude for Piano. Full Score. Manuscript.

“Quartette” for Wind Quintette (Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, Eb Alto Saxophone, Bassoon). Full Score. Manuscript.

Quinary Quixotic Songs (formerly Tryptich) for Bass-Baritone and Five Instruments (Flute, Bb Clarinet, Viola, Baritone Horn, Piano). Full Score. Printed. Edited by Helen Walker Hill and Christopher Hahn.

The Selfish Giant: a Sacred Musical Fable in III Acts. Piano-vocal score. Manuscript.

“Serenity” for Bb Clarinet. Full Score. Manuscript.

“A Short Service,” from The Mystic Trumpeter, for Tenor and Trumpet. Full score. Manuscript.

“Short Piece for Orchestra.” Full score. Manuscript.

Sonata for Viola and Piano. Lost.

“Song of Our Saviour,” for Chorus of Mixed Voices Unaccompanied. Full score with piano for rehearsal only. Printed.

Soul Symphony. Parts. Manuscript.

Soul Symphony II, III. Full Score. Manuscript.

Soul Symphony. Full Score. Printed. Edited by Helen Walker Hill and Christopher Hahn.

“Spreading Peanut Butter,” for Piano. Full Score. Manuscript.

A Suite Symphony for Orchestra. Full Score. Manuscript.

Symphony No. 4. for Orchestra. Full Score. Printed. Edited by Helen Walker Hill and Christopher Hahn.

Symphony No. 13 for Wind Quintet (Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, Eb Alto Saxophone, Bassoon). Full Score. Printed. Edited by Helen Walker Hill and Christopher Hahn.

Symplegades (opera). Sketches. Manuscript.

Symphony in One Movement for Violas and String Basses. Full Score. Manuscript.

Three Spirituals for Full Orchestra. Full Score. Printed.

Three Spirituals for Full Orchestra. Parts, some identified and some not. Manuscript. Two files.

“Ye, Who Seek the Truth,” for Chorus of Mixed Voices, with Tenor Solo. Vocal-organ score. Printed.

Out today: Climbing Lightly Through Forests

Today, my poem “Frost Ascending” is out in Climbing Lightly Through Forests, a collection of poetry honoring Ursula K. LeGuin, edited by R. M. Lemberg and Lisa M. Bradley and published by Aqueduct Press. I am incredibly honored to be part of this collection.

Buy from Aqueduct Press here (print, epub, and Kindle formats)

Buy from amazon here (print & for Kindle)

reviews: Indigenous lit, beautiful horror, and more

Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost by Lindsay Marcott.
This is a smart and well-crafted retelling of Jane Eyre in the period immediately before Covid-19. Jane, a writer needing work, takes on a job tutoring Sophia, daughter of the wealthy Evan Rochester. This Jane is a bit tougher and smarter than the original, maybe because she can use the internet to look things up, and she’s also got more personality and agency. Rochester’s accused of murdering his wife, former supermodel Beatrice, whose brother prowls around Jane and Evan trying to get evidence. I liked the interactions between Jane and Sophie and Jane and her friends, even though they’re all lightly sketched and not terribly diverse. I’m not entirely convinced that the ending is what it seems to be–I’d love to know what other readers think. Alternating chapters between Jane’s and Beatrice’s POVs make things more interesting from the mystery side of things, and the setting is appropriately Gothic. A fun beach read, if you can stay away from riptides.

Stampede by Brian Castner. 1/5
At the beginning of this book, author Castner states that in order to make the book realistic, he’s decided to use racist slurs like the n-word and other terms. I’m so tired of white authors doing this. Dear authors: you can convey racism without repeating the violence of using that word. He also uses “good time girls” to describe sex workers and uses a variety of other offensive terms in his quest to bestow period parlance on the book. And the book itself is rather dull, full of repetitive details and adjectives that rely on gender, age, and race stereotypes without actually telling the read about anything useful. The writing made it difficult to tell when Castner was providing historical narrative and when he was embellishing or speculating, and ultimately disappointed me.

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould. 1/5
In this rather meh paranormal thriller, Logan, a young woman, learns that one of her fathers made a deal with the Dark, a malevolent force, to bring her back to life when she died as a child. With her fathers revisiting the town where this occurred, teens have begun going missing. The Dark has begun killing teenagers. Logan teams up with the girlfriend of the first teen who went missing to discover what’s going on. They do. They get rid of the Dark and find the body of the first missing man. And of course they fall in love. There are several subplots and tensions between Logan and the dad who made the deal with the Dark. This is one of those books where you just kind of wish people would talk to each other like most people do and there’d have been fewer dead people. It’s the kind of book where you want to yell at the dad who can’t seem to talk to his daughter, but instead leaves her notes buried in a grave. Who does that? At one point, Logan decides that Ashley, the seemingly-straight girlfriend of the first missing man, is definitely not her type, but they end up together anyway in a soap-opera-level predictable moment. This could have been so much better if Gould had had the characters had use their brains,

When Stars Rain Down by Angela Jackson-Brown. 4/5
This is a sad story, but one full of truth. So many books are being written right now (especially by white writers) about Black characters in the immediate pre- and post-Civil Rights era in the South that end with what white writers think is triumph and uplift: Black women going to college, or joining the movement and bringing about serious material or social change to their communities, or marrying into white families, or being accepted by white society. But not every Black woman wanted those things: Opal, a young Black woman, wants the love of her family, to marry a good man, and to feel safe. She works alongside her grandmother as a cleaner for a white family. While this particular family is “good,” some of their relatives are members of the KKK, intent on terrorizing the small Black community to which Opal and her grandmother belong. There is a Klan raid on their community, and later Opal is almost raped. Opal finds herself attracted to the white family’s son and to the Black preacher’s son; she has to rethink her Christianity a bit after coming into contact with the work of the local roots woman; and she has to grapple with how her employers view her. The end of the book is a little pat and neat, but the trauma and fear the author describes is harrowing, and real, and needs to be recognized.

The Northern Line by Judy Simons. 2/5
A detailed memoir and history of Jewish families in the north of England, this book is clearly written with love and pride. However, none of the figures or their stories are made particularly compelling, and the writing shows sings of outdatedness and judgement I am uncomfortable with, for example describing sex workers as “whores” and assuming they have poor morals and are unclean. This might be useful for someone studying the Jewish communities of the North, but overall it seems more of a book written for family members than the general public.

Cleopatra by Alberto Angela. 1/5
How does something this sexist get published today? The author objectifies Cleopatra beyond belief, making her body the center of his attention, and assuming it was the center of her peers’ as well. The research is spotty and outdated, and I am appalled that this book even exists.

Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley. 2/5
Written in a mannered style reminiscent of 1950s British writers, this SFF novel is a turns engaging and fresh and at others slow and dragging. The unevenness keeps me from recommending it strongly, although readers who are interested in the philosophical questions of space exploration and the uses of SFF to investigate the same regarding colonialism will like it.

The Savage Instinct by Marjorie DeLuca. 5/5
This is an excellent novel a la The Yellow Wallpaper, told in the first person by a woman whose husband had her forcibly admitted to an insane asylum after she suffered a traumatic miscarriage. Leaving the asylum to return to her husband. she finds him much changed, and begins to understand that he has been after her inheritance the whole time. Relying on advice from women many others find mad or evil, she plots her escape. Author De Luca uses the real-life figure of Mary Ann Cotton, convicted of poisoning members of her own family, as one of the narrator’s mentors, and the very ending is a fabulous twist. Readers who enjoy the Gothic will like this book, as will anyone with an interest in the rights and treatment of women in the 19th century.

Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur. 5/5
This is a devastating book about mental illness and family secrets and domestic abuse. A young scientist struggles with her relationships and work, and when her mother dies, she experiences a collapse, unable to find a path back, unable to find coherence in her life and the lives of her brother and father. Seeking a kind of therapy through folklore, she batters her way forward, moving and thinking erratically. This novel captures schizophrenia and paranoia in a remarkable, first-person narrative, and aptly describes the kinds of confused reactions from those who unknowingly witness it.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw. 5/5
This is a book of astonishing beauty and originality and horror and I loved it. A small group of friends with complicated relationships and secrets and traumas meet for the wedding of two of them in a haunted Japanese mansion, where the images of yokai like tankui and kitsune, painted on panels, follow and cluster and watch what unfolds. And what does unfold is not unexpected, but told in new language: a ghostly bride demands company. Khaw’s language is poetic without losing the edge of modernity: the ghost’s first words are “like a sound carried on the last ragged breath of a failing record player;” a woman’s “lipstick game as sharp as a paper cut;” knee-high ferns are “like vegetal cats.” Khaw captures the intersection of the magical and the eerie: “the night stretched chandeliered with fireflies” inside rooms are “ossuaries: the books suppurating flat-bodied beetles.” I could go on, but really what I’m saying is: go read this book. Even if you think you are not a fan of horror, or of fantasy, or of the drama of youth, go read. This is a treat for any reader.

The Silence of the White City by Eva García Sáenz. 1/5
If you’re looking for utter fantasy and a lack of realism in your mystery novels, then this is for you. The characters and their actions are all completely over the top and unbelievable. The presence of Basque lore is far less than the blurb suggests, and the writing overall is cliched.

Firekeeper’s Daughter – Sneak Peek! by Angeline Boulley. 5/5
PLEASE give me the rest of this book! This is a terrific novel about young Native people in and around an Ojibwe reservation, touching on tribal registration laws, how traditions are kept or abandoned, and the poverty and drug use among all ages. Narrator Daunis is an athlete, a caregiver, a sister, and daughter whose goals and hoped-for future are continually shifted because of illness and violence. Her voice is compelling and her narration conveys information about tribal life and local practices without being pedantic, and I can’t wait to read the rest of this book.

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark. 5/5
In this novel of wonders and fables, P. Djeli Clark returns to the world of his novella The Haunting of Tram Car 015, an alternate Cairo where humans and djinn live together, where magic is real, and where the old Egyptian gods are still very present. A Master of Djinn includes ornate and sophisticated world-building, interesting and layered characters who evolve and grow, and an excellent plot that involves issues of colonialism, class, power, and sorcery. It’s a masterclass in building characters, from investigator Fatma who learns a lot about her own desires to her new work partner Hadia, whose wide-eyed eagerness becomes fierce competence to Fatma’s lover Siti, who is forced into a difficult kind of coming out. The city itself is a character, and a beautifully shifting one, full of surprises good and bad. At the heart of the book is the threat and abuse of colonial powers, in this case, Britain, which having been forced out of most of Egypt prior to the novel, still has citizens in Cairo who are passionate about subjecting the Arab world to white supremacy. It’s a timely book and a joy to read.

View from Pagoda Hill by Michaela Maccoll. 1/5
In this novel, the author draws on her family history, imagining her great-great-grandmother Ning’s life in China and her life in America. In an afterword, Maccoll explains all of the information she had about her ancestor and her desire to write about her; unfortunately, she omits from the novel the most details and information that she found that she details in the afterward. The novel itself is slow, especially for younger readers, and shallow and boring. It was a slog to get through all of Ning’s travails, which were all described superficially. Ning doesn’t react to things much, so we don’t know how she really feels–her voice is subsumed by the author’s, who tells readers what Ning feels or thinks in condescending or Polly-anna-ish language. It’s a big disappointment, because Ning’s real story must have been fascinating and one of both great suffering and confusion, and ultimately, survival.

Following Nellie Bly by Rosemary J Brown. 1/5
In this book, a rich woman entertains herself by traveling to all of the places visited by Nelly Bly in Bly’s 80-day round-the-world trip. Author Brown doesn’t recreate the trip, but leisurely takes in the sights at each stop, and tells readers about her lush surroundings, luxury hotel experiences, couture shopping, and other activities that are totally irrelevant as to why Bly made her trip or what she was really about. It’s an excuse for junkets and the book serves as an excellent example of how the 1% live. Go read Bly’s original account of her trip instead–yes, it is problematic in terms of race and class, but not nearly as problematic as Brown’s book.

The Willow Wren by Philipp Schott. 5/5
A quiet and yet stunning memoir-by-proxy of a boy’s life in Nazi Germany and the aftermath there of WWII. Ludwig loves the outdoors, spending hours identifying birds and plants. But as the war nears its end and his home in Leipzig is bombed, he and his older brother are sent to a Hitler Youth camp, where conditions range from harsh to deadly. His brother is sent to the front and other boys are trained to serve in tank units despite their youth. After the Soviet army arrives and sends the boys to relatives, Ludwig and his family try to resume some kind of normal life, but food shortages and the high death tolls of the war make their survival nearly impossible. Beautifully written by Ludwig’s grandson based on his grandfather’s memories, this book chronicles a little-discussed aspects of the war and its toll on non-Nazi civilian adults and children.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers. 5/5
I rave about Becky Chambers’s books to everyone, and this one is no exception. Part of her Wayfarers series, this follows a handful of aliens of different species and backgrounds when they find themselves stuck while traveling on difficult missions. They’re cared for by a warm and caring host and her child, both of whom are completely endearing and serve more books about them and their business and guests. Political differences flare up, friendships are made, and extraordinary events occur. Like all of Chambers’s books, this is space opera at its most beautiful, full of kindnesses and learning and understanding and helping. It’s the healing read you need right now.

From the Moon I Watched Her by Emily English Medley. 4/5
Told from the perspective of a young girl, this novel takes on mental illness, rape, homelessness, and religious abuse. Medley deftly channels a child’s desire for attention, confusion about conflicting views, and willingness to submit to parental demands, creating a narrator for whom the world is a terrifying kaleidoscope, never stable and rarely predictable. The trauma the novel presents and the inability or unwillingness of its adult characters to address it ring true, particularly given the setting of suburbia in the late 1970s. Ready for book clubs and discussion groups, this should be a very successful book.

Leather and Lace by Magen Cubed. 4/5
A fun romp that began as Supernatural (the tv show) fanfic and now has a life of its own, this novel features a slow burn romance between two hunters of the supernatural, one of whom happens to be a vampire himself. I enjoyed the very real emotional rollercoaster and difficult relationship choices the characters struggled with and the light banter they shared while tracking down a pair of weredeer gone bad. I’m not a big fan of Supernatural, but Cubed makes her story so original and cute that it should appeal to a wide range of fans, non-fans, and those who don’t even know the show.

A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy. 1/5
This was a sample of the novel rather than the whole thing. While the writing is fine, the plot is a little tired: women must fight each other for the title of Queen, even—especially—if they’re related. So we’ve got the clearly evil and bloodthirsty older heir spoiling for a fight with the younger, who as the protagonist just wants to go out and party among the common folk. I think the author might imagine that she’s turning fantasy feudal politics upside down by making the women fight, but really it’s just perpetuating the sexism of every other fight-for-power book out there. That, plus the classism, didn’t make me want to read more than the sample given.

Midnight in Cairo by Raphael Cormack. 3/5
This is a lively account of the women who dominated Cairo nightlife in the 1910s and 20s. Cormack offers detailed narratives for each woman’s life and activities as singers, dancers, actors, producers, and influencers. There’s a lot of solid information but also a lot of repetition and some clear errors not caught in the editing process. It would have been helpful for Cormack to have included more nuanced context about the period, its politics, and mores, but if readers are looking for history that is relatively entertaining rather than scholarly, this will fit the bill.

The Vines by Shelley Nolden. 1/5
This is so poorly written that I couldn’t get past the first few chapters. It needs serious editing for grammar, style, punctuation, and much more. The idea is interesting, but the writing is so bad that it doesn’t matter.

The Moonsteel Crown by Stephen Deas. 2/5
A fantasy novel of the traditional swords and sorcery type. The world-building is pushed early and often, making the plot seem secondary to all of the information readers need to take in at the very beginning to understand the novel’s politics, factions, religions, industries, classes, and so on; it would have made for a better and less fraught read if this had been introduced more gradually and naturally. The plot is fine, I suppose, but neither it nor the characters are particularly compelling. Everyone’s got secrets, everyone’s hiding from someone, everyone’s got great skills at something. It was more like reading about somebody’s D&D campaign than a novel.

Creativity is Creativity is Creativity

Image of a light bulb breaking and the text "Creativity is creativity is creativity"

What does it mean to be creative? Is creativity earned? Does it have to be worked at? How important is it in your writing? Five working creatives–a musician, a dancer, a poet, a non-fiction writer, and a visual artist–gather to talk about their process, their triumphs, their struggles, and the ways that they use creativity and it uses them. Famed author Margaret Atwood says the biggest misconception about creativity is to think only geniuses have it. At Writespace, we completely agree. Join us to listen and be inspired about your own.

Join me! I’ll be talking about creativity and my creative process in writing Protectress at this fantastic panel sponsored by Writespace on 23 January 2021.

Tickets are $10-50 (pay what you can) and are available at Eventbrite.

In the Days of ’75 and ’76

This afternoon I synched up a bit of music that silent film accompanist Hazel Burnett marked to use for Calamity Jane in *In the Days of 75 & 76*. See the notes on YouTube for more info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMhjfhPsQcQ

Where am I? Jan-Feb 2021

Upcoming talks and workshops:

23 January, 4-6 pm CST: Writespace Panel: Creatives on Creativity, with author Karleen Koen (moderator), Dr. Tony Medina (Creative Writing, Howard University), Kay Sarver (visual artist, blogger, co-owner of Houston’s Archway Gallery), Adam Castañeda (dancer and choreographer, Pilot Dance Project), and author Karen Celestan.

9 February, “Navigating the Antebellum South in Silent Film,” Washburn University.

13, 20, and 27 February: Writing Local Workshop through Writespace: Have you ever wanted to write about the stories from your home town or another specific place you’ve been to or lived in? The history of that Art Deco building and the people who lived in it, or maybe how your city coped during World War I? Maybe you want to dig in to local history to add detail to a story you’ve already begun, or want to make sure your characters are using the right kinds of slang. In this workshop, we’ll investigate tools and techniques for writing about local history, whether from a non-fiction, fiction, or poetic point of view. You’ll learn how to use free online resources to find information from newspapers, census records, and other documents, as well as small museums, local historical societies, and other places. We’ll talk about creating characters that are in keeping with their localities, including how they speak, interact with others, and participate in local customs. This workshop is open to students from anywhere, writing about any place!

18-21 Feb, “Nostalgia and Cultural Memory in Music for The General (1927),” Historical Fiction Research Network conference. I’m giving this paper one more academic outing to get feedback from a non-musicology audience before I begin reworking it into an article.

I’ll also be at the MLA Digital Project Showcase (7 Jan) and at the Opera America conference on New Music (26 Jan).

What’s next?

I’m beginning to plot my new scholarly project and figure out how to balance it with my creative work. I need to keep in mind that I have no deadlines for the scholarly project, and that it can develop as slowly or quickly as I want and can handle. I’m not going to seek out a traditional publisher for it–I’m very happy with the way my last book, Music for the Kingdom of Shadows: Cinema Accompaniment in the Age of Spiritualism, turned out using open peer review and Humanities Commons. I’m trying to learn to work at a new pace in which I do a better job of taking my chronic illness into account. Right now I feel pretty stable, having spent the last year trying various treatments for lupus/mixed connective tissue disease. I’m on a combination of medications that seem to be helping; and I just had radiofrequency ablation of my right occipital nerve for severe occipital neuralgia and am hoping that it will provide pain relief for the next several months.

There are so many projects I want to take on, but I’m increasingly aware of my own limitations and the human life span. I’ve got a spreadsheet full of scholarly ideas if anyone wants them–I know I won’t get to them all. I’m also aware that some of the projects I’d love to do should be done by other scholars. So as much as I’d love to work on composer Julia Perry, I think that as a white woman, I’m not the ideal person. I have PDFs of lots of her scores & would be happy to share/assist with anyone interested in her and her work. The same is true for composers Amanda Aldridge and Dorothy Rudd Moore. I’m eager to read what others write about all of them.

 

In Isolation

My poem “Tell Us What You’re Doing We Want to Know How You’re Coping with the Pandemic” appears in In Isolation, available now!

Book reviews: Best of 2020

The past year’s 5-star books from Net Galley.

Fiction
Bear, Elizabeth. Machine.
Bojalian, Chris. Hour of the Witch.
Brooks, Max. Devolution.
Butler, Octavia E. Kindred. Fledgling, Collected Stories (LOA #338).
Burdick, Serena. Find Me in Havana.
Campisi, Megan. Sin Eater.
Carlton, Susan Kaplan. In the Neighborhood of True.
Figueroa, Jamie. Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer
Forna, Namina. The Gilded Ones.
Foxfire Fund, Inc. Foxfire Story.
Harris, Charlaine. The Russian Cage.
Hobson, Brandon. The Removed.
Johnson, Jeremy Robert. The Loop.
Jones, Cherie. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House.
Kampmann, Anja. High as the Waters Rise.
Kelly, Martha Hall. Sunflower Sisters.
Kern, Sim. Depart, Depart!
Khadra, Yasmina. Khalil.
Kingfisher, T. The Hollow Places.
Lemberg, R. B. The Four Profound Weaves.
von Lucadou, Julia . The High-Rise Diver.
Meek, James. To Calais, In Ordinary Time.
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia. Mexican Gothic.
Murphy, Sara Flannery. Girl One.
Roanhorse, Rebecca. Black Sun.
Serizawa, Asako. Inheritors.
Strahan, Jonathan. The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1.
Stewart, Amy. Dear Miss Kopp.
Tudor, C. J. The Burning Girls.
Vaughn, Carrie. Kitty’s Mix-Tape.
Yu, E. Lily. On Fragile Waves.

Non-fiction
A History of Magic, Witchcraft, and the Occult. 5/5
Macdonald, Helen. Vesper Flights
Rubio, Salva, Pedro J. Colombo,and Aintzane Landa. The Photographer of Mauthausen.
Thomas, Rhonda Robinson. Call My Name, Clemson.
Wells, Stanley. Shakespeare’s Complete Sonnets.

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