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Nothing sluggish about new book, song

Posted: July 31, 2013 - 1:21pm  |  Updated: August 1, 2013 - 11:14am
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Photo by McKIbben Jackinsky, Homer News
Several people have played a role in the “Slugs Forever!” project, which will benefit the Independent Living Center. They include Marianne Schlegelmilch, Robert Hockema, Maggie Winston, Sally Wills, Joyanna Geisler and Dave Gerard.

In spite of its name and leading character, there’s nothing slow-moving about “Slugs Forever!’

What started as a book project to benefit the Independent Living Center — an organization promoting choice, independence and quality of life for individuals and families living with disability — has attracted the illustrating talent of an artist; the songwriting, arranging, singing and instrument-playing of local musicians; and the energy of two young collaborators. The end result: a book-CD package that highlights the ILC’s mission through the antics of one of Alaska’s least-known critters: a slug.

A book signing will be held at Homer Bookstore from 4-6 p.m. Aug. 8, a second signing at Fireside Books in Palmer beginning at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 7, and other signings are being organized.

“It has had quite an amazing life of its own,” said Joyanna Geisler, ILC executive director.

“Slugs Forever!” began when Homer author Marianne Schlegelmilch and her husband, Bill, turned to the ILC for help when Bill’s doctor recommended some modifications be made to the couple’s home. Inspired by the ILC’s support, Schlegelmilch proposed writing a book specifically to be used as a fundraiser for the organization.

The manuscript Schlegelmilch created focused on a spirit of giving, love, compassion, working together, and respectful, interactive support. Not only did the idea and the manuscript win the ILC board’s support, it also inspired board member Maggie Winston of Kenai to volunteer as the book’s illustrator. With her pencils and paintbrush held between her teeth, Winston, who has been paralyzed from the neck down since contracting transverse myelitis in 2005, set to work creating illustrations that matched Schlegelmilch’s prose.

Homer musician Dave Gerard became involved in the project after he was at Schlegelmilch’s home to do some repairs. In the course of conversation, Schlegelmilch told Gerard about the book project, gave him a copy of the manuscript and asked him to consider writing a song.

Inspired by the idea, Gerard told musician Sally Wills and she “didn’t hesitate. We wrote the song in an hour,” said Gerard.

“When I found out what it was about, that did it for me,” said Wills of participating in the ILC-benefiting project.

Another well-known Homer musician, Cathy Stingley, joined the effort, along with her two young granddaughters, Audrey and Keeley, who added their own creative stamp. Ann Keffer helped with the musical arrangement “and it didn’t stop there. I have Robert (Hockema) in my life and called him and he didn’t hesitate,” said Gerard of recruiting Hockema to produce and record the song, which was mastered by Peter Ratner of Anchorage.

“It’s something that’s bigger than all of us. I kept saying to the group, ‘What’s happening?’” said Gerard of the momentum the project gathered.

Schlegelmilch also was amazed at how “Slugs Forever!” just kept “getting bigger and bigger.”

Shaking her head at the journey “Slugs Forever!" has taken, Geisler said, “Everything just fell into place.”

The book and CD set sells for $14.95. In addition to the Homer Bookstore, "Slugs Forever!" is available through:

• Publication Consultants, publicationconsultants.com;

• The Independent Living Center, 235-7911 or peninsulailc.org.

A link to both sites also is available through Schlegelmilch’s website, marianneschlegelmilch.com.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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