This week’s other featured book, “Two Natures,” by Jendi Reiter, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the First Tuesday Replay. Or, click the author’s name on our Authors page.
THE BOOK: Are You Famous?
PUBLISHED IN: 2008.
THE AUTHOR: Ken Waldman.
THE EDITOR: J. L. Powers.
THE PUBLISHER: Catalyst Book Press (so you know, this was the first book the publisher did; the publisher went on to release several more books, took a hiatus, then returned with a much different focus).
SUMMARY: Ken Waldman moved to Alaska in 1985 to attend an MFA program in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he graduated in 1988, an emphasis in fiction writing. Four years later, spring 1992, working as a tenure-track assistant professor in the rural community of Nome, Waldman fell ill with a mysterious ailment characterized by debilitating joint pains. He was 36 years old. For most of the next three years, he couldn’t type, couldn’t play music, and sometimes had trouble even walking. He had to resign from his job as he sought healers from New York City to Seattle. When he at last regained his health, he started combining his talents in writing, music, and teaching, and began working as Alaska’s Fiddling Poet.
This is a memoir of how he came to grow into that career, and what it took to sustain it.
THE BACK STORY: Ken Waldman has been a full-time touring musician and writer since 1995. Written in 2005 (except for a December 2007 postscript), and published in 2008, this memoir is also a handbook on how someone can become a troubadour and then how to make a living at this most arcane of professions. The subtitle is an apt description: Touring America with Alaska’s Fiddling Poet.
WHY THIS TITLE: Ken Waldman works in lots of settings. At schools, his sessions are often interactive and include a question-and-answer session. His general shows often include a time for questions. He’s been asked, “Are you famous?” by elementary school students, by senior center residents, and by folks of every age group in between.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Why read any (good) memoir? It’s an exploration of the human condition.
In this case, too, there’s practical information for anyone wanting to learn what it takes to make a living as a practicing artist.
Also, because the author is an experienced, much-published writer, a reader can be confident that she or he will be in good hands.
“Highly recommended for personal, academic, and community library collections, Are You Famous? is an honest and candid perspective on the music business from the inside.” —Midwest Book Review
“Are You Famous? is the ultimate DIY guide and inspirational text.” —Tucson Weekly
“Are You Famous? is the story of a man who is anything but famous (in the traditional sense), but whose generous artistic spirit makes him a compelling and memorable figure.” —Times of Acadiana.
“Are You Famous? is a book about making music and poems, about America, but finally, is a book about hope. . . . I really loved the book.” —Al Maginnes, music critic and poet
“Ken’s story is . . . all our stories, collected and distilled by a roving poet/musician possessed of a clear eye and a big heart. Waldman is clearly in the tradition of Walt Whitman, Woody Guthrie, John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey.” —Jim Clark, Jordan Professor of Southern Literature and Writer-in-Residence, Barton University, Wilson NC
AUTHOR PROFILE: Ken Waldman is a writer with 11 books (9 full-length poetry collections, a memoir, and a kids’ book), and a fiddler with 9 CDs (including 2 for kids). On stage, he combines Appalachian-style string-band music, original poetry, and (mostly) Alaska-set storytelling for a performance uniquely his. www.kenwaldman.com for more information.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: One early reviewer asked why anyone would go to the trouble to live such a life. Ken Waldman’s response was to put together a CD, titled Some Favorites, to go with the book.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link).
LOCAL OUTLETS: I always have copies–or can get more from the publisher. It looks like Amazon has copies. My contact information is below.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: In theory any bookstore ought to be able to get their hands on a copy. Or else contact Ken Waldman directly. The publisher might have copies available also.