Friday, April 30, 2010

Decemberists Frontman to Pen Kids Series

Colin Meloy, lead singer and songwriter for the Portland-based indie rock band The Decemberists, has just signed a contract with Harper Collins for a three-book illustrated adventure series for kids, illustrated by his wife, the acclaimed illustrator Carson Ellis. The first book in the series is scheduled to be published in Fall 2011.

The series, Wildwood, will be a "classic tale of adventure, magic and danger set in an alternate version of modern-day Portland." Meloy says, "I grew up on a steady diet of Lloyd Alexander, Roald Dahl, and Tolkein; this is our humble paean to that grand tradition of epic adventure stories." Ellis adds that this collaboration is something she and Meloy "have been dreaming about for years." In signing the book, Donna Bray, co-publisher of Harper imprint Balzer & Bray said, "Storytelling and rich imagry are hallmarks of Colin's songs, so writing a novel seems like a perfect next step for him."

Meloy was born in Helena, Montana, and attended the University of Oregon before switching to the University of Montana in Missoula to major in creative writing. His sister, Maile Meloy, has published several books including her most recent, Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, a collection of short stories named one of the top ten books of 2009 by the New York Times Book Review. Meloy formed the band The Decemberists in 2000. The band's most recent album is 'The Hazards of Love."

Carson Ellis was born in Vancouver, Canada, was raised in suburban New York, and earned a BFA in painting at the University of Montana. According to her website, she has been a nanny, a hot dog vendor, a chairlift operator, an artist's model, and a cocktail waitress, among other occupations. She is the illustrator-in-residence for The Decemberists, creating album covers, posters, websites, t-shirts, and stage sets. She illustrated the bestselling children's book The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart -- one of the most popular kid's series at Broadway Books -- as well as The Beautiful Stories of Life: Six Greek Myths, Retold, by local author Cynthia Rylant, along with other books.

The Decemberists are playing a benefit tonight with Michael Hurley at the Liberty Theater in Astoria (8 pm) to help offset the medical debt for local artist Jessica Shleif. As Ellis says on her website: "One day we'll look back and laugh at a health care system so dysfunctional that we had to organize benefits to help our friends pay their emergency hospital bills. ha ha." Ha ha is right! That is such a ridiculous concept, and I hope this country is on its way to correcting that. But I digress....

I don't typically have high hopes for books written by "celebrities," but I have a good feeling about this series. And in fact there is a good parallel precedent in the books by local (ok, Scappoose) writer -- and singer/songwriter -- Willy Vlautin. Vlautin, frontman for the alt-country band Richmond Fontaine, has written three terrific novels: The Motel Life, Northline, and his newest, Lean on Pete. [One of my favorite quotes about Vlautin is another author saying that he "writes like the secret love child of Raymond Carver and Flannery O’Connor." What a great recommendation! But again, I digress....] So good songwriting and good fiction writing can go hand in hand.

Suffice it to say that I'm excited about Wildwood, and I look forward to a great series from Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis. I hope they raise tons of money in the benefit tonight, even though it sucks that that's what we have to do to pay medical bills these days.

1 comment:

  1. If Colin's adventure series is anything like his songwriting, I expect stories that are quirky, offbeat and marvelous. Can't wait! Thanks for the alert.


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