“Wah-Say-Lan” – Through the eyes of a Seneca



James Herbert Smith creates historical fiction by looking through the eyes of a young Seneca woman during the Revolutionary war.

When did you decide you wanted to publish a book?

After I read “Old Yeller” in 4th grade. I tried when I was 25 then I tried and succeeded when I was 53, though it took me 10 years to complete it.

What was your inspiration for the story?

We spent time every summer on Canandaigua Lake. As a boy I listened to my grandmother, aunts and uncles talk about the Seneca Indians on the lake. I day dreamed about how silent it must have been back then, just the lapping of their canoe paddles in the water. So the lake itself is my inspiration.

In your own words what are the book’s main themes?

It is a true story with fictional characters told from the Native American point of view through the eyes of a 17-year-old Seneca woman — Wah-Say-Lan — about how her people had lived on Canandaigua for eons but their life is about to be turned upside down. Through Jamwesaw, a slave fighting for his freedom in the Continental Army, the story also examines the contradiction of the Founding Fathers birthing a nation based on freedom and independence, yet many of them were slave owners. Jefferson and Washington are key characters in the book. There are lessons, but fundamentally it is a love story and an adventure story that readers tell me holds their interest.

How did it feel to write in the voice of your main character, Wah-Say-Lan?

She is a young, smart, strong, independent woman. I raised four young, smart, strong, independent daughters and so I had good role models for my character. I worried sometimes that I wasn’t smart enough to keep up with Wah-Say-Lan. That was a challenge.

Which character from the story do you identify with most?

That’s a tough question. One reviewer wondered aloud that Jamwesaw is similar to my own name. He is unquestionably the most noble character in the book — vowing to find and free his mother from slavery, willing to entirely change his life because of his love for Wah-Say-Lan. When you create characters (and have them interact with real historical figures) you really get inside their heads; and so I think I’d have to say that I identify with Wah-Say-Lan as much as with Jamwesaw.

What was the best part of writing this book and what was the most challenging?

The best part was finishing it and getting it published. My B.A. from SUNY Brockport is in American History and there are seven pages of bibliography and so the research was challenging, yet also a marvelous trip into Iroquois and American Revolutionary War scholarship. There is an awful lot of excellent scholarship on the Six Nations of the Iroquois, but not a lot of fiction. Creating the story and seeing people turn the page to see what is happening next is the most satisfying feeling.

“Wah-Say-Lan” is available through NH Booksellers for $19.95
Purchase the book here -bring your questions and your copy to be signed at the festival!

The Beaumonts: Bringing…sandwiches?

The Beaumonts play music you have to hear to be able to define. Steve (vocals and guitar) told us what got him started in music and how the band works together for inspiration.

When was the exact moment you realized you wanted to be a musical artist?

The first time I ever actually SAW someone doing it…as opposed to just listening. I was on vacation in Cape Code in 1974 and my parents stopped at a restaurant on the way home to Avon, NY. There was a band on a small stage there, and when I walked back to our table from the bathroom the guitar player winked at me. I was mesmerized by the sight and sounds of live musicians.

What sparked that passion?

I have been moved by music since before I could walk. I remember hearing songs on the radio even back then that seemed to take me to another world; the combination of the melody against the chords was like a complete language to me. The idea of being able to create that was the most exciting idea I’ve ever had.

When did you first start pursuing your passion/career?

My friend’s parents had a country band, and in 1979 I would go downstairs at their house and play the drummers kit. One day his father came in the house while I was playing and asked “Hey, where’d you learn to play drums like that?” I said, “On your kit….” So he gave me his old kit which I played on for about a year and a half until my brother brought home the first Van Halen album. I sold my drums 3 days later and bought a guitar. I was 15 years old.

How would you describe your music?

I describe it as alternative pop rock … but what does that mean? I always have to describe it using elements that make it up in terms of what most people might already know. It’s old Chicago meets Bob Marley meets the backing band to Amy Winehouse meets Doves with some Elvis Costello and Cardigans thrown in. It’s all original music. You have to just hear it and make up your own label I guess.

Where is your music being featured and sold?

We play all over. We opened up for Michael Franti two years ago, Eddie Money last year. You can buy our music at our shows, or just get a hold of us through www.beaumontsmusic.com. We also have videos on YouTube and will have songs on iTunes soon.

What feedback have you received from showcasing your music and performances?

Most people who have never heard us assume we’re from out of town because we have a killer horn section and a very tight rhythm section. It’s tough to be an all-original band in Rochester but we have gotten some great reactions to our songs over the years. 

What has inspired you the most and why?

We seem to inspire each other. Everyone in the band is very talented at what they do and we get excited about what everyone brings to a song. In the end, it’s about emotion and connecting with others through that emotion.

What projects are you currently working on?

We are headed into the studio in the next month to begin a full recording project.

What do you feel you will bring to the Canandaigua Arts and Music Festival?

Probably some sandwiches…is that ok?

What should attendees expect to see from your performance at this year’s Festival?

A polished band with some amazing original music.

What’s one thing that people may not already know about you?

We like great conversations, walks on the beach, and are just as comfortable in jeans as we are in, say, a classic evening gown.

The Vassar Brothers Want You to Dance

Playing on the Country Bluegrass Stage Sunday, July 18 is the band Vassar Brothers. From 5-6pm they promise to entertain everyone nearby with music that will make you want to dance. For a band whose  Facebook page lists themselves as working on “the road,” attending the school of “hard knocks,” and whose political and religious views are both summarized as “funk,” their attitude is spunky, tongue-and-cheek and entertaining.

When did you first start pursuing your passion/career?

We formed in July, 2010.

When was the exact moment you realized you wanted to be a musical artist?

August 7, 2010 – The date of the first Vassar Brothers gig. We played for about 10 people in someone’s front yard.

What sparked that passion?

Each member of the band brings something different to the table which makes each rehearsal, show, etc. fun and exciting.

How would you describe your music?

Polyethnic funkgrass

Where is your music being featured and sold?

You can check us out on Facebook and myspace.com/vassarbrothers.

What feedback have you received from your performances?

Usually people pass out from excitement, make babies, and, in general, relate it to a religious experience.

What has inspired you the most and why?

Being in a 7-piece band, everyone brings their own inspiration to the table and we’re able to draw from that, which ends up creating a unique sound.

What projects are you currently working on?

We’re currently writing material for our first album, Oxford Barn.




What do you feel you will bring to the Canandaigua Arts and Music Festival?

A Vassar Brothers show is a mix of funk, bluegrass, rock and blues so everyone should expect to dance from the first note to the last.

What can we expect from your performance at this year’s Festival?

We play a mix of cover songs and originals. We try very hard to never put on the same show twice and we always play music for dancing!

Unique Letters: Building Word Art

Phyllis Frankenfield photographs things that look like letters. Using these “letters”, she builds custom word photo artwork on demand.Unique Letters Festival Booth

How did you come up with your name?

It just seemed to fit the letters!

How did you get your start in photography?

I had this passion, and my parents give me my first Kodak camera when I was about 10 years old.


Who inspired you to become a professional photographer?

My cousin’s husband. He was a great professional photographer doing weddings and art shows for many years in the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania.

What types of products do you offer?

Letter Art Photography in black and white.

What feedback have you received from showcasing your work?

This must be the best part about doing Letter Art, from small children with their parents being able to do their names, to seeing the faces of someone that does a special gift for the hard-to-buy-for person. I like the idea of having my work in homes all over the states and many countries.Music

What can attendees expect to see from you at this year’s Festival?

I will bring letters from the state of New York.

What’s one thing that people may not already know about you?

I am working on being married to my husband, Bob, for 50 years.

Where/how can people purchase your work?

Art shows in the New York State area this summer or online at www.unique-letters.com

Flying Whale Studios: Merging dreams with reality

Kevin Schoonover created Flying Whale Studios to create and share interpretations of the world around him.

Where does the name “Flying Whale Studios” come from? 

I love whales. I’m a huge whale nut. I studied them in Hawaii in the 1980s and I hope to see all the major species in the Flying Whale Studioswild before I die. The image of a Humpback whale, with its outstretched lateral flukes, whether gently swimming under the waves or dramatically breaching through them, suggests flight. The absurd idea of such a mammoth creature taking to the air has a dreamlike quality. This is what I strive for in my photos — the idea of a dream or a memory.

What inspired you to become a professional photographer?

The compulsion to document and the desire to share.

How did you get your start in photography? Louder Sang the Ghost

In 1983, after taking some introductory courses at RIT, my grandmother gave me my first SLR camera, and an entire darkroom set-up to go with it. When I mentioned to her then that I was having trouble finding a place to buy a “safe” light bulb, she opened a drawer in a cabinet in her living room, dug back a ways, and pulled one out that she and my grandfather had last used in the 1940s developing his pictures. “You mean one of these,” she asked mischievously.

What types of products do you offer?

My current work revolves around two major subjects: The seashore and abandoned rural buildings. The joy and freedom and color one associates with the beach juxtaposed against the washed-out sadness of empty barns and houses appeals to me. There is a dreamy nostalgia for a time that never really existed.

What’s one thing people may not already know about you?

I am not a photojournalist. My work is not exactly as the world appears but more how I wish it were. Or how it could be. Or how it might have been. Or not. I strive for a version of reality rather than reality itself. Contrary to popular belief, the camera does lie. I dabble in a variety of post-production techniques that affect color, contrast, clarity, etc. I believe it is the job of the artist to interpret the world, not just report on it.

What feedback have you received from showcasing your work?

The response has been incredibly favorable and very gratifying. I have an image of young Mennonite women frolicking in the ocean surf that, practically without fail, generates broad smiles and squeals of delight. Making people happy and eliciting such strong, positive emotions is a great feeling.

Littoral Women

What should attendees expect to see from you at this year’s Festival?

I have a variety of limited-edition photographs, signed and numbered, in three basic sizes. Many are framed; all are matted. I also carry a line of blank photo cards.

Where/how can people purchase your work?

Images are always available at www.FlyingWhaleStudios.com.

2011 Exhibition of work: “Abandoment Issues” at Stomping Grounds in Geneva (June 25-August 27)

2011 Exhibits: Syracuse Arts & Crafts Festival (July 29-31), Arts at the Gardens in Canandaigua (August 20 & 21), Clothesline Festival in Rochester (September 10 & 11), Quaker Arts Festival in Orchard Park (September 17 & 18), Naples Grape Festival (September 24 & 25), Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival (October 1 & 2), Letchworth Arts & Craft Show (October 8-10), Canandaigua Christkindl Market (November 11-13), Holiday Bazaar Arts & Crafts Sale in Rochester (November 18-20)