Year2021

Managing Businesses that Rely on Creative Activities

This post introduces an essay with ideas on coordinating different types of work.

Aside from the entrepreneurial artist (e.g. Andy Warhol) or writer (e.g. James Patterson) or inventor (e.g. Dean Kamen), most individuals that live off of their ideas operate within some type of organization. How do we corral “creative” activities like writing and research within manageable businesses?

Click here to read the essay.

Brooks on Books: Recommendations on Recommending

Books have been a hugely important part of my life. As a kid, when Mom took us to the mall, I loved going to B. Dalton bookstores and Waldenbooks. [I’d get so excited that, within ten minutes of walking the aisles, I’d need to pee.]

For my twelfth birthday in Cockeysville, Maryland, my parents hosted a group of my friends for roller skating and pizza at Skateland. Most of my friends gave me books as gifts. We had a leaning stack on the table that included favorites such as “Catch Me if You Can” by Frank Abagnale, “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, and “The Stand” by Steven King.

Some older kids walked by and Mom heard them say, “shoot, that kid must really like books!” 

To this day, I still have most of those books, and I enjoy swapping favorite book titles with others. When people ask me for book recommendations, I have found myself following an informal set of rules. 

First, I only consider recommending books that I’ve read. Would you write a recommendation for a person you’ve never met? Would you recommend a restaurant you’ve never eaten at? Yet, on dozens of occasions, I’ve fielded suggestions anointed with “I’ve heard that it’s great…it’s supposed to be good…” Anyone can look up the best seller list.

Second, I recommend books that I’ve reread (or would read again). Which books do I actively revisit, for whatever reasons? For me, this includes a novel I read last year, “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles. Recently, I spoke with a woman who had read the book and we spent a joyous few minutes sharing our love of the book. A colleague of mine overheard this and said, “I really need to read that book.” [I loaned it to her.] Another friend of mine, a retired professor, said he cried the day he read the last page because the book ended, and he wanted it to last longer. 

Finally, I recommend absorbing page turners. Like a great movie or concert, a satisfying mystery or adventure takes you on a little trip. When I read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Steig Larsson, it carried me right through the night. A gripping thriller.

What books do you recommend? Why? I welcome your comments below.

Managing Yourself

This post introduces an essay with ideas and resources on personal productivity. It is the third in a three-part series on entrepreneurship. 

Like other business owners, I learned along the way and grew into my role as a CEO. Possibly the biggest lesson has been the importance of rigorously, even ruthlessly, managing my time and energy.

In practice, we tend towards self-indulgence and do the things we like to do, or want to do in the moment, rather than those things that help us achieve our goals. Having clear priorities and a sensible approach to managing time has helped me tremendously, and will help you, too.

Click here to read the essay.

Stories 2020: How Did It Go?

In 2017, I began submitting and tracking my fiction writing and then posted updates in 2018 and 2019. How did it go during 2020?

  • In 2020, I submitted versions and revisions of 33 stories 128 times to 64 different outlets. This included 5 contests.
  • Between January 1 and December 31, 2020, I received 114 rejections (including several for stories submitted in 2019) and eight acceptances (6.6%).
  • Several rejection notices included brief comments from editors. A few to give the flavor:
    • “Too much to pack into a flash piece…”
    • “Your avenging aunt is, of course, an attractive character, bringing justice…”
    • “It so accurately shows how cruel kids that age can be! [but] …it’s not quite right for [us].”
    • “Some great details put us immediately on stage… [but] …the narrator is lost in this draft.”

Stories Published in 2020

Seven stories were published by six venues in 2020.

On April 28thMystery Tribune published “Tour De Forest” (910 words, 4 minute read). This story went through several versions prior to finding a home. One outlet requested a stronger “sense of place” which led me to conduct more research on a mountainous region in France, where the story is set. 

On August 4thMicrofiction Monday Magazine published “Business as Usual” (100 words; 1 minute read). I know a guy who knew a guy that wore corduroys with lobsters on them.

On September 5th365tomorrows published “Carried Away Forever” (558 words, 3 minute read). This story started as a contest submission in 2017 soon after the Las Vegas music festival shooting. It was rejected 13 times and went through multiple wholesale rewrites. It came together after switching the narrator from a man to a woman.

On October 30th, London-based Storgy published “Substitutions” (48 words, 1 minute read). The original idea for this microfiction piece arrived while I listened to an NPR story about Thanksgiving family recipes, and a person discussed a few of her favorite (and secret) substitutions.

On November 3rdDaily Science Fiction published “Holes in the Fence” (935 words, 4 minute read). This story found firmer footing after a wonderful person and friend died in 2019. He made powerful arguments with a light touch. “Holes in the Fence” is dedicated to Jim Fendig. 

On December 1stMystery Tribune published “Too Hip to Upgrade” (583 words, 3 minute read). My first published noir story: in a dark, futuristic Beantown, two criminals struggle to cooperate or get the job done.

On December 22nd101 Words published my Christmas-themed “Party Crasher” (101 words, 1 minute read). Based on the comments and emails, this has been one of my most popular pubs to date.

Enjoy the stories and thank you for reading!