Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

2010 in writing

Sometimes I feel like I spend an awful lot of time at this desk and am still not as productive as I want to be. So while I was updating some of my recent project lists, I thought I’d see how many articles and other pieces I wrote last year.

Paid work:

I did somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 pieces for the automotive aftermarket industry trade publications Automotive Week (The Greensheet) and Service Executive. The vast majority of those were published in The Greensheet.

GeekDad: 56 posts. I don’t even come close to the output of the most prolific GeekDad core contributors, but man, do I ever have fun writing for the site. And it was a frakking great year to be a GeekDad, what with getting to attend both PAX East and Star Wars Celebration V. Among my contributions were 12 reviews and five interviews, and a piece about PBS’ Arthur which got a personal thumbs-up from Neil Gaiman. (No, I will nevereverEVER get tired of recalling that.)

Positively Cleveland: 20 articles, mostly for their visitors and destination planners’ guides.

East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church: 12 articles for the Joining Hands quarterly magazine, and a few online features.

Waste & Recycling News: 9 articles

Crain’s Cleveland Business: 8 articles

And one piece each for Yahoo!, UMW Response magazine, and the Tribune-Chronicle.

I also landed nine other “behind the scenes” corporate and marketing and advertising projects: Writing and editing of the sort that doesn’t come with bylines.

Unpaid work:

  • My short fiction “The Painting” was accepted for inclusion in the 100 Stories for Haiti anthology, a project to which all the work was donated, and all proceeds went to Red Cross earthquake relief.
  • CNN writer/producer Henry Hanks stumbled onto Collect All 21! and asked if I’d file an iReport video on the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, which I did. (He also interviewed me and other fans about the movie for this story.)
  • The Bearded Trio – run by a guy I’ve never met but who was one of the earliest vocal supporters of Collect All 21! – invited me to contribute a post, and I had fun writing this look at some of John Williams’ lesser-known music.
  • And there was The Meat Locker.

I almost forgot that I finished writing another non-fiction book, too, and that as a not-for-public-consumption project I wrote a detailed 16,000-word Star Wars Celebration V journal.

As for this blog, according to WordPress’ summary, I wrote 197 posts in 2010, which equates to something slightly more than one post every other day. That’s not bad – in fact, every other day is about what I’d hope for – but I know that most of those posts came in an unbroken 125-day stretch (Feb. 28-July 2) where I was making a deliberate effort to keep the streak alive. The fact that I had things like PAX East and re-learning Dungeons & Dragons and my 15-day cross-country trip to write about made it awfully easy to maintain that momentum – as did serializing Crossing Decembers – but once July hit, my blogging regularity was pretty much nowhere to be found.

Looking over the numbers made me feel a bit better about the productivity, though I still didn’t do nearly as much on the personal project side as I wanted to. And while one of my goals this year is to get back into the habit of writing regularly on the blog, I really need to make sure I’m putting some other things – like fiction and book proposals and other side projects – higher on the priority list.

Truth is, I like being at this desk. What I love is feeling like it’s worthwhile.

January 5, 2011 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, Weblogs, writing | , | Leave a comment

Truckin’: Old-school Antarctic Snow Cruiser-style

These postcards are only about five years old, but the photos go back to 1939, when the Antarctic Snow Cruiser passed through – and stopped for repairs in – my parents’ hometown of  Upper Sandusky, Ohio. (And yes, this was before they were born.)

Antarctic Snow Cruiser, Upper Sandusky, Ohio - 1939

Click for larger versions at Flickr.

And the descriptor text, with some nifty statistics and perspective:

Antarctic Snow Cruiser, Upper Sandusky, Ohio - 1939

Click to read larger versions.

I love that kids got out of school, and that Dewey Dillon of “Upper Auto Parts” helped save the day, and that Ohio Highway Patrol car.

Also that, according to those history pages, they equipped this thing – a massive exploration vehicle whose very moniker includes the word “Snow” – with treadless tires. To go to ANTARCTICA.

January 4, 2011 Posted by | Family history, geek, Ohio, photos | , , , | Leave a comment

Things in an empty glass

Shazam! Pepsi glass, 1970s.

I love this glass, but I wish it wasn’t here in my office.

It reminds me of grandma’s house in Upper Sandusky, and it belongs in her kitchen cupboard, where it’s been since I was a little kid.

Unfortunately my grandmother is no longer capable of caring for herself, so she’s moved into a nursing home, and the house she lived in for most of my life has two For Sale signs in the yard and is slowly emptying of furniture and household items and knickknacks and the unseen memory markers and recollection triggers they carry.

Mom and Kelsey and I went to visit grandma last week, and spent several hours at the house that day, too. Kelsey sat for a bit in the small room that was always “hers” when we stayed there, leaning against the wall and holding a knitted afghan from the little fold-out couch. I took a short nap in the guest room where Jenn & I usually slept. Opened the bedside stand drawer and looked into the same round box of spare buttons that’s been sitting in there with grandma’s sewing supplies for as long as I can remember.

There are so many memories in that house – holidays and family and births and seasons and meals – that trying to even pick one to write about right now is like pulling the wrong plastic stick in KerPlunk, setting loose a chaos cascade of imagery and sense associations.

I may find myself in that house again sometime, but the days of pulling into its driveway and carrying our things in for a visit with grandma are over, and that feeling of an ending even hit Kelsey that afternoon.

She brought that blue and green zig-zag-patterned blanket home with her.

I brought the Shazam glass, invisibly and silently overflowing.

January 4, 2011 Posted by | 1980s, Family history, Ohio, Travel | , , , | 5 Comments

Where We Were, Where I Am, What’s Ahead

Here’s the thing about the recently-departed 2010: When things were good, they were just jaw-dropping, heartbreaking, tear-inducing awesome.

For instance, last winter, Kelsey qualified for this summer’s YMCA Gymnastics Nationals in San Diego, which was great all by itself and made for our first family trip to the West Coast and, of course, her stratospherically-beyond-expectations five-medal performance. That week in Southern California was bookended by my own solo cross-country drive, an unforgettable adventure of camping and meeting friends and seeing entirely new places. It was something I’d been wanting to do for a long time, and sometimes I still get goosebumps looking back at the pictures and remembering those moments when I realized I was actually doing it.

There was March’s long weekend trip to PAX East, where I got to meet several of my fellow GeekDad writers for the first time – and be a part of the first-ever GeekDad convention panel. Met Wil Wheaton and Scott Kurtz and Bill Amend and Ethan Gilsdorf, and the whole weekend sparked my return to Dungeons & Dragons, this time with Kelsey and Jenn alongside.

I co-wrote a movie.

There was the trip Kelsey and I took to go to  Star Wars Celebration V with Jim Carchidi in August, which I would have attended even if I wasn’t covering it for GeekDad. In terms of Force-ified geekfun, it managed to eclipse even the trip Jim and I took to Celebration III five years ago.

And there was that turning 40 thing.

There were other good parts, too, but then, at the same time, when 2010 decided it was going to suck, it cranked up the pumps beyond eleven. These are much harder to write about, and I’m not getting specific for a couple reasons: The first one is out of respect of the privacy of my wife and daughter and family.  Second is that no matter how bad these things were, there is always the perspective of another person’s or another family’s crises which are more severe, and even now, as I sit here and think of our own darkest hours of 2010, friends come to mind who dealt with losses that I find unimaginable. Third, well, frankly, there were some harsh lessons I learned about who I am and the things I need to change and where I need some serious work.

Here’s an excerpt from a note I wrote shortly after that surprise 40th birthday party:

What I was reminded on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010, is that despite the ups and downs and the ongoing difficult times in my life, over the past four decades, the universe has been kind enough to surround me with the support and love of the most incredible and awesome group of family and friends a person could ask for. There’s simply no way to overstate the importance of having you all in my life, whether our paths cross only occasionally or whether we speak daily; whether you live within jogging distance or whether even a brief visit requires a few hundred miles of highway time; whether I’ve known you since I was wearing plaid pants and watching Sesame Street, or whether we’ve only recently become friends. Knowing people like all of you is what makes the tough times bearable and the good times precious and lasting.

I’m thankful and optimistic looking at the remaining 363 days of 2011: The end of the previous year brought with it some inspiration and possibility and a bunch of goals and desires and I’m hoping I’m aware enough to embrace all those things every single day.

January 2, 2011 Posted by | Current Affairs, Family history, Ohio, writing | 1 Comment


New Year's Day 2011, Carroll County, Ohio.

My first look outside at 2011. About 9:22 a.m.

(For some reason, this shows up as Jan. 2. I have since hopefully corrected the mistake in establishing my time zone, because when I posted this, it was still late Jan. 1 here in Ohio.)

January 2, 2011 Posted by | Ohio, photos | , , | Leave a comment


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