Episode 18—Mary Pilon on her book “The Monopolists,” Endnotes as Amazing Maps, and Batman as a Superhero (or not)

Mary Pilon everybody!
Mary Pilon everybody! (photo credit Danielle Lurie)

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“I can’t write about today unless I really go into the rabbit hole with what came before.” —Mary Pilon

“You do compete with Candy Crush as a journalist.” —Mary Pilon

Whoops, never published the companion blog post with Mary Pilon back on Episode No. 18.

Mary joins me on the podcast to talk shop. This was a fun one and I hope I can snag her for Part 2 since I was only able to ask about half the questions I had written down.

Mary is the product of a radio deejay (father) and a psychologist (mother) which prompted her to say, “I grew up in a house where I know more about how to make a mix tape than to take the SATs.”

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we made mix tapes instead of take the bloody SAT? I took the test four times and got no higher than 1080. That’s another story.

Mary is another kick-ass woman I’ve been lucky enough to speak to. There’s Eva Holland, Sarah Einstein, Maggie Messitt, Carrie Hagen, Sheri Booker and more.

Moving on, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (can’t get it in the Google Store yet for some reason). By following me on Twitter you can stream it in your feed when I tweet it out. Same for Facebook.

Also, my newsletter is changing. I’m going to a monthly format where I send out a bunch of cool stuff from the month that was or the month ahead: book recommendations, blog posts, podcasts, just a bunch of cool stuff to keep you busy for a month. There’s several ways to subscribe all over my website.

I have big ambitions for the newsletter and the podcast so please subscribe to both. It’s my collection plate.

My longterm goal is to do the type of storytelling I love through Kindle Singles, but first I need to build an army through the newsletter and the podcast so that I can support myself by publishing my own brand of compelling true stories thus bypassing gate keepers. If you like Six Weeks in Saratoga and my other longer features, then you’ll want to stay tuned.

Please share the podcast with people you think will enjoy it. By all means “like” it on Twitter, but retweeting helps extend the reach, so please consider that as well.

If this sounds like begging, frankly, I don’t care!

Thank you for listening and reading!

Your buddy,


Episode 28—Sarah Shotland Takes Us to Prison

Sarah Shotland's essay "On Visiting Prison Again" won Proximity Magazine's personal essay contest.
Sarah Shotland’s essay “On Visiting Prison Again” won Proximity Magazine’s personal essay contest.

By Brendan O’Meara

I mean, don’t take my word for it, let Paul Lisicky, judge of Proximity Magazine’s personal essay contest tell you about Sarah’s essay:

This is a piece by a writer who’s willing to be lost a little while. As readers, we encounter a mind at work: thinking, perceiving, questioning, bewildered. We’re invited into the speaker’s contradictions—her wish to be seen and known, her wish to be invisible—and get a window into an aspect of the American prison system that’s rarely represented, especially with such nuance and intimacy.

Here’s the link to her winning essay.

Sarah talks about how she deals with self-doubt and how teaching breaks her free of it.

She’s the author of Junkette and does great work with Words without Walls.

Please subscribe to the podcast, leave a review and even subscribe to my newsletter. If you think this episode will help somebody out, please share it.

Thanks for listening!

Ship it already

By Brendan O’Meara

Just ship it.

I shipped my latest book to the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Contest today. $27 for a chance at $1,000 and publication.

I also have a list of six agents that may be a good fit for it. [In a spreadsheet with name/email/books repped/date queried/date of reply]

I also sent it to a small publisher.

It’s not perfect. It never will be.

But it’s pretty damn good. The title rules: The Tools of Ignorance: A Memoir of My Father and Baseball

And shipping it feels REAL good.

Trust me. Nothing is better than the time between you ship and you hear that reply. Accept when they choose to publish.

But that’s another post.

Komparisons Kill

By Brendan O’Meara

Short one for Saturday. And this one I will most certainly revisit.

Comparisons are toxic.

I’ve written a little blurb about this for a literary journal that published an essay of mine. This topic strikes deep because I fell prey to this for a significant chunk of years. All it does is foster bitterness.

The quicker you embrace your path as distinctly yours, the freer you’ll be. All you can control is your effort. Maybe you’re not where you want to be. Maybe you look at so-and-so in your field and wonder why you’re not there. I know. I’ve done it.

Stop that now. I’m speaking from experience. And Marie Forleo articulates better than I can.

Before you watch the video, I’d ask you to subscribe to my newsletter and subscribe to the #CNF Podcast. It helps me to keep going on this path.


It’s Time to Kill ‘Hacking’

By Brendan O’Meara

If I were to enact my own Reign of Terror on words in the culture, one would be when people say, “Welp…” in a tweet or a post.

“Welp, guess that didn’t work.” “Welp, back to the garage.”

Nails ===> Chalkboard.

Next, this “hack” movement of the past 10 years or so really boils my potato.

When people use the term hack, I get a bit nauseous and my eyes glaze over. Hacking, for those who don’t know, is a way of people trying to shortcut a system. Advocates for hacking are those who think that working smarter is better than working harder.

But all this time “hacking,” should be spent doing the work.

There is only one hack: Do the work.

Seth Godin writes that the long cut is the shortcut, that shortcuts are teases that sell the idea of getting where you want to go faster and with less tire wear.

Let’s put the term “hacking” as we know it today in a deep grave and bury it alive so it suffers.

Passion bad, Systems Good

By Brendan O’Meara

Scott Adams, founder of the comic strip Dilbert, thinks passion and goals are bull poo. What he favors are systems.

What does he mean exactly? Well, he can explain better than I can, so you should follow this little slideshow.

To sum up with a simple anecdote, passions are misleading, but are often what HUGELY successful people lean on in keynotes. Losing 10 pounds? That’s a goal. Realizing that the glycemic index of a baked potato is WAY higher than a plate of pasta is knowledge, thus a system that will make goals attainable.

This can be applied to many things. As this is a writing blog, I’ve got some thoughts I’ll share tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy his little slideshow. It’ll only take two minutes of your time.

Share Bad Stuff

By Brendan O’Meara

Nothing is perfect. And, on top of that, there’s no perfect time to publish. A year from now you’ll wish you started X project and lament the lost time.

In order to reach a place of good art, art people speak about, art that makes people anticipate you and—more importantly—miss you if you stop, you need to do enough bad stuff.

So I’m going to share some of my bad stuff. I dabble in fiction here and there. I find it fun. I may even keep practicing and try to publish some of it. But for now, here’s a story I like. Sure, it’s imperfect, it may be bad, it may be good, I don’t know. I don’t care.

It’s out there so that I may go ahead and write the next one. It’s “The Ringer.”

If you think this post will help a fellow creator, maybe unstick someone who is stuck, by all means share it. I hope you do.

Episode 27—Paul Lisicky on Writing in Unlikely Places, Simultaneous Projects, and Preserving Play

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Photo by Star Black
Photo by Star Black

“If you put too much focus on one thing you can kill it.”Paul Lisicky.

“What would it be like to be an amateur again?” —Paul Lisicky

When I get away from doing the podcast I forget how fun and uplifting the experience can be. Here, for Episode 27 (!), we have Paul Lisicky (@Paul_Lisicky), author of The Narrow Door (Graywolf Press, 2016).

Paul talked a lot about his own process and how that has changed over the years. He also talked about some of the best advice he can give an aspiring writer: cultivating fandom.

Why don’t you just listen to him?

Go ahead and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. If you think you know someone who would benefit from this interview, share it with them. Also, subscribe to my monthly newsletter. You can preview it here to see what it’s about. Dig it? Then put in your info along the right sidebar.


People Mentioned

Greg Hanlon
Bronwen Dickey
Maggie Messitt
Thomas Pynchon
Jane Bowles
John Hawkes
Flannery O’Connor
Joy Williams
Elizabeth Bishop

Other Books by Paul Lisicky

Unbuilt Projects
The Burning House
Famous Builder