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Showing posts from 2021

A 2021 Badger

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In a few days, my son will graduate from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. For some reason this is both an extremely proud but sad occasion for me. I couldn't be prouder of his achievements, especially given that he graduated in 3.5 years, one semester early. That can be attributed to his AP classes in high school. Both he and my daughter took a slew of AP courses and those credits (mostly) transferred as college credits. With college tuitions what they are, this amounts to thousands of dollars saved.  I will go ahead and say that both of my kids were better students than I was. They were smarter and applied themselves much more than I did. Some of this might be a dual vs. single parent upbringing, but much of it was just that they were extremely self-driven. We coaxed them, but in the end, it was their own high expectations of themselves that helped them succeed. I remember when I took Ben to his orientation/tour. The keynote speaker made a mention that as a student who was a

Mom/Mary/Nanny

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So, my mom turns 88 today.  I can't say enough about what she means to me, my wife and kids and the rest of our extended family. Any of you that know my family, know that she has been through so much in those 88 years, not the least of which is the current pandemic. Her story is written in her children and that is her single biggest and most beautiful legacy. Seven children, 14 grandchildren and a handful of great grandchildren. Add to that, a host of my cousins, a few stepsiblings and random other people that have adopted her as their mom, and, well, it's a lot.  Sarah's Graduation. Much of Mom's legacy. Mom goes by three different names, depending on how you are related. She's Mom to us kids, of course. To her daughter and sons in-law, she's Mary or Mary Lou, and to her grandchildren and great grandchildren, she's known as Nanny. That is what her own mother went by as a grandmother, and she inherited it or took ownership maybe,  Mom/Mary/Nanny is still in

Sharing in the Struggle

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 I watched a Barnes and Noble interview with Barack Obama the other night about his newest book, The Promised Land. I'll confess, I didn't watch the entire thing, as I had screen/zoom fatigue by then, but what I saw of it was interesting.  What I found the most interesting wasn't necessarily the content of the book, but the commonalities we share as writers. He was frank and honest about his routines and methods. He mentioned he tends to do his best writing between 10 PM and 1 AM. This is actually the polar opposite of when I like to write. I tend to like writing first thing in the morning and into the afternoon.  He also mentioned that he writes all of his stuff using longhand on yellow legal pads. He said that is more productive for him and makes for a cleaner transcription. I thought that was particularly interesting given my efforts on my latest manuscript "At the Lake" (Working Title).  As I've mentioned, I am trying to write this one entirely in longhand

Influencers Before Influencers Were A Thing

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So, in reflecting a bit on the writing of Cretin Boy, I got to thinking about what makes a teacher memorable. What are the characteristics that send some to the top of the list while others fall away? I have a few good friends who are teachers, well liked and undoubtedly well respected. Much of it stems from the demeanor of the teacher, the excitement or enthusiasm level for sure. In the book I mention an Algebra teacher I had that I was never very fond of. Some of it was my distaste for all things math, but much of it was this teacher's demeanor. He carried himself with a level of grumpiness that carried over into everything he did.  If someone were to question if it wasn't more related to my dislike for math, I would argue that why did I enjoy Geometry so much a year later as a sophomore? It was the teacher. Mr. Horyza was fair, funny and firm. If you struggled in any area, but came in for help, he kept track of that and gave you credit for it. It required going in before sch

This Is A Test

 Well, I had my first hearing test since 2016 today. Evidently when you're as deaf as I am you should be getting tested every year. This audiologist was surprised that I have not been tested in 5 years. I was all like "Well, you guys are the experts, I'm just the patient here." I still see hearing aids as a nicety that I can get along without, 80% of my day, so these things don't rattle me like they might rattle others.  So I step into the soundproof booth and get hooked up with all kinds of wires and buds. It was the old push the button when you hear a sound routine, something I remember from 5 years ago. Those of you who have heard my poem, "This is a Test", from my book,  Thoughts from a Line at the DMV   know that this same soundproof booth was the inspiration for the poem. As the test started I was pretty sure there were a number of sounds that were imperceptible by the human ear, because there were long periods where I heard nothing (except my tinn

Going Deeper at the Deep Valley Book Festival

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With the pandemic still raging, us authors are still stuck with making our way as best we can. It used to be that if I released a book in November, the next 6 months would be filled with events and readings around Wisconsin and Minnesota. I miss those events more than I thought I would. I am energized by reading in front of a crowd, at least when it comes to my books. It will never be my favorite thing in the world, but as I've done it more and more, I've become much more comfortable doing it. After the readings, I enjoy talking to people about the book as I sign their copies and thank them for coming. It is exhausting but rewarding. The ambivert in me becomes all-extrovert during those two hours. In lieu of these in-person events and book festivals, I am left to do the next best thing. A good example of this is coming up this weekend in the Deep Valley Book Festival - Cabin Fever Edition . This is a virtual book festival that is based in Mankato, Minnesota. It is a free event,

Today's Pandemic Top Ten Quotes

10 Quotes from the land of COVID-19 in late February 1. "Why am I so tired tonight?" 2. "I'm doing laundry, do you need your masks washed?" 3. "You know how I was going to try and stop drinking during the week? Yeah, no." 4. "I went to the coffee shop today and there was a group of women holding an unmasked book study. Maniacs!" 5. "It might be a frozen pizza night!" (Sometimes twice a week.) 6. "You should put your pajamas on and be done with it." (Quoting my wife at 5:30 PM) 7. If I have to sit through another Zoom meeting, I'm going to scream."" 8. "Your mic is muted!" 9. "How can you be 11 months into a pandemic and claim you don't have a web cam. C'mon, man!" 10. "I'm going to share my screen now. Hopefully this will work okay." (It always does. This is not a new technology. C'mon, man!) The list goes on and on. I'd like to say we've turned the corner

Turning The Corner

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 I'd like to believe we're on the downside of winter, but I'm afraid to for fear of more snow. It has been a brutal last 6 weeks after a fairly mild, almost snowless December. There were some things to appreciate about this season, starting with that snowless December. January had a lot of days near 30 degrees which made for good cross country skiing and decent walking weather to maintain some semblance of fitness. Then Late January and early February rolled around and as often happens, things got ugly. Lots of significant snowfalls, usually followed by the predictable cold temps that seem to follow most storms.  Throw into that fun, the last 10 days of what I'm calling a Polar Vortex, (I don't know if the meteorologists are, but I am)  and it has most of us thinking spring can't come soon enough. Temps are creeping into the thirties in the next few days so, I'm running with that victory. After my walk in 17 degree weather (and daylight, bonus!) yesterday, I

My Point Is...

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 So life in publication land goes on despite COVID-19. I continue to market and promote Cretin Boy and my other books albeit mostly virtually or through emails and social media. It's been kind of a cool week from a feedback standpoint so I thought I'd share a few of the bright spots. I heard from my cousin Judy today who gave the book to her husband as a surprise Christmas gift. She snuck a picture of him reading my book. He was a grad from 1970, and she thought he's enjoy recalling some of his days at Cretin. He said that many of the teachers I mentioned were there when he was, so that was convenient. The book has helped me connect with a few family members who I don't hear from often, so that's a nice intangible benefit, I guess. A friend and writing colleague posted a picture of the book and mentioned how she was looking forward to it. She is a poet and a great source of light and inspiration to not only me, but to all writers and poets in Wisconsin. We've b

Making The Best Of It

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 One of the many fallouts of the pandemic is the momentary death of live book festivals. Along with other large conferences, these events if held would be nothing short of irresponsible super-spreader events. The local festival in Waukesha, the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books went virtual last November in an attempt to keep some semblance of a conference. Others have followed suit including the Twin Cities Book Festival in October.  I didn't realize how much I missed the interactions and networking I have at these events until I didn't have them. I miss presenting at them, I miss talking to my peers and I miss talking to readers.  Nevertheless, I still need to pursue the promotion and marketing of my books, particularly my newest, Cretin Boy. This means searching far and wide for venues to get it out there.  One of the better ones I've found is the Deep Valley Book Festival held in the Mankato area of Minnesota. They are typically in-person, but because of COVID are

A Word From The Bunker

 I keep looking for an end or a bit of light with regards to the pandemic. It's hard when we're 10 months into it and still looking at probably another 6-8 before we see widespread vaccinations. Unfortunately our numbers are as high as they've ever been and hospitals are starting to feel the pinch on a much broader scale. We're not too bad locally, but am hearing reports of places that are. In the meantime, I continue to stay home as much as possible and minimize contact with people.  To keep a sense of normalcy, I continue to try and get some writing done. In the last week I've submitted to 3 poetry magazines and a nonfiction story about introversion to Introvert, Dear, a website on the cause. I'll tell you more about it if you text me. LOL. Little introvert joke there. The combination of writing and my wife are keeping me sane through all of this. I'm still reporting into work twice a week with three days working from home. When I get down about any of it