Uncorking a Story

It’s not every day that I get to talk to someone as interesting and, dare I say, enlightened as author Dustin Lawson. I’m excited to announce that today was one of those days!

Throughout high school and college, Dustin worked as a lion and tiger trainer at a big cat reservation in Ohio and dreamt of becoming the next Jungle Jack Hannah. Fun fact, one of the animals he cared for wound up at Carole Baskin’s big cat sanctuary down in Florida (I hope she didn’t feed her late husband to it).

Just as Abe Froman was the sausage king of Chicago, it’s quite possible that Dustin may have become the Tiger King of Ohio if his pastor hadn’t encouraged him to find his calling outside the world of lions and tigers. Thankfully, he did and after college Dustin spent a year traveling the world as the personal assistant to an author. During his travels, the writing process was demystified, and Dustin found his true calling as a writer. Though I’m getting ahead of myself; an important part of this author’s story is his time in the military or, more accurately, the time he spent trying to get into the military. As a cancer survivor, the military rejected him 13 times over the span of five years before giving him the green light to serve. I joked with him that this experience with rejection was a great warm-up to becoming an author, as rejection definitely comes with the territory.

I’m glad he persevered as a writer because his latest book, The Firing of Dr. Democracy, could be just what our country needs right now. The book introduces us to the fictional character Dr. Democracy, who was created by our founding fathers. Fired by a democracy he helped keep alive for more than two centuries, now unemployed and homeless, Doctor Democracy takes a group of cynical teenagers in town on their senior trip on a midnight tour of Washington D.C. to try and convince them to rise to political power and rehire him so he can help keep democracy from dying of its addiction to partisanship and propaganda.

My conversation with Dustin not only covers his path to becoming the author of nine books, but what he shares in common with the late Sam Kinison, how a crisis of faith led to a major career change, and how he came to meet the late Senator John McCain. We also discuss enlightenment principles, how the rise of cable news, extreme partisanship, and social media threaten those principles, and what the vaccine to these threats might be.

Happy listening!

Direct download: The_Dustin_Lawson_Interview.m4a
Category:Authors -- posted at: 1:12pm EDT

Matt Haig is a British author for children and adults. His memoir Reasons to Stay Alive was a number one bestseller, staying in the British top ten for 46 weeks. His children's book, A Boy Called Christmas, was a runaway hit in his own country and has been translated in over 25 languages. His latest novel, The Midnight Library, will be released in the United States on September 29, 2020.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Matt not only about this forthcoming release but also about his path to becoming a published author. Most authors will tell you that getting published isn’t an easy thing to do and Matt would certainly concur. However, he also was able to accomplish something extraordinary— publish work across multiple genres including non-fiction, adult fiction, and children’s fiction. If nothing else, the publishing industry loves to put authors into nice and neat boxes, but Matt Haig cannot be placed in a box—and readers should celebrate that.

Our conversation takes some interesting twists and turns as we discuss mental health and how fiction writing is cathartic, especially to writers who have experienced anxiety and depression. We also dig into how overcoming obstacles can bring about the confidence to do things one never thought possible. I love the words of advice Matt ends on in our conversation which center around the importance of acceptance and appreciating oneself and to not pretend to be anyone else while writing.

Happy listening!

Direct download: The_Matt_Haig_Interview.m4a
Category:Authors -- posted at: 3:20pm EDT

Dan Hill is the author of eight books including Famous Faces Decoded: A Guidebook for Reading OthersTwo Cheers for Democracy: How Emotions Drive Leadership Style; and First Blush: People's Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art

His specialty is analyzing the power of emotions to shape outcomes and personalities. Dan pioneered the use of facial coding in business and has done research for over 50% of the world’s top 100 B2C companies. Media highlights include appearances on ABC’s Good Morning, America and NBC’s The Today Show, plus front-page coverage in The New York Times.

Listen in as I speak with Dan about how he went from being a guy with a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and Ph.D. in English to being recognized as a pioneer of facial coding in the market research industry.

Dan’s blog Faces of the Week can be found at https://emotionswizard.com.

Direct download: The_Dan_Hill_Interview.mp3
Category:Authors -- posted at: 5:14pm EDT

Pat Oates is a comedian, author, podcaster and comedy advice writer. He has been performing stand-up comedy for over 12 years and has appeared on TLC's Extreme Cheapskates, E's Talk Soup, and The Anthony Cumia Show with Dave Landau.

In this interview, Pat discusses how he got into comedy, why he turned an advice column into a book for other comics to learn from, and his other passion—professional wrestling. One of the standout quotes from this conversation is as follows, “I don’t know everything and I don’t know most things. I have to be open to everything and not afraid to ask questions. Always question yourself and don’t be afraid to fail.”

It’s a humbling message that I’ve heard from successful people in other fields—this idea of being open to learning new things and being open to failure. It’s often what separates people who are okay at what they do and people who are truly great at it, and Pat is a GREAT comic.

Pat eats, sleeps and breathes comedy and that passion comes through in his act, his podcasts and his writing. Get a copy of his book from Amazon.com. Any comics who are looking for feedback on their sets or highlight reel can reach out to Pat by email at patoatescomedy@gmail.com.

Happy listening!

Direct download: Pat_Oates_Interview.mp3
Category:Comedians -- posted at: 4:19pm EDT

All I had to do was love them.

That observation pretty much sums up Diane O’Connell’s perspective on how she was able to bond with so many kids who passed through the halls of Stamford/Trinity Catholic High School.

In this interview you will hear about how walking into the main office as a parent, wearing nothing but a bathing suit and cover up (and apparently some pearls), led to Diane landing her dream job as the school’s main office secretary.  You will learn that she’s got some serious pull when it comes to finding parking during a key UCONN basketball game and why Thanksgiving is the first of many “happiest days of the year” for her.

Lastly, you will hear some words of reassurance directed towards the class of 2020 from the heart and soul of Catholic High.

This episode of Uncorking a Story is brought to you by Mike Carlon’s novel Motel California, which can be purchased at Amazon.com or wherever books are sold online. Enjoy the show.

Direct download: Diane_Oconnell_Interview.m4a
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00pm EDT

Over the past few years, I’ve used the Uncorking a Story platform to highlight the work of authors, comedians, and entrepreneurs. I’ve become increasingly interested in uncorking the stories of people who are doing inspiring work in their local communities and that brings me to this current episode featuring Dawn Carpenter of The We Project, a non-profit organization that helps feed, clothe, and mentor needy people in Northern New Jersey.

This past summer, I interviewed Dawn’s husband Derrick for my “day job” as a focus group moderator/user experience researcher. While asking him some warm-up questions to build rapport, I learned that Derrick and his wife run a food rescue organization in Northern New Jersey and he briefly shared with me that the organization was inspired from a tragedy. I wanted to dig into this a little more, but I wasn’t being paid by my client to uncover a human interest story and had to begin asking a series of questions on his use of voice activated mobile assistants.

After our session ended, though, I asked Derrick if I could recontact him to learn more about The We Project and he put me in touch with his wife Dawn, who recently shared her story with me. It is a powerful one that underscores three lessons I’ve learned while doing this podcast.

  1. Something beautiful can arise from something tragic. You will understand what this means when you hear the story of Dawn’s brother, one of the driving forces behind The We Project.
  2. The importance of asking for help. Dawn states very clearly that if you don’t let people know what your needs are, they will never be met. This one really hit home for me, as you will learn in my introduction to this episode.
  3. The importance of putting thoughts into action. A lot of people can dream up ideas, but the ability to put them into action is what separates doers from dreamers. Dawn and her husband Derrick are definitely doers, and I hope you are as inspired by their story as I am.

To learn more about The We Project, visit https://www.facebook.com/wearetheweproject/. Feel free to email Dawn at wearetheweproject@gmail.com or give her a call on (201) 456-8908.

Direct download: Dawn_Carpenter_Interview.m4a
Category:Inspiring Stories -- posted at: 4:38pm EDT