“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.

KidLit & Nature

I took 110 books to St. Olaf for the students to check out!

Last Tuesday, had the honor of guest lecturing at St. Olaf College in an ecology class taught by my friend, Kiara Jorgenson. The ecology topics class, “Biophilia,” is about the human attraction to and affection for other living things. One of their units is on children’s literature and nature and Prof. Jorgenson invited me to both collaborate with her on their children’s literature project, and share with them some kidlit history and demonstrate portions of their assignment (read-alouds, book selection, citations, activities, etc.). I brought 110 books from my personal collection that weren’t duplicates of St. Olaf’s pretty wonderful collection of board, picture, and chapter books. I was also able to read aloud three of my favorite books: May We Have Enough to Share (Richard Van Camp), The Girl and the Wolf (Katherena Vermette, pictures by Julie Flett), and Nibi’s Water Song (Sunshine Tenasco, pictures by Chief Lady Bird).

If you’d like to see the presentation I shared with the class, it is available online and downloadable PDF format.

On Thursday, I had the marvelous privilege of going with Prof. Jorgenson and her students to Dodge Nature Preschool and observing their 3-5 year olds in (very) muddy outdoor play. I got to taste some maple tree sap they collected and read two picture books with a small group at their teacher’s request! (In the Woods: Who’s been here? by Lindsay Barrett George, and Frog on a Log by Kes Gray with pictures by Jim Field)

Many thanks to Prof. Jorgenson, her students, and Preschool Director Amy Warzybok for a truly spectacular week!

Support the 2022 AERIS KÖRPER SEASON and FANCY CAT!

**UPDATE: FULLY FUNDED!**

I am so excited to support the Kickstarter Campaign for the Aeris Körper 2022 season!

Help us pay these artists!

We have FIVE days left to raise $12,000 (CAD). These funds will be used to pay artists in a number of upcoming projects in the 2022 Aeris Körper season. We have a VERY long way to go — would you consider supporting us?

The beautiful people pictured here (L to R: Alten, Mayumi, Shannon, Jody, Mikaela; on Zoom: me, Sid, Raphael, Dedra) joined us for a workshop of FANCY CAT, a children’s interdisciplinary art piece I wrote and am developing with AERIS KÖRPER and we could not be more thrilled about how it came together! 😻

Coming Soon from *kids in the hive*!

Coming soon: a great new video series about hibernating animals from my dear friend and collaborator *kids in the hive* (The Boy Who Was Fire)! Ranger Robin is delightful, sharing fun facts and animal noises, along with mindfulness and prosocial behavior building activities, all from the breathtakingly gorgeous Arcata Community Forest. ❤️

Be sure to Subscribe to their YouTube channel so you don’t miss any fun!

The Boy Who Was Fire

🔥 Video Premiere!🔥

In commemoration of International Earth Day, I am pleased to premiere a new video in collaboration with Pockets of…Publishing & Kids in the Hive.

The Boy Who Was Fire is a children’s book written by Marcus Kahle McCann & illustrated by Zita Varga. It begins with a small fire born to a tree and a bolt of lightning. This is a lyrical story of growth, redemption, and new beginnings. Appropriate for ages 5 years and older.

I am moved by this creative vision of what might happen if we put our fears of the unknown aside and lean into each other with compassion, recognizing the beauty and humanity of the person in front of us.

If you enjoy the book, you can purchase a signed hardcopy from Pockets of…Publishing.

I am grateful for MaryAnn Clark (MAC, All Play Productions/*kids in the hive*) reaching out early on in pandemic to ask if I wanted to collaborate on a video for The Boy Who Was Fire. She is a joy and I look forward to many more cooperative playground outings!