Story Preservation Initiative®

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Archive for ‘December, 2012’

Everyone Loves Tomie!

When Tomie dePaola presented a signed copy of his artwork to Hillary Clinton, she exclaimed, “Oh, Tomie, I just love you!”

Tomie dePaola is one of today’s best-known, best-loved names in the world of children’s literature. He has received the industry’s highest recognition and awards, including the Caldecott Honor Award for his book Strega Nona and the Newbery Honor Award for his autobiographical 26 Fairmount Avenue.  In 2011, Tomie was awarded the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal honoring his lasting contribution to children’s literature. And in 2012, an Original Art Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Illustrators.

At the core of Tomie’s success is … well … Tomie.  78 years into life on this planet and he has never lost touch with own sense of wonder and what it is to be a child.  Tomie has an uncanny ability to know what children like and what they want to read about – and is terrifically successful translating that into image and text.

Tomie came from a large, intimate and fun-loving Irish-Italian family that “loved telling tales.”  Laughter and storytelling were part of his everyday life, as was reading.  He remembers well his mother reading stories to him when he was too young to read himself – and attributes that to a declaration he made at age five – announcing that he wanted to write books and draw pictures when he grew up.  He was encouraged every step of the way by his parents and teachers who saw his talent early on.  Tomie loved to draw so much he would bring a penlight to bed with him and draw pictures on his sheets!  (That wasn’t so much encouraged.)  He once wrote a note and sent a picture to Walt Disney – and received a reply.  Disney told the young Tomie how much he liked his drawing and urged him to keep up the good work – and that he did.   Now it’s Tomie who writes back to and encourages every child who writes to him.

I will be recording Tomie in early November in the studio at CedarHouse Sound and Mastering in Sutton, NH.  It is always difficult to know in what direction a conversation with Tomie will go – but we will touch on early influences, growing up in Depression-era central Connecticut, his autobiographical stories, the role of folktales in modern life, and the step-by-step process behind creating a picture book.

“Generally, we don’t think of those who create books for children–authors or illustrators–as superstars. Yet certain names–Sendak, Carle, dePaola among others–have acquired the kind of sparkle that goes with star status. A new book by any one of the stellar few stands as a real publishing event.”
The Detroit News

“… great contemporary picture-book writer.”
The New York Times Book Review

Audio is embedded.


Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.


Tomie dePaola

Strega Nona


The Rise and Fall and Rise of Mighty Sam McClain

Vocalist Mighty Sam McClain is a Southern soul-blues singer who carries on in the tradition of vocalists like Bobby Bland, James Carr, and Otis Redding.

Mighty Sam McClain and Masha VadatLike so many other soul-blues vocalists, Mighty Sam began singing gospel in his mother’s choir when he was five.  By the age of 13 he was on his own, having run away from home to escape an abusive stepfather. Not long after, Mighty Sam starting working with “Little Melvin” Underwood, first as his valet and later as a featured vocalist in his road show.  He first found fame 1966 when he recorded a rendition of Patsy Cline’s Sweet Dreams of You.

Over the years, Sam created an ever-broadening audience for his singing with engagements at the 506 Club and later at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. He recorded several singles in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s before falling off the music scene for a while.

Precipitated by a fickle industry and fueled by substance abuse, it was a hard fall.

Mighty Sam found himself homeless and hungry, eating out of trash bins and sleeping on park benches.  Throughout it all Mighty Sam believed in one thing: his music.

In 1998 he released “Journey” with the song “New Man in Town,” later used in twelve episodes of the then popular Ally McBeal show.  But Sam’s comeback started with his CD “Give it Up to Love” in 2003.

2007 brought Sam into the “Give US Your Poor” project, benefiting the homeless. He co-wrote “Show Me the Way”, in which he and Jon Bon Jovi sang this stirring anthem as a duet. He performed at both Lincoln Center in New York City and The Kennedy Center in Washington, sharing the stage with Natalie Merchant, and the Greek tenor, Mario Frangoulis.

In 2009 Sam recorded “One Drop is Plenty” with noted Norwegian guitarist Knut Reiersrud, which was nominated for a Grammy.  The same year he was asked to record a CD of duets with Iranian folk vocalist Mahsa Vadhat. The resulting CD, “Scent of Reunion-Love Duets Across Civilizations,” reached number six in the European World Music Charts.  Their work together continues today.   His most recent CD (2012)  “Too Much Jesus” was nominated for Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Soul/Blues Male Artist by the Blues Music Foundation.

Sam shares the highs and lows – and the ever-present belief in his ability to make world-class music.

To listen, click on the links below.

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

Shown above: Mighty Sam McClain and Masha Vahdat.  Used with permission.

On the Road to the Nantucket Historical Association

Story Preservation Initiative will be conducting an oral history training workshop for the Nantucket Historical Association in January.

MaryCSaThe workshop will focus on the techniques and technical know-how necessary for NHA volunteers to create meaningful oral histories, exploring the history, ethnographic diversity, and cultural richness of the Island.

The NHA collection will, as it develops, contain the voices and stories of those who have for decades called Nantucket their home, extending back as far as possible with a look to the early to mid 1900s.  What was life like when the Island was primarily a fishing and agricultural community?  What role did residents of the island play during WWII?  What immigrant groups migrated there during this time frame and what role did they play in shaping the character of Nantucket? Effective interviewing techniques will be discussed as part of the content phase of the workshop.

Gerry Putnam the principal of Story Preservation Initiative’s partner sound studio, CedarHouse Sound and Mastering, will be joining me, leading the group through discussions centering on the proper use of equipment and touching on the importance of editing for clarity and ‘listenability.’

Other community workshops are in the offing.  In the meantime, we continue to develop our own collection with more than half a dozen upcoming recording dates scheduled.