...Concord Free Press “Free their books and their minds will follow,” says Concord Free Press’s founder, Stona Fitch. He and his wife, Ann Fitch, publish limited edition trade originals by established writers and give them away. Books are distributed at selected bookshops and online with a sticker that reads “100% off.” Several recommendations to readers: Don’t keep the book; keep it moving. Pass it on when you’ve done. Give to a charity of your choice, any charity, something you wouldn’t have given otherwise. Mention, anonymously, to whom you’ve given and how much. You want a free buzz? Check out the website and see how far these books have traveled and what was given and to whom. The website is a portrait of American generosity and interconnectedness. Yes, CFP first published my novel The Next Queen of Heaven, and yes, I’m on the board. But I was a booster long before that. Latest wrinkle: Concord ePress, whose best seller so far is Sebastian Stuart’s The Hour Between, winner of the Ferro-Grumley Award as the best LGBT novel of 2009. ConcordFreePress.com
...a broader way. Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs established a nonprofit that sponsors theater workshops and a summer performing arts camp. Underserved metro New York communities are targeted. When I hear about people of the stature of Menzel and Diggs using their advantages for the disadvantaged…well, I couldn’t be happier. ABroaderWay.org
…Dick. The 1999 film, that is. We have a scratchy old VHS copy that my husband, Andy, and I force weekend guests to watch. It’s a send-up of Watergate, positing that Deep Throat was really two high school girls. It gave Michelle Williams her first major feature-film role, but watch for a brilliant turn by Dan Hedaya as Nixon. When real-life politics is too depressing, I lunge for Dick. It’s directed by Andrew Fleming. Hi, Andrew! Call me.
…The Queen of the Tambourine. This novel by British writer Jane Gardam, who is less well known on this side of the Atlantic than she should be, is luscious, funny prose you could stir into a Sunday punch to inebriate everyone on the veranda. Also look for Old Filth and a wonderful teen novel, A Long Way From Verona. Hers is as individual an authorial voice as you’ll read this year.
…Vermont road-builders. At 7 a.m. August 29, the morning after Hurricane Irene surprised upstate New York and Vermont with an inland tsunami, local heroes hurried out to assess damage. Strafford, the town where we stay some weekends, was reduced to one road out of town, but all over Vermont road crews and volunteers worked tirelessly to get to the stranded and open medical emergency routes. They stayed cheerful and diligent. And I’m told that a lot of them are cute.
…Joel Grey. When he agreed to play the Wizard in the Broadway musical version of Wicked, I gasped. His turn as the creepy emcee in the film Cabaret (specifically singing the number “If You Could See Her”) had inspired me to include talking animals in the novel Wicked. He is debonair and seasoned on the stage, but his voice is still that of a 24-year-old crooner. How does he do it? Magic, that’s how.