David Foster Wallace – Writing Quote Wednesday

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Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using Flickr photo by Livid Fiction originally taken by Steve Rose

What does it mean to be authentic?

According to Wikipedia, it is “the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures.” 

I was in a relationship for a long time where I couldn’t be my authentic self for many reasons (which I won’t go into here). I felt that, to have a successful relationship, I needed to hide my true self. Whenever I’d venture into an area in my creative life that made me happy and felt true and right for me, the other person would put it down, or make it seem bad and wrong.

I made the excuse to myself that I needed to be inauthentic in order to make the other person happy.

This was a major mistake because, in the end, both of us ended up being much more unhappy than if we were true to our own spirit and character from the beginning. The relationship ended. My creativity and psyche suffered for a long time; I didn’t express myself as powerfully and as authentically as I knew I could.

I know for myself, when I acknowledge what’s authentic for me and pursue that (not always achieving it, but at least pursuing it), my writing and other creative work is clearer, stronger and reaches a wider audience.

When I try to write what I think other people want to read, it’s not as strong as when I listen to my authentic self and try to write from my vision, my way of “fracturing reality,” as David Foster Wallace said.

I think the journey to authenticity is lifelong and changes as you grow and change as a person. It’s one of the many reasons I continue to pursue a creative life. Every day I get to decide how authentic of a life I’m going to lead.

Do you remember a time when you weren’t true to your authentic self and how it affected you?

Leave a comment to tell us about it.

If you aren’t being as authentic in your life now as you’d like to, what’s stopping you?

Maybe by telling your story, you’ll find an authentic way of breaking through whatever is holding you back. I know I have.

Now it’s your turn.

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Watch David Foster Wallace talk about ambition from PBS Digital Studios on YouTube.com

Livid Fiction on Flickr.com. (CC License)

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Richard Rhodes – Writing Quote Wednesday

Richard Rhodes Writing Quote

Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using Flickr photo “Look Downstairs into the Stairwell Whirl” by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann

How often do we ask ourselves the questions posed in Richard Rhodes’ quote?

  • Who am I?
  • What right have I to speak?
  • Who will listen to me if I do?

A great teacher of mine once said, “No matter what has happened in your life, you always have the right to tell your unique story NOW.”

Often, we think of our failures, our lack of trying, our excuses, as reasons to give up. We say, “I failed again, I might as well stop doing this thing I really love doing.”

But at any moment, you can choose to start again, to tell your story, to enlarge the circle.

With the passing of Robin Williams, many people have shared the stories of their experiences with depression. Each story I read gives me strength to tell my own.

My struggles with depression and anxiety happened during a time right before I was hired for my dream job. Instead of being happy about finally achieving a modicum of success, I had constant worries and thoughts about how it could all go wrong. I thought I deserved my illness somehow, that I was a bad person and was being punished. I thought that I didn’t deserve happiness.

Then, when I sought help, I realized that those thoughts had more to do with mixed-up brain chemistry and the need to share my stories more openly and live a more authentic life than anything to do with who I was as a person. The depression was causing me to think of myself as undeserving and bad and wrong. My only crime was being human.

Those closest to me didn’t understand. They said things like, “Cheer up, don’t be sad, look on the bright side,” and other clichés that people say to those who are feeling down. But depression is not just feeling down. It is a dark, spiral staircase that descends into a deep cellar of despair and loneliness.

It took a mental health doctor and prescribed medication and telling my stories to really help me recover.

I lost some important relationships and a job or two while I struggled with depression. I look back on those years and wish that I had been able to find help sooner. Maybe by sharing this story now, I can help someone else find the help they need more quickly.

Those relationships and that job cannot be recovered, but I can continue sharing my stories with passion and hopefully enlarging the circle.

Please share your stories, you have every right.

Watch Richard Rhodes talk about his writing on YouTube.com

***

Get Richard Rhodes’ book How to Write: Advice and Reflections on Amazon.com.

If you are feeling desperate, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK or visit them at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Karl-Ludwig Poggemann on Flickr. (CC License)

Make YOUR Writing Stronger with #PitchWars

Guest Blogger and Pitch Wars participant Emily G. Moore

Hi, Paul, and thanks for having me on your blog!

Writing started as my therapy outlet, but passion took over. Before last summer finished, I had cranked out a rough draft for my first novel, a middle grade fantasy. After a few rounds in critique groups and my husband’s general seal of approval, I threw a wide net of query letters out into the literary world. Rejection after impersonal rejection swamped my inbox.

When I heard about Brenda Drake’s giant writing contest and the chance it gave for some one-on-one mentor/mentee novel critique with a professional writer or editor, I quickly rewrote my novel and submitted it. (For more info on #PitchWars,  go to Brenda Drake’s blog here.) In my head, this seemed like the best way to get my novel in tip-top shape and resubmit it to agents.

For two weeks, I joined the herd of hopefuls stampeding twitter with feeds and re-checking inboxes for page requests. By the time I scrolled through the finalists list and realized I wasn’t on it, I’d learned so much that I already expected to be excluded. I’d made dozens of friends, a few new critique partners, and connected virtually with many of the mentors. I’d clicked links to read blog posts about character, plot, pacing, and how to write query letters and pitches that sell. I began to understand the market and what agents, and ultimately publishers, were looking for.

That first manuscript never went far. (From what I’d heard at that first Pitchwars, setting aside the first novel is totally normal.) I placed it sadly on a hypothetical shelf, and I still ponder what it could be. Maybe someday, I’ll tear it apart and make it something worth an agent’s time. I sidelined it just before National Novel Writing Month 2014, and my in-laws had spent three and a half weeks of hunting season in mountainous Idaho regaling me with tales of my husband’s scarce upbringing.

On the few occasions my phone’s hotspot worked, I caught an interview with an agent on my submit list, and he said he wanted a retelling of something unique, something middle grade that would appeal to boys. ROWDY DAYS OF DOM SANDERS, the novel I am entering in this year’s Pitchwars competition, helped me finish my first ever NANO based on his suggestions.

The morphing of that first fifty-five-thousand-word NANO project into the novel DOM is full of tears, frustrations, flash card plot shuffling, and thousands of emails with my amazing critique partner Libby Webber (if you don’t know her, send her a nod and wave on twitter @libbywebber and tell her Emily sent you!) I got DOM into a middle grade word count range with just the right amount of voice and hook.

It took two months of rapid reading to find a comparison title other than its classic re-telling twin THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER. Another set of query rewrites with Dannie Morin on her blog-based Bait and pitch workshops on Thursdays all summer got it contest ready. All the while, I felt a surge of energy and excitement for August. Pitch Wars was coming back around!

This year’s Pitch Wars seemed to have amplified from last year’s experiences in so many ways. I’ve met twice as many diverse and amazing people. Just in the weeks leading up to submission day (August 18), I’ve deepened friendships and really got to know the mentors who volunteer their time and expertise to Brenda Drake’s cause.

And even as important, I’ve continued to click every link offered by those who’ve been where I sit. (Not literally, after all, my office doubles as a vehicle parts storage shed, and I think only I could find comfort in that.) But their suggestions have pushed me beyond my limits and abilities, making all my writing, both novels and freelance work, better.

I’ve learned the value of beta-readers, found out what filter words are (and deleted nearly 500!), and learned how to use action as a dialog tag and not the word “said”. I’ve learned how to shorten a query, removing fluff and dividing up comma-filled sentences. I’ve learned how to write a synopsis with just the right amount of detail and how to be professional in the literary world. These are the things any writer willing to participate in contests can receive if they fling themselves in the fray and absorb everything like a crusty, dry sponge.

Entering Pitch Wars is easy. All you need is a manuscript you think is perfect and a strong work ethic. But what you gain from it is entirely up to you. Taking part in the community this contest blossoms will benefit you as much as selling that novel. If a mentor picks you, be prepared to work hard to make that story ready for the world. And if no mentor does, then gather all that Pitchwars offered you and put it to good use on your current work in progress. There are no losers in Pitch Wars, only those who walk away having wasted a magnificent opportunity to make their writing even stronger.

About E.G. Moore

Emily G. Moore is a poet, freelance writer, and storyteller (the first of which her mom still has recorded on a cassette tape.) She’s been an active member of Kitsap County Writer’s Group, For Pete’s Sake Writers Group, and an email writer’s response group for about three years. When she’s not telling “Mommy Made stories” to her two daughters or nagging her husband to edit her latest manuscript, she can be found researching healthy recipes, attending bible study, or on a long, plot-refreshing jog. You can find her on twitter (@egmoorewriter), Facebook (facebook.com/emilygmoorewriter), and her blog E.G. Moore Freelancing and Fiction

—————-

Thank you, Emily, for a GREAT first guest post on Stories are the Wildest Things! I hope our readers get as much out of it as I did. Readers, please leave a comment about your experience and success and/or failure with Pitch Wars and make sure you drop by Emily’s blog and say hi to her on Twitter. 

Have a great writing day!

Paul

  

Writing Prompt 08: Showgirls Playing Chess Backstage

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I found this gorgeous photo on Twitter in the feed of @ClassicPixs. It’s a 1958 photo by Gordon Parks. Parks was a photographer, musician, writer and film director.

This is him:

GordonParks

I want to read a story based on this photo of showgirls backstage playing chess.

  • What is the brunette relating to the blonde and the redhead?
  • Why do they play chess every night (or was this a special occasion)?
  • Who wins?
  • What story does Gordon Parks have to tell?

Post a link to a story inspired by this prompt in the comments section. I might have to tackle this one myself.

On Trying to Write in McDonald’s and Malls

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Flickr photo “Dream House” by Marie Kare

If you’re a reader of Stories are the Wildest Things, you know I have an energetic four-year-old who doesn’t like to nap, especially when I want him to.

This often means that I have to grab writing time in between shouts of, “Look at me! I’m wearing nothing but Play-doh for clothing!” and “Daddy, watch me jump off this six-foot tall bookshelf and land in this pile of Matchbox cars!” and “See how I can fit my wet finger inside this electrical outlet? It looks like a surprise face.”

Sometimes, just to get some writing done, I have to pack up my little stuntman-in-training and head out to a safe and padded place where he can find wee ones his own size and energy level to play with. That way he can spend some of that energy and I can keep my head from exploding like in that movie, Scanners. (WARNING: Graphic Head Explosion)

As you know, I’m not a big fan of their food, but McDonald’s often has a playground and free WiFi. Sometimes I’ll take him there so he can run around and around in the Habitrail-like maze with children whose parents often looked as exhausted as I do. Although it can sometimes be chaotic in Mickey D’s, I’ve often gotten a bit of writing done there, especially if the children are about the same age as or younger than the four-year-old.

Yesterday we went to the mall, however.

There is almost no writing to be done at the mall. The mall is not a good writing place. No one, to my knowledge, has ever said, “I had a great writing day at the mall.” (If you have, please leave me your secret in the comments section. Please.) The mall is a place where ghouls harvest the wails of little children crying to be given the shiny, blinking, furry objects displayed there.

We go there because there is this Bouncy House Place the four-year-old loves where the children can run around and scream and jump on giant blow-up sliding boards and castles and, well, bouncy houses. It’s also has free WiFi.

Now, McDonald’s and the Bouncy House Place at the mall might seem like similar kinds of places, but there are some crucial differences.

In a McDonald’s you can see your child in the Habitrail happily scampering about. There is only one room and you are in the room with them. The children are contained and they can really get inventive with the way they play in the Habitrail.

But at the Bouncy House Place their energy gets all ramped up by the noise and the giant bouncy places and…they disappear.

The bouncy houses are so big and dark you can’t see inside the things. A lot of them are as tall as two-story buildings. There are also two sections in the Bouncy House Place, one for the younger children and one for the…braver children. My son likes to flit between both.

So, after he took off his shoes, he bolted and disappeared into the bowels of a bouncy house. I wasn’t too concerned. We’ve been here before. I placed myself strategically near the exit gate so he couldn’t make a run for the mall when I wasn’t looking.

I opened my beat-up Mac and tried to concentrate on writing a sentence or two in Scrivener, my favorite writing app (get a free trial HERE), but as I tried to write I was distracted by the droning whine of the air blowers and the piercing screams of other children coming from deep inside the inflatable structures.

At least I thought they were the screams of other children. But when a chorus of children is screaming at the same pitch as an industrial air blower, it’s really hard to distinguish which child is yours.

I immediately got up and started searching the bouncy houses for his little blond head to see if he was the one who was hurt (or if he was hurting someone else). I think I catch a glimpse of his shorts disappearing into the no-access upper regions of a two-story tall sliding board and I yell, “Get down from there! You’re not allowed up there. You’re going to fall!”

Just then, a child-who-is-not-mine (but wearing similar shorts to mine) jumps down and looks at me with his little scrunched up face like, “You’re not the boss of me.”

He slides down the slide, arms in the air, then gives me the finger and steps on my toes as he runs gleefully to the next bouncy apparatus.

I call the four-year-old’s name. No answer.

I run from bouncy castle to bouncy race car to bouncy farm-house. He’s not there. I run to the younger children’s section. There he is, crouching low inside a playhouse with a little girl whose hair is the exact shade and length as his. I can’t tell them apart at first.

They stop me with fingers to their lips. “Shhh, we’re spying on those mean kids over there, Daddy.”

The mean kids he’s referring to are standing in a circle about three feet away and can both hear and see them pointing at them and calling them mean kids. They’re pummeling each other with every sharp toy they can reach and laughing wildly as the toys ricochet off their heads and arms and bodies in spinning, dangerous arcs.

I duck.

The four-year-old seems content to be playing spy, but now I’m wondering if it was smart to have left my Mac unattended in the other room. I don’t know anyone here, so it could be gone.

I run back to the braver kid’s section and it is still sitting there whirring loudly, like a plane about to head down the runway. The other parents are much too busy trying to find and/or control their children to worry about taking my beat-up old 747/Mac. This is a relief, but as soon as I sit down and start to type, I hear another wail.

I step into the room just in time to hear a parent asking my son not to throw objects at her daughter’s face. Great. He’s now a mean kid and needs to be spied on.

He apologizes. We have a little talk about not being mean and how play can include everyone. He says, “I’m itchy” and wiggles and wiggles until I let him go play with his spy friend. He runs away, smiling.

I’m just about to start writing again when I hear another wail.

The girl he was playing with is now leaving. I’m informed that he has no friends here now and that this is boring. He is also itchy.

I direct him to the jumpy castle in the braver kids’ section of the Bouncy House Place.

He runs over eagerly and dives through the door of a bouncy race car. He disappears. Bounce, bounce, bounce. Wail. Screams of pain. He rolls out of the door he just dove through and lies in a crumpled heap on the floor.

I rush over.

“I jumped into someone and their body was hard and it hurt my foot. Owie! Ow! Owwww.”

The tears make little river beds through the dirt on his face.

“It’s time for lunch,” I say, wiping his face with a tissue. He squirms.

“We have to le-eave?” he asks with more wailing.

“We can come back later. You’re getting hangry.”

“You mean hungry?” he asks.

I explain how the wordbo (or portmanteau) “hangry” is a combination of hungry and angry and he laughs.

“I’m hangry!” he yells.

I pack up the computer and the cord and my phone and my paper notebook and pen and we find his shoes and slip them on and head to the food court. Pizza is the only thing he’ll really eat in a food court, so I order some. I ask the bored teenagers behind the counter to please make sure the cheese slice is not too hot, I have a four-year-old who is very hungry. (I don’t say hangry to them. I don’t want them to scoff at me.)

They nod their heads and say, “Of course,” but ignore me completely.

When the pizza comes, it’s so hot you can see it steaming in the air-conditioning of the mall and there seems to be burn marks on the paper plate.

I warily give my hangry little man the slice of pizza with the warning, “It’s too hot.”

“But I’m HUNGRY NOW!” he yells, too hangry to remember to say hangry. He puts his tongue on the molten cheese. More wailing.

“Blow on it to cool it off,” I say. It’s something I’ve told him 100 times.

“I don’t know how,” he whines and instead of blowing on it, he punches it with his fist. Several times. Hard.

Oil and cheese and tomato sauce fly through the air, staining my t-shirt.

“That won’t cool it off. That will just smoosh it.” I say, the veins in my temples throbbing. I start thinking of Scanners again.

More hangry wailing. I make him drink his water. He coughs and it comes out his nose.

I touch the pizza to my lips and say, “It’s cool enough now, please eat it.”

He takes a few tentative nibbles, then shoves about a third of it into his mouth in one giant bite. His cheeks puff out and his lips and shirt and nose and even his eyes instantly have tomato sauce on them.

“Use a napkin to clean your face, little guy,” I say.

He nods, then wipes his face with the shirt he’s wearing, saving the pristine white napkins for the garbage can.

He finishes his pizza and we head back to the Bouncy House Place. He is dancing in circles around me and singing his own lyrics to Do You Want to Build a Snowman? as loudly as he can. I ask him to stop dancing around me in a circle. I’m afraid he’s going to trip and fall. As he grabs me around the waist from behind, I tell him so.

“Please stop dancing around me, you’re going to trip and…”

CLUNK!

A sound like a pumpkin hitting the side of a refrigerator lets me know that he has, indeed, tripped and fallen and bounced his head off the granite floor of the mall.

A siren wail of searing pain alerts everyone in our wing of the mall that a small child is in distress. I scoop him up and hold him close. This wailing is real and drawn out. His tiny chest is heaving. Copious tears wet my punched-pizza-stained t-shirt. I check him for a bump or a bruise. I worry that he has a concussion.

I hug him tightly and kiss his head. I want to say, “I told you so,” but I don’t.

People passing by are looking at me as if I’ve done something to make him cry. They ask if he’ll be alright. One little girl looks at me wide-eyed like, “I’m glad he’s not MY daddy” and moves on. Her parents cluck disapprovingly under their breath as they yank her deeper into the mall.

The crying subsides and I suggest we go to the Chocolate Store to get a treat. Chocolate heals all.

I buy us some chocolate-covered potato chips and we gobble them up while sitting under a fake Ficus tree on an uncomfortable mall bench.

Melted chocolate instantly covers his mouth, his arms, his hair and yes, even his eyes. I tell him to wait to wipe his mouth until I get a napkin. He nods and uses his shirt again. He now looks like Ed Norton in Fight Club at the end of this clip. (WARNING: Graphic)

We go to the bathroom and clean up. I check one more time for bruises and bumps and cuts. I’m relieved nothing is bleeding or swelling or turning strange colors.

“You doing alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, Dada.”

He puts his head under the full-force hurricane wind of the “Xcelerator” hand dryer and screams while shaking his head back and forth.

He’s fine.

I figure I can still get some writing time in until mom comes back from her errands to pick us up. She’s out with her intern casting a movie and this was our way of getting out of the house.

As we head back to the Bouncy House Place, my phone rings.

It’s mom, she’s here, it’s time to go home.

I tell the little man and he whines a little, but he’s all wailed out and tired. I pick him up and we head back to the Food Court to meet mom. His head rests gently on my shoulder and his body relaxes in my arms. Energy has definitely been spent.

My laptop bag feels a lot heavier for some reason on the way back. My word count for the day has definitely suffered. Needless to say, I got no quality writing done yesterday.

But today we might go to McDonald’s instead.

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Flickr photo by Mike Mozart

Claire Cook – Writing Quote Wednesday

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Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny from Flickr photo by Aaron Evans

According to her bio page on Amazon.com, Claire Cook was writing her first novel at 45 in her minivan and walking the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of Must Love Dogs at 50. It’s the kind of story of re-invention and stick-to-itiveness that I love.

Cook is now the international bestselling author of 11 novels and a sought-after re-invention speaker. If you’re searching for a way to get a motivated and stay on track, I highly recommend her latest book, Never Too Late, Your Roadmap to Re-invention (without getting lost along the way). You can order it on Amazon.com by clicking this LINK. (4.9 out of 5 stars)

You can also find out more about Cook by visiting her official publisher’s page at SimonandSchuster.com HERE or on Twitter @ClaireCookwrite.

Let me know what you think of Cook’s work in the comments section! I always appreciate hearing from everyone.

***

Watch Claire Cook on the #BTLiveChat on YouTube.com

Flickr photo by Aaron Evans (CC License)

Carpe Diem – The Death of Robin Williams

The death and apparent suicide of Robin Williams saddens me. In addition to being a writer, I’m a comic actor and improviser and Williams is someone I’ve always greatly admired. I owned rainbow suspenders as a kid and quoted Mork and Mindy and his stand-up recordings all the time.

Williams once drew a doodle for a fundraiser that Live Bait, a small theatre company in Chicago, was having to raise money for their season. It was a fun and expressive drawing of Albert Einstein in a flying car in Williams’ flowing hand and it said, “Einstein traveling at the Speed of Life!”

I wanted that drawing so badly because I thought if I owned something Williams created, some of his creativity might rub off on me as well. Sadly, I didn’t win the drawing because it was one of the more expensive pieces to be auctioned off that night.

I did win a doodle by George Carlin, though. His drawing was a series of heavy straight lines connected in a series of angles. The straight lines seemed too stiff for the philosopher comedian, but I was glad to have it. If anyone has a copy of the Robin Williams drawing, I’d love to see a photo of it after all these years.

Like many, one of my favorite Robin Williams films is Dead Poet’s Society. 

One of my favorite moments in the film is when Robin Williams, as John Keating, kneeling on the floor speaking to his charges says, “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.

But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!…of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless…of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.

That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

I ask this question of myself often.

Oh, Captain, my Captain, you will be sorely missed.

Flickr photo by Charles Haynes

Flickr photo by Charles Haynes

Anne Lamott on Williams’ suicide https://www.facebook.com/AnneLamott?fref=nf

Anamnesis – Wildest Word of the Day

Flickr photo from Internet Archive Book Images

Flickr photo from Internet Archive Book Images

Anamnesis, according to Dictionary.com, is “recollection or reminiscence” but also refers to a Platonic idea of remembering things the soul knows from a previous existence.

In medical terminology, anamnesis refers to taking a patient’s medical history. It’s also a term used in immunology that means the way the body responds more quickly to a antigen.

I like the idea that we might remember things from our previous existence as Carl Sagan’s “star stuff” as if we were the universe made manifest in order to figure itself out.

Perhaps our wildest stories come by a process of fictional anamnesis, our Wildest Word of the Day.

Here is Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman and, yes, Bill Nye, remixed and auto-tuned, for those of you who haven’t stumbled across the awesomeness that is Melodysheep and the Symphony of Science series. This piece is called We Are All Connected. Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Blogger Award Nomination: The Liebster Award

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A big thank you to the wonderful and talented Melissa at A Teaching Parent for nominating me for The Liebster Award!

I’ve been out adventuring around the country for the past few weeks, so it took me awhile to respond to this request. Since I have some downtime on the film set I’m working on, I wanted to catch up on this post and try to get it out today.

According to Melissa, The Liebster Award is a way to show appreciation and interest in new bloggers and the blogging community. By participating, I can share the love and nominate a few of my favorite blogs as well. It’s a nice way to recognize some of the great content out there in the blogosphere that you might have missed.

I’m moved by the response Stories are the Wildest Things has gotten since being Freshly Pressed by Cheri Lucas Rowlands at WordPress.com and I happily accept my nomination. In the spirit of the Liebster Award, here are my 11 Facts About Me.

1. I have three wonderful sons and when I think about them the theme song from the old 1960’s television program, My Three Sons, plays in my head. This phenomenon is called an earworm. If you’ve seen Disney’s Frozen, you definitely know what an earworm is. (For more on earworms from HowStuffWorks.com, click HERE.)

2. Like a lot of us, I have many ways of being creative in the world. In addition to being a writer, I’m also an actor (with a different stage name). My wife and I met playing Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for inner-city schools in Baltimore, Maryland. We stayed friends throughout the years and when we both ended relationships, we got back together and have been together ever since. Our lives are filled with creativity and joy and I’m very grateful for that.

3. The avatar I use on my blog and Twitter account is a photo of my 4-year-old son that I took with my iPhone. I love iPhoneography!

4. My middle son did a parody of the viral video “David after Dentist” called “David after Donuts” that got some serious hits (92K last time I checked). It was his idea and he did a great job. You can still see it on YouTube.com. He’s now almost 13 and has a mustache and a really deep voice.

5. The Department of Cultural Affairs once selected my poem, Sometimes the Coat Closet, for a program called Dial-a-Poem, Chicago (312.346.3478).

People could call in to hear a poet read their poem into an old-fashioned tape answering machine.  For some reason, people thought my poem about a young man having a dream about dancing naked in the coat closet with his second-grade teacher was offensive (“porn and smut”) and they called into a radio show and the Chicago Tribune to report it.

During a typical week, Dial-a-Poem got about 450 to 800 calls. The week my poem aired, they got about 8000 calls! Mike Royko, the professional curmudgeon from the Chicago Tribune, did a column about the poem saying he would’ve never danced naked in a coat closet with his second-grade teacher. He said he reached out to me, but I never got a phone call. This was pre-digital, pre-internet, pre-cellphones, so 8000 hits was a lot! I also did a lot of poetry readings in dive bars in those days and met some really great writers.

6. I was a wrestler in middle school. (This video is not me, just a video of middle school wrestlers.)

I was a terrible wrestler, but I stuck with it. I was really near-sighted without my glasses (still am) and hated working out and could never cut weight like my teammates could. I lost every match I ever wrestled except once when I dislocated the guy’s arm trying to roll him over my back. I had to wrestle his older brother in the very next match. He pinned me in about three seconds. It hurt. We went to McDonald’s with my “second place” trophy. I’ve associated McDonald’s with shame and embarrassment ever since. (I still occasionally stop by for a Shamrock Shake in March, though. Minty!)

7. I moved from Chester, Pennsylvania, an inner-city murder capital, to a rural farm community as a young boy. Our mail route was RD3 (Rural Delivery 3). We were even farther out than RD1 and 2.

This was a shock because I went from being threatened with being shot if I wandered into a neighbor’s yard in the city to seeing herds of cows wandering down our street. We’d call the farmer on our open party line, if no one else was using the phone in the neighborhood, to let him know the gate was open.

Our babysitter, Helen, was 80-years-old and didn’t have running water or an indoor toilet until the late 1980’s. We’d pump water, gather coal for the stove, play in the barns, use the outhouse, slop the pigs, gather eggs and run and run. She gave us coffee with milk from the cows and iced lemon cookies every day after school. It was bliss.

8. The video game Rage of the Gladiator uses my voice for a top-level boss, the grand master of the Ottakawa school of martial arts, Master Yee.

9. I went to Catholic school AND starred in an 80’s version of a beloved Jewish children’s television program called The Magic Door  (Dan Castellaneta of The Simpson’s was also on this show). My family background is Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite and I hung out with the Amish and got to drive a horse and buggy when I was younger. I often went to auctions and heard callers like Leroy Yoder. My ex-wife is Russian Orthodox and I practice Dudeism and officiated at the marriage of a couple in a skydiving wedding.

10. I’m allergic to pineapple and watermelon. Thankfully, I am not allergic to peanuts, because I love peanut butter (even if you can’t make diamonds from it).

11. I have way too many books.

My answers to Melissa’s questions:

Why did you start your blog?

Stories are my life. I’ve always loved to write and to read about writing. I’ve taken a long hiatus from writing and wanted to document my journey of coming back with Stories are the Wildest Things. I started this blog to share what I discover with others who are on the same journey. I wanted to explore the problems and joys I (and other writers) have with writing and share how we’ve solved those problems or experienced those joys. I also love to learn and this blog has been a great way to continue learning.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I’m in the middle of writing and I get interrupted. It’s like I go into a trance-like state or something and I’m living inside the writer’s world. If anyone knocks me out of it, it takes me awhile to get back into the flow of things. It physically hurts sometimes. What’s even worse, though, is technological glitches. You work for an hour or so on a post or a story and then it disappears into the ether. That’s painful. I have to get better at hiding from people when I’m writing and backing up my work.

What is your favorite post that you’ve written (provide a link!)?

The post that has gotten the most views was one I wrote while taking a really long shower and thinking about what to write about. It’s called 10 Ways to Know You’re a Writer (one of which is taking really long showers while thinking about what to write about). I’ve really been enjoying meeting everyone and connecting with so many talented and creative people through all the comments, reblogs and links on this post. Getting Freshly Pressed was a nice recognition and a big boost to my blog’s traffic.

Who is your favorite author?

This is really difficult. I enjoy the work of so many. Each person’s voice is unique and hearing their perspective and seeing their take on the world brings me such joy. I can’t name a single author at this time. I read across all genres. If I pick up a book and the first few lines CAPTURE my attention, I’m in. My favorite author is the one whose book I’m reading at the time. Right now I’m reading Ted Hughes’ Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being.

What is your favorite family tradition?

I do love holidays, but my favorite family tradition is the way we take walks that we call “adventures.” When we go on adventures we don’t have a set agenda. We just walk for the pleasure of walking and to discover something we never knew. We’ll stop in a bakery, go to a toy store, wander down a back alley. If everyone is feeling down or the four-year-old is bouncing off the walls, I’ll stand up from my desk and announce, “It’s time to go for a walk.” I don’t think I’ve ever been turned down for this offer.

If you could go to Vegas for a weekend with 5 celebrities, who would be your 5 celebrity friends?

Well, I do know a few celebrities because I work in the film industry, so this is a bit tricky (I don’t want to get any phone calls about why I’ve left someone off the list). I’ve also spent some time in Vegas. I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of casinos and Vegas shows. So, I’d take my 5 celebrity friends and we’d go hiking in Cathedral Gorge and then get a great dinner and some drinks at a classy place on the strip.

Where is your dream vacation destination?

I would love to go somewhere and really be on vacation. It seems that no matter where we go on “vacation” one of us is always working. I do dream of taking my sons on the Appalachian Trail or biking across the country.

What is your favorite type of food?

Local food is the best food you can eat. Some studies suggest eating food from the ground you walk on can actually relieve depression. There are many other benefits as well. Just compare a limp vegetable from the supermarket and one grown nearby and you’ll never go back to supermarket vegetables. Deliciousness.

Who is your celebrity crush?

I’ve always had a crush on Catherine Keener. When I finally got to work on a film with her, it was very exciting. I had a small role and the director had me sitting right next her on the set. She introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Catherine.” I said, “I know.” The scene wasn’t flowing very well, so Catherine leaned in and nudged me and said, “You should ad lib something here.” I did and the director really liked it and kept the line. That was a fun day.

Emmy Rossum and Linda Cardellini are two other crushes who were a lot of fun to work with as well. Anyone with talent is very attractive.

What are the top three things on your bucket list?

Having just lost my grandmother, I’ve been thinking about bucket lists. I’ve had some amazing experiences already.

1. I’d like to travel with my family and have amazing adventures.

2. I’d like to make a difference in the world.

3. I’d like to always be creative and live in abundance and gratitude.

What is your favorite Disney movie?

Finding Nemo As a dad, this one really “swims home.” I toured with the musical The Lion King, so that’s right up there, too.

And I Nominate…

I hope you accept this nomination and choose to take part because I would certainly love to know more about YOU! A lot of these bloggers are really well established, but these are the blogs I visit regularly for inspiration and advice.

Sophie Lizard is doing some really great things at Be a Freelance Blogger http://beafreelanceblogger.com/

Jon Morrow of Boost Blog Traffic has been one of the most helpful blogging experts I’ve studied. Check out his blog at http://boostblogtraffic.com/

The Write Life has tons of great advice. I got a lot of the links for these blogs there. Please visit them at http://thewritelife.com/

If you want to dramatically improve the quality of your life, travel the world, drink wine at noon and make at least 100K a year doing it, you have to follow Ash Ambirge’s The Middle Finger Project at http://themiddlefingerproject.org/

Ali Luke has a lovely no-nonsense blog about writing that you should be reading. Check out her amazing posts at http://www.aliventures.com/

Hazel Longuet of Novel Experience is a fun blog to read and explore. Visit her at http://novelexperience.info/

Still Writing is a National Best Seller by Dani Shapiro and I really love her moving blog at http://danishapiro.com/

Do you feel that there are better things to do in your life? Then check out Cordelia Calls it Quits at http://www.cordeliacallsitquits.com/

I really love what Jeff Goins is doing at Goins, Writer http://goinswriter.com/ I think you will, too!

Jon Winokur is another one of my favorites. If you are looking for writerly wisdom for the ages, check out his blog at AdvicetoWriters.com http://www.advicetowriters.com/

Shanan and I have a lot in common, we’re both Procrastiwriters. To get motivated, check out her great blog at http://www.theprocrastiwriter.com/

The rules for receiving this award:

1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the questions that the tagger set for you plus create 11 questions for the people you’ve tagged to answer.
3. Nominate 5 – 11 of your favorite bloggers and link them in your post.
4. Go to their page and tell them.
5. Thank and link back the person’s blog who nominated you.

 And my questions for you are: (special thanks to Inside the Actors Studio)

1. Why did you start your blog?
2. What is your favorite technique for getting more readers for your blog?
3. What is your favorite post (please provide a link)and why?
4. If you could pick any profession other than the one you are doing right now, what would it be?
5. What job would you never do even if they paid you a lot of money to do it?
6. What is your favorite word and why?
7. What is your least favorite word and why?
8. What sound makes you happiest?
9. What sound makes you cringe?
10. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
11. What would you like people to say about you after you are gone from this life?

Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Stories are the Wildest Things!

Paul

Steven Pressfield – Writing Quote Wednesday

StevenPressfield

Writing quote created by Paul Jenny from Flickr photo “Black Marble” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Don’t cheat us of your contribution! Leave a link in the comments section to your latest gift to the world and every being in it. Stories truly are the wildest things.

If you need a writing prompt to get you started, click through to my WRITING PROMPTS here.

You can find more of Steven Pressfield at his website: http://www.stevenpressfield.com/

Flickr photo by NASA (CC License)