from the desk of mary batson: author, speaker, storyteller, and apple butter fan   
behind the scenes: Going Home

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the book, the music, the show (Transcript from Going Home, The Tour: LIVE)

Mary: About the book...

Well, I started writing Going Home on December 28, 2009, which was the one-year anniversary of my brother’s death. Jimmy was ten years older than me, and he was my hero, and his death really knocked my family and I for a loop.

Since he died, I’d been thinking about writing a book for kids about death, and had decided to use the metaphor of going home. I think part of me was hoping I’d understand his death better myself, if I could explain it to someone else in small enough words. So that afternoon I sent an email to my good friend Jacquelyn saying I thought I’d write that story that night – the timing felt right.

About six-thirty that evening I sat down and started typing. One hour later the first chapter was written, pretty much word for word as it still is, except that Gran was Grandma, and the original Mikey was a little boy. Another hour later I was still writing and I knew this book was turning into something very different than I’d imagined.

By 10:30 the next morning the expanded version of Going Home was a 12-page small-print outline, and I was emailing Bob that maybe someday we could do a show based around it, although I didn’t have a clue how that would shape up.

In less than a month the book was almost complete. I had started doing readings in Bob’s shows, which we’re going to tell you about in a minute, and the feedback I was getting from people who heard Mikey’s story was almost overwhelming. Everyone had a story to share, and it was such an incredible honor for all these people to be allowing me so deeply into their lives.

And then things stalled. What I didn’t realize was that, just like Mikey, I wasn’t ready to finish the book yet. I still had some things to learn, to fully understand what my characters were saying. I’ve had several major life changes in the past year, and with each one, the stories have taken on a deeper meaning, and I’ve redlined and rewritten them, trying to capture this expanded truth. The writing was definitely cathartic – I’d write, and then I’d cry as I read the story, realizing that I needed to read this book, to listen to what Gran was teaching Mikey, just as much as anyone else. Maybe even more. And heck, I still cry – but not quite as much. And sometimes I just smile.

No, this isn’t the story of my life, and no, this isn’t the story of my grandma (that’s in the works though), but this is bits and pieces of it, and in some ways, the lessons have been very similar. There’s a thin little veil in some places, and I’ll leave it up to you to think about where that might be – and where it is in your own life. As I’ve learned – this book isn’t just about Mikey and Gran. It isn’t just about me. It’s about all of us. We’re all going home – and that’s a beautiful thing.

As some of you know, Going Home is the first story in what will become the Front Porch Rambles book series. The next five or six books are already being outlined – Gran’s Big Book of Short Stories will be coming soon! As well, I’ll be working on the children’s versions of these stories, completing the name and structure of the series – Front Porch Rambles and Backyard Swings. And of course, Gran will continue sharing her stories online via her Apple Butter Blog, so you don’t even have to wait for the books to go to print!

Thanks so much for all your encouragement and support – it means more than I can say. Gran and Mikey have made some amazing traveling companions along my path. Thanks for walking with us for a ways, and sharing your journey as we share ours.

Bob Sima: About the music...

On some level I feel like I write song “prequels” to my life’s events. I write about pain before it happens, joys before they come, like somehow I know what’s coming and write about it in advance. Sounds kinda weird, huh? It’s just that some of the songs just don’t make sense WHEN I write them, and truthfully, some come pouring out of me with little or no effort, like I am just the method for which they are to be expressed to the world and I just need to get out of the way.

Some of the songs I wrote several years ago were continuing to remain a mystery to me as they had not lined up to anything in my life as of yet... until Mary came along, and then, of course, the book Going Home. I was in the fortunate position of getting the stories before anyone else and as I read them what struck me is that they had eerily similar messages to some of these older songs. So, in a sense, my “prequels” were revealed!

When the idea of the show came along, we very effortlessly went back and mapped songs to stories and the show was put together nearly effortlessly. When something comes to you that easily and on purpose, you just have to get excited, and excited we got! In addition to the prequels, some of the stories stirred completely new songs, like "Kingdom of Enough" and "Guts and Glory". I was so moved by the stories that I wrote these songs very quickly and effortlessly, again an omen that we were on the right track.

I am so excited to be able to share in this project with Mary, I hope you enjoy it even half as much as we enjoyed making it!

About the show...

Bob: It’s kinda hard to figure out where all this started. Like Mary said, she felt a show coming out of this from the beginning, and I saw definite links between the themes of her stories and my songs, but neither of us had any idea where we’d go with that. For one thing, I didn’t even know if she could SING.

Not long after she started the book, we found ourselves rolling along on a night train through Holland. Fighting jet lag the best way I know how, I pulled out my guitar and started singing. The wagon was empty, so Mary started singing along... A few incredulous stares later, I’d realized she wasn’t tone deaf and that we actually sounded pretty good together. The next morning we forgot to explore Amsterdam, because we were sitting in the hotel, caught up in the excitement of matching up songs and stories. It didn’t take long – and we couldn’t help feeling that somehow, this was just meant to be.

One week later we were on a flight to California, where I had two shows booked at Fred & Sharon Munroe’s and Steve & Julie Souza’s. Mary was sitting next to me, working on a short version of Chapter 1 for a reading, and all of a sudden it hit – why don’t you sing with me?

Mary: And I said OK, and so we did, and nobody died, or even fainted. Well, we did have to call for an ambulance during the first show, but everyone said that had nothing to do with the music, thank goodness, and our friend came out fine and dandy – even made it back for Fred’s world-famous waffles the next morning.

One thing led to another, and in March we launched Going Home, The Tour. Now, eight months later, we’re making this CD and preparing for the CD release show on November 28th – the day my brother would have turned 47. Again, it just feels right.

In the meantime, we’ve played and sang on both coasts and even a few places in the middle, and it just keeps getting better. We don’t know where this will lead us, but we’ve got a pretty good feeling about it. Right now, we’re in the process of getting the CD done and out there, getting the book printed, and staying in the flow while keeping well-stocked on apple butter.

So far, so good. It’s been quite a ride, this chapter of our book together – and we’re looking forward to the next.

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