Friday, March 30, 2012

Parents Ruin Easter Egg Hunt, Childhood

Parents Ruin Easter Egg Hunt, Childhood

There's always someone who ruins things for everyone else. Any time you're no longer allowed to do something, it's because some jackwagon screwed it up for everybody.

That's why an Easter egg hunt was canceled this year in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Because some parents thought the Easter egg hunt was a competition, and not something small children could just do for fun.

According to a story by the Associated Press, the event had been marred by too many parents who ignored the "no parents" rule and climbed over the official "no parents" rope to help their precious snowflakes scoop up as many eggs as possible, even if that meant that other kids wouldn't get one.

"That's the perfect metaphor for millennial children," Ron Alsop, author of The Trophy Kids Grow Up, told the AP. "(Parents) can't stay out of their children's lives. They don't give their children enough chances to learn from hard knocks, mistakes."

How much of a helicopter parent — parents who hover over their children like helicopters, ensuring they don't experience the heartache of failure — do you have to be to shove another little kid out of the way, just so your kid can experience the joys of picking up a plastic Easter egg that's sitting out on the lawn?

To make it more sad and pitiful, the eggs in Colorado Springs had candy and coupons for nearby businesses.

Coupons? Seriously, you had to make sure you ruined an Easter egg hunt to make sure your child picked up more coupons than the other kids?

If you want your kid to find an egg with cheap candy and a coupon, get a couple of suckers from the bank, get a free coupon out of the mail, and hide the egg in the middle of your front lawn. That's what the Easter egg hunt amounted to, and you just ruined it for the entire city.

I'm getting so tired of helicopter parents and their incessant overprotectiveness. They're actually doing their children more harm than good by never letting them experience the pain and failure that we did when we were growing up.

And it's going on so long that some parents are even calling their child's boss during their first real, grown-up job to help with negotiations, raises, and even dealing with workplace conflict. And that's so pervasive that some companies even have a Take Your Parents to Work Day, which is understandable, since they're probably driving their kids to work in the first place.

It's a perfect example of what helicopter parents and the newer, more clingy parents — Velcro parents — are doing to their children as they get older, and are not even aware of the problems they're creating.

They're not letting their children play on the hard ground, because they don't want them to get hurt. Meanwhile, kids like now-former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Gary Brackett grew up playing football on the street in front of his house.

Tackle football.

Gary Brackett became the defensive captain of the Indianapolis Colts during their Super Bowl run because he knew pain as a little kid. But that helicopter kid is going to be the assistant junior night manager at Starbucks, at least until his mommy calls in a snit because the manager spoke harshly to him.

Want your children to grow up to be competitive and always strive to do their best? Let them fail when their young. Don't let them grow up with that "everyone's a winner" attitude.

Want them to be adventurous and willing to face their next big challenge? Let them fall down and skin their knees. Don't let them play on rubber-padded playgrounds.

Want them to laugh in the face of fear and start their own successful company, rather than hiding safely in lower middle management? Let them earn their own money to buy the things they want. Don't hand them 50 bucks whenever they want something.

But if you want them to strive for the safety of mediocrity, the comfort of good enough, and the snuggly warmth of lowered expectations, then by all means, hover protectively nearby for their entire childhood. Give them what they need, protect them from failure and disappointment, and never, ever let them fall.

Because the adult world is all sweetness and light and unicorn farts that smell like rainbows. It's not a competitive world that picks winners and losers. Everyone gets a trophy just for trying, and victory is shared equally among all.

And your kid won't be chewed up and spit out by the kids who learned how to run fast and fight hard after getting punked out of an Easter egg by a helicopter parent.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Pains of a Writer's Rejection

The Pains of a Writer's Rejection

No writer likes rejection. It's so personal. It's not just our work that was rejected, we were.

Most adults build their identity around their work and its results. A carpenter doesn't just say, "I hammer nails." He says, "I build houses. Do you see that house? I built it." A doctor doesn't just say, "I prescribe medicine." She says, "I help people. Do you see that kid? I saved his life."

It's that way with writers. We don't just type, we create entire bodies of work that inform, entertain, and persuade. Having that work rejected means we have been rejected as people. Our thoughts, ideas, and experience, which made up our words, are not good enough to be read by others.

"Remember, it's not personal," say the veteran professional writer, smiling in that annoying, knowing way. "It's just business."

He remembers all too well the last time his work was rejected. He remembers, because if he's a real writer, it was last week.

The new writer looks at the old pro like she wants to stab him in the eye with a pen. He remembers that look too. It's the same one he gave his mentor 20 years ago, when he wanted to stab that cranky bastar in his eye. He smiles, but prepares to defend himself. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the dictionary makes a better club.

Anyone who wants to be a writer will learn to deal with rejection. Real writers eventually get used to it, and sigh resignedly the next time they get a rejection letter. They all have the same low opinion of editors: slack-jawed mouth breathers who wouldn't know good writing if it whacked them with a dictionary.

(Note: This does not apply to my editors, who are salt of the earth, cream of the crop, princes and princesses among men, and can recognize sheer genius when it stands sobbing outside their offices in the rain, swearing it won't go away until you just give me one chance.)

Writers have many coping mechanisms to deal with rejection: they rage and curse against know-nothing editors. They scream into their pillows. They weep silently on the bathroom floor. They entertain wild fantasies where they win the Nobel Prize, bump into that editor at the valet station outside, and ask him to bring the car around. But they mostly drink.

My coping mechanism was probably the stupidest of all: I went into sales. I thought it would be much safer, because no one gets rejected, and everyone is friendly and respectful in sales, right?

If you want to learn about real rejection, try dialing for dollars for a living. You'll realize that the occasional editor's "no" every couple of weeks is a walk in the park compared to the 20 "no's" you'll get every day in sales. For the next seven years.

Other than going into sales, the only way to get over rejection is to write more and get rejected more. A lot more.

Because the only way you're going to get better is by developing a thick skin. And fantasizing about handing your editors a copy of your latest New York Times best-selling book, and they promise to read it, but then their manager yells at them to get back to the fry station.

And then one day, you won't be Rejected. You'll be Accepted.


It means you're Somebody now. You're that dorky kid in high school who got invited to sit at the cool kids' table, and they all listened in rapt attention to your story about your little sister and the time she got a popcorn seed stuck up her nose.

You're no longer just a writer, you're a Professional Writer. (Because getting a $10 check and two copies of the magazine makes you a Professional.)

You'll celebrate with a $20 dinner, and you'll promise yourself that you're going to remember this feeling forever. That this is the beginning of a long and distinguished career, that started with this one step.

Until the next day, when another rejection letter arrives.

Eventually you'll learn to accept the rejections. Even welcome them sometimes, because you don't have enough time, what with your next book and three speeches you have to give next month.

That's when some new writer will come to you, asking what's the best way he can deal with rejection, because he just got his first one, and he wants to quit writing.

You'll look at him, knowingly, searching for the right thing to say, to let him know that it will work out in the end.

"Remember, it's not personal," you'll say. "It's just business."

Just make sure you have a dictionary handy first.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rush Getting Crushed, May Be Flushed

Rush Getting Crushed, May Be Flushed

Rush Limbaugh managed to offend nearly half the country (and not the half he usually offends) when he recently called law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute," after she testified before a congressional committee that health insurance should cover birth control.

It seems fair. It's a women's health issue, and some women use birth control for health reasons, so if they want to practice good health, then it should be covered by their health insurance. After all, who am I to say whether a woman is right or wrong for wanting to practice good personal health, or ask that it be covered along with other personal women's health issues? I'm a Guy. I shouldn't make these decisions.

As a father of daughters, I don't feel entirely comfortable discussing these. . . issues either. I know we're supposed to be mature adults who can use the scientific names of parts of our bodies. We're not supposed to say "the, uh, you know. . ." and then make vague hand gestures or roll our eyes downward.

But I grew up in Indiana in the 70s, back in the days when boys had "uh, you know whats" and girls had "uhhh. . ." And that has not changed for me in all that time.

So, I admire women like Sandra Fluke who are willing to get up in front of a group of men and women who typically don't like talking about these issues either, and saying that she believes that a woman's sexual health is a part of her regular health.

And I wasn't too happy when Rush called Fluke a slut and prostitute. Because the implication is that if YOUR wife, mother, sister, or daughter receives any kind of birth control as part of her employer's or school's health insurance, she is also a slut and a prostitute.

And does this, by definition, mean that your home is a bordello?

At first I thought Rush was calling her a prostitute and a slut because she was going to be a lawyer. But when I heard the rest of his statement — "She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex" — I realized he was just being a pervert.

A pervert? Yep. Because the following day, he said, "If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I'll tell you what it is: We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

Really? You want to watch taxpayers record sex videos so you can watch them?

I mean, I can understand the drug addiction. Those things happen; people get addicted to high strength opiates they buy from a black market drug ring. And anyone can be divorced three times, and married four times, this last time to a woman 26 years his junior. But to ask women to make porn for you? That's a little over the line, even for you.

So it's not too surprising that a lot of women on Twitter and Facebook have begun protesting the GOP's "war on women," saying Rush's remarks were horribly offensive.

It's also not surprising that 50 of Rush's sponsors have pulled their advertising dollars from his show because they don't want to be associated with someone who so disrespectfully impugns the reputation of a young woman he has never met. They probably also don't want to be dragged into the slander suit that will surely follow.

But most importantly, they finally decided that they'd had too much controversy from a family values-espousing, thrice-divorced drug addict who had just asked young female taxpayers to produce sex videos for him and other perverts to watch.

I'm never surprised by the things Rush says or does to get attention. Whether it's making racially-disparaging remarks about former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, or calling women who believe in equal rights "Feminazis," he's always trying to boost ratings and get attention. He's an entertainer. That's what he does.

But I think he's gone too far this time. A lot of people want to see him fired. And as more advertisers cut ties with him, his support is seriously starting to wane. It makes me wonder what the future holds for him, and whether he'll be able to continue to support himself or continue his career.

Maybe his next wife can help him figure it out.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Google IDs Newspaper Editor Jon Flatland as Serial Plagiarist

Google Catches Plagiarizing Newspaper Editor

It's a weird badge of honor in the humor writing world to be stolen from. To have someone else take your work, stick their name on it, and claim they wrote it. To tell the world they thought of that story, spun the words together, and made those jokes about the Mayor's wife's nose job.

It's a strange mix of emotions when it happens.

On the one hand, there's red-faced anger. Many of us make a mere pittance from our work and to have it stolen by someone who financially benefitted from it is an outrage.

On the other hand, there's pride. Pride that someone thought my work was funny enough to steal. That, of all the humor columnists to rip off, my work made them laugh enough to declare, "THIS! This column is so good, I must steal it."

We get special privileges when this happens, like openly mocking humor writers who were not ripped off.

I got to experience all this last Thursday, when I received an email from another humor writer, David Fox, telling me and several other writers, that a newspaper editor named Jon Flatland, of the Blooming Prairie Times in Blooming Prairie, Minn., had been stealing our columns for several years.

Fox had contacted Flatland's boss, publisher Rick Bussler, and let him know what had happened. In the meantime, one of the writers contacted Flatland directly, and told him we were on to him. According to Bussler, Flatland resigned via email and admitted to the plagiarism, all before Bussler got to the office that day. Last we heard, he had left town almost immediately.

As we started searching for more evidence, we added more victims to the fold. At our latest count, at least 12 of us had been ripped off.

My friend and fellow humorist, Dick Wolfsie, wrote that his wife had said, "Are you telling me that he could have stolen from any of hundreds of humor columnists in America and he picked you?" which helped him experience a new, third emotion.

To make matters worse (or better) Flatland had won a few humor awards from the North Dakota Newspaper Association over the years. The author of one award-winning column has already been identified as blogger Jason Offutt. The rest of us are holding our breath to see if we won any others.

The "real" winners will get to re-experience the joy and anger of having his column ripped off yet again, but secretly we're more worried about what might happen if it wasn't ours. Or worse, if our columns were used in the years he lost.

The Internet has already started exploding with stories about Jon Flatland's thievery. Minnesota Public Radio and some area TV stations are reporting the story, as are several newspapers around the Minnesota and North Dakota area. I was even interviewed by the Poynter Institute, a well-respected journalism school in Florida, and the story was online less than 18 hours later.

If you're interested in seeing the fallout, you can Google Flatland's name and see pages and pages of stories about his shameful acts.

And that right there — the ability to go online and find this information in mere seconds — is what's most surprising about this entire story.

We live in the 21st century. We have technology that lets you find things on the Internet. Type in a word, name, or phrase, and you can find nearly every web page that contains it.

That's how David Fox tracked Flatland down. He Googled a phrase from a column, and found it had been stolen. He Googled some of "Flatland's columns" from the Blooming Prairie Times, and found that they had all been stolen. And that's when everything fell down around Flatland's ears.

How someone can steal from other writers for years and years without thinking he could be caught is astounding. It's second only to the fact that it took years and years for the rest of us to figure out he did it.

The end result is that the same tool he ignored is now doubly responsible for making sure he never works in journalism again: it's how he was caught, and it's the first place potential employers are going to check when they search for his name.

Guess what they're going to find.

But maybe he won't even look for a job. Maybe he'll turn to novel writing instead, and make a living writing books. I can just imagine it:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
You can read some of these other articles here:

Jon Flatland, columnist and former newspaper owner, exposed as serial plagiarist - Poynter Institute article
Nationwide Theft of Humor Columns Exposed - Column by Charley Memminger for National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
Statement Regarding Newspaper Editor Jon Flatland's Plagiarism Spree in North Dakota and Minnesota - This is by David Fox, the writer who discovered the thefts.
Apology to our readers - Blooming Prairie Times publisher's apology to his readers and to the writers, which we all accepted.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Karl the Curmudgeon Wants a Writers Feud

Karl the Curmudgeon Wants a Writers Feud

"Writer's don't have feuds anymore," said Karl.

What are you talking about? I said. We were sitting in a writer's bar called, predictably enough, First Edition. We had run out of internationally-themed bars, ever since Hey Mann, the Isle of Mann's bar closed down, so we decided to plumb the literary bars that dotted Indianapolis.

For the last 20 minutes, Karl had been glaring at a publicity photo of some writer hanging behind the bar, muttering something about holes in glass, or something like that. I had been on a mini-rant about how plagiarists should be publicly flogged with the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, hardbound edition, when he decided he wanted to fight with other writers.

"We need more writers feuds!" he thundered, plonking his empty beer mug on the bar. "Jack Kerouac and Truman Capote used to have feuds. Norman Mailer once head-butted Gore Vidal. Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein used to snipe at each other in their books. Why don't more writers do that?"

What the hell for?

"Because we're all too nice to each other! Because everyone is just supposed to get along. Not make waves. Not make trouble."

Of course. We're a civilised society. See, I even spelled civilised with an 's' right there.

"Screw civilized society," he snapped, restoring the 'z' to its rightful place. "It's sucking the very life right out of us. I can feel my very soul withering away. It needs to feel. I need something to stir it up and get my blood boiling."

And so picking a fight with another writer is going to do it?

"Yeah, I think so. Look at that picture of that guy on the wall. René Whitehorse. Some French dude. Heh, René is a girl's name."

Do you even know him? I asked. I waved down Kurt, our bartender, and ordered two more beers.

"Actually, yeah. I've met him a couple times at book signings and parties for other writers. Pretentious little snot. He publishes one freaking poetry book — a collection of blank verse — and he thinks that makes him a book author."

Doesn't it?

"No, it makes him first-time lucky. Kid, I've written 18 books so far, and I'm not nearly as pretentious as this guy. When his little 'pamphlet'" — Karl made air quotes — "first came out, he pitched a fit at a bookstore manager because it wasn't placed on the New Arrivals shelf with the real, big boy books. He even whined to his publisher, but nothing was ever done."

What does that have to do with you?

"When my last book came out and it was put on the big boy shelf, I had a friend email him a photo of it and say 'don't you know this guy?'"

So you've already started the feud with him?

"Well, that's what I'm not so sure about. I've started making snarky comments about him to other people, but I don't think it's working. I was hoping you could help me."

Me? I don't know the first thing about picking a fight. I consider myself to be a man of peace and quiet action.

"Uh-huh. I've ridden in the car with you. You're anything but a man of quiet action."

Whatever. Have you tried throwing a drink in his face?

"Waste of beer."

Heckled him at one of his poetry readings?

"His last poetry reading had two people. I'm not wasting A-material on an empty room."

Ever tried punching him in public?

"That's a little drastic, don't you think? I just want to have a feud with him, not be arrested for assault."

So write a scathing review on your blog about his poetry.

"Won't he write a nasty response about me?"

Sweet jebus, Karl! That's what a feud is! You two carp back and forth at each other, trying to make each other sound stupid by using big words. So write something nasty about his work, and make him sound like the kind of pretentious twit who lists his weight on his résumé, like some county fair beauty contestant.

"Ooh, good one. It's not like he can retaliate. What's he going to do, write a woolly-headed poem about me in his next book? Both his readers will get a good chuckle over it. Great, what else?"

Write a novel with a diarrheic penguin who writes blank verse poetry as one of the main characters.

"Is that what you do with your literary feuds?"

I don't actually have any literary feuds. I get along with everyone.

"Yeah right, what about that science fiction writer from Memphis?"

You mean where I wrote that 3,000 word blog post that he should stick with writing Big Bang Theory fan fiction?

"Yeah, whatever happened to that one?"

His mom grounded him from Facebook for three months after he used his high school laptop to Photoshop a picture of me on Attila the Hun's body.

"So you. . ."

Count it as a total victory? Oh yeah.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.