Shakespeare and My Birthday – Writing Quote Wednesday

(Credit: Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using photo by rosevita)

(Credit: Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using photo by rosevita)

Writing Quote Wednesday just happens to fall on my birthday this year.

I also just happen to be rehearsing a Shakespeare play on my birthday, so I thought I’d grab a few words from his 884,647 or so (That’s almost 18 NaNoWriMos). I’m sitting just outside the rehearsal room door thinking how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be saying Shakespeare’s words as I add another year to my life on this Earth. We’re working on Macbeth, or The Scottish Play to those who are superstitious, and it’s a grand adventure to work with this company on this story.

My heart is often cooled with mortifying groans that I’m getting older. My left shoulder has a nagging pain that doesn’t go away. I need cheater glasses to read fine print. I have to watch my blood pressure and the weight I put on in winter doesn’t seem to come off as easily as it did in my youth.

I am also an oenophile, so my liver is often plenty hot from the drinking of wine. A good red wine, a good book and a bar of dark chocolate is something like bliss to me. (It also makes for a good workout according to this book.)

As I celebrate one more year, I hope, that like Gratiano from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, I can continue to play the fool into my old age. I have plenty of wrinkles, which have come from equal parts mirth and laughter and worry and concern, but the ones that have come from mirth and laughter are much more fun to remember.

I’m looking forward to many more years of laughter and many more wrinkles to come.

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!


Honorificabilitudinitatibus – Wildest Word of the Day


James Joyce by Paul Jenny

In honor of Bloomsday, I wanted to include this monstrous vocable. According to Wikipedia, honorificabilitudinitatibus is the “dative and ablative plural of the medieval Latin word honorificabilitudinitas, which can be translated as, ‘the state of being able to achieve honors.'” It’s the longest word in the English language featuring only alternating consonants and vowels.

This is how Joyce uses the word in Ulysses:

“Like John o’Gaunt his name is dear to him, as dear as the coat and crest he toadied for, on a bend sable a spear or steeled argent, honorificabilitudinitatibus, dearer than his glory of greatest shakescene in the country.”

Shakespeare used this word in Love’s Labors Lost in Act V, Scene 4 of the play. Costard, a comic rustic, says of the pedants, Holofernes and Sir Nathaniel, “O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words. I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; for thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon.” (Flap-dragon was a game of eating hot raisins from a bowl of burning brandy.)

Essentially, the word means, “with honorableness” according to Pinky and the Brain’s 1995 episode “Napoleon Bonaparte” (Season 1, Episode 11). If you learn this one, you’ll never sound like you belong in a coterie of pre-verbal neonates.

Happy Bloomsday!

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!

Today is the day traditionally associated with the birth and death of the person (or persons) known as William Shakespeare.


Shakespeare was an actor/manager as well as a playwright. He owned shares in the theatre and made really good money for his company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, eventually being sponsored by King James and becoming the King’s Men.

Shakespeare’s theatre, the Globe, had three different incarnations. The first burned down during Shakespeare’s play Henry VIII when a cannon  some embers caught the thatched roof on fire. The Puritans pulled down the second Globe when they declared theatre too sinful to continue. The third Globe now stands in Bankside, Southwark  near the original site of Globe one and two.

Sam Wanamaker, an American, built this monument to the great playwright and his plays. You can still see plays there during the warmer months. It is the only building since the Great Fire in London allowed to have a thatched roof.

Ben Johnson said the Shakespeare was the “soul of the age, the applause, delight, the wonder of our stage” and “…not of an age, but for all time.”

Shakespeare is also called the Bard of Avon and in the Victorian era, people so worshiped Shakespeare’s writing that George Bernard Shaw called it “bardolatry.”

Shakespeare was the third of eight children (only five survived into adulthood) and his younger brother, Edmund, was an actor as well.

His father, John, was a glover and leather worker and a “brogger” meaning he did a bit of illegal dealing in…wool…on the side. At one point John was also the town’s ale taster. How do you sign up for that job?

He worked his way up through political positions eventually becoming an alderman, but he also got into trouble for lending money with interest and withdrew from public life.

Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden, came from a wealthy family and inherited her father’s farm. You can still visit the farm in Stratford today. Shakespeare references the family name in his play, “As You Like It.” The play takes place in an idyllic place called the forest of Arden. There are also scholarly editions of Shakespeare’s works with really great footnotes called The Arden Shakespeare.

There are not a lot of records of Shakespeare’s life which has caused speculation that he could be more than one person. Some people think he was the Earl of Oxford, Sir Francis Bacon, the Earl of Derby or even Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, thought to be a spy and a “rake-hell” and killed by a dagger through the eye during a drunken brawl.

Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway (no, not the one from The Princess Diaries) was eight years older than he was. They had three children, Susannah and the twins, Hamnet and Judith. In his will, Shakespeare left Anne his second best bed. While many take this as an insult, because Anne was already established and the daughters would have needed more from the estate, he most likely left most of his furnishings and estate to his daughters. Hamnet died when he was 11 and some say he was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s most quoted character, Hamlet.

Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford has a curse on it so that no one digs up the grave. It says, “Good friend for Jesus’ sake forebear//To dig the dust enclosed here//Blest be the man who spares these stones//And curst be he that moves my bones.” A bit tawdry and simple, another reason people cite when they make the claim that perhaps Shakespeare wasn’t really Shakespeare.

Shakespeare wrote in early modern English and gave us over 2000 of our common words and phrases. Some examples of words first used by Shakespeare are: eyeball, puking, skim milk, obscene, hot blooded and…alligator! If you’ve ever used the phrases, “seen better days,” “it’s Greek to me,” “you’ve got to be cruel to be kind,” “you can’t have too much of a good thing,” “forever and a day,” “pure as the driven snow,” or even “high time,” you are quoting Shakespeare. Check out these two great videos for more phrases. (Horrible Histories, Kenneth Branagh)

Harold Bloom has said that no other writer has created utterly different yet self-consistent voices for more than 100 major characters and many hundreds of highly distinctive minor personages. He says that Shakespeare’s characters are not alive and yet they have altered all of our lives and may have even taught us how to be more human. Finally, Bloom, in his influential work, “Shakespeare The Invention of the Human” says that the “ultimate use of Shakespeare is to let him to teach us to think too well, to whatever truth you can sustain without perishing…”

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare!