March 18, 2016

2 Writing Tips

Filed under: Writing — Nathan @ 3:55 pm

One of the most common phrases I hear these days, when someone finds out what I do with a good deal of my time, is “I’m gonna write a book one of these days.” Something about books – and writing them – seems to hold quite an allure over a great number of people.

The good news, for those of you who fall into that camp of aspiring writers, is that writing can be learned. Sure, some people are naturally skilled at it, while others, well, write not so goodly.

I taught a Writing Workshop in January at a local high school (shoutout to The Rock School for having me!), and in preparation I went online to learn as much as I could about the habits, practices and philosophies of leading authors. I watched or read materials from Walter Mosley, Stephen King, Kate DiCamillo, Michael Connelly, C.S. Lewis, John Grisham, James Patterson, and others.

Although there were many ideas, two were held in common, almost universally.

First, write daily. As Mosley says, a story needs to bounce around in your subconscious to allow concepts to grow and storylines and characters to emerge. To do that, the story needs to be constantly in your brain. Grisham writes for two or three hours each morning, while DiCamillo limits herself to two pages a day. But all of them write daily.

For his daily writing, Stephen King says that he orients his desk to a blank wall, since what he needs to draw upon is in his mind, not outside a window.

Second, don’t revise as you write. That is, don’t worry about how rough your first draft is. For instance, if the bad guy is going to shoot somebody, just put the gun in his hand and write it: “The .22 caliber Glock clicked, the last sound poor, sweet, innocent Sam would ever hear, then the bullet exploded through his chest, shattering his ribs on its was to making an exit wound the size of a regulation NBA basketball.”

Does Glock make a .22? Would it click? Would there be an exit wound at all?

At this point, who cares? Just get it down on paper (or pixels). If you don’t know guns, when you’re revising, find someone who does. If you stop to do the research or find someone, you’ll lose the momentum you’ve been building by writing every day. (I was guessing that I was misspelling Dicamillo throughout by not capitalizing the “C” as I wrote, but I waited until I was done to go look it up. Sure enough, I was wrong. But I didn’t lose my train of thought – I’m learning!!!)

Finally, a bonus tip – tip three of two that I promised. This one doesn’t come from an author, but from “The Organized Mind” by Daniel Levitin, a UCLA brain researcher. Levitin is concerned, between the Internet, Smartphones and political candidates, that our brains are subjected to a daily influx of information the likes of which we’ve never seen in history. We are truly adrift in a sea of information. He suggests that we “offload” as much information as we can from our brains to an external device – a Smartphone, daily planner, etc. I use the terribly low-tech approach of 3×5 index cards with one item per card – a shopping list, an interesting turn of phrase, a possible subplot – and try and save my limited mental capacity for more important things.

So…write daily. Just get something down. And offload whatever you can.

And have fun!

NW

October 10, 2011

Save Situation

Filed under: Life — Nathan @ 8:29 pm

I’m currently watching the Rangers play the Tigers in the American League Championship Series.  As a longtime baseball guy, I’m mildly embarrassed to say that I don’t even know what game it is, but I think – I think – that the Rangers lead 2-0.*  I could look it up, but I don’t trust Wikipedia.

Unless I’m on a book deadline.

In my defense, I was traveling this weekend, and simply lost track of the series.  Plus, the Rays and Braves may or may not have already been eliminated.

So I’ve got the game on in the background, and they just posted a stat in the ninth inning as Jose Valverde, the Tigers closer, came into the game to pitch.

It was a non-save situation, and his stats for the year were along the lines of:

50 appearances in save situations**: 0.53 Earned Run Average

26 appearances in non-save situations: 6.95 ERA

Leaving aside the argument of my law school buddy, John, who provoked a decades-long debate one night over tempura in Harvard Square that a save was no big deal, and he could complete a save 50% of the time despite not having pitched in years, I was shocked by Valverde’s stat.

What does that stat say?  Maybe nothing about Jose Valverde – I’m going to take liberties – but a great deal about a lot of us.

I mean, how hard is it to perform well in life when life is going well?  When it’s smooth sailing, can you hang on?  Can you build on your lead?

Maybe nobody can relate, but it seems like I went months without dates in high school and college (pretty much until I got married, to be brutally honest).  And those rare times when a young lady couldn’t find anything else to do, and did stoop to go out with me?  Inevitably someone else who had previously turned me down would show up at my door with a change of heart and want to go out.

When it rains, it pours.

But what about the rest of life?

What about the times when you can’t catch a break?  When you’re pitching from behind?  Can you just hold your ground?

Sometimes the little Dutch boy is the best we can hope for – keeping your finger in the dyke until the tide heads back out.

When I was working for the Bucs, Jon Gruden kept searching for guys who were “mentally tough.”  I’m not sure that the guys always knew what he was looking for, other than they were supposed to have scowls.  My thought is that he was searching for players who could set adversity aside and press on as if it had never happened.

“…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…,” wrote Paul in Philippians 3:13.

Even as life bangs your around, and it will, keep pressing on.

By the way, after a leadoff double, Valverde escapes the non-save situation and kept the Tigers alive.

You never know.

 

*It was only 1-0 Rangers for the series, but Game One had a rain delay of more than two hours and finished long after I went to bed, so it’s fair that I thought it should count as two games.

**There’s more to it, but basically, a save situation is defined as one in which the pitcher comes into the game with a lead of three or fewer runs and finishes the game or the tying run is one base, up to bat or about to come up.  In other words, you come into the game when your team is ahead.

 

August 4, 2011

Happy New Year

Filed under: Life — Nathan @ 8:02 am

I woke up this morning and had no idea where I was.  No, it was worse than that.  I had no idea who was in the bed with me (as it turns out, it was the woman with whom I’m celebrating a 17th wedding anniversary this week, which is what we author-types call – wait for it – a happy ending).

That came on the heels of cleaning the porch last evening.  After seeing flying, stinging insects circling around (not yellow jackets or wasps – more like sleek, quick bees), I climbed, perching on a chair to spray the large, dark mud dauber-ish structure that had been built in the week we’d been on vacation, tucked away in a corner.  Up high.  Don’t see what could go wrong here.

As I sprayed, I realized that the “structure” was instead a large, dark moth as it took to wing and floated toward me.  It circled my head and torso.  Oh, not a moth.  A bat.  Sure.

All in all, I’ve been a little off my game since we returned from 75 degree mountain weather to the 95 degrees of home.  The bugs, bats and sleeping on the right side of the bed again, after a week on the left, have thrown me off.

But it’s good to be home.  And not because the vacation was anything other than outstanding.  For those who follow me on Twitter (and really, how are you reading this now if you don’t?), you know that we spent a couple of days in Atlanta, at the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola, and went to two Braves games, courtesy of our friend, Clint Hurdle.  (Since Clint, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager, was kind enough to host us, the Pirates have gone 1-7.  Sorry about that.)  Then we – my children, wife of 17 years who SLEEPS ON THE RIGHT, and parents – headed up to North Carolina for a few days.  The weather, small-town atmosphere, family bonds, watching my daughters hunt for snails and a relaxed schedule, all made for a wonderful time.

But it’s good to be home.  It all just feels…new.

A new NFL season, with so many friends (and clients) now having the uncertainty of will-there-be-a-season? behind them, replaced with the more familiar, comfortable angst of will-we-win-any-games?

A new school year.  A new dog.  Finally being settled in our home after two years of (mild) upheaval of moving and renting.

God gives us opportunities to reinvent ourselves, and as I look ahead to 95 degree days for the foreseeable future, this feels like another one of those.  And I understand full well the idea that “as man makes plans, God laughs,” but I think we are all called to push ahead, purposefully, in the direction we feel called.  Toward significance.

What do you have in store?  As for me and my family, who knows?  We should always look to the future with hope, I know, but sometimes it just feels more…obvious.  Things are at work.  It feels like a new start, even in the dog days of summer.

So I’m glad to be back.

Happy New Year!

 

June 13, 2011

Heading to Sleep

Filed under: Parenting — Nathan @ 6:42 am

Me and Jackson

I just put the dog to sleep.

I’ve slept on the couch for the last two nights to be closer to Jackson and react when he wakes, and sure enough, I was able to lay with him on his bed and pet him to sleep minutes ago.

In another nine hours or so, we’ll take him to the vet to be put to sleep.  I can’t bear to look at the clock.

That knowledge made for a hard night in our household.  Our eleven year old understood that it was her last night with him; our six-year old gathered that, but didn’t have quite all the details.  They knew that he wasn’t truly going “to sleep,” however, and their response of anguish and love was both unsettling and soothing for my wife and I.

Unsettling because of our own struggles in dealing with Jackson’s end of life issues.  He’s 15, barely.  As a springer spaniel, that’s no small feat.  As an incorrigible springer spaniel – “he’ll grow out of it,” they said. They were very wrong – living to 15 after all that he had done is unbelievable.  Two emergency surgeries to clear intestinal blockages and remove portions of his intestines, numerous emergency vet visits for eating “welcome Baby!” cigars, homemade play dough, chicken bones, an ACL reconstruction and a variety of items that I’ve found in the yard as I’ve mowed over the years – “How did that pass through?”

Soothing, because he’s been with us for every location on our marriage journey.  We’d been married eighteen months when we got him, and he’s been with us in each of our apartments, and has bounced with us as we’ve relocated from city-to-city, apartment to apartment, and house to house.  For fifteen of our sixteen years of marriage, Jackson has been beside us, eating whatever we forgot to put out of reach.  A fixture in our family’s life.

He’s also welcomed our two babies home with us.  He’s let them pull his fur as we’ve come running over to pry off those little fingers, and yet he’s slept beside cribs of those same children when they’ve been sick, repeatedly.

Jackson's 15th Birthday

As I’ve maintained, he’s not a particularly good dog, but Jack’s one of the nicest I’ve ever known.  (And the issue of the “good” comes down to poor, inconsistent parenting, without question.)

The vet didn’t think last summer that he would make it to Christmas, and sure enough, the last few months have been a struggle for him.  Another Christmas with him came and went, however, and we’re grateful.  In the process, though, it’s gotten harder with every step and new failure of a bodily function, but we’ve rolled with the punches.  Cleaning the house, sometimes daily baths for him, aren’t that big of a deal, especially when we know that our daughters are watching how we deal with the aging of a loved one.

The harder issue has been the failure of his mind.  He’s been wandering, pacing, head-butting blank walls while open doors stand inches away, growing increasingly agitated with each passing week.  I left Denver hurriedly a few months ago while we were editing “Through My Eyes,” afraid that he wouldn’t last long enough for me to return.  As always, he’s rallied somehow.  They’ve never had a patient who has stayed so physically healthy that they could watch his mind deteriorate and try different medications to address his issues.  We don’t know if that makes him lucky or not.

Ultimately, you can put us in the CS Lewis camp when it comes to animals in Heaven.  Watching her dog dying against the backdrop of a teacher who said that “animals don’t go to Heaven” was taxing on our youngest.  Our oldest got my message – “sometimes the situation calls for simply nodding even when someone is wrong” – but our youngest is struggling to resolve the conflict in authorities.  While I appreciate her solution – “my teacher is older than you and therefore she knows more” – I see me walking through it again with her: “I’m wrong a lot, but not today.”

I wish we didn’t have to decide anything, but he’s so tough, so resilient, that we do.  And at long last, we’re comfortable in knowing that his time is here.  He’s been a beloved companion and friend, and Dad’s only other boy in a house of girls.

He’s awake again as I type, trying to get to his feet, looking to pace aimlessly.  Today will be a day of eggs and pizza but no further rallies.  He’s been a great dog and had a good run, and as you hope with loved ones, will leave a void in our lives while we cherish the laughs and marvel at the stories.

And, as our eldest reminded us last night, by tonight, he’ll be healed and know where to walk, or even run.

Sometimes, as we struggle for what we tell our children to help them navigate the world, they help sort things out for us, too.  I appreciate my wife and daughters for many reasons, and their perspective is one of those.

But as the sun peeks over the horizon and through the trees, I still can’t look at the clock.

August 20, 2010

Tour Recap #5

Filed under: Book Tour — admin @ 1:53 pm

“Take a moment to think about the answer to this question: Am I prepared to have great success and not get any credit for it?

Who wrote that? I mean, really? It sounds great, but when push comes to shove…

Oh. The Mentor Leader, page 26. Well, it’s gotta be right, then.

Tuesday – the second Tuesday – of the book tour began in Orlando. I had caught back up with the group Monday night after spending the weekend with my family, and we had two book signings in the Orlando area that day: a Lifeway that morning, followed by a Family Christian Store in Ocoee that afternoon. Both went great, although I was a few minutes late for the Ocoee signing – I was having to drive myself and got gas en route. Whoops. So if you were one of the first ten people through line and only ended up with Tony’s signature, I apologize. Like you care.

Tony and the Whitaker family

We then raced off to Gainesville for our final signing of Tuesday, at the Books-a-Million near I-75. In a tour that included signings in New York, Chicago, Orlando, and Atlanta, Tyndale House had thrown in our hometowns of Jackson, MI and Gainesville as a nod to us. The one was so fun. I was interviewed by Chris Price, a longtime friend of WCJB-20, the ABC affiliate in Gainesville, and saw relatives, longtime friends, high school friends and their families, and friends of my parents and in-laws, all of whom live in Gainesville. My folks and wife flitted about, making sure that they greeted everyone they knew…DJ, my agent, later shared that it felt a little like the pride that you feel when reading the verse in which God says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, NLT) (NOTE: Look, I’m not the one drawing the parallels between myself and the Messiah. It’s my agent.)

My favorite moments of the night included quotes from a couple of the children there, including one from our home builder’s son, Beck, who kept telling people that his dad was building a house for Mr. Whitaker, and the daughter of Wayne, a high school teammate of mine, who asked, “Who is the man sitting next to Mr. Whitaker?”

Me and Gator Great Neal Anderson - isn't that a great purple and green shirt?

I also enjoyed seeing myself on the local news that night in a brief interview with Chris (“…it’s a joy to make a career out of riding Tony’s coattails…”) and I woke up, still aglow, looking forward to seeing the write-up in the next day’s Gainesville Sun. After all, I had contacted the writer, inviting him to attend and interview Tony. Since the angle was surely “Tony Dungy book tour detours to smaller city because local kid is his co-author,” I was looking forward to the coverage.

Nothing. By “nothing,” I mean, “lots about Tony and the signing, including a teaser on 1A, and a large photo – that me and my great purple and lime green shirt were cropped out of – on 1B, along with a terrific article…in which I’m not even mentioned in passing.”

But as I said in the beginning, I had to remind myself that life isn’t about who gets the credit. Ugh. Sometimes I’m tired of learning that lesson. I swallowed my pride and called the writer, thanking him for such a good article. And it really was a good article.

Wednesday morning I got up early and headed to Tampa, arriving at the signing at Lifeway for the second consecutive day…a few minutes late. I slid in next to Tony, who looked up, and through a grin, said, “My mother used to say that once is an aberration, twice is a coincidence, but three times may be a habit.”

We headed from signing to signing with a New York Times business writer, Charles Duhigg, in tow, who was watching Tony interact through the day. We signed at three places in Tampa, and while none drew crowds as big as his prior books, they were all steady and energetic.

Me, Tony and my high school baseball coach, Steve Russell

Just before the final signing concluded, we got the call: The Mentor Leader would debut at #2 on the New York Times bestsellers list of August 22, to go with a #7 ranking from Publisher’s Weekly.

We headed out to Bern’s a well-known Tampa landmark, for dinner to celebrate, both the ranking and the end of another terrific tour. Notably, Bern’s was also the site of Tony’s hiring as head coach of the Bucs, some fourteen years prior.

The next morning, we all headed our separate ways around the country, glad to rejoin our families, but sorry to see the book tour end so soon. Especially since Tony said during the tour that he didn’t foresee writing another book.

Looks like I’ll have to change his mind – for the fourth time.

August 10, 2010

Day Four Recap

Filed under: Book Tour — Nathan @ 10:43 am

I headed to bed Thursday, torn as to whether I’d enjoyed Willow Creek or ESPN more. No small feat for Willow Creek to have put themselves in that position.

I’m not sure that our day Friday didn’t pass them both.

We started out at Tyndale House Publishers, our partner for the trio of books that we’ve done. A “set,” people were calling it. Never thought of having a set before.

Tyndale House Publishers' Loading Dock

I knew that Tony would finally get a big head, even if it was on a banner.

As we pulled up to Tyndale’s headquarters, we gaped at the loading dock – a giant banner of “The Mentor Leader” hung from the roof of the building, with Tony’s head several feet tall on the banner. (I tweeted that “Tyndale House are the only ones that have given Tony a big head.” For insights as brilliantly funny as this, feel free to follow me here. Of the hundreds of millions of people on the Internet, it’s pretty impressive that I’ve got about 120 following me. Not 120 million. Just 120. Now that’s market penetration.)

Our arrival provided one of my favorite photos of the tour. Namely, little, life-size Tony hopping out of the car to take a picture of giant, banner Tony. He found it very fun to see a picture of himself that size. I assumed that if his picture was on a banner over the loading dock, then mine must be over the front door. Sadly, I forgot to even look up as we walked in, so I’m left guessing about just how big the picture is of me.

Tony spoke at a chapel service for the staff at Tyndale and they really seemed to enjoy his remarks. He shared thoughts on what a terrific partnership it has been with Tyndale – that they shared the vision of a reluctant subject (him) and a first-time co-author (me) and helped turn it into something that we think is pretty special.

We spent the rest of the morning visiting with and thanking the Tyndale team by signing copies of “The Mentor Leader” for the employees, and before we knew it, we had to dash off for Indianapolis and a book signing that evening. Sadly enough, we were so busy visiting and signing that we never had time for a full tour. I’ll have to go back to do that – and I know that Amy, my wife, is always up for a trip to Chicago.

We drove to that afternoon to Indianapolis. Note: that drive contains a great deal of corn. And wind turbines.

Friday night we signed at a Walmart in the Indianapolis area, and had a great time with the people there. The Colts fans certainly haven’t forgotten him.

Friday turned into Saturday – as it often does – but this one marked the official end of my 16th wedding anniversary on Friday. As Tony noted, it didn’t show much of a Mentor Leader work/life balance to miss my anniversary by traveling, so I headed home for the weekend to see Amy and my daughters after our morning signing at a Barnes and Noble. As they headed off to Fort Wayne, I headed back to Gainesville.

And eventually I made it, after being re-routed to Jacksonville and driving.

Nathan's Book

"The Mentor Leader" says that it doesn't matter who gets the credit (page 26). I haven't read that far yet.

While I was Florida-bound, Tony signed twice in Fort Wayne and on Sunday morning, while I was in church with my family (just trying to re-establish my work/life balance street cred), they were off to a signing in Jackson, Michigan, Tony’s hometown. Among others who attended were Tony’s Kindergarten teacher, who is now 91, and Allen Truman and his family, including Emmarie. Allen mentored Tony when they were both kids – Allen at 17, Tony at 12. As Allen tells it, he didn’t do anything special – he just took Tony to various sporting events, like high school, Michigan State and Piston basketball games, or Tigers baseball games, and just hung around with him. As Tony tells it, however, that is the point. Allen was simply there to be with a younger kid, and provide an example that made a positive impression.

As I interviewed Allen several months ago to glean his viewpoint for “The Mentor Leader,” I learned that his seventeen year old daughter, Emmarie, had undergone a three year battle with a brain tumor and then leukemia. Now in remission, I know it was special for Tony to get to see the entire Truman family. I with that I had been there, too.

Tony then headed off to the University of Michigan, where 350 people turned out to have books signed in Ann Arbor. (I was still at home in Gainesville during this time, and cringe to think of the hue and cry at the signings when people learned that only Tony was available to sign. I still feel kind of guilty, but as Westley said in The Princess Bride, “Get used to disappointment.”)

Today, they were in Atlanta while I was still being Daddy. Tony did several radio appearances, was on the local Atlanta FOX morning show, spoke at a Boys and Girls Club that was broadcast to Clubs around the country, and had two more signings while I was driving down to Orlando to wait for them. I am typing in my hotel room Monday night at 11pm, waiting for them to arrive.

We’ll pick it back up in the morning as a group – the good people of Florida can rest easy. I will be present for the remainder, Sharpie at the ready. In the meantime, “The Mentor Leader” is ranked #38 on Amazon. Early sales numbers nationwide are promising, and we will find out Wednesday where – or if – we are on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

August 7, 2010

Day Three Recap

Filed under: Book Tour — Nathan @ 12:32 am

Where are we? If it’s Friday, I must be in Chicago. Or Indiana.

As you recall, when we last left off from this mind-numbing account of what I’ve been having for lunch this week (recap: Charley’s Steakery in ATL airport, giant shrimp at Redeye Grill, and Baked Ziti at ESPN), we had just arrived in Chicago on Wednesday night.

Thursday was terrific, and not just because our host for the day was a former Duke football who has become wildly successful in life (no punch line, just the facts. Live with it.). No, even without Lance Murdoch, Thursday would have been great.

All Pro Dad

Tony speaking at the All Pro Dad event at Wheaton Acadamy

Tony was on the phone starting at 7:00 am on a variety of radio spots as we drove to the Wheaton Academy, where the school hosted an All Pro Dad event. Four hundred people were in attendance, both parents and students, and heard Tony speak on the importance of living an Uncommon life – to not be afraid to not follow the crowd. It was a great event, much to the relief of Todd Starowitz, the Tyndale PR head who coaches softball at Wheaton Academy when he’s not arranging media for our books. Tony signed a good number of books and then we headed to Willow Creek Community Church, home of the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit.

And by the way, until you hear otherwise, our Amazon sales rank ranges from the mid-20s to mid-40s. It’s hard to keep track anymore, plus my phone battery keeps dying so I’ve had to decide between checking the sales rank and tweeting pictures of myself on the tour. Me won out. It wasn’t even close.

Willow Creek was big. About 7,500 in attendance big. We were accompanied, of course, by the gracious and omnipresent Lance, who made sure that we found our way around the gigantic facility. Tony was interviewed by Craig Groeschel, the senior pastor at Livechurch.tv, a church that has a virtual presence throughout Oklahoma and a variety of locations around the nation.

The interview was fantastic, as Craig led Tony through many of the themes of “The Mentor Leader,” in depth. One of my favorite stories was of Tony speaking of Mr. Rockquemore, his junior high assistant principal. In short, Mr. Rockquemore got to know the students by spending time with them at lunch and taking them to high school basketball games, such that by the time Tony was entering his senior year and decided to quit the football team, Mr. Rockquemore had a relationship with Tony that allowed him to talk with him – even though Tony hadn’t been at the same school as Mr. Rockquemore in years. Mr. Rockquemore asked Tony a question that he’s never forgotten: “Even if you are right on principle, why would you allow someone else to dictate whether you are going to do something that you enjoy?”

Tony, of course, went back to the team, and enjoyed a career in professional football that extended over three decades. During that career, he hired a young coach named Mike Tomlin, but only coached with Mike for a year. Earlier this year, Tony’s son, Eric, was being recruited by a coach at the University of Oregon, Scott Frost, when Tony started recognizing phrases that sounded like Mike Tomlin. When asked, Scott said that he’d only played for Mike in the last year of his NFL career, but said that he’d learned so much and wished that it had been more.

Tony’s point? Although Mr. Rockquemore has died, his legacy lives on as he impacted Tony, who impacted Mike, who impacted Scott, who is now having an influence on Tony’s son.

Beyond the substance, the very fact of the interview itself was emotional for me. Four years ago, I was on staff at Van Dyke Church in Lutz, FL (think North Tampa area) where my friend Rob Rose had hired me to ostensibly oversee parts of ministry. In reality, he was saving us from bankruptcy while I followed a vision of writing a book about the leadership style of Tony Dungy. It wasn’t like it didn’t pay immediate dividends for Rob, as I began repaying him – who stunningly still has a job – by running the men’s and small group ministries into the ground, as I had no sense for ministry. In addition to helping those ministry areas to implode, one of Van Dyke’s annual events that I assisted with was the church’s serving as a satellite host for the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, as hundreds watched the summit via broadcast.

This all came back to me as I sat there, on the fourth row AT the Willow Creek Summit, watching Tony speak on leading while mentoring, and my phone vibrated. A text. From Rob. “He is doing grt.” And then later, “Congrats again proud of you.” Fun to think back on what a journey it’s been – long in some ways and overnight in others.

After Tony’s appearance, we headed out to the Borders in Schaumburg, IL for a signing. We were unsure what the crowd would be like – after all, this was Bears country. Turns out that the crowd was big and eager to see him – there are a lot more Indianapolis Colts fans in the area than we suspected. Interestingly, each and every one of them, we were told, was the only one to wear their Colts jersey on the day that the Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

And yes, the police were called. Thankfully, it wasn’t because of Tony. Rather, an elderly woman, who apparently the Borders folks recognized from other signings, showed up with a bag full of Colts memorabilia (think: second-hand market once signed). Because we were signing books only so as to keep the line moving quickly (and because I don’t get royalty checks from Colts helmet sales), she was informed that she wouldn’t be able to get the others signed. She disappeared into the line and returned, telling them that Tony told her that it was okay – that she just needed to wait. She didn’t realize that they recognized her and her gambit from earlier signings, so they requested that she leave, at which point she and her son started making a scene, shrieking that she was elderly feeble, and that they were going to call the police.

“Gladly,” said the manager, called the police, and they disappeared.

We headed back to Willow Creek, where Tony spoke to The Chicagoland Youth Football League (TCYFL), which is one of the largest independent youth football leagues in the country. Hosting over 10,000 kids, the league emphasizes character development alongside competing. Tony spoke to around 2,000 coaches and reminded them, “Can I win and lose, both, with class and dignity?”

A spectacular day, all in all. And one that was over, for the first time all tour, by 9:30.

August 5, 2010

Day Two Recap

Filed under: Book Tour — Nathan @ 12:56 am

And now Day 2 is in the books.

Tony, Nathan and Scott Van Pelt at ESPN

Tony, Nathan and Scott Van Pelt at ESPN

This entry will be much shorter, as our travel was cut to a minimum. We arrived, and we left. Our destination today? Bristol, Connecticut, the home of The Campus, as the folks who work at ESPN call it.

We departed Manhattan at 5:45 this morning and arrived in Bristol around 8, just before Jason Romano put Tony through the Full Car Wash (the concept being that after you’ve gone through it, you feel like you’ve…gone through a car wash, without the car).  It was great.

SportsCenter Live at 9:15, Mike and Mike at 9:40, Sportscenter.com interview, followed by ESPN Rise (I didn’t even realize that they had a channel for High Schoolers).  Tony really enjoyed getting to talk on issues for high schoolers.

First Take, then The Herd.  At this point I slipped off and wandered down the hall with the help of Michael Smith, one of their NFL correspondents and host of a variety of shows, who I met a couple of years ago when we were on the “Uncommon” tour.  My covert destination? To meet Nate Ravitz and Matthew Berry, the two guys who host ESPN’s fantasy baseball podcast.  As I told them, we’re in first in my longtime fantasy league despite my listening to them every day.  It was an enjoyable few minutes to put actual people behind the voices.

Then we were off to lunch, where the Dungy group ate with the Keenum group, whom we were running into all day.  Case Keenum, the terrific quarterback at the University of Houston who seems to be an even better person.  For as many copies of “The Mentor Leader” as we handed out, it seemed a shame to not give Case one, but even though I don’t qualify as a Houston Cougar booster, I didn’t want to give the NCAA a chance to act…

Jason Romano, who is a strong Christian in his own right, took us right back out into the second half of the Car Wash, including SportsCenter Live again, an ESPN.com chat (the same guy asked both Coach Dungy and Case if they preferred gas or charcoal grills…?  Weird.), ESPN Digital Media (Tony’s “5 Things that a Rookie Should Take to Training Camp*”), ESPNews, ESPN Deportes (in English, thankfully).

At this point, my day took a turn for the unfortunate, as my shoe came apart across the top.  Thankfully, we were surrounded by studios, and they came to my rescue with gaff tape, which held pretty well.  I’m going a little more casual tomorrow with my backup pair, not by design.

SportsNation was next, which was very fun.  Only about 8 of us in the audience, making noise – most of which was provided by a couple of “professional hecklers” that ESPN brings in for the show.  They’re not actually pros, but very vocal staffers who just keep yelling during the show.

Then came my two favorite moments:  The Scott Van Pelt show, who was very clear each time he discussed the book, “The Mentor Leader, by Tony Dungy, WRITTEN WITH NATHAN WHITAKER.”  I thanked him afterward and he said, “Tony Dungy is just the best guy.  I can’t wait to read the new one, because I just loved ‘Uncommon.’”  Very cool.

And then, NFL Live, hosted by the aforementioned Michael Smith. Michael arrived early to meet with me to discuss the book, but instead ended up in a long production meeting going over a different concept for their piece with Tony.  They ended up deciding to bring in Merrill Hoge, who is mentoring Ben Rothlisberger right now, and have him discuss that process with Tony and Michael.  Unfortunately I missed the piece, as I was off in the wings, discussing fantasy football strategy with Tim Hasselbeck.  I’ll have to catch the replay on the web.

Finally, Tony taped a piece with Jay Harris for tomorrow night’s evening SportsCenter.  Jay, like everyone else I met, was terrifically gracious.

Our trip to Hartford’s airport was a little more exciting that it needed to be, as we had a little mix-up on the transportation from the studio to the airport.  I was able to draw on my NFL experience as the Assistant to the Traveling Secretary and help out – hopefully I’ve now earned some of my keep.

And in the airport, we ran into Tony’s old teammate from the University of Minnesota, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. How fun.  Tony reminded me that Winfield was drafted in three professional sports (baseball, basketball and football) despite only playing two in college (baseball and basketball).  What I didn’t realize was that Tony and other teammates were trying to convince Dave to pursue professional basketball, not baseball, because he’d have a longer career.  Dave chose baseball, of course, and played for 22 years and was a 12-time All-Star.

And if you were doubting the power of an ESPN Full Car Wash, we awoke to an Amazon sales ranking of 76, and I’m headed to bed tonight with it at 27 (it hit 22 as we were leaving Bristol).

We’re in Chicago tonight, where we get to sleep in.  We don’t have to leave our hotel in the morning until…6:45.  As for me, I only had 3 caffeinated drinks today, down from 8 yesterday. Either I was more careful, or simply more distracted by ESPN (oh, and even Tony was stopping to take pictures of areas of ESPN’s “Campus.”  We all did – it was like an amusement park for grown-ups).

*Any guesses as to #1? An Alarm Clock.  He said that when he arrived in Pittsburgh as a player, Coach Noll gave them the schedule and said that there wouldn’t be any wake-up calls.  They were adults and could decide how much time they needed to be on time.

August 4, 2010

Day One Recap

Filed under: Book Tour — admin @ 12:35 pm

The Mentor LeaderThe end of day 1 is in sight. We’re driving back from Ridgewood, NJ, into the City. Tony’s still got several interviews to come: a taping with Sean Hannity to air Friday, a live television bit with Greta van Susteren, and then radio with Alan Colmes (and frankly, I don’t know if his is live – I just know that it’s late).

It all started yesterday, when I flew from Gainesville to New York. Actually, if I’d flown to New York, it would have been fine. Instead, I was headed into Newark, and unlike New York cabs, turns out the New Jersey fleet isn’t totally into credit cards. Next thing I know, I’m in a small deli in Manhattan, running in to get cash from an ATM while my suitcase sits in a cab outside at the curb. Hopefully.

Other that that, it was a quiet pre-release day. I met with HarperCollins about an upcoming project and then wandered around the City, having dinner alone at Ted’s Montana Café. Then to bed in my room – the 45th floor of the Marriott Marquis, with an eye-level view of the New Year’s Eve ball to the south, and if I lean against the wall at the window, I can see the Statue of Liberty in the distance, down Broadway. (“Mentor Leader” sales rank on Amazon.com: 3,121)

Very cool.

At 8:30 we were headed off in a black Escalade with our driver, Anthony, our same driver from the “Uncommon” tour. Hopefully the logistics of this tour go as well as that one. There are four of us accompanying Tony on this tour – his posse – DJ Snell, our literary agent, Todd Starowitz, Tyndale’s public relations person, and Jessica Quinn, the publicist. And me. As posses go, poor Tony is saddled with the lamest ever. (Amazon sales rank: 2,183)

A few minutes later were were at “Morning Joe,” where Tony was interviewed by Willie Geist, Luke Russert, and Alex, a business writer for the New York Times. We’re particularly pleased with this lineup, as it’s slightly different from our prior ones and we’re hoping that “Mentor Leader” gets positioned in the business market. A really good interview.

A few minutes later, we were in another section of Rockefeller Center – quite an underground labyrinth, The Rock, and were prepping for The Today Show. We were a little disappointed, because his segment had been bumped the night before to the 9:40 slot, which has a lower viewing population. As it was, we almost didn’t make it at all. We were hanging out in the green room – I was on my third cup of coffee and Tony his second water, since he doesn’t drink coffee – when a producer grabbed our group. And then we were running back through the labirynth to the set for Today.

Seconds to spare, and then Tony was on with Al Roker, who did a nice job. (Our sales rank started to rise, even in this time slot: 1077)

We then headed over to Fox, where Tony taped a show with Mike Huckabee – to air Monday, we’re told. Also on the set: a Real Housewives of New York. That was a first.

Tony then did a number of radio interviews, including one with Steve Inskeep of NPR, set to air later this week. (Our rank kept climbing, despite the fact that a number of these appearances were being taped: 131)

Lunch was at the Redeye Grill, where we ate some of the largest shrimp that I’ve ever seen. I almost ordered the Shrimp Burger until the waiter told me that it was “adequate.”

Refreshed to watch more interviews, I tagged along for the rest of the day: Fox Business Channel, NFL Network at the NFL Office on Park Avenue, and that book signing in Ridgewood, NJ.

Anyway, the signing went well. Steady, for about an hour and a half. A number of Colts fans, a couple of Bucs fans, and a lot of Tony fans.

We headed back where the three remaining interviews all took unique turns from everything that Tony had done today. Sean Hannity, which will air Friday night, went through the 7 Es of Mentor Leadership – the first one today. My dad played a big role in helping me come up with the 7 Es – having that be on Hannity will be a big thrill for him, I’m sure.

Alan Colmes is so great to Tony. Asked a bunch of questions about faith (and also talked about the 7 Es) but brought groans from his staff when he asked Tony about Brett Fay-ver. Apparently he’s not a big sports fan and they try to coach him up before each of Tony’s appearances…oh, well. We still thought it was a terrific interview.

Finally, Greta van Susteren, who always does great interviews with Tony, she asked him about Allen Truman. Allen grew up in Jackson, Michigan, and for some reason when he was about 17 took a 12 year-old boy under his wing. He took him to Tigers games and Michigan and Michigan State games, and took him to play basketball. For whatever reason, Allen decided to mentor Tony Dungy.

Allen doesn’t know why he did it, and to this day, he doesn’t think he did anything special. But that’s one of the points of The Mentor Leader: it doesn’t take anything heroic, just a desire to intentionally build into someone else’s life…for their good.

Before bed I spoke with Michael Smith of ESPN about his interview of Tony tomorrow on NFL Live. He was driving from Boston to Bristol, CT, to do Tony’s interview – he and I are planning to talk in the morning about the book and the interview.

It’s midnight, and we’re supposed to roll out, checked out, at 5:45am. Good night.

Oh, and we’re at #100.

August 3, 2010

Posts from the Book Tour

Filed under: Book Tour — Nathan @ 5:11 pm

I’ve hit the road with Tony Dungy promoting our new book, The Mentor Leader. Grab the book here, and be sure to stay tuned through the blog and Twitter. A lot of exciting things are happening! – Nathan