Tag Archives: Writing

The World Book

One of the questions directed to the 2018 nErDcamp Kansas author panel was to name our favorite book. This is a tough question for me. To some, though, it’s an easy question and many of the authors listed book titles without hesitation. I’ve always been a little envious of the people who express such resolution and love for a book or books, especially when it comes time to name the books from one’s childhood.

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I had a tough time learning to read. It was a struggle. I’d look at the page of text and see an overwhelming mishmash of words and letters. I’m sure that now I would have been diagnosed early and prescribed a program for my reading disorder, but those things were rare in early 1970’s education. Especially in a lower middle class Catholic school and even more so for an early elementary school kid who seemed to keep his head above water in class. I was lucky, though. I had parents and a few teachers who noticed my problem and put me on the road to reading. My most vivid, non-recess, non-field trip, non-playday memories of first and second grade are when my teacher or a volunteer aide would pull me aside to another room and work with me on the Controlled Reader projector.

In the dark, quiet classroom, I learned to focus on the left word of a sentence and move slowly to the right. I practiced and practice from one filmstrip to the next on moving my eyes from right to left. I practiced this without moving my head. Things got better!

Reading was possible.

(There’s a really cool Wired story by writer Lisa Wood Shapiro on how she works to overcome her dyslexia and how technology is helping people become readers.) 

We didn’t have a boatload of books around the house when I was growing up but we had some. I learned to be a better reader through the assistance of my teachers and parent but I still struggled through the middle grades to actually BE a reader. I loved the JUNGLE BOOK. The Disney movie captivated me from a very early age. We had a series of illustrated classics with about twenty pages of text per illustration. TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS, TREASURE ISLAND, a few other titles I can’t remember, and the JUNGLE BOOK.

I loved that book.

But I never read that book.

I picked the book off the shelf a thousand times. I looked at the pictures a thousand times. Each time I tried to read that book but I reverted back to seeing each page as an intimidating blob of letters and words. Frustration would set in and I’d snap the book shut and return it to the shelf.

I know I should have said something to my parents or teachers. I should have sought out help. But I was a big, shy kid and didn’t want to trouble anyone with this embarrassing problem.

Then something wonderful happened. A salesman came around the house and convinced my parents to buy a set of the World Book encyclopedia. My parents made a difficult decision to spend money we really didn’t have on this set of books. They even splurged for the annual yearbook!

I found my reading life in those encyclopedias. School work forced me to open them but the magic of information given in short bursts of text and pictures contained within was pure magic. Something clicked in my reader-brain. I figured it out.

I slowly became a better reader and a smarter kid. The set of World Book encyclopedias led to the Guinness Book of World Records which led to comics which led to the Hardy Boys which led to…my eventually reading the JUNGLE BOOK as an adult. And you know what? It was as fantastic as the story I held in my head all those years.  

So next time I’m asked at an author event what my favorite book was, I have an answer.

The World Book.

Hands down.

After my Dad died in 2015 and my Mom was preparing to move out of their house, she called and asked me what I wanted of their stuff. I know her “stuff” meant furniture, dishes, etc. but I, without hesitation said I would like to have the World Book encyclopedias and yearbooks they used for the past twenty years as a decoration on top of the cabinets in their kitchen.

My Mom laughed and thought I was joking. She still thinks that. She’ll probably never know how important those books were to me and how huge of a role they played in making me who I am today. I probably never really knew how much of a sacrifice it was for my parents to make the investment to buy this set of encyclopedias and the annual yearbook every year. These books are history. Part of our history.

Reading is reading is reading is reading.

Let kids read what works for them.

Reading is indeed a superpower.

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Everybody Has A Story To Tell

Everybody has a story to tell.

Truth.

We all just need to tell our story.

In a few weeks, the month-long focus on writing these stories will begin. National Novel Writing Month will run again through the 30 days of November. Better known as NaNoWriMo, this program is an awesome opportunity to write with a support team spread out across this great planet.

We are made to tell stories. It’s coded in the marrow of our being. It has been passed down from generation to generation since the very first time primitive man told the story of the bear “which got away” or told his children about the time he outran a cheetah while crossing the savannah on a Friday night in his youth.

We are story-telling machines.

So, tell your story.

Please.

Write your story. Record your story. Just tell your story.

Get it down. Put it some place other than just inside your head.

Don’t worry if it’s good or bad. Quality does not matter—it can be cleaned up later. It can be shined up IF it is down somewhere it can be worked on if you want to.

Don’t worry about it being “good”.  Good is subjective. Besides, you don’t ever have to show your writing to anyone else if you don’t want to.

The power is in your hands.

The power of your story.

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We are fortunate to have a local group of supporters for the 2015 NaNoWriMo. We have a local group based out of Manhattan, Kansas. Find out more about NaNoWriMo here. Sign up and take a shot at it.

(In fact, for the first time the Manhattan NaNoWriMo group is having some events at the Clay Center Carnegie Library. Check out the groups Facebook page to stay informed. I plan on attending events when I can and I hope you will too. It is always cool to meet writers of any age, shape, size or skill level. If you like telling stories or would like to learn more about telling stories, please join up or even send me a message.)

Telling your story can be a scary thing. Like coming up to bat with the game on the line or shooting a free throw to win the game, writing becomes easier with people in your dugout or on your bench who believe you can do it. From the Pulitzer Prize winner to the scrambling middle-grade guy writing quirky books he would like to have read when he was young, it is a scary thing to throw your story into the world. Having people to cheer you on, help shine up your work, and/or keep you going when you feel like quitting, is invaluable. The community of writers is awesome. They are out there if you need them.

Write your story.

Don’t worry about “winning”. Worry about writing. Get the words down. Place them somewhere one word at a time, or, as the great Anne LaMott says, write, “bird by bird”. Get it done and get it down. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for four years and have never hit the 50,000-word monthly goal. But, what I have done is set a 30,000+ word foundation for what eventually became three middle-grade novels. Not bad for an old football coach, huh?

I hope to see you write your story.

You know you have a good one rolling around inside your head.

Let it out.

Put it down on paper.

Just write!

#WriteCC15!

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OUT

We all sometimes need a healthy dose of “OUT”. To whatever you do, to whatever you are good at, add some “OUT” to it. Supercharge it, push it, take the leap off the high dive.

OUT work
OUT prepare
OUT plan
OUT perform
OUT hustle
OUT play
OUT coach
OUT run
OUT lift
OUT compete
OUT love
OUT study
OUT design
OUT write
OUT lead
OUT love
OUT participate
OUT read
OUT discover
OUT learn
OUT laugh
OUT recover
OUT forgive
OUT carry
OUT follow

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Now, go OUT and do whatever you do with joy, passion, and intensity.

Never give up.
Get better every day.
Hard work is the magic.
Be OUTstanding!

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Tribute to a Writer

Walt Staples was a a great writer. I never met him in person, but by the magic of the internet, I came to know him through the Catholic Writer’s Guild. Walt died suddenly a couple weeks while waiting at a bus stop. He would probably comment something to the effect that he unintentionally caught the right bus home.

Walt was a great writer. He was a master at what he did. He was funny, kind, humble, and was always willing to help out novice hacks like myself.  Karina Fabian knew Walt much better than I did and she offered a great tribute post to Walt at the Catholic Writer’s Guild blog.

Walt told me one time in a chat to check out a short story he published at Digital Dragon Magazine called, A Feather’s Fall in Vacuum. It was the only time he even remotely “pushed” a work of his and it was only a mild suggestion. I felt like Charlie Bucket opening that Wonka Bar with the final golden ticket inside. I went from wondering where in the heck Walt was going with this story to laughing my butt off for about three hours after finishing it. Beautiful story.

The only proper tribute I could ever give to Walt Staples is to share the link to that story and another  from Digital Dragon with as many people as I can. These two stories are my favorite works of Walt’s, and in my humble opinion, are masterpieces of short fiction.

A Feather’s Fall in Vacuum

Going Postal… But Slowly

We will miss his talent, we will miss his quirky sense of humor, but mostly we will miss the Walt at the Catholic Writer’s Guild. Please pray for his people and friends. Read the stories and check out more of his stories from the links on his blog, Variable Credence.  Laugh, learn and giggle out loud as you read them, Walt would appreciate that.


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THE YOUNGER DAYS Book Release Giveaway

I wrote a book. Seriously, I did. It is a book for the upper middle grade (10-14 year old) boy crowd, but I think anyone can enjoy it. I know it may be a bit surprising to some of you, but it’s true. A bit of a shock similar to the time I gave a pre-game speech using Luke 11:23 as the theme, only to have just one player respond with, “Coach, you read the Bible?”

Yes, it is true. I read the Bible AND I write. I had an idea, I scribbled it down, it rattled around in my head for several  years then I wrote all 25,500 words down in just the right order. A series of rejections, followed by a series of fortunate events, finally landed a contract with MuseItUp Publishing, who released it as an ebook on March 9, 2012.

Now that the ebook is out, I have to also become a salesman. It is the way of modern publishing; part writer, part editor, part marketer, part sales. I am not a salesman. Sure, I want as many people to read the book as humanly possible, but I am not a salesman. Never have been. I hated going house to house hawking fund-raisers as a kid.  As a 13-year old, I refused to sell candy bars for the school’s summer baseball program. Wouldn’t do it. My coach that year was also in charge of the fundraising for the baseball program. He told me I HAD to sell candy bars or sit the bench. I refused. I sat the bench. I was a pretty good player, but I wouldn’t budge on my position. I sat the bench. I am not a good salesman.

I stunk at trying to sell our summer conditioning program to the kids. I couldn’t bring myself to Tony Little-ize a sales pitch to the kids. Fortunately Coach Lane stepped in and was able to convince kids to come, he sold it much better than I ever could have.  My part became to sell the results through action and work.  Show up, work hard and you will notice a difference in your body in two weeks.  Once they gave the program a chance, they liked the results and came back day after day.

So, here’s the sales pitch. Try the book, give it a chance and you (or young people you know) may like the results. And priced at $3.50, it is actually cheaper than one of those World’s Finest chocolate bars or boxes of pastel-colored, candy-coated almonds.

You can find the ebook at these places:

MuseItUp Publishing Bookstore

Amazon Bookstore

And here’s a giveaway of an ebook copy of THE YOUNGER DAYS. Leave a comment here or at my author page, to respond to the question below. A winner from the respondents will be randomly selected on April Fool’s Day, 2012.

Question: What was the worst, most hated, most despised thing you ever had to sell as a kid?

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No BS Writing Gig: Product Recall Headlines

This recall list came from our university public safety office a couple weeks ago. Sadly, there is a tragedy behind each of these recalls and a reason behind why they have to recall a product to begin with. I am thankful we have the consumer protection we have in this country, but,  gee, can you get any more blunt in the writing of these recall headlines?
For example:
“John Deere Recalls D100 Lawn Tractors; Brake Failure Can Cause Loss of Control.”
or how about:
“Big Lots Recalls Microfiber Glider Recliners with Ottomans and Leather Glider Recliners with Ottomans Due to Entrapment and Finger Crushing Hazards.”
**********

Recalls from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

News from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Recalls from the weeks ending Oct. 31.

Yu Wei Recalls Drop-Side Cribs Sold Exclusively at JCPenney Due to Entrapment and Suffocation Hazards.

To see this recall click here.

IKEA Recalls BUSA Children’s Folding Tent Due to Laceration and Puncture Hazards.

To see this recall click here.

Nordica USA Agrees to $214,000 Civil Penalty For Failure to Report Defective Skis; Binding Plates Can Break, Posed Fall Hazard to Skiers.

To see this release click here.

Ballard Designs Recalls “Stafford “Step Stools Due to Fall Hazard.

To see this recall click here.

Home Fires Prompt Dehumidifier Recall Reannouncement from LG Electronics More Than One Million Dollars in Property Damage Linked to Goldstar and Comfort-Aire Dehumidifiers.

To see this recall click here.

John Deere Recalls D100 Lawn Tractors; Brake Failure Can Cause Loss of Control.

To see this recall click here or here.

Jogging Strollers Recalled by B.O.B. Trailers Due to Choking Hazard.

To see this recall click here.

Marshall Group Recalls Marshall Gardens PatioGlo Bio-Fuel Gel Due to Burn Hazard.

To see this recall click here.

Nidec Motor Corporation Recalls Ecotech EZ(r) Variable Speed Pool Pump Motors Due to Electrical Shock Hazard.

To see this recall click here.

Additional Retail Sales Prompt CPSC and Meijer to Re-announce “Innovations” and “At Home with Meijer” Roman Shades and Roll-Up Blinds Recall; Strangulation Hazard Posed.

To see this recall click here.

LittleLife Discoverer Baby Carriers Recalled by Lifemarque Due to Fall Hazard.

To see this recall click here.

Guidecraft Recalls Twist ‘n Sort Toys Due to Choking Hazard.

To see this recall click here.

Horizon Hobby Recalls Losi NiMH Battery Charger Due to Possible Burn and Fire Hazards.

To see this recall click here.

CPSC Adopts Independent Third Party Testing and Certification Rules for Children’s Products Rules ensure continued compliance with child safety requirements.

To see this release click here.

Target Recall Children’s Frog Masks Due to Suffocation Hazard.

To see this recall click here.

Consumer Product Safety Commission Provides Three Steps to a Safe Halloween Celebration.

To see this press release click here.

Bad Boy Buggies Off-Road Utility Vehicles Recalled by BB Buggies Due to Loss of Steering Control and Crash Hazard.

To see this recall click here.

Big Lots Recalls Microfiber Glider Recliners with Ottomans and Leather Glider Recliners with Ottomans Due to Entrapment and Finger Crushing Hazards.

To see this recall click here.

Evergreen Enterprises Recalls Fireside Gel Fuel Bottles Due to Burn and Flash Fire Hazards.

To see this recall click here.

General Electric Recalls Monogram(r) Pro Rangetop with Grill Due to an Explosion Hazard.

To see this recall click here.

Trek 2012 FX and District Bicycles Recalled Due to Fall Hazard.

To see this recall click here.

Hand Trucks Recalled by Harper Trucks Due to Injury Hazard.

To see this recall click here.

Spin Master Agrees to $1.3 Million Civil Penalty for Failing to Report Aqua Dots and for Selling a Banned Hazardous Substance.

To see this press release click here.

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Fail Cycle #2

In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, I believe in the Fail Cycle. The older I get, when I want to relax and put life into cruise control, I know I need to force myself to keep working to improve through challenge and failure.

What is the fail cycle? In short, you have to push yourself to get better. If you are pushing your limits far enough, you will fail.  But, when you stay after it with perseverance and hard work, improvement is inevitable.  If you are not working to move forward, you are moving backward.  And yes, neutral is backward.

Coaching and training are filled with the experiences of the fail cycle, so is being a writer.  But the experiences are much different.  Coaching is a group exercise, we push a collective of people, personalities and philosophies toward a common goal of success.  The failures and the improvement are shared within the group. Training can be a group exercise and it can be very personal.  The individual or team is pushed to failure, but the failure is mostly internal to the individual or group.  Writing is a whole new animal. It is personal and it is individual.  Failure from the necessary exposure to outside editing and critique bites sharp at the marrow of the writer. It is a frightening experience.

Recently, I read a open blog invitation from an agent, Mary Kole, on her excellent writing blog site (www.kidlit.com). She read a book called HOOKED by Les Edgerton on book beginnings and offered the opportunity for her readers to submit the first 500 words of one of their manuscripts for her professional critique. She would select five and do critical workshops on them on the blog. I knew from her blog posts and information she provides on her site that she is a no B.S. professional. She knows her stuff and stands true for what she knows is the right way to write.

Basically, I knew sending in a beginning to one of my stories was putting myself out to the battlefield without armor or weapon.  I knew Mary Kole would pull no punches on the five beginnings she selected for the workshop.  With this looming in back, front and both sides of my mind, I took the chance anyway and sent in the first 500 words to a story I am working on.  The story, an upper middle grade fiction story called WONDERLAND GARDENS, is about a 14 year-old boy who must use the resources of the elderly citizens of the Wonderland Gardens Retirement Village to save his classmate nemesis, a girl,  from the evil clutches of a possessed dance instructor.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) out of the 100+ submission and dodging the bullet through four of the five workshops, guess who gets a cheery email on Friday July 1 from Mary Kole informing me I was Number 5?  Great, I submitted such a great examples of how NOT to start a story that I get to be the finale to the workshops!  Then, when one reads in her introduction, “This workshop will be a little more nitpicky”, one wants to crawl away and hide.  But, as I read Mary’s criticisms, I knew straight away she was spot on with her comments.  Everything she pointed out, when fixed, will make for a exponentially better beginning to the story. If you wish to witness the train wreck and Mary Kole’s exceptional and helpful critique, here is the link to the Beginning Workshop #5

Failure…is…necessary.  If I want to get better at anything I do, parent, husband, writer, scientist, coach and trainer, it takes hard work.  It takes pushing the envelope, failing, then working to get better.  I’m rewriting the beginning to WONDERLAND GARDENS following Mary Kole’s suggestions.  The first draft I did last night was miraculously so much better than the original version I previously submitted.  I might have to do a future post comparing the two versions when I complete the newest version.

A special thanks to Mary Kole, associate agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, for sharing her time and resources to help fledgling authors like myself.  This trip into the literary fail cycle has been quite an experience.  Hopefully, my story and my skill development will also reap great benefits because of it.

Finally, here is an applicable quote from Neil Gaiman’s 10 Tips to Writing.

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”

Have a great Fourth of July holiday!

Addendum: I forgot to put this in the original post.  When the failure robs the fun and enjoyment out of whatever you choose to do, it is time to back off a bit, take a short or a long break to recharge the motor, then take a running start at the next attempt.  The fail cycle should be an exercise of improvement, not an exercise in complete misery.

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