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What is Stories for Ways & Means?

Ten years ago the founder of Waxploitation, Jeff Antebi, had an idea to ask his favorite music artists and favorite contemporary painters to come together and collaborate on original children’s stories for a children's' literacy benefit project.

Today, 29 of those pairings make ...

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Benji Michaels

Outlier Tales, Famous Voices: Waxploitation Records’ Curious Collection of Stories for Ways and Means Released in Softcover Limited Edition

A decade ago, Waxploitation Records founder Jeff Antebi, arts entrepreneur, conflict photographer, and former manager for GRAMMY Award-winning artists like Gnarls Barkley, Danger Mouse, and Broken Bells asked a broad range of acclaimed songwriters with unconventional perspectives to write a children’s story. The stories accumulated and were paired with wild artwork from some of the best and brightest in the contemporary art world.

The result was Stories for Ways and Means, now out in a new softcover edition (audiobook coming soon!). The book includes stories from Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Frank Black, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Laura Marling, Devendra Banhart, Alison Mosshart, and Kathleen Hanna with artwork from painters/illustrators like James Jean, Anthony Lister, Alessia Iannetti, Dan Baldwin, Swoon, Will Barras, Ronzo, Kai & Sunny.

“There were no deadlines, and no direction,” Antebi recalls. “I said to them, ‘100 words or 1,000, or 10,000 words.  Whatever feels right. Write for babies or toddlers or kids or grownups. If it feels like a children's story to you, then it's perfect.’”

The resulting book wound up far more grown up and challenging than Antebi’s original prompt implies. Yet there is something about the compactness of children’s tales--the ones they tell, the ones we tell them--that match a songwriter’s approach to conveying an entire world in a few minutes. Children’s perspectives are also imminently outlier perspectives. “Kids are on a whole other planet, and they see the world in a weird, very profound way,” reflects Antebi. “Their point of view is a lot like the point of view of outsider artists. They find a direct path to a simple way of explaining things.”

This first edition is one of many, Antebi hopes, as he plans to issue SFWAM books regularly in upcoming years. “It’s something akin to a festival with a different lineup every year,” he explains. “The writers and artists will change, but the feeling of the books will be the same.”

Sales of SFWAM help several non-profits benefiting children’s literacy, including Pencils of Promise, Warchild, 826 National, and Room to Read. See for more details.