Episode 37: A Chat with Seven Handle Circus

Seven Handle CircusSeven Handle Circus is a 6-man folk band from Atlanta, Georgia. I had the opportunity to talk with their lead-singer/songwriter, Shawn Spencer. Seven Handle Circus draws from a broad range of influences, covering various genre and spanning several decades. The diverse influences make for a unique, blended sound that is not easily tagged as rock or bluegrass. Shawn said folk is probably the best way to describe their sound. We discussed the creative process of writing songs for the band, the name of the band, and touring.

In this week’s Bonus Feature, Shawn shares about one of the songs on the new album that surprised him by just showing up during a walk.  (Sign up in the upper right portion of this page to receive the story.)

Their new album “Shadows on the Wall” will be available on October 20th. 

Check out their great cover of A-ha’s “Take on Me” filmed in New Orleans. To learn more about the band, click on the following links:

Seven Handle Circus website

SHC on twitter

SHC on facebook


The 4 Things I Gained from Starting a Podcast

Why did you start a podcast?  Now that’s a question I’ve been asked  a few times. And to be honest, I can’t say that I ever imagined doing it, until I was inspired.  You know how creativity works, right? Inspiration and then… perspiration.

Just over a year ago, my wife handed me the kindle and said, “Here, read this.” She had downloaded Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love.  At that point, I was a year and a half out from an unexpected layoff, and looking for any suggestions I coul48 daysd get. Dan’s book was informative and extremely encouraging, but at the same time…challenging. To be sure, my formal education had short-changed me when it came to entrepreneurship, and this was the beginning of my new non-degree program.

Within a matter of days after finishing the 48 Days book, I noticed a friend—well, really an acquaintance I had just met a couple of months earlier—had posted something about the book on facebook. I immediately messaged him to see if he wanted to meet for lunch.

I was a little intimidated to meet with Devin Dabney for lunch that day, not so much because of what I didn’t know about him, but more so because of what I did.  3 things: he was an excellent piano player, his family home-schooled, and he worked in IT.  Shame on me for stereotyping, but I was afraid we wouldn’t have much to talk about.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I don’t remember if we spent time on extended introductions or just jumped into the idea frenzy, but the lunch was over and we barely had time to eat our sandwiches.  Devin had so many creative ideas and what seemed like an unending list of resources and networks. I learned about the 48 Days Idea Networking site, fiverr, and so many others.

Devin also began to describe a podcast he had started just a few weeks earlier.  His podcast, called Connected Homeschooling, was geared toward encouraging and informing home-school families. Devin  mentioned some of the guests he had interviewed and the topics they addressed.  But mostly, I remember him talking about Depositphotos_27100947_xsthe steep learning curve of putting together a podcast, from connecting with guests, to developing questions, recording, editing and posting. I listened sympathetically, but I had no idea about all the technology. After all, Devin worked in IT, right?

A strange thing happened over the next couple of days. As I went about the job I was doing, I kept thinking about podcasting.  The recurring thought was this: I love meeting new people, asking questions, and I have a curious mind. I think I would enjoy doing that. But what topic would I address?  Hmm.  Within a couple of days, I had landed on the creative arts–more specifically, exploring the process of developing the arts.  And instead of longer interviews, I decided to keep them short in hopes of being more accessible to an already busy world.  Just like that the name came to me: Twelve Minute Muse.

Sometime in November, I began working on a logo, a website, andstarting a podcast began utilizing the web for tutorials on podcasting.  I also started namestorming a list of potential guests. Then I had to set a launch date because I knew without a deadline, I would never take the plunge.  So the first Tuesday of the new year was it!

Here we are a year later, and Twelve Minute Muse has posted 36 episodes with an incredibly gifted group of diverse guests. My family has been tremendously patient and encouraging along the way, and I’ve made some great friends around the country as a result of it.

So if you ask me today what I’ve gained from starting a podcast, I’d share these four biggest benefits:

  • The challenge to grow in the area of technology and media production.
  • The opportunity to meet and interact with dozens of kind, brilliant people.
  • The privilege of introducing excellent creative work to at least a few new fans.
  • Best of all, each week I’ve learned something new about the creative process.

Many of the lessons are similar, but each one has renewed my sense of wonder and mystery about the human mind’s capacity to chase a spark of inspiration until it becomes a completed work of art. Can you imagine what life would be like without music, stories, art, films, or humor? It’s a truly magnificent gift from the God of the universe. So if you’re new to the Muse, check out some of the episodes and leave a comment. And by the way…

What spark of inspiration are you chasing?starting a podcast

Episode 36: A Chat with Max Zoghbi

Max ZoghbiMax Zoghbi describes himself as an outside-the-box-thinker and sometimes a little over-the-top. If you’ve seen his short film Wildflower, you would probably agree. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat.

In a nutshell, the film is the story of an epic marriage proposal that Max put together and pulled off in January, 2014. Well, it wasn’t only Max. In fact,  dozens of people were involved in making it happen.

NBC’s Today Show featured the story and film last week. Shortly after that, The American Conservative and Huffington Post both ran articles about it. Beyond being an outrageously complex plan, the story features an earnest attempt at dealing with a tragedy from the past.

Might I suggest that you watch the film before you catch the behind the scenes glimpse from the interview.  I really enjoyed hearing how Max described the challenges and surprises he encountered along the way.

In the Bonus Feature, Max shared about Loupe Theory Studios and the thing that most surprised him about the making of Wildflower. You can receive the Bonus Feature by requesting it at the top right of this page.

To find out more about Max’s work, click on the following links:

Loupe Theory Studios

Max on Facebook

Max on Twitter

Episode 35: A Chat with Will Braden- Henri the Cat

Henri the CatHenri the Cat is the way we pathetic Americans often refer to  the internet sensation Henri, le Chat Noir– the feline video series that has revitalized French Existentialism. I had the opportunity to speak with filmmaker and author William Braden for an insightful glimpse behind the scenes.

You will notice a theme that runs throughout the interview: procrastination. Braden actually credits procrastination with the origination of the Henri persona and the video series. He tells the story of the last minute film project that eventually went “viral.”

Will walks us through the consistent process of making an Henri video and talks about the somewhat different task of writing his first Henri book.

What about philosophy? Is Will an Existentialist? Does he even speak French? Find out the answers to these questions and the latest projects that Will is involved in as we explore the creative process!

In this week’s Bonus Feature, Will Braden shares about a time when the muse caught him by surprise. He tells the story behind his favorite Henri line, and how it just kinda “showed up” on a visit to the vet.

Be sure to visit the following links to learn more about Henri and Will’s work

 Henri’s Website        Henri on facebook           Henri on Twitter  Henri’s YouTube Page

Episode 34: A Chat with Colony House

colony houseColony House is a three-man band from Nashville. I had the opportunity to visit with Caleb Chapman, the lead singer and songwriter for the band. We talked about the things that inspire his creativity in songwriting.

He shared a few songwriters who have influenced and inspired him, and at the top of the list is his father, singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman.

Colony House is currently on the road in support of their album When I Was Younger. Caleb explained how track 7 (“Waiting For My Time to Come”**) surprised them and found its way onto the new record at the very last minute.

If you’ve heard the album, you may have noticed a vibe that sounds like it belongs on an 80s retro channel. I had to ask Caleb if that was something they were trying to capture.

If you haven’t heard the record, here’s your chance to check it out. It’s available on iTunes and Amazon. Give it a listen!

You can also learn more about Colony House at the following:

Colony House Website

Colony House on facebook

Colony House on twitter

Colony House on Instagram

** excerpt at the end of the interview is Track 7: “Waiting for My Time to Come”

Did You Have a Record Player Like This?

record playerWhen I was a kid, I had one of those really cool record players that came in its own case with a built-in speaker. I remember plopping old Disney records, like Jungle Book, onto the turntable and applying the scratchy needle. The sound was not as fascinating to me as the motion of the record spinning.  Yeah, I’ll admit even placing toy cowboys or Indians on the record while it was playing just out of curiosity. The record player was indeed a toy to me until…

At age 9 or 10, I saw a made-for-tv movie about four lads from Liverpool.  My interest was piqued, and as it would be, my father mentioned that he thought he had one of their records. After looking through his stack of wax, he handed me a bare slab of vinyl (no dust jacket, no cover) that would change the way I heard music.

“I’ve Just Seen A Face” met me at the door of Rubber Soul and welcomed me in; my young ears were hooked.  “You Won’t See Me,“Run for Your Life,” “The Word,” “Wait”… these and all the others would be played repeatedly on my little phonograph.  And now, I was being careful to apply the needle without a scratch.

record playerI remember that the record player had a channel dial.  With a turn of this control, Rubber Soul would instantly be only music or vocals. I didn’t yet understand the difference between mono and stereo, but I was thrilled to hear the different layers of the songs.

Well, those were the good ole days, and those days are gone, right?  Sort of, but not completely.  With the vinyl revival that’s well underway, records are still being made. And just the other day, I came across this treasure chest for Beatles fans:  The Beatles in Mono Vinyl Box Set (Limited Edition).

If you enjoyed the old records like I did, you might want to grab this set while you can.

What Beatles albums did you have on vinyl?

Episode 33: A Chat with Helena Sorensen

helena sorensen

Helena Sorensen has not written as many stories as we would think. That’s one of the things that surprised me about this interview! Her craft with imagery and voice are honed and seasoned, and her first novel, Shiloh, was a bold start, evidence that her fiction is inspired by many great works. Her second book, Seeker, (a prequel to Shiloh) will be available later this month.

In the interview, Helena shared about her earliest attempts at fiction and her “dabbling” in songwriting. We talked about what inspires her to write in general, and she provided a wonderful analogy to explain the importance of stories in our world.

A highlight of the conversation was when Helena read the prologue to her upcoming release Seeker. Full of vivid imagery and crisp language, the brief sampling makes us glad that the book releases later this month.

In the **Bonus Feature, Helena talks about Robin McKinley as an author who has inspired or influenced her writing.  I asked her for one question that she would ask Robin if given the opportunity. Sign up in the upper right of this page for this free Bonus Feature to find out what question she would ask…

Helena is a regular contributor to Story Warren.You can also learn more about Helena’s work at her website.

Episode 32: Winnowing by Bill Mallonee

Winnowing by Bill Mallonee

Last week, Bill Mallonee released a new album titled Winnowing, so I asked him to come back on the show to talk about the new record.  He describes it as “an Autumn record. The diminishing play of light, the signs of Earth going dormant, and the smell of wood fire suggesting a withdrawal, a strategic “retreat,” a tucking in of dreams– and an inventory to be taken of the past.”

Bill talked about the role the Matthew Arnold poem “Dover Beach” played in inspiring the opening track and setting the direction of the entire album. He also talked about the grouping of the songs on the record, a process that was far from coincidental.

Bill talked about some of the specific tracks on the record– ones that he is particularly proud of, and he even shared some of the stories behind the songs.  I included excerpts of “Dover Beach” and “Dew Drop Inn” in the interview, but you can listen to or Download Winnowing Here.

Finally, Bill mentioned plans for a (mostly house-concert) tour this fall.

**Bonus Feature The Bonus Feature includes 4 minutes of interview in which Bill talks about the questions that continue to find their way into the songs.  Plus, he responds to the following: Did you have any epiphanies or landmark moments in the writing and recording of Winnowing? The Bonus Feature is totally free for download. Sign up for it in the upper right of this page.


Episode 31: A Chat with Per Kristiansen

Per Kristiansen


Per Kristiansen is co-author of the new book Building a Better Business Using the LEGO Serious Play Method, and has been directly involved in the creation and development of the LEGO Serious Play method.

What is LEGO Serious Play? In the interview, Per provides both the short answer and the more detailed story behind the origin of this method which employs problem solving, imagination and discovery. In short, LEGO Serious Play is a process of using LEGO blocks to provide new perspectives and build collaboration related to problem solving and improved productivity in businesses.

Per shares some great stories about LEGO Serious Play, including the way it was first received by the corporate world and an incredible training opportunity that tops all others in his experience. He also shares why he thinks LEGOs are universally loved.

Writing the new book was a maiden voyage for Per. While he and his colleague had planned to write the book for years, the actual effort was challenging.  Never fear! They employed some of the LEGO Serious Play strategies in the process.

Grabbing a copy of Building a Better Business Using the LEGO Serious Play Method is probably the best way to learn more about the process.  You can also find more information about it at this site.

The BONUS Feature with Per includes 5 minutes worth of great dialogue around a couple of questions.  First, I asked him why LEGO blocks are so universally loved.  Then, we explored three key principles of LEGO Serious Play: Play, Constructivism and Imagination. You don’t want to miss his insightful responses to those questions. Simply sign up (upper right of this site) to receive the BONUS Feature.


The Muse Reviews: Boys of Blur by N.D. WIlson

The Muse Reviews

Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson

Review by Catherine Dunlap

Oh, I thought, N.D. Wilson has a new book out. Looks like he’s taken a break from whatever fantastic, slightly disturbing genre he’s been writing in and has composed a story following the adventures of a couple of country boys. Fun. So, one night when I didn’t quite feel like Twain and was a little too distractible for starting another Dickens, I picked up this fun little book.

Ha. Ha. Ha.     boys of blur

This book scared the heebejeebies out of me. This was a strange sensation, because I neither knew precisely what heebejeebies are, nor had I known that I had them in the first place, but they are definitely gone. N.D. Wilson did it again—he did it once with 100 Cupboards, but I fell for it hook, line and sinker this time too. Let me warn you: DO NOT read this book at bedtime. DO NOT read this book if you do not have time to finish the whole thing in one sitting. DO NOT read this book if you are prone to nightmares about swamps. I knew the minute that black shape appeared in the cemetery that I was not going to sleep that night. Again. But enough about me. If I can’t take the fright, I shouldn’t read the Wilson. It’s that simple. What about the book?

Well, throw together swampy Florida, football, a small town, Beowulf, a child from said small town who has actually read Beowulf, and a newcomer and his broken family, who to my knowledge have not read Beowulf, and you may get a taste of what this book is like. Oh, there are a few stinky zombies too.

The book deserves its title—it moves fast. Really fast. And yet the descriptions are vivid and, in that twisted, Wilson-y way, beautiful. My throat started itching in his description of the smoke in the fields. In a few parts I found myself having to reread passages to be able to visualize what was going on more clearly. Part of that is intentional, I think—Charlie can’t see what’s going on precisely in the mist, and Wilson gets the sensation across through this literary fuzziness. The fogginess is part of the atmosphere.

I was a bit surprised, as I was with 100 Cupboards, to see the age recommendation for this book. Grades 3-6? I’m not sure I could have handled this when I was nine. I would have survived, I think, but I definitely would not have been fond of being left alone in the dark.  Parents know what their kids can handle, I suppose, but this is a very frightening book.  Read at your own risk.

I thought about inserting some good quotes here, but there are way too many and I am way too lazy to do it justice.  Let me just say that Cotton’s opinion on the Brontës is the best one from a literary expert that I’ve heard yet.

In conclusion, I find I can say little else about this book, not because there isn’t anything to say, but because I’m finding it difficult to avoid spoilers and I’m still wondering how Wilson managed to cram that many well-written characters and places and adventures and football and LIFE into 200 pages, make it all smell like swamp, and still make me like it.

So go read it.

Boys of Blur at Amazon

(Bonus: I have a theory about a possible connection to the Ashtown Burials series and this book–if you subscribe to the Muse I’ll tell you about it next time I see you!)

exploring the creative process