2018 Future Now Signup!

Media & Entertainment Conference!


Here’s the deal – Peggy Kim has just let me know that the 2018 Future Now Media & Entertainment Conference is accepting applications! You definitely want to be a part of the most exciting and practical media conference of the year. I sent a few students last year and they all came back raving about what a fantastic conference it was – and about how many influential leaders they were able to meet and share ideas with. People like Louis Mitchell, Creative Director of Character Design for Sesame Workshop. Louis is not only a consummate professional, but he is one of the most delightful artists on the planet.

Here’s what the conference is about:

FUTURE NOW is the first conference of its kind, dedicated exclusively to bringing together leaders on the forefront of the industry and top college and graduate students to engage, interact, and innovate! The conference will be held May 31 – June 1, 2018. Location TBD.

Day 1 will be a full conference day with an impressive line up of speakers from media companies like HBO, ESPN, BET, AccuWeather and many more; multiple networking opportunities throughout the day; and great food and fun.

Day 2 will be a half day of media tours at various companies, where students will experience different work environments, studios, and perhaps, even see a live broadcast.

Our goal is to LEAD, INFLUENCE and IMPACT society and culture by helping to raise up FUTURE LEADERS in the MEDIA INDUSTRY. This is a tremendous opportunity for students to learn, connect and be better prepared and positioned to pursue their careers upon graduation.

Check out Peggy’s iStandTV website for even more exciting news about her life work.

Are you in media? Do you want the best resource I know of for making important, career-enhancing connections? Then you will find your answer at the 2018 Future Now Media & Entertainment Conference.

Sign up now before all the spots are taken!

Deadline for entry is April 15, 2018!

Waking Up Slowly (Again)

A Gentle Reminder

This comes by way of reminder. A few weeks ago I reviewed Dave’s new book, Waking Up Slowly.

You know how some books, you read and forget in between the last word and the final period? Waking Up Slowly sticks with youIt will kick start your day like a Chai Tea Latte with a shot of dopamine.

It’s that time of year — you’re feeling a little ragged, a tad draggy — wondering what in the world you’re going to do with the kids when they are home ALL SUMMER LONG, and camp isn’t an option this year.

Pick up Waking Up Slowly, and sip it — maybe a chapter a day. It will last you well into the summer and make you feel like it’s an April morning in (fill in your favorite town, state, country, or planet).

Parable of Little Knife

For Rodney with thanks to Bill Brewer

My dad kept an old whetstone wheel down at his shop on the ranch. It had belonged to my grandfather — Mom’s dad, Lawley Reagan. it looked a lot like the one pictured above. Dad used it to sharpen axes and hatchets and knives before it fell apart sometime in the late fifties. The grit was coarse, but Dad could put a fine edge on just about any tool.

I attended a memorial service on Saturday for a great woman — Cortina Orr. Her radiant joy lightened many a dark day for a host of disciples and friends. Her memorial was held on one of those bright and sunny days typical of north Texas in early May. The cloud of her passing dissipated in the shining hope of resurrection and reunion.

Still, she’s gone for now, and that hurts. So, as I was sitting there listening to one of the finest memorial addresses I’ve ever heard (thanks Bill Brewer), and considering how painful it must be for her husband and my dear friend, Rodney, and for her grown children Ariel and Bradley, this little parable came to mind.

Once upon a time there was a little carving knife, fresh from the forge and eager to be pressed into service. He came from a long line of carvers, with specialty bowl gouges and planes in his lineage — and, of course, a few whittlers from the poor side of town. Together his family had made bowls, and spinning tops, and even some fine furniture. But he was proudest of the nativity sets, carved in fine detail by his father and grandfather. The edge on his father’s blade could shave the whiskers off an olivewood Joseph, and shape wonder in the eyes of a pinewood shepherd on the night of Jesus’s birth.

The little carving knife wanted to be fitted with a rosewood handle immediately, and to get to work on a great piece of art.

His father looked down at him and smiled, though his joy was tempered with the knowledge of what must come first.

“Son,” he said, “you have great dreams, but you have no edge. The master carver can’t use you until you submit to the whetstone wheel.”

The little fellow swallowed hard. He was hoping to avoid the pain of sharpening, but he knew he would remain dull and useless without it.

So he submitted to the hand of the master carver, and he held him against the spinning wheel at just the right angle. Sparks flew! Small bits of dull metal were ground away, and the little carving knife didn’t know if he would be able to stand the pain. Occasionally, the master mercifully added a bit of water to the wheel so the little carving knife wouldn’t overheat and break under the strain.

Finally, it was over. The master carver fitted the little carving knife with a beautiful rosewood handle that his father had carved just for him.

The pain of sharpening had rendered him ready for service — with the knowledge that an occasional light sharpening would be necessary to maintain his keen edge.

We love you, Rodney. The Master Carver has held you to the whetstone recently in Cortina’s passing. He’s giving you a fine edge indeed, my friend.

And by His grace, He will continue to use you to shape lives as you have shaped mine.


Connecting the Dots: Part 4

5 W's and an H

Last time out we considered the five senses as unique elements or “pearls” on strings that spread out from our nucleus word, “Heaven.” As we dove into the sense end of the pool we immersed our imaginations in images — what does heaven look like, sound like, taste like, feel like, smell like?

Now we are ready to round out our clustering exercise with six more pearls that will enhance and help add unity to the clustering process. As you consider each of these pearls, you will discover what Gabrielle Rico calls a “trial web shift” in her excellent book, Writing the Natural Way. A pattern will begin to emerge from your cluster as you consider these new elements because they are the building blocks of narrative.

So, take up your pencil and add these five new pearls: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and the inimitable How. It should look something like this:


Who — When you ask “who” of the nucleus word, “heaven,” you can come up with a LOT of answers. Think of how you want to frame the question more specifically: “If heaven were a “who” then who would it be?”; “Who will I meet in heaven?”; “Who definitely won’t be in heaven?”; Who(m) do I most look forward to seeing again in heaven?” See? There are lots of ways to cast the “who” question. Same goes for each of the other pearls!

What —  “What is heaven like?”; “What will be there?”: “What will we do in heaven for all eternity?”

When —  “When will I go to heaven?”; “When as a time construct — do we experience time in heaven, and if so, how will it pass?”; “Is eternity just a really long time/when?”; “Was there ever a time when heaven wasn’t?”

Where — “Where is heaven?”; “Where is heaven not?”; “Is heaven a real place, like earth or is it somehow more real than my senses can comprehend this side of eternity?”

Why — “Why is heaven there in the first place?”; “Why should God let me into heaven?”; “Why would I be kept out of heaven?”

How — “How did heaven come to be?”; “How do we get to heaven?”; “How do we travel around in heaven?”; “How will we look, sound, smell” — uh-oh, we’re slipping back into the senses!

Once you have had a chance to explore even a few of the questions that will spring from these new pearls, you will find a story taking shape.

Here’s (most of) a finished cluster by one of my current Creative Writing students, Jonathan Campoverde (used with permission):


And here’s the brief piece that flowed from his cluster: the lead question which lead to his nucleus word was, “What am I?” FYI, DYH stands for “Directing Your Hand” and is a part of every writing exercise. See if you can trace themes from his cluster through his writing exercise. Remember, you don’t have to try to shove every element/pearl into your finished piece. You’re looking for patterns.


Jon is one of our outstanding students here at DTS, and I can’t even claim him as an official Media Arts student. He’s in New Testament! I’m just saying — art abounds here at DTS!

That’s it for clustering. I hope you find it helpful and maybe a little stretching!

Keep writing!


Connecting the Dots: Part 3

Using the 5 Senses to Overcome Writer's Block

Last week we explored Line, Color, Texture, and Mass as elements of clustering that will help us think of our nucleus word (heaven) in new and different ways.

This week we want to focus on the five senses: See, Hear, Taste, Touch, Smell. There’s going to be a bit of overlap between what your right brain generates here and the pearls it generated when you spun out Line, Color, Texture, and Mass last week. That’s Okay — in fact, it’s good! But resist the temptation to make too many connections between the overlapping “pearls” at this point. Each string needs to be pure, and for now, considered by itself.

Let’s stick with our nucleus word of “heaven.” I’m going to add a new string to my already-existing cluster. The pearl at the end of that string is going to have the word, “See.” Here’s what it will look like with your five new “pearls” in place:


See — 83% of everything you learn in your life you learn by seeing. Ask yourself, “what does heaven look like? When I think of heaven, what do I see?” Try to isolate the other senses and just focus on a vision of heaven.

Hear —  11% you learn by hearing. If heaven were reduced to a sound, what would that sound be? Would it be a sound from nature, a musical instrument, a machine? Try to pretend that the other senses do not exist and all you have available to you is the sense of hearing.

Smell — 3.5%. This one is fun! If all of the other senses were nonfunctional, what would the aroma of heaven be to you? Explore different categories. It could be a food, a flower, a perfume. Anything that has a scent.

Touch — 1.5%. Wow! We only learn 1.5% of all that we know through the sense of touch. That’s not to say touch is unimportant, only that it doesn’t account for much in terms of our being able to interpret and learn from our environment (remember the illustration of the two blind men and the elephant, one feeling it’s trunk and the other it’s tail, and coming up with radically different “interpretations” of what an elephant is). Of course “Touch” will overlap with “Texture” from our last exercise. That’s okay. If you could write reach out and touch heaven right now, what would it feel like?

Taste — 1%. We don’t learn much through taste. 99% of all that you know will NOT come via your taste buds. Still, it’s fascinating to think about what heaven might taste like, especially if all of the other senses are muted.


Spend a few minutes exploring each of the five senses. Again, isolate each sense. Pretend that the other senses are nonfunctional.

You are creating quite a string of “pearls.” Each one could constitute a nucleus all on its own! You might come up with a striking simile related to just one of the senses. The ultimate goal here is not to try to shoehorn in all of the senses to any given writing project, but to open you up to the possibilities contained in the senses as we explore them discreetly, and then in combination with one another.

Happy clustering!

Connecting the Dots: Part 2

Clustering using Line, Color, Texture, and Mass

Heaven? Nope, Just Down at The Ranch with Evan


Last week we explored the essentials of clustering as taught by Dr. Rico in, Writing the Natural Way.

This week I want to expand on the basic idea of clustering to include some new elements for your consideration. This is pretty much a right brain exercise, and, as such, it will require you to keep your left brain in timeout for a bit longer.

The four elements that we want to add to the initial cluster are these: 1) line, 2) color, 3) texture, 4) mass.

Each of these should begin a new string emanating from the nucleus word at the center of the cluster.

Here’s how it works: draw four lines out from the nucleus word. We will call each one of these extended lines a string. Each element on the string is a “pearl.”

Now draw a circle at the end of the first line/string, and inside that circle write the word, “line.” That’s the first pearl on that string. Then draw a three more circles at the ends of each of the other strings and write the words, “color,” “texture,” and “mass” in each one.

Here’s a graphic that illustrates what it should look like using “Heaven” as a nucleus word:


Each new element will engender a host of other ideas — song fragments, pictures, quotes from old movies, and other sensate images. Here’s how these new elements of line, color, texture, and mass influence your writing.

Line — the shape of the drawn line suggests several things. “Heaven’s” line suggests to me an upward, slingshot movement. My writing is going to reflect, at least in part, this kinetic, ascending kind of structure and language.

Color — every person who can sense color brings baggage to the table when it comes to relating color to abstract concepts such as “heaven,” We may have been influenced by songs or biblical narratives that mention “streets of gold.” We may have seen paintings that depict heaven as golden-hued. But I may explore other colors, like the “cobalt blue” suggested in my cluster above. I bring a wagonload of positive associations to my vision of heaven as cobalt blue. This isn’t to say that you have to make everything (or anything) blue, or gold in your piece. But thinking of heaven in terms of gold, or blue or (fill in the blank with your color), will influence your word choice — simply because specific colors mean so much to each of us.

Texture — to me “heaven” makes me think of golden burnished leather. That image in itself is so rich. It has color, and an aroma as well as the texture of supple leather, which I love. The more multi-sensory the image, the better.

Mass — “heaven” to me is as light as a small child. Evan in my arms is, I think, a foretaste of the mass, the weight, of heaven.

Line, color, texture, mass —four doors that will open onto worlds of connections. Push into specificity. Refuse to be satisfied with a generic “pearl.” Try your best to make each string end with something tangible.

Then, look for those unexpected connections!

And write!

Connecting the Dots: Part 1

Clustering as a Way Out of Writer's Block


I grew up on a ranch, miles away from any city illumination that would bleach out the starlight. The Milky Way stretched out like a cloud beyond the local shimmerings of blood-red Mars and his legions. Even as a child, I felt incredibly small.

And lost.

My dad helped. He pointed out patterns in the stars—constellations. Learning to recognize Orion and the Great Bear, and  to connect those pictures with the stories that leant them “a local habitation” helped me organize the galaxy. Simply connecting the dots — learning to recognize patterns in the stars gave me a sense of control. Order (albeit artificial and imposed) displaced an uneasy feeling of chaos. That’s what I found in the constellations — clusters of meaning.

Sometimes when you’re writing, you feel like the ideas are out there, but they are remote, as distant as the stars, and you can’t grasp them. They splay across your imagination scattered, unfocused, and unconnected — an arbitrary spray of thoughts like glitter spilled onto black velvet. You feel confused, frustrated at your inability to lock something down, to discern a pattern in the confusion. That blank page/computer screen is a wall that no battering ram of words can crack. The wall has a name: writer’s block.


Gabrielle Rico offers a solution to writer’s block that I have been using for years. Her approach, contained in her classic Writing the Natural Way, is called clustering.

“A non-linear brainstorming process, clustering makes the Design mind’s interior, invisible associations visible on a page. Clustering becomes a self-organizing process as words and phrases are spilled onto the page around a center. The Sign mind begins to see pattern and meaning, and the writing flows naturally into a vignette.”

The first word (Rico calls it the nucleus) is the ideational big bang that creates a creative event horizon for the galaxy of ideas that will spring from it. As you look at the simple clusters on Rico’s website, consider expanding yours to include snippets from songs, quotes from movies, a half-remembered stanza from a childhood poem. The key to the initial phase of effective clustering is variety — allowing your non-linear “right brain” free rein.

Get ready — the words, the images that will proceed from the nucleus idea refuse to march in tight left-brain ranks. They are not orderly, at least not in a conventional sense. Instead, they erupt from their confining stall like a bucking bronco, untamed, wild. Trust this impulsive burst. Don’t inhibit, don’t bridle, don’t edit.

Just ride, and hold on.

Be forewarned, as you cluster your left-brain logical side is going to resist: “Quit goofing around — you’re wasting time. This is stupid. And dangerous. And it doesn’t make sense!” But that’s to be expected because your right brain is speaking a language that is foreign to your left brain. It’s the language of unbridled creativity.

So, put your left brain in time out. We will invite him back later.

For the moment, it’s time to play.



Whither Ethics?

A Primer on Where to Look These Days...


Old man Aristotle had it right. He claimed there are just three basic principles to keep in mind when imbibing the latest draught from the political or entertainment well. Depending on where you dig, you may wind up with fresh water or foul. Best practices and common sense require that you test the water before swallowing.

First of all, know the fellow (or gal) who told you to dig. Is he trustworthy? After all, you are counting on his advice to help you find truth. He wants you to buy what he’s selling, believe in his message, and elect him to office. This is called ethos and it goes right to the fellow’s character.   A man who is ethical is a man who has integrity. He may be incorrect – he may, in all sincerity believe he is a rutabaga – but at the very least you can trust him to give you his version of the truth. He may try to persuade you, but he won’t try to manipulate you. He will give you the truth as he sees it. But that’s as far as ethos will carry you. I don’t want to elect a man who believes he is related to one of the three food groups, no matter how deep his convictions.

That’s why we need principle #2: logos. Logos has to do with the logic of the salesman’s argument. Does it make sense that you should dig your well here? Do you have a seismic survey that indicates there is water down there? In short, is the argument reasonable?

Now we come to the tricky member of this rhetorical trinity: pathos. Pathos appeals to emotion. Of course pathos can be abused. The unethical director can spin an emotional tale that will corkscrew his audience into an emotional pretzel – to swallow his message based on an emotional appeal that is a lie. In a pure appeal to pathos, Leni Riefenstahl paraded ethos in a swastika. In a kind of rhetorical final solution, she crowded logos into a cattle car with the rest of the Jews and made it disappear.

In a pure appeal to pathos reason is reduced to how I feel.

On the other hand, the legitimate use of pathos inspires the reader or viewer or listener to passionate conviction and ultimate action based on the integrity of the speaker (ethos), the logic of his argument (logos) and – here comes pathos – the degree to which the person receiving the message identifies emotionally with the story/message that is true.

There is an inner sense that the emotion of the story is being revealed and not concocted. And that we are being invited to participate intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally in a truth claim. There is a resonance based on a moral premise that rings true and is consistent with natural law (read Stanley Williams’s The Moral Premise).

Ethos. Logos. Pathos. Jesus invites us to come and drink from His well (see John 4). He is trustworthy because he is “the way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6). He is the divine Logos (John 1:1), the one who perfectly, reasonably reveals the way of eternal life. He is the one who inspires absolute allegiance of intellect, heart, and will.

If you’d looking for ethics these days, you need look no further than Jesus.


A Farewell Letter to Garrison Keillor

A Native Son Comes Home to Lake Wobegon - where "sort of the truth" is truth enough

Garrison Keillor

Dear Garrison,

I heard you are retiring today, and I had to write. I started listening to you by accident sometime back in the late 80’s. A buddy of mine named Jim Hoover had told me about this storyteller on National Public Radio. His name was Garrison Keillor, Jim said, and he loved to talk about his hometown of Lake Wobegon tucked away somewhere in central Minnesota.

I was traveling back from a preaching assignment as I recall, and I stumbled upon your show, A Prairie Home Companion, on our local NPR station. You were just launching into your weekly story with the now famous line, “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my home town.”

The first thing I noticed was your voice! I don’t think I’ve ever heard, to this day, a more relaxed delivery. I mean, mister, you could talk the tension out of a twelve-string. On my maiden voyage with the program I had no knowledge of Lake Wobegon. The story that day was about the death of Buddy Holly in February, 1959. You and the members of your High School band, The Pharaohs of Rhythm, had traveled the roughly 3 1/2 hours down to Clear Lake, Iowa to pay your respects at the crash site. You guys saw the wrecked plane out in the field where it crashed, and piled out of the car to stand along a fence row for a better look.

You, heeding nature’s call, went over into some nearby trees to relieve yourself. You looked out through the trees and saw something sticking out of the snow—it was the neck of Buddy Holly’s guitar! To your credit, you resisted the temptation to snatch it, and rejoined your own buddies who were deep into conversation with some teenage girls who had come out to see what was to be seen. You and the Pharaohs of Rhythm played Buddy Holly music all the way back to Lake Wobegon—and I was hooked! What a story!

I retold the story to Lauren as soon as I got home. The next day I went into work and told Jim that Lauren and I had decided that we were going to visit Lake Wobegon that next summer. No matter what it took, I was going to find it and go into the Sidetrack Tap for a coke. Jim smiled, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Reg, it isn’t real. It’s all make-believe.”

I’m a storyteller, Garrison. I know a make-believe story when I hear it. I respect Jim Hoover. He’s a good man. But I think he got this one wrong. I read an interview with you in National Geographic. In it you said, “People want stories to be true.” I’ve decided that yours are. They don’t have to be factual to be real.

The best stories—and yours are among the very best—are true in ways that stretch beyond the particulars of latitude and longitude. I find your stories in my own small town of Oakville, Texas. Your stories are in the small towns that populate our collective nostalgia, where all the women are strong, all the men are good lookin’, and all the children are above average. Thanks for a great ride, Garrison! And by the way, I’m loving your new collection of poetry, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound. Thanks for signing it with “All the best!”

I wish you the same.

P.S. Be looking for us. Lauren and I will be coming for a visit there in Lake Wobegon one of these days— pretty sure we’ll pass through Mayberry along the way.

Happy Birthday, Ms. Sayers and Mr. Yeats!

Celebrating the Gift of Creativity in Two Very Different Artists

The following blog was to be submitted yesterday, June 13, but a lightning storm interrupted the posting.

Dorothy Sayers

Dorothy Sayers

The great Symbolist poet William Butler Yeats (b. June 13, 1865) was 28 years old to the day when Dorothy Sayers (b. June 13, 1893) was born at the Head Master’s House, Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Though they both discovered their talents for writing at a young age, the their lives stood in stark contrast to one another.

Sayers, the daughter of  a chaplain of Christ Church and headmaster of the Choir School, won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford. There she studied modern languages and medieval literature, finishing with first-class honors in 1915. Since women were denied degrees in 1915, she had to wait until 1920 when she became one of the first women to receive her MA from Oxford. In one of her most influential theological books, The Mind of the Maker, she explored the analogy between a human creator and the doctrine of the Trinity (more tri-theism in Sayers than orthodox Trinitarianism) in creation. Her human “trinity” consists of the Idea, the Energy (= the materialization of the idea into concrete/written form), and the Power (the reception/reading of the form by the audience).

Her good friend, C. S. Lewis said he read her excellent radio play, The Man Born to be King, every Easter, though he claimed never to have developed a taste for her more famous detective, Lord Peter Wimsey and his adventures. She died 17 December, 1957. Her her ashes are buried beneath the tower of St. Anne’s Church, London, where she had been a churchwarden for many years.

W, B, Yeats

W, B, Yeats

Yeats, on the other hand was no scholar. He attended art school briefly to appease his father, also an artist. While there he decided to become a poet. He moved to London in 1886, where he joined the Order of the Golden Dawn, an occult group. He maintained his fascination with the occult for the rest of his life, often addressing spiritual ideas in his brilliant poetry. Women, as well, held him in thrall. He had many affairs and more than one mistress. He died in France in 1939, having founded the National Irish Theater in Dublin (now the Abbey), and having won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1923.

Two exquisitely talented writers who shared much more than a birthday. Together they shared the gift of a creative spirit to which they gave a habitable form in their poems and novels and plays.

The defining difference between the two lies in their spiritual allegiances – she, to the Christ of Scripture; he, to an esoteric system of philosophy that reflected Hindu Theosophical beliefs and the occult – a system communicated to him through spirits (he called them “Instructors”) whom he had summoned while experimenting with automatic writing.

Can we enjoy the work of an non-Christian genius like Yeats as we can the works of the Christian Sayers? Of course. Just as we can appreciate the truth and goodness and beauty of the ring trilogy by an anti-Semite like Wagner, or Symphony #6 in D-Minor by Tchaikovsky, who struggled with homosexuality.

We can recognize and celebrate the truth, beauty, and goodness evident in these flawed men and women because these qualities emanate from the God we worship Who is the source of all that is true, and beautiful, and good. And Who graciously condescends to reveal Himself through flawed people.

Like us.