Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paradise Lost

The iPad is killing my vacation.

I promised myself I would ignore the debt ceiling debate and the news in general, not to mention Facebook, email, message boards and blogs, but it's just too damned easy to keep up now ...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, July 22, 2011


Now, finally, finally, the book is truly and verily done, done, done.

Did the final proof of the galleys last night -- really just scanning the pages to make sure nothing got dropped in the last round of minor changes.

That's just under 15 months from first conceiving of the idea to actually sending the book to press. To think I will actually have it in my grubby hands in a few short weeks!

I have been driving myself to ridiculous heights of productivity the past couple of weeks. And for everything I cross off my list, I add two or three more things. Write another article, make another call, pitch another editor, outline a workshop presentation, revise the website, etc., etc.

To say nothing of all the day-to-day mundanity. Why just back up my hard drive? I should sync all my devices! Don't just pay bills, balance the checkbook! Don't just wash the clothes, do the sheets and towels, too! And what about that kitchen floor? And those bathroom cabinets????

Aaaaannd, so on ...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chug, chug, chug

Still burning away on book stuff. Over the past few days I've:
  • Written four more articles, bringing me up to 14. Not sure I'll make the goal of 15 before the end of the week, but 14 is a damned good number, considering I was at 9 this time last week. Some of my favorites: Homer Simpson, the Accidental Anarchist, Wing it Like Martin Luther King, and Ten Everyday Words You're Using Incorrectly (Including 'Everyday').
  • Emailed almost 90 people individually to make sure they know about the book, give them a heads up about its impending publication and ask them to like my Facebook page.
  • Worked on getting my website updated with a new page for the book. Almost there.
  • Pitched the PR association I belong to for me to speak at a future luncheon in Chicago and at regional meetings in the Midwest. For this one I just happened to sort of know, from a long time ago, a member of the Chicago programming board. He put in touch with the right people, who I emailed and then tracked down live at this month's luncheon the other day. Put together an agenda and filling out applications, etc.
  • Continued to pitch reporters with my articles.
Getting all this under my belt, including okaying the final proofs and sending it to press, will put me in great shape to go on vacation. Let's see if I can be this productive when I get back ...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wrigley Field: Tear it Down Already

Washington Nationals Ballpark
(with my brother's finger pointing to our seats across the way)

Back where I went to college, "tradition" was a word thrown around quite a bit. That happens in a place that was founded and built by Thomas Jefferson. Tradition was often used as a cover for fighting change of any kind and preserving the status quo.

Now I'm not a native Chicagoan, but I have been here for more than 16 years, which is longer than a lot of folks. Longer than around a quarter of the population (since 26% of residents are under 18). Add in newcomers, and I bet I've lived here longer than 40-50% of the people here.

And I may not be a lifelong Cubs fan, but I've been going to games since before your average bleacher denizen was born.

In the past eight weeks I've attended four major league ballgames in three ballparks in two cities. I was really impressed with the beautiful facility the Washington Nationals built. Just gorgeous. Wide open with wonderful sightlines. Even the concourses -- which are like habitrail tunnels at Wrigley -- narrow and closed in and suffocating, are spacious and bright. You don't need TVs at the concession stands because you can see clear down to the field.

And, of course, no trough-style urinals.

I love the fact that Wrigley is smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Nothing like turning a corner on a block of greystones and coming upon a major league stadium looming above you. And I like the bricks and the ivy. Preserve that, tear the whole thing down, and put up something better in the same footprint.

Give the players decent clubhouses, the fans decent bathrooms and concessions and other places to gather, like patios and restaurants, and the owners a way to make the money they need to build a better team.

Seriously. With a losing record like this, what is it people are trying to preserve? Start over. Build a palace. Create new traditions. Maybe that will turn things around on the field.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I've been really stressed lately about the book marketing -- getting the word out both to friends/contacts and strangers. The whole thing has felt overwhelming, with so much to do.

So I did something about it. I swear I have never been officially "depressed," but I do know the surest cure for any anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, etc., I ever feel is to just DO things. Get busy. Get stuff done.

Work is therapeutic, and little accomplishments add up. And by staying busy you don't have time to stew.

So I'm doing three things. First, I'm reaching out individually to people I know who I feel haven't quite gotten the word about the book. This occurred to me a while back when I approached a FB friend and former Second City instructor to provide a blurb. I was shocked to hear that he hadn't heard I was working on a book, in spite of a year's worth of constant Facebook posting.

I'm slogging through the alphabet of my email and LinkedIn lists, writing personal notes to everyone who I think may need a reminder or heads-up before the release day announcement comes out. I'm at H, which isn't bad for two days.

Second, I'm reaching out to strangers -- people I admire and/or think may be of help. I wrote to Seth Godin and got a polite note back and to Robert Thompson, who's a big television and culture critic. I reached out to someone who I know through someone else who has a lead on some venues where I can do speeches. And I'm emailing and phoning reporters daily pitching articles.

Finally, I'm writing more articles. I had nine in the bank but I need more. There are lots of guest blogging opportunities out there that the publisher will be pitching, and a few more on my radar, too. I cranked out #10 today and hope to do five more before I leave for vacation.

I mean, I've been doing stuff. A lot of stuff. But now I'm doing it on 11.

Basically the plan is to go to bed every night exhausted and without another ounce of energy to expend. Then I'll be happy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Law of averages

I swear the law of averages is going to make the second half of the year a stinker.

I had three auditions in rapid succession and it looks like I booked none of them. I was on check avail for a job next week and I didn't get it. And I had an opportunity for a big commercial audition but I'm going to be gone for the callback so they can't see me.

BUT, in 10 days ... I go back to Alaska!

Top of the world!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Doctor, doctor

I shot this commercial almost exactly a year ago.

And I watched the teevee as they played spot after spot, none of them featuring me. I knew they were doing at least a half-dozen of them, so I figured eventually my time would come.

Turns out, I was in the commercial all along. It's one I've seen lots and lots of times. I just didn't know it because I was the size of a postage stamp and flew by in microseconds.

And shot from a very long lens. Turns out they were selling the scenery of their beautiful new facility, not necessarily the people working in it. Or pretending to do so.

And when I did get a closeup, it was of the back of my head.

My best side!

So I guess that explains those checks I continue to get. They'll probably end soon, though, because they recently auditioned for another round of spots, and I was disqualified. Which is silly, because it's not like I'm recognizable.

But at least the mystery is solved.

Monday, July 11, 2011

And, done

The editors weren't enthused about an index at this stage of the game -- just getting it done and fitting it in to the page count they've arranged for was going to be tough. So if it was going to get done, I'd have to do it.

So I did. In basically four days. There was lots of unexpected plane and airport time this weekend, which was perfect for this kind of head-down, hands-on project. It was probably 12-15 hours altogether.

And it wasn't that bad. Or that hard. Just time consuming. I read some articles online as I went along and most of them told me basically what I was already doing. The index should focus on concepts, not just keywords, which is part of why software programs are insufficient. There are a lot of judgment calls involved.

I'm glad to have it. In the past few days I've also approved the back cover, revised my "About the Author" page (to help fit the index in), collected the final two blurbs, and checked all the changes made in the most recent round of line edits. The first round I had 186 and the second round 84. This final round? Just six.

(Oh, and I also put together a workshop outline for my alumni association and pitched an article to a trade publication.)

I think I am 98% done. I have the option to give it one last pass, but they're having someone new who has never read the manuscript review it, which I think is great. I may still give it a look, for typos only, but it feels good (and weird) to be really, really, really (mostly) done.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The ever-descending spiral

Spent the weekend in DC with family. A fun visit overall, but tinged as always with sadness.

Dad's still at home, but no longer able to feed himself. He rarely makes eye contact, or even opens his eyes, for that matter. And just lately now he's been having problems swallowing when he eats and drinks.

I think that is one of the last things to go. The last being breathing.

Yet he still appears fairly healthy physically. And he does seem to smile at the sound of our voices, which is interesting.

It's been a very short, but very long, weekend.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, July 08, 2011

Misery Index

We've decided to add an index to the book. We'd bounced the idea around before, but now that the pagination is set, it's time. It's not completely necessary, but I want to do it for several reasons, both right and wrong:
  • It appeals to my sense of order and structure.
  • It's partly an ego thing -- this info is so vital it must be indexed!
  • I think the actual nature of the book calls for it. The chapters aren't divided up traditionally, so there's no one section on composing an email or delivering a speech or making a video. Those subjects are interspersed throughout lessons on, for instance, Show/Don't Tell, Tapping into Emotion, etc.
  • I imagine it might be fun for a few people to look up, say, Star Trek or Seinfeld or the Godfather, and easily get to any of those references. And it might actually be an important thing. People may forget the actual lesson but remember it had to do with something Mr. Spock did.
  • Finally, like the table of contents, I think the index has a little bit of marketing appeal. In what other book will you see Ghandi, Churchill, Star Trek and Austin Powers juxtaposed together?
So there you go. It's a lot of work, and I have to do it. There's software for this, and people who specialize in creating indexes, but at this point, nobody knows the book like I do, so I'm really the best one to put this together.

And from everything I've read, there's just no shortcut around going through the book page by page, marking a word or idea, then typing it and the page number into an alphabetized document. It took me about two hours to do four chapters.

I am trying to make it fun by doing it on the iPad, with a fancy new word processing app I uploaded. Otherwise, BLURG!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

10 Things That Are More Important than Casey Anthony

But that won't receive a tenth of the depth of coverage or level of interest. In no particular order:

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


I just finished proofing the book and my bio says I've performed in "more than 200" commercial, stage and print productions. So I thought now would be as good a time as any to actually count them up.

The number is actually 154, as close as I can figure it. That's 52 stage productions and readings and 102 commercials, industrials and print jobs. All since 2002 -- in fact, it'll be 10 years this fall since my very first stage show.

"More than 150" doesn't sound quite as good, but I'm gonna go with accuracy. Just in case I'm audited.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Half a Century

Chicago Botanic Garden

I biked a little over 50 miles yesterday. And I feel fine.

K and I decided to head up to the Botanic Gardens (which were great, btw). We figured if the ride up wore us out we had the option of taking Metra back. After several hours touring the garden in the hot sun (and it was hot up there -- it felt 10 degrees warmer than Lakeview), we opted for the Metra and biked on over to the station.

It was then we realized why we decided not to do this last year. During Taste of Chicago, bicycles are forbidden on Metra. Oops! When you're primed to sit in the AC and be home in a half hour or so, the idea of a 25-mile (with detour), several hour bike ride is a little hard to swallow.

Still, we did it. With a stop for ice cream. And I realized that I just ride ridiculously fast compared to most people. In fact, I do everything fast. When I used to rollerblade, I not only passed most other rollerbladers, I passed most bikers. And on my bike, the only people who pass me are outfitted head-to-toe in lycra and riding $2,000 bikes.

I guess I've been doing it for a long time -- biking not just for recreation but for a true workout. When I lived in DC in my early 20s I would bike out to my Dad's several times a week. It was 16 miles each way and a beautiful ride, from DuPont circle, through Georgetown, then straight up winding MacArther Boulevard. Door-to-door, I made the 16 miles in about 45 minutes. So around 20 mph.

And I do a short, intense ride now from my place up to the northern end of the bike trail along the lake. It's an 8-mile roundtrip, which I do in a little over 30 minutes. (At 16 mph, I seem to be slowing down!) But it's a great workout. I use a heart-rate monitor and average around 35 beats per minute over my anaerobic threshold (180 minus your age).

Going slower -- and being passed by others (!) -- is kind of painful. On the ride yesterday we averaged about 8-10 mph and it felt at times like crawling. Or coasting, really. I understand, of course, that I've been doing this a long time (and also spinning in class) and I've got a fast bike (about half the weight of K's old clunker), so not everyone can keep up. Plus the fact that she hasn't biked anything like this distance -- as usual, she was a trouper and an exceptionally good sport.

Still, in terms of fun, it was a great trip. On the way back we saw 13 deer, including 3 fawns and 2 bucks. Yay, nature!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Auditions and Bookings YTD

Another half year over and it's time to quantify. In the first six months of the year, I had:
  • 9 print auditions
  • 10 commercial auditions (including 1 callback)
  • 9 industrial auditions (including 1 callback)
  • 2 film auditions (including 1 callback)
  • 1 commercial voiceover audition
  • That's 31 total auditions
That puts me up around last year's pace, which was an off year. The number would be around 50 to stay on pace with 2008 and 2009. Maybe those were the outliers and this isn't actually an off-year, but a normal year.

The good news is the bookings:
  • 3 print
  • 3 commercial *
  • 4 on-camera industrial
  • 2 voiceover industrial
  • That's 12 total bookings, which is as many as I had all of last year
And as I've said, the weird thing is, only 4 of those 12 bookings were the result of an audition. All the rest booked me directly through my agents off my headshots or reel or based on prior work I'd done with them.

Finally, in the "show me the money" category, with these bookings, plus income from residuals and other 2011 income from late-2010 jobs, my post-commission earnings for the year are already projected at 85% of what I earned last year.

So it's felt like kind of a scrambly, scrappy year so far, with lots of odd jobs and direct bookings and no "home runs" (though one I'd consider a triple), but if things manage to continue on this pace, I'd be okay with it.

* 1 of the commercial bookings was canceled (though I still got paid, so it counts) and another was just a "spec" commercial.