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

Blogger Award Nomination: The Liebster Award



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 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, 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 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

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

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

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

Ali Luke has a lovely no-nonsense blog about writing that you should be reading. Check out her amazing posts at

Hazel Longuet of Novel Experience is a fun blog to read and explore. Visit her at

Still Writing is a National Best Seller by Dani Shapiro and I really love her moving blog at

Do you feel that there are better things to do in your life? Then check out Cordelia Calls it Quits at

I really love what Jeff Goins is doing at Goins, Writer 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

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

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!