Crystal Kite voting is open! #SCBWI

SCBWI members it’s that time :)

Just click the pic and follow directions.


And if you have an entry…

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Believe in Sirens

I believe in a deep earth smell and in the sound of the falling rain

In tripping over my heavy heart

And in getting up again

These are a few of the wonderful lines from I Believe by singer songwriter Denise Moser. Accompanied by a lovely acoustic guitar part and minimal rhythm track that includes a supportive piano, the line is delivered with quiet breath of a chuckle that immediately brings to mind the laughing singspeak of Alanis Morissette. Indeed, I Believe could be an early Alanis song, Alanis on a mellow day.

Denise Moser‘s vocal vibrato gives her a slightly tentative sound, as if she is exploring her voice and her ideas, perhaps for the first time. This doesn’t make her sound inexperienced, instead the slight quaver in her voice gives her performance a freshness, a newness. Her performance of I Believe is restrained—a quality I love—as if the she is hesitant to share her personal list of favorite things. These are the details of her delivery conspire to draw the listener in.

The fact that the lyrics of I Believe are a list of favorite things, brings to mind the Rodgers and Hammerstein song My Favorite Things, one of the greatest songs of all times and one of my personal favorites. I Believe will be forever linked in my mind to My Favorite Things, how cool is that?

I Believe expresses Denise Moser‘s love of nature and family while deftly exposing her love of love as well as her tenderness. Knee deep walks in snow, apologies, weaknesses, dreams; these are all on Denise’s list, which is a list of things literally stated or implied. Her use of strong yet simple images that often comfort make the song poetic, but it is the invisible things she sings about, and the way her slightly tremulous voice gently nudges us until our own emotions step forward  for our examination, that makes the song art.

I Believe in a second chance and in a brand new fresh mistake . . . 

My recommendation is that you listen to I Believe multiple times, because the song gets better with each listen. With every play the song reveals another corner of Denise Moser‘s heart and if you listen long enough to her honest, encouraging voice, you’ll find that your own heart will mostly likely yield some hidden pain or joy. It wasn’t until I’d listened to the song half a dozen times that I found myself in tears.

Let this song break you open and help you discover or rediscover your Dreaming Self. If you’re already living your dream, this song will be a faithful companion.

My wish for this Philadelphia singer songwriter is that she continues to write and share her music, and I’m sure she will, because she believes. I do too.

Click on the cover art by Alisa Lowden Preston to get your own copy of I Believe.


I believe in winter boots, and in clean slate snowy days

In knee deep walks through the neighborhood

And in a dried oak fire blaze

I believe in sleeping in, and in grasping at a fading dream

I believe in saying what I mean

I believe in I’m so sorry, and do you know I care

I believe in I can see you there


I believe in a deep earth smell and in the sound of the falling rain

In tripping over my heavy heart

And in getting up again

I believe in letting go of those things that I cannot change

I believe in reaching past my range

I believe in it’s my turn, and I’ve waited for too long

I believe in wishing on a song


I believe that what makes you you, well it’s the same thing that makes me me

That our differences are more the same

Than we ever would believe

I believe in my own words of in the beauty of today

I believe in brown hair turning gray

I believe in a second chance, and in a brand new fresh mistake

I believe in giving what I take


I believe I’m a daddy’s girl, and I’ve always had a broken heart

I’ve tried to find my way back home

And it’s never been that far

I believe in tenderness, and being kind in love

I believe the dreams that I dream of

I believe in magic stones and in taking off my shoes

Do you know – I believe in you…

Some Inspiration for All of You Sirens

Sirens, how do you fill the well?

Singers, songwriters, authors, painters, I’m sure all of you artists have ways to inspire yourselves when inspiration doesn’t strike like lightning, but if you need something new, you might enjoy Body of Writing.

At the 2011 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, author Patricia Lee Gauch talked about “letting go into story”. When she quoted Yeats’ poem The Circus Animals’ Desertion and spoke of the “rag-and-bone shop of the heart” and how we must go there for inspiration, her message went straight to my heart. I knew it was time for me to create a workshop that connected two of my great loves, yoga and writing.

Developing a workshop combining yoga and writing had been a dream of mine for years. Starting last winter, I began to carefully design a class series that would combine yoga postures, yogic breathing techniques, creative writing exercises, meditation, visualization, and readings, in ways that would inspire participants to get their pens moving and encourage them to open to the wisdom of their bodies.

I also drew from my own personal experiences over the years in art, music, drama, and yoga workshops, incorporating Deep Diving techniques I learned from artists as diverse as Olympia Dukakis, Rosanne Cash, and Julia Cameron, as well as instructors from The Metropolitan Opera Guild and aesthetic education classes at Julliard.

Finally, in May of 2011, I offered the first version of Body of Writing. The classes I created were one and a half hours long and met once a week at River Road Books in Fair Haven, N.J. Over seven weeks I witnessed the thrilling process of people discovering the stories their bodies carried. Some were obvious, like the tale of a twisted ankle in Paris, the stiffness lingering years later, evoking memories whenever it rained, and stories begging to be told. Others were hidden, stories secret even to those who held them. Working together like seekers of buried treasure, we began to dig.

I was introduced to yoga at age twelve, and according to my father, I sang before I could talk. For many years I taught people of all ages and abilities music, placing the emphasis on songwriting when I could. My last position included teaching students who were suicidal and homicidal. Music and lyrics were a wonderful way to connect with those kids, but to help their teachers I used yoga.

One of the most important concepts of Kripalu yoga, the style that I’ve studied more than any other, is the idea of letting go. In other words, allowing things to be just as they are, including who you are, with the idea that everything is really okay already. Cultivating this kind of acceptance one learns to have compassion for oneself, and thus for one’s story.

Kripalu yoga is the style I teach, but I draw from many other traditions as well. Most styles of yoga have certain aspects in common, such as the idea that yoga is a practice for the body, mind, and spirit. Body of Writing simply adds another dimension: story.

Body of Writing can help you find the stories you hold within and teach you how to allow yourself to release them onto the page without criticism or judgment.

Of course later, you’ll have to edit. Now that’s a wicked posture to hold.

Body of Writing will be offered Saturday Sept. 24th & Sunday Sept. 25th noon—5:30 pm as an intensive two-day workshop at Brahma Yoga Spa in Sea Bright, N.J.

For more info:

To learn more about Kripalu yoga and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, visit

Check out the ‘About’ page on this blog to learn why I’m qualified to create and teach Body of Writing.

Back to Book Trailers, The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister

My favorite things: music, books, movies. The order varies, but the list explains why I love book trailers.

The trailer for Charlotte Agell‘s middle grade novel The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister is one the best I’ve seen.

One of the things that’s so wonderful about this trailer is how true to the book it is. The trailer captures the essence of The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister. In this case, I read the book first then saw the trailer. My review of the book is below.

India is one of my favorite characters in Middle Grade fiction today. She’s even got her own blog, which is adorable and much more organized than mine. Of course India’s creativity might have something to do with her multitalented creator Charlotte Agell who probably gives India a hand once in a while. Click on India’s pic to visit to her blog.

The Siren behind the music for India’s book trailer is Charlotte’s son, Jon Simmons. The music is perfect; it expresses both India’s sweetness and her quirkiness.

Jon is also part of a pop/rock band based in Boston called The Crosswalk Kings. Look for a post about his music soon on Sirenstories


I finished reading The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister on the beach. The pages have a little sand in between them now, and I think that would make India happy.

India loves the outdoors, and author Charlotte Agell has included some beautiful descriptions of inland Maine in this entertaining and moving story about a sweet-natured nine and a half-year old girl who takes her fairly complicated life pretty much in stride. In a world full of little drama queens, I found India’s attitude refreshing.

Besides being an excellent and economical writer, Charlotte Agell is a gifted painter. An adorable watercolor portrait of India and the family pet bird, Beatrice Strawberry graces the cover of the book. I’d like to see Ms. Agell put out a version of India with full-blown watercolors of all the characters and their homes. I want to see paintings of things like “the lilac bush hidden in the fog” that India sees when she can’t sleep early one morning and steps outside to sit on her front porch swing.

Wolfgang, Maine, where the book takes place, is a front porch kind of town and by the time I’d finished the book I wanted to go there. Although there are no watercolors other than the front and back cover and jacket flaps–they feature more great pictures of India with the bird and her dog Tofu, the jacket designers obviously knew a good thing when they saw it–the book is full of sketches: clever drawings of India and things she likes, plus–just as important–things she doesn’t like. The sketches are accompanied by comments that made me laugh out loud.

India has a unique voice. Her backstory is rich. The settings are beautifully rendered. The book is colorful in every sense of the word, as is India’s slightly wacky artist mother.

India was adopted, and we learn she has questions and issues around that, but the book isn’t a big drama. Instead, The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister is a story, told by showing us small wondrous details in what seems like a very real little girl’s life.

I found myself wondering what will happen in India’s future, especially as far as she and her best friend, a boy named Colby, are concerned. Snowstorms in June, whale songs, yearning, and insightful comments fill this book that begs to be part of a series. A sequel won’t enough for those of us who have fallen in love with India McAllister.

I checked out this book as a possible gift for my niece who is India’s age. Unlike India, she’s not an avid reader. I’m pretty sure this perfect book of adventures will change that. I couldn’t put it down myself. It’s sweet and funny, and the way India’s small but complicated family comes together in the end left me with a lump in my throat and a smile on my face.

Confession: I’m a huge fan of Charlotte Agell‘s work. Her picture books are among my favorites, and my son, who is five, feels the same. The paintings that illustrate her books are so beautiful, I’ve been tempted to tear out certain pages and frame them.

My son and I love Charlotte’s book To The Island so much, that I used the text, with only a few alterations, as the lyrics for a song. Below is the super rough version I recorded on my laptop, at home, with my son.

I hope to go into the studio one day and do a better recording, but for now, I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed singing it. The words are so simple, but to me, they’re a metaphor for some of life’s more profound passages.

More Music for Film and, Film.

Book trailers are a relatively new art form and the best ones take advantage of both video and audio.

In this trailer for Edie Meidav‘s new novel, Lola California, not only does the video tell a story, but the music does as well. I find both beautiful and haunting.

I also found Edie Meidav‘s articulate description of her book eerie and intriguing. After seeing this trailer, I have to read this book. Do you feel the same way? Is there a book you’ve been compelled to read because of the trailer?

Kevin Salem composed the music for the book trailer, and he wrote additional songs for Lola California as well. Kevin says, “What you find here is the result of three years of procrastination and a couple weeks of cramming which, really, is how music is supposed to be. The music is part soundtrack for the reader, part songs inspired by the text (though I would be loathe to be too ‘on the nose’ about it as Edie’s words speak so eloquently for themselves) and part music inspired by the cultural identity of the novel. That is, we hope that they work together not literally, but like distant cousins who bear a resemblance you can’t quite put your finger on.”

If you click on Kevin Salem‘s picture you’ll be able to hear more gorgeous music for Lola California and read about Kevin’s relationship with Edie Meidav and her novel.

The Littlest Siren

Here’s #MySonIs5 recording his part for The Crankamacallit Song yesterday at Kevin Salem’s studio in Woodstock, NY.

We’re going to be using the song for the demo video we’re making later today with Polymash for The Crankamacallit iPad app which is available now on iTunes. Kevin helped me write the song and sings on it as well.

After years of admiring Kevin’s songs and being in love with his voice and his guitar playing, my dream of writing and singing something with him has finally come true . . . sort of. Kevin has produced a bunch of my songs over the years and I find it pretty hilarious that we’ve finally written something together called The Crankamacallit.

This blog isn’t really about my music, but I couldn’t resist sharing :)

I’ll make sure to post some of Kevin’s music soon as well. Until then, if you’d like to check out the app, click on the title page below.


Sunday Morning Siren Rowena Cairns

Our 19th guest today on Sirenstories is Rowena Cairns, a songwriter from Northern Ireland. She’s definitely a Siren.

Nothing to Hide is a contemporary folk song that Rowena says is, “a love song of sorts, but the main influence for it came from watching news reports of soldiers returning home.”

I’ve got goosebumps. Here are the lyrics for Nothing to Hide.

I woke up this morning with your words running through my head, running through my head.
You said your jacket looks good on me, I should wear it instead, instead.
Don’t you know that you’re killing me with your words, your words.
And I know you can’t be with me but it hurt,s it hurts.

There’s nothing to hide when it’s just me and you,
so why don’t you come over and prove that it’s true.
There’s nowhere to run when this love is kept,
There’s no hurt to explain and there’s no lies to regret.

I’ve tried so many times to tell you how you make me feel, you make me
and I know you keep on showing me it’s real so real.
but I can’t hold you back you have to leave me now, leave now.
here’s comes the promise you’ll get back to me somehow, how about now.

There’s nothing to hide when it’s just me and you,
so why don’t you come over and prove that it’s true.
There’s nowhere to run when this love is kept,
There’s no hurt to explain and there’s no lies to regret.

Oh I pray that you’ll be sent back home to me,
somehow, somewhere, somebody, sets you free.

I woke up this morning with your words running through my head,
running through my head.

I think writing songs about soldiers requires a great deal of courage. Rowena has done a beautiful job with this song.
You can click on the pictures to learn more about Rowena Cairns, I’m sure you’ll want to.

Day 10 on Sirenstories is . . . Obvious.

Singer songwriter Patti Witten gets a 10 out of 10 for her song Obvious.

The tune is killing me—in a good way—with its Elliott Smith overtones.

Patti Witten has an ease to her singing, as if wandering around her wide range is simply a sweet ramble.

Listening to Patti’s casual vocal style, I imagine Joni Mitchell on a lazy day:

She’s on the couch, relaxing, maybe reading the paper. She’s not going to get up just to tell you something you ought to know. She looks at you over the top of her glasses, sighs, and puts her paper down. She gives you another look, then picks up her guitar. Maybe now you’ll get it.

As Patti sings, “You are the one I want, isn’t it obvious?” I’m thinking, she’s got the right idea. Life is short, people like Elliot Smith—who I am now missing so much I feel like crying—vanish overnight, so why play games? Just say it, whatever it is.

Patti Witten said this about Obvious:

“This is what it’s like to have an embarrassing, stupid crush — everybody knows — it’s obvious.”

To me, the singer doesn’t sound embarrassed at all. I imagine her steady gaze as she tells it like it is.

Obvious is such a great concept, I wish I’d thought of it. I’m kicking myself. It should have been . . . obvious.

But okay. Patti Witten is great songwriter and she wrote the song Obvious, so I can’t. However I’m telling you now People, I’m writing the book. YA romance. Totally. Obviously.

Thanks for the inspiration Patti. I’ll mention you in the acknowledgments. And we’ll use your song in the movie, okay?

Obvious has a mysterious guitar part and the drums play a shuffling groove. This simple instrumentation, with what I’m guessing are a few added effects on the layered guitars is perfect, and the song sounds somehow both small and momentous. But it’s the chord progression, with Patti’s voice sliding around on top, that makes me want to listen to the song over and over.

So I am.

Welcome Sunday Siren Gedeon Luke, Sirenstories Day 5

I can’t stop listening to this song.

So I just keep listening.

Then I write a sentence.

Then I delete my sentence. And I start another. But I delete that one too, because I can’t seem to finish it, and in fact I have no idea what I was going to say because I’m lost in that elegant descending piano line. The piano line is so simple, you might not even notice it at first because the voice of Gedeon Luke is a wonderful whisper in your ears.

A whisper, but not a quiet sound. A sound that has the color of a whisper, but is actually an intense sound that Gedeon Luke is controlling, that he’s holding back and shaping into a gentle croon on purpose, because he knows, the way to get attention is to whisper and he wants attention given to his message because his message is THE message. His message is love.

And that’s one of the reasons I’m so happy to bring you this song on a Sunday morning. This song is like a prayer, an insistent prayer. Gedeon Luke is Going Up, and he wants us to join him.

When I started this morning’s blog, I couldn’t think in a linear way. With Going Up floating in the air around me, all I wanted to do was listen. As soon as you hear the first clear notes of the acoustic guitar on Going Up, you know you’re in for something good. That ‘something’ is still there after the tenth listen, and I’m betting it won’t go away. I don’t know anything about Gedeon Luke except that he has this awesome song, and that ‘something’.

Going Up was co-written with Marc Swersky, who I can’t say enough about. Today I’ll just tell you that Marc is, for one thing, a professional music industry veteran who has somehow managed to not only keep his heart, but to share it. He shares it in this song and I’m so glad he does.

I bet when Marc and Gedeon are sitting in a room together writing, the light changes.
Heartfelt thanks to Marc and Gedeon for sharing their beautiful music with us.

The only other info that accompanied Going Up on the Sirenstories SoundCloud was this:

“A message of love,peace and soul!”

Yeah it is.

No messages from me this morning, and no free writing or words from my characters. I’m still in Princeton at the annual NJSCBWI conference. There are so many great writers here and the workshop sessions have been fantastic. Generous agents and editors conducting critiques, authors selling their books . . . it’s been great. I’ve been hanging out and sharing The Crankamacallit and just hanging out in general.

If you write books for children or young adults, join SCBWI. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for my writing.

Siren Saturday, Sirenstories Day 4

“Sensible Shoes rules the blues news!”
-Jonathan Demme, film director

An artist can’t get a better intro than that, except maybe this:

Talk is Cheap by Barbara Blaisdell, aka Sensible Shoes and Friends can be found on Sensible Shoes’ new CD, “My History”.

When asked to share what the song is about, Sensible Shoes says it was inspired by the film The Manchurian Candidate. “When talk is cheap, let the wah-wah speak.” If you haven’t see The Manchurian Candidate lately you might want to. The 2004 thriller—a reimagined version of the 1962 film—is eerie.

Inspired by Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, and Bonnie Raitt Sensible Shoes has a sound that’s comfortably familiar. As I listen I’m reminded of a day many years ago. I was hanging out with a friend who pilfered his older brother’s record collection. Full of bands like Little Feat and Steely Dan, the crate was a treasure chest. That was a good day.

This is going to be a good day too, because I’m starting my morning with Sensible Shoes.

Talk might be cheap in some circles, but not here. I’m at the NJSCBWI conference in Princeton today (see the link on the sidebar if you’re not familiar with NJSCBWI) where every word counts.

No time to let Sensible Shoes inspire my writing at the moment, but I’m going to turn up the volume and use Talk is Cheap as my morning coffee until I can make it down to breakfast. No way am I dealing with that little in room pot, and why should I? I’ve got Sensible Shoes.

Can you tell I love the band name?