February. The Month of Love.

 

Or is it?

“Sometimes I think it’s when we have someone to lean on that we become unsteady. Lose our balance. Fall the hardest.” —Cate Reese, Before Goodbye

This Valentine’s Day read Cate and David’s story.

Enter the Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Before Goodbye.

We promise, it has a hopeful ending.

“A book to set your heart aflutter.”

—The Toronto Star

“Desperate and real. Stunningly beautiful!”

—Night Owl Reviews Top Pick, 5 stars

“An important story… Highly recommended.”

—Manitoba Library Association

Cross-BeforeGoodbye-20232-CV-FT-v5 RITA Award Finalist medallion

Crystal Kite voting is open! #SCBWI

SCBWI members it’s that time :)

Just click the pic and follow directions.

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And if you have an entry…

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Sooo…what’s going on here, anyway?

I’ve been avoiding this question for quite a while, but in a nutshell: SoundCloud has changed a lot since I started this blog, and it’s grown increasingly difficult and time consuming to post other people’s music here, although that’s why I originally created Sirenstories.com.

As a new mom and aspiring novelist, I was missing my first love: music. So I started this blog to inspire myself to seek out new independent artists. And I think I did a pretty good job. There’s a LOT of great music posted on this site. My goal was to accept every song uploaded to the Sirenstories SoundCloud, find something I loved about it, and share.

The blog was a delightful diversion for me, as well as a way to give back. A way to discover new independent artists, amazing songs, and gorgeous composed music.

But now, because of the changes on SoundCloud, and in my own life, I’m officially moving on from the original Sirenstories.com format. From here, I’m not sure how the blog will evolve—but I don’t want to just let it go.

So hopefully sometime soon, I’ll start updating links, and continuing to connect with musicians and authors whose work I admire. But for today, here’s some work of my own. My first book trailer. Please click on the pic below to watch, and if you have a sec, let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you. I hope you enjoy this small peek into Cate and David’s world…

And until we meet again, I hope you take good care of each other, and work for what you want. You know what I’m talking about.

Love,

Mimi

Cate sitting w guitar on lake copy.jpg

The Best Teachers are Sirens

Meet Mrs. McGee . . .

A total Siren, right?

Mrs. McGee is the teacher featured in What Do You Want to Be? a new picture book written by Beth Carter and illustrated by Leo Silva.

I ‘met’ Beth on author David Harrison‘s wonderful blog about two years ago. At that time, I was going to his blog almost every day for inspiration. David has written over eighty children’s books and runs a Word of the Month poetry contest on his site that’s great fun. If you need inspiration, I suggest you try it, the word prompt will get your pen moving. For me, the experience was more about community than contest, and I felt like my poems had a home on David’s site even though they were all really works in progress.

When she found out that What Do You Want to Be? was going to be published, Beth, who lives in Missouri, asked me if I would write a song to go along with her book. I said yes, and last weekend I went up to Woodstock with #MySonIs5 to record the track that What Do You Want to Be? inspired. Hope you enjoy it!

Here are a few pics of #MySonIs5 recording his part at Kevin Salem‘s studio in Woodstock.

After a while, what starts out as fun in the studio becomes work, and even #MySonIs5 begins to feel the pressure . . .

Finally he finishes, and takes a bow. #MySonIs5 has stamina in the studio and—what? What did you just ask me? Did I actually make him listen to old Grateful Dead on the drive home from Woodstock? Um.

Click on the pic of Mrs. McGee to get a copy of Beth Carter‘s book for your kids. If they like the song, tell Beth and she’ll probably send you a copy, or come back and listen any time here on Sirenstories.

To learn more about Beth Carter, visit her blog, Banter with Beth

What Do You Want To Be?  Song lyrics

What do you want to be?

Asked Mrs. McGee

Raise you hands high and share your dreams with me

What do you want to be?

What do you want to be?

Raise you hands high and share your dreams with me

When I arrived at school today

My teacher smiled and said let’s play

Join me in a circle on the floor

She asked us all what we held dear

The people we loved to be near

And what we thought the future held in store

She gave us crayons & pens & pads

She said, no answer’s wrong or bad

Just think my friends then think a little more

Use pictures, words; free thoughts like birds

Express yourself and you’ll be heard

You’ll learn in part what you are all here for

What do you want to be?

Asked Mrs. McGee

Raise you hands high and share your dreams with me

What do you want to be?

What do you want to be?

Raise you hands high and share your dreams with me (I don’t know!)

A baker or a builder,                          

Or a swimmer in the sea

A mommy having babies (Maybe!)

Or a maybe a daddy

A dentist, doctor, artist, author                              

Teacher, Forest ranger, or you might like to sing . . . (I’d like that!)

You can do anything!  (Definitely.)

What do you want to be?

Asked Mrs. McGee

Raise you hands high and share your dreams with me

What do you want to be?

What do you want to be?

Raise you hands high and share your dreams with me

An astronaut, a lawyer

Or a farmer growing trees (Next stop outer space!)

The president, a fireman

A keeper keeping bees

A dancer, banker, preacher, painter

Help save things are endangered (Yeah, like pandas!) maybe you’ll sew . . .

You can give it a go!  (I think I might want to think about this . . .)

What do you want to be?

Asked Mrs. McGee (A baseball player!)

Raise you hands high and share your dreams with me

What do you want to be?

What do you want to be?  (A candy maker!)

Raise you hands high and share your dreams with me

(A cow!)

(I just want to be me.)


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: http://www.mimicross.com

To learn more about Kripalu yoga and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, visit http://www.kripalu.org

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.

Listen to the title Track of Jennifer Haase’s New CD!

Did you ever get the feeling that you’ve disappointed so many people, you’ll never be invited anywhere ever again?

That’s the idea behind the upbeat title track of Jennifer Haase‘s brand new folk-pop album No More Invitations.

I’m listening now, and actually, I bet she has an inbox crammed full of invites.

Jennifer Haase, a New York City singer songwriter originally from Nebraska, is a Siren with a “Jewel-Meets-Mary Chapin Carpenter” sound. She was thoughtful enough to include lyrics when she uploaded No More Invitations to the Sirenstories SoundCloud.

Heard you’ve got a chip that’s the size of your head
Sittin’ on your neck speaking for you instead
All the clucking hens at your Aunt’s house for tea
Say you’ve lost some friends in your family tree

There’ll be no more invitations
There’ll be no more invitations

Heard you’ve got a thing for someone else’s man
Word is you’ve been seen leaving notes on his van
All the busy bees at the watering hole
Say they’d like to see that big chip of yours roll

There’ll be no more invitations
There’ll be no more invitations

What’s the matter, baby?
Don’t like sleeping in the bed you made?
Now, baby, better save some cake for your birthday
Can’t have it all, can’t get your way
How dare you be a girl with much to say

Heard you tend to dress so outrageous it’s sad
Seems you’re the distress on the face of your dad
Rumors going ’round you’ve been dropped from the list
Girl, give up the crown ’cause you cease to exist

There’ll be no more invitations
There’ll be no more invitations
There’ll be no more invitations
There’ll be no more invitations

Jennifer Haase — acoustic guitar, vocals
Mike Leslie — bass guitar, vocals
Gary Schreiner — keyboards/string arrangements
Denny McDermott — drums, tamburine, shaker

“Jennifer Haase is a unique and gifted songwriter with the voice of an angel.  I highly recommend her.” — Rosanne Cash

And I issue her an invitation: please send a second song to Sirenstories!

Click on the cover of No More Invitations to learn more about Jennifer Haase and her new CD

Okay, I’m going to stretch out and listen to my brand new copy of No More Invitations now. Try not to envy me too much.