Frank X Walker is the current Kentucky Poet Laureate. He also happens to be a Danville native and a DHS grad (just like yours truly.) So some literary types in Danville have organized the first ever literary fest in Frank’s honor. Be sure to come to Danville and check it out. Here’s the schedule:
The Frank X Walker Literary Festival
Thursday, September 18, 2014
“Turn Me Loose…. The Unghosting of Medgar Evers” Convocation
Newlin Hall/Norton Center/7:30 p.m.
Featuring Frank X Walker
Friday, September 19, 2014
- Frank X Walker … School Presentations
- Authors in our Schools (Danville/Boyle)
Writing Workshops/Oral Readings/Student Presentations
- Boyle County Public Library: Heather Henson/Marie Bradby: Reading & Talk 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Picturing Words Smithsonian Exhibit 9:00-5:30 p.m.
- Frank X Walker Community Reception Danville High School 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Danville High School
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
- Oral Presentations by Frank X Walker and Authors
- Community Readings
- Book Fair 10:00 – 4:00 p.m.
- Frank X Walker “State Historical Marker” Project
- Concessions : Dunn’s BBQ
Boyle County Public Library
- Family Day of Literacy/ Readings/ Workshops 10:30-12:00 p.m.
- Picturing Words Smithsonian Exhibit 9:00-5:00 p.m.
Frank X Walker Rick Lee
Minnie Adkins Maurice Manning
Amy Barkman Marcia Mount Shoop
Wendell Berry David Nahm
Marie Bradby Ricardo Nazario-Colon’
Devine Carama Guerney Norman
Hasan Davis Mike Norris
Mitchell Douglas Yolantha Pace
Carolyn DuPont Katheryn Ragle
Ruth Ann Fogle Octavia Sexton
Thomas Freese C.A. Shelley
Hazel “Sybil” Hall Judy Sizemore
Louis Hatchett Penny Smith
Heather Henson Patsi Trollinger
Shayla Lawson Crystal Wilkinson
I’ll be in beautiful downtown Stanford, Kentucky on Saturday, April 12, 2014 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. along with other Kentucky writers. Please join me! I’ll be reading my books to kids at 11:00 a.m. Here’s more info about the event!
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I decided to take my kids to the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY. The Ali center is jewel of a structure outside; inside it is a beautiful and moving tribute to the boxer, the humanitarian, the man who has spent his life fighting racism in this country and around the world. Through the interactive exhibits my kids learned about what it means to stand up for your rights and put your convictions on the line. I felt like it was a fitting way to celebrate MLK Day, as well as the day the first African-American president of the US was sworn in for a second term. Above is a picture of my sons sporting their hats from the center with a couple of Ali’s trademark phrases on the front.
At the center, during a film giving the highlights of Ali’s life, the poem IF by Rudyard Kipling is often quoted. Here is part of it below:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
When you go to the center, or if you visit the website (alicenter.org), you’ll see a list of Ali’s core beliefs. Here they are:
|Confidence||Belief in oneself, one’s abilities, and one’s future.|
|Conviction||A firm belief that gives one the courage to stand behind that belief, despite pressure to do otherwise.|
|Dedication||The act of devoting all of one’s energy, effort, and abilities to a certain task.|
|Giving||To present voluntarily without expecting something in return.|
|Respect||Esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of, oneself and others.|
|Spirituality||A sense of awe, reverence, and inner peace inspired by a connection to all of creation and/or that which is greater than oneself.|
Happy MLK Day!
I’ve been unable to update this blog for months. Here’s why: my sister’s cancer came back with a vengeance. She was gone in a flash.
Holly was my only sister, my big sister. She was born in Danville, KY on July 19, 1960. She grew up on the stage at Pioneer Playhouse, the theatre our dad, Eben Henson, started in 1950. She was always involved in one way or another at the Playhouse — acting, directing, managing. She became artistic director when Dad passed 8 years ago.
Holly died where she lived — in her home not a stone’s throw from the Playhouse stage. She died on May 27, 2012, just as the Playhouse company was assembling — the new actors arriving for the 63rd season. After she was gone, the company meeting went on without her; auditions for the first show continued. Rehearsals began. That’s the way Holly wanted it. The show must always go on.
It’s been a hard few weeks without her. Robby and my mom, Charlotte, are the ones who run the Playhouse now. I pitch in where I can. The family has vowed to keep Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre alive another year in Holly’s memory, and then we’ll see what happens. It’s hard to imagine ever closing it though. The Playhouse has been a part of my family’s very fabric, our heart and soul.
Every night I stand to greet patrons arriving for the show (one of my duties), and I’m constantly told how much I look like Holly, how much her personal greeting meant to them, how much the Playhouse continues to mean to them, how much they miss Holly, but are glad to see us going on as a family. It’s heart-breaking and gratifying all at once. It makes me feel sad. But it also makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself.
Holly felt the same way. A few years ago, she started an “Artistic Director Diaries” as part of a podcast the Playhouse was doing at the time. Holly’s diary entries aren’t long, some of them just talk about the mundane day to day running of the theatre. But one passage jumped out at me when I read through it after she died:
Is it worth it? To keep this place going, under immense stress and strain?
Last night a mosquito kept me awake….I thought about my mother, who is 79, playing guitar and singing every night for the supper guests, as she has done for over 50 years. I thought about all the changes she has seen. All the sets, all the actors, the loss of a husband — as she stands in the back, enjoying the sound of the dialogue and the audience laughing.
All summer my trailer has filled up with flowers and photos and press releases and memories. There have been five opening nights. I’ll never see these same people, gathered in the same place ever again.
I’m so busy, I seldom have time to think about Dad. Except in an odd pause or two, and the realization that he’s not here still has a tinge of surprise — like he’s just taking a nap and will be back shortly and take all my worries away. Like he’ll invite me to sit beside him, as we greet the audience together.
I still don’t know whose dream is more important — mine or my dad’s. I still don’t know why the “show must go on.” There are only 20 outdoor theatres left in the entire US. If one more closes, does it matter?
If I wanted, I could walk away from all of this…into my own story. But how lonely would my summers be, without laughter and tears. At least when I’m stepping into Dad’s shoes, I can see the path.
I guess it’s my turn now, Holly, to follow in your footsteps. And I’ll do my best. But already the summer — and the path — seem lonely without you here.
Holly Lee Henson
July 19, 1960 – May 27, 2012
I’m heading up to Northern Kentucky University tomorrow to participate in their annual Bookfest on Friday, May 4. It’s a really incredible day long program in which about 500 middle grade students from around the state come to the NKU campus in Highland Heights to talk about books and reading.
Here is a link to NKU’s webpage about it, with a really terrific video showing highlights of years past:
Last year, Silas House was the featured speaker, so I’m just thrilled and honored to have been asked to follow in his footsteps.
Will post pictures from the event soon! Hope to see you there!
As a writer, I’m often asked to come to speak to schools or to groups of young people, and it’s always an honor, and often very inspiring for me. A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Lancaster, Kentucky and spoke to three different groups of young writers from several different counties:
The Fire Writers
The Clark Moores Middle School Pencil Breakers
Wow! What cool names. And what cool kids! They all sat and listened intensely as I read the first chapter of Dream of Night, and then they had some truly terrific questions ready for me. Obviously these three different groups were serious about books and reading and writing, and that’s something that’s just so awe-inspiring to see in this day and age when there are so many distractions.
Thanks to Beth Dotson Brown for inviting me to speak, and thanks to those awesome girls for being who they are. Keep reading, keep writing — and as I noted in your books — keep dreaming, because once upon a time I dreamed about being a writer, and I’m here to tell you that dreams really can come true!
I just found out that Dream of Night was nominated for Missouri’s Truman Readers Award. My friend Catherine Balkin over at Balkin Buddies (http://balkinbuddies.blogspot.com) gave me the good news this weekend, and I’ve only now had a chance to put it up.
Catherine, who worked with me at HarperCollins many years ago, is always one of the first to know about awards lists, and I’m really grateful to her for letting me know!
Here’s the info about the award:
Missouri Association of School Librarians’ four Readers Awards represent the best current youth literature available to students of different grade levels. Every year, MASL’s Readers Award Committees work to create a preliminary list of titles that are read and voted upon by groups of Reader/Selectors to create the final list of nominees. Titles on the final list are then read and voted upon by students across Missouri to determine the recipients of the MASL Readers Awards. The Truman Readers Award are for grades 6-8. The other three awards are the Show Me Readers Award (Grades 1-3), Mark Twain Readers Award (Grades 4-6), and Gateway Readers Award (Grades 9-12).
Wow! I just met with a group of amazing girls yesterday! I’d been invited a while ago by Trinity Episcopal here in Danville, KY to be part of their Summer Reading Group. Yesterday I arrived at Trinity to discover there were only 3 members of the program, but the small number made no difference at all! The three gals I met and spent some time with had so much presence, enthusiasm and spark — enough for a whole roomful of readers!
First of all, what great questions! Each one of these young minds had very focused, very specific questions about the story I read, the book itself, the art, how the art gets to the page….just really terrific! I read from That Book Woman, and then we talked about the Pack Horse Librarians (first question: were they all women? Answer: no, but there were only a few men who worked as PHL’s), talked about the time period (1930’s), about the poverty and lack of schools or libraries back then. We talked about old time customs, like drinking Sassy Tea and looking at how thick the black band around the middle of a wooly worm is as a way of predicting how cold the next winter will be.
All three girls — Lina, Addie, and Jade — like to write stories as well. We talked about the journals they’re creating, and they said they might help me out with some ideas for a book I’ve been trying to write about “Runaway Hennie,” my son’s pet chicken who seems to disappear all day long and then reappears mysteriously at night as if nothing has happened.
What does Runaway Hennie do all day anyway? Maybe the girls can come up with some good ideas this week! Maybe I could post them on my blog here!
Anyway, it was just a special day. Thanks so much to Jan at Trinity for inviting me, and thanks to all the other folks there who were so friendly and welcoming.
But the biggest thanks of all goes to you girls! You are the BEST! Don’t lose that curiosity! Don’t lose that love of learning! Don’t lose that spunk and that unique thing that makes you YOU!!!! Don’t lose that fantastic GIRL POWER!!!!!
Love and xxx’s and oooo’s to A, L, and J!!!!!