Welcome Radio: Tales From the General Store

Annie Stillwater Gray

Lifelong DJ Annie Stillwater Gray recreates her ten-year radio program, The General Store Variety Show, in this novel about the northern Maine border town of Angels’ Notch.

In an extraordinary twist, the radio station in the general store powers a vortex that opens a portal between the physical and spirit planes. Mythological characters use the magical doorway to appear as guests on the radio show, while the local inhabitants have their own stories to tell. In a setting of great natural beauty, tensions build as the community takes sides over buried treasure and the enduring quest for love and fulfillment.

Excerpt from Welcome Radio’s foreword by Andy Wendell:

The central Maine town of Solon is a magical place. Of course, so is the entire state of Maine—with its beautiful landscape of mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, and coastline. Tucked in the foothills of the upper Appalachian Mountains, Solon lies on the east side of the Kennebec River along scenic route 201 to Canada. The town has a history of log drives, steamboats, trains, dams, and the Solon Hotel, and in 2009, Solon celebrated its bicentennial birthday with fireworks and a parade.

Solon is also special to me because that is where my wife Annie and I live. Drawn here by our love of the Maine countryside, the two of us first met as actors on the set of Annie Get Your Gun at Lakewood Theater. Maine’s oldest summer theater, located on Lake Wesserunsett near Skowhegan, has attracted actors—some very well known—and audiences for over a hundred years.

Later we formed the musical act “Annie and Andy” and produced the CD Folkinaise. We also perform with the female a cappella comedy act called the Twatones. One of our favorite activities together is the “play-in-a-gravel-pit” in West Athens, Maine, performed every July 4th by the guerilla theater troupe known as the In Spite of Life Players. Every year we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day (and Annie’s birthday) with our friends by putting on a play in a gravel pit. Since the early 1970s, a parade of less-than-traditional floats has started at noon at the crossroads in West Athens.

The parade ends with the giving away of fake awards and a rebellious salute in the direction of Washington, DC — followed by the play. While a worthwhile experience for anyone who appreciates the right to freedom of expression, the parade and play are not for the faint of heart. Annie and I love being part of this experience — writing and playing songs, performing characters, helping paint sets and run sound. For us, the July Fourth play in the gravel pit has it all. From out of this background of theater, music, and art, came the next big project for Annie and Andy:

The General Store Variety Show.

The General Store, as we call it, is a one-hour radio program we produce weekly for airplay and web stream from a handful of stations in Maine and elsewhere. For the last ten years, The General Store has been an extremely rewarding and creative outlet for us, and we could never have accomplished this feat were it not for our friends, relatives, strangers, actors, writers, musicians, artists, and radio stations. (. . .) Though we do make recordings of real people being themselves and talking about subjects they’re familiar with, most of the characters appearing on the show are fictional. These roles include local residents or travelers “from away,” as well as less temporal Greek gods and other deities and archetypes, and even non-human spirits, including fairies and elves.

Another wonderful part of producing our show is how much fun we have with everyone who helps us. I stand in awe of an amazing group of people who are always eager to bring to life the scripts written by Annie and others.

Best of all, we have made a lot of new friends along the way, and everyone who records on our show has a good laugh and a great time. (. . .) Nearly five hundred shows later the broadcast continues, and this book is now ready to be enjoyed.

Just like Solon, Angels’ Notch is an enchanting place, as real and fantastic as your imagination. There is an exciting journey ahead of you. So open your heart and mind, shift gears, pick up this book and read yourself into the valley of Angels’ Notch, home of Welcome Radio.

Welcome Radio: Tales From the General Store by Annie Stillwater Gray, 288pp Quality Paperback, ISBN 978-1-882190-07-2 US $14.95

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