Melinda’s 49th Birthday Fundraiser

Friends, I’m pushing fifty. And by “pushing fifty” I mean that I’m about to turn 49 in just a few days, and from that point on, I’m really on my way. I’m also in the midst of raising money for my teen opera workshop‘s summer production of Dido and Aeneas, to be performed at Eastworks in August. The work I’m doing with Act Too Studio Opera Workshop is honestly the thing I’m most proud of in my (just short of) fifty years. I’ve dedicated my heart and soul to making opera relevant to a new generation, and when I say “heart and soul” I really mean everything that I am, my time, my mental and emotional capacity, and what passes for physical strength. The Whole Melinda is in this thing, so there’s nothing I’d want more for my birthday than the support of my friends in this endeavor.

To that end, I’d like to dedicate my forty-ninth birthday to a little fundraiser for the cause! Here’s how it works:

1. Go to my workshop’s page at Fractured Atlas between now and Sunday, May 6th.

2. Click “Donate Now” and choose a one-time donation or a monthly subscription. This can be any amount at all.

3. There is no third step. But wait! I’m offering incentives! And they include my personal humiliation! Who wants to miss that?

If there’s one thing I dread to hear more than anything, it’s pleas from old friends, colleagues, and family that I sing again. And though these urgings do, in fact, fill me with horror and dread, I am willing to do this thing if it can help get my teens’ opera production off the ground. I’m even willing to improve my French for this. And if you are familiar with how bad my French is, you’ll understand the gravity of this proposal. So here goes.

IF I RAISE $1000, I will record myself performing a French art song for public consumption.

IF I RAISE $2000, I will record myself performing THREE French art songs.

IF I RAISE $3000, I will record myself performing FIVE of these things. Count ’em, FIVE.

IF I RAISE $5000, I will do a live performance of French art songs, in public, sometime in 2019, at a location to be determined, but I promise to unlock the door and actually let people in if they are foolish enough to wish to attend. I will also let it be recorded for posterity, for better or worse.

Those of you who have repeatedly expressed your dismay at my having given up performance, this is your chance to put your money where your mouth is. And then I’ll put my mouth where your money… okay, forget that, it sounded better in my head. Whatever. I’m saying this is a one-time offer. Do with it what you will.


UPDATE May 2nd: As we pass the $500 mark, I’ll share what is literally the last thing I ever performed in French, “Fleurs,” the final section of Francis Poulenc’s song cycle Fiançailles pour rire, the whole of which I sang on my senior recital at Carnegie Mellon University in 1991, with LeAnn Overton on piano. I can’t help cringing at my yet-to-mature technique and awful French, but Fiançailles pour rire remains my favorite piece of that recital, and possibly my favorite of anything I’ve ever sung at all. I think my love for it shows in the interpretation. Will I be reprising this (and more) next year? Time will tell!

Click here for “Fleurs“.


UPDATE May 3rd: WE HAVE CROSSED THE $1000 mark! This means that I WILL be dusting off and improving my French and recording at least one art song for the benefit of my teens! Will there be more? Will I have to do the *gulp* recital?? Time will tell!


UPDATE May 5th: We just crossed the $2000 mark, which means I’m now on the hook for at least 3 songs! At $2175 we’re almost halfway to recital! Can we get there? Will I have to book a hall? Who knows?

In the meantime, I’ve been practicing…


UPDATE May 6th: We are heading into the last couple of hours of this fundraiser, and we’re so close to our goal! Meanwhile, I’m committed for FIVE songs (count ’em, FIVE). If we can just make it to the end, you can even hear these (and many more) performed live next year! Can we chip away at this thing and make it happen for my teens?

Proselytizing: In Other Lands

Back in the day at Manga Bookshelf, I used to write what I called “Persuasion Posts” intended to convince readers why they should invest their time and money on particular series (such as Ai Yazawa’s NANA or Akimi Yoshida’s Banana Fish, etc.). I don’t have a platform suited to this for prose novels (and seriously, by “prose novels” I basically mean “YA fantasy” because do I actually read anything else?) so most of my proselytizing on those books has been in the form of feverish conversations with my teen students and the occasional overenthusiastic tweet. This has generally been kindly received. I’ve successfully gotten some of my teens into favorite authors. Once, Rick Riordan retweeted me. But lately these platforms have simply not been enough.

My life’s a bit too crowded these days to put in the time and effort I used to give to those old “persuasion posts” but I’d like to begin using this blog for recommendations now and then. And what better book to begin with than the latest object of my obsession, Sarah Rees Brennan’s In Other Lands.

In Other Lands is a book I’m so crazy about that I’ve bought it six times.

1. For my Kindle when it first came out.
2. In hardcover when I realized having it on Kindle was Just Not Enough.
3. For my 15-year-old niece when she was having a rough time at boarding school.
4 & 5. For a couple of my teen students who have enthusiastically followed so many of my feverish recommendations (and I, theirs).
6. A copy for my studio library that can be borrowed by any of my teens.

I’d like to think I’m done buying it, but I don’t like to make promises I’m not certain I can keep.

Why do I so adore this book that I’d buy it six times? First, its author, Sarah Rees Brennan is a writer whose works I’ve long loved. She has a very distinctive voice that is funny and charming in way that particularly appeals to me to an extent that is difficult to explain. Just as I felt immediately akin and somehow uniquely recognized the first time I encountered the works of Annie Dillard (whose memoir An American Childhood spoke to me as though it had been written by my own childhood imagination), and immediately delighted by the voice of B.J. Chute when I read her novel Greenwillow as a teen, I was immediately charmed and frankly besotted within the first chapter of Sarah’s debut novel The Demon’s Lexicon—a reaction that has only increased with her subsequent work. Some writers just get you, and for me, Sarah is one of those special few. It is finding authors like these that convinces me of the vital role of storytelling in showing us how we overlap with each other, not just in the physical world, but in our secret, inner selves. It’s what makes us feel that we’re not alone in the world, and that there’s a point to it all.

Why do I encourage other people to buy this book? It’s a truly epic tale somehow contained in a single volume that both parodies “schoolgirl/boy/person in another land” stories while becoming a beautiful, compelling example of same. It’s got a queer protagonist in a genre that really needs many more. It’s charming and freaking hilarious, while also being dramatic and moving at just the right points. It was my favorite new YA fantasy novel in 2017. And it’s not just me! In Other Lands is a finalist for the Award for Best Young Adult book at the Hugo Awards this year, and I could not be more thrilled to see Sarah getting the attention that is, in my view, long overdue.

You can find Sarah talking about the unusual journey of this book here in her blog. You can buy it for a really great price at Amazon here. You can check out her other books, which are all honestly fantastic here. I highly recommend it all.