Ohioana Book Festival

I’ll be moderating a panel at the Ohioana Book Festival this afternoon.  Join me at 12:30 for “First Edition: Fiction.”

Find more information about the festival at www.OhioanaBookFestival.org.

The Ohioana Book Festival features the work of Ohio authors, and is run in part by the State of Ohio Library.

Columbus State Writers’ Conference – April 26, 2014

Thanks to Columbus State for hosting a great Writers’ Conference, and for inviting fellow CCC author (and author of Graham’s Charlotte) and I to present a workshop.

Drew and I gave a great class to a very warm crowd about working with a team of writers, based on our experience writing Capital Offense with a couple of other guys.

I offer a special thanks to Jamie Demonte for his tireless efforts to put on such a great conference.  For an institution to pull the quality of presses and writers, including keynotes like Roxane Gay, is a huge testament to Jamie’s work and reputation in the community.

You can learn more about the conference and some of our fellow presenters here.

Free Self-Publishing Seminar at the Delaware Library Tonight at 7

Join me in tonight at the Delaware Library Orange Branch at 7pm for a free seminar on the five key steps to professional book publication.  If you’re interested in self-publishing or even publication through a traditional publishing house, this course will be a great primer on how great books are produced.

Get the program details on the Delaware Library website here.

This program starts at 7pm tonight, April 9, 2014, and is free and open to the public.

On the Morality of the Super Bowl

This morning, I read Steve Almond’s “Is it immoral to watch the Super Bowl?” from The New York Times. It’s a well constructed, well articulated article. Almond argues that the health risks of football outweigh the value of the sport, and that we’re culturally irresponsible for continuing to passively support the enterprise.

I think he’s missing it.

Truthfully, I have no problem with a bunch of grown men deciding to ram themselves into each other until they’ve damaged their brains and internal organs. If an informed adult decides he’d rather make millions of dollars and live like a king for a while, then die a senile, miserable hero at age 50, this seems no more illogical than choosing to wile away in a cubicle for $45,000 a year to die alone, senile and miserable at the age of 90. We’re all sacrificing our lives one day at a time. There’s really no reasonable way to do it.

I agree with Almond that the NFL and the Super Bowl embody a disheartening aspect of American culture, but it has nothing to do with paying 300 pound me to learn to run faster so that they can collide with each other more effectively.

The problem is that one by one, we’re stripping away the things that were created as manifestations of healthy community. We’re refining out the honor and the good, and casting the worst elements into idols.

Football, I imagine, was created like all games are. A group of children with limited resources, namely a ball and a field, created a set of rules that would perpetuate play and incentivize excellence. An observant, creative and intuitive adult at some point formalized the rules and the field, so that the game could be used as a healthy outlet for other children to socialize, exercise and resolve underutilized emotional energy. This is the story of all sports, right?

The game grew in popularity, and some children demonstrated exceptionalism at this new, arbitrary skill set. So excellent were they that it superseded a group of unsupervised children doing God-knows and who cares what, to something that could actually be interesting and exciting to watch.

Over the course of time, the game evolved into a contest between schools, institutions and minor geographic regions, as a safe way to encourage excellence, healthy competition and as a non-violent way to resolve petty differences. The community would gather to watch and socialize, which cemented the game’s value in our society. This is still the story of virtually any team sport, right?

This is excellent. It’s an outlet for children that encourages the development of a lot of virtues, and on a larger scale, the sport becomes a central point of community life (ever been to a small town high school football game?), and the game is a responsible mechanism for healthy inter-community relations. In the case of football, there is a rugged, physical component of the game, and occasionally kids do get hurt, but it’s generally worth the risk and the societal benefit, and the benefit to a healthy local community and healthy kids far outweighs the incidental tragedy. Every good thing comes at a cost, after all.

Even though children get hurt, they’re not typically capable of inflicting the same kind of permanent damage that grown, hulking men are, and a child’s body is more resilient. They’re built for this kind of play.

But then something horrible happens. Technological capabilities increase, and now a game can be broadcast around the world live in high definition. You can see and experience more. The technology is so good, it’s actually better to watch the game at home than it is to go to the field. A player that was once important to a small community now has the capacity to be important to the entire world. The stakes are raised exponentially, and the rewards skyrocket with them. What was once a hobby now holds the promise of unimaginable riches, and boys who will become men are now incentivized to spend their lives getting bigger, stronger and faster. Most of these boys are chasing an unobtainable dream, to their own detriment.

No more does the community rally around their team. That takes second stage. No longer does the event draw the local community together at the nearest field. You can’t see the action well enough.

But football didn’t work because of the action. A group of ten-year-olds were killing time, and the game itself hasn’t moved beyond that. Football works because it brought people together.

Almond’s argument assumes that football was an activity intended for grown men, and that its intended value is for the entertainment of spectators.

Just like the 24-hour news cycle has exacerbated the worst traits of newscasting and turned our attention to trivial national affairs while we ignore the injustices outside of our back door, this obsession with national sports has stolen the very value of the game from our communities and indulged all of the negative side effects.

The answer is not to steal this tool from our communities and from our kids. Some of our kids need football, because it’s an activity and an outlet that suits them. Stealing this resource from our communities won’t solve the problem.

The answer is to turn off the TV. The answer is to apply a new standard. The answer is to create children who value people first. The answer is to create little people who want to play.

What if for every game we watched on TV, we watched one at the local high school? What if for every $100 NFL jersey we buy, we gave $10 to the local marching band? What if for every $80 Cincinnati Reds ticket, you took ten of your kid’s friends to a minor-league Columbus Clippers game?

We don’t need to be on the same team as ten million fans. But if we’re going to get better, we need real people around us that we can touch and feel and hope for.

We have to teach our kids to play again, and if that includes football, let them play.

Because you can’t play football alone.

But you can sure as hell watch the super bowl in the dark, in the silence of an empty room.

Self-Publishing Seminar at the Westerville Public Library

Over the course of my career as a publishing consultant, I’ve had the pleasure of working with New York Times Bestselling Authors, Professional Athletes and authors of all levels.  There’s a ton of bad information about self-publishing on the internet, and it can be tough to sort out without a little help.

When the Westerville Public Library contacted me about giving a seminar on self-publishing, I jumped at the chance.  It’s a great way to help people understand a growing, and ever-more confusing, world.  Plus, I grew up in Westerville and spent a lot of time at the library as a kid, so it’s a nice opportunity to head up there and see what they’ve done with the place.

Tonight at 7pm I’ll be offering a free Self-Publishing Seminar at the Westerville Public Library.  I’ll cover the 5-steps to producing a professional book and answering questions.

This event is open to the public.  I hope you can make it!

Ohio Writers’ Guild Meeting – June 19, 2013

I’ll be a guest speaker at the Ohio Writers’ Guild meeting tomorrow, June 19, 2013 at 1:00p.m. at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, Ohio.  Learn more about the Ohio Writers’ Guild at www.OhioWritersGuild.org.

I’ll be discussing my new publishing company, Columbus Press, as well as the writing industry in general in Columbus, Ohio.

The meeting is free and open to the public.  All are welcome to attend.  I hope to see you there!

The Joy Project – Fancy Freedom Designs

My lovely and talented photographer wife has embarked on a new artistic challenge called The Joy Project.  Her ambition is to capture the lives of ordinary people who go above and beyond the call of being good humans and spend extra time bringing joy to people around them.

While the project’s emphasis will be on photographs and videos, I’m very pleased to partner with her to provide the text side of things.

Our first subject was Krysten Case, founder of Fancy Freedom Designs.  In addition to being a full-time second grade teacher and a great human being, Krysten spends countless hours crafting jewelry to benefit DOMA International, a group that targets domestic slavery.

Krysten has a great story, and I learned about things that I wouldn’t have thought possible to exist in modern day America.

Find Krysten’s story on The Joy Project here.

Keep an eye out for additional stories and videos as we learn about more ordinary folks who lead inspiring lives.

Words to Let Project

I’m honored to have been invited to participate in the Words to Let project.

The project has invited a list of text-based artists to tour an abandoned home in Columbus’s King-Lincoln district (soon to be rehabbed), and to create something inspired by the house.

We’ll see how the final project comes out, but it’s such a cool idea, and I’m delighted to be able to draw attention to the condition of this area of the city.  The house Melissa and I are rehabbing and live in is just in the next neighborhood over. It’s a great opportunity to be involved in a city-wide project that hits so close to home, and encompasses lots of things that I believe are important.

All of the artwork will be published, to be released as a single anthology this summer!  Stay tuned for details.

This project is facilitated by Rooms to Let Temporary Art Space.  Thank you to them, and to Jaclyn Little, the project curator.

Sejal and the Walk for Water Officially Released!

Sejal and the Walk for WaterI am super pleased to announce the release of my novelette Sejal and the Walk for Water as an e-book.

You can find it for Amazon Kindle (click here) for only 99 cents.  You can also purchase the PDF directly from me this book page.

Please take a look.  If you can, I would love for you to read this novelette, and, if you like it, share it with others or leave me a review on Amazon or GoodReads.

The global water crisis has always been an issue that is dear to me. In 2011, my wife, Melissa, and I started a zero-overhead non-profit organization called The Water Cycle Project to raise money to drill wells in India.  I rode my bike across Ohio in three days with a couple of other guys as part of that effort.

Sejal and the Walk for Water is the story of a young Indian woman, Sejal, and the trials she must overcome to fetch water for her family each day.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for supporting me as an author.