"Poor Will's Almanack for 2021"
Bill Felker is an award-winning writer, NPR host, and author! Bill has been chronicling nature in his columns, articles, almanacs, and NPR radio show since 1984. His “Poor Will’s Almanack” has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. Since 2006, Felker has had a “Poor Will's Almanack” podcast. The radio version airs on NPR station WYSO.
Now Bill has his 2021 Almanac coming out and according to him it has something for everyone to enjoy. Bill watches the world and realizes that what happens in nature has a direct effect on what happens inside people.
Which is why these almanacs aren’t just for farmers but are helping everyone stay in touch with nature and with themselves!
How did you get started writing almanacs?
Two things: My wife gave me a barometer back in 1973. I got hooked on tracking its movements. Then, when I quit smoking in the 1980s, I walked in the woods every day and took notes on what I saw as I fought off nicotine. My nature notes, along with my weather records, grew so extensive that I asked the local newspaper editor if I could do a weekly almanack. He said sure. That was in 1984, and I’m still doing it.
Apart from the spelling, what makes Poor Will's Almanack different from other almanacs?
Poor Will focuses on what goes on outside in nature and inside in your head. In addition to astronomical data, this year’s almanack contains descriptions of the 48 seasons of the year, weather forecasts that list each major cold front of the year, a list of blooming time for plants, and the S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Index – which tracks and predicts the major factors that contribute to seasonal stress. Besides all that, Poor Will contains great Americana: 30 farm stories contributed by my almanack readers. No almanac without a k can touch it.
You also have an NPR show, can you tell us a bit about that?
My weekly three-minute segment, Poor Will’s Almanack on NPR station WYSO in Yellow Springs Ohio, is a personal “sermon in nature,” in which I talk about and reflect on what is occurring in the season. The introduction to the segment describes the context of the sun’s position in the zodiac, the moon’s phase, and the phase of the season (early fall, middle fall, etc.). My reflections attempt to describe what that context might mean to the listener.
Who would you say is your prime market?
My essays and radio podcasts have had a broad appeal (since 2006) to central and western Ohio NPR listeners and to readers of the Dayton Daily News. My weather, farm, gardening and nature notes are popular in farming communities in the Lower Midwest and nationally in Countryside and Small Stock Journal.
What has writing the almanac taught you about yourself?
I grew up as an adult through writing Poor Will’s Almanack. The more I learned about nature in the place where I lived, the more I learned about who I was: a person who liked to discover and record what is actually taking place. Once I started writing and creating a form for all my observations, I saw that I fit into a structure that included my neighborhood as well as the stars.
It sounds like you have many other publications. Can you tell us about those?
Everything I have written over the past thirty years has come from the Almanack in one form or another. My Weather Book is a distillation of my method of forecasting (based on my barometric records). My Daybook for the Year in Yellow Springs, Ohio is a twelve-volume (700,000 word) memoir-compilation of all my nature notes and almanack research. My two essay books anthologize a selection of my almanack’s essays which first appeared in the local newspaper and then on my NPR segment.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about almanacs?
Almanacks are not just for farmers anymore! Everyone is staying more in touch with nature these days – whether it is because of hurricanes, forest fires or global climate change. And people don’t just want the facts. They want information from a real person (Bill Felker, aka Poor Will) who watches the world and realizes that what happens in nature has a direct effect on what happens inside people.
Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to tell us about?
I am currently working on a book about my thirty-years as a shadow boxer. When I stopped smoking around the age of 50, I not only started walking and taking notes, I began to study martial arts, reaching a second-degree black belt in aikido. I have continued studying and training on my own since then. My work-in-progress is a memoir of that journey and an attempt to understand how and why martial arts can be of value at any age.
For more information on Bill please visit : poorwillsalmanack.com
Liz Westwood from UK on October 27, 2020:
This is a very interesting interview. You have a good technique of drawing out a lot of fascinating information.