Category Archives: Writing

Emily’s story needs to be written

Effin Artist exists for a single reason: To elevate great stories that inspire change.

Emily Green has such a story. And we’re committed to helping her tell it for a simple reason: Her unique approach to surviving cancer represents a serious shift in healthy recovery. Her story represents a sea change in treatment paths chosen by the millions stricken with this disease. This is inspired change at the root, right where it can do the most good for the most people.

Emily is the mother of three, ages 16, 5, and 4. She is the hearbeat of a family that has endured its share of challenges and trials over the years before she learned that she had late-stage breast cancer.  Her story may sound too familiar in an age when cancer plagues so many of us, but it is utterly unique in its message of hope for those afflicted.

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Emily doesn’t view cancer as a “fight.” She’s not battling for victory and not waging a war. Instead, she has chosen to step outside of that story to find her own. It is one flavored with such tenderness, healing and grace that a temperature of warmth rises from her words. Like that time when her doctor asked her if she wanted to transfer care after Emily opted not to follow her advice.

“That doesn’t mean that we stop working together,” Emily wrote. “It means that we disagree, and that we remember that I am in this body, driving my healing, and I weigh many factors in making a decision and we continue to move together toward our common goal of my healing.”

Emily’s story was captured this week by the local news in her hometown. Her energy flows through this news report.

Emily doubts she would be alive had it not been for critical decisions she made about her treatment. Vital financial support that “allowed me to take specific healing steps that otherwise would have been out of reach,” empowered those decisions, she wrote.

Which is why we unabashedly ask you to become a champion for Emily today and help bring more healing for herself and others within reach. How?

First, a donation to Emily’s GoFundMe page provides critical help for her care. Some of you already have donated. On behalf of Mike and Emily, we can’t thank you enough. You’ve helped save her life.

Second, share this post and Emily’s GoFundMe page on social media. Invite others to become part of Emily’s reader community.

Third, Subscribe to our mailing list and we’ll send you updates of her book as we finish it. You can be part of her reader feedback. You can offer support and encouragement along the way. You’ll be honored guests at her book launch party and trust us, this is going to be a celebration of life you won’t want to miss.

So we launch this effort today, partners with Emily on her work. Soon we will rally this community to help her launch her words and support her effort to inspire badly needed change.

Just as her life was saved, this effort will help countless others heal as well.  Great stories, do in fact, inspire change.

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I didn’t get ‘Fixed’, but Kirkus does

I’ll never forget the first time I read Doug Piotter’s first chapter of what would eventually be called Fixed: Dope Sacks, Dye Packs and the Long Welcome Back.

I’ll confess. I didn’t get it. I wanted to get it. But I wasn’t sure.

Now, we know for certain how wrong I was in my first impression. Fixed has just been given the Kirkus Star, which enters the book in the competition for its Kirkus Prize award and the $50,000 prize that comes with it.

It’s safe to say Kirkus’ reviewer got it.

“The author’s life, as portrayed here, contains enough screw-ups for 10 dysfunctionality memoirs,” the review writes, “but unlike other memoirists, he eschews angst and self-pity and highlights the absurd humor of the predicaments he made for himself. The pathos here is all the more moving for being spare, understated, and well-earned from hard experience. A smart, occasionally wise, and always entertaining recollection of addiction, crime, punishment, and recovery.”

I didn’t know Doug when I went out of my way to introduce myself to him at a writers conference. He unabashedly touted his book during the Q&A, describing it as micro-stories from his time as a drug addict, bank robber and prison inmate. He said, “it’s the real deal. It all happened.”

I introduced myself to him and invited him to a writers group. His moxie and story impressed me. I knew he could benefit from a serious group. Soon, Doug sent me his manuscript. I read the first chapter, and like I say, I didn’t get it.

But he added one more thing to his email, a link to the first reading of the book he had done. I listened to the reading and then I knew we were on to something.

Folks were cracking up. I may not have gotten it, but the crowd did.

Writing funny is nearly impossible. Perhaps it’s raw talent. But it’s also craft. And within Doug was a writer of raw talent and hidden determination to get better at the craft. Beyond the writers group, of which Doug remains a vital member, I’ve worked as his editor to help bring Fixed to life. It’s been a pleasure and an honor. We’ve now shifted into high gear for Doug’s second book, a work of fiction that offers much of the same promise of his memoir.

Meanwhile, Fixed continues to gain momentum, earning acclaim from dozens of reviewers and book awards including, a Finalist Beverly Hills Book Award and  first place of the 22nd annual Colorado Independent Publishers Association and CIPA Education and Literary Foundation, Self Help.

Fixed is funny.

It’s also, as Doug, says, real. It all happened. And that is where the true amazement of this book’s accomplishment sneaks up on you. This funny writer with self-effacing charm survived all this pain and brokenness that makes the book so sharp and important. Funny is good, but impact is better and this book has both.

Don’t take my word for it. Buy it. If you do, we invite you to send us your review of the book. We will gladly post it here.

‘Vaccine-Friendly’ solution empowers parents

If you visit Jennifer Margulis’ Facebook page, you’ll catch on pretty quick that she pulls no punches. But you’ll also see the co-author of the just released book, The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health from Pregnancy Through Your Child’s Teen Years, is a passionate defender of the human spirit.

For the next couple of days—time is running out, folks—Margulis and her co-author Dr. Paul Thomas are offering a parental toolkit packed with free gifts totaling more than $500. You buy it, tell ’em where you got it, and get back-end access to really cool freebies. Just click here for the free stuff.

Margulis has an impressive career as a writer and editor that includes her first book, Your Baby, Your Way, contributions to several other books, and published works on the country’s most significant newspapers and platforms. She’s a force, but one who promotes stories and truths that need to be told.

She calls this book one of the most important things she’s done with her life. Learn more about her accomplishments, and you’ll know this is no small thing.

Most importantly, she can write. Her clear style and detailed research permeate everything she does. She is a trusted guide but also one whose prose is easy to enjoy.

Parents would do well to consider this information. Despite the storm of controversy around vaccines, most of are woefully uninformed. It is far too easy to paint in broad strokes and labels (pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine) that lack utility.

The Vaccine-Friendly Plan is a cogent, readable discussion that offers information for informed decision making. Its strength is in this clarity and the expertise of Dr. Thomas, a leading vaccine expert.

This is a no-nonsense guide to making decisions about each vaccine and whether to get them, instead of blanket decisions that lack the nuance a parent should employ when it comes to their child’s health. Information is power. The Vaccine-Friendly Plan offers plenty of both.

 

‘Take sides:’ Trump shifts from inane to alarming

At the height of the Republican presidential primary a stranger and his friend stopped me on the street for no apparent reason.

“If you have to choose, would you vote for Cruz or Trump?” he asked me.

Without missing a beat, I replied, “Trump. This is all a reality TV show game for him. But Cruz, he really believes that hateful shit.”

Satisfied, they walked on. No other words were said. Random, interesting and reflective of the time a few months ago.

Now, I know I was wrong. Both presented a clear and present danger to American ideals of civil rights, tolerance and human dignity.

What started out as a great American con job–Trump saw the money Sarah Palin seized by turning a presidential election into reality TV and wanted more of that for himself–has now become one of the most alarming shifts in American politics since Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt for communists.

On the day author, professor and advocate for peace Elie Wiesel died, I went to see the musical, Cabaret. Collectively the two events brought to mind the never-ending cycle of history’s repetition. We’ve seen this all before. It was horrific then, and it’s no longer a joke now.

Weisel himself expressed a similar truth when discussing one of his big disappointments in life. “Nothing changed,” he said. “Human nature remained what it was. Society remained what it was. Too much indifference in the world to The Other, his pain, and anguish, and hope.”

Cabaret’s stunning performance reminds us that fools in power often vilify The Other to fuel their rise. Does American 2016 replace Germany 1930? Do Muslim Americans replace Jewish Germans? Do the recession-weary poor from middle America replace the recession-weary poor from middle Germany? Does “Make America Great Again” replace “Heil Hitler?” After all, both Trump and the leader of the Third Reich share a popular appeal to the “blond hair, blue eyed,” pure nationalists to feed their egos.

Do I go too far? That remains to be seen. But enough trends, enough anger, enough xenophobia has been displayed to move Trump from an inane carnival barker to the second most likely person to lead the most powerful country in the world. If anything, such comparisons may be too late, not too early.

Like all megalomaniacs, Trump has begun to believe his own Wag The Dog spin. He’s cast a campaign of hate, fueled fear and racial division and spoken of attacking any number of “others” to propel him into an office he is entirely and utterly unqualified to hold.

The Grand Old Party has even begun to cave on its sense of decency and order. Those that have taken a stand against him have been shoved to the side. Those in power–Paul Ryan, are you going to lead this party?–have waffled. Winning is more important than the tenets of society this country is built on. Liberty? Justice? The bill of rights? All will be trampled under a Trump presidency that advocates more of the worst of American injustices like the World War II internment camps and the Native American reservations.

Listen again to the voice of the dearly departed: “Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides. Neutrality helps the aggressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” Wiesel said.

Be silent no more.

It can’t go on. Not a day more. This reality check must cancel The Trump reality show, and it should never be purchased for re-runs. The common bonds of a decent people must come together across party lines to heal our deep wounds of division, or the final scenes of Cabaret won’t be a play, but a passion play of the Civilization of America and its last setting sun.

Readers wanted: Beta testing art makes me twitchy but…

I’m reasonably certain that Ernest Hemingway didn’t seek out a lot of advice on his manuscripts before he sold them for publication. He would be appalled at modern strategies of writers seeking out reader reaction before publication.

Steve Jobs would mock the idea of beta testing a book. Don’t ask buyers what they want, he said. Tell them what they want. Beta test? Please.

Yet, it’s a thing. It happens all the time. Blogging books have become popular. Serialized chapters on digital platforms allow readers to interact with the author during the writer process.

Crowdsourcing books? Why not? In this modern age of writing, anything goes. And lord knows I’m no Hemingway or Jobs.

Still, it makes me nervous. The idea of sharing my work before it is published makes me downright twitchy.

But… I’m going to do it. I’m putting out a “help wanted” sign in my window. “Readers Wanted.”

I just finished my new novel. I can’t tell if it’s brilliant or awful. I honestly have no idea. That’s where the readers come in. They get to tell me which it is. Thumbs up or down.

I doubt it’s in between.

The job sucks. There is no pay. The better you do the job, the more likely I’ll not want to hear it. It’s safe to say I lack both objectivity and openness to ideas, even when I am in desperate need of both. It’s a no-win situation. If a reader tells me it’s brilliant, I know I’ll think they are blowing smoke up my ass. If they tell me it’s awful, I’ll snicker and mock their inability to grasp the art. Those that have great ideas for changes will likely be dismissed. Those that offer few changes will be chided for their lack of commitment to the project.

Great job, right?

Hey, I’m being honest. I’m in full-fledged diva mode. I love these characters. I have spent all my waking hours with them for a long time now. I teared up reading my own ending. And now that I’ve finished, I’m wallowing in depression.

Also, I already know everything that’s wrong with the book. It’s too long. It’s too ambitious. It’s too similar to others and too different to be published. It’s a lame attempt at literary and a poor attempt at suspense. It defies categories and preaches too much and reeks of sentimentality and gets way too fucking deep on matters people don’t care about. It’s everything and nothing and…

But I fucking love it.

So yeah, I want to make it great. I want to get feedback. I need to know how readers experience it. I need a beta test, so I better understand how real people react to these real people I created on a page.  Hemingway would hate it, and I think I will too, but I’ll admit it. I need the help. Who would do such a thankless job?

I have no idea. Nevertheless,

“Readers wanted. Inquire within.”

 

Unleash your storytelling power in 1 minute

I guard my weekends. The times where I voluntarily gave up an entire weekend I can probably count on my fingers and toes and not even take off a shoe. But the times I pay to give up a weekend, well… I recall one: a video boot camp by the company Seenfire that I signed up for not realizing it would take an entire weekend. Had I known, I wouldn’t have gone. This was one of the best mistakes in planning I ever made.

Seenfire’s Founder Christoph Geiseler runs these video boot camps to train people to make high-quality videos. He has a simple premise. Keep your videos to one minute in length. Anything longer takes far more work and loses far more viewers. He also says to make your video in one day. Anything longer is obsessing that won’t usually result in better quality. Geiseler wants his company to become the online platform for one-minute storytellers.

I’m still amazed by how often I use the tools I learned in that video boot camp. Admittedly I didn’t pay too much attention to his highly detailed (err… I believed I referred to it as excessively anal under my breath during the boot camp, to be honest) organizational system and I quickly regretted it. I’ve since started to apply it in every video I make. My knowledge of Premiere Pro is probably like my brain… I may use 10 percent at best. But that 10 percent has remarkable power to create a visual story in a way I could have only dreamed (or paid heavily) for before.

I use these skills now in work, in play, and to express my Effin Artistry. I now think videos and look forward to the editing process of pairing words, music, and visuals in a finished, complete product.

The point here: Give up a weekend and get to one of these boot camps. The next one is in the Los Angeles are on the first weekend of April (click here to register and learn more). The seminar is limited to 10 people. Amp up your storytelling, and be one of the 10. If you are, report back here by replying and telling us how you liked the seminar.

Check out our first one-minute video at effinartist.com by clicking here.

Our body connects to mind’s creative work

Maybe the best part of being a writer is getting to know and at times work with other writers. They are a fascinated breed. I simply never stop learning when I connect with others committed to the craft of placing meaningful words on a page.

One such fellow writer, I met through her words on the page. More precisely, I observed her talent as the words sprang to life and told a story in my mind as clear as a movie on a screen. When I heard Susie Meserve read poetry more than a year ago, I knew I wanted her in our fledgling writer’s group. I reached out to her, and she agreed. She infused our group with her energy, talent, and expertise.

The great news is more people can connect with Susie just as we in the writing group did. She is offering a writing workshop this weekend, that you don’t want to miss. As I stated when I started this post, I never stop learning from writers. This workshop will be no exception, as Susie and her co-instructor, Pilates Trainer Sandra Stringer, will connect our physical experience to our creative experience. Called “Releasing Your Body, Releasing Your Story: A Movement and Writing Workshop for Writers,” this mind/body connection should help stir writers in new and impactful ways.

It’s not too late to sign up. If you live in the Bay Area,  write sandrakstringer@gmail.com to register. Here are the vitals:

When: Saturday March 19, 1- 3:45 p.m.
Where: Flying Studios, 4308 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
Cost: $75

If you go, I invite you to reply here and write more about what you learned.

 

 

Lessons in adaptation: Leaders must change to lead well

When working with my brother Dr. Rev. on his book Canoeing the Mountainswe talked a lot about its focus. I lobbied that he expand the leadership message for a broader audience. Leaders across sectors need to hear this core idea about the necessity of adaptability in leadership.

But, Tod kept his target market in mind: leaders in the Christian church. He also stayed true to his authentic passion. The latter part of his exceptional career is focused on trying to help pastors struggling to adapt to post-Christian society.  He knew the importance of helping those who dedicate their lives to a spiritual calling needed to find new ways to engage the changing spiritual landscape.

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Tod was right. His book topped #1 on Amazon’s chart for Christian leadership–nudging aside Pope Francis– and thrives in large part because of that focus he insisted on. He thought first of people, not sales, and his book is the better for it.

And his message for leaders? Change. Without it, you can’t lead. He uses the story of Lewis and Clark’s expedition to capture perfectly this compelling idea. He tells is better than I ever could, so take a listen:

Imagine if our political leadership could admit they are trying to canoe over mountains? Imagine if they would adapt to the sweeping change in the 21st-century economy and give up old party divisions and broken political methods that have handicapped our country? Image if the ability to be humble, to learn, to adapt and to learn new skills were prized, not mocked?

Maybe we’d be watching presidential debates with serious leaders talking in civil tones instead of the reality TV spectrum of buffoonery we see replayed each new debate now.

We need leadership more than ever, but capable leaders, humble leaders, yes, adaptable leaders. We don’t need more hubris. We don’t need more hate. There is nothing courageous about the xenophobic, divisive mockery of leadership that seems “popular” today.

So even now, knowing my brother was right to keep his book targeted and focused on “Christian” leadership instead of leadership, in general, I still wish he hadn’t. I wish leaders everywhere would consider this message of change.  More importantly, I wish we would all demand this from our leaders and reward those who proven themselves capable. Far too often today leadership seems capable only of stirring up ratings to amuse the audiences watching and building on hatreds and divisions that could soon leave us in the mountains with no clue how to cross them.

Take action: This holiday season, I’d love it if you could offer some support for genuine leadership advocated by a leader I respect, my brother, Rev. Dr. Tod E. Bolsinger of Fuller Seminary. Supporting authors has never been easier. First, click here and buy a copy of the book. Hell, buy two. Give one to your church leader or someone you know in leadership as a gift. Then read it and share your thoughts. Hate it? That’s great. Share it. Love it? Of course, share it. Honest reviews are the coin of the realm for better or worse. Post a few comments about it on social media and MOST IMPORTANTLY: write a review for Amazon. Many reviews help an author get noticed.

Happy Holidays to all.

 

Litquake and Video Takes

“I felt a little better when Scot blew his part on our next try,” Dawn writes. What are friends for?!

Source: Litquake and Video Takes

Ever think EFF That (but let’s be honest, when we think it, we think the non-censored version). All the time, right. So much is… well, Effed. So what the hell is Effin Artist? It starts with a simple prefix that switches the focus on that mental state. We don’t say EFF that. We say UN-EFF That.

More to come, but for now, enjoy my partner in UN-Effin the world, writer Dawn Pier’s view of our three minutes of (sh)fame.

Who knew three minutes took so long?

Several years ago, Effin Artist started with a little voice in my head that I’d say to myself time and again. I’d do something creative that would make me feel good.

I’d say to myself, “I’m an Effin Artist, man!”

Then it became a newsletter to family, which then grew into a lark of a website I built only to learn how to build websites. Then it became a blog and a real website that I called my writer’s platform.

It turns out the Great Divine had much more in mind. Effin Artist continues its evolution into something I couldn’t have dreamed up had I wanted to, which is saying something because I do some serious dreaming when I get on a roll.

What is it? That’s coming soon. But with that next evolutionary phase in mind, we gathered to capture the essence of Effin Artist in a three-minute video.

I thought it would be easy. Three minutes. How hard is that? I guess harder than I thought. The director, Dave Moutray of Crux Jinx Productions,  called for a 6 a.m. call time. We had all day to film, so that seemed weird, but I went with it.

The sky was dark. They wired me and lit me and shaded me and did all sorts of stuff while I tried to sit still. They said, ready, snapped that clacker thing in front of my face and said, “Action.”

I stared at it all silently.

“Uh… that’s your cue,” Dave told me.

“Cue for what?” I asked.

What is Effin Artist?” the folks with the fancy cameras and bright lights asked me.

“Uh…,” I said.

“Well, you might need to say a little more than that,” Dave said.

I then launched into an incoherent eight-minute ramble that seemed inspired to me through the first six minutes. Then the camerawoman’s head fell into her camera, and I wondered if I had gotten a tad off message. I decided to wrap it up, which took two more minutes.

“Maybe we need to say it just a bit tighter,” he said.

“Cam B, wake up,” he said next.

The woman’s head jerked up and she wiped the slobber from her chin.

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We kept at it. At one point, my daughter’s voice came through the window, unmistakable in its derision.

“Seven takes for one sentence? Geez, he sucks,” she said.

I felt the love.

We kept at it. At one point, we had this brilliant light, but Dave said, “hold for sound.” I then noticed the parrots of Telegraph Hill, who fly by our window every Sunday morning on cue, did what they always did, singing and flapping and circling as the Sun did what it does, rising. They all looked sort of impatient.

“The birds are taking one more lap,” the light guy said. The sound guy never said much. He just looked out. I realized the poor guy was wearing headphones, which every inane thing that left my mouth went right to his ears. I think at one point I broke into song from a little lyric I wrote “When I get home again where the parrots sing…” I made a note to give him hazard pay.

Nobody else seemed very happy about the parrots.

“Strike it,” the director said. “The Sun’s washed it out.” They started moving all the lights and stuff they had put it up.

Eventually, they had me leave and had a writer friend of mine who has suddenly become very important to Effin Artistry, Dawn Pier, sit down and start talking to the camera. They all seemed happy with that move.

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And so it went. Lots of interviews and lots of cameras and lights and changes and things until suddenly our three minutes took several hours and well, I watched amazed at the artistry on display, all in an attempt to capture the artistic vision of this thing called Effin Artist.

What is Effin Artist?

Shrug.

I’m not sure we figured that out. But I know this: Whatever it is, is pretty Effin cool and you’ll be hearing more really soon… about three minutes more to be precise. Because the folks at Crux Jinx, well, trust me, they are Effin Artists, man. And patient ones, too.