Monday, October 31, 2011

Illinois Stories and the Bob Edwards Show

The Mark Twain: Words & Music CD has been out a little more than a month now, and we are enjoying all of the phone calls, emails, and conversations about how much people are enjoying it.  Yes, we're partial, so hearing your compliments is truly heartwarming.

We've been gifted by two media events that have helped put the CD in front of folks.  First of all, Mark McDonald from Illinois Stories arrived in Hannibal the day of the CD's release and interviewed Carl Jackson and Val Storey.  Carl and Val performed five of the songs from the CD, and Mark filmed them for this broadcast on Illinois's PBS stations.  We saw an immediate spike in sales.

Mark McDonald from Illinois Stories interviewed
Carl Jackson and Val Storey about Mark Twain: Words & Music

Last week, the Bob Edwards Show aired an interview Bob conducted with yours truly (Cindy Lovell) about the CD.  Bob allowed me to share some of the behind-the-scenes stories about the project, but best of all he included several excerpts from the CD, both spoken word and song.  I'm glad he didn't ask me to name my favorite song, because that would not have been possible.  I love them all.  If you'd like to hear Bob's interview, here it is: Part 1 and Part 2.

Bob's audience is vast, and as the broadcast aired we saw our online sales begin to climb, both in our online store and on Amazon.  Yes, we do make a better profit from our own online sales, but watching the sales rankings climb on Amazon was exciting.  Yesterday we were ranked #1 in Bluegrass, #1 in Spoken Word, #6 in Country, #26 in Pop and #28 in Music overall.  Such is the reach of Bob Edwards's audience.   
Ranked #1 in Bluegrass Music sales on Amazon

Watching the sales rankings move up was exciting, especially
when we made it into the category of Pop Music.  Who knew?

We are in the early days of CD sales, and our marketing budget is limited.  We're hopeful that word of mouth and similar media coverage will help us share the project.  Twitter and Facebook can only do so much.  So, if you've heard the CD and like it, please let others know.  And if you haven't heard it yet and are curious, Amazon has posted clips from every track.  Each clip is 30 seconds in length.  If you listen to them in order from the beginning, you'll have a pretty good idea of the story sequence.

Every little event excites and encourages us.  Let us hear from you! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Big Read

One of the greatest programs supported by the National Endowment for the Arts is The Big Read.  The Big Read is a community event during which people of all ages and backgrounds come together to read the same book.  One of the titles on the list is my childhood favorite, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and I am constantly thrilled when I pick up the phone and hear from someone in another community announcing they have selected this book.  I've given keynotes and teacher workshops in many Big Read communities, and I'm thrilled to make new friends everywhere I go and have them come visit me in Hannibal.

The Big Read is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Recently I had the privilege of visiting Irving, Texas and Alexandria, Louisiana, two communities that selected Tom Sawyer.  Both communities planned family-friendly activities to involve everyone in reading, and I was thrilled to get to share the "real stories" behind the book - events, people, and places.  That was the magic I discovered when I first visited Hannibal in 1996 - that there is very little "fiction" in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

"Jackson's Island" in the Mississippi River is where the boys ran off to play pirates.
The Mark Twain Cave is still open to the public, and if you're
lucky you'll see the occasional local resident like this little fellow.

Sam Clemens's childhood friend, Laura Hawkins, lived in this house,
which is right across the street from his. She became the model for
Becky Thatcher. The Museum is accepting donations to finish the
restoration of this house and reopen it to the public in 2012 as a
children's museum that tells the story of childhood in mid-1800s Hannibal.

"Injun Joe" was loosely based on Joe Douglass, a Hannibal resident
whose physical characteristics frightened the local children.

In Hannibal today you will still encounter "Tom Sawyer"
and "Becky Thatcher" strolling the streets.

For anyone reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer today, you can do no better than to visit Hannibal, Missouri, where the stories started.  The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum maintains nine historical properties, including the Boyhood Home of young Sam.  You can come visit and see the very window where Sam would sneak out at night to go adventuring with his buddy, Tom Blankenship, who provided the model for Twain's beloved character, Huckleberry Finn.  For parents, teachers, or anyone reading this book with children, if you can't make it to Hannibal, you can at least orient yourself using the virtual tours created by the Mark Twain Young Authors.  This will give you some background story on the real people, places, and events that appear in this wonderful book.
Grab a brush and help whitewash the famous fence!

My Big Read adventures have taken me from to Carmel, California to Enterprise, Oregon to Ashland, Kentucky and beyond, and I look forward to visiting more communities and telling folks about the true stories behind Twain's fiction.  Listening to the songs and stories on Mark Twain: Words & Music is a great way to learn about Twain's life, and the virtual tours give a glimpse into our historical town, but the best way to experience the boyhood adventures of Sam Clemens is to visit Hannibal.

Don't wait too long!