Little things really do count

It’s been a while. Sorry for the delay in writing but between the holidays, dealing with the flu, and trying to Christmas shop for adults, the emailer kept getting pushed back. It wasn’t until one of my readers reached out to me asking about why they hadn’t received an email in a while that I even realized anyone missed me.

That got me thinking, how much does what we do actually matter in life? Yesterday while walking out of the gym a woman came up to me and asked for spare change. Panhandling is nothing new in L.A., but what was strange was that the woman was wearing nice gym clothes and some religious jewelry. She also seemed desperate, almost on the verge of crying, and I couldn’t help but give her some of the money I had.

Now here’s the question: did I actually help her? Did giving her money help her situation, whatever that may be? Rather than go into the philosophy of charity, I have a simple answer for you… it doesn’t matter.

We shouldn’t do good things, kind things, simply because we will see a direct and measurable result. We do them because we feel that they are the right thing to do at the time, and doing the right thing pleases us. There is no way to tell how an action will affect people or the world as a whole, just like how my reader friend couldn’t have known how much of an impact a simple email could have on me.

Do not let the dream of what could happen if you do a kindness stop you from actually doing that kindness. We have no way of knowing how that spare change you threw in the charity bin helped people, but we know for certain that it helped you to do so and we can rest assured that no matter what that small act will indeed make a difference.

So don’t stop yourself from doing good. Don’t question the gift you are going to give this holiday or the meal you’re going to make. Send that thank you card, smile at a stranger. Do whatever your heart feels compelled to do. You never know how important that little action could end up being to the person on the other end.

Speaking of little steps, I have a new book out. 🙂 I’ve been hem-hawing about how to launch this book but with Christmas fast approaching I thought I should just share it with you. The book is called “Big Science: Galileo’s Gamble” and it’s a book about science and persistence and it’s designed to help your child develop their critical thinking skills.

I’ll talk your ear off about the book later, but for now, click here to check it out.

Big Science: Galileo’s Gamble

You’ll Be Ok

We’re human

I’ve been very angry the past few days. I don’t really understand why either because I had an absolutely wonderful book fair last Sunday and left feeling overjoyed. Then Monday happened and myself and everyone around me suddenly became angry. I think it has a lot to do with the shooting, or maybe the shooting has a lot to do with what’s going on with all of us. I’m not sure.

The simple truth is that we are all human and we are all susceptible to moments of anger. At those times we may feel no better than rabid dogs. Here’s the thing though, we have an enormous capacity for a range of emotions. The same mind, body, and soul that can conceive shooting six hundred people is also the same creature that can donate gallons of blood and spend sleepless hours tending to the wounded. As Mr. Rogers famously said, “look for the helpers.”

We are more than our emotions just as we are better than our shortcomings. We have permission to fail, to falter, but only if we earnestly strive to do better the next time. I’ve always felt that I had to project perfection, to be better towards everyone and never stumble, but that’s perfection and to us that is impossible. So I have had to learn to let go of that ideal me and realize that I too am capable of having a bad side. But so what? It’s not what we are capable of that matters, it’s where we choose to be most of the majority of the time that really counts.

So let out that emotion, it’s ok, your loved ones will understand. Remember though that you are one of the good ones, part of the solution, and that will be your contribution to this world when you pass. People won’t remember if you occasionally scream at nothing, but they will remember the times you were there for them.

The Trojan Horse of Shock Value- Poop

Why a children’s book author would write a book called Poop.


No one ever said writing is without risk. Writing is a funny thing, people ask all the time for you to bear your soul and to be as honest as possible. Actually, only writing that is honest, perceptive, and takes a risk has any shot of being noticed by readers. Yet, even when we bare our core there is still a chance that people won’t like it, or worse, they simply won’t care.

When I started working on Poop two years ago, I was in a bad place both financially and spiritually. I did what most writers do when they can’t figure life out; we write. I purchased a little red Moleskin journal, the writer’s confidant, and plotted out a story about a boy who was also going through a hard time and his imaginary friend that would help him go through it. The plot sat at the front of the book, though I didn’t have all of it, and I would reference back and forth as the year went on and the story continued.

Normally I don’t hand write work, it takes too long, but there is a certain magic that happens when you slow down. Text gets more dense, meaning becomes more layered, and the texture of the words feel organic. The red notebook came out anytime that life got particularly stressful. One of the key moments in the book was even worked on as a real estate agent was negotiating the contract for the house I was living in in the room next to me- a contract that would eventually lead to me needing to find a new home. Emotions charge writing, even if that emotion doesn’t come through on the page.

I wanted Poop to be honest. I wanted it to have emotion, to feel like something that actually happened. Characters were allowed to act on their own, say what they wanted to, and only move the plot forward when they felt like it. Many times I had to restructure the plot simply to afford a character who had made a different decision and, unlike most of my work, I had no idea what the ending would be until the book was almost done.

Poop came from a vast reserve of life experience- much of the plot actually happened to me. During the writing I underwent two cat scans and an endoscopy to root out the cause of my own stomach issues. I had arguments with loved ones just like Liam did and I came to some of the same conclusions on maturity and life that Liam eventually holds. In short, I was translating and understanding my own real world experience into this book. It felt like crystallization, like the memories were being converted into something more solid. Yet it wasn’t a journal.

When I finally finished, I started to understand what I had created. This book, the one with a smiling pile of poo on the cover, was actually about maturity. It was a Trojan horse ready to spring on unsuspecting readers. Liam’s journey through the book is one of self-realization in regards to his place in the world. He starts off feeling like he is the butt of existence, at the mercy of everyone, and it slowly dawns on him that not only is the world not against him- the world really could care less about him.

While that may seem like a harsh lesson, in reality it’s a great relief to the boy. That moment when we realize that life isn’t about us is crucial to maturity. It’s a threshold that some adults never cross (Liam’s father is just such an adult.) This change is entirely facilitated by Liam’s imaginary friend, Poop, who is in actuality Liam’s sense of fatherhood guiding him through the process.

Liam makes mistakes, he acts out for attention, and he heroically strives to solve his problems. He is everything that I wish I was and, eventually, what I became in my own life. For me, Poop represents turning your weaknesses into your strengths through a process of confronting life. Writing the book, in the same way that Liam writes his essay for the climax, was an alchemical process turning a miserable situation into inner peace.

My greatest hope for this book is for it to translate that same process for children going through their own difficulties. Yes, most of the people that respond to it have suffered from celiac or some other stomach condition, however, maturity is something that we all grapple with at one time or another- if not continually.

So why would a writer risk his reputation to publish something with a shocking title? Answer: when a writer feels that it’s the best avenue for conveying truth.

Poop is out and available for your Kindle and in Print. Follow this link to claim your copy.

Writing for Autistic Children

Back in February of this year (2016) I had the pleasure of visiting a class via Skype. I didn’t know this going in, but the class was mostly composed of children on the Autism spectrum. They had a profound love of my books and that drove me to understand more about their needs and how to better serve their families.

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I went on Instagram and started interacting with the parents of ASD children. This led to a lot of fantastic conversations and a heaping helping of empathy on my part. I realized that I had an unusually large number of autistic friends (and former partners) and that the connection between myself and ASD was that I tended to be both over-sensitive and over emotive. My illustrations and writing also have the same tendency.

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So the question became, what kind of books could I make specifically for this audience?  One mother in particular, Mrs. Contreras (who also wrote the dedication for the new book), had a striking story to tell. Her three children are all on the spectrum, albeit at varying ends of the chart, and her household peace exists in a precarious balance. I asked her directly “What could a book do to improve your life?”

“Honestly,” she replied, “I just want to tell my son that it’s okay to hug me.”

I can’t imagine much that’s more painful than your own child refusing physical contact with you.

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From there we discussed pattern breaking (as I brutally phrase it) where a parent is able to convince or coax an ASD child off of an ingrained habit. Usually the pattern is disruptive in some way to either the child’s life or the parent’s well being. Notable examples include needing the parents nearby to sleep, keeping the house pin-drop quiet, or having one specific toy at bath time.

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I couldn’t address all of these issues, but I wanted to create a frame for discussion and specifically talk about Mrs. Contreras chief concern: intimacy. This subject became the central point of the book. The rest of the story, and I’m using that term loosely here, is focused on statement pairs. The first statement normalizes the pattern behavior while the second statement suggests something new that is outside of the pattern. I didn’t want to chide children for doing something that comes natural to them, neither did I want to fall into the trope of “you are a special snowflake that needs separate treatment because you’re not normal.” (I hate any attempt at division, even well-intended division.) The final pattern can be replicated endlessly and my hope is that parents will create their own pairs for their children.

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Once we had the story and the sketches down, I started showing the book to other parents on Instagram. The feedback was fabulous and contributed a lot to the look and feel of the book (even my own father got in the act by demanding better backgrounds.) I also met a therapist that specialized in working with ASD children, Saundra S. Harris M.Ed., CCC-SLP, who was kind enough to create a letter to the parents for the book- to which I am supremely grateful. Other parents noted that the simple language and direct illustrations were well suited to the audience. They were glad that I didn’t go into metaphor land.

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All in all, let his was the most collaborative project I have ever done. It’s my sincerest hope that this work is truly helpful to families out there coping with ASD issues. Doing work like this restricts the audience, as “It’s Ok to Hug” is by no means a bedtime story, but that’ skins of the point. Books are like shoes, there’s no one size fits all, and I much prefer to make books that people need rather than guess what people will want.

“It’s Ok to Hug” is available now on the Amazon Kindle store and on Apple’s iBook platform.