“What if Fancy Cat is a Musical?”

Exactly seven months ago today on January 11, 2022, that was the question posed to me by Sid Ryan Eilers, co-artistic director of Aeris Körper and my glorious collaborator on Fancy Cat. While working on a grant for Fancy Cat, Sid was listening to music Raphael Roter had composed to underscore scene 1 (for the November 2021 development workshop) and was inspired; hence: “What if Fancy Cat is a musical?” I was equal parts thrilled by the question and terrified, but immediately started writing songs – something I thought I’d never ever ever (ever) do again. I wrote Fancy’s theme (“Too Much”), a song for their bullies (“Why Can’t You Be Normal?”), and a reprise of “Too Much” for Fancy’s caregiver, ZaZa. I’m currently working on a solo for ZaZa to accompany a nightmare sequence where they confront their father-figure about their own messaging of “too much.” (or is it a duet? *shrug*)

So, here’s a small taste of my process from winter/spring 2022. “Too Much” is the first song Fancy sings after they start internalizing the messages of “too much” they receive from teachers, classmates, and schoolbus drivers. Fancy is a non-binary human child I’ve been pretty much in love with since Sid brought the original idea to me and I started writing the script and accompanying picture book in March 2021. Like everything Fancy Cat, the music is still in process, with orchestrations to come from the beautiful mind of Raphael.

This mp3 is from February 2022 and was the first thing I sent to Sid after the musical prompt:

“Too Much” in February 2022

And the lyrics as they currently stand in August 2022:

🎵 I wear my culottes, they say “You can’t wear a dress!”
I splash in puddles, they say “Don’t make such a mess!”
I’m too much. It makes my skin feel tight.
Too much. When will I be just right?
I climb in trees, they grumble, judge and frown,
I waltz in gym class, they say “What a foolish clown!”
I shimmy on the suspension bridge and shake everyone down.
I’m too much. When will I be okay?
Too much. It ruins every day.
When will they finally see?
When can I be just me and not too much?
Just…me. 🎵

I’ll be honest: I feel pretty vulnerable sharing my voice and Voice here. Sid and I both received messages of “too much” when we were children and it’s been a lifelong struggle for us to shrug them off and learn to celebrate what makes us each unique. I don’t think we’re alone in that fight and that’s why Fancy Cat exists. We hope that each child and caregiver who experiences our little love letter will come away feeling seen and start on their own healing paths together.

I’m so thankful to Sid for asking the question and for being one of the best collaborators I could ever ask for. I’m also grateful to the rest of the Fancy Cat people who’ve joined us on this journey: Karen Ancheta, Jackie Chau, Dedra McDermott, Raphael Roter, Alten Wilmot, Shannon Kitchings, Mayumi Lashbrook, Jody Boston, Mikaela Demers, and Carlyn Rhamey. I love them all with my whole fancy heart.

Feb. 05, 2020 is World Read Aloud Day!

Lightbulb Heart will celebrate World Read Aloud Day all day long and you’re invited!

Amber holding a picture book. Text reads "February 5th is World Read Aloud Day!"
Photo: Suzuran Photography

For little kids:

  • 10:30AM EPIC BOOKS
  • 3:30PM DONUT MONSTER
  • Individual storytimes, in-person and online, for tiny readers as far away as Morocco! ♥️ Please message me if you have a kiddo you’d like added to the lineup!

For big kids:

Who will you be reading aloud with on Feb. 05?

Writing Workshop Wonderland!

I’ll be away from my Saturday home at Locke Street Farmers’ Market on September 07 so I can take two writing workshops with Marie Louise Gay! She’s in Guelph that day as part of the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. First up is “Inspiring Children to Write,” followed by “Writing for Children.” I am so excited to spend the day with Stella maven and curly hair inspiration MLG! ♥️

Locke Street Farmers’ Market Folks, you are in goooood hands on 09/07! Graemazing will be at Market to amuse and amaze! Locke Street Family Day is also happening 11AM-4PM, with bucketloads of fun, including a bouncy castle, face painting, and lots of family entertainment.

I’ll be at Donut Monster (Locke) for storytime on September 10. When I return to Market on September 14, we’re going to sing songs and read stories about books and reading!

Rest and Celebration

Currently listening to Paul Simon’s “American Tune” as covered by Shawn Colvin:

Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest

The 2019 Mind Play Theatre Festival has come to a close. I performed my newest piece, Karaoke Visiting Hour (KVH), a memoir monologue about losing and finding one’s voice and value in an unlikely place. Producers Adam Bryan and Kelly Wolf gave us good guidance and care, we had lovely and supportive audiences, and we are all now on to whatever comes next for us.

My next whatever is r e s t. I got sick a week before the Festival and my muscle tension dysphonia kicked up in a hard fit. The irony of losing my voice right before I performed a piece about losing my voice is not lost on me. I was on vocal rest for two days prior to performing and am now back in bed with all my various remedies; the most generous of which is actual rest.

Image from self-care mini-zine by Kelly Wolf, Open Heart Arts. Text of page reads: "I am celebrating where I am Right Now."
Photo credit: Kelly Wolf

While I rest, I’ll be reflecting on the two most valuable lessons I learned from the Festival. The first came from a self-care mini-zine created by Kelly Wolf (co-producer of the Mind Play Theatre Festival and creative glory behind Open Heart Arts). I was helping her fold them during tech rehearsal and the last page kept singing to me as I prepared to go on stage for opening night with maybe 70% of my voice in place: “Celebrate where you are at Right Now.” This in the moment self-acceptance is radical. It is not easy. It takes courage. I speak from fresh experience that this celebrating business works, my friends. Which leads me to the second lesson learned.

At the end of KVH, I ask the audience to join me in stomping on the floor to show us all what creative community support can sound and feel like. I hoped for some kind of response: “If just one person stomps, I will engage with that person fully.” But when the opening night audience responded with whole-hearted expressive engagement and would just.not.stop.stomping, I was brought to joyful tears! The performers in the green room beneath the stage said they thought the ceiling might cave in. While the closing night audience was a bit smaller, they also responded enthusiastically. Yes, the nature of a mental health play festival is that the people in the room are there because they’re on board with dismantling stigma and supporting voices in search of mental health awareness. Also yes, when you tell the vulnerable and honest truth of your story and ask clearly for what you want and need, people may respond generously. I can hold both of these things at the same time.

So, when my rest comes to a close, I will continue to celebrate and write with hopeful vulnerability. I will celebrate my way into work with my dear friend Tamara Kissane of Artist Soapbox on a recording (possible audio drama?) of KVH and see what it wants to be next.

In the meantime, I’ll just be here with my remedies dreaming celebratory dreams of supportively stomping feet.