Molly and I spent a cool, drizzly weekend immersing ourselves in the pure generosity of gifted artists.
Thanks to the Fox Cities Book Festival, we introduced ourselves to a broad range of writers, poets, painters and musicians. We said hello to some old friends as well.
We found inspiration in author stories, and celebration in their work. I took notes on the back of paper napkins and check stubs, and purchased a few new treats for our home library.
I kicked off the Festival last Monday when I popped in to see David Rhodes, an author whose own story is as compelling as his books. A literary prodigy, Rhodes fired off three acclaimed novels between 1972 and 1975, and then fell silent for the next three decades after a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the chest down.
An editor at Milkweed Publications eventually tracked him down and persuaded him to write again. Rhodes wrote Driftless in 2008 and, after being awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010, he followed that Jewelweed
On Monday night he patiently answered questions and read from Jewelweed. He talked about his hero, William Faulkner.
“He wrote from a cultural point of view. He wrote from an area, He had a sensitivity to language. I was spellbound by Faulkner’s ability to spin a tale and create a mood,” Rhodes said.
On Saturday, we soaked in another book festival guest’s ability to spin a tale and create a mood when we sat in on an intimate evening with our old friends, the Hillary Reynolds Band. Playing a lovely mix of new songs and old, Hillary and her band mates Trevor Jarvis and Connor Reese spoke at length about their song writing process. We both really enjoyed the sweet insights into each song they performed. I’ve known Hillary longer than I’ve known Molly, and even I learned a thing or two about her writing process Saturday night. She writes the music first, always the music first. The lyrics follow.
Yesterday, we spent as much time as we could with a fascinating group of poets. One of our favorites, Cristina Norcross, talked about her poetry postcards, and the genre she described as, “poems overlayed on art”. She is a contributing member of the Art Ambush project, a micro movement of artists who want to “give beauty to people out of the blue.”
We loved this concept and hope to pass it on.
Imagine a poet writing a musician’s biography and that’s what we enjoyed Sunday afternoon at the book festival. Here is a little clip of Fabu reading an excerpt from Remember Me, a book commemorating jazz musician Mary Lou Williams.