‘mr. clark’s big band’ goes to southborough library & the symphony

southborough library photo

The book talk/signing at the Southborough Library finally — finally! — happened after being rescheduled three times following snowstorms and a bout of the flu.

claflin obrien and clarkParents of current and former Trottier Middle School students who attended the reading at the library (see video below) told me they were mentally and emotionally brought back to the days when our children roamed the halls of the middle school, when some of the kids played music for Mr. Clark, and when all of the students mourned the loss of their friend, Eric Green.

Two days later, Mr. Clark and I chatted about Mr. Clark’s Big Band with music fans at the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra’s final performance of the season, a season in which music educators were celebrated.

Some current Trottier Middle School students attended the show in Milford’s historic town hall and stopped by to greet Mr. Clark, who couldn’t play the trombone with his pals in the Claflin brass section because he recently had elbow surgery (see the sling he’s sporting in the photo below).

claflin obrien and clark2Several folks also paused at the book table to fondly remember former Algonquin Regional High School music director Dennis Wrenn, the man who helped Mr. Clark get his job in the Southborough school system and who is mentioned several times in Mr. Clark’s Big Band.

It can sometimes seem like a small world indeed.

Image credits: Southborough Access Media (first image), Scott Weiss (other two images)

Advertisements

talking student journalism at umass amherst

UMass Collegian panelI climbed into the mental “way-back” machine at UMass-Amherst over the weekend at a reunion of fellow alums who’d spent countless hours tucked away in the windowless Campus Center basement working on the university’s student newspaper, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

Invited to speak on a panel of alums — along with S.P. Sullivan, award-winning investigative journalist and Larry Bouchie, president of a public relations firm — we talked about our respective career paths, taking chances, and being willing to continually learn and update one’s skills. The intrepid B.J. Roche moderated. Meanwhile, the student editors schooled us as one introduced us to a new app (new to me anyway), Slack.

The afternoon event also included a keynote speech from Boston Herald sports columnist/UMass grad Steve Buckley, a discussion about local newspaper ownership in New England, and a presentation from the current Collegian editors on the publication’s evolution to a largely digital news outlet.

Image credit: Mark Curelop.

‘big band’ book wins publishing award

Screenshot 2018-04-12 19.36.22

Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room has won a 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award.

The group–which received over 4,500 entries for this year’s contest–honored Mr. Clark’s Big Band with a bronze medal in its Education: Commentary/Theory category.

“This year’s winners represent books from 41 U.S. states, Guam, and DC; 6 Canadian provinces; and 12 countries overseas,” the Independent Publisher group said in a press release.

Ironically, the silver award winner in my category is Joseph E. Aoun, author of Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and president of the university where I teach. Two Northeastern University educators in one category. Not too shabby!

Screenshot 2018-04-18 11.48.15

Mr. Clark’s Big Band is also a finalist for the Foreword INDIES Award, in the Education category.

foreword finalist

Image credits: Independent Publisher Book Awards and Foreword INDIES.

signing sneakers & arms at a massachusetts middle school

ac82ea3d-b0de-4adb-b1d4-4a76ff1c0fd6It was in Monson, Mass. where I autographed my first arm.

And my first sneaker.

And a slightly sweaty palm.

f8f5e515-78e3-46c4-b15a-b6df7ca57768

Students from the Granite Valley Middle School — where I spoke in March about Mr. Clark’s Big Band — were full of questions, energy, and requests for me to use my green Sharpie to sign … their various limbs and footwear. (They SWORE their parents would be totally okay with this. For the record, I remain skeptical.)

Before I spoke in the auditorium, I visited the Granite Valley band room where students assured me that their Mr. Clark — who goes by the name of Mr. Topham in Monson — is just as lively and off-center as the lead character in my book.

a012dafb-8c38-4c57-9cb9-84193fa88e57Later, I shared stories about how and why I came to write Mr. Clark’s Big Band about a middle school jazz band about an hour’s drive to the east, told them tales about Southborough’s Mr. Clark, and read passages aloud while a PowerPoint presentation behind me showed various images of Mr. Clark (including one of him in a goofy pink wig during a performance), and of the Trottier Middle School band room.

The image that got the loudest response? The one of chicken-in-a-can that was on screen as I read a segment from the chapter called, cleverly enough, “Chicken-in-a-Can.” At least the presentation was AFTER lunch so it didn’t spoil anyone’s meal.

a1e0c588-b981-4df5-a402-4b3fc295c218I also got the opportunity to catch up with my friend from West Springfield (MA) High School, Granite Valley’s Principal Mary Cieplik (above, on the right), who generously invited me to address her students.

If you’d like me to visit your students, or your book club, send me an email: mereditheobrien@gmail.com.

Images from Granite Valley Middle School’s “In the Loop” newsletter.

april 26: southborough book reading/signing event

Screenshot 2018-03-29 11.51.24Let’s try this again, shall we?

My book talk/book signing at the Southborough Public Library–located in the town where Mr. Clark’s Big Band is set, not too far from the Trottier Middle School–has been rescheduled for a third time. Hopefully there will be no snow or flu complications on the new date: Thursday, April 26 at 7 p.m. (*knocking on wood*)

I’ll be discussing how I came to write Mr. Clark’s Big Band and what the writing and researching process was like. I’ll read several select excerpts and, afterward, have copies on sale.

Image credit: Southborough Public Library. 

 

2017 indies book of the year finalist: ‘mr. clark’s big band’

Screenshot 2018-03-21 10.38.26

Mr. Clark’s Big Band is among the finalists in the Adult Nonfiction-Education category in Foreword Reviews’ 2017 Indies Book of the Year Awards.

“More than 2,000 entries spread across 68 genres were submitted for consideration,” Foreword Reviews’ press release said. “The list of finalists was determined by Foreword’s editorial team. Winners are now being decided by a panel of judges across the country, reflecting Foreword’s readership of booksellers and librarians.”

Winners will be announced in June.

Image credit: Foreword Reviews.

essay: what to tell my students about journalism as it’s under assault

Screenshot 2018-03-19 12.30.28The nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism think tank, the Poynter Institute, recently ran a column I wrote in response to news that reporters covering the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida were being sabotaged online by people posing as journalists on social media with the intent of further eroding the public’s trust in the news media. Given that those charged with gathering news and rooting out the truth are already under assault from those at the very highest levels of the U.S. government, the opening of this new front in the war against the news media is an unwelcome development.

A salient excerpt:

We are in a world where journalists don’t just have to worry about double-checking the information and material they gather via social media. They now have to worry about their identities being stolen and their work actively thwarted by nameless, faceless actors, hell-bent on discrediting journalism and journalists in real time.

Read the entire column here.

Image credit: Poynter Institute.