The arts have always been an important part of my life.

My first piano — and my cousins

Music: Most people remember their mothers reading to them. While I have a few memories of that, my main and most cherished memories are of my mother singing to me. She had a beautiful, warm, rich mezzo-soprano voice, and was in demand as a soloist in our rural area. I took voice lessons from the same wonderful woman who had earlier taught my mother and my uncle, and when I started learning the song “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” it spoke deeply to my heart.

I began piano lessons when I was nearly 8, after a good flax crop had allowed my parents to be able to purchase a piano. The woman who taught me was an incredible encourager, and knew just how to reach me in my shy little self, and to bring out the music that was there. She also began teaching me to play the little Hammond organ in our church, which began my life of being a freelance organist in various churches, as well as music director in my home congregation in the city for six years.

Drama: When I was growing up, I didn’t fit in with most of the kids in my school. I had different interests. I was an introvert. I liked different music. I wasn’t a partier. When I was in ninth grade, our French teacher, a wonderful man, started a Drama Class. The experience empowered me. It has empowered me throughout my life, as well. (There’s a blog post linked below about him, and about that class.)

Visual Art: As a child, I loved to create my own kind of art. Apparently I used my markers to draw a huge mural over the sheet that covered the guest room bed when I was very small. My mother saved it until it faded beyond recognition. In school, though, I quickly came to think of myself as not being artistic. I couldn’t draw as well as others in my class. I gave up on art.

Enter an adult friend, an artistic person, who often invited me over to their home and made art with me. She introduced me to pastels, and batik, and weaving, and quilting. She encouraged the artist within me to blossom. She empowered me to enjoy my own artistic expression again.

When I write, I try to give that sort of empowering experience to my characters, and to the kids who will read my books. Being encouraged like that can truly change one’s life, and the way one looks at one’s self.

Here are some links about the arts, followed by some of my blog posts. Have fun exploring them!

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Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton Op-Ed on CNN on Why We Need the Arts

On the CNN website on March 16, 2017, Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, championed the arts and pleaded with the powers that be not to cut funding to the arts.

In this article, they respond to the threat to the National Endowment for the Arts and other programs by saying, among other things, “This is mind-boggling to us, considering how much the arts benefit our lives and our world. They foster collaboration and creativity, essential skills for navigating in the workplace and surviving in a challenging world. They cultivate empathy and tolerance, by bridging cultural and socioeconomic divides. They’re also good for business: They spur urban renewal, promote tourism and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity annually.”

Read the entire op-ed here: Rescue the Arts from the Chopping Block

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Katherine Anne Porter on the Arts

I share this quotation in the hope that it will inspire you as it has me. For quite some time, I had only heard it in paraphrased form. I’ve found it now in its original form, in an interview in The Paris Review — Katherine Anne Porter: The Art of Fiction #29.

“Human life itself may be almost pure chaos, but the work of the artist is to take these handfuls of confusion and disparate things, things that seem to be irreconcilable, and put them together in a frame to give them some kind of shape and meaning.”

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Using Theatre to teach High School Math and Science

Taking math and science classes from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, Mathematics), from Chicago Business, about Lane Tech College Prep.

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Jim Henson: Why he did what he did

This quote from Jim Henson spoke to me. I encountered it in this wonderful article about the Netflix series Julie’s Greenroom.

“At some point in my life, I decided, rightly or wrongly, that there are many situations in this life that I can’t do much about—acts of terrorism, feelings of nationalistic prejudice, cold war, etc.—so what I should do is concentrate on the situations that my energy can effect. … I believe that we can use television and film to be an influence for good; that we can help to shape the thoughts of children and adults in a positive way. […] When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope still is to leave the world a little bit better for my having been here.”

He followed his heart, did what he was good at, and had an enormous influence for good in our world.

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Blog Post: My First In-Depth Experience in the Arts – a Tribute

I had a wonderful teacher and mentor in what was then thought of as Junior High, whose influence on my life is part of why I am committed to supporting the arts and sharing the arts through my writing. Read about him in this blog post.

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Blog Post: The Arts and Learning In the Spotlight

I originally posted this on March 26, 2012, looking at three opportunities that allow kids who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to learn about the arts and about themselves through music.

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Blog Post: The Importance of the Arts in Raising Bookworms

In January, 2012, I explored how the arts can get kids more interested in reading, in The Importance of the Arts in Raising Bookworms.

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Blog Post: Interview with Jim McMullan, Artist

In October, 2014, I was privileged to be able to interview artist and illustrator, James (Jim) McMullan. Art has been a part of his life all his life. His illustrations enliven many books, and his theatre posters have added to the enjoyment of many productions at Lincoln Center over the years. He himself is a tribute to the power of the arts in both the individual and in those his art touches. Read the interview here.

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Blog Post: International Dot Day Celebrates The Arts and Creativity

Every September 15th-ish, kids and adults around the world celebrate their creativity in the style of artist/illustrator/writer/creative Peter H. Reynolds’ wonderful book The Dot. Check out my blog post from September 15th-ish, 2014 to learn more. “Make your mark and see where it takes you.”

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Blog Post: I interview Julie Andrews & Emma Walton Hamilton about The Great American Mousical

In 2012, as I looked forward to traveling to Connecticut to attend the new musical, The Great American Mousical, based on the middle grade novel by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton and directed in this debut run by Julie Andrews herself, I was privileged to be able to interview those two talented women. Read the interview here.