A New Review of Mar Portugues

 There is a new review of our CD Mar Portugues on Amazon!

Shawna Lenore & Darrell Kastin – MAR PORTUGUES: A Tribute to Florbela Espanca & Fernando Pessoa

Pianist and guitarist Darrell Kastin’s vision was to musically transcribe the beautiful poetry of Portugal’s Fernando Pessoa and Florbela Espanca. Kastin’s mother was born in the Azores, and he has spent considerable time in the country soaking up the culture. Married to a Portuguese woman, Kastin was clearly inspired by his love and passion for Portuguese music, poetry and culture. The country is well known for its rich, deep fado music (literal definition meaning “fate”). As with fado, Kastin’s melodies and arrangements provide great emphasis on stringed instrumental accompaniment. While the project was conceived in Oregon, Kastin travelled to Lisbon to record with top Portuguese musicians including Pedro Barroso (vocals on two tracks, adufe, percussion), Miguel Carreira (accordion), Luís Sá Pessoa (cello), Luis Petisca (Portuguese guitar), and the Vox Nobis Choir. Barroso also served as producer.

The project’s emotional radiance and success is largely carried by the hypnotic voice of Kastin’s daughter, Shawna Lenore Kastin. She demonstrates considerable emotional depth, range and control as she sings the ballads and songs with haunting beauty. Like fado music, she uses warm, conversational vocalizing to present graceful stories of life, destiny, dreams, love and desire. One example of the strong emotional impact of this poetry and music is found with “O Maior Bem” that makes mention of deceit, suffering, pain, sorrow, weariness, disdain, and torment. There is a long Portuguese tradition of poetry and literature, both academic and traditional. Also, balladry has been part of Portuguese tradition since long before the early 19th century. Thus, Darrell Kastin is able to keep one foot grounded in tradition while providing engrossing contemporary music that captures the soulful concerns, stories and declarations of undying love found in the poetry. Besides his love of this kind of music, he also says the album took alchemy and a little madness. Alchemy was needed to bring many elements successfully together, and he attributed the madness to his desire to musically journey uncharted waters. (Joe Ross)


In Which I Am Amazed By The Awesomeness Of My Friends

Back in high school my best friend Sophie Green and I wanted to be actresses. Oh yeah. We took drama classes, auditioned for plays, became members of the Thespian Society and nursed dreams of wildly successful careers on stage and film. I even briefly entertained dreams of being a film director, only in my case I realized I was too much of a control freak to ever survive life in the performing or cinematic arts, so I started turning back to my other great love, writing, where I could happily control everything to my heart’s content. Sophie, however, went on to study theatre in college and when she graduated moved down to LA to pursue her dreams.

About a month ago she contacted me to tell me about this amazing new film project she and her friends were doing. Tired of waiting around for jobs to find them they decided to create an interactive film-making organization called Finite Films that draws on audience participation to set the parameters for a short film which they will then write and produce themselves.

This is how it works: Anyone can submit a one sentence constraint (ie. “One character must hate fish sticks” or “Must begin in a graveyard”). They pick 21 of these constraints to narrow it down and then anyone can vote on which ones to include in the actual film. The top 7 constraints set the groundwork for a short film which they will then produce and which will be featured on their website. They also have a ton of production videos you can watch to keep track of their progress.

How amazing is that? Artists taking art into their own hands instead of relying on an often fickle industry! Artists drawing inspiration from their audience! It makes me so happy and just reinforces how amazing my friends are. Seriously. Please check out their killer website and watch their first film You Are Here. And do go ahead and participate. You will be amazed.

Finite Films: finite-films.com


Calling All Young Adult and Children’s Writers

I keep forgetting to post about this, but it is that time of year again. The time to submit to the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing at Hunger Mountain! There are three different categories: Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Picture Book. One first prize winner wins $1000 and runners-up chosen from each of the three categories win $100.

The deadline is July 30th and you can submit online here: http://www.hungermtn.org/katherine-paterson-prize-for-young-adult-and-childrens-writing/

The judge this year is Kimberly Willis Holt, author of the Piper Reed series, My Louisiana Sky, Mister and Me, Dancing in Cadillac Light, Keeper of the Night, Waiting for Gregory, Part of Me, and Skinny Brown Dog; winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for When Zachary Beaver Came to Town; and winner of the 2011 YALSA BEST FICTION for Young Adults for The Water Seeker.

I do hope you’ll all submit something 🙂


Goodbye Semester 2!

Whew, so it’s been a crazy few months, but I turned in my last packet for the semester on Thursday and sent in my end of semester evaluations yesterday so I am all done at last! It’s kind of amazing to me that I survived this semester with all the ups and downs health-wise, but I seem to have managed okay. Now I get to catch up on the rest of my life, lol. Can I also say how terrifying it is to only have a year left? One year and then I’m out on my own again, trying to find employment! Eek!

Next semester is critical thesis time so I’m doing a lot of brainstorming about what I might want to do. I’d like to do something focused more on middle grade books since I’ve been reading so much YA recently. So I’m thinking of doing something on omniscient narrators in middle grade fiction. I love omniscient narrators. Let’s hope I love writing a thirty page essay about them.

I’m also trying to figure out what to do with the very messy twelve chapters I have of my new YA novel. Do I forge ahead with the draft? Do I revise to save the sanity of my next advisor? Do I take a break from writing for a month because, hey, how else am I ever going to get some time to relax? Do I work on something entirely different like the new short story idea tossing around in my head? Honestly, I do not know, and by the time I figure it out it will probably be time for the summer residency.

In completely unrelated news, I’m trying to figure out what do with this livejournal, what I want it to be, etc. I’m hoping that if I set goals like a post a week I’ll actually show up more often instead of letting things languish. But I’m also trying to figure out what I want to talk about. I’m thinking more writing related stuff and less private stuff? But I do want to keep talking about my health issues to some extent in the hope that it will help anyone who stumbles across this part of the interwebs who also happens to have a less than functional body. Such a difficult balance.

For now, I guess, I will focus on cleaning my moldering gingerbread house before it collapses around my ears in dismay. Or before it decides to move to somewhere warm without me.


Some Thoughts on the Slush Pile

I’ve been reading slush on and off for about a year now and, I have to say, it’s enlightening being on both sides of the divide, that is, being a writer and a reader of slush. When you’re sending out submissions it’s so easy to imagine slush readers and editors as soulless automatons bent on destroying the hopes and aspirations of writers everywhere, but now that I am a “slush reader” I can say with relative confidence that I am not a soulless automaton. At least not the last time I checked. Well, I don’t know. Maybe somewhere there is a soulless automaton bent on destroying the hopes and aspirations of writers everywhere, but if there is, well, I hope they get over themselves. As for me, I actually angst quite a bit about whether or not to reject something and then, once I’ve decided on rejection, which rejection letter to send. Sometimes I wonder if other people angst as much as I do, lol. I think what depresses me the most, though, is not being able to explain exactly why I’m rejecting each piece. It makes me sad to think writers will struggle on, not knowing what it was that didn’t work for me, making the same mistakes.

I’ve also noticed a bewildering pattern since reading these submissions. A story may be beautifully written say, or extremely funny, or have an interesting premise, but it just won’t be compelling. I’ll find myself reading it thinking so what? Why should I care about these characters and their situation? And, of course, if I don’t care, why should I pass said story on to my editors? I find myself asking that question a lot and it surprises me, but it also makes me wonder. After all, what do I mean by compelling? What the hell is compelling? I might be compelled by a story about a family of bunny rabbits trying to escape from three headed aliens while dancing the tango in a floating carrot. You, however, may have more sense than I do. But by compelling I don’t mean a story has to have explosions or special effects or even grand themes like life and death. I think it’s about trying to communicate something, an emotion, an idea, the emotion behind that idea (?), trying to move outside oneself as a storyteller. It’s really pushed me to think about my own novel and why it is that I’m writing it because it’s so easy, isolated in our writing caves as we are, to forget we’re writing for someone else. And by that I don’t mean “the market” or even an agent or editor really. I mean the ideal reader, the child or teenager we used to be, ourselves perhaps, or maybe even some random person out there who might really get the story we’re trying to tell. Writing isn’t just the nuts and bolts. It’s not just about craft and structure. It’s about substance. Or at least it should be. Otherwise why the hell read anything at all?