ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Monday Blues? Mini-Golf!

There are days and there are dazed days, Mondays and weeks full of Mondays.

For times like these, when the burly blues blot out the best, I turn to Improv Everywhere for an emergency dose of sunshine. This morning’s synchronized swimming flashback was just what the doctor ordered!

Improv Everywhere performs a 16-person synchronized swimming routine in the fountain in Washington Square Park. Posing as the official New York City synchronized swimming team, the Olympic-hopefuls compete in three inches of dirty water in this unauthorized event. Will the judges reward their effort? (Improv Everywhere)

Although this is a digitally snazzified rerun from 2004, the London Olympics timing is perfect. And as good things often lead onto more good things, I couldn’t resist the temptation to wander from synchronized swimming to the Mini-Golf Open which smeared a grin across my mug so wide sunrise mistook it for the horizon. And I don’t even like golf! Well, not like golf anyway…

Thank you, Improv Everywhere.


A Lot of Life

Karl Sprague (@karlsprague) just made my day! I met Karl at the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City last month, and his sunny, upbeat personality made him irresistible from our first handshake. He’s the quintessential poster boy for the Sunshine State. Here’s what he tweeted me this morning:

You pack a lot of life into a 24 hour period, don’t you? U keep us mentally sedentary folks updated on writing / travel / life

Karl Sprague

Wow. I think I’ll print and frame that when I get home from Costa Rica. Bold font. Hung front and center over my desk. Or my kitchen range. No, maybe nailed to a post by my garden. Hmmm. Duct taped to the wishbone of my windsurfer? Or the handlebars of my bike? Maybe I’ll just memorize it, repeat it like a mantra each morning. Or any time my enthusiasm sags…

I’m serious. What a gift! What validation. What encouragement. I wonder if Karl had any notion at all how his quick message would impact me. I’d like to think he did. He’s magnanimous, wouldn’t miss an opportunity to give, encourage, thank. And yet, I’m guessing he didn’t. I’m guessing he typed and sent that tiny little tweet out into the ether without thinking too much about it. That’s also the kind of fellow he is, generous with complements but totally unselfconscious about his generosity. Second nature. The kind of guy who smiles by default, laughs to relax, encourages because it’s his instinct.

Thank you, Karl. I’m not sure I could summarize my life’s ambitions better!

Essex Family Transforms Tragedy

When Louis Comeau headed into work April 8, 2003, he had no idea his life was about to take a tragic turn. As the accomplished attorney rounded a bend on Route 22, a large block of ice flew off a passing truck and slammed into his car. He didn’t have time to react. “It went through the windshield and shattered his skull,” Comeau’s wife, Jani Spurgeon, recalled… (Press-Republican)

This was one of the stories that my wife and I learned early on after arriving in Essex. Even before meeting Mr. Comeau I heard the story from others. I also heard how the community had pulled together to support the family during the darkest weeks after the accident. I was impressed with the depth of empathy among neighbors, the sense of responsibility, the sense of extended family. I remembered the small, tight-knit community where I had spent four years of boarding school.

I’ve only glimpsed faint shades of this since, while teaching at Santa Fe Preparatory School in New Mexico, for example. Living in Washington, DC and Paris and Rome I belonged to looser, more fluid and transient communities. Perhaps it was the places I lived or the people I associated with. Perhaps it was me, my age, my preference. But the idea of community had grown abstract and peripheral for me.

I met Mr. Comeau in person several months after we started renovating a house in Essex. At first we simply exchanged casual greetings passing on the street or when he walked his dog past our front porch. And then one summer afternoon our neighbor invited me up on to her front porch for a cool beer and to get to know Mr. Comeau. He was smiling. He’s always smiling. He told me that he had known my father, that they had overlapped as lawyers a couple of decades prior. He entertained us with anecdotes. He was charming and complimentary. He laughed. We all laughed. It was easy to understand the community’s embrace when his luck faltered in 2003. It was easy to accept that I wanted to be a part of this community.

Reading the article, “Family pushes for proposed snow-removal law“, this morning reminded me that support and nurturing are only one part of a tight-knit community. Maybe they are the easy part. It’s human to reach out and help those we know personally, those we care about. But it’s also easy to stop there, to nourish our immediate community and stop there.

Almost eight years after Mr. Comeau’s life-altering accident, his wife, Jani Spurgeon is transforming his tragedy into a common good. This is more than a close-to-home illustration of civic responsibility. Ms. Spurgeon is transcending loss and hurt and suffering in an effort to help others far beyond Essex, far beyond the community who reached out to her. She is distilling value from devastation. And she is inspiring all of us in the process!

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Self-Publishing 2.0: How I Saved My Book

Never believe people when they tell you something is impossible, or “that’s not the way things work.” Make your own success or be doomed to fail.

It was this author’s dream. After writing a deeply personal and revealing memoir, The Last Day of My Life, I landed a top agent at the esteemed William Morris Agency (now WME Entertainment). Six months later, I had my first publishing deal and less than a year after that, the book was officially released. Publishing takes a long time, but the wait was worth it. I had hoped that my book would inspire others who were facing troubling times in their lives and I have been humbled by the many emails I have received from strangers who reached out to me since the January publication date.

Then, the unthinkable happened. My publisher abruptly closed its doors at the end of April. The timing could not have been worse. It was just days before the LA Festival of Books, where I had been scheduled to appear. My participation in that event was canceled and it looked like months of effort in landing numerous television and radio appearances and all the print interviews had been for nothing. My old publisher was gracious enough to grant me a reversion of all the rights to my book, along with all the digital files, but what was I to do with them?

“It’s over,” I was told, by most everyone. But I had heard that before. After writing the manuscript for my book, I was told that getting published today was all but impossible. I refused to listen then and I refused to listen now. As Chief Correspondent for the syndicated television news magazine, Inside Edition and as a regular contributor for CNN and HLN and frequent guest host for Larry King Live, I knew that I could continue to land television appearances. I also believed passionately in the message of my book — that no matter what challenges come your way, life is worth living and there is plenty for which we need to be grateful. What better time to put that into practice than here and now?

I reached out to the former head of sales at my old publishing house for guidance. He connected me with both the company which had originally printed my book and with the independent sales team that sold it to stores. My former editor instructed me on how to apply for and secure a new serial number (ISNB) and Library of Congress registration. I hired a talented graphic designer to repackage the book and I came up with a name for my own publishing house: Incognito Books. Within two months, I was “ready for my close-up” again. I timed the launch of my new edition to coincide with an appearance on Dr. Phil, which I had taped in April, but was not airing until July 9. My boss at Inside Edition graciously ran a story about that appearance and on my newly launched book as well. The results exceeded even my wildest expectations.

As I tracked both Amazon and Barnes and Noble sales numbers throughout the day, I watched in amazement over what happened as both shows aired in the various time zones across the country. It was remarkable. By Friday evening, I had hit #1 on Amazon’s “Movers and Shakers” list with an astounding increase of 309,000% in ranking, from number 80,000 to number 31. I also reached #17 on I have already ordered a second printing and I am launching the book in all available digital formats in the next two weeks.

I am still at the beginning of what I hope is a long journey as a writer, both for this title and other books I hope to write. Still, I learned a valuable lesson — never take “no” for an answer. The old publishing model is no longer the only one available to writers. (The Huffington Post proves that.) Look hard and be creative and you may just discover a new way to get your message out there. (Huffington Post)

Jim Moret’s firsthand account of self-publishing his debut memoir is a timely illustration of the shift underway in the publishing world. When the “old publishing model” imploded, Moret sidestepped the debris and leaped forward. Once upon a not too recent time the Gutenberg Paradigm was the whole game. Lose the game, and you might well have lost your chance at the season. But the new publishing models emerging every day are opening up possibilities heretofore unimaginable. And Moret’s experience is an encouraging reminder that persistence and ingenuity will pay dividends to good writers willing to explore new and creative ways of connecting with their readers/audience.

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What Can You Learn from Lady Gaga’s Success?

Lady Gaga

Photograph via

I’m not particularly familiar with Lady Gaga, but it’s impossible to overlook her meteoric rise. Victor Niederhoffer’s post covers some interesting territory and merits a quick read if you’ve wondered about this young performer’s Midas touch. #7 stood out for me:

Lady Gaga “stands on the shoulders of giants. She has borrowed from all the most popular idols that preceded her including Michael Jackson, Madonna, Blondie, and Andy Warhol. To be successful you need the base of fans that your predecessors have accumulated.” (Victor Niederhoffer)

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20 Creative Logos

Image via

Brainstorming a clever, minimalist logo, and these unique, creative logos appeared out of the ether. Maybe they’ll inspire me…

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Leonardo Da Vinci


Leonardo da VinciWhat is the point of connection between Martin Luther King, Jr. & Leonardo da Vinci? Both communicated ideas beyond the their time that shaped (and continue to shape) humanity? Both visionaries challenged the status quo? What else?

20 Foods You Should Eat

20 great foods you aren’t – but should be – eating. (Credit: The Times)

20 great foods you aren’t – but should be – eating. (Credit: The Times)

It’s 2010, the year to get healthy, right? Or did you already let your resolutions slip? Amanda Ursell’s 20 great foods you aren’t eating introduces “easy-to-buy super foods [that] could help you to live a healthier, flat-bellied and longer life…”

What are you waiting for?

Here’s a punch list of good-stuff-to-eat: almonds, apples, baked beans, chilies, dark chocolate, frozen berries, frozen peas, grapefruit, green tea, new potatoes, oats, oily fish, olives, parsley, poached eggs, pomegranates, prunes, tomatoes, turmeric and whole wheat pasta.

But how to eat all these good ingredients? You’ll find links to healthy recipes, so there’s no excuse to eat microwave dinners and fast food! Good luck.

Puns for Educated Minds

It’s happened again, another memorable forward. Read these puns aloud, and you’ll likely chuckle a time or two. If not, check your pulse. And then ingest a goodly chunk of dark chocolate. Then reread these clever puns. Aloud. And enjoy!

  1. The roundest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.
  2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.
  3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.
  4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.
  5. The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.
  6. No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
  7. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
  8. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
  9. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
  10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
  11. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.
  12. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
  13. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: ‘You stay here; I’ll go on a head..’
  14. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.
  15. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: ‘Keep off the Grass.’
  16. A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said ‘No change yet.’
  17. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
  18. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
  19. The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a  seasoned veteran.
  20. A backward poet writes inverse.
  21. In a democracy it’s your vote that counts.  In feudalism it’s your count that votes.
  22. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.
  23. Don’t join dangerous cults: Practice safe sects!

Did these tickle your punny funny bone? Did they inspire to conjure up a pun or two of your own? Feel free to share.


Happy Birthday, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin

Lincoln & Darwin

Lincoln & Darwin

Today is the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. The scientist and the politician both challenged the thinking and beliefs of their time, and each changed the modern world in vital, irreversible ways. (Despite the efforts of some!)

President Obama Spoke at the Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration, and much inevitably is being made of the Obama-Lincoln link. And Darwin too is much in the spotlight these recent years, especially as some religious zealots continue to call into question the science of evolution. So much and so little have changed in two centuries.

In poking around a bit, I’ve discovered two savory morsels:

“Charles Darwin’s trip on HMS Beagle was as a self-financed gentleman, a companion to the 26-year-old captain Robert Fitzroy.”

And, although Honest Abe was a fan and frequent quoter of William Shakespeare, Darwin scoffed, “I have tried lately to read Shakespeare and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me.”

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