Posts Archived From: 'October 2009'

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Making Room for More Chapters

I love to read, but I always thought that the dream [to write a book] was too far away. The person who had written the book was a god. It wasn’t a person.
Rita Dove, poet

In this past week alone two of my friends have landed new jobs, and a third announced she’s preparing for pending motherhood. Given the exciting news that’s happening all around me, I decided the time was right to share a bit of good news of my own.

Hi Wendy,

We’ve received your manuscript. It is headed to the editor. It will probably be a few weeks before you hear anything.

Hooray for you!

– Cindy

The rumblings you may have heard are true: I’m writing a book! My collection of nonfiction essays is slated to be published this spring. The history of my first book is much too lengthy to recount today, but the stories behind my stories will come soon.

Writing a book has been a distant goal of mine for several years. When trying my hand at writing fiction — and loathing the difficult style while doing it — I quickly assumed all was lost.

Not so, however. A few months ago I found myself smack dab at the intersection of preparation and opportunity.

Which brings me to today, and to this good news! I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

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Write Now: Never Forget You’re Irish

Never Forget You’re Irish | By Chantel Crockett


After his first arrest, when he established himself as a hellraiser, someone christened him Red Dog. This had as much to do with his wiry auburn hair as it did with his legendary temper.


He’s always had large hands – from birth, I imagine – a trait he was passed from his father. Calloused and scarred, they are now used to tinker in his garage instead of for the bar fights he pursued for reasons he couldn’t even define.


Now a bit softer and worn down, his build was once as tight and strong as a piece of leather. He was always defensive – perhaps in part to growing up with red hair and glasses, as a result of blindness in his left eye, or the later taunts of “Sally” because of his shoulder-length hair.


His mother often told him, “Never forget you’re Irish, Jimmy,” and he remembered this, first in Italian neighborhoods in St. Louis, and later on in Detroit. His four older brothers would stage neighborhood boxing matches, pitting little Jimmy against Ricky Magretta or Tommy Caniglia, fights he continued for years.


After Red Dog graduated from high school and many of his friends were stolen off to Vietnam, he was deemed 4-F – unfit to serve — by the U.S. government. He didn’t last long at the pipefitting plant his father managed, so he turned his hands to carpentry.


The friends who remained were drifters, and those who returned from Vietnam came back angry and damaged, acting out in the only way poor boys from Detroit knew how. Most of them wore their hair long, as Red Dog did, and split their time between neighborhood bars. When they got kicked out of one for fighting, they went down the street to the next.


After several arrests for fighting or reckless driving in his new black-topped GTO, local police began paying attention to Red Dog. He and his buddies needled one officer in particular – a guy who was also defensive, with something to prove. Red Dog and his closest friend, Webster, baited him whenever they crossed paths.


When Webster was killed, run off the road in his little red MG by the officer’s patrol car, Red Dog and his pregnant 16-year-old girlfriend decided two things. They would marry before the baby arrived and they would name the child — the only boy out of four children – after his dead friend.


Just six years older than his wife, Red Dog only slowed down after his second child was born. Everyone said something changed when he had a daughter.


I grew up hearing his stories, sometimes as warnings and other times to boast. When I became a teenager, those stories served as a threat to boys who had nerve enough to approach Red Dog’s daughter.


I remember reading “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” when I was in junior high and having his image float into my head whenever I read a scene with McMurphy. I imagined that was how Red Dog was when he was younger – wild and aggressive, but oddly balanced with a sense of fairness.


When I was a teenager, I was constantly impatient with him. Car trips took much longer than expected, as he had to stop for anyone with car troubles on the side of the road. He gave away his winter hats and gloves to drifters who hung around his job site. The men he gave jobs to – sometimes from work-release programs or Labor Ready – made me nervous and repulsed, and I didn’t understand why he bothered with them.


My mother, his 16-year-old girlfriend who became his wife of many years, loved to crow, “You’re so much like your father,” a statement that sometimes made me uncomfortable with all it implied.


His fighting rarely appeared in later years, only when needed to protect his family. When an incoherent man grabbed me on the street one night while walking with my father and brother, he was thrown to the ground before I even registered what happened.


The name Red Dog isn’t used much anymore, as many of his buddies are dead and he has long earned other titles. He worries about his grandson, a strawberry blond with glasses and a mouth bigger than his build, so he teaches him how to protect himself. He holds up his hands, which show more about his life than anything else, and says, “Give ‘em a punch! I may be old, but you can’t hurt steel.”


About Chantel Crockett
After trying out the East Coast for a few years, Chantel Crockett, a born Midwesterner, found her way back to Nebraska. She now lends her background in writing and communication to instructing and advising students in the College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. When she’s not skateboarding, bike riding or breakdancing with her 10-year-old son, she spends her time working on her thesis and filling her house with books and thrift-store curiosities. Say hello at


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Learn more about the Write Now project and how you can submit works for publication.


A Little of This, A Little of That

I spend an inordinate amount of time surfing and skipping about the World Wide Web. Quite often — almost to the point of compulsion, to be honest — I post cool links and unique stories to my Facebook and Twitter pages. I consider these slick interfaces public bulletin boards for all the world to harvest and enjoy.

But why should my fellow social media whores have all the fun?

Here are links to amusing content I’ve recently collected.

Have fun!

Bad Banana on Twitter
PC World ranked this Lincoln, Nebraska-based copywriter the second-funniest person on Twitter today. Take that, Colbert.

There’s no question that real flowers are a delight to send and even more enjoyable to receive. But they’re expensive. And they eventually die. Why not send flowers that last forever?

The Ministry of Type
It’s a blog designed to feed the cocaine-like addiction we have to typography. Plus, it’s based in the UK so you know it just has to be cool.

Twitter Patterns
There’s absolutely no reason for your Twitter background to exclusively use the default designs. Fancy it up and enjoy.

I know, I know. Design*Sponge is nothing new. Yet the calming and colorful photographs and ideas offer me just the right amount of delusion to think I could actually be crafty someday. Here’s hoping.

Bored to Death
I love HBO. I love writing. I love reading. I love Zach Galifianakis. I love Jason Schwartzman, and his mole. And because of this, I’m (starting) to love Sunday nights.

Food Network Humor on Twitter
Become a fan if only for this recent tweet: “Gourmet [magazine] is closed yet Sandra Lee is in a kitchen somewhere putting Cool Whip on a pot roast. What the hell is going on?”

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
The cover art alone was enough for me to purchase her new memoir. Her hilarious approach to tragedy, along with her stories about being married to Paul Simon, kept me turning the pages. I also learned that, according to George Lucas, underwear does not exist in space. Who knew?

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Creativity and Heartbeats

Way back in 2003 I was a relentless freelance writer, penning lengthy feature profiles I couldn’t be prouder of for the now-defunct Medium Magazine. My paths crossed with a number of local creative individuals, one of the most memorable being Omaha artist Rodger Gerberding.

A quote from my delightful two-hour interview, which found its way into my article, has stuck with me for the past six years. Here Rodger discusses his reaction when encountering work by other artists. I anticipate Rodger’s insight will stay with me for quite some time, and I hope it does the same for you.

The artist and person Gerberding is today also doesn’t allow unwarranted criticism to continually surface. He says he understands and sometimes connects with the person behind the work, regardless of his opinion: “It’s very difficult for me to criticize, in a very outright way, anybody’s work. I tend to look for what beauty is in it, what it says about the person who did it. That’s something I’ve come to fairly recently. You have to consider the hand and heart that’s behind it.”

Upcoming Project Interfaith Events

I recently joined the Communications Committee for Omaha’s Project Interfaith. Founded by Beth Katz, the organization strives to unite people and groups of different faiths, beliefs and backgrounds through collaborative communication. I hope you’ll consider attending these events.

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“Beyond Fundamentalisms: Theirs and Ours” A Community Conversation with Dr. Martin Marty, Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago

Sunday, October 4, 2009, 7:00 pm
Countryside Community Church (8787 Pacific Street)
Pre-registration strongly suggested.
Register online at
Held in partnership with Countryside Community Church and the Omaha Presbyterian Seminary Foundation

Religious Diversity and Public Service: A Training and Professional Development for National Service Members and Non-Profit Leaders
Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 7:30 am- 3:00 pm
OPS Teacher Administrative Center Building (3215 Cuming Street)
Pre-registration is required.
Register online at
Held in partnership with ServeNebraska, the Nebraska Volunteer Service Commission

Religious Diversity Issues in Health Care Community Roundtable
Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 3:30- 4:30 pm
Conference Room at the Center for Health Policy and Ethics (2616 Burt Street)
Directions and details at
Roundtable hosted and moderated by the Center for Health Policy and Ethics at Creighton University

Religious Diversity Issues in Professional Care Giving: A Training for Professional Care Givers, Medical Personnel and Social Service Providers in Facilities and In-Home Care
Tuesday, November 17, 2009, 7:45 am- 4:00 pm
5 CEUs available
Location TBA
Pre-registration is required. To register email or call (402) 933-4647.
Held in partnership with the Respite Resource Center of Nebraska and the Creighton Health Sciences Library

Interfaith Youth Service Project
January 2010- February 2010
Service Sites: Together, Inc. and Neighbors United

“Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations in the 21st Century”
A Community Conversation with Dr. John Esposito, Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University

Thursday, February 23, 2010, 7:00 pm
Location: TBA
Held in partnership with the Islamic Center of Omaha

Christian-Hindu Study Circle
March 2010
Hindu Temple (13010 Arbor Street)
Held in partnership with the Hindu Temple

Interfaith Architecture Tour

March 2010
Sites to be announced
Held in partnership with the American Institute of Architects (AIA)- Omaha Chapter

Community Conversations with Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School
“Jesus, the Jewish Story Teller” A Community Conversation
Thursday, April 22, 2010, 7:00 pm
First-Plymouth Congregational Church (2000 “D” Street, Lincoln, NE)
Held in partnership with First-Plymouth Congregational Church

“I’m not Anti-Jewish…Am I? Avoiding Anti-Jewish Preaching and Teaching” A Luncheon Workshop for Christian Educators and Clergy
Friday, April 23, 2010, 11:30 am
First-Plymouth Congregational Church (2000 “D” Street, Lincoln, NE)
Held in partnership with First-Plymouth Congregational Church

ProjectInterfaith grows understanding, respect and relationships among people of all faiths and beliefs. For more information on our programs and resources, visit our blog at

Call for Submissions: What is home?

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

– John Howard Payne, actor

A few weeks ago while zipping northbound on 72nd Street here in Omaha, my ears perked up as I heard “Studio 360” host Kurt Andersen preview a series of stories about The Wizard of Oz. The pieces focused on a variety of angles surrounding the 1939 film, but what caught my attention was brief and rather moving commentary about the concept of home. What is home? Where does it reside? Does the idea of home change as we age?

For the next installment of Write Now essays, I invite you to submit works that answer the question: What is home? Please send your submissions via email to

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Write Now: Somber

Somber | By Courtney Allison Brown


This essay was written on the eighth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


It’s a somber day in New York City today. The streets, busses and subways are always a little quieter on this date every year. I was still four years off from moving to NYC when it happened, still in college in Atlanta, Georgia, but I can still remember where I was and what I was doing on September 11, 2001. I doubt anyone living in the United States ever will forget. You didn’t have to be a New Yorker to be affected by the events that occurred that day.


My personal experience was as follows: My mother called me crying – I remember that distinctly – I was still in bed because I didn’t have classes until 1 p.m. I was very confused at first, because she just kept repeating, “They’re falling… the buildings are falling…”.


I ran into the living room and turned on the television and every news station had coverage of the tragedy unfolding between NYC, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. I sat there mesmerized in shock and awe that this was really happening. After a few hours, I remember receiving a phone call telling me classes were cancelled and that there was a high security alert for Atlanta, since it’s a major city. I just remember thinking about New York City, a city that I was incredibly familiar with, having been born on Long Island and my family all being from the NYC area and having spent a lot of time there, was in such turmoil I couldn’t even fully grasp what was happening. I remember being incredibly scared and just sitting on my couch watching the news until the wee hours of the morning.


I do live in NYC now, as I have for four years, and every year I listen to the sad sighs and murmurs that happen on September 10 from my co-workers (most of which are born and bred New Yorkers who experienced the attacks first hand): “Oh, tomorrow is the 11th,” which is usually followed by some sort of one line personal recollection, such as “I smoked an entire pack of cigarettes while I watched those buildings fall.” With a slow shake of their head, they try and dismiss the image, which I have no doubt will be a fixture in their mind on this date for the rest of their life.


Not only are the subways, streets and busses quieter, but they’re emptier as well. There are still a lot of people who attend memorial services for this date. There is the city one as well as individual community ones. One man that I work with mentioned that every year he goes to the memorial that his community holds for the victims from his neighborhood (I believe two firefighters that perished in the attacks are from there) and he was telling me how much it saddens him that each year that goes by, the number of people who attend get smaller and smaller.


It seems as though the memory is still strong, but people are choosing to grieve or remember in their own ways these days. It’s an elephant in the room; every year the date is remembered by people across the United States, but it’s becoming less and less spoken of and publicly remembered.


Personally, I don’t really speak much of it, but it will always cross my mind when the date September 11 is mentioned. The sadness of this date will always resonate with me, especially while I reside in this great city.  It’s amazing that such a big city can be so overwhelmed by sadness. This city, so filled with life, just feels so incredibly sad on this date. To me it is a reminder to tell my loved ones how much I love them one extra time today because you never know what might happen.


About Courtney Allison Brown
Courtney Allison Brown is a graphic designer and post-production producer who also enjoys writing, reading and being artsy crafty. She met her handsome husband in college at the sweet age of 22, moved to Brooklyn, New York, at
the age of 25, and got married last year at the age of 28. She’s interested in learning how to simplify her life, enjoy herself and experience new things. She contemplates going back to college for a graduate degree at least eight times a year. This concludes her bio, which really doesn’t capture her personality, but does state a lot of facts about her. To learn more about Courtney, send her an email to


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Learn more about the Write Now project and how you can submit works for publication.


Write Now: Boxed In

Boxed In | By Michael Campbell


If I tried to roll dough into a rectangle, I wouldn’t be able to do it.


I had my heart set on making pizza last night, but discovered I didn’t have any yeast. So I saved time by buying one of those dough-in-a-tube things. I cracked open the tube and unrolled the yellow dough. It was the shape of a cookie sheet.


I don’t know if that shape is supposed to be convenient for me or for them, but I didn’t want a rectangle. If God wanted pizza to be rectangular, he would have shaped Italy like Wyoming. I associate rectangular pizza with Roy’s Pizza in my old home town. Roy’s Pizza was made with boiled hamburger.


So I wadded the dough into a ball, mushed it, then stretched and pulled it out into a…rectangle? Try again.


I wadded it up again and whacked it with my rolling pin, then rolled it out again.




No matter what I did, the dough would return to its original dimensions, as if it had a genetic memory, as if the shape were a Pillsbury trademark.


Any other time I’d be proud to be able to roll a sphere of dough into perfect corners. It ought to be impossible, but here I was, so good at it I couldn’t stop doing it. Now it was personal. I didn’t want no skanky Roy-ass rectangle pizza.


Laura touched my shoulder as gently as if it were a mousetrap and whispered, “Michael, relax. Deep breath. Count to ten. Cooking is fun.”


It is only the second time in my life that I have actually counted to ten. The other time was also in the kitchen.


I whacked, kneaded, wheedled, stretched and rolled to a draw. It was certainly not a circle, and one might see hints of a parallelogram, but the finished shape was mostly amoebic. Laura thought it looked like a slug. But definitely not a rectangle.


The overworked crust turned out as light and flaky as slap leather. It tasted rectangular.


This morning I lifted my head from my rectangular pillow, rose from my rectangular bed, shuffled out of my rectangular bedroom and saw my rectangular morning hair in my rectangular bathroom mirror. I had eaten a rectangle, and now I felt like The Fly.


As I write this I notice that, although my Macintosh computer screen is distinctly rectangular, the computer itself is shaped exactly like a ball of dough.


About Michael Campbell
Michael Campbell is a regular humor columnist for
Food & Spirits Magazine, where his “Dumpster” essays close every issue. This year he’s publishing Are You Going To Eat That?, a collection of humorous essays. For fifteen years he has written for nationally-distributed entertainment newsletters Coffee Break and Facts of Life, and his off-beat observations have appeared in various issues of Reader’s Digest. His weekly humor blog, MC, reaches thousands of readers. Campbell is also an avid singer/songwriter with three CDs of original music. He founded Mick’s Music & Bar, a nationally-known venue dedicated to hosting songwriters both famous and under-the-radar.


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Learn more about the Write Now project and how you can submit works for publication.


Sin City – Less Sin, More Shopping

Tiffany & Co., originally uploaded by wendytownley.

My Labor Day getaway took me to the Loews Lake Las Vegas resort in Henderson, Nevada. My sister, Katie, and I spent more time shopping and swimming than gambling, although I blew a buck on the penny slots inside Caesars Palace.

Click over to Flickr to view the rest of my Vegas vacation photos. And remember: What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace forever.

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Big Omaha and Social Media Marketing

This past summer I took Computer-Mediated Communication as part of my graduate program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Part of the course required a project focused on Computer-Mediated Communication. After attending Big Omaha earlier this year, I quickly developed my class project: Big Omaha and social media marketing.

The Big Omaha organizers, who also publish Silicon Prairie News, were kind enough to post the link to my project, as well as a video interview with yours truly.

The feedback thus far has been wonderful! Let’s keep the social media marketing conversation going.

As far as Big Omaha 2010, the dates have been set: May 13-15. See you there!

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