Saturday, January 25, 2020

Who I wanted to be

I wanted to be Jim Henson. I admired his creativity, his silliness, and how he leveraged those into television shows that touched millions of people. 

I wanted to be Woody Allen. I admired the fact that he wrote, directed, and starred in a new movie every year. I liked his self-deprecating, absurdist humor. I liked that his movies were small and personal and about human relationships rather than gun battles, UFOs, and explosions.

I wanted to be Steven Spielberg. I admired the fact that he directed BIG movies, often with gun battles, UFOs, and explosions--but always ultimately about human beings.

I wanted to be Chevy Chase. I admired the fact that he was a TV comedy writer, and a performer, and--at least in those first seasons of SNL--he embodied coolness.

I wanted to be Dr. Seuss--albeit a younger version, with cooler glasses and a T-shirt instead of a bow tie. I loved how he could rhyme and draw in a style like no one else. The Sneetches and Other Stories was my favorite book as a kid.

What happened between then and now goes something like this:

I went to NYU film school. I was an intern for Late Night With David Letterman. I worked as a production assistant for The Dick Cavett Show and Lifetime Network.

Being a production assistant bore little relation to being Steven Spielberg. It was grunt work, and I had no patience for it. I wanted to enjoy my youth, do physical things while I could do physical things, enjoy life. So at 24 I moved to Iowa to train and compete in amateur freestyle wrestling for four years. No regrets.

Then at age 28 I applied to grad school at Yale, because...hey, you never know. I got in. I graduated at age 30. I had loans to repay, and I couldn't be a production assistant again even if I'd wanted to. No regrets.

I got a job as a research manager at A+E Networks and helped launch The History Channel. It was interesting, but I felt nothing like Woody Allen. Does anyone really grow up wanting to be Sumner Redstone?

Digital media seemed like a good way to claw back some creativity in my life, and I sensed it was the future. So I left television to go to a start-up. It failed.

I went to other media companies, other start-ups. All have been interesting. All have paid the bills, except when they failed. None have made me feel like Steven Spielberg.

But an interesting thing happened along the way, aside from raising two wonderful kids and living in NYC. I continued to write, and when I became a father, my interest turned back to people like Jim Henson and Dr. Seuss.

I wrote a children's manuscript. I shopped it around. And around. And around. An editor said, "Do you have anything else?" I wrote something else. The editor liked it. It became a book. I got an agent. I wrote more manuscripts. Some became books. 

We have seven books now. #8 is coming in a few months. #9, #10, and #11 are coming in 2021, and all three are Dr. Seuss-branded. That's about the coolest thing that's ever happened to me, aside from the love of the humans in my life.

Anyone who is completely happy with their life probably isn't trying hard enough. Very few people actually become princesses, or superheroes, or famous writers or directors. Frankly, I haven't met a lot of people who still say they want to be Chevy Chase, let alone Woody Allen. 

At the end of the day, the thing I'm most proud of is being a husband and a father. I never thought too much about those things growing up. But life is short, and so much of it is veneer, and if you don't focus on the truly important things you're going to find yourself old and alone, and you've really missed the essence of what being a human being is all about.

But beyond that, I'm proud of being a children's author. Even if I never get rich doing it (hint: unlikely), I feel like I clawed and clawed and clawed my way back to something I envisioned for myself in my youth, which is being paid to be creative. And I don't mean creative like being a copywriter for Marlboro. I mean creative like I write something, and it's published, and it has my name on the cover.

I'm also proud that I know how to manage operations for companies, media or otherwise. I like working with good people, and I like making companies work better. But I feel a secret glee every day, between PowerPoints, knowing that I write children's books. I feel kinda like Dr. Seuss and I both go to the same dry cleaners.

Monday, January 20, 2020


We just dropped off Sam for her final semester of college. 

Love is the most important thing you will ever do. It’s more important than where you work, how much money you make, or what you accomplish.

Love is about what you’ve given to others to make their own lives happier and more meaningful. Just like your parents did for you, and your grandparents did for them.

The fundamental need we all have, beyond food and shelter, is love. It’s the fuel that sustains us through difficult times.

We should spend time every day thinking about the people who have loved us the most. Then we should spend even more time every day trying to be a person who has loved someone else the most.

That has always been my goal with Sam and Ethan. Now it is also my goal with Jo.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Naughty Ninja launch party

We had a launch party over the weekend at Books of Wonder on the Upper West Side. My editor, Kelsey Skea, was there, plus several friends and neighbors. Books of Wonder was great in setting up and promoting the event. 

And of course, Jo is the greatest--she even wore her pearls :)

Some pics:

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Starting a new decade

2010 was a long time ago. Which bodes well, because with time rushing by so quickly these days, I need to feel that 2030 is a long ways off.

In the past ten years I had seven children's books published, with four more in the pipeline. That would've amazed me to know that ten years ago. I would've thought, "Wow, I must be so rich now."

I married a wonderful woman who gave me a second chance at life and love. That would've confused the hell out of me to know that ten years ago. But I feel very blessed, given the range of alternative ways things could've gone. It was touch-and-go there for a while. I will never take love for granted.

I watched my two wonderful kids blossom into young adults. That would've made me feel very proud to know that ten years ago--and also make me breathe a sigh of relief. You just want them to turn out okay. You don't want to feel like you screwed them up too badly. Check.

I have mixed feelings about my media career over the past ten years. I could've done a better job at that. I could've risen higher, made more money, found more career satisfaction. Somewhere along the way--in fact, probably about ten years ago--it morphed from being a core part of my identity to just the way I pay the bills. 

That's probably fine, other than having an embarrassingly poor retirement portfolio. Many of my job experiences over the past ten years make for fun cocktail party conversation ("Did I ever tell you about the time I worked for the crazy Cayman hedge-fund guy?" "Did I ever tell you about the time I ran"). 

But I never had the urge to run into the streets and whoop about it. I often have that urge as a children's author. And a husband. And a dad.

Finally, I should disclose that my running pace has declined markedly over the past decade. And my feet hurt when I stand up and try to answer the doorbell. But I'm not trying to make the Olympic team, so no complaints.

Given all the possible outcomes over the past ten years, I'm happy enough with this particular version of the space-time continuum. 

So bring on the '20s!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Visit from mom and dad

We drove up to Trinity College to visit Sam. We saw "Hamilton" (from perhaps the highest seats I have ever been in in a theater). My dad fixed the chimes in our antique wall clock. We ate BBQ. We just hung out. 

It was a short visit, but it was just enough time to remind me that they are great.

I won't provide a full itemized list of why, but the short list would include being unconditionally loving, being great role models for a successful marriage, and genuinely caring about other people and the world.