Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Socially Overworked


So things have ramped up again on the book promotion front. Don't ask me why, but these things come in waves, and my anxiety and sense of urgency waxes and wanes like the surf. When I first got my book deal, I could barely sleep all week. My mind was racing with all that I wanted to do and I had  a terrible time figuring out what to do first. Eventually, common sense and exhaustion set in and I came to my senses. I realized that what I really needed to do was to figure out what to do today. Not next week, not tomorrow, not in June, but today.

That worked for a few weeks, and I've been pretty good. I ratcheted things down a bit, got some business cards, updated my author site, and made some decent contacts to promotional people. I got on Twitter and Facebook, posted daily and got the word out.

Now, all of the sudden In a single week, I'm working on a book trailer, figuring out what the heck GoodReads is all about (still not sure) and loading up my shelf on Shelfari. Why? because people tell me that's what I need to do. Oh, I realize I need to do it to build my network and to make my book successful, but I think there's a little to be said for spreading yourself too thin. Like I said to a friend, I'm spending too much time on GoodReads that I have no time to read good books to put on GoodReads.

Then there are blog tours, blog interviews, book signings, Amazon ratings, Author networking and TV and Radio interviews.

As an example of my whack-a-mole approach to this insanity, while I was at my coffee "writing session" on Saturday, I came across another author who had signed up for AboutMe. And when I clicked on the link, it seemed like something I needed, so I signed up. It's really just a quick blurb about people that I think will turn up in google searches if there's nothing much else about you out there. Well, between all my social networking things, my blog and author page, I don't think AboutMe even comes up in the first 50 hits.

But I needed it. And it's free. And shiny.

Today I asked my wife about Pinterest, because I've heard it's another good way to connect with people. She dissuaded me from doing it saying it probably would not be the best use of time.

I wanted to kiss her.

Another one that I've seen is called Book Blogs. If I had a spare moment to figure out what that one is about, I'd be friggin' dangerous.

And so I'll continue to forge my way through the various channels in an attempt to make the New York Times Bestseller's list. (Ha!) I am fully aware that these are good problems to have. Very good. But I like to gripe about them anyways. That's what writers do best sometimes.

Lord knows with a little help, I might even get a page or two of book two written in my spare time.

Oops, gotta run and respond to this Facebook notification.

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Trailer Unveiler


I spent my Friday night with a couple of good friends working on a fun project. I've been kicking around the idea of a book trailer for awhile. A book trailer is like a movie trailer; a short teaser as to what the book is about in video form. They vary in length from 1-2 minutes and are another way of publicizing your book. In this day and age, you need all the help you can get, and I kind of like the whole video creation process, so I thought I'd give it a whack.

My friend Nick is a musician who has actually produced a couple of CD's of his own. Going under the auspices of SnowCap Weber, he is extremely talented and adept at multiple instruments. His focus is guitar, but he does bass, harmonica, keyboards and probably a few others. He's one of those guys who can pick up an instrument and just blast away. In fact when I mentioned some harmonica he picked one up and said it would probably sound like this - and proceeded to blow a tune that I can only dream of ever playing. I've always wanted to learn an instrument but am a musical klutz. For someone who loves music, I can't play a lick.

Nick has a small studio in his basement, complete with amps, mics and mixing equipment. When I first posed the idea to him, he offered to do the music for free, in part for exposure, in part because he was intrigued by the project. After a couple days, he sent me a rough one-minute audio file compiled using his cell phone. It was almost exactly what I was hoping it would be. We talked a little about the length and tempo, and decided that the next step would be to put a narrative voice over the top.

I recorded a couple of my own voice overs and sent them to him. I told him I hated my voice and that I needed a better vocalist. Enter my buddy, Bill. He and I were out to lunch one day and I mentioned the project. Like Nick, Bill offered to do the voice over for nothing and for the same reasons, exposure and intrigue. Bill has actually done some stand up comedy professionally and so I knew when he offered to help, that his voice would be perfect.We set a date and met in Nick's basement studio on Friday.

There were some interesting thoughts, happenings and ruminations during the recording session. Bill asked if I wanted a "dramatic" voice, or just normal? I told him normal, clear and with inflection at key points would be good. He did an amazing job! Just really, really good. (And I don't hate it, like my own voice...this is key.) Don't get me wrong, we probably did twenty five takes, with some paragraphs getting 5-7 takes to get right. But when we were done, Nick was able to cut and paste the "greatest hits" together and make them sound as though it was a single reading.

Technology in the right hands is a beautiful thing.

The funny thing is that during the reading, Nick's kids were upstairs. One of them was running from end to end. Meanwhile his youngest was screaming bloody murder at the prospect of bedtime. I felt terrible that we were forcing his wife to try and keep the peace, and at the same time, I know EXACTLY what was going on upstairs. It wasn't that long ago when I had two little ones of my own. As my friend Brandon once said, "When you have 3 kids under the age of 5, one of them is always:

pouting
screaming
sick
running
tired
falling
drooling
pooping
sleeping
or bleeding

So it was funny that we were trying to get the nuances of inflection, and breathiness, and vocal control all worked out, while upstairs was more like ringside at WWF. I always want to acknowledge the people doing battle behind the scenes to enable us to get the job done, so thank you to all of our wives.

It did make me wonder if the Beatles or Ramones had these kinds of issues when they were starting out?

When we were done, Bill handed me the paper that the voice-over was written on. It was covered in scratchings and visual cues we had added throughout the night. He said, "Do you want to save that for a museum some day?" We all had a laugh at that. Look for it on eBay in 30 years, along with the first U2 set list.

It was a really fun deal. It was interesting to work with two other creative talents. I'm new to the collaborative arts thing, but I think we actually pulled it off. Nick sent me the end product today and it is nothing short of amazing. His music cuts in and out at the right spots and he even blended in some harmonica to make it a fuller, richer sound. All that's left is some minor tweaks to some part of it. Then we'll be putting the pictures to it, and for that I plan on using the talents of my friend Brandon. Even more creative collaboration to make it pop.

In short, I'm lucky to have such talented friends around me; friends willing to work for free, or for beer. I know I would do the same for them, and hope I can someday.

When it's done, I'll be posting it here, on my Author site, and other places.

Look for it because...

It's gonna be epic.

Blogging off...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Story Written - A Life Rewritten

In an effort to support other authors from my publishers, eLectio Publishing, I ordered a book written by Phil Hamman, titled Under the Influence. It's my hope that other eLectio authors will support my book when it comes out, so I thought I'd do the same. Phil and I have chatted a few times on Facebook and he's been very helpful with some of the ins and outs of book promotion.

I'm only a little ways into the book, but already some things have jumped out at me. This guy grew up in a really tough neighborhood. His house was among several other small houses that once served as army barracks and were not much bigger than 10' X 25'. It was government housing by any other name, but the neighborhood served to breed crime and violence. He tells stories of unspeakable abuse and alcoholism from his father, schoolyard bullying, and unmentionable tragedies that occurred in the neighborhood around him.

The story resonates with me for a few reasons. While my second book will be about the house I grew up in, it's a little known fact that a couple of our residences before that were government housing projects in St. Paul. No one much talks about it in the family because it wasn't our family's finest hour, obviously. My mom and dad were going through some tough times, and at the time, the projects were the best we could do.

This is why I try not to judge people.

My mom found a way to rise above. She worked her tail off and said that she would not settle for government assistance. She was too proud. She raised 6 of us almost single handedly for most of our young lives. The kicker is that not everybody has parents who care this much. That's the sad part and that's what makes Phil's story (at least up to the point where I'm at now in the story) different.

I never felt unloved or feared a beating or took any kind of verbal abuse from my mom. We were raised in a loving, supportive, albeit justifiably chaotic at times, home. Mom saw to it that we went to the best schools possible and that we respected each other. When we showed disrespect, she let us know about it and reminded us that we were family, and we don't  talk like that to each other.

But getting back to Phil's story, another thing that resonated with me is my old mantra that everyone has a story. We are who we are in large part because of how we were raised. In some cases, the scarring from childhood is impossible to shed and people become hardened or dysfunctional adults.

Other times they use the abuses of their youth to strive for better. They refuse to become what they came from, and instead remake their adult life into something different. They don't let their childhood define them. I think that's what Phil has done. I think sometimes those unspeakable abuses make beautiful people. It comes at a cost, but the end product can serve in-part to make up for the sins of the past.

The final thing that resonated with me was the fact that Phil had the courage to write these stories down. His book is narrative in form and stylistically different than my own, but we both have stories to tell. Some of the most important writing I've done in the past couple of years has been stories about my brother Rob, his life, his sickness and his passing. While writing about it is forcing me to relive parts of it, which can be incredibly painful, it's also therapeutic. It helps me make sense of something that makes no sense. It's how I work it out, and, while the events of that year of pain and suffering and all the years since will never go away, writing helps me to release some of it, digest it and sort it out. Phil acknowledged that that was the case for him too. We call it the power of the pen (or keyboard.)

So remember the next time you drive by a "bad neighborhood" or a housing project or even a run down house, that people with problems live there. But before you remember that, remember that PEOPLE live there.

And they have a story, just like you have a story.

Blogging off...


Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Musicality Of Leveraging Your Repurposed Words

The English language is a beautiful thing. It is complex, hard to learn, and, when used eloquently, can move a person to tears. At the same time, watching the Olympics has reminded me that there are words that aren't really words at all. Sports announcers have ways of making them up to fit a situation. Other times they just say stupid things to fill the void and then, when you think about what they said, you wonder...What did they just say?

We all know that texting has taken the English language to a new low. Some people say we're "evolving" the language and that all of its dumbing down is here to stay. Devolve or die, they say. Give me death.

In addition to dumb sports words and the dumbing down of texting and Twitterage (aka, the language of Twitter. I just made that word up.) there are those sayings that are just annoying. The business world is loaded with them and whole some of them might be meaningful, many of them are over used and downright annoying. I'll cover a few here.

  • One of the things my wife heard on the Olympics yesterday was something to the effect of "His routine had wonderful musicality to it." Musicality, hmmm. I'd like to ask that announcer if he made it up or if that's one of those skating words that only he knows?
  • Musicality is the ugly sister to Physicality, one of my least favorite words used during the NFL season. It might be a real word, but it sounds so stupid, I'm not even going to look it up. Real or not, its stupid.
  • Leverage. As in, "We need to leverage our investment." No, you need to leverage your vocabulary and stop trying to sound so trendy and cool. It's overused and I can't like it. I can't. 
  • Repurpose. As in, "The building was repurposed." I really have no explanation for why I hate this word so much. It's probably because before last year I'd never heard the word, and now I hear it almost every day. That's the sure sign of a trendy buzz word.
  • Price point. My daughter hates the word "moist" mostly because of the way it sounds. That's me with price point. How about just, price?
  • Cloud. As in, "Why not put your data in the cloud." Overused, but probably going to be around until some other dumb word takes its place. Watch, it'll be "heaven". Yes, our data's in heaven.
  • Authoritative content. This is one that is common in the GIS industry, as in "You can get to your organization's authoritative content." Just sick of hearing it, that's all. Oh, and does my organization have non-authoritative content?\
  • "Running with their skis" or "letting the skis run." Do skis have feet? Furthermore, do skis walk? I prefer to ski with my skis and run with my shoes...on.
  • Ping. As in, "Why don't you ping Bob and let him in on things." Why don't you just call him or email him. 
  • Skill set. Like we can only do that which falls inside our "set". Skills don't come as a set, dishes do.
  • Just sayin'. Do I need to outline all the ways this word is exasperating? If you're just sayin' it, why do you need to tell me that you're just saying it again?
  • Face time. Yeah, or talking to someone in person.
  • Big data. Another IT buzzword. You got big data? Big deal, I'm not impressed.
  • Like. Like, you know when like, someone is like, talking like this. It's like, just really like, annoying.
  • Right?. When someone ends a sentence with, "...right?" It's a condescension to the receiving party, as if to say I'm in charge because I'm doing the talking and that by saying "right" at the end of my sentence, I'm asserting that you agree to what I'm saying whether you do or not, right?
That's just a brief list of overused or irritating words and phrases. Everyone has some that bother them. Now you know mine, what are some of yours?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

February Grab Bag

Because it is February - which is hard to spell - and I am at a bit of a loss with regards to subject matter, I am going to jump among a bunch of random subjects, factoids and I-didn't-know-thats. Its an ink-blot post, kind of a free-form stream of consciousness. If I get off track it's only because I never had one to start with.


  • It hit 17 degrees today and believe me that is a good thing. Tomorrow's bringing 33 degrees to my neighborhood. More good. Three doors down they're digging up a water lateral that froze. The city is encouraging people to turn their cold water on for 5 minutes at a crack, 5 times a day to avoid freezing your lateral. Drain what little aquifer we have left in Waukesha in the name of flowing laterals. 
  • Another Valentines Day is looming in a couple of days. I'm glad I married a woman who most years says "No $4.00 Hallmark Cards!" Most years we take the money we spend on cards and put it towards take out pizza. That's not just love, that's long-standing love.
  • I was inducted into the Torrid Literature Journal Hall of Fame this week. It is specific to that particular magazine, and was determined by online voting. I had poetry published in two issues of their magazine last year, so it was a nice honor.
  • From the mouth of my wife: "I would just like to turn on a light switch without getting a shock. Is that too much to ask?"
  • One of the few bright spots of this February are the Olympics. I enjoy them every night and I'll admit, I do watch the women and pairs figure skating. Amazing athletes.
  • Along those lines, I've never seen slopestyle skiing before, but those people are nuts. Last night I saw a woman go off a jump backward and landed backward. I can't even imagine the guy who said, "Maybe we could make them go off the jump backward!" Worse, I picture his cronie judge-types cackling and saying, "Yeah, boss, and then we make 'em land backward too!" 
  • We had a near miss with our 2004 Santa Fe the other day. My daughter said it was real hard to steer and was stranded at work. I grabbed my 1/2 quart of power steering fluid and went to where she was stranded. I arrived to see a pool of fluid under the SUV. I topped it off and got it home but by morning it was dry again. Took it to a local garage we've had luck with in the past and within an hour they said it was a loose hose. I was fearing a $500-600 bill, but came away for $55. Thank goodness for mechanics with integrity. (Glenn Rock Motors for anyone in Waukesha.)
  • One of the highlights of my week is the hour I spend with three other guys on Thursday mornings at Cafe De Arts. We talk about everything under the sun. It was started under the auspices of a book study and still is, but our subjects wander from gay marriage, to Biblical stories, to appliance repair, to the latest cool iPad app, to how to make a book trailer, to what's wrong/right with the church today to the new Pope, to our family lives, to work issues to, well, you get the idea. It is strong talk fueled by Waukesha's best coffee. I originally dismissed my first invitation to be with this group, but when I was invited a second time, I started going. I'm glad I did.
  • Tomorrow and Friday I'll be with 300 other map geeks from around Wisconsin at the WI Land Information Association. Old friends, some new friends and lots of technospeak. Good times and invaluable networking and sessions.
  • My story Phantom Camp about a zombie Sasquatch was accepted for online publishing by the Free Zombie Fiction Blog. It was a story inspired on my last trip to the BWCA. I'm glad it found a home. Look for it in March. 
  • The downhill event can best be summed up by a friend of mine who said one downhill race holds more excitement than every baseball game I've seen combined. I tend to agree - no disrespect to baseball fans. It takes a special kind of crazy. 
  • To keep me humble, I've had two rejections in the past week for fiction and poetry. It's not all wine and roses. 
  • I saw this picture on Facebook and it cracked me up. Cracks me up every time I see it. Nothing brightens a February day like a rabbit with pancakes on its head.

So that's about it. A little of everything. The voices in my head. Sometimes I'd like to squelch them, other times they just get drowned out by the tinnitus. 

Blogging off...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dirty Shirt: A Sneak Peak

It occurred to me that for all the mention of my writing and my book, I've never disclosed much about what Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir is about, or how it came to be. I know I've addressed the process and lamented about my struggles with it, but I've never really prepared an elevator talk outlining what the book is about. Part of me just assumed that from the title, people could figure it out for themselves. Another part of me thought that I should keep it secret, or to myself, so that the book would be somehow more engaging or self-revealing to people when they read it. Neither of these are good assumptions to make from a marketing standpoint. People don't get interested by "mystique".

So, I'll try and talk a little about the book without giving it all away.

The book actually was never intended to be a book at all, I'll start with that. In 2005, I enrolled in a class called Writing from Your Life. It was a class offered through the City of Waukesha, was about 8 weeks in duration and focused on memoir writing. The class was taught by Shannon Jackson-Arnold. She wrote a book titled Everybody Loves Ice Cream and she was a great, motivational instructor. The class was informal in nature and was a great way to get me back into the writing groove. There were many people my age range in the class, most of them novices who just wanted to write more. The goal of the class was an 8-10 page paper which would then be compiled into a booklet of everyone's writings and at the conclusion of the course, we would read them in front of the class.

In looking back on it my piece was a roughly crafted piece of crap that served a bigger purpose. What it was was a really, really rough overview of the eventual book. The piece wanders aimlessly and never really keeps a train of thought. Humor is woven throughout, but that's about all the piece has going for it.

Anyways, a few years later, I enrolled in AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop and decided to keep writing about the Boundary Waters. My primary intention was to have something to give my family - stories to pass down - but eventually my instructor Kathie Giorgio said, "Maybe you want to take this broader, as a book, to the general public." The thought had never occurred to me, but when she assured me that it could be put together enough as a book that would sell, I was ALL IN.

The book, in a nutshell, is about family, friends, adventure and bonding. It is generational in nature spanning three generations in its scope. For readability, it is broken into three sections. The first section is about trips I took with friends in 1979 and 1980. We were green behind the ears, our eagerness was only outweighed by our bad planning and decision making. We did many things wrong, but learned a ton along the way.

The second section section covers the years my brothers Tom, Rob and Paul and I went up to the area in the late 80's and early 90's. In the process of trying to strengthen our own bonds, we, in some strange way, connect with our father who none of us really ever knew. It was never really our intent to seek out his spirit in any way, it just sort of happened as a by product of spending time together in an area he loved. He was a rugged outdoorsman and somehow, in taking part in activities he revered, helped us to learn what made him tick and, in the process, better define who we were becoming as young men.

The third section skips ahead almost twenty years when we return to the Boundary Waters as fathers with children of our own. We all recognized the value of the wilderness experience in shaping our relationships and wanted to pass it on to the next generation. This brings us back to the memories we had of those early years and we reconnect with each other in a new way altogether.

The book is filled with action and occasional hilarious mishaps that come along with any outdoor adventure. Everything from the unexpected downpour to a little rapid-wrangling to the implications of toileting in the middle of the woods without walls. From chipmunk hackey sack to the world's cheapest, most functional canoe rack. From an itinerary planned by 18 year olds that holds up like it was planned by 18 year olds, to the attack of a crazed loon. I can't make this stuff up, people - which is why I write nonfiction, I guess.

And so, hopefully I've piqued your interest now, too. Tell your friends and stay tuned, the best is yet to come: 127 days from now, to be exact.

It has been an incredible journey since that day in 2005 when I decided to do something about the longing in my heart to "do something with my need to write." I have to thank the people at eLectio Publishing for believing in me and giving me this chance to take my writing to the wider world. I will do my best to see that we're both successful with it. And finally, while I can't say I'd never dreamed of writing a book, I will say I never would have dreamed that it would have taken this kind of a zig-zaggy route.

But I'm sure enough glad it did.

Blogging off...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Friendly Psychotherapy

I had lunch with an old, old friend at Rochester Deli today. We were supposed to get together last week, but something came up and he had to cancel. When he texted today that he was free, I made time and we went.

When I say old old, I don't mean he was old, but our friendship is. We go way back to the late 80's and early 90's. His name is Bill and he is one of the funniest friends I have. He's just a lot of fun to be around. He does great impressions and loves being the life of the party. At one point he had aspirations to become a standup comedian. People are attracted to him because he's a warm person and his ability to laugh at himself at times is an endearing trait - at least it is for me. I've always had that trait, I think it comes from my mother who, at age 80, can still laugh at herself when she does something dumb. People that are incapable of laughing at themselves a little bit strike me as too uptight. Life is too short.

Anyhow, I haven't seen Bill for over a year. We usually get together for lunch once a year - at least, and it had been a while. When I got in his car it was just like we had seen each other yesterday. Picked it right up where we left off. That is the sign of a good friend. One who accepts you for all of your faults and quirks, and can almost peer into your soul to see how you're "really" doing.

There's a comfort level with these kinds of friends that you sometimes don't have with other, more casual friends. You don't worry about those "awkward pauses" because there usually aren't any, or, if there are, you're okay with them.

Usually, you don't have any limitations with what you can talk to these friends about either. Today we hit upon work, church, my book, health issues, and the hair raising life of a house full of teenagers. (I have 2, he has 5 in the house at the moment.) We talked about old times, the uncertain albeit exciting future, and the day-to-day drudgery of February in Wisconsin.

In a way, we are each other's therapist. Lunchtime psychotherapy for the cost of a Devonshire Panini. Unlike therapists though, we're not out to fix each other, but rather to hear the other out. Maybe we give a couple of tips or ideas if something is especially heavy, but for the most part, we're just there to say, "Oh yeah, I hear ya man." Sometimes that takes the problem and punches it in the face a bit. Sometimes it's helpful to know that someone has gone through it or at least winces with empathy. That's the therapy that works best for me.

Another of my close friends, Pat, still lives in Minnesota. We grew up together in the Parochial school system, both of us rode the bench on the football team, floundered our early days in college together, and he's the one I credit for bringing me to faith. The underlying thing between us - and I allude to this in my book a bit - is our sense of humor.

Back in High School and College, some of the best memories I have were of sitting with Pat at Perkins for hours, drinking pots of bad coffee and laughing until the wee morning hours. In between the bouts of uncontrollable silliness though, were discussions of great importance at the time. We were making our way in the world and we needed sounding boards to make sure we didn't mess up too bad. There were times we'd go from laughing to dead seriousness -or sometimes even tears - within the same cup of coffee. The laughter helped get through the tough stuff, but you needed someone who would do both with you, and do it with grace and support and sometimes a kick in the pants.

Sometimes I miss those days of long, deep conversations over bad coffee. My wife will attest that I've taken to talking to people - sometimes strangers - at great length because I find them interesting. It's a weird phenomena that I can't explain, kind of like the smooth jazz phase of my life right after I turned 40. (A phase I'm glad I put behind me.) I'm still trying to figure out what's wrong with me; I'm an introvert, remember? I'm not supposed to linger in conversation with strangers. But lately I can hardly help myself. This whole change is probably deserving of its own post later.

Anyhow, I have maybe a dozen close male friends that I feel I could call tomorrow and pick up exactly where we left off, be it two days ago or twenty years ago. Some are closer to me than others, but all have the same like-able qualities, the love of laughter and an appreciation for what each of us bring to the others' life. I'm thankful for each one of them and I think it's a two way street.

So remember, if an old friend calls you and asks you to lunch, be sure and MAKE TIME. Your therapist  recommends it.

Blogging off...

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Classics, Keepers and Rubbermaid Totes




I went looking for a book today and ended up finding it in our upstairs bookcase. The photo above is but one shelf of the two shelf bookcase - which came from the house I grew up in in St. Paul, Minnesota. Now before you judge us on having such a small book collection, let me explain.

If you know my wife and I, we are voracious readers - she more than me, but I do alright. We have a stack of books by our nightstand constantly. (Ironically enough, as I write this at 8:30 on a Saturday night, she is up in bed...reading. What else to do on a February night?) Right now, I have three books up there, From the Top, by Michael Perry, The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Marten Troost and the Hawks of Sorga, by Summer Hanford. These three books are resting on top of a Sun Magazine, a Verse Wisconsin Poetry Magazine and a Bible. Sex Lives is finished, From the Top is in progress, Hawks is pending and Bible is ongoing forever.

Finished, in the works, on deck. I've read, I'm reading, I will be reading more.

This is how I love to live my life. Unfortunately, with a full time job, a wife, two kids, a ninety year-old house, a dog, two cats and a need to write, I don't get near the time to read that I would like. We have a friend who some Saturdays will spend nearly the whole day reading a book. There was a time in 1992 when Donna or I may have been able to do that. There hasn't been one since.

If I manage to squeeze in 45 minutes at night before bed, I'm doing pretty well. It is my biggest regret, lately. I'm not a terribly fast reader, so I don't churn through books like my wife, who devours them like popcorn. I have a list as long as my arm of things I want to read, yet may never get to.

Anyhow, the small bookcase is somewhat intentional. After we were nearly buried in books a few years back, we decided we had to do something. We packed up all but the "classics and keepers" and put them in a Rubbermaid totes down in the basement.

Do I feel horrible about those poor authors sitting in the basement? Yes, I do.

At the same time, I know where to go to visit them, if I must. It is not a slight against them, it's just that we realized that we were unlikely to pick them up and read them again. If we do, we'll go get them.

The ones on the bookshelf however are exceptions. They are the books of impact and that hold intrinsic value for one reason or another. A quick rundown of a few of them and why they hold significance for me.


  • Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut. Favorite author of all time. Found the book at a garage sale in Door County and HAD to have it. Read all of his books.

  • Blue Like Jazz and Unpainted Deserts by Donald Miller. One of my favorite contemporary Christian writers. He brings Christianity to the 21st century. He's raw at times, blunt at times, always poignant. Can't get enough of his stuff.

  • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Wow about says it all. Poetic, inspirational, spiritual and about 180 layers deep. A must have for any bookshelf.

  • Four Arguments for The Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander. A book I read in college that shaped my views on mass media and television. If you read it, you'll know why I think the cathode ray is the source of many of our world's problems today.

  • The Home for Wayward Clocks and Enlarged Hearts by Kathie Giorgio. Two of three books written (and signed) by my writing instructor, mentor, good friend, literary confidant, off-the-cuff publicist, and number one fan. Her literary fiction is second to none. She goes places others don't dare and gets away with it.

  • The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Uhhh...ya got me there. I got nothin'. It's my wife's book, though I hear it's pretty good. Something about menstruation.

  • Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. Another great contemporary Christian writer, She, like Anne Lamott take Christian writing and turn it on its head a bit, which speaks to where I am as a Christian a bit. 

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. Two words, read it.

  • Dolphins Leaping in the Milky Way by Jeff Poniewaz. A book of poetry by a local Milwaukee environmetalist poet. I credit him with piquing my interest in poetry 25 years ago and a local poet Mario Medina for rekindling it a few years ago. Thank God for both of them.
So that is my rundown. In my next life, I'll own a house the size of Buckingham Palace and it will have a library with thousands of books. Until then, I'll keep tipping over the stack on my nightstand and visiting the Rubbermaid totes in the basement.

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