Download all five of my books free for Kindle
August 30 through September 3
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The New Eden Trilogy
Genre: Young Adult post-apocalypse/science fiction
Three hundred years after an apocalyptic war, three teenagers must overcome ancient prejudices and lies to keep a madman from wiping out what remains of the world, and find a way to give humanity a fresh start.
Genre: Young Adult contemporary fantasy
Have you ever loved someone who could kill you with her paintbrush?
When Jewel meets a mysterious and seductive tutor who promises to make her artwork famous, she falls into a magical fight for her life… and he’s got more than a few years of experience over her nascent skills.
The Bad Lie
Genre: Chapter book (3rd through 6th grade)
Jay never set out to break any rules at the golf club, or to do so much damage, but now he has to choose between his friends and his future. But… who are his friends, really?
The 2019 conference hit the Times Square Westin a couple weeks ago, and it was my first time attending without also being on the corporate advisory council. I have been a regular at many of the CSR industry’s conferences, and this is the best for employee engagement practitioners, hands down.
The worst thing is to pay for a conference and spend two days listening to the big sponsors drone on about how awesome (yet irrelevant to the audience) their company’s CSR programs are. The Charities@Work sponsors pay in not because they’ll get a bunch of self-indulgent stage time, but because they know the talent and creativity in the room will be inspiring, challenging, and innovative. The sponsors are paying to keep this incredible forum from turning into just another mostly-pointless business trip, and to ensure that someone is helping push the profession and the field forward.
Real, unvarnished discussion
The pre-conference workshops are unique in my experience. A lot of conferences offer workshops, but I’ve found most to feel contrived—more dedicated to the methodology of the workshop, or the production of a preconceived outcome, than to the creative, inclusive, and challenging dialog that Charities@Work creates space for.
These workshops are designed with a bit of intentional chaos built in because the organizers know that even the newcomers to CSR bring fresh ideas, new perspectives, and pointed questions.
Old friends and new friends
Although I think the 2019 conference could have had more space in the agenda for networking breaks, the after-hours networking events more than made up for it. More important, however, is that the conference comprises a mix of old pros who have known each other a long time, and new pros who might be networking at a CSR conference for the first time.
We’ve all been to conferences where everyone huddles up in their own little established cliques. This is great for catching up with old friends, but it’s awful if you come alone or hope to broaden your network.
Charities@Work feels different to me. Every year I’ve met several new people that I’ve kept in touch with. There isn’t anything structurally different about this conference that fosters this networking; it’s the underlying culture of the event and the attitude of the staff and advisory council that run it.
Everyone’s voice matters, and everyone has things to say
I had the honor of moderating the last panel of the day, and even with three stellar panelists in Jillian Mershon, Jerome Tennille, and Erin Gollhofer, I was worried that we’d face an audience overwhelmed and exhausted by the day’s packed agenda. So, intentionally, I warned the room up front that I didn’t want a Q&A session so much as I wanted people to take the mic and share their own thoughts. What happened was, for me, kind of magical: while a few people looked ready for a nap, dozens of people wanted to share their insights. The energy and inspiration had been building up all day, and people were eager to speak, to share, to interact.
At other conferences, I’m always eager for the last panel to end. It didn’t feel that way at Charities@Work 2019.
And those are my reasons. Not because I learned actionable tips to run CSR programs (I did). Not because I learned new things from well-known professionals (I did). Not because I got to lead THE BEST PANEL EVER (I did). But because of the underlying culture and inclusiveness and electricity and creative space and welcoming attitude that makes this conference special.
So commit yourself to attending next year. Set aside some budget to sponsor. And if you have questions or things to add to my thoughts, comment here.
“Your heart,” she told me, when we walked the pier and watched the lobstermen pulling up their pots at the far end of the dark bay, after that clouded talk in the coffee shop, when we both kept sipping at long-empty cups and looking at everything but each other…
“Your heart,” she told me, “has unlimited capacity.”
“You’ve told me this before,” I replied, remembering a drive in the Florida sun in a rented convertible, when I backtracked ten miles to retrieve the hat that had blown off her head on the interstate.
She was young, then, and I was… idealistic. Impressionable. Eager to be anything that she told me to be.
Her answer came like the sharp mist off the whitecaps, chilling under my upturned collar.
“I was wrong, then.”
“Then, I thought you had a heart with enough room for everyone. A big heart. A heart like a balloon that could never pop, no matter how many people blew into it.”
I found her analogy lacking, but it had potential. I kept silent and waited, like the gathering clouds drifting along with us, far overhead.
“But my analogy doesn’t really hold water,” she mused, and I saw in her tight cheeks and quivering nose the telltale signs of a joke she knew no one else would understand.
“Your heart,” she told me, pausing to lean on a thick pole as a boat chugged past, wheezing white smoke behind…
“Your heart is more like a bucket with a hole in it. People pour their love in, and maybe it gathers for a bit, but it runs out just as quickly.”
Seagulls bobbed in the wake of the little lobster boat, facing various directions, as the twilight crept in around us and the chill of dusk oozed under my collar and raindrops began to patter on the mottled wood of the decking, drumming dully on the plastic lid of my long-empty coffee cup.
Tissue paper crinkles under the bed
waiting for Valentine’s Day
or an anniversary
wrinkled and flattened
over and over again
stuffed into gift bags
to decorate a mid-range Pinot
or add substance to the emptiness
left unfilled by a gift card.
I used to wrap gifts
with the Sunday comics
or sliced-up grocery bags
when presents held the magic
signaled by another candle on the cake
or cookie crumbs left by a fireplace
on a twinkling December night.
Now in a dusky twilight
the restless cats rustle under the bed
in the forgotten tissue paper
with fraying edges and fading colors
wrinkled and flattened
over and over again
waiting to be dragged out
for one more anniversary
or one more Valentine’s Day.
We turn back our clocks
an hour of summer
in a futile attempt
to legislate autumn
into the future.
One more hour of summer,
as if daylight could be saved
until the hours accumulate
into days, and the days
into months, until
we have cheated winter
of its cold-hearted
But leaves turn brown
and our pace slows
and fog infiltrates,
dimming our bright thoughts
and chilling our fingertips.
on our futures,
on our present,
and the irresistible rise
will, inevitably, be met
by the folly
of our belief
that we can stop it.
It was never about the coffee,
not for me.
A chill afternoon breeze
ghosted off the river
and up my sleeves,
numbing my fingers
around an insufficient half-decaf.
You strolled perilously close to me,
our syncopated strides
reflecting the fractured rhythm
of a conversation
that bobbed and drifted
in the shallower, safer waters
of work and children.
My chilling arm shivered
with the memory of
a San Francisco night,
when a drugged-up homeless guy
frightened you so much
that you clenched my arm
tight against your side
all the way up Market Street.
I slowed my stride
so we strolled together
at an almost–
We parted at the elevator,
and all the train ride home
I wondered if I would have
accepted the invitation
we both knew you couldn’t make.
Now in the bar next to gate B-7,
I gaze into the glare
of an emptied whisky glass,
its curved bottom refracting
my thoughts in the sharp
like the wineglass
on that San Francisco night,
when we talked over dinner
about office politics
and your autistic son
and my depressed daughter
and everything acceptable.
It was never about the wine, not for me.
And it wasn’t about the coffee this afternoon.
Ducks, I suspect,
or spend much time
contemplating their failures.
A few years back, two ducks
flap-flopped from the sky
to splash into the swimming pool,
returning each spring until
we filled the pool with dirt,
and with crushed granite,
because the ducks had become
the only ones swimming in it.
Decades ago, when I was young,
ducks waddled across Tryon Street,
marching from Roaring Brook
through the muddy flood pastures
down to the river,
ignoring the Killiam’s dairy cows
in a celebration of
The cows and the ducks and the brook
comprised a constancy of motion and stillness,
much like the river,
which would announce the end of winter
with the booming thunder of cracking ice,
a magical sound I could hear
as I lay in my top bunk
on the hill across Tryon Street.
I loved the river all iced-over,
but I loved the great heaves
of the drifting floes more.
I wonder if the ducks, or the cows, even noticed.
I suspect they knew
what has taken me
a lifetime to learn.
That the river freezes over,
and the ice thaws,
but the water keeps flowing
And this is why I know that,
my phone will ring,
and it will sound
like river ice breaking,
and when I hear your voice
we will be friends
These Acid Years
Wrinkled scratches of light stretch
Across her dress, like marshmallow
Polka dots melted and re-melted
Through a thousand summer days.
The dress might have been red
When the shutter snapped,
Back when she sometimes smiled
A photographer’s command.
That moment, emulsified in negative
And burned onto paper,
Has faded from my disloyal memory
Like names of second grade teachers
And second cousins.
Entombed in dusty fake leather
Under a shiny plastic shroud,
This photograph has persevered
Through these acid years
To dimly insist that once,
A thousand summer days ago,
We sometimes smiled
Today’s poem prompt was provided by a lost friendship
first harvest salad
lettuce, radishes all gone
Poetry Month 2018 I set out to write 30 poems in the 30 days of April. I managed 28 out of 30, including this last-ditch “oh shit I didn’t write anything today” haiku. I also managed to provide an original photo with each poem I did write. I will call 28 out of 30 success, even though it’s not a true “win” of one poem a day in April. PS: Today’s poem prompt was provided by deadline desperation, and the fact that tonight we ate a salad made from the lettuce and radishes that Sam grew in his garden, plus some purchased carrots and celery. Sam’s carrots and cucumbers are not ready to harvest; in fact, the first cucumber blossom showed up this weekend. We anticipate another harvest in a few weeks. Previous Post