Blue Umbrella Book Reading Recap

Thank you to Westfield (Mass.) independent bookstore Blue Umbrella Books for hosting my book talk and signing.

It was great fun to visit my old stomping grounds and chat with friends from high school and college. Family members who live in western Massachusetts also came out to represent!

If you missed the event, signed copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band are still for sale at Blue Umbrella.

The bookstore folks live-streamed my book talk on Facebook. You can watch a recording here:

Image credits: Scott Weiss.

Western Mass. book signing: Blue Umbrella Books

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I’ll be heading to western Massachusetts for a book signing on Nov. 11 from 1-3 p.m.

The independent bookstore, Blue Umbrella Books of Westfield, MA, will play host as I sign copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band.

My ties to the city run deep. I lived in Westfield for my first six years, did my first journalism internship there (at The Westfield News) and covered the area as a young reporter for The Republican.

I’m looking forward to seeing friends from my hometown, the neighboring West Springfield. If you’re in the area, come join us!

Image credit: Blue Umbrella Books.

 

Writers’ Panel: Talking Nonfiction & Incorporating the Day’s News Into One’s Writing

 

Bay Path University played host to its 16th Writers’ Day this past weekend, as scribes talked about how to effectively read one’s work aloud in front of a crowd (Charles Coe, All Sins Forgiven poet and author extraordinaire!) and how to turn family documents, handwritten letters, and memories into an intergenerational memoir (the fabulous Patricia Reis, Motherlines author).

The final panel was packed with tales from three writers–Kinship of Clover’s Ellen Meeropol, This is How It Begins’ Joan Dempsey, and yours truly–who discussed how we used events in the world and in our own lives to inspire our writing, as well as how we folded current events into existing narratives on which we were working. My presentation focused on the real life events in my town of Southborough that inspired Mr. Clark’s Big Band, and how I worked events such as the Newtown school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing into my book about a middle school jazz band.

Thank you to author and educator Suzanne Strempek Shea for putting these panels together and for affording us the opportunity to spend an afternoon talking about one of our favorite subjects: writing.

Image credits: Suzanne Strempek SheaSuzanne Strempek Shea via the Bay Path University MFA Program. 

Pioneer Valley Radio Talks ‘Mr. Clark’s Big Band’

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Pioneer Valley Radio’s Bernadette Duncan recently interviewed me about all things Mr. Clark’s Big Band. We discussed how I was inspired to write the book, what the research process was like and about the reception it has received from the community:

“Her book is a touching real life story of pain, courage, friendship and growing up that chronicles the feelings and lives of the young members of a middle school music band who had to cope with the unexpected death due to illness of one of their classmates and bandmates.  Bernadette Duncan interviews Westfield-born writer and journalist Meredith O’Brien who will be at Bay Path University’s Writers’ Day on October 15th discussing her latest book Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, May 2017).”

Take a listen:

Image credit: Pioneer Valley Radio.

Talkin’ ’bout ‘Mr. Clark’s Big Band’ in Longmeadow, Mass., Oct. 15

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I’ll be participating in a panel of writers at Bay Path University’s 16th Writers’ Day on Sunday, October 15.

Come hear me talk about how events in my town of Southborough, Mass. inspired me to write Mr. Clark’s Big Band, and how I wove events that unfolded during the time I shadowed the middle school jazz band into the narrative. During the 2012-2013 school year in which the book is set, outside events such as the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing had direct impact on the students at the Trottier Middle School as well as on their band director, Jamie Clark.

Appearing on my panel, which is slated for 4:10 p.m., are fellow authors Joan Dempsey and Ellen Meeropol.

Stop on by. I’d love to see you and chat about Mr. Clark’s Big Band.

Get Your Signed Copies at Stax

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Looking for a signed copy of Mr. Clark’s Big Band, the feel-good true story about a Massachusetts middle school band director who helped his grieving students rebound from their sorrows?

Try Stax Discount Books, an independent bookstore which happens to be located in a neighboring town: Marlborough, Mass. (on Route 20 in the R.K. Centre Plaza).

Owned by Tracey McCrea and Michael Joachim, Stax is selling signed copies (see photo above). If you don’t live nearby but want to order a signed copy, contact McCrea: tmccrea@staxbooks.com.

Happy shopping!

Milford’s Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra celebrates music teachers, Mr. Clark’s Big Band

Screenshot 2017-08-21 16.12.42The Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra in Milford, MA — for whom Jamie Clark plays the trombone — will be honoring music teachers on Tuesday, August 22 at 6:30 at the Milford Town Park.

Signed copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band, whose main character is a hero music teacher from nearby Southborough, will be available at the performance.

Image credit: Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra.

Vacationing on Cape Cod? Get a signed copy of ‘Mr. Clark’s Big Band!’

Screenshot 2017-08-04 18.23.38Going to Cape Cod for vacation?

Stop into the Brewster Book Store on Route 6A in Brewster and pick up a signed copy of Mr. Clark’s Big Band.

It’s an amusing and inspiring beach selection as you read about Mr. Clark’s musings on why people eating more doughnuts would reduce global warming, why he could never be a mime, and how he once got into big trouble with his father after he killed a spider. Plus, you can find out why the teenaged Mr. Clark refused to apologize to his high school principal after he got into a physical altercation with another student in the lunch room.

Image credit: Meredith O’Brien.

Bah Hah-bah: Signings in a seaside town

Over the Fourth of July week I once again shadowed Southborough’s Trottier Middle School music director Jamie Clark. Only this time, it was to watch him play his trombone with his brass quintet, Brass Venture (see below), during the Bar Harbor Music Festival, as well as sign copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band before and after Brass Venture’s performances.

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The day after meeting music aficionados at two Brass Venture shows, I met former music students and teachers at Sherman’s Books as they told me about the

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affection they still hold for their music directors. Several folks said they miss their own days in middle school band rooms.

If you happen to be in Bar Harbor, I left behind some signed copies of Mr. Clark’s Big Band at Sherman’s.

Lessons from my year of observing a middle school jazz band

I am no musician. Although I may attempt to sing along with Adele while I’m driving, much to the mortification of my younger son, I am nowhere in the zip code of in tune. Sheet music reads like a foreign language to me. And yet, I’ve recently learned how potent a tool music can be when wielded by a compassionate teacher seeking to help students channel challenging emotions through their instruments.

Thus began a recent essay I wrote reflecting upon my time shadowing the Southborough, MA middle school jazz band, and its director Jamie Clark, for a year. “Music lessons from Mr. Clark,” published by Gatehouse Media,  was written in the closing days of my son Jonah’s high school career, highlighted by the nine years he played music, drums and jazz specifically, in school ensembles. I was feeling nostalgic and grateful for the months I spent quietly sitting off to the side of the Trottier Middle School band room, notebook and pen in hand as I watched. And learned.

While I didn’t learn how to read music or play an instrument during the 2012-2013 school year, the experience of observing the students and Clark at work opened my eyes:

I didn’t learn how to read sheet music. I still couldn’t sing. I couldn’t blow a note on a trumpet, but I learned, firsthand, about the stunning power of music and one teacher to give young people the guidance, safety and comfort they desperately needed in order to move on.

Read the full essay here.