Overthinking and other favorite pastimes

I’ve self-identified as a Slytherin for most of my years in the Harry Potter fandom, dating from July in the year 2000, when I read the scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in which Severus Snape rolls up his sleeve to show Minister Fudge his Dark Mark as proof of Voldemort’s return. That act of Snape’s crystallized my admiration for both Snape and Slytherin House as people who do what needs to be done, regardless of personal cost or what people think of them.

Despite this admittedly aspirational identification with Slytherin, just about every sorting test I’ve taken, including Pottermore’s, puts me in Ravenclaw. I was irritated by this until I realized that perhaps it’s not such a terrible fit for me, especially since my favorite female characters are bookish Hermione Granger, who the Sorting Hat considered putting into Ravenclaw, and the delightfully bonkers Luna Lovegood, who was sorted into Ravenclaw. And I do love books and research. So I’m okay with Slytherin being my sun sign and Ravenclaw being my moon sign (and possibly vice versa), especially on days like this when my Ravenclaw tendencies are in ascendance.

Exhibit A: I have bought pens for my book signing at Warwick’s this weekend. Four of them. In different colors, all neighbors on the color wheel. And then I bought labels to use as book plates if people bring their previously-bought copies that the bookstore won’t let me sign at the event. And a superfine green Sharpie for signing the book plates in case my signing pens don’t work well on the labels. And generic sticky-notes for people to write how they want their books personalized to reduce the likelihood that I’ll misspell their names. And another Sharpie (black, retractable) for writing on the sticky notes.

Exhibit B: I am having to be very stern with myself to keep from obsessing over the excellent Critic’s Report I recently received from the initial round of the BookLife Prize. I will not know until September if my overall score of 8.25/10 is sufficient to make it to the quarterfinal round, which comprises the ten highest-scoring books in each eligible category. Looking at the top scores in my category from 2017 (the top 16 ranged between 8.25 and 10) or the 2016 semifinalists (my category wasn’t accepted in 2016! Noooo!) is not actually useful, since this year’s contest will be an entirely different batch of books, and there’s no telling how strong the entries are overall. This lack of certainty is also helping me manage my expectations for how I will fare overall. I’m not quite so silly as to think that this wonderfully weird, unfashionably earnest verse memoir I wrote will take top honors and the $5,000 prize. But I can’t keep my brain from imagining what the PW editorial folks who judge the quarterfinals will make of the book. Will they grok it the way the initial round reviewer did, or dismiss it as self-indulgent rubbish? And if they find it grokkable, might they grok it sufficiently to kick it up to the semifinal round? Because I think I’ve decided that I’d be really happy to end up there, where this year’s guest judge(s) will see it. I don’t expect the guest judge to necessarily grok it enough to send it to the finals (unless they REALLY like sonnets of course), but my book is weird and memorable. Even if the judge doesn’t entirely grok it, they will probably remember the bonkers sonnet lady. That’s my dream, anyway. And it’s a sensible dream, because if I get to the semifinal round, the book won’t be eligible for future rounds of the contest, so I won’t be tempted to resubmit it. Plus, yeah, reaching the semifinals with RISK A VERSE would be insanely awesome and a great thing to have in my pocket the next time I pitch an ambitious project or seek representation for another book. And if not? Well, the first round Critic’s Report is freaking awesome, and that ain’t nothin’!

Smooches to All,

Libby

Quite Nifty

Oh my goodness, people. So much awesome stuff has happened since my last post!

First, I should mention that I will be having my first-ever book signing for my book on Sunday, August 19th at noon at Warwick’s, an absolutely brilliant independent bookstore in La Jolla, where I have attended many awesome author events over the years. It’s the best kind of dream to be signing my own book at the place I once sat rapt at Berke Breathed’s feet. So if you’re in the San Diego area on the 19th, please do swing by and keep me company!

FB Signing Event Cover Photo

Event info here and here!

My July writer’s retreat was absolutely splendid, despite some issues with the house we rented. Everybody who wanted to write was able to write, those working on publishing projects made progress, and all of us took advantage of being literally across the street from Lake Michigan. I wrote about 12K words of what will probably be a novella, and it was a joy to do nothing but writing and basking in the presence and creativity of my book friends in a beautiful setting. Sharing joys and challenges with those who soothe your heart and feed your soul is a gift to be cherished.

And speaking of which, that trip was rounded out by a weekend gallivanting about Chicago with my entire immediate family. Highlights include enjoying the superb beer selection at Local Option with my siblings,  visiting old friends at the Art Institute of Chicago and admiring the surrounding public spaces, making a pilgrimage to Swirlz Cupcakes, whose co-founder is a dear friend, and meeting my baby niece, who is the most beautiful and awesome baby to have ever babied, and nothing can convince me otherwise. *nods firmly* My mom and brother will also be coming to visit me in San Diego in a few weeks, which will be awesome (and hopefully a bit less humid than Chicago in July).

I got back to San Diego just in time for San Diego Comic Con, and Wednesday evening through Sunday were full of squee, laughter, artistic inspiration, and unexpected moments of wonder. I attended over seventeen panels (offset room scheduling meant that I caught the last 30-15 minutes of a number of other panels), and I now have a to-buy book list a mile long after being favorably impressed by so many of the panelists I saw. Favorite moments include seeing Cory Doctrow surprised with an Inkpot Award at the top of his excellent panel on Optimistic Disaster Stories, accidentally sort-of-flirting with Ryan North whilst picking up Vol. 8 of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, sharing dog pictures with Dave Kellett when he signed my copy of Pugs Unleashed, and any panel hosted by Mark Evanir, especially those involving my personal hero, Mad Magazine and Groo the Wanderer cartoonist Sergio Aragonés, and Mark’s interview with this year’s Bill Finger Award-winner, Joye Murchison Kelly, who wrote Wonder Woman for several years in the 1940s, uncredited, as Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston’s health declined. Also, NASA scientists Jessie Christiansen and Morgan Cable absolutely stole the show on the Science of Star Trek panel.

And lest you think I’ve been neglecting my music in the midst of my summer hijinx, please do be enjoying this video of last Sunday’s Evensong service, featuring gorgeous music by Rachmaninoff, Gibbons, and Ireland sung by the St. Paul’s Espiscopal Cathedral Schola (including a wee solo by yours truly on the Ireland).

5 PM Choral Evensong, sung by The Cathedral Schola, August 5, 2018 from St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral on Vimeo.

 

In addition to Evensongs every Sunday at 5pm at St. Paul’s through the end of the month, I will also be warbling on the following performances:

I’m still waiting to hear the results of various auditions and other book-related activities, so while I don’t yet know exactly what I’m going to be doing this fall, this summer has me feeling optimistic that no matter what I end up doing, it’s going to be pretty awesome.

Onward and upward!

Libby

*squeeing internally*

So in addition to the incredibly kind folks who have reviewed RISK A VERSE: A Year in Daily Sonnets on Amazon and Goodreads (THANK YOU!!), my book received its first professional review from Kirkus Reviews, and it’s almost entirely good! And the criticisms (i.e., that the annotations tend to over-explain and that there’s a penis joke sonnet) are honestly the sorts of things that will appeal to certain readers, so I am absolutely thrilled! Here’s the take-away blurb:

An ambitious poetry collection that will defy readers’ preconceptions of what a sonnet can be. –Kirkus Reviews

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You can read the full review online here, or you can pick up a hard copy of the July 1st, 2018 issue of Kirkus Reviews, because the editors selected it to be a featured indie book review in that issue!

tenor

Fewer than 10% of indie books they review get featured in print, so this is not a small deal. And the timing could not be more awesome, because July 1st is the day that Publisher reports that industry-standard institutional pricing goes live at Ingram, which means that any morbidly curious acquisitions staff at libraries and bookstores whose interest is piqued by the bonkers verse memoir that got written up in Kirkus Reviews will be able to easily order a copy or twenty.

This feels real. I like it.

In other news, my choirs are winding down for the season, after our final “Building Bridges Spanning Water” concerts with SACRA/PROFANA in May (review here!), getting to play an obnoxious, doomed Gossip (and thunder sheet!) in All Souls’ Episcopal Church’s production of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde in early June, and singing on the West Coast premiere of Mozart’s incidental music for Thamos, King of Egypt with the all-star Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra last week (review here!). I have some fun Bayside Summer Nights concerts with the San Diego Symphony coming up (Star Spangled Pops this weekend, Gershwin on Broadway in August),  and I’m delighted to be joining the St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral Schola for summer Evensong services (videos/live stream info here!), which is always a joyful experience full of glorious music with good music friends.

July is also a special month because it means I’ll be descending upon the midwest with a dozen other wordsmiths for our annual writer’s retreat, and as much as I love all the singing I get to do, I am really looking forward to spending a week doing nothing but writing. Now that RISK A VERSE exists in real-actual book form, I can start thinking about my next big writing project… after I finish polishing my submission for an upcoming short story anthology for Story Spring Publishing, that is! *smiles innocently at editor*

Love to All,

Libby

Risk a Verse: A Year in Daily Sonnets by Libby Weber

Deeply touched and THRILLED by Lorrie’s kind words about my Snape sonnet!

Lorrie Kim

The Prince

From squalid soil a shriveled sapling sprang,

Which grew into a convoluted tree,

Whose listless leaves from blackened branches hang,

And twisted shape compels the birds to flee.

It gives no shade or succor to the tired,

And bears no fruits or flowers on its limbs.

Abhorrence and disquiet it inspires,

Except in those who offer it a hymn.

For though the tree fell many seasons past,

In falling, it revealed its fortitude,

For fire, disease, and drought did it outlast,

And by its loss, the forest was renewed.

And in the spring, when sunshine melts the snows,

Within its limbs, a silver lily grows.

I first encountered Libby Weber because of a shared interest in Snape. Over years of enjoying her writing, I was impressed by her deftness with poetry and the consistently high bars she challenged herself to clear, just for fun. I don’t know how…

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It’s here! It’s here!

My book, RISK A VERSE: A Year in Daily Sonnets is officially available for purchase on Amazon!

I checked with my publisher, Burrito Books, about the best place(s) to purchase the book, and they encouraged me to shoo people to Amazon, though people/business interested in bulk purchases should contact them. Their plan is to get an e-book version on Kindle and other platforms within the next months, but for now, it’s available in paperback only, So shoo! Shoo!

I am thrilled that after all these years preparing and editing the manuscript, my crazy year of sonnets is actually a book!

Funny, having the book out feels a lot like posting my final sonnet of that year: deeply satisfying to have successfully finished, but also exciting to move on to the next thing. And I certainly have a number of irons in the creative fires! But today? I’m taking it easy. Because putting a cap on a project of nearly four years is not something one does every day. Also, I have a cold and would strongly prefer not to be coughing up a lung during my final rehearsals for next weekend’s performances.

So yeah. Situation normal.

Love to All!

Libby

The sonnet book is out on April 23!

AAAAH YOU GUYS I HAVE A RELEASE DATE FOR THE SONNET BOOK!!!

*runs flailing squeefully about*

“Risk A Verse: A Year in Daily Sonnets” will be released by Burrito Books on April 23, 2018!

APRIL IS NATIONAL POETRY MONTH AND THE 23RD IS THE ANNIVERSARY OF SHAKESPEARE’S DEATH!

HOW AMAZING AND PERFECT IS THAT??

And here is another image of the front cover because it’s so beautiful I could cry!

Small Front cover for WordPress

They also asked me some questions about the book and writing and editing, so if you’d like to see me yammer at length on such topics, here ya go!

Apologies for the lack of coherence and meaningful commentary–I’m just so thrilled that after four years, the sonnets that I first published ON THIS VERY BLOG are going to be a real, actual book with pages (406!) and a (GORGEOUS) cover and more footnotes than you can shake a stick at!

Love and Joy to All!

Libby

A Musical Interlude

I’m still anxiously awaiting the release of my sonnet project book, Risk a Verse: A Year in Daily Sonnets, which Burrito Books will be releasing soon, but am happily distracting myself with loads of music!

One particularly fun experience was performing a whole concert of new arrangements of Carole King’s music with SACRA/PROFANA, including a performance of my first-ever arrangement for choir. Back when we first started planning the first half of the concert, which was covers of Carole King songs that were written for other artists, I asked the conductor how outré he wanted to get with the arrangements.

“What did you have in mind?” he asked.

“Something arranged as a madrigal?

“Go for it!”

So I did! After glancing through the list of suggested tunes, I called dibs on “The Loco-Motion,” a song that Kylie Minogue made famous when I was a kid, though many other artists have covered it before and since. I knew I wanted to set the song in a fast three and feature layered lines, hemiola, and terraced dynamics, but having never having studied arranging, I did some digging for madrigals that sounded like what I wanted my Loco-Motion madrigal to sound like. I eventually settled on John Farmer’s “Fair Phyllis,” and cribbed enthusiastically. My friend Ken, who is an amazing arranger, pronounced the arrangement solid and helped me fix some of my n00b mistakes, like inadvertently crossing voices.

My biggest fear was that I would be the only person who thought it was hilarious. Fortunately, this proved not to be the case. After introducing the song as “a great hit of the 20th century re-envisioned as a great hit of the 17th century,” the audience guffawed throughout the piece at both performances, which was a delight and a relief.

Kenneth Herman, my favorite local music critic, had this to say in his review of the concert:

For sheer invention and wit, Libby Weber’s setting of “Locomotion” in the style of a Renaissance English madrigal easily won top honors. She broke up the text into cheery snippets layered with typical madrigalesque echo effects, allowing Sacra/Profana’s singers gleeful, if mildly indulgent, exaggeration.

I may have deafened my next-door neighbors with squee upon reading that. I was also delighted that several of Ken’s arrangements also got love, as did my friend Colin, who set my poem “Three Bridges and a Fence” for SACRA/PROFANA’s Summer Choral Intensive (hear it here).

Alas, there is no video of our Carole King performances, but if you’d like to see an extremely unofficial video of us rehearsing my silly piece, here you go.

In other news, the kick-off for Willan West 2018 went spiffingly the following weekend, and bless him, Kenneth Herman also had nice things to say about that, as well!

Like Valenzuela’s Bach Collegium San Diego choral ensembles, his Willan choir displayed unfailing sectional unity, crystalline pitch, and superb textual clarity… Especially in the Willan motets, Valenzuela favored the brightness of his sopranos, which added an appreciable emotional edge to this music.

*does happy bright soprano dance*

I have received some less-than-enthusiastic reviews for some past concerts, so getting two great reviews in as many weeks is pretty freaking awesome!

Now, if I can just keep my head in the game for this weekend’s Building Bridges Between Nations concerts, which features Benjamin Britten’s brilliant Sacred and Profane and two fiendishly difficult but hugely rewarding movements from Ernst Krenek’s Lamentatio Jeremiæ Prophetæ (with a bit of Victoria sandwiched in between), I will be so very happy!

Looking forward to having more good news to share in the coming days!

Cheers,

Libby

For Better, For Verse

Happy New Year, One and All!

I have so much exciting stuff to report, but I should probably lead with this: a book containing all the sonnets I posted here during my year-long sonnet-writing project will be released in April! The pieces have been gently edited and lovingly annotated, so there’s quite a bit of content that will be new, even to those who followed the project in real time. Here’s a draft of the front cover of Risk a Verse: A Year in Daily Sonnets, published by Burrito Books!

RiskAVerseCoverDraft

ISN’T IT GORGEOUS? I am so excited!

The book will be released on April 23rd, 2018 and purchase info will be posted here as soon as it’s available. You won’t be able to avoid it, really. 😀

In other exciting news, I’m going to be participating in Willan West 2018, a year-long celebration of the music of Anglo-Canadian composer, Healey Willan. In addition to singing on a number of the performances, I will also be running a Limerick contest for the kick-off party on January 12th, since Willan was a huge fan of the verse form.

So that’s enough to be starting with, I think. Look for more frequent updates this year, with lots of niftiness upcoming!

Smooches to All!

Libby

Eeee! Now with video!

So that piece of music for which I wrote the lyrics that was premiered earlier this month at SACRA/PROFANA‘s Summer Choral Intensive?

SACRA/PROFANA posted a video of the performance!

 

Don’t the combined choirs sound amazing?? And isn’t Colin’s music gorgeous?? I am filled with joy and squee and excitement! I think Colin and I were very much on the same page creatively: my decision to use five-line stanzas and connect the stanzas with rhyme was influenced by Robert Frost, and I sometimes heard shades of Randall Thompson’s Frostiana in the setting, for all that the music has discrete moods that range from contemplative chant to a musical flood that captures some of the violence and defiance of the text spectacularly. *bounces* I LOVE IT!

In other news, I have nearly finished integrating my third round of edits on the book o’ sonnets, so it’s looking like I may actually have an actual book to announce by the end of the summer! I will be sure to keep y’all posted on that. You won’t be able to avoid the news, honestly. Heh heh heh.

But seriously, I love this book so much, but I’m getting tired of looking at it. According to the YA authors’ panel I attended at Comic-Con, being sick of looking at it is how you know it’s ready to send out in to the world. Brace yourself, world. SONNETS ARE COMING.

Love to All,

Libby

Wordy Pursuits

I’m back, fresh(ish) from my annual writer’s retreat in Michigan! I’ve had to miss the past two due to performance conflicts, so this one was especially needful. The house wasn’t the most comfortable we’ve had, but it was bright and airy, only a few steps from this glorious stretch of beach.

MIchiganBeach

Despite walking to the beach for many lovely sunsets and moonrises amidst the fireflies, I escaped with only about ten mosquito bites, and I’m pleased to report that I’m still immune to poison ivy. W00t!

Happily, I managed to finish two writing projects during the week, though my poor old netbook wasn’t up to working on the huge file that is The Book Manuscript, so integrating formatter comments shall be my project for the rest of the month, when I’m not singing and/or attending Comic Con.

In exciting writing news, I had the pleasure of collaborating with singer/composer/arranger Colin Barkley on a commissioned work for professional chamber choir SACRA/PROFANA‘s 2017 Summer Choral Intensive, and our piece “Three Bridges and a Fence,” for which I wrote the lyrics, was premiered on Saturday at the SCI final concert. It was such a joy to hear words I’d written  delivered in song by such a dedicated and talented group of young singers!

Colin and I were asked to create a piece of music to fit the ninth season’s theme, which is “Building Bridges,” and the idea that we both liked the best was an autobiographical work based on bridges built over the creek in the woods behind the log cabin in which I grew up.  So without further ado, here it is:

Three Bridges and a Fence
By Libby Weber

Along a twisted barbwire fence
The old road ran in father’s father’s day,
But now the only evidence
Remaining is a wreck of brick and steel
Where children’s play made rusted culverts ring with mirth.

The road was swallowed up by trees,
As disuse preordained.
Though purpose fades in memories;
The barbwire fence remained.

Upriver from that broken bridge,
A footbridge father built was washed away.
That span connecting ridge to ridge
Was dashed to bits; diluvian ordeal
That spread its splinters where the saplings grow in girth.

That bridge was swallowed by a flood
And barbwire snapped in twain,
Though rotting plank feeds swelling bud,
The barbs will still remain.

And now my brother’s handiwork
Of golden lumber trusses, crossed today
On wanderings through shady murk
Now spurs its crossers’ fancies to reveal
What bridge will stand when barbwire fence dissolves in earth.

©2017

I really enjoyed that collaboration. Colin is a joy to work with, and I adore his music. Once The Book is out, I’m planning to be a bit more proactive about ensuring that composers of my acquaintance know that lyrics are a thing I am thrilled to write to order. As writing a sonnet every day for a year has taught me, I can write metered rhyme about pretty much anything.

And now, back to the humbling task of formatting.

Smooches to all,

Libby