Saturday, April 20, 2013

San Antonio on Sunday: Signing

A not minor (to me) detail that I forgot to include in my IRA post yesterday: I’ll be signing books at Texas bookseller Pat Anderson’s Overlooked Books booth (booth number 2519) on Sunday, from noon to 2:00. Come by and say hello!

Friday, April 19, 2013

San Antonio on Sunday

I head to San Antonio, Texas tomorrow to appear on a Sunday panel at the International Reading Association’s 58th Annual Convention: “But Kids Haven’t Heard of That!”: Why Teaching Unconventional Nonfiction Is Important.

The panel was put together by Marc Tyler Nobleman and will also include Chris Barton, Shana Corey, and Meghan McCarthy. We’ll each say a bit about our work—I’m looking forward to talking a little Moonshot and Ballet for Martha, plus I’ll be packing F&Gs for Locomotive and will look forward to showing some of the process and research behind that book—and then our moderator, professor of children’s books and reading and language arts Susannah Richards, who isnt really any more moderate than any of the rest of us, will get the questions and conversation going. 

I’m happy to be on a panel with this great group and looking forward to everyones presentations. Thanks, Marc, for getting this organized. The panel will run from 3:00 to 5:45 in room 006D of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. If you’re going to be at IRA, I hope you’ll come by! Details are in the IRA schedule online, here. (That link should take you directly to page 236 of the schedule, in PDF form. Page 236 is where the action is.)

Edit: And! I’ll be signing books at Texas bookseller Pat Anderson’s Overlooked Books booth (booth number 2519) on Sunday, from noon to 2:00.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thanks, Baltimore

My thanks to the Baltimore School of the Arts and to Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library for the chance to be a part of the BSA’s Appalachian Spring Festival this past weekend, and the chance to speak at two branches of the Pratt as a part of Baltimore’s 10th Annual CityLit Festival. 

Two great events, but the BSA Festival in particular is one that I will remember for a long time. (No offense to the Pratt intended!) Ballet for Martha may have gotten the school started thinking about Appalachian Spring — an exciting thought for me — but when the students of BSA put their own Appalachian Spring on the stage I felt lucky just to be in the room. First there was the set, recreated by the students from Noguchi’s designs. Then there was a prologue to the dance, excerpts from letters and other writings by Graham, Copland, and Noguchi, stitched together and acted out by students. (That was a bit of work that I worried might fall flat, or worse, I confess to thinking, but it was well done and effective; it helped to put the work in context, suggested the outlines of its creation, and even touched on the question of why a diverse cast of young dancers today might and might not find the piece relevant.) Then from left of the stage came the opening to Copland’s score, and it was remarkable to look over and see such young performers working away on their instruments to such good effect. The music swelled, the young dancers came out, and they did their thing and they did Martha Graham’s thing — not a Lite version of it, either, but fully felt and fully enacted. You could feel the emotions in the house building as the dancers and musicians took us all the way through the piece, and the standing ovation, from a capacity crowd, was as fully and happily delivered as you can imagine. I also had the chance to meet a few of the talented students in the art program and to take a stab at critiquing their work, and that was a pleasure, too. A remarkable school, a remarkable Friday and Saturday for me. 

And then on Sunday, after speaking at the Pratt’s Central Library, I headed off to visit friends in the area and succumbed either to food poisoning or a stomach bug or something and spent the next twenty hours sleeping, rising only to be fed small portions of rice, toast, broth, and JELL-O. And then I was over it and caught the train to New York, feeling a bit Lazarus-like the whole ride back. Well, there are ups and downs even to the best weekends. 

Thank you to everyone at the BSA and the Enoch Pratt Free Library for making me feel welcome! And thank you, D and N, for the guest room and the rice.

Earlier posts on the festival are here and here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Some reviews you feel like shouting about.

Locomotive doesn’t come out until September, but the first review is out today, and I’m happy to say that I couldn’t ask for a better start for the book. The review is a starred notice from Kirkus Reviews: “Floca took readers to the moon with the Apollo 11 mission in Moonshot (2009); now he takes them across the country on an equally historic journey of 100 years earlier. In a collegial direct address, he invites readers to join a family—mother, daughter and son—on one of the first passenger trips from Omaha to Sacramento after the meeting of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific in May 1869… Full- and double-page spreads take advantage of the book’s unusually large trim for breathtaking long shots of the American landscape and thrilling perspectives of the muscular engine itself. The nameless girl and boy provide touchstones for readers throughout, dubiously eyeing an unidentifiable dinner, juddering across a trestle, staring out with wide-eyed wonder. Unjustly undersung as a writer, Floca soars with his free-verse narrative…. Nothing short of spectacular, just like the journey it describes.” 

The review is up in its entirely on Kirkus for subscribers, here, and also on Amazon, here. Thank you, Kirkus Reviews!

Above: a newspaper “butch” hawks his wares. Any resemblance is purely coincidental. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

An Appalachian Spring Festival (2)

There were two great articles in the last few days about this week’s Appalachian Spring Festival at the Baltimore School for the Arts, one in the Baltimore Sun, here, and one in the Washington Post, here. (The Sun piece mentions Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring and the story it tells as an impetus for the festival, which is great to read.) Reading the Sun and Post articles, I’m struck by how wonderfully this festival agrees with the closing lines of Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan’s text: 

     New dancers will take their turns 
     to move to Aaron Copland’s music,
     to interpret Martha Graham’s steps,
     to dance through Isamu Noguchi’s set.

     And the collaboration will be created anew. 

I look forward to this coming weekend in Baltimore, to meeting the students who’ve spent so much time with this work, and talking with them about it and about making the book! Festival details are here

This weekend is also Baltimore’s 10th Annual CityLit Festival, and I’m glad to be a part of that event, as well, and looking forward to speaking at the Enoch Pratt Free Library about my work. Details are here

Above: opening night, 1944, from Ballet for Martha.

Friday, April 5, 2013

An Appalachian Spring Festival

Monday the 8th through Tuesday the 16th, the Baltimore School for the Arts will be presenting an Appalachian Spring Festival, a week’s worth of activities for students and the community centered around Martha Graham, Aaron Copland, and Isamu Noguchi’s iconic masterpiece. The week will be capped by a student performance of the dance, produced with the support of the Martha Graham Dance Company — a first for a high school. Particularly exciting for me is that the book Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring will be a part of the week. I’ll be speaking with students about making the book on Friday the 12th and Saturday the 13th. (I’ll be doing my best to carry the flag for the whole Ballet for Martha team, including authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, and editor Neal Porter. While in Baltimore I will also try to eat crabs for the four of us.) I’ll also be speaking more generally about my work at the Southeast Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Friday afternoon at 1:00, and at the Pratt’s Central Branch on Saturday at 2:00. My thanks to the Baltimore School for the Arts for the chance to be a part of this exciting and ambitious festival. I hope to see some of you there!

More about the Baltimore School for the Arts is here, and details of the Appalachian Spring Festival are here. The Enoch Pratt Free Library’s web site is here. Visit the Martha Graham Dance Company’s web site here, and read more about the book on my web site, here.