We Only Accept Perfect Stories Here, Mark Twain

Our marketing department got ahold of Huckleberry Finn… We’ve been told we have to pass. I’m positive someone will pick up this book. This is groundbreaking work—perhaps your best ever. —Editor

Dear Mr. Clemens (Mr. Twain),

I regret to inform you that we cannot publish your book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In fact, we couldn’t get beyond the first page. While you might think it’s clever to use a specific dialect in your book. It comes across as amateur.

In truth, we only accept perfect books here, Mr. Twain.

Look at that first page.

YOU don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly—Tom's Aunt Polly, she is—and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before. Now the way that the book winds up is this: Tom and me found the money that the robbers hid in the cave, and it made us rich. We got six thousand dollars apiece—all gold. It was an awful sight of money when it was piled up. Well, Judge Thatcher he took it and put it out at interest, and it fetched us a dollar a day apiece all the year round—more than a body could tell what to do with. The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied.

From: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/76

This is truly terrible writing and hard to follow. We like to use proper sentences. Under no circumstances should a narrator ever say, “ain’t.”

We are sure it’s a decent story, but who cares about story when you have to dumb down your IQ to read the book. These are not the kind of people we associate with for a reason. I’m sure I would feel dumber for having read the whole book.

Who do you think you are? You mention yourself in the second sentence. Don’t ever do that. You’re creating a world of fiction, so trying to sell this book as some version of the truth is preposterous.

How are we supposed to sell this book? Who is your target audience? You want us to put a book like this in the children’s section? This book is full of crude language, immature content and the n-word. We can only sell books by genre, and no adult wants to read a book with a child protagonist.

Included below is an edited version of your first page. Please rewrite it with the changes we suggested and try submitting it again.

My name is Huckleberry Finn. You may remember me from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” The story held true to the events as they took place. Everyone in my life lies sometimes though, even Tom Sawyer’s relatives. I do believe most of the Bible when the Widow Douglas reads to me.
I will recap “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” for you. Tom Sawyer and I found money hidden in a cave. We split up the money and each had $600 in gold. We allowed Judge Thatcher to invest the money for us. Each day I receive a dollar from the interest, which is more money than I know what to do with.
The Widow Douglas adopted me. She attempted to educate me. It was hard to adjust to her lifestyle because she was too kind. One day, I found my old clothes and ran away.

See… This is much more marketable.

Sincerely,
The Marketing Department of the Publisher

We Can’t Just Trust You Again Denver Nuggets

It’s been over a year since the Denver Nuggets fired Brian Shaw. The Nuggets are retooled with enough young talent to soon make basketball in Denver fun again. Their coach, Michael Malone, is well respected around the league and is held with reverence among difficult players. The Nuggets have been better than expected this year, but are not playoff ready.

However, Denver doesn’t trust the Denver Nuggets.

Whether you’re a company, a business, a friend or a sports team, trust is hard to regain if you make a mistake. In professional sports, fans invest their money in a team and then hold a belief that the team should act within the best interests of the paying fan base.

The Nuggets are still recovering from the credibility hit they took after firing coach George Karl. I covered dozens of Nuggets games between 2012-2015 and respect the people who cover and work for the team. As I’ve watched this Nuggets season from afar, I’ve been struck by the difference of opinion held by people close to the Nuggets organization and the casual fan.

The Nuggets Mistake

At least in hindsight, the casual fan still doesn’t understand why the Denver Nuggets fired George Karl. At the time of his firing, he had just won the most games in Nuggets history and kept the Nuggets in the playoffs every year. Karl was fired after losing in the first round to the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs before they were “the best thing that ever happened to basketball.” The Nuggets best player, Danilo Gallinari, was injured before the series and the Nuggets limped out of the playoffs.

There was a large contingency of diehard Nuggets fans calling for Karl’s firing at the time—they had been for years. It’s clear now that the casual Denver fan was content, but I think the front office listened to those diehard fans.

They brought in Brian Shaw, who wanted the Nuggets to be a little worse in the regular season, but better in the playoffs. The Nuggets never made the playoffs. They became an NBA bottom feeder with embarrassing incidents on and off the court.

After a year and a half, the Nuggets made the decision to fire Shaw, believing that such a move could restore the Nuggets integrity. That sense of prestige has not been restored.

Where’s the Nuggets Integrity?

To many Nuggets fans, the mistake was not in hiring Shaw, but in firing Karl. No one with the Nuggets ever really acknowledged that error in firing Karl. Fans don’t feel like they can trust the organization. President Josh Kroenke and General Manager Tim Connelly (I’ll get to him) are still making the team’s decisions.

It seems like the Nuggets’ management (and Shaw) were happy using their players as scapegoats. If you follow the Nuggets you know the problems included Gallinari’s injury, Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson, Javale McGee and more. The Nuggets are cleaning up these problems, but fans are still comparing this team to the Karl Nuggets.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “of all the factors that can undermine behavioral integrity, among the most dangerous is managers’ inability to see an integrity problem in themselves.” This feels like the problem with the Nuggets—they never really grasped where the hits to their reputation were coming from.

Fans May Be Wrong, Nuggets May Be Crazy

“Real trust (even in our modern culture) doesn’t always come from divulging, from providing more transparency, but from the actions that people take (or that we think they take) before our eyes. It comes from people who show up before they have to, who help us when they think no one is watching. It comes from people and organizations that play a role that we need them to play.” Seth Godin

The disconnect between people closely following the Nuggets and the casual fan arises at this point. Connelly seems like the right guy for the Nuggets and he is drafting well. People who know Connelly speak highly of him and he’s made great transactions. Head Coach Michael Malone seems like a good coach for a young team. However, neither person is building on the Nuggets integrity right now.

When the Nuggets fired Shaw, they replaced him with Melvin Hunt, a George Karl guy who was well-liked in the era of success. Choosing an unknown like Malone instead of Hunt or another well-respected Nuggets figure Chauncey Billups, didn’t restore that trust.

Come on, would those guys really bring trust? Think about how the Denver Broncos recovered from the disastrous Josh McDaniel era. They brought in the most trusted man in Colorado: John Elway. The same goes for the Colorado Avalanche. After seasons of poor play, they leaned on trust built up with the championships of the Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy era.

I’m not saying this is how trust should work, but in a city with four major sports teams, why spend energy on the Nuggets if the team hasn’t repaired that relationship?

So how can the Nuggets rebuild trust? Make the playoffs again. In fact, if they can win a playoff series in the next few years—this era of distrust might already be forgotten (although, I still know some fans that are mad the Nuggets fired Doug Moe). This may require some relationship counseling.

For more sportswriting by Derek Kessinger, visit DerekinDenver.com

Is it better to be a Savior or a Vigilante?

There are two versions of America. In one version, we liberate the world by spreading freedom and hope everywhere. This America is Superman. The other version of America works in the shadows. Covert operations, back channel deals—whatever is necessary even if it is morally wrong. This America is Batman.

I had a college professor layout this dual vision of the U.S. as the reason we are so drawn to these two heroes. I wanted to explore these ideologies further. Especially with Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice set to premiere this month.

I turned to my resident superhero expert, Patrick. Known to his Twitter followers as @ManofTomorrow01, Patrick is my superhero vendor. He introduced me to Justice League 8 and convinced me to watch Arrow. I’m a novice in the comic book world. Patrick brings a deep knowledge about the battle between his hero Superman and my guy, Batman.

This conversation is accessible to everyone—not just superhero fanatics.

DK: Hey Patrick, so right off the bat, I’m guessing that you’re the most excited of anyone I know for the upcoming Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie. I feel like I know from Twitter that you saw Man of Steel 60 times. On the debate between the two, you would prefer to be Superman, right? How come?

Patrick: Superman has always been my favorite superhero, ever since I watched a VHS tape at my grandmother’s house with the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons on it. Back then, I loved him because he could jump over a building and punch through a wall.

But when I started watching the 90s animated series he appealed to me because he was such a nice, normal person and was kind to everyone. Clark Kent really became a hero, and I admired him for being this guy that had infinite power, but he still wanted to be a journalist and a normal guy.

That’s pretty much where it went for me, I liked him because he always hoped for something better, for himself and for other people and believed people wanted to do the right thing.

It’s why my first tattoo was “hope” in Kryptonian.

DK: I first became a Batman fan when I was really young watching old episodes of the Adam West Batman show. It was only watching it years later that I realized it was a comedy. From that point forward, I have always loved the idea of a superhero without powers, but gadgets, intellect and stealth.

“He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it.”

What do you think about the idea put forth at the end of the Dark Knight? In our society today, would we be better served with a hero like Superman or Batman?

Patrick: I loved the 60’s Adam West show! I loved the Dark Knight, and I think today, a hero like Batman might be more practical or tolerable, because I can imagine so much opposition to Superman due to his strength, being an alien, and how so many people would consider those things as reasons not to trust him.

Batman wouldn’t necessarily be that accepted either, but I think people are happy when justice is retributive, and to me, Batman is more about that than Superman. Making the bad guys pay, preying on their fear, and possibly making them “feel” it, since he generally is depicted as willing to dish out more pain than Superman is comfortable with.

But, my bias showing, I think someone like Superman who is willing to be out in the open and help people and remain humble, and hopeful, pushing for a more inclusive society and “seeing the best” in everyone is what we would need today.

My best friend (and Batman fanatic) has always said that in any Batman vs. Superman encounter that puts their ideologies against one another, it always better serves the story for Superman’s to win.

DK: Is it interesting to you that Batman vs. Superman is setting up the opposite scenario of Ironman vs. Captain America? Batman (Dark Knight) wants to control Superman (White Knight), while Iron Man (Dark Knight) wants to control Captain America (White Knight)? I think it says a lot about where we are with these mythic storylines that this question is popping up in two different franchises.

Patrick: It’s definitely funny that they both come out in the same year. I can’t remember when Captain America: Civil War was announced relative to Batman v Superman (I think the BvS comic con announcement was first) but it’s just a weird stroke of luck they both decided to do the same type of story.

I think Iron Man is definitely, like Batman, the more pragmatic between he and Captain America. It’s interesting how popular Cap is given his “boy scout” nature and the old fashioned, or naive, ideals he champions. It’s just like Sherman, but I hear a lot of dislike for Superman because of those reasons, whereas people love Cap.

I would say if I had to connect it to current events, it is timely to question these hopeful ideas, because I don’t think many people see them as working or having a place in the world as it is. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best Marvel film in my opinion because it really started looking at how Cap could function in a post-9/11, post-Edward Snowden world.

Batman represents that suspicion, and skepticism, where he doesn’t trust Superman’s power and strength, or his ability to seemingly be anywhere and see anything.

But I also don’t see Superman as representative of gov’t surveillance or extraordinary rendition, but I think that’s Batman’s perception of him, leading into Batman vs. Superman.

DK: One of the problems I’ve always had with Superman is seeing his human qualities. He kind of falls into the label of, “what does he have to complain about?” A label people sometimes throw on athletes.

I get that Superman’s an alien who lost his entire planet, but it seems easier to relate to Batman’s past. Superman can turn back time. He has only one weakness. He chooses to be Clark Kent. How should we find sympathy for Superman?

Patrick: I totally get that. It makes sense that people see his power and wonder, “how could his life be difficult?”
And really, Batman’s past is so horrible solely because his parents were killed in front of him. But outside of that, he grew up extremely privileged, with endless wealth. I think they both had difficult circumstances growing up, Bruce’s just feels more immediately traumatic, since Clark was a baby when he lost his parents, that doesn’t haunt him like Bruce.

I never felt sorry for Superman, per se, but more admiration with how he chooses to use the abilities he has. I feel the opposite way Tarantino explains Superman in Kill Bill. Instead of seeing the human race as weak and pathetic, he would rather live his everyday life as a regular human.

People might say, “if I had Superman’s abilities I wouldn’t have to work,” or “I’d be an athlete with millions of dollars” etc. But that speaks more to how they would want profit, whereas Superman only wants a normal life where he’s accepted and can help people as a journalist and as Superman.

DK: And that seems to be the draw of Superman. It reminds me of the of the line from the trailer, “you don’t owe this world a thing, you never did.”

Superman chooses to help the world, even when it doesn’t help him back or support him. How far do you think that can go in the movie? Any predictions? What would you most like to see happen in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice?

Patrick: They’ve definitely taken directions that caused me to raise some eyebrows. I didn’t like him killing Zod in Man of Steel. In the trailers it does kind of seem like he’s trying to project some authority, when he tells Batman to stop doing what he’s doing.

I think people will be surprised by the movie, in that maybe they don’t fight as much as we think. It seems like they have one scrum, but then that’s it. I expect them to kind of test each other out before the fight with Batman in his armor.

Doomsday is an interesting way to give them something to fight, especially with Wonder Woman in the mix.
I think Batman will level the playing field with Kryptonite somehow. And I expect Wonder Woman to be the one that brings them together. That’s my hope, at least.

I’d really like to see Superman learn from Man of Steel, I was kind of shocked with all the destruction, so I’m hoping by now he’s more practiced at helping get people out of harm’s way when fighting someone like Doomsday.

DK: Thanks so much for doing this Patrick! We’ll have to do this again after the movie comes out. If you were going to recommend one Superman story I should check out, what would it be?

Patrick: No problem! And definitely, my bff is coming into town to see it, we plan on marathoning it like we did The Dark Knight lol.

I would go with either Superman for All Seasons, or All Star Superman. In my opinion, All Star is the best Superman story I’ve ever read. Got all 12 issues framed on my wall. But both are easy to get into because they don’t fit into any overarching canon or series.

It’s Not Scary to Leap. It’s Scary to Land.

It’s not scary to leap. It’s scary to land.

A leap is not a jump. A jump is a blip that doesn’t change your location. A leap is not a hop. A hop is an action of surprise or energy. A leap is not a dive. A dive is desperate because you have little control over your trajectory. A leap is not a lunge. Lunges are movements of inches, barely risking anything.

A leap is movement from a calculated starting point off into the unknown.

Imagine running to the edge of a building. You’re Jason Bourne being chased by the problems of your life. You know that you’re aiming for the rooftop across the alleyway. You’ve seen the gap between buildings from below and you have a picture in your head of the layout of the next rooftop.

You won’t be able to see the other rooftop until after you leap. You don’t know for sure that you’ll be able to leap that distance. A new, more dangerous enemy may await your arrival. You might hurt be hurt by some hidden danger on that next rooftop. You might wish you could turn back halfway, but it will be too late.

Are you willing to risk a leap to the next rooftop to get beyond your current predicament? Even if it’s impossible to know exactly where you’ll land?

At this point, a lot of us stop.

While life’s current problems are chasing us, it’s hard to maneuver into the unknown unless those current problems are unbearable.

Even when we know there are opportunities to learn, grow and advance, we feel a fear of the unknown. We reason with ourselves that it’s better to face the problems we can see. We can put a name to these problems. The trajectory into the abyss is terrifying.

But there is such joy in the leap. There are few feelings better than weightlessness. It’s one of the reasons we love swinging rides and roller coasters. That moment of freedom where, for a brief second, no force is holding us down. It’s why the most exciting part of watching a football fly is when the ball hangs in the air before it turns downward. We love the top of the leap—the space between control and consequence.

Then we have to fall. As Buzz Lightyear would say a leap is not flying, but falling with style. It’s bracing for the correction of gravity. We may come back to Earth gracefully or we might create a big splash as the Olympic diving judges bemoan your poor form entering the pool.

To be successful, we need to embrace the fall and the gravity of the situation. We need to know, as fast as possible, how close to our target we’re going to land. That way, we can move on to the next leap.

Leaping is about muscle memory. It’s not an art form. Leaping for the first time at a tiny target sets you up for failure. You’re not a professional yet. You don’t have the confidence to hit that ledge, and you know that not making it can lead to a painful fall. Take a leap, stick with the trajectory and then try again.

The best way to leap is toward a target so big that you’re bound to hit it. You can succeed if you leap with the intention of learning. There are lessons in both landing on the pavement with knee pain and splashing down into the ocean after a flight to the moon.

Don’t try to change course halfway through the fall—it’s too late. The more you struggle, the bigger the disaster. You will have to correct your mistakes from the ground. We can only control so much and half the battle of leaping is living with the uncertain landing.

Take a leap of possibility. Look to the sky and bound for your next rooftop. Enjoy the rush of rising through the air. Take in the view during that serene moment where you surrender control to the forces around you. Savor that feeling of excitement in your stomach as you begin to fall. No matter where you land, you’ll find your footing, and create the confidence to leap again.

Keeping the Audience in Focus, An Experience Institute Piece

A note about my most recent blog for the Experience Institute: Check Your Story’s Focus or Lose Your Audience

There are three types of writers: writers who write for themselves, writers who write for their peers and writers who write for their audiences. While I think the first two have their merits, I am most interested in telling stories that reflect back something on the current culture. In writing this blog post as a student of Experience Institute, I really wanted to explain to a community of dreamers, innovators and learners the importance of framing a story.

When reading this piece now, several weeks after I submitted it, I notice moments where I am sure the audience can’t hear my voice, but I hope that they can see a fire juggler.

If you’ve never seen a fire juggler, I suggest heading to the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder on a summer’s day. Fire jugglers work among the many street performers that entertain the crowds. If you have the time, stop for a while and study the way a street performer interacts with an audience. They don’t have the luxury of performing for themselves or for their peers. When your livelihood depends on donations, you quickly learn how to perform for the crowds of today.

CHECK YOUR STORY’S FOCUS OR LOSE YOUR AUDIENCE

KVQ-1024x683

Written for Experience Institute 

An author’s greatest asset is the ability to shape what details the audience can see. This insight came to me during a talk by Experience Institute all-star photographer Kevin Von Qualen. Kevin showed my class how a great photo really comes down to choosing your focus. A creator, in any art form, must decide what stays in the frame and what is cropped out.

A skilled storyteller narrows the frame of view to just the important details. Imagine taking a picture on your phone of a fire juggler from 100 feet away at a crowded outdoor mall. In your mind, you’re about to take a great picture, but the result is a haphazard mess of people and stores. The blurry orange of fire in the distance holds none of the brilliance of the performer. For the best picture, you need to move closer to the subject or find better equipment.

Now imagine you’re up close to that fire juggler…

Read the rest at expinstitute.com/2016/02/check-your-storys-focus-or-lose-your-audience/

CHECK YOUR STORY’S FOCUS OR LOSE YOUR AUDIENCE

An author’s greatest asset is the ability to shape what details the audience can see. This insight came to me during a talk by Experience Institute all-star photographer Kevin Von Qualen. Kevin showed my class how a great photo really comes down to choosing your focus. A creator, in any art form, must decide what stays in the frame and what is cropped out.

A skilled storyteller narrows the frame of view to just the important details. Imagine taking a picture on your phone of a fire juggler from 100 feet away at a crowded outdoor mall. In your mind, you’re about to take a great picture, but the result is a haphazard mess of people and stores. The blurry orange of fire in the distance holds none of the brilliance of the performer. For the best picture, you need to move closer to the subject or find better equipment.

Now imagine you’re up close to that fire juggler. About to take the shot, you notice excited audience members’ faces lit by the flame in wonder. You include them in the picture and it tells a story of an emotional reaction to the fire juggler.

Stories resonate when edited toward authentic emotion. Authenticity is the result of credibility, trust and delivery. Each detail should support the story’s mission to elicit the desired response.

Left to its own devices, a story loses form depending on the details. A teenager tells you his day at school was simply “fine.” A first grader details every moment of the day without reflection. The best story lies in the middle—a story of authentic feeling and reflection supported by details.

George Washington understood the power of authentic emotions in storytelling. At the end of the Revolutionary War, General Washington’s work was not over. His disgruntled officers met in secret to discuss overthrowing the Continental Congress. Washington showed up unannounced, but with a prepared speech.

The speech was not well received. Washington moved onto a letter from a congressman, but only got through a few lines. “Gentlemen,” Washington said, “you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.”

Washington never wore glasses in public and his admitted vulnerability shocked the men. He leveraged his own weakness to support the Continental Congress’ cause. Instead of explaining away the glasses, he used the detail as a source of vulnerability. The moment of emotion was key to Washington’s persuasion.

I first heard this Washington story from my high school history teacher, Mr. Hughes. Mr. Hughes used emotional stories to help draw students into his lectures. Invested in the story, Mr. Hughes acted out the scene, pretending to pull out the glasses. He paused for a moment and with a choked up voice of emotion, delivered Washington’s line. The authentic delivery still gives me chills.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, my facts-based history professor in college failed to compel me with the same Washington story. The man droned on, everyday, without emotion. Instead of using the Washington speech as a great story of history, it became merely facts. He listed the event as one of the ways the Continental Congress survived after the Revolution.

It’s important to me that I deliver my Experience Institute year in an authentic story. I hope I will be able to gain meaning from the story of my year and inspire others. This process begins when I get beyond the facts of the program and talk about moments of struggle and triumph. After all, my year is about more than three terms of experiential learning. My year is also about capturing both the wonder and wounds of juggling fire.

My Last DK Chronicle Piece (First Draft)

I launched a project on February 29, 2016 (Leap Day) called the DK Chronicle. I decided to share my last post first. It’s a little messy because I’m not sure how the chronicle is going to turn out.

(PARENTHESES TO EDIT FOR FINAL DK CHRONICLE POST)

It is with (hesitation/relief/defeat/indignation) that I make this announcement today. After (insert number of minutes I worked on this project), I realized that I no longer have the (time/willpower/belief/credibility) to continue the DK Chronicle. It was the pressure of (strangers/critics/people close to me/my own doubts) that finally pushed me over the edge.

The DK Chronicle started with good intentions. I wanted to create space to explore different types of storytelling. The Chronicle began as a lab to test my own ability to communicate in a variety of ways.

I approached The Chronicle with fear and anxiety, and after a few late nights writing alternate scripts for West Wing episodes. I have trouble sharing stories that are authentic to me. When I care about something, I shield my feelings and become a timid storyteller. (A sentence on this being the reason the project failed).

I cared about connecting with my audience. I did not want to write for people easily distracted by shiny object or old Top-40 hits. I thought about writing pieces for my younger self (and maybe stop him from starting the DK Chronicle). Perhaps I could write for people interested in topics that interest me (I could not). I wanted to create things that I would want to come across online.

I knew that I would make mistakes (LIST BIG MISTAKES). I was (rightly) afraid no one would read The Chronicle. I might become an inside joke among people I knew (LINKS TO MEAN TWEETS). I tried to leave the door open to anything that might let The Chronicle evolve (but I tripped over my own hesitations).

I wondered, what’s the worst thing that could happen? I had a few thoughts. North Korea could love the Chronicle, adopt it as doctrine, and use it as justification to attack South Korea. I could break the Internet, and when they found out that I broke it, they would drag me off to internet jail where no one would let me use Twitter (plus or minus?).

Lawsuits entered into my mind. What if I plagiarized someone through telepathy, or wrote about a fictional character that turned out to be Stranger Than Fiction? What if everyone lost respect for me and I never got another job as a writer, journalist or lemonade squeezer?

(A paragraph on why I ultimately failed on all accounts if that’s what happened. That’s probably what happened. Talk about how I never could get past my doubts. I had trouble with the fake voices of people who might read The Chronicle, but in real life ignored me. Mention how I’m getting out of creative fields all together and taking a job as an insurance adjustor or a crossing guard.)

Thanks for braving the cold Internet to read this piece and consume any other piece from the DK Chronicle. By the way, it was called the DK Chronicle because my initials at the time of starting this project were D and K for Derek Kessinger (I realize that I might have changed my legal name in this time period). If any of my work here resonated with you, please send those thoughts to the therapist I employed because of anxiety caused by The Chronicle (INCLUDE ADDRESS).

—End it with a quote that best fits the situation:

“Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.” —The Grateful Dead

“The best-laid schemes of mice and men, often go awry.” —John Steinbeck

“Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.” —William Shakespeare

“Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, they’ve all come to look for America.” —Simon and Garfunkel

“Well, live and learn. At least we lived.” —Seinfeld

“I’ve made a huge mistake.” —Gob Bluth

“Here’s some simple advice: always be yourself. Never take yourself too seriously. And beware of advice from experts, pigs, and members of Parliament.” —Kermit the Frog

Where’s the Book and Did You Really Write One?

Dear Friend,

Should all acquaintance be forgot, allow me to reintroduce myself in the New Year. I am Derek Kessinger. I hope your holidays were wonderful. This is my latest newsletter as I continue my year as an Experience Institute student.

What do you do when your plans lay discarded on the New York City sidewalks like crumbled umbrellas? Here’s a piece on my first term in NYC:

Term 1: The Write Umbrella

Have you ever tried to create something, but struggled with your process? We all work in different ways, but I think I have a little insight. So let me address the question… I leveraged my work to bolster my own creative habits. First, I told people that I was going to write 50,000 words. After sharing my goal, I had to either write, or risk disappointing my confidants. I played against my own need to please people.

I never found an easy, secret writing formula. Paragraphs did not organically sprout after I planted the seeds of my first few words. In fact, the last few days of my project were the most difficult. Despite frustrating moments, I’m glad I completed a challenging project without shortcuts.

Throughout the month, I tried to simplify my process for the most consistent results. My first task each morning was to sit down with a cup of coffee and write 2,000 words. The day was a success as long as I sat down and avoided distractions, even if I struggled to write. Just remember, the first draft is not the final edit.

I struggled through days of feeling isolated and lonely. These feelings sometimes endured despite a trip to a place full of people, such as Times’ Square. In the trenches of writing, I felt attacked by my own thoughts of ineptitude and doubt. In hindsight, I am able to see my growth through the month. I now know I have better days when I write in the morning.

Just like most things in life, we become what we spend our time doing. I became a better writer by writing. It can still be a struggle. Some days the writing process feels like this Avett Brothers song:

Ten thousand words swarm around my head
Ten million more in books written beneath my bed.
I wrote or read them all when searchin’ in the swarms
Still can’t find out how to hold my hands.

And I know you need me in the next room over,
But I am stuck in here all paralyzed.
For months I got myself in ruts,
Too much time spent in mirrors framed in yellow walls.

The book, after its first draft, is a jumble of images and characters, but I can share a few themes:
  • Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglas discuss modern day New York’s sovereignty.
  • The main character tries to find his footing in the city before meeting a Central Park tree sprite named Johanna.
  • A Coney Island circus boss leads an army of mischievous men to create chaos in New York.

My first goal was to write the book. Now, the editing process is underway. I’m now exploring pieces of this novel’s world that I glossed over upon first telling.

Term 1: The New York Experience

The defining moment of my term came when I was walking the streets of New York just before a rainstorm. I stopped and bought my third umbrella of the week. The first two umbrellas, torn apart by rain and wind, lay crumbled in Manhattan trash cans.

Much like the umbrellas, the schemes for my first term lay abandoned 20 blocks back. After serving just ten days as an apprentice at a startup, I had walked out a free man. I left the startup‘s office in a bizarre scene best described as a mutual parting of ways. In my boss’s eyes, I failed because I asked questions. I left the anxiety-filled experience without regret.

Continue Reading On Exposure…

 

Newsletter: I Brought Stephen Colbert to This Update

Hello again,

Sorry it’s been so long since the first newsletter! Thank you for your support.

This newsletter is all about you and Stephen Colbert.

In my first newsletter, I was deciding on a new course of action for my term. I decided to focus on a personal project and spent November in New York City with the goal of writing 50,000 words by the end of the month. Inspired by theNaNoWriMo project, I wrote a 41,000-word novel and a few essays. I’ll have more on this journey in future newsletters.

In the last newsletter, I linked to the wrong blog post. Please read the real version of I Learned How to Pick Better Experiences So You Don’t Have To.

Now, let’s talk about this newsletter with a segment I like to call…

Stephen Colbert is the master of word play. If you missed his podcast this summer, or his wordplay on camera, Colbert’s personal title for his CBS late night talk show is:

The Late Show With, Starring: Stephen Colbert.

While the inclusion of “with” and “starring” is obviously a joke, I think there’s a second motive.

Colbert wants to perform a show that resonates with his audience. More than any of his contemporaries, Colbert is willing to become the joke for laughs. The real title of the show should be, “The Late Show, With Audience, Starring: Stephen Colbert.”

That’s how I am approaching this newsletter. I want to share thoughts about my year that are interesting to you, my newsletter reader. This year is a grand experiment. I hope that pieces of what I learn will benefit you and even lead to a couple of laughs.

Please, if you have questions/comments/observations, let me know!

On next week’s segment of Word Play With Stephen Colbert, I look at how the word play in Stephen’s book, I Am America (And So Can You!), further polarized America.