The Wren’s Nest had the honor of bringing Mr. Floyd Norman and his wife Adrienne to Atlanta this past week. Mr. Norman was the first African American animator at Disney and worked alongside Walt Disney himself. During his time in Atlanta this week, Mr. Norman gave talks at Auburn Avenue Research Library and Emory University, and was interviewed on CNN Morning Express with Natasha Curry. He and his wife also spent a great deal of time exploring the Wren’s Nest and listening to our storytellers. Many thoughtful and engaging conversations were shared between Mr. and Mrs. Norman and the Wren’s Nest staff and Board members. The film “Song of the South” was among the hot topics discussed. Since his return to his home in California, Floyd Norman has written a couple of blog posts inspired by his experience in Atlanta with the Wren’s Nest, which he called “enlightening”.
“I’ve just returned from a wonderful trip to Atlanta Georgia. It has easily been fifty years since last visiting the city and boy, how things have changed. Yet, Atlanta remains a beautiful city with a marvelous blending of the old and the new. The historic and the contemporary. It’s a city I never really knew, and yet it feels so much like home.
Adrienne and I were the guests of the good folks at The Wren’s Nest. The Wren’s Nest is the historic home of author, Joel Chandler Harris. And, Harris is a name I know well after having seen “Song of the South” and written a few Uncle Remus, Brer Rabbit stories myself. Of course, in recent years the stories of Joel Chandler Harris and the Walt Disney film, “Song of the South” in particular have become the stuff of controversy. I wanted to do my part in hopefully shedding some much needed light on a subject that has sadly become a racially motivated hot button topic. I’ll be writing more about this in future posts, but for now I can only say my visit to Atlanta and the home of Joel Chandler Harris was most enlightening.
Walt Disney’s Song of the South has been sitting on the shelf since the early seventies when the wonderful movie was given it’s last limited release. Since that time, it’s been a hand’s off property because the Walt Disney Company, like most corporations, being risk averse, wanted little to do with it. Why take the chance of stirring up controversy when you can simply avoid it. Sadly, “avoiding controversy” has denied generations of Disney fans access to this famous Disney classic. It’s actually encouraged “bootleg” editions or the seeking of foreign language copies where apparently the rest of the world can deal with the South and the subject of slavery.
Having no corporate agenda, I’m able to speak freely on the subject. I’ve written Uncle Remus stories myself and worked side by side with Walt Disney in years past. Back in the forties as the Disney studio struggled to survive, The Old Maestro had no intention of doing anything other than creating great entertainment. Some may call it corny or simple minded as Walt reflected on his childhood in other films as well. “So Dear to my Heart” was another motion picture that tells the story of an America long forgotten. Walt may have been somewhat naive when dealing with the post Civil War American South. However, Disney was a storyteller, not a historian.
I’ll be dealing with this “controversial issue” in future posts. In the meantime, I’m still reeling from my Atlanta visit last week. I’m still smiling from the generous hospitality along with the energy and vitality of a South I really didn’t know until this visit.
Thank you, one and all. And, thank you for the best biscuits and grits I’ve ever eaten.”
Thank you, Mr. Norman, for gracing the Wren’s Nest with your presence and for sharing your thoughts. We are also very pleased that you liked our biscuits and grits, which are, in fact, the best.
Read more by Mr. Floyd Norman on his blog: http://floydnormancom.squarespace.com/
The Second Annual Vouched Birthday Party was a smashing success!
VouchedATL celebrated its second birthday with the return of the Very Vouched Birthday on Thursday, July 18th at The Goat Farm Arts Center.
Once again, the evening served as a fundraiser for the Wren’s Nest KIPP Scribes writing program. A great number of Atlanta’s literary champions gathered for an evening to read the work of the students who have benefitted from the program. In addition to these readings, attendees heard original works from authors Blake Butler and Matt Bell.
Several of our middle school authors were there with their families. As it turned out, all of the young authors who attended also happened to have their stories read out loud. Seeing the students watch their stories come alive on stage was an incredible experience.
The proceeds from the evening all go towards supporting the Scribes Program. We are so grateful to Laura Relyea of Vouched Books, the event’s supporters, and everyone who attended the party. Here’s a picture of our fancy merch table and a sampling of the books we’ve published through our Scribes Program and high school publishing company.
Our first big trivia question of the year is a real doozie. Which historical house museum, dedicated to preserving the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris and the heritage of African American folklore through storytelling, tours and student publishing, and serving as an educational resource for the community, the greater Atlanta area and visitors from around the globe on top of having great trivia questions in its newsletter, is turning 100 YEARS OLD THIS YEAR?
Think you know the answer? Post your guess in the comment selection below! What, you think it might be too easy? Ok, then. Bonus question: in honor of Valentine’s Day, if you could go on one date with a literary character who would it be and why? [There's no wrong answer here. We'll even take Ahab's Whale.] Again, post your answers below. We’ll randomly select one lovelorn literary lad or lass to receive one permanent hug.*
*permanent hug comes in the small, medium, large, or x-large embrace of a wren’s nest t-shirt.
In 2008, our friends at StoryCorps created a new national holiday, the National Day of Listening. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks everyone to take a few minutes to record an interview with a loved one. You can use recording equipment that is readily available to you, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.
Isn’t this pure dead genius? Apart from the appeal of a noncommercial alternative to “Black Friday” shopping sprees, you’ll probably also learn a thing or two about your loved ones. I encourage you to set aside time to listen to a loved one’s story while recovering from your turkey coma.
With the museum’s 100th anniversary coming up in 2013, now is a great time to start talking about how to revitalize and restore Joel Chandler Harris’ home so we can kick it for the next 100 years. 2013 is going to be full of celebrations, fundraising, and amazing growth. There is already an exciting opportunity on the horizon that will kick off our centennial year.
The Georgia Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC-GA) is committed to improving built environments to make high-performance, healthy buildings available to everyone in Georgia. On October 16th through October 18th, USGBC-GA will host an inaugural conference on southern historic preservation, sustainability, and energy efficiency here in Atlanta. The conference will bring together brilliant minds from across the nation to discuss how to restore and revitalize our city, community, economy, and quality of life.
One of the highlights of the conference is a case study of the Wren’s Nest. On the final day of the conference, there will be a charrette at the Wren’s Nest. Basically, a bunch of really smart historic preservationists and people interested in energy efficiency will gather for a tour and discussion on how to preserve and restore the house for generations to come in the most green way possible. We are very excited about the chance to be showcased in this way. It’s about time more people fell in love with this beautiful old museum and did something about it.
In preparation for the conference, the folks over at SouthFace came over and did an inspection last week. Boy, did they get a kick out of the spaces in the floor where you can see straight through to the basement. They may or may not have also discovered one ton of bricks (yes, that’s correct) that’s been looming in the attic over poor Sue’s desk for who knows how long. Thanks to SouthFace, the USGBC-GA has some great information for the conference, and we know that we need to move the bricks, or just move Sue.
We don’t mean to brag, but it’s safe to say that our KIPP Scribes book launch was a smashing success. There is nothing quite like seeing these students hold their books for the very first time, or hearing them read their stories to an enraptured audience. Little did we know, the Scribes are not only writers; they are also phenomenal readers. Check out a few preview pictures, thanks to the lovely Erin Sintos of Tin Can Photography, who captured the day through her lens.
If you weren’t able to attend the party, do not lament! You can buy your very own copy in the Wren’s Nest shop. Our new Wren’s Nest Publishing Company high school literary journal is also available in our shop now. It’s all so exciting. Just so exciting.
Hear ye! Hear ye! Books are a-brewin’!
The Decatur Book Festival is just around the corner, which means it’s almost time for the launch of our new KIPP Scribes book and Wren’s Nest Publishing Company Literary Journal. Below are details about each of the book launch parties. You’ll come if you know what’s good for you!
This year, the KIPP Scribes program took a new spin. Instead of recording a true story from an important adult in each of their lives, the students wrote historical fiction stories based in Atlanta. The KIPP Scribes crafted the stories with the help of their mentors and will release their book, Read After Burning, at Decatur Book Festival on Sunday, September 2 from 2:30 p.m.- 4:30 p.m. at CORE Studio (133 Sycamore Street Decatur, GA 30030). The book launch will feature readings from the KIPP Scribes and their mentors, as well as a chance to purchase your own copy signed by the authors.
The Wren’s Nest Publishing Company’s sixth annual literary journal, Flyaways, comprised pieces by Atlanta-area high school students. On Saturday, September 1, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m at CORE Studio (133 Sycamore Street Decatur, GA 30030), the student editors and contributors and their friends and family members will join to mingle, congratulate each other, and exult in their accomplishments with lemonade, popsicles, games, and coloring. Pull out your inner child and come share in the revelry!
If you can’t come to our parties, go cry in corner, then show your support another way :
Buy a copy of each book in our online bookstore. Books will be available for purchase on September 8th. Huzzah!
Tell someone about our writing programs. We will begin accepting mentors for next spring’s KIPP Scribes program in October. Email Jessie at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. She likes getting emails out of left field.
PS: Please come visit us at the Decatur Book Festival. The Wren’s Nest booth is #612, on Clairmont right off Ponce across from the Old Courthouse. This year we’re sharing our booth with Vouched Atlanta. Come by and see us!
Would you like to help a middle school student become a published author? Do you know someone who would?
For an hour every week in February and March, you’ll meet 1-on-1 with a 5th grader at KIPP STRIVE Academy to craft a new work of fiction or nonfiction. See that picture above? It’ll look a lot like that.
After that work is done, we’ll compile the stories together for a handsome publication. Finally, we’ll all have a party for the book’s debut at the Decatur Book Festival.
Sounds like fun, right? We need 35 of you, so don’t be shy.
Here’s what you need to do to help:
1. Attend an orientation session on February 8th at 3:30pm.
2. Commit to 8 hours of service over a two month period.
3. Be available on Tuesdays between 3:00 and 4:00pm or Wednesdays between 3:15 and 4:15pm.
4. Have some sort of writing experience. You needn’t be Tolstoy, mind you. If you think you may qualify, chances are you probably do. Last year we welcomed writers, lawyers, teachers, and workaday folks like me.
Even if this program isn’t for you, I bet you know someone who would love it. And chances are, they’re totally clueless. Please forward this post along to your friends and/or enemies who might be even a little interested.
The Whole Fiasco has arrived, and boy are we excited!
The KIPP Scribes officially launched their book of important family stories over Labor Day Weekend at the Decatur Book Festival. CORE was kind enough to donate their space for the party, and Jason Travis was awesome enough to document it all.
Many thanks to all the students, family members, and volunteers who were there to celebrate the book launch.
We’re especially indebted to KIPP STRIVE teachers John and Vanessa, the KIPP STRIVE staff, and the Kim King Foundation for making this program possible.
I’m very excited to announce the release of The Whole Fiasco, the latest bound collection of stories from the KIPP Scribes. Details of the launch party are below.
Each week for three months Aatallah met 1-on-1 with a professional writer to record an important family story. She interviewed her mother and wrote “A Generous Decision,” about the time her mom invited a family without a home to share their small apartment.
She learned how to identify a great story, how to perform an effective interview, and how to craft creative nonfiction. Aatallah wrote six or seven drafts of “A Generous Decision” to get it just right.
Last year we found that the KIPP Scribes Program fundamentally changes the students’ relationship with the written word. Watching Aatallah develop as a writer and storyteller over three months was an astonishing transformation. And she’s just one of twenty-three new writers featured in The Whole Fiasco.
This year we partnered with Storycorps to allow some of the Scribes to record an interview with their chosen family member. The stories will be recorded in The Whole Fiasco, and their interviews will be archived at the Smithsonian’s National Musuem of African American History & Culture.
Saturday September 3rd from 11 am – 12 pm we’ll celebrate the release of The Whole Fiasco at the Decatur Book Festival. We’ll have books for sale, a few readings from the writers, and a lot of autographs upon request at CORE Dance Studio. It will be a very important day for these young writers. Will you join us?
If you can’t make it to the party, here’s how you can help —
Buy a copy of the book. It’ll be available in our store starting September 3rd.
Tell someone about this program. We need your help to spread the word.
Many thanks to the Kim King Foundation and the Fulton County Arts Council for funding the KIPP Scribes Program. Tremendous thanks to the many volunteers who gave so much of their time and themselves to the KIPP Scribes. We couldn’t do it without you.