Grumpy Inspiration for Writers? Novelty King Archie McPhee Amazes Again!

Try holding a cursor still as you're guffawing. Well done, Archie McPhee!

Try holding a cursor still as you’re guffawing. Well done, Archie McPhee!

What inspires me?

The merry pranksters at Archie McPhee rank high on my list each year.

They take silly seriously. Their mail-order catalog gets recited in our house each holiday season. (I’m too clumsy to march from room to room with a laptop as I gawk at their website.)

This is awesome copywriting, people!

Consider the “Grump Notebooks.” Allow me to quote these Washingtonian wordsmiths:


It seems like most products are aimed at people with a sunny disposition, so we thought we’d make a set of notebooks for those that think the world might be a bit darker than most. This is a set of three 48 page, 5-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ notebooks labelled Daily Disappointments, Fresh Rants and Things That Annoy Me. Each has a kraft cover with a pocket in the back to hold extra complaints. These are perfect for keeping notes of bad reviews, remembering what you’re mad about and making lists of things you’re dreading. Pulling one of these out is a serious statement to everyone around you!”

If such a zany present wouldn’t cure writer’s block, I don’t know what would.

Don’t think that these novelty masters are just hawking their wacky wares. I just stumbled upon Archie McPhee’s Endless Geyser of Awesome. This is a true blog of wonder.

They have visionary fun-stuff, plus awesome customer service. If the holidays stress you out, seek McPhee.

Crowdfunding Case Study: Collaborate With Author Tom Morkes

CollaborateTomMorkesHow does crowd-funding for books work?

Do you have an idea for a title? Could you do it alone?

Here’s an idea: get involved.

Learn by doing. Be a part of Collaborate: The New Rules for Launching a Business Online, by Tom Morkes. Get involved NOW. Watch this creative seed grow. In fact, you can be the support that brings this book idea into full bloom. His funding goal is within reach, less than a week after launching his latest project.

You’ve got to love the transparency involved with Tom’s mission. The author, an Iraq War veteran, knows something about missions. His whole military career was collaboration.

Tom’s track record as a creative keeps amazing, too. Check out his inspirational blog. I’ve been part of “The Resistance” since his early days, happy to share news of some of his first endeavors.

Collaborate? This is a worthy topic deserving a good book from a good author. That’s Tom Morkes.


Stop Thinking Like A Freelancer: Liam Veitch Unlocks Creative Formula

LiamVetchCheck this out:

“F**k freelancing”, I said.

It was 11 p.m. on a gloomy Saturday in February 2009, and the final ‘no’ in a series of four negative responses flashed into my inbox. This was prospective client work I’d pegged my hopes on winning. I was officially done as a freelance designer.”

– Liam Veitch, Stop Thinking Like A Freelancer: The Evolution of a $1M Web Designer

I just got my copy today. It’s GOOD. And no, I won’t share. Get your own, please.


Kindle-folk, it’s free for five days only on

What makes this debut author unique?

1. He’s human.

2. He’s honest.

3. He’s revealing a creative secret. Too many writers say, “I want to create, too. How?”

Stop trying to match the genre. Be contrary. Liam tried doing what he thought everyone else did. Then, he thought better.

Come in the back door. Or the window. It doesn’t matter how you get there. Just arrive!



Travel Storytelling: Going Beyond ‘Wish You Were Here’

GreetingsfromCalifornia (1)Soon, the world will be gathering for Thanksgiving and that other little holiday.

There’s the chance to share summer adventures with friends and relatives you haven’t seen.

You know that tired postcard greeting everyone writes? “Wish you were here.”

Make them where you were.

Tell them how it felt. Let them be you.

Too often, people just checklist their travels. Or, they recite what the brochure told them.

So, you didn’t bring them a T-shirt. Sometimes, the best souvenir is a story.

Creative Writing Exercise: A 2014 World Series What-If, or ‘Run, Alex, Run!’

One of my favorite sites is There's a super collection of authentic autographs, too!

One of my favorite sites is There’s a super collection of authentic autographs, too!

Instant replay is everywhere.

We love what WAS.

Writer’s block sufferers need to ask what IF.

My wife Diana Star Helmer showed the power of possibility with the question during game seven of the 2014 World Series.

Two out. Bottom of the ninth. Kansas City’s Alex Gordon singles. The ball gets past the outfielder. Gordon gets to third.

“What if he hadn’t stopped?” Diana asked.

“But the base coach…” I began.

“What if he ignored the third base coach?”

I paused. “He may have been out at home.”

“In a blaze of glory!” Diana noted. “What would the crowd have sounded like then?”

I nodded.

“Or, what if he tied the score?”

Try it. WHAT IF works wonders.



Writing Wisdom Life Lessons From Departed Friend Barb Scafferi

Have a great day !!!!

Have a great day !!!!

That was the last Facebook post ever made from our friend Barb Scafferi, who passed away Sunday.

How old was she? How did she leave us?

The “how they died” is for the ordinary. I’ll stick to how she lived. Barb was extraordinary!

For years, published in the equivalent of an alternative newsweekly, she wrote a blog before the format was invented. She captured Marshalltown (Iowa) history through lively reporting and by encouraging others to share their memories. Readers would write (or call) Barb. She’d weave all the tidbits into a lively tapestry. Barb understood that feelings mattered. She wasn’t writing a term paper, but more of a love letter to bygone beloved places and events.

Best of all, everyone who’d contribute a sentence would feel like a vital co-star in her latest column. This grateful lady would make sure even the smallest assistance was saluted.

When she re-retired to Northern Iowa, Barb surprised again. She made Facebook her own. Wielding an iPad and endless daily joy, she’d commentate on what made her happy — and why. From Dancing With the Stars to awards shows, Non-computery Barb would offer live “as it happens” posts with her reactions.

Here are three lessons I learned from Barb. Writers (and anyone else) would benefit.

1. Say WHY. On Facebook, she could top off any post with a single “fun!” or “beautiful!!!” When she was praising someone’s creation or achievement, she’d add how it made her feel.

2. Say ‘WHY NOT?’ Barb produced stories. She was always adding a thought to the mix. She knew that quantity is quality. Fearful prisoners of perfection who are never ready could be inspired by Barb’s willingness to share.

3. Say it NOW. She didn’t wait. She wanted to connect. She wanted to uplift. She made the most of what she had in the time she had. Conquering an iPad and Facebook at her age?

I said a Muhammad Ali quote today:

“Impossible isn’t a fact. It’s an opinion.”

I saw one champ’s face and heard another’s voice.

Thank you, Barb. Well done, good friend.