September 22, 2013
Q: Well, Mr. Fulghum, what’s new?
A: This year – 2013 - marked the 25th anniversary of the publication of my first book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. It’s still in print and still selling. The theater piece by the same name has had more than 2,500 productions and is still playing somewhere almost every week. Hard to believe…
Q: Anything special to mark the anniversary?
A: The 25th anniversary edition of Kindergarten is available now in hard and soft cover.
Q: What else?
A: My novel, If You Love Me Still, Will You Love Me Moving? – Tales From The Century Ballroom, was published very successfully in the Czech Republic in 2010. It was adapted for the stage as a musical, which opened in a major theater in Prague on June 8, 2013. It will have another run next season. I was there for the rehearsals and the opening night. A high point in my life. (There are photographs of this event on my Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum)
A: A personal memoir – a companion to that novel – was published in Czech in May in time for the Prague Book Fair and the opening of the musical. The title is The Argentine Tango Chronicles of Senor Don Roberto Juan Carlos Fuljumero y Suipacha.
Q: What’s the subject matter of the novel and its companion memoir?
A: In a word, doorways.
Q: That’s it?
A: To expand a little: Everyone has doors in the living room of their lives that they assume are locked. Doors that lead to artistic expression. People say “I have no talent – I can’t dance or sing or paint or write poetry or play an instrument.” More often than not the doors are not locked, just closed. One may turn the handle, open the door and pass through into a larger life space. More specifically the novel and the memoir are about the urge to dance – the process of learning to dance – and the dimensions of love and romance involved in dance. Especially tango. The framework of the novel is an echo of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. That’s a collection of stories told by pilgrims on the way to a holy shrine. My novel is a collection of interwoven stories from the lives of people on the way to realizing the possibility of dancing. Tango is the specific dance form involved. The Century Ballroom is the space beyond the doorway.
The memoir concerns my introduction to tango and the months I spent in Argentina experiencing an intensive immersion in the deeper world of tango and Buenos Aires.
Q: Will these books include music?
A: Not an actual recording, but music is implied throughout both books by the illustrations done by my wife, the painter, Willow Bader. (You can see them on her website www.willowbader.com.)
Q: Why so much activity in Czech?
A: All of my books have had considerable success in the Czech Republic. I usually add that it must be that my editor and translator are much better writers than I am, but I’ll never really know because I don’t speak Czech. My Czech editor asked to premier the novel there. The new memoir is a companion to the novel – they go together – one fiction, one autobiography. You might say that the Czechs asked me to dance, and I dance with those who ask. The theater where the musical was performed was built by the grandfather of Václav Havel and he worked in it as a stagehand before going on to be the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic. Imagine that! It’s an honor to have my work staged there. I lived in Prague for several weeks in 2013 – to see the play come to life, and to enjoy being in a country where I’ve previously spent most of my time only on book tours. It’s a country with deep soul and a long, long literary tradition.
Q: When will the new novel and memoir be available in English?
A: Out of frustration with the state of American publishing, I decided to make the novel and the memoir available to readers as a free download from my website. I want it read, so I decided to distribute it to readers. Go to the Home Page of robertfulghum.com, and click on the two downloads on the left hand side of the page. Some details about this are available in several journal postings on the site.
Q: So that means your readers are your publishers?
A: Yes, and I like that idea. Writing and reading are always a collaboration, and taking that collaboration one step further into publishing seemed a natural way to extend collaboration.
Q: What else is new?
A: I’ve been assembling a new collection of essays and stories. The complicating news is that there are enough pieces to make more than two books, not just one. And I still write regularly for my journal on this website.
Q: And so?
A: The next big editing task is to sort out the pile and come to some decision as to whether there will be one big book or two or what? I’m working on that this winter and making good progress.
A: There are two working titles for the project. Either Kindling for the Fire or What I Learned After Kindergarten.
A: Perhaps in early 2014 – and as long as I make the writing available as free downloads, I don’t have to hassle with the publishing world and its deadlines.
Q: Anything else that’s new?
A: I’m on Facebook and Twitter now – though I still find those social media sites perplexing. I’m just not very e-savvy. But someone else manages the site for me and makes it easy. I’ve also just bought my first cell phone – about which I have mixed feelings – but my wife finds my struggle with it amusing, and it’s worth the effort to just hear her laugh.
Q: So what’s next?
A: A friend asked me that recently. I do sense fresh ideas in the far back end of my mental workshop, so I answered that I have a title for a new book: “?!” – A question mark followed by an exclamation mark.
Q: What’s it about?
A: It’s hard to summarize at this point, but if you want to see what I’m up to, chapters are posted under the working title, Mender of Destinies at the top of my website homepage. The work grows as the inspiration comes and goes. Take a look at a work in progress.
Q: Anything new going on outside literature?
A: I signed on as a member of The Beat Goes On Marching Band of Portland, Oregon. A long-held dream come true. It’s a big, active band – 200 or so members on the roster. Because they are based in Oregon and I’m not, I don’t get to march and play as often as I’d like. Just two big parades and a park concert so far. But they are patiently willing to accommodate my irregularity and to indulge my fantasy of being in a band. I play percussion in what they call “The Trash Line” – big brass cymbals and sometimes tambourine. The Beat Goes On is a nice phrase for the sum of my life in the fall of 2013. Onward! is my mantra.