When Harry Met Sally, and When Matt Met Elysha

Yesterday, July 14, was the ten year anniversary of my publishing career, but today, July 15, is an even more important anniversary.

Today Elysha and I celebrate our thirteenth year of marriage.

I was recently listening to The Rewatchables, a podcast about films that people love to watch again and again. They were discussing When Harry Met Sally and debating how realistic it would be for Harry and Sally to end up together at the conclusion of the film. Both women on the podcast argued that although it’s the happier, more satisfying ending. these things don’t happen in real life.

Friends like Harry and Sally never marry. Improbable relationships never end up happily ever after.

I was debating the truth behind these jaded statements when it occurred to me that Elysha and my marriage was just as improbable as Harry and Sally’s marriage.

When I met Elysha in the waning days of summer of 2002, I was married to another woman and Elysha was engaged and just a few months away from being married to another man. Yes, my marriage wasn’t ideal, and yes, Elysha was beginning to have doubts about her engagement, but still, we were both committed to other people in long term, serious relationships.

Elysha and I first laid eyes on each other on a late August day during the first faculty meeting of the school year.

I remember thinking that Elysha was beautiful, young, and impossibly cool. The kind of girl who would never even look in my direction.

She remembers thinking of me as one of the cool kids, laughing and joking my way through that first meeting with my faculty friends.

We started out as colleagues, a single classroom separating our two classrooms. Our first real conversation took place during a hike with students around the lake at Camp Jewell in Colebrook, CT. Elysha was telling me about her upcoming wedding, and as a wedding DJ about five years at the time, I offered her advice on her upcoming wedding and told her about my own wedding.

An improbable movie moment if ever there was.

Eventually Elysha and I began friendly. She asked me to do her taxes. I dropped her off at the garage to pick up her car. She and I took students to lunch at The Rainforest Cafe at the end of the school year as part of a school fair raffle prize.

We were friendly, but after that meal, we said goodbye for the summer, never speaking until the beginning of the next school year.

We were friendly, but we certainly weren’t friends.

Elysha called off her engagement about two months before the wedding, and around that same time, I separated from my wife. Even then, we didn’t get together. After picking ourselves off the ground, we eventually began dating other people. Elysha was set up by a colleague and started an almost year-long relationship with another man. I dated a few people, including our school psychologist.

Our friendship, like Harry and Sally’s, deepened during that time, but still, there was no romance. We were simply good friends dating other people.

About a year later, as our relationships with those other people began to wane, we turned toward each other. In truth, I had noticed Elysha right from the start but had always assumed tat she was too beautiful and - more importantly - too cool to ever be interested in me. The fact that she was my friend was thrilling enough.

But as out late night phone calls grew longer and longer and we shared more and more of our lives with each other, I started to wonder if it was possible that Elysha Green could actually like me.

Like like me.

Elysha made the first move during a hike on Mount Carmel in Sleeping Giant State Forest. On the way down the mountain, she reached out and held my hand.

I couldn’t believe it.

Later that night, in the parking lot of our school, she told me that she liked me, and my response - chronicled recently on this blog - was, “I’m flattered.”

Don’t ask me why. I’m stupid sometimes.

Five minutes after she drove off, I replayed the conversation in my head and realized how stupid I had been.

“I’m flattered?” What was I thinking? She likes me!

I panicked.

I called and called to apologize and tell her that I liked her, too, but Elysha was famous back then (and now) for not listening to voicemail messages, so I went to bed worried that I had blown my chance with the coolest woman I had ever known.

Classic romantic comedy misconnection.

I corrected things the next morning, chasing her down and rejecting a note she had written to me asking if we could still be friends. That night, we kissed for the first time in the parking lot outside my apartment.

Two months later, we moved in together. Six months after that, I asked Elysha to marry me on the steps of Grand Central Terminal in New York City while two dozen friends and family secretly watched amongst the throng of holiday travelers.

On July 15, 2006, we were married.

Friends like Harry and Sally never get married? Improbable romances never work out?

Nonsense!

I could write a movie about our relationship - a great romantic comedy - and those two jaded women on the podcast would probably say the same thing:

A boy and girl meet at work. One is married. The other is engaged and about to be married. Their first conversation is about the girl’s pending nuptials. Over time, they become friendly.

Then the boy’s marriage ends in divorce. The girl calls off her engagement just a couple months before the wedding. They engage in new relationships with new people, all the while becoming better and better friends.

Those relationships with other people begin to fail, and then one day, while hiking together on a mountain, the girl reaches out and takes the boy’s hand.

His heart bursts with joy.

Later, she confesses her love to him. He fails to reciprocate because boy’s are stupid. Eventually he chases her down and corrects his mistake. Confesses his love.

They kiss. Marry.

Today they celebrate 13 years of marriage. They have two kids. A home. Two cats. A brilliant, beautiful life together.

“Yeah, right,” those women on the podcast would say. “Never happens.”

Improbable? Maybe.

Impossible? Nonsense.

Happy anniversary, honey.

Speak Up Storytelling: Live from Miss Porter's School!

On episode #58 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha and I take our show on the road to Miss Porter's School in Farmington, CT.

Today's podcast was recorded in front of a group of students who will be spending the week with me, writing, telling stories and learning to podcast. 

In our follow-up segment, we will learn about the storytelling possibilities while competing in the sport of curling, and we will go under the podcasting hood to discuss some of the hopefully occasional imperfections in the editing of our podcast. 

STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2019

STORYTELLING SHOWS 2019

Next I tell a story live to my students.  

Amongst the many things we discuss about that story include:

  1. The importance of listening when searching for new stories

  2. Creating scenes in the minds of the audience

  3. The importance of getting listeners to wonder what is going to happen next (and the ruthlessness that is sometimes applied when you're not wondering what will happen next)

  4. The "laugh laugh laugh cry" model of storytelling 

  5. Using surprise in order to turn a story

Finally, we answer student questions about telling other people's stories and why we never invent things that didn't actually happen when telling our stories.

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Purchase Twenty-one Truths About Love 

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

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Ten years of publishing... TODAY!

I am celebrating my tenth anniversary in publishing today!

On July 14, 2009, I published my first novel, Something Missing, with Broadway Books, a division of Doubleday, thus making a seemingly impossible dream come true. I can still remember walking into the now-defunct Borders Books and seeing my book on the shelf for the first time.

This was followed in 2010 with the publishing of my second novel, Unexpectedly, Milo, also with Doubleday.

In 2013, I switched to St. Martin’s Press, a division of Macmillan, and published Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, my most successful book so far. In 2016, I published The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs, also with St. Martin’s Press, and in November of this year, I’ll publish my fifth novel, Twenty-one Truths About Love.

Sometime in 2020, my sixth novel The Other Mother, will publish here in the United States. It’s already been published abroad.

I also published Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling in 2018 with New World Library.

Six books in ten years. It’s been an amazing decade.

in addition to publishing in the United States, my books have also been published in more than 25 countries overseas, and three of my four novels are currently optioned for film.

I’ve also become the humor columnist for Seasons magazine and an advice columnist for Slate magazine. I’ve published pieces regularly in Parents magazine

The Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists has awarded me first prize in the opinion/humor writing category in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2019. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend was the 2014 Dolly Gray Award winner and was a finalist for the 2017 Nutmeg Award in Connecticut.

I say all this because despite a decade of consistent work in the publishing world, here’s the crazy thing:

I still don’t feel like a real author. I still feel like at any moment, I will be discovered for the fraud that I surely am and be unceremoniously kicked out of the literary world.

Isn’t that crazy?

I’ve often wonder when the day will come when I will feel like an honest-to-goodness writer and rid myself of this persistent imposter syndrome.

Then again, maybe imposter syndrome isn’t such a bad thing. It keeps me on the knife’s edge, working like hell to stay relevant, valuable, and in the game.

Still, it would be nice to answer the question, “What do you do for a living?” by saying “Teacher, writer, and storyteller” and not feel like the writer part of that answer isn’t real.

Either way, it’s been ten years today. A decade that I never would have dreamed possible and still seems kind of impossible when I reflect back upon it.

And would’ve been impossible if not for the support of friends, family, editors, publicists, booksellers, Elysha, and my agent and friend, Taryn Fagerness.

Hopefully I’ll be writing a similar post in another ten years, and perhaps by then, I’ll be feeling like the honest-to-goodness author I’ve always wanted to be.

Three amusing Disney moments

When riding alongside with me on his very first ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Charlie took one look at Disney’s remarkable animatronic characters and shouted, “Robots!”

Later that day, when riding alongside me in The Haunted House, he pointed at a group of ghosts dancing together in a ballroom and shouted “Projections!”

The boy is ruled by logic.

Yet when we watched Tinker Bell streak across the sky at the end of the Magic Kingdom fireworks show, he declared that as proof that fairies were real, as he’s always argued.

He’s ruled by logic, but he can still be fooled.
_________________________________________

After walking by a group of rowdy teenagers, Charlie asked Elysha what it was like when she was a teenager. Then he told us that teenage boys are crazy. “So I’m just warning you”.

He’s seven years-old and is already trying to prepare us for his teenage rebellion.

_________________________________________

I overheard three very stupid people in the course of 30 minutes while walking through Animal Kingdom:

  1. A man in the tiger exhibit asked a staff member where he could ride a tiger. When the staff member said he didn’t know of any place where that was possible. the man insisted that it was true because his grandmother had once told him that she had seen people ride tigers before, and he had been looking for those tigers ever since.

  2. A few minutes later, we walked by large monkeys walking and swinging on cables overhead. A man began arguing with his wife, claiming that the monkeys were just humans dressed in monkey suits.

  3. About a minute after that, I overheard a young man explaining to a young lady that Disney Paris and Disney Tokyo and Disney Shanghai are so much better than Disney World, but Disneyland is the best. “You can judge these parks by their pirates,” he explained. “Good pirates mean a good park. Disneyland’s pirates are the most committed to the roles.”

It was ten minutes of astonishment on my part. Not quite as astonishing as tigers and monkeys and little boys preparing to become rebellious teenagers, but still pretty surprising.

Best and worst of our Disney adventure

For the last seven days, my family and I have been vacationing at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I have purposely not written about the trip until now - as we fly home - because telling the world that your cats are being fed by neighbors and visited by your friends but your house is otherwise empty isn’t a great idea.

But now that I'm just a few hours from home, I have much to share.

I’ll start with this:

My least favorite part of the trip were the moments when I witnessed parents losing their patience with a child and saying something - both in tone and words - that broke my heart. Thankfully, I didn’t see this too often, but I remember those unfortunate moments all too well.

My favorite parts of the trip were the many, many times when Clara and Charlie thanked us for bringing them to Disney World. The multitude of moments when they told us how happy and excited they felt and how grateful they were. Their unprompted remarks of appreciation meant the world to me.

Yes, there were amazing rides and joyous parades and a fireworks show that left both Elysha and me in tears, but not surprising, it was the words and smiles of our children that I loved most.

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Perhaps we don't disagree on sleep as much as you think. Perhaps.

Yesterday I bestowed favored animal status to the giraffe, based primarily on its ability to sleep less than 30 minutes per day. People were surprised - as they often are - by how much I hate to sleep, and particularly how irritated I am every night when I need to fall asleep.

In response, many readers and friends declared their everlasting love for sleep.

Here’s a question I’d like to pose:

Do people really like to sleep, or do they like to fall asleep and possibly wake from sleep?

Since human beings are functionally unconscious while they sleep, the ability to take pleasure in the act of sleeping seems almost impossible. You can certainly love the subsequent feeling of renewal and vigor that sleep has on your body and mind, but when sleep is actually taking place, it’s impossible to experience pleasure in the act of sleeping because you’re not aware of your surroundings or even of your own body.

Is your arm under the pillow? Resting on your chest? Draped over a loved one? You don’t know, so how is it possible to experience any kind of pleasure given that level of unconsciousness?

Do people really love to sleep, or alternatively, do people enjoy occupying a horizontal position in a space of comfort and relaxation, unburdened from the expectations of the world?

This is what they really love when they profess their love for sleep. Right? They actually adore that period of time prior to sleep and immediately following sleep. The feeling of coziness. The removal of most of the physical demands on the body. The ability to push aside responsibilities and worries for a period of time.

Isn’t this - and not the unconscious state of sleep that follows - what people love?

Shouldn’t people be saying:

“I love assuming a horizontal position on a soft surface, my head slightly elevated by similarly soft surfaces, while simultaneously covered by soft linens. And while in that position, I enjoy closing my eyes and pushing the worries and cares of the world aside for a time.”

Isn’t this - and not the unconscious state that follows - the thing that people love?

I’m just asking.

Though I hate to sleep and am genuinely irritated almost every night with the need to stop my life for a period of time to recharge my brain, I admittedly enjoy lying down in my soft bed (particularly if my wife is present) and assuming a position of comfort.

That part of sleep is great. No complaints whatsoever. If that part could last about 15-30 minutes, and if I could remain conscious for the entire time, I would also profess my love for sleep. The problem is that I remain conscious for less than a minute before I drift off into stupid, unproductive, unconscious sleep for a ridiculous 4-6 hours.

Yes, it’s true. I despise sleep. But lying down in a soft place beside my wife for a little while? That sounds great, just as long as I can remain conscious and therefore aware of the enjoyment that I’m experiencing.

Isn’t this how you feel, too?

Again, just asking.

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New favorite animal for a damn good reason

I have a new favorite animal, people. Prior to today, my favorite animal was the badger because it’s one of the only animals (other than humans) that kills for sport.

But I mostly said that to annoy people.

My new favorite animal is the giraffe, and for good reason. I just learned that giraffes sleep less than 30 minutes per day in naps that are 2-6 minutes long at a time.

I’m so impressed. Also envious. While the stupid humans are sleeping away a quarter to a third of their lives, giraffes are making the most of every moment.

As I climbed into bed last night, I honestly thought, “I can’t wait for this stupidness to be over.”

Though I recognize the importance and need for sleep, and I take my actual sleep time very seriously, I am almost never happy about going to bed. Most of the time, I’m genuinely irritated about the whole thing.

To sleep just 30 minutes per day would be amazing.

I also learned that giraffes only drink water every few days. Most of the water they need to survive is processed through the food they eat.

Also highly efficient and impressive.

Sadly, because they need to eat 75 pounds of food per day to survive, giraffes spend many of their waking hours eating. Then again, it’s not like they can read a book or attend a Patriots game or write a novel or catch a Broadway show, so in that case, why not eat? Eating all day isn’t a bad way to spend your day given the giraffes’ limited menu of options.

Lest you think giraffes are docile and easy prey for predators, think again. Although they're more likely to run from an attack than fight back, a swift kick from one of their long legs can do serious damage to—or even kill—an unlucky lion.

I like this a lot. Whenever possible, avoid a fight., But when your back is to the wall, know how to throw a good punch.

On top of that, giraffes live about 25 years in the wild and twice that age in captivity, which isn’t long by human standards but is considerable in the animal world. They don’t live as long as a tortoise or an African elephant or a macaw, and they aren’t immortal like certain types of jellyfish, but who wants to be a jellyfish?

I believe in carefully choosing choosing your favorite animal. You need a reason to award an animal that coveted most favorite status. I’ve always loved giraffes, and my heart always leaps when I see them in zoos, and now I know why.

Not only are they beautiful, but they are an animal who shares my philosophy of making every moment count by achieving maximum efficiency in all things.

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Sid from Toy Story was a completely normal person.

I know the film is 24 years old, but I’m still annoyed:

Sid, Andy’s next door neighbor, was portrayed as the antagonist in Toy Story simply because he liked to take toys apart and reassemble them in new and creative ways.

Yes, perhaps if you are a toy, this is not a good thing, but should we expect Sid to be aware that his toys might be secretly sentient, filled with hopes and fear?

Of course not. Yet at the end of the film, Woody goes rogue and reveals himself to be alive. Not only does he speak to Sid, but he gets dark and creepy while doing so, scaring the bejesus out of this poor kid.

It’s awful.

As a child, I would throw my toys out of the window of my second floor bedroom onto the gravel driveway to determine which would break. Was I evil or even wrong to wonder if my Sho-Gun Warrior could survive a 15 foot plunge to the Earth?

My sibling and I would take great pleasure in jamming Weebles into the crack between the door and the wall then slamming the door so that the Weebles would explode into dozens of pieces.

Did this make us rotten children or simply curious kids who liked to experiment on the toys we had stopped playing with long ago?

Sid was a normal child with a creative, experimental mind. Yes, he tormented his sister, but what brother doesn’t? Yes, he was apparently kicked out of summer camp, but many creative people throughout history were misunderstood. Pixar tries like hell to make Sid look bad with a skull on his tee-shirt, but this is an ordinary kid who likes to makes things, take things apart, and even occasionally blow things up.

Normal.

Unless of course you’re being compared to stick-in-the-mud rule-follower Andy.

Woody’s “Play nice” warning to Sid at the end of the film was cruel and unnecessary. When we see Sid again in Toy Story 3, he is listening to heavy metal music, working as a garbage man.

Nothing wrong with being a garbage man (my father worked as a garbage man for a time), but it’s not exactly a cinematic ending for this poor boy, who is probably tormented for the rest of his life with the knowledge that at least one toy in this world (and probably others) are alive, sentient, and mean.

Sid isn’t the bad guy here. Pixar is the real bad guy for portraying a spirited, creative boy as a villain.

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Speak Up Storytelling: Matthew DIcks

On episode #57 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, I congratulate listeners on recent successes at The Moth. 

Next we listen to my story about a difficult medical decision and what it revealed about his marriage to Elysha. 

Amongst the many things discussed includes:

  1. Identifying the crux of the story

  2. "Why do we do the things we do?"

  3. Finding the beginning of a story by centering on the end

  4. "But" statements to break into moments of humor

  5. Tonality

  6. Truth in storytelling

  7. Ending a story effectively (and not stupidly)

LINKS

Purchase Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

Stand up, damn it.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but based upon recent experience, it apparently needs to be said:

If you’re a healthy adult sitting on a bus or subway, and there a small child in your vicinity who does not have a seat, stand up and offer your seat to the kid.

How any adult can sit and watch a small child cling to a pole or to his parent’s leg as a bus or train lurches around a bend is beyond me.

Last night I watched a teenage girl offer her seat to Charlie while a bunch of grown-ass men and women remained comfortably seated around us.

I was furious. Elysha was apoplectic.

I’m also inclined to offer my seat to a woman in these situations, but I also know that doing so implies that she needs a seat more than I do, which is almost always a sexist thing to think. After all, I’ve been arguing for years that women should be eligible for the military draft based upon my sincere belief that they are just as capable as men, yet something inside me always wants to offer my seat to a lady.

I avoid this internal struggle but always standing. My default position on any bus or train is to stand unless there is an empty seat after leaving the station.

If you’re a young, healthy adult, maybe you could adopt a similar default position.

But at the very least, make sure all the small children have seats. Otherwise Elysha and I will spend the entire trip attempting to publicly shame you by repeatedly telling our children - in voices slightly louder than necessary - to “Hold on tight!” and “Be careful” and “We know this is hard, but we’ll be there soon!”

The best part:

We did this both simultaneously and absent any planning. Our instincts - and hatred for these grown-ass seated adults - was the same.

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Don't tie a bow at the end of your story

I’m a fan of ending books and stories a little bit sooner than my readers and listeners would like. I like to leave some dangling threads. A few unanswered questions. Something still left to wonder about.

I think by doing so, my story lingers in the hearts and minds of my reader and listeners a little bit longer. Rather than being one of those books or stories that can quickly be forgotten, I like to think that my stories continue to tickle the brains of my readers and listeners long after my storytelling has ended.

I’ve received many messages over the years from many, many readers and listeners, dying to know what happened next, both in the lives of my fictional characters as well as my own life. Last year, I started receiving emails from teenage girls in Mexico who had somehow started reading my first novel, Something Missing, and wanted to know if Martin and Laura, the protagonists, ended up together.

Imagine that:

Teenage girls in a foreign country took the time to find the email address of an American author so they could write an email in Spanish (an arcane form of communication for most teenagers) and then use Google to translate it to English so they could ask me if two fictional characters - people who don’t actually exist - end up together.

THAT is a story that’s still tickling their brains long after they’ve finished reading the book.

I received this message recently via Instagram which offers similar proof to the power of the incomplete story.

I love it so much. I love how much this reader loves this book and yet is tortured by it at the same time.

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My advice is simple:

Stories shouldn’t end in neatly tied bows. Questions should be left unanswered. Your audience - readers or listeners - should be left wondering. Guessing. Wanting more.

This is how stories become some memorable that years later, they are still wondering what happened next.

Trump's Fourth of July history lesson

In case you missed Trump’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday (and congratulations if you did), here are a couple highlights:

Trump said:

"The Continental Army suffered a bitter winner at Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown. Our Army manned the air, it ran the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do."

That’s right. Trump said airports.

He also said the Army “manned the air,” which makes no sense given it would be another 127 years before the airplane was even invented. How exactly does one “man the air” without the ability to fly?

You also don’t “run ramparts.” You can climb them. Ascend them. Assault them. Seize them. Throw sticks at them. Paint them. Kick them. Even kiss them. But a rampart is a wall. You can’t run them.

But all that’s beside the point. Trump said airports.

He also said that the Fort McHenry battle that inspired the writing of the Star Spangled Banner occurred during the Revolutionary War.

It was the War of 1812. Fort McHenry didn’t even exist during the Revolutionary War.

The strangest thing about all of this ignorance and stupidity is that Trump was reading from a teleprompter, which means that either his speechwriters are incredibly stupid (or trying to undermine him) or he can’t read very well.

In addition to all of this, the public cameras on the National Mall were coincidentally turned off yesterday, likely to avoid showing Trump’s characteristically low turnout, and America got its first look at Trump’s hair when it’s wet.

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For a man who is obsessed with image (his and others) and routinely insults the physical appearance of his critics and opponents, this image, which has been tweeted tens of thousands of times, must have really stung.

Especially when his predecessor also spoke on the Fourth of July in the rain and made it look so damn good.

Important notes on this Fourth of July 2019

  1. I’ll never understand the fascination of some people to light their own fireworks, which are always subpar in comparison to the real thing and occasionally result in serious injuries, permanent maiming, and house fires.

  2. When I was growing up in Massachusetts, the purchase or ownership of fireworks was illegal. This, in my mind, made a hell of a lot of sense, even as a child.

  3. Only 58% of Americans understand what actually happened on July 4, 1776 (which is almost nothing, since the vote for independence was actually taken on July 2, 1776), but still… c’mon people. You should know what we’re celebrating today.

  4. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe - Founding Fathers who all played important roles in the Revolutionary War - died on July 4. I don’t support death, but if you’re going to die, I appreciate a well-timed demise.

  5. Meteorologists are predicting extreme heat and intense thunderstorms in Washington, DC today. Given that Trump has illegally diverted money from the US Park service to pay for his vanity project and politicized the event by giving VIP tickets to wealthy Republican donors, I’m happy to see that Mother Nature has decided to spoil his party at least a little bit.

  6. Military leaders, reportedly extremely uncomfortable with the politicization of the armed forces by Trump, have refused to allow tanks to drive down the streets of Washington. Instead, two tanks will be placed on flatbed trucks and remain stationary throughout the day, so what Trump once envisioned as a military parade is now a slightly more intense version of your everyday Touch-a-Truck event. Another reason to celebrate.

  7. My favorite Fourth of July celebrations took place on my grandparents’ farm. I grew up next door to my grandparents, and nothing was better than smelling the burgers and the hot dogs from by backyard and running up the hill to celebrate.

  8. Please take a moment today amidst the parades, fireworks, and hot dogs to reflect upon the sacrifices made by our Founding Fathers, who built this country through sweat, blood, and desire. As for me, I’ll be thinking about Samuel Whittemore, who might just be the toughest old guy in the history of the world.

    Born in England in 1694, Whittemore went to North America in 1745 as a captain in the British army, where he fought in King George's War (1744-48) at the age of 50 and the French and Indian War (1754-63) at the age of 64.

    Then on April 19, 1775, at the age of 80, he engaged British forces returning from the Battles of Lexington and Concord at the onset of the Revolutionary War.

Whittemore was in his fields when he spotted an approaching British relief brigade under Earl Percy, sent to assist the retreat. Whittemore loaded his musket and ambushed the British from behind a nearby stone wall, killing one soldier. He then drew his dueling pistols and killed a grenadier and mortally wounded a second. By the time Whittemore had fired his third shot, a British detachment reached his position; Whittemore drew his sword and attacked. He was shot in the face, bayoneted thirteen times, and left for dead in a pool of blood. He was found alive, trying to load his musket to fight again. He was taken to Dr. Cotton Tufts of Medford, who perceived no hope for his survival. However, Whittemore lived another 18 years until dying of natural causes at the age of 98.

In 2005, Whittemore was proclaimed the official state hero of Massachusetts. Not bad considering this is a state that produced such wartime heroes as Paul Revere, Israel Putnam, John Hancock, Robert Shaw and John Kennedy.

All great men, but if I were sent to war, I’d choose Samuel Whittemore to stand on my side above them all.

Happy Fourth of July everyone.

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This is the way to write a review

Thinking about writing a review of a book you enjoyed?

Probably not, I know, but you should! Positive reviews help readers find books and make authors quite happy.

The Other Mother, my sixth novel, won’t publish in the United States until sometime in 2020, but it’s available in the UK and abroad now. An unusual situation created by my US publisher’s decision to reverse the order of my books.

I saw this review of the book on Instagram the other day and thought, “Damn… this is how to write a review.”

Shooketh! An invented word! A beautiful word! An act of creation!

Also a word that appears in the urban dictionary, credited to a YouTube comedian in 2017, but still…

Invent a word. Break new ground. Write a review. Bring a little joy to an author’s life.

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Your negativity sucks. Shut up.

Elysha and I are taking the kids to Disney World for a week. It will be their first time frolicking at the Magic Kingdom.

I can’t wait.

Elysha visited Disney World as a child, but I did not. My first visit came when I was about 19 years old. My best friend, Bengi, and I drove from Massachusetts to Orlando to visit the Magic Kingdom.

I spent most of my time chasing after a girl.

Elysha and I were fortunate enough to have our friend and Disney expert plan the trip. Our meals are planned. Reservations made. Fast passes are secured. Wrist bands and luggage tags have arrived. An Amazon Prime shipment of snacks and other necessities is scheduled to arrive in our room just as we land in Florida.

Everything is ready to go.

As we’ve mentioned our upcoming Disney trip to various friends and acquaintances, their reactions have fallen into two distinct camps:

  1. Excitement about our upcoming adventure

  2. Warnings about the potential pitfalls of a trip to Disney World

As you might imagine, I adore the people in the first category and am astounded and appalled by those in the latter category.

It’s shocking how negative people can be when you tell them that you’re planning a vacation to Disney. They groan. They complain about the heat and humidity. They warn you about the long lines and large crowds. They whine about the drudgery of dragging kids through the parks. One person actually warned me about how annoyingly happy everyone will be.

Sadly, these awful, negative jackasses outnumber the folks who are excited for us by at least 2:1.

What is wrong with these people? How awful and dreary must your life be to denigrate Disney World to an excited parent? How stupid and sad must you be to listen to a smiling, happy father talk about how excited he is to bring his kids to the Magic Kingdom and then spend the next ten minutes warning him about the heat?

These are probably the same rotten souls who tell glowing, pregnant women how challenging and impossible parenting will be. Probably the same sad sacks who spend most of the Christmas season complaining about the crowds and shopping.

If you are one of these people who thinks that warning parents about the pitfalls of Disney World is a good idea, STOP.

You’re not helping.

Also, no one wants to hear it. People probably don’t like you.

I certainly don’t.

I was explaining this post to my ten year-old daughter, Clara, when she said, “Sometimes I feel negative about things. I can’t help it. But I’d never try to make someone else feel the same way I was feeling, especially if they looked excited or happy. That would just be mean.”

Exactly.

So if you’re about to tell a parent why their trip to Disney won’t be as magical as they’re hoping, shut your stupid mouth. Take a lesson from my daughter. She gets it.

So should you.

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Resolution update: June 2019

Each month I review the progress of my yearly goals and report on that progress as a means of holding myself accountable.

Here are the results for June.

Since we have reached the halfway point in the year, I also like to take a step back and assess the likelihood of me completing each goal.
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PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Still standing.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I didn’t lose any pounds in June. I didn’t gain any pounds in June.

I’ve lost 8 pounds in total.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

3. Eat at least three servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day, six days a week.

Done! Along with bananas, grapes, apples, and pears, I also ate carrots, onions, potatoes, an assortment of vegetables in various soups, and an arugula and fig pizza.

Yeah. That’s right. Arugula.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

4. Do at least 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 3 one-minute planks for five days a week.

Done.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

5. Do burpees three days a week.

I did 3-4 burpees per day, 3 times each week in June. My shoulder hurts. I blame the stupid burpees.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident. Regrettably so.

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my seventh novel before the end of 2019.

Still waiting for a go-ahead from my editor regarding my next book. This is the problem with being two books ahead. No one is in a rush for your 2022/2023 novel.

I meet with her on Tuesday in New York.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

7. Write/complete at least five new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I’m currently working on three different children’s books. I like one very much.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

8. Write a memoir.

Work continues. I’ve switched from the present tense to the past tense. This helped a lot.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

9. Write a new screenplay.

No progress.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Not confident

10. Write a musical.

No progress.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Not confident

11. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I submitted a piece to the NY Times Modern Love column in April.

One down. Four to go.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

12. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

No progress.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

13. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

I read that smiling when you wake up can be very beneficial. Supposed health benefits include:

  • When you smile your body releases the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and endorphins. This means that by smiling first thing when you wake up you’ll be starting your day in a better mood.

  • In addition, when you smile your mood is further lifted by the release of serotonin.

  • Smiling strengthens the immune system, so by smiling first thing in the morning and remembering to do it throughout the day you’ll be warding off disease, specially during flu season.

This is all supposed to happen even if your smile is forced. I’ve written before about how you can trick your brain through biofeedback (including smiling), but I really can’t see how a fake smile early in the morning will change anything about my day.

I’m about to find out.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

14. Increase my storytelling newsletter subscriber base to 3,000.

52 new subscribers in June for a total of 701 new subscribers in 2019. My list now stands at 2,811 subscribers.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, you can do so here:

15. Write at least six letters to my father.

One letter written in June for Father’s Day. One written so far this year.

16. Write 100 letters in 2019.

Five letters written in June. 14 overall. I have a lot of writing to do this summer.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

17. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

A kind, generous, and amazing human being has begun work on this project.

I am thrilled.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

STORYTELLING

18. Produce a total of 10 Speak Up storytelling events.

One show produced in June at Infinity Hall in Hartford.

A total of 8 shows produced so far in 2019.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

19. Begin selling Speak Up merchandise at our events and/or online.

Done! We began selling tee shirts and totes at our live podcast recording.

Next step is to make it available online.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Complete

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20. Pitch myself to at least 5 upcoming TEDx events with the hopes of being accepted by one.

Done! I’ve pitched myself to five TEDx conferences and was nominated for a sixth.

All have now passed on my pitches. No one wants me.

I’ll just keep pitching.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Complete

21. Attend at least 15 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I attended two Moth StorySLAMs and a Moth GrandSLAM in June, bringing my total to 12 events so far.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

22. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

Done! I won my third StorySLAM on 2019 and my 40th StorySLAM overall at Oberon in Cambridge

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Complete

23. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I finished in second place by a tenth of a point in a Moth GrandSLAM in January.

I finished in fourth place in my Moth GrandSLAM in March, but I think I might’ve told my best story ever.

I competed but did not win the NYC Moth GrandSLAM in June. Silent scoring (I’m not a fan) prevents me from knowing how I placed (though I may be able to ask).

I may be competing in one more Moth GrandSLAM in NYC this year depending on the timing of the GrandSLAM and the number of storytellers in the queue ahead of me.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Not confident

24. Produce at least 40 episodes of our new podcast Speak Up Storytelling. 

Four new shows released in June. A total of 24 so far. We haven’t missed a week in 2019.

Listen to our latest here or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

25. Perform stand up at least four times in 2019. 

I’ve scheduled my first open mic for July.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

26. Develop and teach a Storytelling Master Class, in which participants have an opportunity to tell at least two stories over the course of the day  or tell a story and then retell it based on feedback.

Done on June 1! It went surprisingly well.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Complete

27. Pitch at least three stories to This American Life.

No progress.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

28. Pitch myself to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast at least three times.

I wrote to Marc early in January, asking for him to consider me as a guest.

No response yet.

I’ve also officially requested that my publicist assist me in this endeavor.

If you know Marc Maron, or know someone who knows Marc or know someone who knows Marc’s producer or booker, please let me know. I know that Marc and I would have an amazing conversation, and it’s currently my biggest dream to get on his show.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

NEW PROJECTS

29. Host a fundraiser for RIP Medical Debt, which would allow us to relieve the medical debt of struggling Americans for pennies on the dollar.

No progress.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Not confident

30. Complete my Eagle Scout project.

No progress.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Not confident

31. Print, hang, and/or display at least 25 prints, photos, or portraits in our home.

We received our estimate from the painters. Depending on other expenses, we will likely be painting several rooms this summer or fall, at which point things can be hung on the walls.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

32. Renovate our first floor bathroom.

Work will commence next month.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

33. Organize our second floor bathroom.

No progress. Summertime project that should commence soon.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

MISCELLANEOUS

34. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2019.

I made no meals in June.

Four down. Eight to go.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

35. Plan a reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

No progress

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Not confident

36. Ride my bike with my kids at least 25 times in 2019.

I rode my bike with Charlie one time in June for a total of six rides so far.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

37. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2019 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

Done! I did not comment on physical appearance with the exception of my wife and children in June.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

38. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2019.

Two surprises were set into motion in May, but neither has come to fruition yet. One of my friends just ruined a surprise that I had planned for today.

Four surprises accomplished so far.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

39. Replace the 12 ancient, energy-inefficient windows in our home with new windows that will keep the cold out and actually open in the warmer months.

No progress.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Not confident

40. Clean the basement. 

Incremental progress. Every week I throw away or organize a few items.

I’m ordering a dumpster this summer, and I have hired someone to assist me.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

41. Set a new personal best in golf.

I started taking lessons this summer, and I’ve committed myself to constant practice. The results are beginning to show, not so much in my scores this weekend but in my swing and understanding of how I should be swinging. It’s all very new, so it’ll be bad before it’s good, but for the first time, I have a path to playing better.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

42. Play poker at least six times in 2019.

A game was scheduled and canceled in June. That’s three cancelled games so far.

A new game needs to be scheduled for July.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

43. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

Bengi and I spent a Sunday afternoon playing board games at a local hobby shop in June.

Two down. Four to go.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Moderately confident

44. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

Done.

LIKELIHOOD OF COMPLETION: Highly confident

Good week in the press

The Hartford Courant’s Christopher Arnott was kind enough to include me in his piece, The Nine Muses Of Summer In Connecticut: A Divine Arts Preview.

He writes:

“The muse of storytelling in Connecticut is Matthew Dicks, a Moth StorySLAM champion and bestselling author who’s taught many of the top storytellers in the state. Dicks is leading a weeklong “Storytelling Boot Camp” July 29 through Aug. 2 at the Connecticut Historical Society Museum and Library, 1 Elizabeth St., Hartford.”

That’s some serious kindness.

That bootcamp is already sold out. Remarkably, the roster includes two folks from China, one from British Columbia, one from San Diego, and one from Illinois.

Kind of crazy. Huh?

And a lot of pressure. I’ve recently had folks from Montreal, Maryland, and Kansas City attend my workshops, and though the day always goes well and my instruction is well received, I feel a lot of added pressure to perform considering the distances traveled.

China? British Columbia?

The next day, a piece on Latestly.com featured one of my tweets directed at Donald Trump in response to one of his tweets in which he oddly (though now routinely) complimented himself in the third person.

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No wonder why he has not actual friends. Can you imagine spending time with someone who talks like this?

The writers of the piece quoted my tweet in their piece.

"Don’t you see how pathetic and needy this sounds? People all over the world are laughing at you, Donald. Laughing at your sad, desperate need for attention and praise," commented noted author Matthew Dicks.

See that?

“Noted author.”

I’m not sure how true that really is, but it was fun to see! And it’ll be something I can look back upon with fondness when someone isn’t so kind to me in print, because that happens, too.

Join me for storytelling at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health!

Looking to learn more about storytelling?

Take a double deep dive into storytelling in 2019:

If you want to learn about storytelling and have an opportunity to practice, I'll be teaching weekend-long beginners and advanced storytelling workshops at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Heath this fall in Stockbridge, MA.

Two full weekends of storytelling, yoga, world-class food, relaxation, and a chance to learn, practice, perform, and meet new people. Maybe make a new friend for life!

  • October 25-27: Storytelling workshop (beginners), Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health: http://bit.ly/2wPBWGQ

  • December 6-8: Storytelling workshop (advanced), Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health: http://bit.ly/2Rf5dV3

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