Posts with Category This Writer’s Life

Dance Like Everyone is Watching

Harper didn’t know it, but the future of her dance career depended on this one dance. It all came down to 90 seconds of Itsy Bitsy Spider.

She enjoyed the dance practices, but from her first class, she was dreading the recital, which would take place on Muncie’s largest stage — Emens Auditorium — in front of 1,000 people.

I sat in the audience as a nervous dad. The first group of kids came out and one little girl folded her arms and stared at the floor. She was not dancing. Other little kids beamed under the spotlights.

For a girl who was still hesitant to say “hi” to her preschool teacher whom she had known for three years, performing on a stage was going to…

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Fathers actually matter, dammit!


The day I became a father, I felt like I didn’t matter.

Sure there were a few moments of feeling like the tiniest of cogs in a universe of space and time and life and death, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I mean that I felt invisible at the hospital. I know that I wasn’t one of the patients, but I was a part of this new family, and the the hospital staff acted like I wasn’t there. Family structures are complex today, so I’m sure that nurses rarely assume that someone is the father, but it seems like there should be some inclusion or instructions for the father as well. Some kind of “You Contributed Your DNA, Now be a Dad,” guide…

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CrossFit has me asking, “Can I jump on that?”

I’ve been doing CrossFit now for about a year at The Arsenal in Muncie. One of the many skills that we work on is the box jump.

No mystery here as to what this is. There’s a box and then we jump on top of it, leaving the ground with two feet and then landing on the box with two feet.  You can spot someone who does CrossFit by their scarred shins. (see photo of my shins above four months after I missed).  At some point everyone misses the box.

Most of the time during workouts we jump on 24-inch or 30-inch boxes, but sometimes we go for max height.  I think the highest I’ve done is 36-inches. I’ve never been…

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What my dad taught me about the work of writing

Today I work as a full-time writer. I have no boss. Sure, I answer to the occasional editor and deadline, but on a daily basis it’s just me sitting in a seat writing sentence after sentence. When I look back on what I’ve written, sometimes it’s not good enough and I have to start all over again until I get it right.

Dad wasn’t one to deliver lessons on subject-verb agreement, spelling, or the overuse of adverbs, but when it comes to the work of writing, he taught me everything I needed to know.

I share how and what over at Wasson Nursery’s blog this week.

And an even deeper dive into all that Dad has taught me appeared in Wabash Magazine a few years…

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The Myth of the Writing Space

To write you don’t need a quiet office lined with cherry-scented book shelves, an Aeron Miller chair, a hand-made wooden desk topped with inspirational quotes, or eight hours of uninterrupted silence.

I’ve signed two book contracts in my writing career. After I signed each one, I thought the same thing:

Holy crap! Is that enough time to write a book?

Having the time to write was less important than having a reason to write. Turns out being contractually obligated to write is a very good motivator.

For my first book, WEARING, my editor if I could write the book in four months (all the travels had already been completed); I lied and told him yes. The truth was that I had no idea.

My writing space…

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There is no “next project”

I’ll spend an hour on stage sharing the stories of the factory workers and farmers I’ve met on my travels. Then the question always comes:

“What’s your next project?”

It’s a legitimate question. It’s one that I might ask an author after hearing them speak. But here’s the thing: for me, there is no next project. I feel that having a “next project” implies that I write a book, dust off my hands, and turn my back on that book to focus on the next shiny thing.

I can’t do that. I write about real people with real lives and real families. People who’ve shared their stories with me so I could share them with others.

Some of these stories I’ve told hundreds of times over…

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Griffin at 3

For his birthday gift to me, my son Griffin looked at me, said, “I want Daddy!” and then ran as fast as his little legs with skinned knees would take him.

He turned three although you might not know it because he can read.  We’re not talking sight words here, we’re talking 50-cent, multi-syllable words. Like you could think of a word right now and write it down, and he’d read it to you. Even if he hasn’t seen it before.

He’s amazing.

You also might not know he’s three because he won’t talk to you.  He might say “Hi!” to you or “How are you?”, but he won’t carry on a conversation….

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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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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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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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