Darling, You're Not Alone
Three years ago I began a new book. For me, writing has always been a sort of secret stillness. It's meditative. A quiet creative space that allows my mind to wander, discovering stories and memories I didn't know were inside me. Freely the colors of my world meld with past, present and future.
But each day I wrote I, like all of you, was deafened by the everyday chaos surrounding us. Every notification was an update. Every update was a headline. And every headline was another tragedy. My life, and the world, had become much too loud.
I understand how easy it is to turn all of our attention towards the darkness. Because it's that darkness that's broadcasted each day, further perpetuating the angst and isolation we all feel behind the screens we now permanently live behind. However, despite the lack of attention the light gets, I choose to believe that in this world we find ourselves so lucky to live in, there is an equal amount of light to balance out the dark.
I believe that for every dictator, there's an army of activists. I believe that for every life lost, there's the miracle of another beginning just down the hall. And I believe that for every category five hurricane that Mother Nature creates, She too creates the northern lights in the September sky of Alaska. This was the simple thread that I followed until it became the focus of my latest work.
I'm elated to announce my second novel, Darling, You're Not Alone is complete and will be published this coming fall.
When I first began writing Darling, I had no idea where this story and these characters would take me, but I cannot stress enough how near and dear this project has become to my heart, and soon hopefully the hearts of many of you. This is more than a book, but my love letter to a world that needs to be reminded of the light. I believe this message, now more than ever, is so important.
Lux in Tenebris Lucet.
Be the light that shines in the darkness.
Meet Spencer Daniels
About a year ago, I rolled into a diner to sit down for breakfast and coffee with actor, Spencer Daniels. It was our first time meeting one another. Instantly, I was taken by Spencer's incredible acting resume—appearing in roles in films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Office—but it was his passion for art in general that struck me as interesting. That, right away, let me know that there was so much more to who he is. Spencer spoke about favorite books he'd read, scripts he'd written and music that had inspired him, all before I'd taken a single bite of bacon. Frankly, in meeting Spencer, I was looking for some wisdom as too how to best navigate the shark infested waters of Hollywood, but what our meeting snowballed into was something of much greater significance.
What became one breakfast, became two, three, four, five, six and so on. We exchanged ideas about storytelling and became friends. Until eventually, I pushed Spencer into revisiting an old story he'd written some years back called, "The Constantine Fable." Hesitant at first, Spencer slowly peeled open his folder he'd stashed away and shared this project with me. On a first read, I was completely blown away. The story carried such a deep meaning and powerful punch despite it being short in length. So, with some work and the help of many other people, I proudly announce to you all, that on June 7th, 2022, "The Constantine Fable" will be published with Summer House. A long journey that began with a chance encounter over bacon. Spencer, my friend, you're soon to be an officially published author.
Spencer so kindly stopped by today to answer some questions about himself, the project and much more. Below, please find our full conversation, and read all about the man behind Summer House's newest project, "The Constantine Fable." I hope you enjoy.
1) "The Constantine Fable" where does the title come from? What other titles did you consider?
The title actually comes from Aesop's Fables and truly served as an inspiration for the story as a whole. The idea of a tiger named Constantine was what came to me first, so from there, I sort of just built around that. Then, while visiting a small bookstore in Vietnam, I came across a book of Aesop's Fables and it just clicked. I combined that book of fables with the name of the tiger. But, with that being said, I also never had any ideas for any other titles for this story. Titles, for all my projects, always come to me before I even begin writing.
2) If you had to select one inspiration for the project, who or what would that inspiration be?
That's a really tough question. As I try to think back to the 'initial spark' of what brought me to this idea for this story, one person does instantly come to mind, and that's South Korean actor, Ha Jung-woo. He was the lead actor in a film I was acting in and he was incredibly talented. He also was a producer, so in some ways, he was also, sort of my boss, but regardless of that, I was just blown away by his passion and almost obsession for the project we were working on. He would've done anything to make it great.
3) What was your favorite part of writing the project? Your least favorite?
My favorite part was the discovery of the first draft. I was living with my younger brother at the time and when the concept struck me, it was euphoric. The idea was the question, 'what is success?' And my least favorite part was all of the editing. All of the hard work of rewriting with you and Chris was actually just, well, 'work.' Reading Sally Rooney's Normal People was something that helped me push on though, as I hoped to attain some level of what she's accomplished. What was difficult was finding a way to turn something that was once wild and free into something focused and professional.
4) What's something strange about your writing process most people don't know about?
Well, to put it simply, I think everything about my writing process is sort of dumb and stupid. I don't think any of it is all that grand or interesting, but I guess what would be interesting is that most of my writing comes directly after watching the most horrible thing on YouTube. I go from watching a new Post Malone music video or some sort of stupid, gossip related current event, straight into attempting to write. The hardest part about writing is just getting myself to sit down, because all I want to do is move around, go on walks.
5) What are your aspirations for the projects release?
I hope that somewhere I've never been before, or maybe somewhere I go all the time, that someone picks this book out of the shelf, reads it, and is left with something that informs their world view. Even if it's in some small way. It doesn't have to be in a good way necessarily, but as long as it's different.
6) Did the project, in the end, meet your initial expectations for when you first came up with the concept?
I would say that it didn't meet my expectations, but it became much more. Originally, I thought of this project as a sort of 'adult fable' but it ended up building into much more of a full blown story. And, of course, it's like we spoke about before this interview began, where anytime you come up with an idea in your head, what ends up coming out on the page most often becomes a sort of perverted version of that same idea. This project did though have a freedom of expression that I didn't expect.
7) How does it feel to have "The Constantine Fable" finally completed and soon to be out in the world?
It feels both nerve-racking and relieving. Terrifying. Exciting. Gosh, I feel like I'm in search of a quiet corner to sit in. But seriously, it's absolutely terrific and freeing. There is no more time to work on it, because now, it's done. And I'm responsible for it.
To Purchase "The Constantine Fable" and learn more about Spencer Daniels, please visit www.summerhousepublishing.co.
"The Constantine Fable" will be available for purchase on June 7th, 2022.
Brother Vs. Brother
In the, "City of Brotherly Love" on Saturday, January 15th, I watched my younger brothers play against each other. Wes, a senior guard at Dartmouth College, and Clark, a sophomore guard at the University of Pennsylvania, went toe to toe in a basketball game that was close until the very end.
Fortunately, I was able to catch a flight to Philadelphia, PA for the ball game. But to be completely honest, I'd be lying if I didn't admit I had some serious nerves going in. Thinking about it, I wanted more than anything for both teams to play well, but it was truly a challenge to monitor how to appropriately root for either team. Should I just not cheer at all? Should I only cheer when either of them does anything? Or should I just scream my lungs out the entire game? How could you possibly evenly root for both teams? The answer: don't worry about it.
In the end, I mostly just felt overwhelmingly proud. To have watched both of my brothers grow and mature into such amazing student-athletes at these prestigious institutions was plenty worth cheering about, regardless of the eventual outcome of the game. And to be able to witness them compete against one another? Well, that was just the icing on the cake. Because I know exactly how hard each of them worked to get there—for that game, that day. I know just exactly what they've sacrificed.
On the floor after, I was able to watch Wes and Clark laugh and hug it out, each with priceless smiles painted across their faces. The scene of a lifetime, that made all the stress worth it. I love my boys.
P.S. It was also freezing there! I flew right back to Southern California the following day.
I've been going to The Sunset restaurant in Malibu for a long time. As a kid, it was many birthdays and other holidays with new family and even new friends. I got to know all sorts of people. But it were these individuals that—little did I know at the time—who would soon become apart of my new family. This is because my mom fell in love, and on May 12th, 2016 married restauranteur Franco Simplicio.
Over the years since, Franco has become so much more than just my step-father, but my friend, supporter and trusted mentor. I go to him for advice and wisdom. He's truly such a blessing on so many different levels and been an incredible addition to my life. His two sons, Luca and Oliver, both became my step-brothers and have been by my side ever since. I adore them both and can't imagine what my world would look like without them too.
So, when Franco decided to sign up for 805 Living Magazines, "Dishing It Our For Charity" fundraiser and made the beneficiary The LucStrong Foundation, I actually wasn't surprised at all. Because that is the man he is and always has been. He's always found creative ways to be giving, kind, considerate and charitable, despite being the busy business man he always is too. He is someone that always looks for another chair to add to his table, and it's a pretty inspiring thing to be around.
Each year, 805 Living Magazine recognizes a select group of restaurants to feature in their charitable drive, and The Sunset restaurant until December 31st, 2021 will be donating two dollars of all profits raised from the sale of their pumpkin tortellini dish to The LucStrong Foundation. A charity, that is incredibly near and dear to my heart. So, to all of you reading, please find a night to take your someone special down to The Sunset for a nice dinner by the water. I promise you won't be disappointed.
Last night, I was able to go to my favorite ocean-side eatery myself and enjoy this family recipe while remembering why it is so important to always be giving back to those less fortunate this time of year. So, good on you Franco. Thank you so much for doing this. What a tremendous way to give back.
Have a safe and happy holiday everyone! Smile!
For more information about The Sunset Restaurant or 805 Living Magazine and the, "Dishing It Out For Charity" Fundraiser, please find each website below.
Phillips Exeter Academy Return
Exeter, New Hampshire never really felt like home. It sounds cliché, but the truth was I never quite found my rhythm during my post-graduate year at Phillips Exeter Academy in 2014, so when I was invited to return and give an assembly, needless to say I was floored.
I thought about all of the wrongs I wanted to make right—people I wanted to inspire—and felt as though this would be an incredible opportunity to do just that. Furthermore, I knew delivering this speech during this time would also provide me with the unique opportunity to reach a diverse group of people all over the world during what is currently a global crisis.
Perhaps what would be my most important speech I've given to date came earlier this week and I am excited to now share it with all of you. Below, hear my thoughts on the current state of our world, how we can continue to find ways to smile and much more.
Exeter, New Hampshire is now a place I reflect kindly on and am confident I will for the rest of my days. Non sibi forever.
Each day we are given is still precious. Now, more than ever, we mustn't forget that to be alive during any time is a blessing that is denied to many. This fear is something we all share. But we cannot let something that we cannot control dominate our well being. Although this obstacle remains daunting, walk proudly knowing full well that we are capable. I am just as scared as all of you. I miss my routine. But I also know that with tremendous adversity comes the opportunity for incredible achievement. The dark only exists because there is light.
Stay safe my sisters and brothers—we will get through this. This too will pass and our normal lives are right around the corner. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
Peace and love,
For more information and to find the other #19Letters please visit my instagram page @JD_Slajchert where I will posting one every morning until April 19th. Thank you.
Happy at you
I’ve just finished climbing a treacherous mountain and I am writing to let you all know that the view is spectacular!
Today, I am pleased to announce the completion of my first original screenplay, “Happy at You.” This project took over a year and a half to create and was written in collaboration with my good friend and co-author Chris Varonos. As a creative engineer, Chris brought a tremendous amount of depth to this story, and for that I am extremely grateful.
Since the publication of my debut novel I’ve had dreams of seeing one of my stories unfold on the big screen. Stories read in books are one way of captivating an audience, but I wanted to venture beyond this singular medium. As any major undertaking entails, this project required a heightened sense of awareness in regard to my personal time and energy, so I have spent the past three months away in order to focus.
Throughout this past year and a half, I have been researching and spending time learning the art of writing for the screen. Taking the time to broaden your understanding of anything is something that I am a staunch advocate for and would recommend to anybody in any field. So often in life we find ourselves on the repetitive hamster wheel. In my own study, I learned so much about writing that I was excited to apply directly to this brand-new project.
I decided to step away these past three months in order to dedicate a majority of my mental focus to this script, but in doing so I also noticed some pretty interesting things I would like to mention.
With little distractions, I found myself present in each interaction that I came across. From the complex to the mundane, I soaked up dinners with friends and getting my morning coffee in a way that I had yet to experience. But more than anything else, I actually allowed myself to get…well, bored. When writing I would nod off into some never-ending wormhole of thought and allow my mind to wander without reaching for my phone. Then, once the moment passed, I was able to quickly get back to work. Some of these results, to be completely honest, were extremely thought provoking in a way that I hadn’t imagined they could be.
It is human to go through moments of doubt and it is natural to be afraid of what is next but knowing all of these things you have to understand one thing—you have to find a way to keep moving forward. This project to me symbolizes so much more than just another story, but a living example of how to always find different ways to grow. A lot of sacrifice was put into these pages, but I know the product will be worth it. I happily ride now into the abyss and know that something beautiful will be on the horizon.
“Happy at You” is a simple concept that needs little explanation. Any journey is more about finding ways to be happy than mad. Life is going to happen, but it is how we allow these things to more positively shape all of us that are truly important.
I am pleased to be back and expect to hear from me more regularly with information regarding “Happy at You” and much more. I have a feeling that some pretty big things are headed our direction in the not so distant future and I cannot wait to share this with all of you. How I have missed each and every one of you!
Well, that’s about it then for now. I’m feeling about as spotless as a newly shaven lamb. Some true celebrations are in order and I wish you all a very lovely day. I am so happy at each and every one of you.
A plover bird and a crocodile
Splashing cuts through a still marsh early morning. A pompous crocodile barrels his way through the grass and into the murky water—waking all of the other animals. “Watch it” the croc exclaims. The other animals yawn awake in disgust, except one animal looks on with intrigue. A teeny white plover bird swoops down from a nearby branch and lands directly atop the crocodile’s scaly snout. Puffing up his chest, the plover bird peeks at the crocodile’s foul teeth and says to him, “You look like you could use a friend”.
I have a complicated relationship with Sickle Cell Disease. Depending on how you look at it, you could argue that my encounter with this illness has simultaneously been the best and the worst thing to ever happen to me.
When I was a senior in high school, I was the typical jock who only cared about himself, until an angel crashed into my life. After one of my games, a six-year-old boy with Sickle Cell Disease approached me and declared he was my biggest fan. He then said the last thing he wanted to do before going into the hospital for a full year of isolation for a bone marrow transplant was to play basketball with me. This little boy and I became best friends.
Over the next several years we spent an inordinate amount of time together, I hardly remember a moment when we were apart. From celebrating birthdays, to arguing about whether pineapples belonged on pizza, we were inseparable. A true yin and yang.
But as time passed, the complications increased and I watched my best friend’s physical strength deteriorate; so much so, there was less and less we could actually do together. It destroyed each and every fiber inside of me. Although, with little life left, I watched my best friend fight to keep his spirit strong. He always remembered to smile despite the pain. His final words to me, “Smile more”.
I am no doctor, so I am not going to try and pretend to be one. I haven’t the slightest clue what Sickle Cell Disease actually is or does to someone’s body. But what I do know is what Sickle Cell Disease is capable of. This complex illness is capable of keeping a ten-year-old full of life from realizing his full potential. But it is also capable of teaching a harsh lesson—many people out there need our help.
Sickle Cell Disease blessed me with a friendship that I will happily carry in my heart for the rest of my life. Now, although I hardly understand the complicated world of medicine, in some ways I know am grateful for this disease. Although Sickle Cell robbed me of my greatest friend, it also ridded me of a previous ailment that I’d suffered from—ignorance.
I only now realize that when no one else believed in me, this sick little boy flew over to be at my side. Despite the fact that he was literally only half my size at the time, he showed me what it meant to stand tall. When I was struggling to smile, he showed me that all I needed was a friend.
With the courage of a lion, the plover bird declared once more that he could help the crocodile despite how different they were from one another. “Fine” the crocodile said as the bird continued to sit on its snout. Then the croc slowly opened its monstrous jaw for the plover bird to enter. The bird happily cleaned up the decaying food stuck between the croc’s enormous teeth, both saving his new friend and feeding himself. Eventually, the two of them, despite their noticeable differences, would never leave each other’s side again. The croc now proudly smiled more than ever before. An unlikely duo that somehow became an everlasting friendship.
26.2 by eric wiltfang
My good friend and LucStrong teammate, Eric Wiltfang, is getting prepared to run the Chicago Marathon and needs our help. He is running in honor of Luc Bodden and is looking to raise as much money as possible for The LucStrong Foundation. Read more about his current campaign and fundraiser written in his own words below. Thank you Eric and run like the wind. Proud to support such an incredible athlete. ~ JD Slajchert
As a parent, we all understand how important it is to protect our children. Purity only exists for a short time. Tragedy and hardships are a somber truth of life and for some, they begin to learn these lessons at a very early age. For my son, and for many others that loved Luc Bodden, tragedy struck in the fall of 2016. My son lost one of his dearest friends to complications related to a disease most people know nothing about. Sickle Cell Disease, a genetic blood disorder affects over 100,000 Americans each year, and this time cost a very special friend his life.
I was concerned for my 10-year-old’s well-being. My wife and I were loving him and trying to cater to his needs, when I started to realize that I too had my heart crushed. I believed I had done a poor job of protecting my boy from unimaginable hurt. I had always assumed that I could protect my children from whatever would come their way but not this, not this time. This is when I knew that there had to be a way—something I could do to show my son that something good can come from such a terrible situation.
I started running as a way of clearing my head. I ran when I felt happy and I ran when I was having doubts. Running became a form of therapy, but it also became my way of showing my son how to channel his feelings of fear, doubt and worries. Now, a few years later, I am ready to show my son how a tragic event, so painful, can be the catalyst of something so positive. I am ready to prove to him that hope is real.
On October 13th, 2019 I will run my first Marathon - The Chicago marathon. I’m doing this to raise money and awareness for the non-profit founded by the parents who lost their son and named it The LucStrong Foundation in his honor. This foundation supports families with children who are diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disease.
Our goal is to ask 1000 people to sponsor this cause in the amount of $26.20 per pledge. $26.20 might not seem like a lot, a week’s worth of coffee or a few gallons of gas but all together the money we raise will go raised ($26,200) goes a long way in helping The Lucstrong Foundation provide love and financial support to even more families in 2019 and 2020. 100% of your donation will go directly to The Lucstrong Foundation.
I now run with more purpose than ever!
To make a donation please visit www.lucstrong.org
Wow! I have been asked by the Red Cross to become an Official Ambassador! Wow!
I am just returning from my first set of speaking engagements as a keynote for them and it has been an amazing experience thus far. The people that I have met in each of the four cities that I have spoken at have blown me away. These volunteers have given their lives to this amazing non-profit and it is truly an honor to speak towards their commitment for good. Each of them touched my heart. I am already excited to put on the red tie again!