Inspired to Smile

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Wow, it’s been about two years since I wrote a blog post. Time fly’s when you have toddlers.

As many of you may know I have been working on a book for many years now. Part of the reason I stopped blogging was in part to concentrate on writing my book. You’ll be happy to know, or perhaps you won’t, that the book is coming along nicely. I am hoping for a release next summer. It’s called A Whistle In The Dark.

Over the past year I have spent countless hours reading or listening to various books, mostly Newberry Award winners and honor books. This morning while driving from Washington to Eugene I finished another great book that got my mind racing, imagining, and planning, so I thought I would write a quick post.

Writing is hard. You quickly find out how hard when you set out to write a book. It’s not just the writing that is difficult, which it is, but the hardest part by far is overcoming fear. I’ll get to that in a moment though.

There is nothing that captures the imagination like a good story. It is my opinion after reading or listening to probably 100 books in the last year, that there is no genre or writing better than that contained within the young adult genre. If you want to read a great piece of writing I would encourage you to look up any Newberry Award book in the past 5o years and you’ll quickly learn what I mean. I’m constantly blown away by the amazing writing and creativity demonstrated in the pages of those that have won this coveted award. I’m convinced that the standard and bar is consistently notches ahead of any other genre in the book industry today.

So what makes a book great? What makes one piece of writing stand out above the myriad of other works published each year. The answer to these questions are subjective of course, but after finishing a great book this morning my mind was wrestling with these questions and landed on this.

Great works have at least one moment contained in their pages in which the words on the page transcend the mind of the reader and reach the heart with such unexpected delight that one can’t help but be emotionally moved to laughter, tears, anger, or even something as simple as an inward uncontainable joy that seeps out in a profound smile. These emotions or reactions may seem trite, but they are far from it. It is in these moments that a writer has done the almost impossible task of connecting their words to the larger context of the human experience eliciting something on the verge of divine. It’s so profound in its simplicity that the meaning is easily lost. It awakens the heart, for perhaps just a moment, to something far to many of us have starved ourselves of, feeling.

As I mentioned before this is a difficult thing to accomplish. Some of the books that have made the Tom Mueller personal favorite list only have one of these moments, then there are the few in which the author is so in tune with the human experience that these moments come almost naturally. It’s maddening for a writer and under no circumstances do you want to read one of these while writing your own book unless you love to feel like a complete loser. This is a very short list in my experience. I’m convinced it only takes one of these moments to elevate a good book to that of a work of art.

This is where the fear part I talked about comes in.

Writing a book is not for the faint of heart. It’s stinkin hard. It takes planning, research, perseverance, patience, and time. A lot of time! Most importantly it takes courage. Courage, you say? What’s so courageous about writing a book? Well, because of this one question that permeates the cerebrum of every writer I know; What if it stinks? Don’t underestimate these four words. This one little question has derailed countless writers throughout history. It’s derailed me. I’ve been working on A Whistle In The Dark for about 6 years now. It’s not because it has actually taken 6 years to write, but because numerous times the perceived answer to that little question caused me to shelf it, and even the thought of going back sent 8.0 tremors through my being. So what brought me back?

I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but about a year ago the inward nagging of walking away from this work due to the fear of failure was finally made apparent to me. I’m convinced most writers don’t even recognize this fear in the moment, but it hit me, and it hit me hard. I sat down for the first time in over a year to examine what I had written, and in the darkened corner of my heart I heard that question arise, “what if it stinks?” For the first time I had recognized that it had paralyzed me. In that moment something rose up within me to say enough is enough. You see, like most writers, I wanted to write a work of art my first time out. I know, ridiculous, right? It’s true though. I wanted a New York Times bestseller even though I know deep down my writing is nominal. This was the secret for me. This is my first book. Nobody on their first book hits it out of the park, unless your Paul Young or some other anomaly. I had to free myself to write crud. It’s not that I’m trying to write crud, but when your new that’s just what happens. I’m probably being hard on myself and I actually think it’s pretty good, but that’s not the point. I had to free myself from this unrealistic expectation as a new author. I can only get better by writing. I can only improve upon my first work by actually finishing a first work.

So be courageous writers. Feel free to write crud, Tom Mueller give you permission. Keep challenging yourself and above all keep writing. My book is being written 25o words a day. Set a realistic goal and stick with it. Most books are 60,000-80,000 words. If you write 250 words a day you will haven written a book in little over half a year.

Reading inspiration and books I have loved off the top of my head. (Not all Young Adult)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (This is the best book I have ever read. It’s really long, but if you can’t stomach it get it at the library for free on CD. It’s worth it.)

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy and Gary Happenstand

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart (This is the most endearing and amazing kids book I have read.)

Hatchet by Gary Paulson

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Giver by Lois Lowry

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage by Joe Wheeler

I would love to hear about the books you love. List them in the comments.

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Have a BIG New Year

Did you catch my recreation of the movie BIG? If not take a look. I think you’ll smile.

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It was the summer of 1988. I had just finished off fourth grade in Carson City, Nevada. My friend B.J. Moore and I decided we wanted to see a movie. One small problem, we didn’t have any money. That shouldn’t stop two resourceful fifth graders. We headed to the theater to scope out what was playing and to case the joint. We hatched a plan.

“Can I use your bathroom?” I asked the theater attendant. When nobody was watching I dashed down the hallway to the first open theater I saw and stealthily made my way to the side of the stage to prop open the exit door. I then left the theater, and B.J. and I were able to run back around and take our seats. I’ll never forget that summer day where two renegade boys felt larger than life. It was only appropriate that the movie we watched…

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Have a BIG New Year

It was the summer of 1988. I had just finished off fourth grade in Carson City, Nevada. My friend B.J. Moore and I decided we wanted to see a movie. One small problem, we didn’t have any money. That shouldn’t stop two resourceful fifth graders. We headed to the theater to scope out what was playing and to case the joint. We hatched a plan.

“Can I use your bathroom?” I asked the theater attendant. When nobody was watching I dashed down the hallway to the first open theater I saw and stealthily made my way to the side of the stage to prop open the exit door. I then left the theater, and B.J. and I were able to run back around and take our seats. I’ll never forget that summer day where two renegade boys felt larger than life. It was only appropriate that the movie we watched that day was BIG.

Skip ahead 27 years later. I’m happy to say I’m no longer sneaking into movie theaters, but I can’t say I’ve grown up much. I’m just happy I can share some of my childhood experiences with my girls. Enjoy our BIG adventure.

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Unfortunately, the real Zoltar from the film is no longer in NYC, but this will do.

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I think I could pull off the Zoltar look. Epic stache, hey?

 

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As you can see they were excited to see Zoltar.

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Who doesn’t love getting confetti puked on?

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This girl is destined to be an entertainer.

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Tom Hanks, eat your heart out.

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Concerned much?

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Right back at ya, Dad.

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Should I do it?

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Yeah, I should do it.

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Does this stuff come off?

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You’re crazy, Dad. But, I love you.

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“Dad, can I take my shirt off?” “Of course, that’s how we roll.”

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I love that this place exists.

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“Mom, can I have the big ones?”

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Before we leave NY, we will be building our own Muppet.

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What happens to your colon if you eat a 30lb chocolate Santa? Only good stuff, I’m sure.

Merry Christmas-Die Hard Style

Merry Christmas, friends. I’ve been looking forward to these photos for some time now. After all those Elf shoots, I can’t think of a more macho way to bring in the holidays than borrowing your wife’s tank top and climbing in a box with a zippo lighter. I hope you enjoy.

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For the set: All you need is a cardboard box, a whole lot of aluminum foil (couldn’t find an air-duct), a blue plastic pencil box with an iPhone flashlight on inside, and a zippo lighter and fuel I had to order. Oh ya, don’t forget about the fake blood and your wife’s tank top. You also need an amazing wife willing to shoot your shenanigans at 1:30am on Christmas morning. Thanks babe.

Yippee ki yay-Merry Christmas

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Pennies From Heaven-Elf Recreation 2

Here is the video and photos you’ve been waiting for. I don’t think it will disappoint. Make sure you watch the video link below because you won’t want to miss it. Most of the shots were filmed at the very locations the movie happened. We had a lot of fun and the New Yorkers we encountered had a lot of fun too. A big thank you to Zach Larsen and Jeff Johnson who were the photographers. They didn’t mind one bit hanging out with a crazy guy dressed as an elf.

WATCH VIDEO HERE: Elf Movie Recreated in NYC On Scene

IMG_5614 - Copy IMG_5629 - Copy IMG_5645 - Copy IMG_5643 - Copy photo-2 (2) IMG_5626 - Copy photo-1 (2) IMG_5625 - Copy photo image photo photo (2) photo-2 IMG_5569 IMG_5568 - Copy photo-1 IMG_5648 - Copy I have like 5 friends in this city of 23 million people and wouldn’t you know it, I ran into my doctor friend, Justin. “Hi Justin, on your way to save lives? Oh me, I’m going to try jumping across the street and not get hit by a taxi.” IMG_5640 - Copy Yes, Macy’s actually let me jump on their bed. “You’re from Santa Land, right?” “Oh yeah.” IMG_5642 - Copy IMG_5639 - Copy IMG_5631 - Copy

If you like this post make sure you check out Is There Sugar In Syrup?

Merry Christmas friends.

Walter Mitty Has Nothing On Me

It’s fun living in New York City.

It’s a photographers dream.

You don’t have to go very far to find the backdrop for an iconic setting that has captured our imagination in film, art, or history.

That’s what this blog is all about.

So many of the films we love were filmed right here in this great city.

While watching The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty my wife and I realized that many of the scenes were filmed just down the road from our Harlem apartment. It sparked an idea that is now dittoNYC.

So let me show you the photo’s that started it all. The quality isn’t as great as I would like, but it’s what you get when you have a total stranger on the street take the photo for you. I guess that’s also what I love about it.

It’s raw.

It’s spontaneous.

It engages the very thing I love about this city, the people.

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After doing the shot above I had to do more. With the help of my lovely wife and a friend to watch our kids, we made our way to the 125th subway station and this is what we came up with. I hope you enjoy.

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If you enjoy this post check out Is There Sugar In Syrup, a recreation of Elf.

What is your favorite Walter Mitty scene?

Is There Sugar In Syrup?

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To kick off the holiday season, I thought it would be fun to reenact some of the hilarious scenes from one of my favorite holiday classic NYC films Elf. The thought of getting onto the subway dressed like an elf was pretty intimidating at first. But, while walking to the 1 line in Harlem, I realized that most people don’t give a second look to someone in New York dressed strangely. With that said, I’ve added a few of my favorite stranger “looks” along the way. While shooting these scenes, I tried to capture the exact scene in the photo, although it was not always possible. I hope you get a kick out of them. If you do, give them a share.

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Some of my friends want a do-over of this photo since there isn’t a taxi in mine. Who knows, maybe they’ll get it. At least mine has some awed onlookers. I’m betting there were some funny conversations when they got back to the office about a crazy guy in a elf costume jumping across the street.

This is one of my personal favorite scenes from the movie, although I have to admit I forgot to bring gum. I know, epic fail. photo(5) photo(1) photo 2 photo 1

The rest of these elf photos aren’t from any particular scene in the movie but are just some fun shots along the way that I thought were great. I hope you enjoy them too. photo(6) photo(4) photo(3) photo(2) photo-1

The best part about reenacting these iconic movie scenes is hearing from you. If there is an Elf scene you would like to see, please share it with me in the comment section. Some scenes that are soon to come are the escalator scene and waving down a taxi.

What’s your favorite Elf scene?