Friday, March 24, 2017

Behind the Soundtrack - "Encyclopedia Toms"

Behind the Soundtrack is a blog series featuring anecdotes and reflections on writing and recording Songs for Sam(antha): the I AM DRUMS Soundtrack. Go here to listen to samples from the entire album.


"Encyclopedia Toms" was originally the second song on the album, following an opening track that was tentatively titled "Take That, Danny!" at one point and "It Wasn't a Drumstick" at another.

I ended up bumping it up to the opening track because it felt right to open the album with a deceptively quiet riff that explodes when the chorus hits. The first minute of the song is like listening to a beginning musician transforming into a pro. It seemed appropriate for what might be in Sam's head while playing her fake desk set and imagining the real thing.

At one point I wanted a shuffling drum beat for the opening riff, but thankfully I dumped that idea. The drums really started coming together when I figured out the ride pattern on the chorus. The driving,  flying-down-the-highway-powered-by-the-speed-of-rock drumbeat for the rest of the song came naturally after that.

I worried about the title at first. It made sense for the story, of course, but I almost made the ill-advised decision to alter the drum beats to have more toms. If there is one thing I've learned about any form of art, it's that inauthentic, inorganic additions to meet imaginary criteria are almost always a mistake.

And I'd already managed to get some wicked tom fills in, so the title was already fitting.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hey Teachers & School Librarians! Win the I AM DRUMS Classroom Rockout Pack!

I've wanted to host a giveaway exclusively for educators for a long time.

Why? Your classroom rocks. Your students rock. YOU rock. But how is anyone ever going to know unless you have the "I AM DRUMS Classroom Rockout Pack"?

What's the Classroom Rockout Pack? It's a giveaway exclusively for classroom teachers and school librarians, running for approximately two weeks until April 4th.

I'm serious. Here is a list of people who CAN enter:

1) Classroom teachers
2) School librarians

Here is a list of people who CAN'T enter:

1) Stock Brokers
2) Personal Chefs
3) Your father
4) Dr. Dre
5) Daisy Ridley
6) Donald Trump (yeah, I had to go there)
7) Your neighbor with the really big dog
8) Anyone else who isn't an educator

Here's what the Classroom Rockout Pack contains:

- One signed hardcover of I AM DRUMS for your classroom library.
- A drumstick and postcard for each of your students (classrooms come in all sizes, but I unfortunately will not be able to supply more than 35 sticks at max and appreciate your honesty as to your actual number of students)

So what are you waiting for? Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I AM DRUMS chosen for the Illinois Reads 2017 Reading List

I've been sitting on this news for two months, so I'm excited to finally share that the Illinois Reading Council has chosen I AM DRUMS for its "Illinois Reads 2017" list!

"Illinois Reads" is a reading list comprised of six books for each age level. I AM DRUMS was chosen for grades 6-8.

I'll be attending the launch event in Wilmington in March. Until then, you can learn more about the Illinois Reads initiative here.

Hooray for reading lists that rock!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Gift I AM DRUMS this holiday with a signed postcard

Give the gift of super loud rock and roll literacy with I AM DRUMS this holiday season!

Plus, if you email with proof of your purchase and mailing address and I'll send you a signed postcard and download code for "Songs for Samantha: the I AM DRUMS Soundtrack".

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

An Election Poem

A student asked who I was
voting for

I said
"I can't tell or
sway you
only provide tools
to cast your own when it's
your turn."

She was confused,
So I said

"Ask yourself my expectations as your teacher

Nice words
Kind hands
Constant learning
Complicated solutions
An open mind

I want for my country the same as my classroom
Nothing more. Nothing less.

Ask yourself which candidate would be most welcome here."

The student nodded and said

"I think I get your point."

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fearless Friday -- Breathing New Life Into a Blog Series

UPDATED 11/6/2016: It's been two days since I livestreamed "One Man Band" on Facebook, and the response was great!

You can view the live video here!


Authors (especially debut authors) spend a lot of time being scared. Of rejection. Of strangers reading our work. Of reviews. Of writing the next book. So facing our fears is a part of our process.

Before my first publisher closed down, I was a member of the Fearless Fifteeners debut author group (I still consider myself an honorary 15er, but that's another post).

During my time with the group, I got some of my fellow debuters to participate in a blog series called FEARLESS FRIDAYS, where one author on one Friday would face one of their fears.

We ended up with some pretty cool posts. An author read the worst line from their first unpublished manuscript. Another slept in a room with creepy dolls. Another sang in a video. And I walked out onto the Skydeck at Sears Tower (never Willis Tower) in this silly video to face my horrible fear of heights:

I loved hosting this blog series, and I want to try it again.

So I'm kickstarting it later this afternoon by Facebook Livestreaming a song, performed with multiple instruments, entirely by myself with the help of a JamMan looping station.

I may do well, or I may blow the whole thing. I'm afraid it will be the latter. But isn't that the point? I'm scared to do it, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Connect with me on FB at and wait for the stream to start between 5:00 and 5:30 this afternoon, right before you enjoy your wonderful dinner.

Friday, October 28, 2016

I AM DRUMS Web Show Debut on LadyBird & Friends

A few weeks ago, I made my web show debut on LadyBird & Friends, hosted by rockstar librarian Betsy Bird!

The full show is up on YouTube, so watch and enjoy. Watch for our maraca and tennis ball jam during the credits.