Those who shed these other tears

When I tell people about the Facing Project, they often say, “Oh, it’s like an oral history project.”

“Sure,” I say, not really knowing exactly what an oral history project is.  Well instead of continuing not to know J.R., my co-founder of the project, and I are taking it upon ourselves to learn about the tradition and execution of oral histories.

So I’m reading Studs Terkel’s autobiography, Touch and Go. Terkel won a Pulitzer for his book The Good War, which is an oral history of World War Two.

He was in his 90s when he wrote Touch and Go and so far it’s filled with rambling references of people and topics that I’m not familiar with, but I’m enjoying his philosophy of writing about…

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Flashback: That Time I Was a Pirate on the Great Lakes

Aboard the Picton Castle in 2006

I have a buddy obsessed with sailing around the world, an obsession I could very easily catch if I thought about it too long. To feed his obsession, I shared one of my few sailing stories with him. For 2-days I got to play pirate on a tall ship, the Picton Castle, in the Great Lakes.

I wanted to repost it because I feel like it highlights the lengths I will go to get a story. In this case, 90-feet off the deck! (I think there are much more talented writers than I am, but I often go places other writers won’t go, and I think that has played a large part in my success.) And more than that this story shows how my degree in anthropology influenced my writing. In anthropology one of the techniques used to gather qualitative data (stories) is participant observation. This means the researcher just doesn’t sit on the sidelines and scribble in a notebook, but they get in with the folks they are studying and get their hands dirty:

“Participant Observation” defined on Wikipedia:

Its aim is to gain a close and intimate familiarity with a given group of individuals (such as a religious, occupational, sub cultural group, or a particular community) and their practices through an intensive involvement with people in their cultural environment, usually over an extended period of time. The method originated in the field research of social anthropologists, especially Bronisław Malinowskiin Britain, the students of Franz Boas in the United States, and in the later urban research of the Chicago School of sociology.

I think the piece below reflects my commitment to this approach. Hope you enjoy it.

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Spend a day with me talking writing

Hanging with Jama in 2012.

I volunteer on the planning committee of the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie, Indiana.  I met the magnificent agent, Caren (Johnson) Estesen, who sold WEARING to Wiley at the conference in 2007.  Now I enjoy helping other writers on their writing journeys.

I’ve keynoted at the conference, led breakout sessions, moderated panels, and in general done whatever Jama, the director, has asked me to do. But this marks the first year that I’m leading an intensive session during Part I of the conference.  I’m really pumped! 

The MWW blog interviewed me about the intensive.  (And when I say they I mean that I interviewed myself.)

In the interview I declare I’m jealous of…

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Dear “World Travelers,” stop counting countries

There’s no good way to quantify travel. I wish folks would stop trying.

International travel has been part of my life and my career for the past 13 years. I started traveling right out of college. I did the 6-month backpacking thing through Hawaii, Australia, Thailand, Nepal, and zipped through Europe. The next year I went to New Zealand on the last leg of an around-the-world ticket I had purchased in Australia. There were other trips to Eastern Europe, Central America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Western Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and beyond.

I’ve written two books about my travels. One to meet the folks who made my favorite items of clothing, and one to meet the farmers and fishermen responsible for much of the…

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Two thoughts on parenting…

These aren’t parenting strategies.  Parenting strategies to me are like fad-diets.  Raise your kids like Europeans! Raise your kids like Chinese! Raise your kids like cavemen!  However you raise your kids, you will succeed and fail. Just love them and stop telling everyone else how to raise their kids.

Anyhow, I’ve been a parent now for 5 1/2 years, so this isn’t to say that I know much of anything about parenting at this point.  Years from now, we’ll let the therapists decide that.  These are more my thoughts on how I feel as a parent:

#1 Kids give you less time to change the world, but more of a reason.

I’m fortunate that my work reaches people and hopefully changes the way they…

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Ball State Sophomores, You should enter this contest!

Ball State University, in my hometown of Muncie, used WEARING as a freshman read last year, and this year they are using EATING. They are having a whole host of EATING related events, and on April 16th I’ll be on campus to speak at Pruis Hall.


WIN $500


In conjunction with all of these events, the Freshman Connections program is hosting an essay and video competition for sophomores. Here are all the details:

This contest is designed to provide students a platform to use creative video to demonstrate this year’s Freshman Connections theme, The Difference You Make, and the themes of the book Where Am I Eating? By Kelsey Timmerman, who will be visiting Ball State April 16, Pruis Hall, 7:30pm.

The short film and/ or essay…

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In which I tell NPR listeners I am not naked

Do you ever listen to the radio and wonder if the person speaking is naked?

Well, apparently I do because I went out of my way to tell the listeners of this hour-long interview on Lehigh Valley’s NPR station that I was, in fact, not naked.

Do you ever say dumb things? I do…like constantly.

For the most part, I managed to not make a complete fool of myself. Regardless, I’m really looking forward to speaking, on stage, wearing clothes, at NCC’s 4th Annual Peace & Justice Conference next week.

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Caffeine: Made in China?

Think your Coca-Cola is America’s nectar? Wrong!

I never really thought where caffeine came from (and I think about where stuff comes from a lot) until I heard Murray Carpenter on NPR this morning discussing his new book Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts and Hooks Us.

Caffeine comes from plants and acts as an insecticide. So it can be natural, but most of the caffeine in soft drinks is produced in a factory, and the largest caffeine factory in the world is in…. China.

Carpenter described the factory he “got close to one”:

It was sketchy. It was not what I expected. It was sort of a run down industrial park.

I’m drinking caffeine right now, and you probably are too. Carpenter’s interview is worth a…

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My Snatch (it’s a CrossFit thing, sicko!)

I’ve been working out at The Arsenal, Muncie’s only CrossFit gym. since July. After nine months this is my snatch lift (wide grip, from ground to overhead). It’s come along way, but still has a lot of work. I bend my elbows too early, and I don’t get under the bar enough.

This morning, starting at 6 AM, we completed 6 rounds of 2 reps. I matched my personal record of 105 lbs. I was hoping for 115 lbs. This is what I like about CrossFit. Your technique and strengths are measurable. In that way it’s not like writing at all. I can’t quantify my writing to see improvement. I believe that my writing continually improves…

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Look out Norfolk, San Diego, St. Louis, San Francisco, Dayton, Indianapolis, Galesburg, Muncie, etc., here I come!

I’m speaking all over the place this spring — east coast, west coast, and middle coast! If I’m in your neighborhood, come see me or meet me for a fair trade coffee or whatever.

I’m looking forward to criss-crossing the country several times to share the stories of the folks I’ve met on my travels. If you’re interested in having me speak to your conference, university, school, or event, check out my speaking page.

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