19 Things I Heart (2015)

Exactly four years ago, I posted a list of 19 things I was loving at the time.

As a novelist who has written an entire novel in lists (preorder here), it’s not surprising that my blog and social media is peppered with lists of various kinds.

I especially like making lists like these because they allow me to look back four years later and see what has changed in my life. Back in 2015 when I wrote the list, I set a reminder in my Google calendar to check back on the list today, which was a very clever thing for the 2015 version of myself to do.

Good job, former me.

I wondered:

Am I still enjoying the same things, or have my tastes changed? Will I think the 2015 version of myself was odd? Stupid? Naive?

Am I the same person, or am I a completely new person?

The list, it turns out, breaks down into three categories:

  1. Things that I still love

  2. Things that I no longer love.

  3. Things that I now take for granted.

I’ll write a new list for tomorrow for 2019. Here is how the 2015 list breaks down:

THINGS I STILL LOVE

  • Chipotle burritos

  • Tickling my children

  • My wife in a tee shirt and underwear

  • Bruce Willis action films while on the treadmill

  • Carhartt socks in place of slippers

  • Moth StorySLAMs

  • Jeff (my friend)

  • Egg McMuffins

THINGS I NO LONGER LOVE

  • Listening to my kindergarten daughter read to me (she’s in fourth grade and prefers to read independently)

  • Better Call Saul (between seasons)

  • 1776 by David McCullough (I’m sure it was great but I don’t remember much about it)

  • The Lyle Lovett Pandora station

  • Cold water from a metallic water bottle

  • Holding my dog in my lap after work (she passed away last year)

  • Any day over 35 degrees (35 degrees? Give me a day over 50 and I’ll be happy)

THINGS I TAKE FOR GRANTED

  • Overcast (podcasting app)

  • The Memory Palace (podcast)

  • UNU battery pack (for my iPhone)

  • Squarespace

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Speak Up Storytelling: Tom Ouimet

On episode #41 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we congratulate friend of the podcast Robin Gelfenbien on her recent (and momentous) Moth StorySLAM victory. Robin is the producer and host of Yum's the Word, an award-winning NYC storytelling show and podcast:

http://www.yumsthewordshow.com

Next, we pass on AirTable, a Homework for Life suggestion from a listener:

https://airtable.com
https://vimeo.com/album/3513053/format:detail

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about the challenge of tell a hero story when the act of heroism is not all that impressive or interesting. 

Next we listen to Tom Ouimet's story about a secret in his pants. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The exceptional layering and efficiency of the story

  2. The strategic use of pauses and silence to enhance humor 

  3. The importance of choice and consistency when it comes to the perspective adopted by the storyteller

  4. The escalation of stakes

  5. Making choices consistent with the tone and theme of a story

Next, we answer questions about critiquing stories and telling stories from a third person perspective. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

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

STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2019

May 4: Storytelling workshop (beginner), CT Historical Society
May 18: Storytelling workshop (advanced), CT Historical Society
June 1: Storytelling workshop (master class), CT Historical Society
July 29-August 2: Storytelling bootcamp, CT Historical Society
August 17: Storytelling workshop, Taproot Theater, Seattle, WA
October 25-27: Storytelling workshop, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Heath
December 6-8: Storytelling workshop, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

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Most of us rejoice. A bunch of old, white bigots do not.

Have you heard?

National Women’s Soccer League stars Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris are engaged to be married, the couple announced last week. The romance between the athletes began nearly a decade ago when the two met while playing for the U.S. National Team.

Social media was abuzz with the news last week, with people from all over the world sending their congratulations to the couple via Twitter, Instagram, and the like. Popular in their own right for their efforts on and off the soccer field, the union of Krieger and Harris was greeted by soccer fans with excitement.

Even FIFA, the governing body of the World Cup. post a tweet sending their love and congratulations to the couple.

Not everyone sent love and congratulations.

The Republican Party’s 2018 campaign platform declared that “marriage is between one man and one woman” and condemns the Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal.

The Vice President of the United States called being gay a choice and said keeping gays from marrying was not discrimination but an enforcement of “God’s idea.” He has repeatedly voted against bills that would prevent discrimination of LGBTQ people in the workplace.

In America today, you can be fired from your job for being gay. That is insanity.

Pence’s wife now works at a school that forbids both LGBTQ students and staff.

Donald Trump, despite his promises during the campaign to protect LBGTQ rights, has been equally bigoted.

His State Department has removed a section about violence and discrimination against LGBTQ people from its annual human rights report. His Justice Department rescinded Obama-era guidance instructing public officers to interpret sexuality and gender discrimination under federal prohibitions on sex discrimination. He twice failed to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month.

It’s so odd to watch so many people around the world celebrate the engagement of these two accomplish and respected women while knowing that the President and Vice President of the United States and the majority of GOP lawmakers would make the marriage of these two women illegal if given the chance.

This is what happens when old, white bigots are in power. They drag their hateful, arcane ideas back into the halls of justice in a desperate attempt to reverse progress.

Happily, far more people in America and around the world are happy for the love that Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris have found, and although progress can be restrained and even temporarily reversed at time, it cannot be stopped forever.

The middle finger is just a finger

Good news!

By unanimous decision, a federal appeals court in Michigan last week upheld an American’s unalienable right to extend her middle finger.

A Michigan woman gave the middle finger to a police officer after receiving a ticket. The officer pulled her over again and upgraded the ticket to a worse offense.

It turns out that this is a violation of her First Amendment right to free speech.

For the record, I think it is so incredibly stupid that human beings consider the raising of a single digit to be so vulgar and offensive that it can’t be shown on television or would cause a police officer to even think about upgrading a traffic ticket.

It’s stupid, but it’s also weird.

I can raise my index finger. I can raise my pinkie finger. I can raise my arm. My elbow. My knee. My big toe. But the extension of my middle finger - absent any other digit - is so offensive that it must be blurred on television in the same way networks must blur genitals and women’s breasts.

That’s crazy.

According the FCC, the middle finger is just as inappropriate on television as an exposed penis. Both cannot be transmitted across the airwaves without blurring or pixilation.

It’s crazy. And stupid. And weird. Right?

It’s my middle finger. I should be able to raise it whenever I damn well please. This should not be an offensive or vulgar gesture.

Rude? Sure. Insulting? Yes. As long as the gestures continues to convey the same sentiment that it does today, I’m not arguing that the middle finger should be considered polite.

But so vulgar that it can’t be shown on network television?

That’s stupid.

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Losers lose. I am happy.

As Captain Marvel enters its second weekend at the box office, it’s important to note that:

  • It had a spectacular opening weekend, pulling in $153 million in North America and $455 million globally

  • Both of those numbers far exceed projections

  • It was the sixth-best worldwide opening ever

  • The film appears to be on its way to earning more money than any superhero origin ever

I have not yet seen the movie, so I can’t speak to the quality of the film. It’s earned a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes and critics have generally liked it a lot but not loved it.

Nevertheless, these box office numbers please me greatly.

When it was announced that Captain Marvel would be a woman, the same low-life cretins who protested the reboot of Ghostbusters with female leads began their campaign of hate against this film, too.

These are most assuredly small-minded, knuckle-dragging white guys who trade in toxic masculinity and treat the Marvel cannon as something both scared and immalleable. They were undoubtedly the champions of Gamergate and the kinds of men who worry that women and Mexicans are stealing the jobs that they probably lost because they were too busy playing video games and drinking purple drank.

I paint a broad brush, I know. Apologies. I’m sure some very fine people stood opposed to a female Captain Marvel for very good reasons.

But you need to be a special kind of loser to be so angry that Captain Marvel is a women or the Ghostbusters have vaginas as to take to the Internet in droves, attempting to bring these movies down.

I am happy to see that their campaign of sexism has failed. I am happy to see that Captain Marvel is a huge financial success.

I like it when idiots, sexists, and close-minded bigots lose spectacularly.

Now if someone wants to come over and watch our kids, Elysha and I will be happy to see the movie and contribute to its financial success.

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I have opinions on a suggested 30 percent tip

When it comes to dining out, I am a good tipper. My standard tip is 20% rounded up, and if I am especially pleased with the service, I’ll add a dollar or two.

I don’t have a problem with tipping for service at a restaurant.

I also tip on the total bill, including tax, because I’m not an insane person.

On Saturday night, however, Elysha and I went to dinner with friends, and at the bottom of the bill were some tipping suggestions. I hate the mere existence of these suggestions, since calculating 15 or 20 percent of any total should not be difficult for any grown-ass human being.

Even if calculating 20 percent is challenging for you, we can all calculate 10 percent of a number, so at worst you can just add half of that amount for 15 percent or double it for 20 percent.

I find these tipping suggestions slightly insulting both especially unsettling. I worry that people actually need them.

But the suggestions offered on Saturday night were insulting for a whole new reason.

30 percent? This restaurant has added 30 percent as an option to the suggested tips?

Frankly, I think 25 percent is a little presumptuous, but 30 percent?

I often suggest that folks purchase my books by the dozen, but I’m not serious. I’m making a joke. I don’t ever expect anyone to do it, but these suggestions are not meant to be funny.

Someone somewhere thinks that a 30 percent tip should not only an option, but it’s an option so common and obvious that it’s worthy of suggestion.

It’s not.

For the record, I tipped $12 that night, making my tip a little more than 21 percent of the bill. A tip like this would normally make me feel good about my tip. Generous, even.

But not when the stupid restaurant presents 30 percent an option.

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The Other Mother: Another cover reveal!

Just last week, I revealed the cover to my next novel, Twenty-one Truths About Love, which publishes in October.

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But that wasn’t entirely correct.

My actual next novel is titled The Other Mother, and it will publish in the UK and Australia in June of this year and will publish in the United States sometime in 2020.

In truth, I wrote The Other Mother first, and it was supposed to be my next book published in the United States, too, but then my new editor had the chance to read the first half of Twenty-one Truths About Love, and she and my publisher decided to reverse the order of publication, forcing me to finish Twenty-one Truths About Love early.

If you noticed that I was a little harried last year, now you know why.

But I was thrilled. They were so excited about the book and its potential that they wanted it on store shelves as soon as possible.

So today I’m revealing the cover of The Other Mother, which will grace the UK and Australian editions of the novel. When it finally lands in the United States late next year, the cover will almost assuredly be different.

The name, for example, will definitely be different. My pen name in the UK is Matthew Green after it was determined that my actual last name might offend British sensibilities.

Green is Elysha’s maiden name.

But I like this cover a a lot. I hope you do, too, particularly if you’re living in the UK or Australia.

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Speak Up Storytelling: John Smith-Horn

On episode #40 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling.

In our followup segment, we announce our first LIVE PODCAST RECORDING!

May 18: CT Historical Society. Tickets just $5. All proceeds go to the CT Historical Society.

Purchase here: https://chs.org/event/speak-up-podcast-live

ALSO, UPCOMING SHOWS:

March 16: “Exposed: Lies, Secrets, and Indiscretions Revealed” at Space Ballroom

March 30: "Courage" at Real Art Ways

We also discuss a listener's suggestion regarding pausing at the very end of a story (as well as some of our strategies to get yourself ready to tell your story) and another listener's suggestion of the Day One app for Homework for Life:

https://dayoneapp.com

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about the need for storytellers to keep their eyes opened for moments of transformation and realization in their own lives (however small they may seem) in order to find new stories to tell. 

Next we listen to John Smith-Horn's story about making cookies.

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The components of a perfect beginning to a story

  2. The power of effective vocal modulation

  3. Telling the story from the perspective (and maintaining that perspective) of your former self

  4. The way that small stories that say many things (and important, meaningful things)

  5. Revealing the secrets and suspense in a story by spooling out the moment and allowing the audience to bear witness to the unveiling

Next, we answer questions about finding themes in storytelling, maintaining audience interest in less formal storytelling settings, and the struggle to find stories on every single day of your life.

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

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

STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2019

STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2019

May 4: Storytelling workshop (beginner), CT Historical Society
May 18: Storytelling workshop (advanced), CT Historical Society
June 1: Storytelling workshop (master class), CT Historical Society
July 29-August 2: Storytelling bootcamp, CT Historical Society
August 17: Storytelling workshop, Taproot Theater, Seattle, WA
October 25-27: Storytelling workshop, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Heath
December 6-8: Storytelling workshop, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

  • Conversations with the disabled

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When everyone is you, it's not good.

According to a new poll from The Public Religion Research Institute is an American nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization:

62 percent of Americans said they interact with people who didn’t share their race or ethnicity at least once a week, while 21 percent said that happened seldom or never.

21 percent? I understand that there are areas of the country that are racially homogeneous, but nearly one-quarter of all Americans don’t encounter racial diversity of any kind at the workplace or in their social circles?

Perhaps it’s simply a factor of where folks live, but I find this surprising.

Even more surprising:

22 percent said they seldom or never interacted with people outside of their religion. This means that almost one-quarter of Americans only associate with people who share their own religious beliefs.

Every single family member, friend, and colleague share your religion?

How is this even possible?

But here’s the strangest of all:

31 percent of Americans said they seldom or never interacted with people who did not share their sexual orientation.

This means that almost one-third of Americans don’t realize that at least some of their family members, coworkers, and friends are gay, either because:

  1. They are utterly obtuse

  2. They are so bigoted that their friends, coworkers, and family members are forced to conceal their sexual orientation from them.

The place where you live might be racially homogeneous (too bad for you), and it might even be religiously homogeneous (hard to imagine but also too bad for you), but there are absolutely, positively some gay people living amongst you, no matter what you may think or are being told.

Getting to know those people would be very good for you.

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The “Let's do it” button

I worry that human beings, adults and children alike, are spending too much time staring at screens and not enough time communicating face-to-face.

Rather than engaging in the messiness of human interaction, people simply send text messages.

Rather than speaking directly to a colleague who has upset you, a scathing (and oftentimes cowardly) email is written and sent instead.

Rather than telling the person that you’re dating that it’s over, it’s become perfectly acceptable to ghost that person.

Just imagine: You have dinner with someone on Monday, have sex with that same person on Tuesday, visit the farmer’s market together on Thursday, and then just stop answering their text messages and phone calls forever.

This was not the way we did things back in the day. Break ups were never fun, but the expectation was always that it would be done face-to-face. Breaking up over the phone was the coward’s way out.

Now the coward’s way out it to simply disappear.

We’ve devolved quite a bit in the last decade.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, it did.

Introducing LoveSync, a two-button system where you and your partner each place a button on your respective bedside tables. If you’re hoping to have sex that evening, you push the button.

“Anonymously push the button,” according to the Kickstarter video, which is bizarre, since theoretically there is nothing anonymous about the person sleeping alongside you.

If your partner has also tapped the button, your respective buttons will both light up.

It’s time for sex. The buttons said so.

If only one of you has tapped, no light notification, and therefore, no sex for you.

The draw here, according to LoveSync’s description, is that you won’t feel the sting of rejection or embarrassment should only one of you want to have sex.

The truth is that communication between you and someone you theoretically love (or at least like a lot) is sanitized and depersonalized. Rather than suggesting sex or enticing your partner into sex or putting on some Barry White and hoping for the best, simply press a button and wait for the light.

Hope for the light. Pray for the light.

I know what you’re thinking:

Who would buy something as stupid as this?

So far, 428 people, who have invested more than $20,000 on Love Sync’s Kickstarter campaign.

Not an enormous number, thank goodness, but about 428 people too many.

856 if you count their their presumably agreeable partners.

My daughter's issues with Title IX. Kind of.

Clara, age 10, is sitting in the backseat of my car, reading a book. She says, “Dad, this book has it all wrong!”

“What are you talking about?” I ask.

“The girl in this book started playing football on the boy’s team in 1974 because of Title 9.”

“You know what Title 9 is?” I asked.

“Of course I do,” she says, sounding quite annoyed. When I ask her how she knows about Title 9, she says, “I read a book. Except in the book, they called it Title IX.”

She pronounced the Roman numeral 9 in letter-form. It was cute.

“Okay,” I said. “So what’s the problem? Title 9 allows girls to play the same sports as boys. What’s wrong with this girl playing football?

“Dad,” she said, sounding even more annoyed. “Title 9 became a law in 1972. This girl started playing football in 1974.”

I was going to ask how she knew that Title 9 passed in 1972 but stopped myself. I knew what she would say, and I kew she’d be annoyed for being questioned about her knowledge of the matter.

I tried to explain how Title 9 still gives women equal access to collegiate sports today and that 1974 was no different. “It’s a law that started in ‘72 (something I didn’t know until she told me) but it’s still the law today.”

Clara wasn’t having any of it. “I don’t want to hear about a girl who waited two years to play. I want to hear about the first girl who started playing with the boys.”

I had more to say on the matter - maybe the girl had no desire to play football in 1972, or maybe she was too young to play football in 1972, or even though she played two years after the law passed, it was probably just as difficult and courageous to do so -but I instead allowed Clara to return to the book.

Sometimes, it’s better not to poke the beast.

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“Star Wars Always” saves the day

The last Star Wars film really depressed me.

I loved the original three films. I watched the first one - my first film ever - while sitting in the aisle with dozens of other children at The Stadium in Woonsocket, RI.

I also liked the prequels. I know there were serious issues with those movies, but I always remind myself that I saw the first three Star Wars films when I was a child and teenager. In the eyes of children the same age, those prequels were excellent. And for me, they were good. Not expertly made, but not damaging to the Star Wars story.

Then The Force Awakens came out, and honestly, I liked it very much. Yes, in many ways, it was a simple rehashing of the plot of A New Hope, but I still enjoyed it a great deal.

Then I saw Rouge One, and I liked it, too. I may have liked it a lot.

Then I saw Solo, and while there were issues with that film, I liked it enough. Again, it wasn’t ruinous to the Star Wars universe.

But the last Star Wars film - The Last Jedi - hurt me deeply. Simple plot stupidity and some unforgettably stupid moments made me wonder if this film was made by someone who misunderstood not only the Star Wars universe but basic logic.

It was an atrocity of the film. Entire swaths of that film make no sense. It is unforgivable.

I was depressed. Hurt. Angry, even.

Then I saw this incredibly ambitious trailer, made for all of the Star Wars films released to date. Titled “Star Wars Always,” it seeks to bring all of the Star Wars film together into one cohesive story, and I’ll be damned… it does so brilliant.y

It hasn’t taken away the sting of The Last Jedi, but it’s helped me to remember that this story is so much larger than a single movie. This adventure, which began when I was six years-old, is an epic tale that has becomes engrained in my heart and mind.

Yes, The Last Jedi sucked. Yes, I want to throttle Ryan Johnson for ruining that film. And yes, I sincerely want the movie re- made or at least re-edited to correct its worst parts, but despite all of this, the Star Wars story remains great.

“Star Wars Always” reminded me of this.

Standing up in defense of comedy instead of decency

I was standing in the checkout line at Stop & Shop on Sunday, which was a mistake. A snow storm was coming, threatening to dump half a foot of snow on the ground, so the crazy people were out in force, stocking up on food and drink in case of …

I have no idea. The roads were clear by 9:00 AM the next day, like they always are.

The cashier, a young man in his late teens or early twenties, was running my items through the scanner, and a young woman, about the same age, was bagging. The man had just started scanning my items when he turned to the bagger and said, “Can you believe how dumb that old lady was?”

The old lady that her was referring to was the customer in front of me who had just departed. For some reason, this elderly woman had a difficult time using her credit card. Rather than inserting it into the chip slot, she first tried to hand the card to the cashier, and when he pointed at the machine, she tried to swipe the card repeatedly. Ultimately, the cashier had to show the woman how to insert her card into the chip slot and help her through the prompts.

I saw all this happen, and foolishly, I thought the cashier was being patient and kind.

Turns out not so much.

Hearing the cashier insult the elderly customer, the bagger replied, “You’re so mean!” But not in a serious or scolding way, but in a smiling, flirty way. She giggled as she said it.

“I’m not mean,” the cashier protested. “She was a real idiot.” He went on, explaining how “stupid” she was through each step of the payment process.

The cashier giggled some more.

I stood there. listening to this, and my first thought was how unprofessional this behavior was. As a former manager of a restaurant for years, I can’t stand when employees act like this in front of customers. The manager inside me seethed. These two were speaking as if I wasn’t even there. Had I been their manager, I would’ve been so angry.

But I said nothing. I wasn’t their manager.

Then something inside me shifted. I thought, “Wait. This cashier sucks. And so does this bagger. They’re just terrible people.”

Still, I said nothing. Given another moment or two, I might’ve finally spoken up, but before I could even make that decision, a third thought struck me.

“This kid thinks he’s funny. He’s trying to make this bagger laugh. And she is. She’s laughing. They think this is funny.”

That was it.

The former manager in me had remained silent.

The decent human being in me hadn’t said a word.

But the person who strives to be funny on both the page and on the stage couldn’t stand it anymore. I was so offended by this rotten, lazy, legitimately unfunny attempt to be funny that I finally spoke up.

“You know,” I said. “It’s pretty terrible to talk about people behind their back like you’re doing. It’s awful, really.”

“No,” the cashier said and attempted to launch into an excuse.

I cut him right off. “No,” I sad. “It’s terrible. And cowardly. And you think you’re funny. You’re not. You’re not even close to being funny. You’re just being terrible to someone who doesn’t deserve it and isn’t here. You’re not funny at all.”

The cashier broke eye contact and became exceptionally focused on scanning my remaining items. I turned to the bagger, and she was now looking down, treating the bagging of my groceries like the defusing of a ticking time bomb.

Anything to avoid eye contact.

They may have thought I was a crazy person. Or maybe they were worried that I would report their behavior to their manager. Or maybe they just wanted to get rid of me as quickly as possible without creating any more of a scene.

Maybe all three.

But in less than a minute, I was rolling away with my groceries.

I thought for a moment about stopping at the customer service counter on the way out to ask some inane question just to put the fear of reporting and termination in their minds, but honestly, I wasn’t feeling as good about myself as I usually do in situations like these.

I’m oftentimes elated after one of those encounters.

Maybe I would’ve spoken up when I shifted from manager-mode to decent-person mode, but I’m not sure. I certainly didn’t speak up immediately. It wasn’t until I became angry with them on behalf of comedy that I finally spoke up, and for that, I was feeling a little lousy about my reaction.

That elderly woman deserved to have someone stand up for her for better reasons than comedy.

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Twenty-one Truths About Love: Cover reveal!

It’s here!

Not the actual book, which publishes in October, but the cover of my next novel, Twenty-one Truths About Love. This is the first in many baby steps to be taken before the book can finally land on store shelves.

What do you think?

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The book is a bit unusual. Unconventional, you might say.

It’s a novel written entirely in lists:
_____________________________________

From the beloved author of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend comes a wonderful new novel about a struggling man, written entirely in lists.

1. Daniel Mayrock loves his wife Jill…more than anything. 
2. Dan quit his job and opened a bookshop.
3. Jill is ready to have a baby. 
4. Dan is scared; the bookshop isn’t doing well. Financial crisis is imminent. 
5. Dan hasn’t told Jill about their financial trouble. He’s ashamed. 
6. Then Jill gets pregnant.

This heartfelt story is about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances―he wants to become someone.

1. Dan wants to do something special. 
2. He’s a man who is tired of feeling ordinary. 
3. He’s sick of feeling like a failure. 
4. Of living in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband.

Dan is also an obsessive list maker, and his story unfolds entirely in his lists, which are brimming with Dan’s hilarious sense of humor, unique world-view, and deeply personal thoughts. When read in full, his lists paint a picture of a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to anything for the love (and soon-to-be new love) of his life.
_____________________________________

In preparation for publication, we’re going to have some contests in which you can contribute to readers’ versions or create your own versions of some of the lists in the book, including the eponymous one.

And if you’re so inclined, preordering the book is ENORMOUSLY helpful to authors. Not only does it increase the book’s chances of landing on bestselling lists, but preorders will increase the initial print run of a book, guaranteeing more copies on bookstore shelves.

You can preorder at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, or best of all, at your local bookstore.

Thanks!

Speak Up Storytelling #29: Matthew Dicks

On episode #39 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew Dicks talks storytelling!

With report cards and parent-teacher conferences filling Elysha's week, she takes some time off from the podcast, shifting our format again. I'm going it alone this week. Rather than posting a re-run, we have some exciting new content for you.  

Hope you enjoy! 

In our follow up segment, Elysha and I talk about the cover release of my new novel Twenty-one Truths About Love, which you can see in the show notes. 

Then, instead of listening and critiquing a new story, I play three of my stories (chosen for a specific reason) with some commentary about the crafting of each. 

After listening, I discuss:

  1. The variety of chronological formats available to storytellers

  2. When to choose a specific chronological format for a story

  3. The strategies used to preserve and enhance surprise in a story

LINKS

http://speakupstorytelling.libsyn.com/matthew-dicks-trio

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

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

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Speak Up at Space Ballroom on March 16:
Exposed: Lies, Secrets, and Indiscretions Revealed

STORYTELLING WORKSHOPS 2019

May 4: Storytelling workshop (beginner), CT Historical Society
May 18: Storytelling workshop (advanced), CT Historical Society
June 1: Storytelling workshop (master class), CT Historical Society
July 29-August 2: Storytelling bootcamp, CT Historical Society
August 17: Storytelling workshop, Taproot Theater, Seattle, WA 
October 25-27: Storytelling workshop, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Heath
December 6-8: Storytelling workshop, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

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You might be sick, but count your blessings

Charlie’s tummy was not feeling so good earlier this week. He looked into my eyes and said:

“Dad… diarrhea is the worst.”

Then he paused for a moment, looked down at his feet, and then returned his gaze to me and added, “Though I have to say, the Black Death is actually worse.” 

To his credit, the boy has perspective even at the tender age of six.

Unfortunately, this comment was followed by a series of questions about the Black Death, an explanation of the lyrics in “Ring Around the Rosy,” a review of the symptoms that lead to the Plague, and some serious concern that the patch of dry skin on his leg might be a precursor to his own, oncoming battle with this deadly disease.

A few anxious hours, to be sure, but still… perspective.

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"Republicans buy sneakers, too" is not a reason to remain silent

Earlier in the week, I wrote a post explaining my bewilderment over anyone who didn’t understand my relentless opposition to Donald Trump. It was well received, read and shared tens of thousands of times online.

Of course, not everyone agreed with my position, which I expected. Every time I speak out against the President, there is some backlash. But this backlash almost always takes three distinct forms:

1. Rather than refuting the claims I made against the President, the responses almost always attack me personally and call me names, avoiding the actual arguments being made. In response to last week’s post, for example, I was called such original and scathing names as “snowflake” and “idiot” and “moron.”

Boy did that hurt.

2. The responses are almost always vulgar in some way. In response to last week’s post, for example, one person offered specific suggestions about how I might make use of feminine hygiene products. Another suggested that I insert certain objects into my body.

Solid political arguments made by decent and thoughtful Americans, I’m sure.

3. The people writing these scathing responses can’t spell or punctuate properly. Some are so poorly written that it’s difficult to discern what terrible things they are saying to me because the write in incomplete and run-on sentences and rarely use a period.

I’m sure there are some thoughtful, intellectual Trump supporters in the world who can communicate clearly without resorting to name calling and vulgarity, but I almost never encounter them online, which really shouldn't surprise anyone.

When you support an incompetent, anti-science, racist, self-acknowledged sex offender, you can’t expect his army of online supporters to be filled with the best and the brightest.

Nothing that these folks say to me has any impact on me or my opposition. Unlike Donald Trump, I have an exceptionally thick skin. I really don’t care about these trolls and cretins.

However, one comment concerned me. Someone who does not support Trump but questions my vocal and vociferous opposition said to me, “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” echoing the words of Michael Jordan when explaining why he doesn’t engage in politics.

It’s questionable if Jordan ever said these words, but until recently, he has been famously apolitical. When diving into politics for the first time a couple years ago, it came in the form of donations to two organizations that address police brutality and racial injustice.

Nothing about Donald Trump or his policies.

When Trump attacked Lebron James for his vocal opposition to the Trump administration last year, Jordan said, “I support LJ” and nothing more.

Whether or not Jordan said those words about Republicans buying sneakers, it’s also true that Republicans buy books, and yes, I am an author trying to sell books. But unlike Michael Jordan, who is unquestionably the greatest basketball player ever, I want to be known for more than simply my stock and trade.

Yes, I am an author wants to sell books, but I am also a patriot. I’m a man who stands beside my Jewish family and friends of color and immigrant students and friends and colleagues in the LGBTQ community. I stand beside the migrant children on the border who were placed in cages and the parents who were forcibly separated from them. I will stand beside our country’s intelligence agencies and the free press and Gold Star families and DACA kids and war heroes like John McCain and Americans who were drafted and served in Vietnam like my father.

I stand beside my Muslim friends. My Mexican and African friends. My female friends and family.

Someday in the future, when my children are old enough to look back on this time in history and wonder what the hell Americans were thinking, they will know that their father marched in opposition and wrote in opposition and tweeted in opposition to this administration. They will know that their father even joined suit against this President and won.

Michael Jordan’s stance might allow him to sell more shoes, adding to his already significant wealth, but when history looks back on Michael Jordan, he will be remembered as a basketball player and shoe salesman. He was a man of enormous wealth and influence who opted to remain outside the political ring for the sake of profit.

I want to make a profit, too. A huge profit. I want to sell one trillion books.

I hope I do.

But not at the expense of patriotism. Not if it costs me the support I can offer to the many Americans who need it. Not if it means that I will be remembered as an author and book salesman and nothing more.

Besides, let’s be honest: If the people who attack me for my opposition to Trump can’t spell or punctuate properly and call me vulgar, indecent names, I don’t think they were buying my books anyway.

They don’t strike me as readers.

There are many Republicans in this country - good, decent men and women - who stand in opposition to Trump like I do, and some of them buy my books.

I know this because they are my friends.

I want to sell books, but I also want to stand as a patriot and husband and father and friend. I want to be remembered as a man who stood against all that this administration represents.

And honestly, I suspect that I’ll sell more books that way than if I chose to remain silent.

If you want to buy a book and prove me right, there they are:

Resolution update: February 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 February.
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PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Still kicking.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I lost three pounds in February for a total of three pounds in 2019.

I’m not exactly off to a roaring start.

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 that I cooked myself and green beans that I did not cook and didn’t really like but ate anyway.

Also, potatoes in any form count as a vegetable.

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

Done.

5. Do burpees three days a week.

I stopped my burpees due to wrist soreness but resumed them last week.

Now my thumbs hurt. Maybe it’s unrelated, but I don’t think so.

Here’s something I didn’t know about burpees:

They are stupid and ridiculous. I won’t tell you how many I’m doing (not a lot), but I did them for three days a week over the final two weeks of February, and they still suck.

This was a terrible idea.

WRITING CAREER

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

Still waiting for a go-ahead from my editor that the book I pitched will be the next book. This is the problem with being two books ahead. No one is in a rush for your 2022 novel.

I may just start writing anyway as soon as proofs for my next book are complete.

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

No progress.

8. Write a memoir.

After starting over in February, I’ve written about half a page, which is also stupid and ridiculous.

I should’ve written a lot more already.

9. Write a new screenplay.

No progress.

10. Write a musical.

No progress.

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

No progress.

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

No progress.

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

No progress. Also, I need three behaviors to attempt.

Thoughts?

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

252 new subscribers in February for a total of 501 new subscribers in 2019. My list now stands at 2,611 subscribers. 3,000 is well within reach.

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

15. Write at least six letters to my father.

None written in February,

16. Write 100 letters in 2019.

Two more letters written in February. Four overall. Off to a flying start.

17. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

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

I am thrilled.

STORYTELLING

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

One show produced in February, and it was a great one, bringing our total so far to one.

But we have two in March, on Sunday, March 3 and Saturday, March 30, plus a Hartford story slam on March 23 in conjunction with two other producers.

You should come to all of them!

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

Revisions of the new logo continue. Once it is finalized, swag can be ordered.

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 so far.

One has expressed interest. Two passed. I await word from the final two.

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

I attended one Moth StorySLAM in February, bringing my total to three events so far.

22. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

I won a Moth StorySLAM in Boston in February. Two wins so far in 2019.

Two for two!

I’ll be at a Moth StorySLAM in NYC at least once in March.

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23. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

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

I’ll be competing in another GrandSLAM in March.

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

Four new shows released in February. Eight so far. We haven’t missed a week!

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

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

I’ve hit a bit of a snag in terms of this goal. The open mic night where I’d been performing was shut down thanks to stupid people behaving in stupid ways. I have an opportunity to perform in a local comedy showcase, which I will do, but I was in need of another open mic.

Thanks to you, dear readers, I have leads on two possibilities.

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! Scheduled for June 1. Enroll today!

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

No progress.

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.

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.

30. Complete my Eagle Scout project.

No progress.

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

No progress.

32. Renovate our first floor bathroom.

Final design decisions have been made. Work will commence very soon, I hope.

33. Organize our second floor bathroom.

No progress.

MISCELLANEOUS

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

I made dinner three times for the family in February. Chicken, stuffing, carrots, and potatoes twice and spaghetti and a meat sauce the second time. I chopped vegetables and everything.

Four down. Eight to go.

35. Plan a reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

No progress.

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

Weather has made this impossible.

37. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 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 February.

Done with ease.

38. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2016.

I mailed another card - much more clever - to Elysha’s school, telling her how I much I love her.

Two surprises complete.  

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.

40. Clean the basement. 

Incremental progress. Every week I throw away or organize a few items. It’s still going to require a full day at some point and perhaps a trip to the dump or even a dumpster.

41. Set a new personal best in golf.

Weather has made this impossible.

42. Play poker at least six times in 2019.

No progress.

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

We’ve agreed to see each other more often and have been texting about dates.

This is progress.

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

Done.

Surprised about my relentless opposition to Trump? Why?

I’m shocked when someone doesn’t understand my relentless, unwavering opposition to Donald Trump.

Why not give the man a chance?

Why spend your precious time writing about him and to him and against him?

Why can’t you ever give him any credit?

I get these questions, and I’m always shocked when I do.

Even if I agreed with his policies, which include tax breaks for the wealthy, banning Muslims from the United States, and giving coal companies the ability to dispose of waste in mountain streams, Trump is still a self-admitted sex offender who separated children from their families at the border, put migrant children in cages, offered support to Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, referred to African nations as “shit hole countries,” fanned the flames of birtherism for the entire Obama Presidency, openly mocked the disabled, paid hush money to a porn star, operated a fake university that stole millions from hard working Americans, insulted war heroes and Gold Star families, attacks the free press and his own intelligence agencies, and lies repeatedly and verifiably.

He lied about releasing his tax returns. Lies about crowd sizes. Lies about voter fraud. Lied about divesting in his businesses as the Constitution demands. Lied repeatedly about Flynn and Manafort and Cohen. Lied about knowing about the payments to porn stars. Lied about immigration and homicide and crime rates, seeming to make these numbers up from thin air and literally enlarging these numbers from one rally to the next. He told Americans that he barely watched television because he’s too busy reading. He promised Americans that he would have no time for golf as President. He claims that the American Treasury is bursting at the seems with Chinese tariffs when it’s the companies purchasing the goods who pay the tariffs in higher costs. He lied about steel plants returning to America that never did. Coal mines opening that never did.

Even if I thought that trickle-down economics made sense and and the Muslim ban was needed and I favored deregulation over environmental protection, how could any truly decent human being support this man?

Why is anyone surprised that I relentlessly oppose him?

This is not a matter of politics. This is not a liberal vs. conservative battle or a Republican vs. Democrat debate. Policy has nothing to do with any of this.

I will always stand in opposition of indecency, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, and racism. I will always stand against thieves, crooks, and relentless liars.

My relentless opposition to Donald Trump should not be surprising. It should be the norm. It should be the position of every American who supports and loves their friends of color. Their LGBTQ friends. Their Muslim and Mexican and African friends. Their female friends.

It should be the position of anyone who loves this country.

We did not need Michael Cohen to tell is that Trump is a racist, a con artist, and a cheat. That is already abundantly clear. That is why I stand in relentless opposition to Donald Trump. Not because he’s a Republican or a conservative, but because he is a fundamentally indecent human being who should not be leading this nation.

This should be no surprise to anyone.

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