Friday, March 28, 2014

What I Want To Do With the Rest of My Life…And the Great Stuff That’s Happened So Far

Editor mode engaged! (Photo credit: Stephanie Schaefer)

“Did you just discover the meaning of your life?”

This question was poised to me by a Writer’s Bone contributor on Friday. This was in response to me saying, “I think I'm here to find cool writers and give them confidence so they can find their voices.”

I majored in modesty at St. John’s University.

But I wasn’t kidding. There’s nothing I love more than editing and working with young writers to get the best out of them. It took me a long time to find my voice and I feel like I have some worthwhile advice to offer the next generation of up-and-comers. I just didn’t have a venue to do it in before recently.

I’ve spent the last couple months building a sound foundation for a podcast with my fantastic partner Sean Tuohy. We got into it to talk about the things we had in common and discuss our approaches to the writing craft—to be huge writer nerds essentially. We thought it would be smart to start a blog along with it to drive traffic to the podcast and give us a place to write about anything we found interesting.

Our earlier posts included our best moments as writers, calling well-known writers assholes in a complimentary way, favorite moments from "The West Wing," and reminiscing about how Nelson DeMille popped our cherries by having Dirk Pitt shoot a guy’s dick off. Sean and I could have kept on that track—and our posts in large part have stayed true to those themes—but our shtick on the blog might have grown to be overkill when combined with our podcast.

Plus, I’ve had this desire to build a website that featured all the creative types I’ve come in contact with over the years. Some of them were still in the writing game, but I know more than a few that were hesitant or scared to write more than just a weekly grocery list. I was also lucky enough to meet a bunch of young writers when I moved to Boston that inspired me to send Sean this email:

“You said something great last night that's been in my head for a little bit. You said something like, "I hate hearing the word no as a writer." I emailed a writer friend earlier that day telling him we want to make Writer's Bone a place where writers don't have to hear the word no. They can let their freak flag fly so to speak. That should be our mission statement. Writers tired of restrictions, limits, and censorship will always have a home with us.”

We both worked full-time, so really it was no brainer to look for content that we didn’t have to think about creating. But it meant more than that to us. I think both of us have struggled at times to accept being a writer and here was a chance for us to ease the suffering of others. Author Rebecca Cantrell, one of our favorite early interviews, also inspired us:

“Writers must suffer for their art. Every time I hear that it drives me crazy. If writing isn’t fun, why do it? I have lots of fun writing and so do most other writers I know. It doesn’t have to be about suffering.” 

The future Mrs. Hardball Heart and Sean’s girlfriend started contributing in the beginning and we started collecting thoughts and essays from a wide range of young writers. My girlfriend made a good point early on that we shouldn’t say they were working for us. Every writer essentially has to write for himself or herself, so she made me realize we were writing with each other. We’ve had that mentality ever since.

When we published an essay by a guy I work with ay my day job, I put a $1 bill on his desk and said, “Thanks!” He picked up the dollar, looked at it, and pinned it to his bulletin board. “That’s the first time I’ve ever been published anywhere!” He said. “Thank you!” It was one of the proudest moments of my professional career.

Someone asked me once what I would do if I was handed the keys to an established website and social media following. My answer remains the same. I would blow my brains out from boredom. I’m meant to build things and experiment, not toe the line and not screw up someone else’s brainchild. I’m meant to do what I’m doing with Writer’s Bone.

Now, the best part of my day—other than those moments when I’m in the presence of my spectacular future wife—has become when one of our contributors emails or texts me and says, “Hey, I have this idea…”

I’m bringing all this up because one of those young writers wrote a post (which you can read here) about how she moved on after her laptop and jump drive were stolen—two things that held all of her digital archives. That got me thinking about my own archives and how I’ve made an effort the last couple of years to document mine on this blog.

Below are a few things I found at my parent’s house in Connecticut a couple weeks ago that I want to live in perpetuity in some form or another. After you’re done here, I encourage you to head over to and check out our writers who are absolutely killing it right now.

I’m awfully proud of all of them.

Friday Night Archives

The rough draft of my seventh grade autobiography. My handwriting has not improved (click to enlarge). 

I had an illustrator at one point. This is my favorite cover he produced. It also happens to be the only one I still have. 

This might have been the first time I was ever published. The poem that Teen Ink ran was one I wrote for one of my high school band director’s who was semi-retiring. 

Speaking of poetry, check out the above article that was published in my local newspaper that includes a quote from yours truly. Hey, if you're going to be quoted about your weepy high school poetry, you better make sure it's a good one. 

A short story I started in high school. I'll be revisiting this in a future post.

Teen Ink also sponsored one of the awards I received in high school! That should say “badass writer” by the way. They sadly never got around to fixing that typo.  

More proof I actually played baseball. That’s not me sliding into home plate or the catcher about to make the tag. I’m mentioned at the very end of the article for winning the league’s most improved player award. 

My only other acting gig following my performance in The Wizard of Oz was as a cab driver in a play called “Funny Money.” I got to fire a fake gun (which didn’t work the second night)! 

What the local paper had to say about me. 

My friend Paul’s top hat was the best thing that ever happened to a lot of lives. The locals only caught a fraction of its majesty. My mom and I are photobombing in the middle.  

Some local ink about my high school graduation speech. I wasn’t a dramatic quote at all…(click to enlarge)

The beginning of my internship with the Sanford Mainers. 

See, I have other skills! 

I wrote out the last chapter of my novel Sid Sanford LIVES! One of the best writing decisions I ever made.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Baseball Bloodlines: Frenchville, Maine's Dewey School Reunion

“Stop touching me,” I said.

“Did you just tell me to stop touching you?” My father said.


“Geez, someone is grumpy.”

The sun hadn’t come up. I was sleeping on the couch while my girlfriend slept soundly in the room I occupied during my high school years. He went back to carrying on a conversation with Whitey the Cat and I turned over my pillow eager to sneak in another half hour of sleep.

Moments later, a pair of arms wrapped around me. My mother squeezed tightly and then started to tickle me. I couldn’t do anything but take it.

“I’ve got to get this in now,” she said. “I can’t do this in front of your girrrrrrrrlfriend.”

“Sure you can,” I muttered.

Like many of the Oscar nominees this year, I play for #teammommasboy.

“Wake up, I have to show you something.”

One of my eyes opened. It still wasn’t light outside. My mother took care of that problem by turning on a light right next to my sleepy face.

A white book with “Dewey School Reunion” and “Frenchville, Maine” in heavy black typeface landed in my hands. My mother explained that it was a yearbook for the school’s reunion in 1999 and it featured a good number of Blanchettes.

Dewey School Reunion Yearbook Cover

“Cool,” I said.

Family history is never a bad thing to wake up to.

“You need to do your thing and scan them,” she said. “I’ll mark the pages. What time is it? Shit, I need to get ready!”

It was ten minutes to 7 a.m.

After watching my nephew Jack score a goal during his hockey games, I came home to find bookmarks throughout the reunion book. I started scanning them like a good son and, like always, reveled in the old photos of Uncle Jimmy, Uncle Roland, Tante Peewee, Artheline, and others.

Here are some of my favorites from this batch of family photos:

Church in Frenchville, Maine

Artheline Blanchette (on right)

House in Frenchville, Maine 

Ivan Blanchette

Left to right: Jimmy Blanchette and Bert Albert

Main Street, Frenchville, Maine

Ligouri Blanchette and Sophie Roy

That sound you hear is my Tante Pee Wee coming to murder me.
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Sunday, March 2, 2014

7 Happy Poems to Welcome Spring


I don’t care what the thermometer says. I don’t care how much snow is in the forecast. There is baseball being played somewhere.

I’m declaring spring!

And is there a better way to celebrate spring than reading some high school poetry? I think not. Poetry in general can be kind of morose, grim, and down right depressing. That’s not what we need right now.

We need happy, inspiring poetry that makes us think warmer and better days are ahead. And guess what? They are.

Here Comes the Sun
While I love The Beatles version of this song, I may love this live version performed by Richie Havens. I’ve been playing this song frequently since his death in 2013, so it was an easy decision to make on which one would be the soundtrack to this blog post.

Havens sings with an earnestness and hopefulness that is infectious. Here’s hoping it gets the warmer sun here a little faster.

little one
for Elizabeth

Elizabeth and I at S'onk Patrick's wedding

Summer winds brought
you into this big world, little one,
and you became our big angel.

You quickly captured big hearts,
dazzling with your big wondering eyes
and big open mouth smiles.

You were an instant big celebrity,
the center of the big stage, just like mommy,
even though you looked like your big daddy.

Six months into your little stay,
you face a big fight, little one,
more than just a big tummy ache.

It’s too soon, I know,
but you have to be a big girl now,
little one.

Your big friends and big s’onks
are saying big prayers,
so fear not little one, you’re not alone.

You have big life to live
and big love to give, little one;
this big world needs your big dreams and big hopes.

Winter winds are not here to stay,
but your big smiles and big laughs are, little one,
so weather the big storm and we’ll keep you safe and sound.

Saturday Morning With Dad

Raking the backyard with Pops
Back and forth does the rusty blade sway,
sweeping the rest of
the tall grass away.

The mower strays behind me,
with good ol’ Dad,
who wants to do nothing more
than run and flee.

We trudge silently along
with the sound of
the mower and the blade
as our only song.

Our muscles begin to fade
and we pause to
stare out on
what has become the Everglades.

After a stout cough
and a little chat,
we bravely set up our plan of attack
to finish it off.  


Did you drink my milk????

The milk is gone… 
because of me.

The milk you were to pour
on your strawberry covered cereal.

At one point or another,
someone was bound to drink it.

To be totally honest,
I’m not sorry it was me!

An Angel on the Bridge

The angel protecting the next generation
She waits with angelic patience
upon her arched wooden perch,
high above the harmful waters below.

All who proceed along the protected bridge
are helped along by her selfless, caring wings
and her watchful, caring eyes of sapphire.

She diligently prays each day and night
 for her dark-haired prince to come
give her peace of mind and fill her heart with joy.

Her countenance brightens as he appears,
making his way unto her safe haven.
Before her answers are fulfilled at last,
he slips upon the slippery planks
and tumbles towards the menacing waters.

Without a thought of hesitation,
she extends her affectionate wings
and catches his falling form.
She smiles as she lifts him back unto her bridge,
guiding him to her patient heart.

Take Hold of My Heart
Written for Judy and Michael on their wedding day January 13th, 2001 

Judy and Michael
From strangers from distant lands
to lovers not so far away,
a new and special love has been brought to life.

The beginning found them faceless on
opposite ends of a computer screen,
seeing each other only in daydreams.

Time wore on and soon friendship grew to love
and those daydream images became realities
as each braved the skies and marveled at the worlds they found.

He came from a world that
had shrugged off the bitter cold of separation,
bringing pieces of a fallen wall and a flag of black, red, and gold.

She came to him from a world
that was filled with power and might,
bringing a flag of red, white, and blue with her love.

Together they braved the dangers of disapproval
and together they conquered the scare of
losing her heart to the indifferent beings of fate.

Today, with a ring and tender kiss
she takes hold of his heart as he takes hold of hers
and a higher power leads them into bliss,
where they’ll stay now and forever more.

Family Man

Pops and I at the Alamo
He looks his best in early morning light,
trying to rub his eye’s awake, barely able to walk straight,
preparing to work all day surrounded by unknown faces.

His shirts come home with stains galore from his toil,
that are added to should mom be making spaghetti
and his eyes look more tired than in that morning light.

He still manages to smile proudly,
now surrounded by those who love him most,
even the dog who isn’t the same when he’s away.

His arms are sore beyond belief from years of labor,
but yet he never declines an invitation to roughhouse,
even when mom tells him to stop before he gets hurt.

He’s always good for a conversation,
even when he has no idea what you’re talking about,
and is always good for a laugh, even if it’s at his own expense.

He waits up patiently late into the night,
so that his son can sweet-talk his girl
and can’t help dropping a line or two of his own, just to show off.

He asks nothing in return for anything he does,
except a kiss from mom and tons of hugs from his boys
and falls asleep easy each night, despite the aches and pains,
knowing that his family loves him just as much as he loves them.

The Mouser
Written with Momma Ford and Patrick 

Since I don't have a picture on me of the cat in this poem, here's one of my favorite tree in Madison Square Park!
The little mouser rocks to and fro,
keeping her distance, along with her patience…
waiting…..waiting….till the time is right…..

Her tail proudly swayed,
her keen eyes looked for praise and a friendly pat,
as she displayed her catch the day.

Her best views came from the
roof top of master’s domain,
where she watched the cautious movements of her timid prey.
After a sun bath and a little nap,
the bathroom window was her entrance to warmth
and a tired hrmph from master.
She raced him to bed where she slept and
had knitted her way into his heart.

Heavy scratches upon her front door scratching post
announced to all her appetite was back.
Her demands were quickly met,
not before the battle of who’s turn it was.
As quickly as it came, her appetite left her system
and with just two bites of the same ol’ chicken,
away she went to dig her face in a half- eaten ice cream cup.

She choose her quarters carefully at night’s end.
The cool cellar, upon that broken old work bench
in days of summer heat.
A window sill on a rainy spring day,
or the warmth of a car hood on a lonely winter day.
Of course, master’s bed was comfy on any occasion.
Wherever she lied her head to rest,
the little mouser clenched her eyes tightly,
let go a content purr
and feel fast asleep.

When you’re done snapping your fingers, check out: