Sunday, December 27, 2009

RHYME & REASON: Spoken Word Poetry Documentary

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Novelist John Irving on Writing

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Knocking Their Socks Off?

Knocking Their Socks Off?
By Michael Levy

They say all that glitters is not gold, but in the writer’s world of Hollywood a few bags of gold can help put a writer into films...But, is that what the writer really wanted?

Many writers do dream of fame and fortune. Indeed, if they learn the tricks of the trade, even a mediocre writer can become well known with scripts accepted to make mediocre movies.

The methods suggested by “the experts” are to employ an army of assistants from agents, lawyers, researchers, personal managers and publicists and more. I guess that is where a few bags of gold to start with can come in handy... for they do not come cheap.

The writer is then required to become a social animal. Being seen at all the right parties is essential to become part of the big time scene. Image making is the order of the day and the writer has to become a part of the jigsaw, an integral piece that has always fitted into the correct space.

Of course, mixing with the creme-de-la-creme gives budding writers an excellent opportunity to *fall in love* with their beloved dream mate (one who can open all the doors of fortune) and you can't get more romantic than that ... can you?

Many writers have found their way into movies by letting the publicity machine do their walking and talking and I am not criticizing or condemning those folks who have walked this path. The question writers must ask themselves is, "What do I want out of life."

Does the writer want to put his/her energy into writing great works, or is it more important to brown nose the power brokers who make the decisions on who or what is accepted in the land of media mania?

Do writers come to terms with reality in today's hi-tech driven world and jump on the band wagon of hype... or, do they carry on writing and not prostitute their soul for a Beverly Hills mansion ?...The answers are blowing in the winds of time. Anyone who becomes endowed with the intelligence of a season’s breeze will find the authentic answers to the writer’s world of true prosperity.

There are no correct or wrong methods of gaining success, for being a writer is a personal quest. There are no real guidelines to true success as a writer that are written in stone. However, there is no doubt that any writer who has a significant, meaningful message to voice to the world ... will eventually be heard.

The more their intelligence and intellect are used for their correct purpose...... the more valuable their writing becomes.

So the question really boils down to ... does the writer want to produce great works of value, merit and virtue for humanity to savor, or is theirs a quest only to seek fame and fortune? Does the writer want Gucci shoes and Cartier diamonds?... or does he/she want to walk barefoot and *Knock their socks off?*

Who knows ... maybe they can have it all?

Michael Levy is the author of seven books. His inspirational poetry and essays appear on many assorted web sites, as well as in journals and magazines throughout the world. He’s an expert columnist for Positive Health magazine, the leading complimentary health publication in the UK, and has been published by The Royal Collage of Psychiatry many times over the past three years.

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Top 5 Writing Apps for 2010

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

10 Things I Remember about Interviewing…Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to write the inside stories about the famous people I’ve interviewed over the years.

But, for some reason or another, I've never done it.

Until now.

Guess it's time.

So, with this post, I officially begin a series called the “10 Things I Remember about Interviewing…," starting with this one about my strange experience hanging out with NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

1) That I took a cab from my hotel to Kareem's house and that we needed to drive up and up and up this gigantic hill until we finally got there. It seemed to take forever. He was at the very top of the hill.

2) That his housekeeper made me take off my shoes and put on powder-blue booties before I entered the front door.

3) That he never shook my hand or made any small talk upon meeting me. I must admit that I was stunning to what extent he lacked simple social skills.

4) That, unlike almost any other major athlete I’ve ever interviewed, Kareem didn’t have a single trophy or award plaque or a picture of him with a celebrity or politician in clear sight. He wasn't the least bit interested in building a personal shrine. Instead, quite admirably, there were uniforms of Buffalo Soldiers hanging on racks, original photos of The Tuskegee Airmen, and black-and-white pics of jazz greats such as Coltrane and Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.

5) That I felt so small in his living room, like a Lilliputian in the land of Gulliver. His chairs were so huge I all but disappeared in the cushions when I sat down, his ceilings were very high, and his drinking glasses were so supersized they seemed shot up with steroids.

6) That he was moody beyond belief. At times, utterly fascinating and incredibly pleasant—though never charming. But other times, positively cranky and impossibly difficult, especially late in the day, when his legendary migraines, which he’s suffered with since his teens, apparently kick in.

7) That he didn’t seem to have any discernible sense of humor. All my jokes fell flat dead on him. In fact, after one of my desperate attempts to get a rise out of him, he merely said, glaringly, “Is that supposed to be funny?” He’s a pretty intense guy nearly 24/7. Never saw him laugh. Rarely saw him even grin.

8) That I alternately admired him for his intelligence and strongly-held principles, yet had problems with the way he sometimes treated people, including this one kid who asked for his autograph while we ate lunch one day. “Not now!” he coldly told the kid and said nothing else, shoving his huge hand right in the kid’s face. Felt so badly for the kid. This was the Kareem I didn’t like very much.

9) That, on the other hand, he could be amazingly gentle and compassionate. One day, while we both spoke about our deceased mothers, he actually made me cry when, with the greatest sincerity, he began asking me about what my mother was like and what she went through before she died. I had a Barbara Walters moment, gushing tears. And when I apologized for my breakdown in his presence, he stopped me in mid-sentence, saying so softly, “Don’t worry about it. I understand. It’s something you never get over.” This was the Kareem I liked a lot. The one I like to remember.

10) That our interview, which happened in the mid-1990’s and turned into a 10,000-word piece for the now-defunct Icon magazine, went on for 10 days straight, seven in Beverly Hills, three in Arizona. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’d have to believe it’s the longest interview he ever gave to anyone from print media. And when we said goodbye to one another, I truly thought we had made a connection. Maybe even a friendship. On balance, I liked him, respected him; I thought he felt the same. Afterwards, I sent him a thank-you note for giving me so much of his time and a couple of months later mailed him a holiday card with my warmest wishes. I never heard back from him, in both cases, and, no, we never spoke again.

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Yet Another Logo for The Inspired Word!

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Allen Ginsberg's Howl

Read by John Turturro & Allen Ginsberg.

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Poetry Quotes of the Day

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”—from the movie “Dead Poets Society”

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is a painting that speaks.”—Simonides

“Poetry creates the myth, the prose writer draws its portrait.”—Jean-Paul Sartre

“Poetry is subconscious conversation; it is as much the work of those who understand it and those who make it.”—Sonia Sanchez

“The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That's what poetry does.”—Allen Ginsberg

In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite.”—Paul Dirac

“Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.”—Plato

“Poetry is not sought but received. The puritan habits of hard work are not much help. Oh, they may help you get in the chair, keep you at the task, but the real lure is the gift of the word, the line that surprises.”—Donald M. Murray

“The poet knows that he speaks adequately then only when he speaks somewhat wildly, or ‘with the flower of the mind’... not with the intellect alone but with the intellect inebriated with nectar.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Poetry is being, not doing.”—E.E. Cummings

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The Spotlight Interview: Bill Minutaglio, Author of "Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life"

10 questions with two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Bill Minutaglio, the author of the recently-released book, "Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life

First, Mr. Minutaglio provided this exclusive preface for us:

Molly Ivins was, for a while, the most powerful woman in journalism—and she was one of the toughest, most tragic, women in America.

She had enormous power and influence: Presidents, senators and royalty called her.

She appeared in over 300 newspapers, had huge national bestselling books, and appeared on 60 Minutes, Letterman and Leno. She had millions of followers.

She punched men out in Texas—and once knocked George W. Bush's most important political partner to his knees in a bar in Austin. She rode motorcycles—and could drink any man under the table. She eventually became a profoundly high-functioning alcoholic - in and out of rehab, causing a ruckus around major political figures (like Nancy Pelosi), and managing through it all to write for every major magazine and news outlet imaginable. Her work was compared to Mark Twain, Rabelais and Mencken.

She broke open the doors for Maureen Dowd, Arianna Huffington, Gail Collins and almost any other woman who wanted to have an opinion column in America. She suffered death threats and bomb scares. She raised millions of dollars for civil liberties and other causes across America. She personally supported hundreds of people over the life of her career—she gave away, in the end, millions of her own dollars, to strangers, friends, the homeless. She was unfathomably generous.

And, her entire life was defined by her relationship with her father—who was the autocratic, racist, head of Tenneco, one of the most powerful energy corporations in the world. She grew up in unbridled affluence, she grew up as friends with George W. Bush, she attended the finest private schools in America and studied in France—and she rejected all of it to become of the most fiercely liberal voices in American history. She lived with one of the most radical activists in America, she was engaged to be married to a wealthy man who wanted to start a "master race”—and Hollywood producers continually talked to her about making a movie of her life.
There really was never a figure like Molly Ivins. And there will probably never be another. She was like Amelia Earhart meets Annie Oakley.

Her story was one that needed to be told—it was so intensely narrative (which explains, I believe, why those producers, screenwriters and directors wanted to make that movie based on her life). She fought sexism at every turn in her life. She lived large, fought hard and told the top editor of The New York Times to fuck off. And just when she seemed ready to beat back her raging, drunken nightmares, she was hit with cancer. She battled three wicked bouts of cancer.

And through it all, she laughed her ass off, spoke truth to power, gave away even more money -- and never stopped working. Her friends—Maya Angelou, Dan Rather, Willie Nelson, Ann Richards, Bill Clinton—marveled at her stamina. And when she died there were enormous memorial services around the country, including ones in New York City and Texas.

For a narrative story teller, Ivins's story was inevitable. There were so many breathtaking twists and turns in her life. I knew her a bit and knew some of her story. But not all of it. It simply became richer, more intense, as I researched it.

With one of her former researchers, we worked on the book for 18 months. We did research across America. We delved into her personal archives, her diaries (including scalding, intense ones where she talks about her fight with alcohol, her lovers, her fights with the most powerful people in American publishing and politics), her personal letters. She was the most profound self-chronicler imaginable, and we had access to hundreds of thousands of documents, papers, letters, touching on almost every aspect of her and her family's personal history.

I learned that, when you weigh Molly Ivins in historic context, her story is a grand, outsized American saga. She was often "the only woman in the room"—and she fought like holy hell to be heard, to be respected, to change things for the good of America. She was a trailblazer and a firebrand. Again, to say she lived large is really an understatement.

Mike: Do you remember the day you decided to write a book about Molly Ivins?

Minutaglio: With Molly Ivins having millions of readers, a huge national following, and the kind of rocketing life that made some movie producers want to make a film about her, I assumed someone was going to write a biography. She was larger than life. She lived hard. Her former aide-researcher in Texas began telling me these fascinating stories about her life and that's when we decided to collaborate.

Mike: How well did you know Molly personally?

Minutaglio: I knew her as a colleague in the media. We both covered George W. Bush. I worked down the hallway from her when I was in daily journalism in Texas. We were in the Austin bureaus of competing Texas newspapers. I would see her at Bush's press conferences, meetings. After I wrote my biography of Bush for Random House, I got to know her a bit more—we were both interviewed on the Charlie Rose TV show.

Mike: Do you have a memorable firsthand experience with her?

Minutaglio: We had lunch a decade ago in a raucous Mexican restaurant in Austin. Loud, crazy scene. She had called me up and demanded I meet her. I remember her leaning over the table, staring hard at me and talking about her life. She said that fame could wash over you. That you had to keep from drowning. That it was a wild ride. And then she laughed - which she did a lot - and laughed very loudly. She was always throwing her head back and laughing really hard.

Mike: Did she ever say anything about writing or journalism that's a keeper for you?

Minutaglio: I was staggered to hear how, so early in her life, she was an apostle for subjectivity in journalism. She had come to that idea when she was in her early 20s. She thought a lot of "objectivity" in journalism was phony and useless. She also, probably obviously, believed that it was perfectly fine to poke big fun at the people in power -- as long as you did it with a smile, and didn't do it with acid-tipped daggers. She always maintained that satire was good, but that you never wanted to cross the line into mean-spirited vitriol.

Mike: How long did it take you to write the book?

Minutaglio: It took 18 months. We had access to her personal papers, diaries, notebooks. Her family and best friends were very helpful.

Mike: What's the most surprising/shocking thing you found out about her?

Minutaglio: Molly Ivins was far different than the person millions of her readers assumed her to be. She had an enormous battle with alcohol, one that stretched for decades. It led to some very intense moments in her life—ones where she put herself in great danger, personally and professionally. When she was young, she wrote a note to herself—saying she would commit suicide if she didn't become famous one day.

She also was incredibly unafraid to occasionally step back and literally punch someone in the face: She hit a man so hard in Dallas that his teeth sprayed out on a city street. She hit a man so hard in the Austin area that she knocked him out and he fell into a cactus patch. She knocked George W. Bush's alcoholic political mentor to the ground after he tried to stop her from leaving a drinking session at a bar.

The men in her life were extraordinary: She was engaged to be married to a very affluent man whose father was a high-ranking US diplomat who was doing work for the CIA—and then her fiancĂ© died in a horrific motorcycle crash. Her father was one of the most powerful men in American industry -- he was president of Tenneco—and he committed suicide. She grew up with George W. Bush. She lived with a man who, for a while, was one of the leading activists in America. She gave away, in the end, probably millions of dollars. She had a close relationship with the man who basically paved the way for Bush to become president. She was consulted by presidents, senators and other powerful political figures. She was best friends with Ann Richards—and faced rumors that she and Richards had an intimate relationship. And, of course, Ivins endured three wicked bouts of cancer—and numerous death threats.

And, finally, she decided she hated working at The New York Times—and deliberately provoked the powerful editor Abe Rosenthal by trying to inject some, ahem, "colorful innuendoes" into her stories. It let to her basically telling him, and the Times, to take a hike.

Mike: How did you work the writing with your co-author?

Minutaglio: I wrote the book and he was the lead researcher.

Mike: Do you remember how you felt the day Molly died?

Minutaglio: That it was the end of an era. That there would never be another one like her –so colorful, so singular in American journalism. She had become a national, and maybe international, celebrity.

Mike: What did you like about her writing? What made her so powerful?

Minutaglio: She was, without question, one of the most influential women in the history of American print journalism. She had such an enormous, loyal following. She was often "the only woman in the room" in this ballsy, bad-ass, tough Texas environment—of hard-drinking, devilish (maybe demonic) Texas kingmakers and smashmouth politicos. She stayed up later than all of them, drank them under the table, and was able to get stories and insights that no one else would get. She was unrelenting, had an iron constitution, and she had completely decided to devote her writing (and her many TV appearances -- including her short-lived gig as a commentator on "60 Minutes") to addressing social justice and civil liberties.

Mike: What did you admire about her as a person?

Minutaglio: When you consider the historic context, what she achieved was just extraordinary. Her father was domineering, and her parents had charted out a path for her in a gilded, wealthy world of high society. She rejected all of that -- though she studied at Smith, studied in France, was fluent in French, knew how to sail yachts -- and devoted herself to writing and reporting. And she did it, again, by being "the only woman in the room" in these macho, crazed, moments in Texas.

She was also massively prolific. She wrote thousands of articles, was syndicated in close to 400 newspapers, had several national best sellers—and wrote for most of the major magazines. She gave speeches around the country. She was a workaholic.

Through all of her travails with alcohol, relationships and cancer, she remained fiercely generous. She literally gave away almost all of her money. She gave jobs to friends. She pulled people up, dusted them off, and gave them her time, friendship, work, places to live.

Divorced from how you feel about her politically, she was an exceedingly generous person. She never married, never had children, endured death threats and whispers about her sexuality—and yet always seemed to find time to help what she would call her “extended family”....the many, many people she rescued, fostered, promoted.

You can order Bill Minutaglio’s book on And for more info on the book or Mr. Minutaglio, please visit and

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Creative Writing and Yoga at Sacred Sites Around the World

Guided writing sessions, MS critiques. All levels welcome. Guatemala: on beautiful Lake Atitlan surrounded by mountains, February 13-20. Spring in Texas, May 28-31. Magical Ireland: June 6-13. Fall in the Berkshires. Contact Patricia Lee Lewis, Patchwork Farm Retreats: (413) 527-5819, and visit:

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Dear Mike: How Do I Make My Blog Stand Out?

Mind you, I won't pretend that "standing out" is easy. It isn't. With the zillions of blogs out there, setting yourself apart is always a challenge. But if you follow the 10 tips/advice below, you'll at least give yourself a fighting chance.

1) Be different. Find your unique voice. Find your niche. Find your perfect brand.

2) Try harder. Post compelling content. Provoke. Entertain. Inform. Help. Instruct. Inspire.

3) Get on Twitter and Facebook (make sure to register your blog with Networked Blogs) and, with discretion and consideration, blast out invites for people to subscribe.

4) Blog as many times as you can in a day. Even if it's just to post a great YouTube video. People quickly lose interest in static blogs.

5) Find out who your competition is and not only copy what they're doing well but add your own personal layers on top.

6) Don't try to do it alone. Too tough. Invite guest bloggers and cross promote.

7) Subscribe to, among others, HubSpot and Chris Brogan and Copyblogger. Those sites will help you immensely with great tips on blogging as well as the marketing of blogs (including the very important principles of Search Engine Optimization).

8) Submit to as many blog directories as possible. Technorati, BlogTopList, etc. Read the 10 Blog Directories You Should be Listed In

9) Go to blogs with great traffic and comment on what they're writing about, making sure to leave YOUR BLOG LINK in the signature.

10) Develop a great blog roll - people who have a much better readership than you - and tell them you've added them to your blog and would appreciate reciprocation. Which brings up an must-do with blogging to succeed: To get, you must give!

And please remember to be patient. Results don't happen overnight. It takes months, sometimes a year or longer for a blog to develop traction.

I refer to the wonderful line in The Shawshank Redemption, said by Morgan Freeman's character:

"...pressure and time. That's all it takes really."

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bing Crosby: White Christmas

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Tom Waits: Silent Night/Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

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Buster Poindexter: Zat You, Santa Claus?

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Bobby Helms: Jingle Bell Rock

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Johnny Mathis: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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Christmas Rejection

Sam Xmas Rejection

Please check out Debbie Ridpath Ohi's wonderful site:
Click here

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Jose Feliciano: Feliz Navidad

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Christina Aguilera: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

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Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige: What Child Is This?

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R. Kelly - World Christmas

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Alvin and The Chipmunks: Hula Hoop Christmas

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Weezer: The Christmas Song

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Eartha Kitt: Santa Baby

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Relient K: Sleigh Ride

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Charlie Brown - Christmas Time is Here

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Paul McCartney: Wonderful Christmas Time

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Interview with Guess Who? - Yes, Moi!

Interview conducted by Joylene Nowell Butler
Click here

Michael P. Geffner has been a professional journalist for over 30 years. He's won awards for both column and feature writing from the Associated Press Sports Editors and been acknowledged 7 times by the annual Best American Sports Writing anthology.

I met Mike Geffner last year when I joined his writers group: Mike's Writing Workshop. It didn't take long to realize that this was a man on the go, never taking long before he was onto another project. In addition to being an award-winning writer and social media professional, Mike is the founder/creator of the Writers Helping Writers groups on Facebook. The inspired Word: Passionate Readings of Poetry & Prose in New York City, Mike's Writing Workshop (on Yahoo, Ning, and Facebook), Mike's New York City Writers group, and Mike's Writing Newsletter.

Our interview:

How do you keep all that you do separate?

I guess I’m a pretty good juggler. LOL. Actually, I have so much energy for what I do that it’s incredibly easy for me to do a lot and to do it all and the discipline to maintain the lines between them all.

The key for me is constantly making “To Do” lists, virtually every day, and forcing myself through sheer will to follow those to the letter. So, in one day, I might set an hour or more aside for my newsletter and blog (, 30 minutes to moderate all my writing groups, two hours to do my own writing, and so and so forth.

What do you like the most of all the things you do?

At this point in my career – having been a professional writer over 30 years – I most enjoy helping others reaching their writing goals. I love being a mentor, a teacher, a coach. And it really makes my day to get an email or letter saying that something I said helped someone get a first story published or make a lot of money.

In recent days, I’ve fallen in love with producing performance poetry events. It’s called The Inspired Word (check it out on Facebook: and I’m hoping to grow it into something so huge that poetry makes a comeback.

Call me a dreamer, but that’s what I believe. And if you don’t believe you’re dead in the water.

Sportswriting seems to be your big love, but have you ever thought of fiction writing? If not, why?

Actually, sportswriting is NOT my first love. It’s just something I fell into. Fiction was my first love. I started out my writing career wanting to be a novelist or short story writer. In fact, in the year after college, I’d read over 300 short novels!—books by Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Conrad, Joyce, Camus, Tolstoy, etc., etc.

But someone I trusted told me the best way to make money as a writer at the beginning is to do journalism and that once I made it in journalism, I could branch out to writing novels. Except it didn’t turn out that way. For one reason or another, the novel thing never happened for me. I lost my desire to do that entirely and instead became a journalist covering sports for The Associated Press, The Sporting News, The Village Voice, and Details magazine, among many other places, however evolving into the type of sports journalist that writes stories in a way that focuses on what makes the athletes tick, rather than on the sport he or she plays.

I write in the creative nonfiction/new journalism genre, using fictional techniques of scene building to tell a true story, and I’m extremely proud of the fact that the compliment I receive mostly is, “Mike, I don’t know a thing about sports, but I really loved your story.”

That’s exactly what I’m trying to achieve.

The way I see it, I don’t write about sports, I write about people.

How do you go from interviewing the likes of President Nixon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to owning and running a very active Mike's Writing Workshop besides producing a popular newsletter?

I love building writing communities. I’ve been doing that in real time for nearly 20 years, arranging writer gatherings at cafes and bars in Manhattan. But in March of 2001, I was so frustrated trying to find the right community online—they were hosted either by snarky teenagers or preachy writers with virtually no pro experience—that I simply decided to start my own, Mike’s Writing Workshop on Yahoo ( And from a membership of one—ME—it’s grown to a group of nearly 10,000 writers. I still find that amazing. It goes to show you that if you build something of value, people will come.

What stopped you from becoming the next Howard Cosell?

I never wanted to be a Cosell. Never aspired to be a TV or radio broadcaster. I know that some young journalists use writing merely as a platform for broadcasting careers, but that was never me. I only wanted to write. And that’s all I’ve ever done.

Who were your mentors?

I didn’t have any early on. I don’t know if that was my fault or that no one around me was willing to help.

Later in my career, after I achieved a bit of success, I had a mentor who taught me about selling myself, which is something that didn’t come naturally to me. He was a retired salesman for The Wall Street Journal, a man in his 60’s named Al, and his words of advice continue to resonate for me. He taught me to see myself as commodity and that I could market myself with traditional sales techniques.

You've made a name for yourself, Mike. Do you find your reputation a hindrance, a gift or a little of both?

Having a good reputation helps get work. So that’s good. But one problem I’ve encountered over the years is having too many writers wanting me help them than I can feasibly handle. It saddens me actually. I truly wish I could help everybody.

Without exaggeration, I receive around a dozen emails from people wanting me to read their novels, poems, resumes, short stories, pitch letters, etc. Obviously, I don’t have time for all that. Plus, I absolutely hate offering opinions. I don’t want to be in a position to deflate someone’s spirits by telling them I didn’t think their writing was very good. Who am I to judge anyway? Maybe I’m wrong.

I don’t want the power to hurt an aspiring writer. My thing is to motivate, inspire.

What do you think is the biggest mistake new writers make today?

1) Not networking enough. Hobnobbing with the power brokers in publishing will get you more decent paying work than all the resumes, cover letters, query letters, and whatever else put together. This is a lesson I learned fairly late, but I DID learn it.

2) Writing for free too much and for too long. People get so addicted to seeing their words so easily published that they forget to make a career of it, to keep moving higher and higher.

3) Not shooting high enough. Rejection is a scary, painful thing. And as Freud said, human beings tend to move away from these things and instead gravitate toward safety and comfort. Problem is, safety and comfort are pure death to an artist. Play it safe and shoot low and you’ll not only accomplish little but you’ll get paid nothing or close to nothing.

4) Not putting everything they have into studying the craft. A lot of people talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, do little to get better. You must never stop learning. I’m still trying to get better and I’m 30-plus years in.

5) Focusing too much on online writing and not trying hard enough to get into print, be it magazines or newspapers. Online writing opportunities are so abundant these days that it’s incredibly easy to get published. That’s a good thing. But the bad thing is that most of these sites use aspiring writers’ desperation to see their words published as nothing more than a scheme to fill content. You should get used to having your writing edited and having strict deadlines and having enough fear that your adrenaline rages. In other words, challenge yourself to be better.

Two online sites I'd strongly recommend: and

My advice to young and new writers is this: Develop a clear strategy: Create goals as well as deadlines to reach those goals. Attempt to make more and more money per story. Learn how to negotiate for better payments. And attempt to write for things that have greater and greater circulation.

Where do you find the industry headed?

I know this: EVERYTHING is changing! After that, I haven’t a clue, other than to say that probably everything or close to everything will be online eventually. And unless online sites figure out a way to make more money doing what they do, it doesn’t bode well for writers making a decent living.

Just look at The Huffington Post. Great site, great business model (especially in these tough economic times for traditional media), but the writers freelancing for them DON’T MAKE A PENNY.

What's it like writing in New York City? I bet there's no place like it. Do you think NYC has influenced your writing?

I know of no other life than living in this city, since I’ve been here since Day One.

For sure, the publishing action is right here. Almost all the major publishing houses, both in books and magazines, are here. It certainly makes it easy to meet with editors and network.

It’s been great talking to you, Mike. Any new ventures in your future? Where do you think you’ll find yourself in 5 years?

Other than my Inspired Word events, I just started Mike’s Writing Workshop on Ning ( ). And I love it! It’s sort of like a Facebook for writers. Very interactive. A slew of great apps. It’s a great way for writers to talk and share.

In five years? Who knows? My guess is I’ll still be juggling like a madman.

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Mariah Carey: All I Want for Christmas is You

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Whitney Houston: One Wish (for Christmas)

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Andrea Bocelli: White Christmas

What an amazing voice. Enjoy.

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