Inspiration: When I Least Expected It

Wednesday evening and all day Thursday, I reprised my career as a photojournalist and did some free-lance photography for a friend. We covered an event called “Fall for the Book” which mostly took place at George Mason University in Northern Virginia. After getting the necessary shots of the authors, I was able to relax and listen to what they had to say, and I was very inspired by two authors in particular. One was a poet named Natasha Trethewey, whose historical poems have the perfect balance between the beautiful and the unsightly. She took me to the edge of discomfort then wrapped me in beautiful descriptions of paintings and journals and her own memories. Hearing her read her own words was very moving.

The second author to inspire me was Alma Katsu. I knew within 5 minutes of her talk that I was going to purchase her book “The Taker” ~ its Gothic, dark nature being right up my alley. But also, she spoke of the writing process and her words really struck a chord with me. She said that in the end, the novel one writes is really the novelist’s own story. It is the thing deep down that the author is ashamed of, or afraid will be exposed. She said that until the author figures this out and embraces it, he or she will keep writing the same book until that story is expressed in an honest, fully-disclosed way.

I talked about this with my friend Grace between shoots. I wondered what my “story” was. We talked about songs and films that move us in ways that seem to affect no one else in the same way. What was it about these particular pieces that move me so much?

On the way home, Arcade Fire came up on shuffle. I thought of the song “Wake Up” and quickly found and played this song. This is definitely one of those songs that affect me. Every time I listen to this anthem of lost childhood, I sing it at the top of my lungs, half shouting, to the point where I am so choked up that I can no longer produce notes.

“Wake Up” by Arcade Fire

Somethin’ filled up
my heart with nothin’,
someone told me not to cry.

But now that I’m older,
my heart’s colder,
and I can see that it’s a lie.

Children wake up,
hold your mistake up,
before they turn the summer into dust.

If the children don’t grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We’re just a million little gods causin’ rain storms turnin’ every good thing to
rust.

I guess we’ll just have to adjust.

With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’
I can see where I am goin’ to be
when the reaper he reaches and touches my hand.

With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’
I can see where I am goin’
With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’
I can see where I am, go-go, where I am

You’d better look out below

And then I knew my story. I knew what I needed to get out of me. I wrote for a very long time last night. A stream of consciousness that spilled out onto six pages of my notebook, and it is still not all out. With Alma Katsu’s words still fresh in my ears, I was mindful of how, as soon as I got close to the really difficult stuff, I would drift back into safe territory. I think I am onto something here. It might be painful, but I do not think I will be able to rest until I can express myself clearly – until my story has been given the attention it deserves.

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Incendio 2011

This past weekend was Incendio 2011, a two day wrock festival in Bethlehem, PA. I performed last year when it was just one jam-packed day, but this year, it was just too awesome to contain in a single day. I had an afternoon slot on Saturday, and though there is a magic to performing at night under the lights, I am happy to get a show done early enough to have time to relax and enjoy the other performers.

I would really have liked it if I had been able to get up to Pennsylvania for Friday’s performances as there were many really great acts scheduled, but alas, life intervened. Several of the bands hung around for both days though, so at least I got to visit with them a bit.

I am happy with how my set turned out. You never know when borrowing someone else’s instrument! I performed “The Tale of Tom Riddle” live for the first time. I was glad to add another song on piano to my repertoire, and it seemed to go over well.

I had a little stunt planned for this show and it could not have gone more smoothly. Recently, I was approached by a hop-hop wrock artist called Undesirable #1. He was interested in making a hip-hop remix of my song “Alone.” I only agreed to allow it if he added a rap to the song, and man, did it come out great.

Undesirable #1 performed the first day of the festival, but I knew he was sticking around, so I planned a super secret duet performance. I started out playing “Alone” on the piano as usual, but after the first chorus, U#1 very casually started up my ipod and I heard a gasp from the crowd. I felt like I was on the MTV Video Music Awards as I gestured stage right and said, “Undesirable Number Oooooonnneeeeee!” Richard took the stage and went full force into his rap. It was pretty awesome.

I want to give a HUGE thank you to Tina Wilkins who organized this event. The whole family is super amazing and supportive and I think the world of them. It was so great to see old friends, make a few new ones, and be inspired by some pretty fantastic musicians.

Here is a video of me performing “The Tale of Tom Riddle” shot by the always inspiring MaryBeth Schroeder: