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'A Fairy Tale' Come True

Singer Rosanne Cash returns to the town she grew up in as the author she always wanted to be.

August 26, 2000

When Grammy Award-winner Rosanne Cash was growing up in Ventura, she expected one day to write books. But after graduating from St. Bonaventure High School in 1973, she moved away and became a songwriter and performer instead.

Now it turns out that she has also become an author after all.

Meet Cash this Thursday, 6:30 p.m., at Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road in Ventura, where she will discuss and sign her new children's book, "Penelope Jane--A Fairy Tale" ($15.95). The book and CD package includes her original song, "How to Be Strong," published by HarperCollins.

Cash, 45, also has written "Bodies of Water," a short-story collection for adults published in 1995. Her essays and fiction have appeared in the New York Times and in several magazines. Now she is editing a collection of prose by songwriters, including herself, to be released in March.

"I always knew I would be a writer. From the time I was 8 or 9 years old, I just knew that was what I was going to do with my life. I didn't know that I would become a songwriter," said Cash, daughter of country music legend Johnny Cash.

When songwriting became her passion and the focus of her work, Cash continued to write prose for herself. She said her short-story collection was the culmination of a childhood dream.

Her latest children's book evolved from her 5-year-old daughter Carrie's problems falling asleep at night. Cash said she made up the character of a tiny fairy--no bigger than an eyelash--who lived in her daughter's room and did all kinds of adventurous things. The character, Penelope Jane, became such a part of the family that one day Carrie asked her mother to make it into a book, Cash said.

"I ended up writing it in verse, and rewriting it in verse. By the time I found a publisher, wrote the song for the story and found the illustrator, it was a six-year process," Cash said.

She wanted to add an index, a French glossary and her character's genetic history, but her editor held her back, she said with a laugh. The book is geared for children between 4 and 9. She plans to write a sequel next year, she said.

Meanwhile, Cash is working on another record that will probably be out next spring. She said she is also excited about her debut as music supervisor for a movie that begins filming in September.

"I'm really enjoying some of the other elements of my life. If I was married to having to do a tour every year, I would kill myself--I just hate that," she said.

Cash lives in New York City with her husband, John Leventhal, and her children. Asked if she ever misses Ventura, she sighs deeply. Whenever she comes to Ventura and its slower pace, Cash said, she takes a deep breath and thinks it's wonderful, but part of her needs to live in a big city.

"I brought my four biological children back last summer to see Grandma. We spent over a week at her house and almost drove her completely out of her mind, because I have an 18-month-old baby," Cash said.

When it was suggested that she might want to return to Ventura to live when she has retired from show business, Cash laughed and said, "Maybe when I'm decrepit. I'm already old."


Special Event: On Sunday at 2 p.m., Michael Ajakwe Jr. will present a live performance of several scenes from his new play, "Company Policy." Promoted as the first play by an African American published in the new millennium, "Company Policy" is a workplace drama/comedy that explores how black professionals experience discrimination. Ajakwe is an Emmy winner and producer for E! Network's "Talk Soup." He has also been a writer/co-producer for television shows including "Martin" and "Sister, Sister." At Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, (446-2820).


Note: For one last camping fling before the end of summer, check out "Campgrounds of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties" (Sunbelt Publications $9.95) by Jeff Tyler. The guidebook contains complete descriptions of public campgrounds with detailed information on each site, plus fees, restrictions and directions for the coastal areas, inland valleys and mountains. Available in area bookstores or through the publisher at


* Today, 10:30 a.m. Back-to-school stories. All about starting kindergarten and more. Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 160 S. Westlake Blvd. 446-2820.

* Today, 1 p.m. Author Robert K. Tanenbaum will discuss and sign "True Justice." Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 374-0084.

* Today, 3 p.m. Author Michael McGarrity will discuss and sign "The Judas Judge." Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., 374-0084.

* Today, 4 p.m. Author Paul Owen will discuss and sign "The Dog Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Dog Training." Borders, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.

* Sunday, 2 p.m. "Company Policy." A live performance of scenes from a new play by Michael Ajakwe Jr. Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 446-2820.

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