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Where’s Mr. & Mrs. Waldo?

While reading the “newspaper” online I came across a couple stories that captured my attention. I clicked on them both not because they were newsworthy (they weren’t) but because they appealed to my socially & digitally trained brain. The same brain that grew up reading long form magazine pieces in The New Yorker and Field & Stream; not to mention spending hours slowly devouring the Sunday paper, digesting sections like a python moving rodents down its throat.

That was then.

These stories are classic examples of the sort of content we feed on now. Both are fairly meaningless by old-school journalism definitions. Nobody died or got hurt. Nothing really is at stake.

The story about vandals knocking over a sandstone goads us into clicking its link, pushing our buttons to judge and to vilify. In this way it is like those “news” stories about drunken beachgoers tormenting a baby dolphin. We have to see these cretins and pillory them. Seeing for ourselves is made possible by amateur video or photography.

The other story functions in the same way but by pushing completely different buttons. The author beseeches us to try and find the “mystery couple” from this “Instagram-worthy…magical photograph.” The picture is of a bride and groom posing on a pretty spot in Yosemite. They are not famous. The photographer is not important. The location is unquestionably on infinite tourist-y photo albums. The chance discovery and the chance to discover are what makes this story click-bait.

Not long ago neither piece would be considered news. Now they probably get more clicks aka readers aka viewers than headlines about bombs falling in Syria.

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And the men who hold high places…

A classmate from Lane Technical High School in Chicago posted this charming group photograph (circa 1979) in honor of Throwback Thursday on Facebook. It is a photo of the school’s newspaper staff, of which I was the arts and entertainment columnist. That’s me far right, in the second row, donning a full head of hair and a Rush tee shirt (both long gone). Right next to me is the cutest girl in this photo, Suzanne. Alas, I can only assume she was told to sit there. Recall I am wearing a Rush tee shirt, which to this day repels women like few things can.

Of course, I do not recall taking this photo, nor most everyone in it. My long term memory is shot from the rigorous “research” I did whilst attending the numerous rock concerts I weekly reviewed. Cannabis Sativa no doubt added positivity to all my band reviews but deducted brain cells as well.

I do remember how proud I was getting this gig, and especially seeing my byline in the Warrior every Friday. (Or was it Monday?) Regardless, I still have all my clippings in deep storage. Very deep storage. The Internet for all intents and purposes was 10+ years away. Getting one’s name in print was for me a truly awesome experience, or, as we used to say back in the day, e-excellent.

During my two-year tenure as feature columnist I reviewed such bands as Rush, Aerosmith, Golden Earring, AC/DC and Judas Priest pretty much alienating me from 98% of the school’s massive population (6200 students!) and most certainly all of its women. Ah, well. The things we do for our careers. I also reviewed new album releases (from my growing collection) as well as the occasional movie. I reviewed Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which I’m proud to say I adored, even at the fresh young age of 15.

Writing for my school’s paper and subsequently three different college papers remains one of the most satisfying and beneficial things I ever did during scholarship. Now I’ve got this blog, which if my wife and three daughters are any indication continues to repel women.

Author’s note: In the pic’s caption my name is spelled “Steffon,” which is e-excellent!

So far fifty of you have submitted cover designs for my new novel slash social media project, Sweet by Design. Above are six recent ones in no particular order. All fifty are remarkable. I could not have imagined so many enchanting options for the cover of my novel. My appreciation for your creative efforts is only matched by my gratitude. Thank you.

Currently we are on Chapter Seventeen of the story. I believe about thirty chapters remain. When they have all been posted the contest will enter its final phase. A winner will be chosen and that designer will receive an Ipad. Second place gets an Ipod Shuffle. While only one design will become the cover for Sweet by Design, I’ll likely publish all of them as part of the book. For they have become part of the story –a really good part.

My only challenge –if that’s the right word- is that I’ve yet to find a “celebrity” judge to help me choose the cover. Right now the criteria for picking a winning design remains up to you and me. Your comments to the blog and via email will be weighted accordingly and, in turn, I will choose a few of my own personal favorites. From this shortlist a winner will be determined. How fun, though, at this point to have a renowned member of the literary or design community serving as judge.

To that end I’ve asked the literary editor of the Chicago Tribune, Julia Keller to participate. Among other honors, in 2005, Mrs. Keller won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. Her participation would truly be an honor.

Julia Keller

Alas, my query to this local luminary went unheeded. Perhaps my request landed atop her slush pile along with assorted press releases, manuscripts and promotional materials. That or my email got lost in her spam folder. More likely, I do not possess the necessary gravitas to merit a reply.

But it’s not too late, Julia! If by chance you come across this blog please do consider (or reconsider) my humble request. If it’s any incentive, I receive the Chicago Tribune every morning -the actual paper version! And I look forward to your reviews and stories. Shouldn’t that count for something? If not you, perhaps one of your editors would welcome the gig. I’d be grateful if you forwarded them this link.

Frankly, I’m not worried about finding a cool judge. It wouldn’t surprise me if this very blog post helps me procure one or two. If anyone reading has ideas or wants to help round out the jury, please contact me. Meantime, keep reading the novel and keep submitting your designs. At 50 to 1, the odds are ridiculously low for winning an Ipad.


Take me, I’m yours!