I started this blog when I started writing a biograpy of my mother, songwriter/activist Malvina Reynolds. I wanted to chronicle the process of research and writing but mainly I wanted more immediate feedback. I am used to writing in short forms: songs, stories, poems, articles; my previous book, a how-to on storytelling ran about 50 pages in the first edition. I wanted an audience right away, not five years hence. Well, it’s been longer than five years already and the book is nowhere near done. The blog is done, though, for now. I had technical difficulties and stopped posting it a couple of years ago, though I kept writing the biography. Now I’ve suspended work on the bio to write another book, this one about my own activities in and around the Occupy movement, working title Occupella: Singing in the Lifeboats. For more about that story, see my other blog at

   I find I refer to Writing Malvina from time to time to refresh my memory and I also link to it from my Occupella blog, so when Apple told me, where it was posted, was about to disappear, I asked my daughter and website designer to post the thing on a website. She did that, not as a functioning blog but as a blog preserved in virtual aspic. This home page has a comment section below this introduction for general comments, but no new comments can be added to the individual pages and there will be no new posting. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If you have stories or information about Malvina, please write to me at nancy [at]


I'm back to posting on this blog after time off to sing with Occupella, a group of song leaders that started at Occupy Oakland and Occupy Berkeley in the fall of 2011, and to blog and pull together a book about it. Now I'm back to working on the biography of my mother, and I've been working from transcriptions of a series of interviews of my father, William Reynolds, known to the family as “Bud,” that was done in 1969 and 1970. Bud was born on February 5, 1897, in Bay City, Michigan. Here he is talking about his father and his big brother Harry when the family lived on a farm outside Bay City.


“Harry was driving into town. He was about thirteen years old. There were some rich farmers along the way. We didn’t know them, but we knew who they were. They were the Biddells and they were very rich. One of the Biddells was taking a business course in the business college in Bay City and he was late. So he asked us for a ride and of course everybody gave everybody a ride at that time and he took the reins away from my brother and whipped the horse into a real lather. My brother objected, but he was thirteen years old and the other guy was a grown man. So when we got home, my Dad asked my brother why he drove the horses so hard. He explained the whole thing. And my father gave him a horse whipping. My father was terribly ill tempered, vicious and unreasonable. The next day my brother said, ‘Don’t ever try that again because it’ll be a fight, not a whipping.’ 


“When Harry grew up, he was the strongest man in the Ford Company. They were lifting beams and he’d get one of these beams and get in the center of it where it would balance, and lift the damn thing when no other man could lift it. He got married, he was gone from the house. I had gone on a hobo trip when I was nineteen without my father’s permission but I was back living at home. I was twenty-three. Now I said to my brother a dozen times, ‘If you just take my father by the arm and just shut down as hard as you can and say, “This has got to stop,” that’s all you have to do.’ And he never would do that. It was cowardice on his part. He wouldn’t face the realities.


“So finally--my father was much bigger than me and still in his fifties and had worked all his life so he was hard as a rock, but his breath was likely to have been shorter. Anyway he was threatening the family with a butcher knife. We were in the kitchen. And I jumped on his back and put a hammer lock on his neck and he fell down on the floor. And I think I was under him, but I grabbed his neck and held till he went limp. And when he got up he said, ‘You might have killed me.’ And I said, ‘You’re goddamn right I might have.’ He never raised a finger again.”


The lessons my father learned from these interactions with his father were two. He learned to stand up for himself, and he learned how not to be a father. For that I am grateful this Father’s Day and every day.

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