I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Blind Side

The Blind Side is the story of Michael Oher, an African-American homeless boy who was eventually chosen in the first round of the NFL draft after a white family took him in, loved him, and launched him into the world to become the person he was intended to be.

The movie will challenge you to see past barriers you might not normally see past; to help someone in bigger ways than you might initially want to; and to sacrifice beyond your comfort zone. Ultimately, it might even challenge the way you live out your faith.

Looking around the movie theater, I saw one of the more racially diverse crowds I've ever seen in a movie. And I saw more men than I usually see at a feel good movie. There was also applause after the movie and even a few tears.

As my friends and I were walking out, two guys behind us had a short, guy-like conversation:

Guy #1: "Great movie."

Guy #2: "Yeah."

Guy #1: "It's the closest I've come to crying."

I presume Guy #1 meant it was the closest he's come to crying at a movie rather than the closest he's ever come to crying, period.

Either way, it's that kind of movie.

Friday, November 27, 2009

This Day in Family History

My family usually likes to watch a movie while eating a big Thanksgiving dinner. Last year, we watch the Rocky marathon on cable television. We had a blast because those movies were popular when we were much younger and all living under the same roof. My mom took my sister and I to see the first Rocky when it came out in 1976. Some 32 years later, there we were, watching the same movie together, even though so much has changed since then.

Yesterday, the movie of choice was Cinderella Man. I was the only one who had seen it, but my memory isn't the greatest so I felt like I was watching it for the first time. I'm not sure what the deal is with us watching boxing flicks. The funny thing is, my sister mentioned the possibility of seeing Ali since she's never seen it. The rest of us haven't either, so it'll probably go to the top of my Netflix queue for the next time.

As I was watching Cinderella Man yesterday, a thought ran through my mind. On the last page of my local newspaper, they usually publish "This Day in History" complied by the the Associated Press. I like to read through the list whenever I have the time. It helps me to feel grounded somehow. Wouldn't it be cool if someone in each family took the time to record such a list regarding family activities during get togethers?

You could bring it out each year, maybe at Thanksgiving or Christmas, and go through it as a family. It would generate all sorts of laughs and sentimentality and maybe tears. I'm thinking it might be my new project. It doesn't have to be long. Just a sentence or two that captures the essence of what happened that particular year during that particular event. I have a running start on Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving History:

2008: While enjoying a moist turkey with all the trimmings, we watched Rocky I, II, and part of III. We cheered. We might have cried. But most importantly, we laughed.

2009: While enjoying a smoked turkey that tasted a lot like ham, we watched Cinderella Man. Mom reminisced about how her dad, who was from Ireland, used to talk about James Braddock -- the main character the movie is based on.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts

This morning, as I was showering and getting ready for the day, a random thought crossed my mind. This will be my 44th Thanksgiving. That's a lot of turkey, football, and family time. It's also a lot of laughter and good memories. None of it should be taken for granted.

The Bible talks about the brevity of life. You never know when this could be the last Thanksgiving you, or someone you love, is here to celebrate it.

I heard from a friend this morning. Her husband of 51 years passed away yesterday and it was completely unexpected. He had just returned home from the store, and just like that, he left this earth and found himself standing in the presence of God. It was a glorious day for him, but a difficult day for those he left behind.

My heart aches for my friend and her family. Today will be a difficult day for them. I suspect Thanksgiving will always be difficult for them from here on out. I'm praying they sense God's presence in a powerful way as they mourn and then try to figure out how to pick up the pieces.

Whether you are with family, friends or acquaintances today, be thankful. And cherish every minute of your experience.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rethinking Free

A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with an editor of a magazine at a writer's conference about the changes currently taking place in the publishing industry. As you probably know, traditional newspapers are dying and the race is on as publishers try to to figure out how to survive financially while at the same time providing free online content.

The dilemma they face is real. Sending people to cover events, do interviews, conduct research and then do the actual writing of the content costs money. I'm one of the people they pay for such content. But if they give my content away, how do they pay me?

We've grown less tolerant of advertisements on websites. With a few exceptions, people are unwilling to pay for content online. So, what's a publisher to do?

As the editor and I talked about this, she asked me if I'd heard about "Free: The Future of a Radical Price" by Chris Anderson. I told her I'd just heard about it that week, but didn't know much about it.

Interestingly, Anderson has arranged for the book to be distributed in different fashions for different prices. For example, a person can purchase the hardback on Amazon.com for $21.59 right now. It's available on the Kindle for $9.99 (the standard price). The abridged audio version is available on audio.com for $7.49 and the unabridged audio version is available for free (yes free) at audbile.com and iTunes. The abridged audio version isn't free because the listener gets the point in half the time and time is money.

I downloaded the unabridged (free) version on iTunes and have been listening as I run errands. One the distinctions Anderson makes early on is between the 20th and 21st century mindset--especially as it relates to the Internet.

Those with a 20th century mindset are suspicious about free items because they believe "there is no such thing as a free lunch." Those with a 21st century mindset have grown up with free being the standard--they have free Yahoo or Gmail accounts; they use Google Docs; they use free Wi-Fi in coffee shops; etc.

The editor and I continued our conversation via email after the conference. She said she has the 21st century mindset described in the book. I told her I have a foot in both worlds and it can be confusing sometimes. She responded by saying, "a foot in both worlds might not be a bad place to be. I think old school values reapplied to new school ideas can provide a good balance."

As I've thought about all of this and the way it applies to my writing business, I've started to re-evaluate the tools I use.

I've always hated webmail for a number of reasons, but the fact is computers crash and we change IPs (thus losing email addresses) and backing up email is a major pain, so I've gravitated away from MS Outlook and other email clients in favor of webmail because it's portable, I'm in control of it, and I never have to back it up. Oh, and it's free. But I choose to give the webmail provider I use $20.00 a year for the extra bells and whistles. That's one way free leads to income and I'm fine with that.

I've never been a big fan of Google Docs. But here I am typing this post using the product. Why? I don't think the writing industry is moving away from MS Word as the standard any time soon, but practically speaking, when you have two or three computers, it's a pain to set up a network or to use a thumb drive, and it's an even bigger pain to continually back up your documents. With Google Docs, you don't have to do any of those things. You simply open a browser on any computer you are using, sign in, and begin working. When you're finished, you can download the file as a Word document with the push of a button and send it to your editor.

I don't know how long I'll stick with any of this, but when I think about using free web-based tools it just makes sense for the portable times in which we live. So, I'm adapting, both personally and professionally, as I watch the industry I'm in go through the same changes. Ultimately, I'm looking to ride the crest of the wave of change so I don't get left behind.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reading Season

I love this time of year.

Most of the sports I follow are in their off season and television shows are often in re-runs. So, for me, it becomes reading season. I probably read more books between November 1 and February 1 than the other nine months combined.

I just finished reading Twitter Power by Joel Comm. I'm always looking for ways to interact with and to serve potential clientele. This book provided some great insight about how to do that.

Last week, I started reading The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks and I can already tell it's going to be one of his classic feel good stories with a twist in the end. If you've read it, don't tell me what happens. I want to experience it.

I put a feeler out on Twitter a couple of days ago, looking for suggestions for a feel good Christmas novel or novella.

Somebody suggested The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck. Somebody else recommended The Red Gloves Collection by Karen Kingsbury. I may take both suggestions, but the Kingsbury series looks a little girly. This coming from a guy who loves The Mitford Series by Jan Karon.

My good friend Ron Benson recently started a book reading discussion on Facebook about The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning. I joined that group and look forward to working my way through the book with added insight from the group.

And I still really want to get to A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. I bought it a few weeks ago and it's just staring at me from the corner of my desk.

Oh, and my copy of Open by Andre Agassi should arrive today!

Yes, I love this time of year.

What do you plan to read during the holidays?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Storing Books You've Read

“What do you do with books you have already read?” –from 4,000 Questions by Barbara Ann Kipfer

This is a real problem for me. I know some people give them away so others can enjoy them. I don’t do that, for a number of reasons.

First, I underline passages that move me. Second, I make personal notes next to other passages—notes I really don’t want other people reading. They aren’t earth-shattering as much as they are personal. Third, I often refer back to books I’ve already read when I’m writing a book or an article, so I need to hang on to them. Oh, and sometimes I re-read books. I’m really thinking about diving back in to the Mitford Series by Jan Karon.

If I had all the time in the world, I’d go through books when I finished reading them and enter the marked passages into a database. That way the nuggets would always be at my fingertips when I’m writing and I wouldn’t have to worry about finding each book from which I want to quote. Realistically though, that’s probably never going to happen.

Consequently, my real problem with knowing what to do with books I’ve already read is figuring out how to store them in such a fashion as to be able to find them when I need them.

A few years ago, I went through my entire library and assigned books to designated bookshelves, including a shelf of books I’d already read. But then my collection outgrew my shelves and it became a free for all. Now, I have books stacked everywhere and in no particular order. Well, that’s not entirely true. Some semblance of order exists from my previous organizational effort, but not enough.

I’m thinking this needs to be a Saturday afternoon project in the near future.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On the Road Again

It felt great to be home for two days, but now I’m on the road again. I headed for Kansas City this morning to teach at the HACWN writer’s conference. This conference holds a special place in my heart because it’s where I got my start. Back in 1998, I attended this conference and got bit by the writing bug. Five years later, I began writing full time.

Many of the people I met in 1998 and over the next couple of years at the conference have moved on and they no longer attend the conference. That sort of bums me out, but I’ve already bumped into so many people I met at the conference in recent years and it is fun to catch up with them. I saw one guy today who handed me a published copy of his book—the same book that was just an idea as we discussed it five years ago at the conference.

Life is about relationships—both new and established.

I met a woman today whom I’ve never met before. She contacted me via email before the conference to let me know she signed up to pray for a member of the conference faculty and she got my name. Today she told me she’s still praying for me. She even handed me a gift bag this afternoon. It was a very humbling experience.

Tonight, after I got back to my hotel, a woman on the conference faculty knocked on my hotel room door and handed me a pop. She heard me say I wanted one earlier and she went out of her way to bring me one.

Tomorrow is a new day. I’m going to look for a way to be a blessing to somebody else the way several people were a blessing to me today.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I saw several people discussing nicknames on Twitter this morning and it instantly made me think about a nickname someone gave me many years ago. It wasn’t a flattering nickname, but I have to admit that it was kind of funny—in a hurtful sort of way. The nickname was “Slow-Mo.” I got the tag because a guy I was playing basketball with said it looked like I was in slow motion on the court.

He might have just been talking about my style of play which relied on fakes and a couple of unorthodox moves; a guy who is 5’10” and overweight has to depend on some sort of deception on the court, otherwise he’ll never get a decent look at the basket. But I suspect it had more to do with my being overweight than my movement.

The nickname never really caught on, thankfully. A couple of guys used it on the basketball court, but it stopped there.

The thing about a hurtful nickname is, it’s a constant reminder about some quality or lack thereof that a person doesn’t need to be reminded of. The person already knows his or her deficiencies and in one way or another is trying to compensate for them, or maybe even just forget about them for 60 minutes during a game.

But we have something inside us as humans that like to point out the deficiencies in others. Maybe we’re just trying to hide our own issues.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Visit to the Ghost Ranch

The Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, NM
This past week, I traveled to a place called the Ghost Ranch—located about 20 miles north of Abiquiu, New Mexico to be on staff at the CLASS Christian Writer’s Conference.

All of us were in for a surprise as we pulled off Highway 84 and headed down the mile and a half long gravel road that leads to the Ghost Ranch: we were cut off from the outside world. Our cell phones had zero bars in zero places; internet access was limited to a few hot spots; and we didn’t have a television.

There’s a certain stillness that is attractive about the place.

The dust swirls off the roads. The rock formations surrounding the buildings demand attention—especially if you are outside in the morning when the sun reflects off the earth toned colors. You have to go looking for a stream, but if you look hard enough, you can find one.

Animals walk around freely and pretty much get what they want.

One particular portly raccoon shows up every night and climbs into a trash can that sits outside the building known as the gathering place. He doesn’t mind people. But he also doesn’t mind having a little fun with them. As people walk past the trash can on their way to the bathroom, he pops his head out. More than one woman shrieked. I couldn’t help but laugh.

One night, as I was driving my golf cart back to my room, I heard a noise about 100 yards off the path. I turned my flashlight in time to see an animal that looked like a cross between a deer and a kangaroo. It had long floppy ears. Later in the week, I had a friend with me and we ran into several more of them. He said they are mule deer. He was right. I found a video of mule deer to give you an idea about what they look like.

And then there were the mice. If you left anything edible out, they attacked while we were in class. They ate chocolate marshmallows, gum, granola bars, and just about everything else. In fact, they even chewed on the buttons of a CPAP machine.

I’m not particularly fond of being cut off from society, but every once in a great while, it’s probably not a bad idea. God seems to beckon from the silence. You get to see wildlife in their natural environment. The landscape is awe-inspiring.

For a week, it seemed like the clock was been turned back 70 or 100 years to a simpler time. Not simpler in terms of not having hardship, but simpler in terms of having fewer distractions.

Truthfully though, I was glad to pull into my hotel room in Denver tonight, complete with four bars on my cell phone, free Wi-Fi in my room, without any concern for mice devouring the snacks in my duffel bag.

One trip back to a simpler time per year seems just about right to me.


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