Tag Archives: fiction

From Stage to Page

October 6, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

After 28 years directing one of the nation’s top youth theaters, James Larson knows how cats talk. They tend to be a bit snooty. They certainly like to think they’re smarter than your average talking dog.

So shifting to writing children’s literature after decades directing the Omaha Theater Company for Young People at The Rose wasn’t that big of a leap, Larson says. Especially since Larson also has written stage adaptions for some of America’s most beloved children’s books.

“Writing fiction is quite a bit of fun,” says Larson, who adapted, among others, The Little Engine That Could and Mercer Mayer’s There’s an Alligator Under My Bed for national tours. “I’m usually limited to the space on a stage. In a book, nothing limits your imagination. I can have rocket ships blasting off to the moon. Pigeons can talk. It’s liberating.”

It’s a pleasure to witness that imagination unbound. His new book, “A” is for The Alchemist is a pure joy, a book seemingly written by a seasoned literary veteran rather than a first-time novelist.

“A” is for The Alchemist, a tale of a brother and sister (Winnie and Winslow) and their cat and dog pitted against a mad scientist, has exactly what fans of the Theater Company would expect from Larson: Vivid, fun, young characters, dastardly antagonists, a frolicking adventure and, yes, some lovable and pitch-perfect animal characters.

While Larson may have been steeped in the storytelling art, he did struggle with some of the novel demands of writing literature. For one, when you have 255 pages of story, you have a lot more story to tell. That means more backstory. Much more than in stories for the stage, Larson had to get to know everything possible about his characters and the landscape in which they live.

“To make them come alive, you have to know these characters so well,” he says. “I’ve written so much just in the process of getting to know them and trying to get to understand the craft. While some things about writing may be easier because of my profession, in some ways, writing this book is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

One of Larson’s longtime collaborators, Mark Medoff, winner of both the Tony Award and Olivier Award for his play Children of a Lesser God, effused about his friend’s skill at storytelling. Larson and Medoff have collaborated on several productions over the years. Medoff says he’s excited to see Larson try his hand at fiction.
“James became one of my heroes,” Medoff says. “He is such a talented artist and humble and generous human being that it’s not shocking he made the Omaha Children’s Theater into an international success.

“I so look forward to reading his book—and my grandchildren reading his book,” he says. “I know it will enhance my respect for…this dear and unique man.”

The book is already beginning to garner significant positive reviews.

Kirkus Reviews wrote that Larson “has written a well-paced story with all the ingredients to keep kids enthralled.” A Clarion Review piece said the book “is a promising start to Larson’s new series, which will appeal to children and young adults seeking an action-packed novel with some fantastic twists.”

Yes. Winnie and Winslow and their friends are scheduled for many more adventures, Larson says.

“I really like these characters, I really enjoy spending time with them and exploring their lives,” he says. “I honestly can see writing about them until I’m—I dunno—89 or so. That’s how much I care about them.”

A Date Night In

January 31, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Omaha Models: Bess Warming and Dan Lehmann

Hair and makeup: Kat Ferm, Creative Hair Design

Stylists: Shan Stavropoulos, Luvbird Boutique; 
Emma Headley, Scout Dry Goods & Trade

Special thanks to Back in the Day

 Luvbird Boutique
 2110 S 67th St., No. 120

 Scout Dry Goods & Trade 
5019 Underwood Ave.


The invitation

“What are we doing for Valentine’s Day?” he asked.

She looked at him blankly, then laughed. “Pizza, TV, and sweatpants? You know, like last year?” It had been a long day. Her students were getting into basic algebra, and her kids were getting into everything.

“Tradition is important,” he admitted, “but what if we switched things up? Dinner, music, something nice?”

He was serious, she realized. “Well, okay, but the kids? We can’t ask your mom to watch them again. And how nice? I mean, we did just come up with a new budget.”

His smile was mysterious. Lofty. “Wear something fun. I’ve got this.”

The planning

It was Valentine’s Day, and she was staring into the depths of her closet. Fun? she thought. Well, she had a few new things from Luvbird Boutique that she hadn’t had a chance to wear yet. The plum fleece leggings would work with that crocheted tunic and the long camisole. The jeweled headband was a bit more whimsical than she was used to, but if she threw on that knotted pearl necklace from Scout Dry Goods & Trade along with their suede ankle boots

She nodded at herself in the mirror. Perfectly boho chic.

Her phone beeped. His text read: Meet me in the living room.

“What?” she whispered, but she couldn’t stop a grin. She didn’t exactly run downstairs.

He was sitting in front of the fireplace, surrounded by old vinyl and an antique, portable record player. With his denim jacket, flannel shirt, and black skinny jeans from Scout, he looked straight out of a 1960s ad. She was pleasantly surprised to see the leather cuff and black ankle boots. He had laughed when she’d given them to him. “Accessories are everything,” she’d replied.


The music

He looked up and grinned. “I promised Mom we’d make her dinner next week. We’ll get the kids tomorrow morning.”

“Look who’s so proud of himself,” she said, kneeling next to him. She flipped over a record. “The Bee Gees?”

He took it from her and set it in the player. “FYI, every time you criticize my selection, you owe me a serenade before dinner.”

She raised her eyebrows. “I haven’t touched the guitar in years.”

“I haven’t played the piano since college. We’ll risk it.”

The love

Three 45s later, he asked, “You hungry?”

“What about those serenades? I seem to owe you six.”

He laughed. “You go change for dinner. I’ll cut it down to two.”

“Change? What is this, Downton Abbey?”

“I thought it could be fun to really pull out all the stops. I personally am going to wear a bow tie.” He smoothed an invisible mustache.

She cocked her head. “I see your bow tie, and I raise you high heels and a dress.”

That off-the-shoulder emerald dress from Luvbird would do, she thought as she raced back upstairs. With their blue teardrop necklace. And Scout had some great white lace tights the last time she went in. And those leather peep-toe pumps too.

She heard the soft strains of their tiny upright before she came back into the room. Hm. The shawl-neck sweater and dark-wash jeans from Scout fit him better than she remembered.

She tapped him on the shoulder. “Scoot over, college boy.”

He grinned and never stopped playing.