Best Buy!

Just a few minutes ago I was griping to my husband about the cost of an evening’s entertainment. A ‘reasonably-priced’ meal for two, with one cocktail and a glass of wine each, followed by concert or club admission easily reaches the $200 mark. That’s fine if you’re earning a hefty income…or if you only go out on rare occasion. Thankfully, we do alright and go out when we want, but that doesn’t make me unaware.

Don’t get me wrong. I do understand the high cost of presenting entertainment, especially if the artists are paid well, though often that’s not the case. Still, prices do go up….and up….and up. (Whatever happened to “that which goes up must also come down” ?)

I wish everybody could enjoy an evening’s entertainment regardless of their economic status — in fact, I think that the have-nots might benefit more from the experience than those who have fewer worries. But that’s another subject for another day.

Regardless of your income, if you are a jazz lover in New York with $5 and a free lunch hour on Wednesday, January 3rd – 1-2 PM, make your way over to Saint Peter’s Church (E. 54th St. & Lexington Ave.) for the MIDTOWN JAZZ AT MIDDAY concert featuring soprano saxophonist BILL KIRCHNER and pianist JUNIOR MANCE. I can’t think of a better way — or more affordable — to spend a lunch hour at the start of the year!


A warm welcome to all new readers of DevraDoWrite; thank you for taking the time to visit. And a special howdy-do to those who arrived by way of GalleyCat (thank you, Ron) or Grumpy Old Bookman (thank you, Michael Allen). I don’t think I’ve been this excited since I was blogrolled by Terry Teachout on June 13th of 2005.

Music, books, good works, and other reasons for living – that’s what this blog is about. In other words, whatever is on my mind – snapshots of my life as a writer and a reader, a listener and a watcher, a wife and a daughter. The categories under which these musings, opinions, and commentary are filed include Boos & Bravos, Notables, Hmmm…, Word Play, Writing Life, Reading Life, I’m All Ears, Jazz Ears, Date Specific, and This ‘n’ That. When I started out I on May 1, 2005 I was very good about posting five days a week, but in the last few months, working to launch the new projects at, I’ve been a bit less consistent. Getting back on track is one of my New Year’s resolutions.

Recently I enabled the Comments feature on DevraDoWrite, and although I am getting thoroughly splogged (I believe that’s the new word for spamming a blog), the valid comments that come through make it worth it, so I welcome your comments and hope to hear from you.

Happy Holidays!

ADDENDUM: If you’re visiting from OnePotMeal, welcome to you too! The folks there posted a nice mention that includes a great quote from Brian Camelio, the brains behind ArtistShare.

The Morning Before Christmas

It’s the morning before christmas with so much to do,
I can’t find my head, and can’t find my shoe.
I’m drowning in papers, my clothes in a heap,
away in the manger my husband still sleeps.

The sun has arisen, the air has a chill,
the streets are still quiet, there’s dew on the hill.
And then I remember, clear out of the blue,
I have to go shopping, oh where is that shoe?

Under and over, all through the house,
I look high and low, quiet as a mouse.
I find it in the kitchen, why I’ll never know;
doesn’t matter now, it time for me to go.

Oh wait, I can’t go, I must cease and desist,
I can’t leave the house before I make a list.
My friend is roasting lamb, and baking with her daughter,
her husband will tend bar…perhaps for me, just water.
Another friend brings corn pudding, all ready in a pot,
I get off too easy, hor’s d’oeuvres and veggies are my lot.

Crackers, cheese and olives, to snack on before,
tomatoes, and breadcrumbs, and more are in store.
The clock is a-ticking, I really must go;
thank heavens it’s California with nary a snow.
But first I must post this poem to my blog,
I almost forgot with my head in a fog.

On Slicer and Dicer, on Daughter, on Friend,
may such days be a-plenty, and never to end.
On Blogger, on Shopper, on Cooker, on Wife,
I won’t complain now, it’s the time of my life.

So picture me now in my Volkswagon sleigh,
saying “Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good day.”

A Gift From Grumpy

My press release about SnapSizzleBop and whether the ArtistShare model might work for writers got a plug in Grumpy Old Bookman’s Tuesday’s posting. Grumpy Old Bookman is “A blog about books and publishing, aimed at both readers and writers. Listed by the Guardian as one of the top ten literary blogs.” I am feeling very honored to be mentioned and it gives me hope.

In the same day’s postings he mentions that “Galleycat reports that some established writers are finding it preferable to go with smaller publishers. Little or no advance, but better attention and maybe more money at the end.”

I read about this in Publishers Weekly too. It’s all well and good for best-selling authors, or writers whose books fit the fad-of-the month, or for hobbyists who have a different career and write in their spare time. And it’s especially great for re-issues of out-of-print books. In other words, if day-to-day survival as a writer is not of concern, then it’s wonderful. But it is not of any help to those who need to be paid for their work in the here-and-now.

So how do book writers survive? Some take on commercial writing tasks (writing press releases, business plans, and such), some write freelance articles, some line up speaking engagements (and sell their books too), some do editing and/or teach classes, and some hope to win grants, fellowships, and contests. Some try all of the above. These are just the first few answers that come to mind. Of course, you all know my hopes are vested in the ArtistShare solution over at

It would be nice to receive a grant or fellowship, but Brian Camelio, the founder of ArtistShare has been raising my consciousness about matters of patronage. While a gift, grant, or commission can bring financial relief, albeit temporary, there is nothing good about feeling beholden. And that feeling of debt, coupled with mandatory gratitude, is not a cocktail that enables creativity. I’m giving these matters some serious thought and no doubt will soon have more to say on the subject.

NPR Goodies

Piano Jazz:

“The Ashby Brothers” Piano Jazz show airs the week of December 26, 2006. (Click here to find the radio stationin your area) The show will feature interviews with Marty and Jay Ashby, who will be joined by longtime friends and MCG Jazz collaborators, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Lewis Nash for the musical portion of the segment. The Ashby Brothers Quartet cover an array of music in the segment, from Duke Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me” to Ivan Lins’ “Norturna.”

Additionally, Bill Strickland, President and CEO of Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, was also interviewed by Mrs. McPartland to share the history of his success with MCG and its sister organization, Bidwell Training Center, and his plans to replicate the arts and technology program in major cities throughout the U.S. Bill Strickland’s interview is available as a podcast.

Charlie Brown:

Mr. Rifftides and TT both sang the praises of Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown music. Did you know that Guaraldi’s classic score almost never made it on the air. Check out Felix Contreras’ Behind Guaraldi’s Timeless Holiday Soundtrack that aired on Morning Edition last month and can still be heard online.

Lillian Ross:

On Morning Edition today I heard “The Long View: For Writer Lillian Ross, the Story’s in the Details.” Ms. Ross, a long-time staff writer for The New Yorker, has long been one of my writing heroines.

Rich details, status details, intimate details, telling details, these are the little facts observed that bring people to life on the page. (Of course I’ll be talking more about the use of such details in the months to come for People On The Page over at SnapSizzleBop.) It was no surprise that by the end of this morning’s NPR piece, Ms. Ross had turned the tables on interviewer Steve Inskeep.

Back in June 2005 i wrote about Ms. Ross and her techniques:

One of my goals as a narrative nonfiction writer is to make my readers to feel as if they are there, seeing the events about which I am writing. In order for that to happen, I have to evoke the readers’ interest and convey to them a sense of my reliability, letting them know that either I was there observing (and now they can watch through my eyes) or at least that I did thorough research. Lillian Ross is a master in this genre and I often try to analyze her work in search of techniques that I might employ. (read the whole piece here)

Here are some books by Lillian Ross:

Portrait of Hemingway (Random House Publishing Group, 1999)

Picture (Da Capo Press; Reprint edition June 2002)

Fun of It: Stories from the Talk of the Town (Random House Publishing Group, 2001)

Reporting Back: Notes on Journalism (Counterpoint Press, 2003)

Gifts That Keep On Giving

I was happy to learn that ArtistShare has a method that allows one to purchase a participation offer as a gift for someone else. This applies not just to my own project offers at SnapSizzleBop, but to any ArtistShare-powered project. My favorite “artists” include, in alphabetical order, Bob Brookmeyer, Billy Childs, Scott Colley, Jim Hall, Ingrid Jensen, Donny McCaslin, and Maria Schneider.

The ArtistShare site has pages with featured artists and featured projects. So check them all out, and be sure to visit SnapSizzleBop too.

Here are the instructions for giving the gift of participation:

The person giving the gift should purchase the Participant Offer as normal. After the purchase is complete, the purchaser should send an email addressed to programming at to let them know that they giving the Participant Offer as a gift and would like to transfer the account to the appropriate person. The gift-giver will need to provide the recipient’s name and email address. ArtistShare will transfer the account to the individual and let the purchaser know that the change is complete. They will also send an email to the person receiving the gift to let them know that an account/participant offer has been set up for them.


“…many, perhaps most of the great things that get done in this world, especially in the realm of art, are done by people with no common sense whatsoever.”

so writes Terry Teachout in the mailbox section of today’s blog post. He was responding to an email he received wherein the correspondent mentioned some young dancers “who had so little common sense and so much passion for dance….”

Family and friends may wonder why we toil at projects that hold so little hope of substantial financial gain, and I guess passion is as good an answer as any. The image of a starving-artist-in-the garret loses its allure with age and the fires of idealism may be reduced to smoldering embers, but creative passions never die.


Rifftides offers a short list of recommended holiday music so I thought I’d tell you what’s coming through the speakers at our house during the holidays:

  • Leon Redbone – Christmas Island
  • The Three Tenors Christmas (Carreras, Domingo and Pavorotti)
  • A Jazz Piano Christmas (Benny Green, Junior Mance, John Lewis, Tommy Flanagan…)
  • A Nancy Wilson Christmas
  • Christmas with Etta Jones
  • Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song
  • Jimmy Smith – Christmas Cookin’ (smokin’ big band arrangements by Billy Byers)
  • Stevan Pasero – Christmas Classics for Guitar (tracks range from Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major” to “Deck the Halls”
  • Guitars for Christmas — Joe Negri (MCG Jazz)

If rock music is your thing, best check in with Carl over at Cahl’s Juke Joint


Meanwhile Anne, over at Just Muttering, has discovered Classical Trumpet?! I was glad to see a comment mentioning The Canadian Brass. I love that group. Luther Henderson wrote some really wonderful arrangements for the quintet (2 trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba). I’m posting here the first two-and-a-half minutes or so of their rendition of Brass Toccata as performed at a memorial celebration for Luther. (Sorry, the recording quality is not great.) They’ve done lots and lots of recordings — from Pachelbel and Vivaldi to Fats Waller and Gershwin — so I’d be surprised if you don’t find one that includes some of your favorite selections.

Dad Gets Another Award

On Monday, November 27th, at the New Morning jazz club in Paris, Jim Hall was was named a “Choc Jazzman de l’année 2006.” According to Editor Alex Dutilh:

Jazzman is the best seller of French (and European, actually) jazz magazines. Every month we give quotations (like Down Beat stars) in our CD and DVD reviews. The higher one (equivalent of 5 stars) is called “Choc Jazzman”. At the end of the year, the editorial staff look at all the “Chocs” given between January and December and decides which will be “Chocs de l’année” (best of the year). They are 15 : 1 is elected by the readers sending post cards (Patricia Barber’s “Mythology” is their choice for 2006), 1 DVD, 1 reissue or never released historic session… and 12 “new recordings”.

Dad was not able to attend the Parisian ceremony, but he sent this message:

Un Petit Discours de Remerciement

Mes chers amis qui aiment le jazz:

J’ai été très content l’annee passe quand j’ai gagné un Choc Jazzman 2005 — l’idée que j’ai gagné une autre cette annee me comble.

C’est un privilège de jouer la musique et quand l’audience dit “bravo” – dans les clubs ou sur les pages des publications périodiques – c’est une gratification extraordinaire.

Jouer du jazz, c’est une exploration, et quand je reçois un honneur comme un Choc Jazzman ca me dit que vous etes avec moi dans le voyage — alors je vous remercie beaucoup!

J’écrivais ces mots avec l’assistance de ma fille qui parle français une peu mieux que moi; nous esperons que vous comprenez bien la gratitude énorme que je me sentais.

Je suis désolé que je ne peux pas etre la, en personne, pour accepter ce prix.

Encore une fois, je vous remercie beaucoup.

Jim Hall

Alex will be in New York for IAJE in January and plans to attend the January 11th ceremony at the French Embassy when Dad will receive his Chevalier medal. I’m betting he’ll bring with him the Choc Jazzman trophy.

Green Kryptonite

I seem to have been stripped of my super powers. No longer can I accomplish everything plus by yesterday.

Working on two books while planning a third, plus blogging, plus other cash-paying tasks has created an overwhelming overload, with overwhelming being the operative word — brain freeze, a near total shut down.

The symptoms include an inability to think clearly and a pain in my own neck; literally, it’s on the left side. I finally figured out that the pain is caused by Freecell (yes, that solitaire-like game that comes with the Windows operating system). It seems that the amount of time I spend playing Freecell on the computer is an excellent inverse indicator of how “in-control” I’m feeling about my current projects. I’m not shirking my tasks in lieu of playtime — the obsessive/compulsive drive that keeps me clicking feels like an addiction and as such it’s really not fun. Nor is it relaxing. So why “play”? Probably because I can win and feel like I’ve accomplished something. When I lose, I just click again until I win…hence the addictive nature of it. It runs neck-in-neck with re-arranging the furniture, books, and/or files in my office, although the re-arranging activities do allow me to claim some trickle-down benefit to the waiting work that is not the case with Freecell.

So what’s the antidote? To identify small easy-to-complete tasks. Sounds simple but it’s more than a notion when my projects are all intertwined. It’s the tangle that must be unraveled and sometimes it cannot be done by force. It’s not a matter of will-power or dedication, my butt is firmly planted in the chair, but it does remind me of trying to meditate — I am unable to make my mind go blank, and I find it equally hard to imagine a single image, whether it’s white light or a flower or a shoe. My mind wanders, faster and farther the harder I try to rein it in. I’ve heard that constant jumping around from one figurative treetop to the next described as ”monkey brain.” So if trying hard makes it worse, perhaps not trying at all will allow some thoughts to crystallize and emerge on their own.

Let’s hope so, ’cause I’ve got a lot of work to do.

“Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth… But amusing? Never.”
–Edna Ferber (1887–1968), U.S. writer. A Peculiar Treasure, ch. 1 (1939).

I Heard It Through The Grapevine…Online

Tonight, Friday, Dec. 1, 8pm Eastern, WGBH radio host Steve Schwartz will feature dad’s music. I’m guessing it’s something of a birthday feature as dad’s birthday is December 4.  Listen to Jim Hall Jazz from Studio Four on the radio (89.7) or online (the Listen Live link is under the Radio menu on the left).