The Writer’s Lens – Interview 17: Sam Eldredge, “Our Stories Are Epic, Not Perfect”

A few years ago, I read through a book with several friends called Killing Lions, a coming-of-age book for young men, co-authored by John Eldredge and his son, Sam Eldredge. Today, I am fortunate to interview one of the voices behind that book, Sam, and pick his brain on the genesis behind it.

Sam is co-host of the podcast, And Sons, which continues the spirit of Killing Lions by focusing on the rites of passage young men face. Sam is a lead content creator for their magazine publication of the same name as well. My interview with Sam covers his story as a budding writer, his initial struggle with co-authoring a book alongside his already-published father, John (author of bestseller Wild at Heart, among others), and how imperative it is to learn from our own stories, lest someone else define our stories for us.

You can find more about Sam and his work at andsonsmagazine.com or follow him on And Sons, which is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and other podcasting platforms.

Every Person Has a Goliath, But How Do We Conquer It?

We all have fears. Some of which feel overwhelming when we confront them. You might even say they are “giant-sized”.

The tale of David and Goliath chronicles how a young boy overcame insurmountable odds – a literal giant. A soldier who towered above the rest. It’s heralded as one of the greatest underdog stories of all time. But I’m willing to contend that it’s not. My latest piece takes a deeper dive into the dynamics of David and Goliath and how David may have bested his opponent without simply luck on his side.

The Writer’s Lens E58: Can Telling A Story Expose Something?

In my last episode, I talked about exploring ideas in story. In this one, we’ll talk about how stories can bring to light something that might be wrong. Whether it be from a personal, subjective experience, or from a seemingly large scale issue.

And I also give some insight into what I used to binge on when I was a poor college student.

The Writer’s Lens – Interview 11: Loren Reash-Henz, “Does Music Tell Stories? And How Do We Value Art?”

Does music tell a story? This was a question I posed as the primer for my next interview with fellow creative, poet, and voice teacher, Mr. Loren Reash-Henz.

Loren Reash-Henz

Loren and I connected at a book signing last year and as I’ve come to find out, Loren has a real penchant for all things music –  teaching, theory, its roots, and its expression. In this conversation, Loren and I sit down to talk about all things music and writing. And how we are all striving to be original and authentic, but oftentimes, we get mixed up on what this can look like. I found this to be a fun and engaging dialogue that opens up a lot of boxes on what we think creativity and art do for a person’s soul. And, ultimately, for our culture.

Loren also works for Apollo’s Fire, a baroque orchestra, here in Cleveland, OH. You can find out more about them here.

The Writer’s Lens – E46: A 2019 Confessional (With Goals)

It’s hard to believe 2018 has already come and gone. So with 2019 here, it’s time to do that age-old favorite: make a confession.

Wait, you mean resolutions, right? Well, not really.

Whenever a new year comes around, we are quick to make lists of what we want to change in the year ahead. We make big – and small – life-altering goals that we hope and pray will come to fruition in the year ahead. And though I’m no stranger to doing such a thing, I thought it might be good to look at the year behind me too. Where did I “miss the mark” on my creative goals? Was I following my own advice? The advice of others? Turns out I have some work to do (don’t we all?).

There were certainly some wins and some misses from 2018. So in this episode, I take a closer look at where things went well and not-so-well as I look ahead to take on 2019.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:

2018 “Wins”:

  • Podcast still alive
  • New logo
  • Downloads only increasing
  • Journaling
  • Reading more

2018 “Misses”:

  • Missed launch date – The Shadow Of Mars
    • 1st reason: I backed myself into a corner creatively
    • 2nd reason: Not at peace with product
  • Less interviews

2019 “Looking Ahead”: 

  • Re-purposing The Writer’s Lens – storytelling is paramount
  • Guests (new and old)
  • Keep cultivating good habits
  • Hitting that deadline for The Shadow Of Mars

“The Scientist’s Dilemma” – J.C.L. Faltot

I told you about The Color of Soul, and now I’m telling you about another short story of mine: The Scientist’s Dilemma.

An oldie but a goodie, The Scientist’s Dilemma holds a special place in my heart as it represents two things about my writing life: 1) my transition from publishing non-fiction to fiction. And 2) my transition from being a lukewarm, skeptical believer to an actual believer in God – and more specifically, Christ.

The Scientist’s Dilemma is a piece that explores what I believe lies at the core of every person: a longing to know all so that we might be able to be all. So you might say this is an exercise in learning humility. Or at least exploring what that might look like.

If you enjoyed The Color of Soul, then this might be up your alley too.

Available only in Kindle ebook format (for now).

“The Color of Soul” – J.C.L. Faltot

In addition to the science fiction I spend my time writing, I do short stories too. And this is one of them: The Color of Soul.

It’s been almost four years from the time I published this little tale. One that involves two brothers, a game, and a revelation of how the world can look through the eyes of someone who has seen the better parts of creation.

If you’d like something to pass the time (and maybe shed a tear or two) then I’d encourage to give this oldie-but-goodie a go. That is, of course, provided that you have a Kindle on hand.

Of Heroes and Ordinary Men

As of late, I’ve been reading a book called Ordinary Men. It’s a recount of German police battalion 101; a documentation of the men who served as part of Nazi Germany’s Order Police during the Second World War. The policemen, as cataloged by author Christopher Browning, are given an assignment on the morning of July 13, 1942 that would change their lives forever. And subsequently, the lives of every Jewish man, woman, and child living in the ghetto of Jozefow. Though only police officers, the battalion is handed down orders to “liquidate” the entire ghetto and thus, murder every single Jewish person – amounting somewhere in the thousands – that resided within. As you might suspect, the orders are carried out in full. But, not without consequence. In the days and years that follow, the members of Battalion 101 experience extreme regret, bitterness, and entanglement of their very souls. It’s a chilling read and a grim reminder of how quickly things can devolve into madness.

What’s more, the book chronicles how so many of these average police officers were given a choice: to carry out their orders or to simply “walk out.” The majority of them did not choose the latter. And though some did outright, a vast majority of officers participated. The details of which I will leave for those who wish to read the book themselves.

As a writer of fiction, I am in the business of creating stories. Stories that not only tickle the imagination, but project images and ideals of I would constitute as heroic. For without heroism, few protagonists are memorable.

And yet, when it comes to real life, the heroes we find in story are remarkably absent. Bullies surround a kid at school and no one intervenes. An employee knowingly removes money from the company bank account and those in the know turn a blind eye. If confronted with these situations ourselves, we’d all like to believe we’d rise to the occasion. That we’d mirror the heroes of our favorite fantasy or fiction and become the star of our circumstances. However, as I’m reading through Ordinary Men, it’s easy to see that we aren’t always as virtuous as we tend to think, nor are we as brave as we’d choose to believe. External forces – coupled by our own internal ones – drive us to self-preserve, to retain self-interest, and forego the sacrifice that might be necessary to simply do what is good and just.

But, what is good and just? Writers have been tackling what is right and what is wrong since the beginning of time. And the more specific and morally gripping the scenario, the cloudier our answer tends to become. Yet by continually engaging in stories that challenge our thinking on these matters, we continue to cultivate the best parts of ourselves: the traits most associated with what is admirable and what is desirable. And that’s worth writing about.

For more on that topic, check out my latest podcast We All Wish We Could Be The Hero.

Interview with Nic Saluppo: Overcoming personal obstacles

I have a special interview to share with you this week. And though each is special, this one is unique in that it’s in written form, not audio. A friend of mine and fellow alumni of Mount Union College (now University), Nic Saluppo, is a former track star and fitness enthusiast. But, he is also someone who works to inspire others via his vocation and through his social media reach. I won’t spoil what kick-started this desire to help others so you’ll just have to read more about it below (ha!). I have been trying to interview Nic for a while, and at last, he responded to me in kind.

That being said, here’s that full text below:

Nic, thanks for wanting to be interviewed. I wanted to inquire about your desire to inspire others so let’s start there. You’ve had a blog for a while now where you share plenty of inspirational quotes and stories (even having yours truly on your site). What got you started doing that?

Josh, thanks so much for having me as part of your program. What got me started with wanting to inspire people is this: Life is short. A very simple concept, but very big implications. I used to live as if my problems were actually me. That is, I identified with my problems, rather than observed my problems. As I found healing from this condition, I noticed that 99% of the population was doing the same thing. Navigating life became so much more clear for me when I gained a new perspective of listening to what my pain had to say. This is in stark contrast to living as if I am my pain. Once I began learning from the inevitable pain that comes with life, the pain wasn’t so scary anymore. As mentioned, I began noticing that most people have no other perspective other than living to avoid pain. This causes people to sacrifice relationships and never take part in living out their God-given desires. My hope was that a new perspective would allow more people to embrace who they are, including the painful parts, and therefore not need to make the unnecessary sacrifices that go along with avoiding squarely facing the painful situations that are a part of life.

 

What’s a personal triumph you try to share with others? Or perhaps turned tragedy into triumph?

Nic Saluppo

I often share about my bout with depression. From the ages of 19-27 (I’m currently 33), I struggled with depression. Now, I don’t struggle with depression because I process my emotions as they arise. By processing what arises, no struggle is necessary. What was most significant about healing my experience of depression was that I needed to face some seriously scary, dark pieces of myself. I had to stop blaming others for my sad lot in life and begin looking at the fact that some of the painful experiences I’ve had in life were not my fault, but my emotions associated with those experiences were my responsibility. Nobody was going to fix me. Even if someone wanted to, they weren’t capable of doing so because the emotions causing the depression were inside of me. If the emotion is inside of me, then I am responsible for taking measures to resolve those feelings. As a result of taking responsibility for my depression (again, being responsible for my emotions is different than being at fault for them), I took drastic measures. I drove 90 minutes to Erie, PA every week to see my mentor, and I traveled all around the US to attend various workshops. The investment was a lot of time, energy, and money. If I didn’t take responsibility for my depression, I would still be depressed.  

 

Are there any mentors you’d attribute your successes to? Why were they helpful? Why were some not so much?

There is one man who was significantly helpful in my healing journey- Ron Gainer. After knowing him for less than 10 minutes, I could tell that he knew more about me and my situation than I did. In other words, he had walked the road before me. I still had to walk the road myself, but Ron was my guide. I drove to Erie PA weekly to see him for 5 years. A lot of time and energy, but I wanted to heal. Essentially, depression results from “stuck” emotions. Something on the inside needs to be processed, to move. I’m not talking about acute depression, but chronic depression that becomes a lifestyle. I met Ron at the age of 25, and before meeting him, I was taking medication for my depression and believing the lie that if my outer circumstances were to change, then I wouldn’t feel so bad. In other words, I was looking everywhere but inside of myself for the cause of the depression. Ron told me, “If you want to heal, you need to get off the medication and have the courage to look inside. Looking inside will be painful. It will be like walking through fire. But on the other side of that pain will be great joy.” LOL: I mean, how could I have known this? There’s no way I could have known this. Yet, Ron knew that this is what needed to happen if I wanted to heal the depression. Looking inside was painful. But, as it turns out, there was great joy on the other side of the pain. He knew the path.

How do you cultivate a creative edge to what you do?

Definitely meditation. Meditation is like clearing the road. It’s like laying out the red carpet so creative ideas can walk upon it. When I go into meditation, all the thoughts, worries, and anxieties about finding an answer dissipate. Then, when I come out of meditation, creativity simply arises with no effort other than being present to it. It seems that too much analytical thinking actually blocks the creativity that is beneath all of the endless thoughts. Take writer’s block, for example. It’s not a lack of ideas, it’s that there are tons of ideas swirling around in the writer’s head, but none of them are pertinent or relevant to the current piece of writing. None of them move the piece of writing forward. The creative answer is beneath all of those swirling thoughts. And, the way to access the creative answer is by dissipating the swirling thoughts through meditation. Once the swirling thoughts have dissipated, the creative response can arise naturally.

 

I know you from your running days at Mount Union. Do you still do that? What else do you fill your time with?

Haha. Sprinting on the track team was a big part of my life. I still do some of the sprint workouts. Interestingly, I also train sprinters. I’m currently training a sprinter from my alma mater high school who is almost definitely going to break my records. What I love about sprinting is that you get out of it what you put into it. Unlike football, for example, you can train your butt off all year, but if your teammates don’t do the same, then success may still allude the team. Sprinting is much more simple- if you train well, the time on the clock will be lower than it was.

I also read a lot of books and attend workshops, both about inner healing. I’ve found that the more I work on myself, the more I can offer other people.

I said Nic was a track star, didn’t I? Here’s the proof.

What would you say to people who say they’re constantly let down by circumstances? By other people even?

I touched on this earlier, but the first thing I would say is nothing at all. People first need to know that I care about them. When I facilitate workshops, groups, and one on one coaching for inner healing, the first thing I do is ensure that the person who is dealing with a difficult circumstance knows that they have been listened to. What they are experiencing truly matters. It’s hard and painful. But, there is a less painful way, and that is the way of inner healing. The fact that there is a solution to their problem doesn’t matter much if they don’t understand that the person providing the solution cares about them. When it comes to helping those dealing with intimately personal issues, depression, for example, providing a solution is much, much different than when it comes to less personal problems (repairing a flat tire, for example).

When it comes to issues of inner turmoil, a person must first know that they are cared about. Without this, your “solution” will fall on deaf ears. Mother Teresa talks about this extensively. Do a quick Google search of “Mother Teresa quotes,” and you’ll find quote after quote about simply caring for and about people. The reason this is true is because most people dealing with inner turmoil have an underlying issue of needing to know that they matter, that they’re cared about. If they keep going forward on the journey, people will eventually realize that they can care about other people. But, when a person is raised in a family incapable of offering them love, it will be very difficult to turn a corner in life until they encounter someone who does care about them simply for the sake of caring, not in order to get something. I see many well-intentioned Christians and pastors struggle in this area. “Here’s the solution to your problem!” they say. But, the true solution is caring for the person, not giving advice. Once a person feels cared about, they will ask for advice; it can be a mistake to offer it too early.

 

Are you a believer in hard work? Having God-given talent? Or both coming together somehow?

I’m a believer in smart work, plus paying attention to circumstances.

 

What would you like to be doing if you weren’t working at your current vocation?

Working in the area of inner healing is the most meaningful thing I can think of. Last year, I facilitated a great workshop. Since then, I’ve been facilitating small groups and one on one coaching. What I’m working toward now is having a piece of land where outdoor retreats can be held. So, although I admit there are times when I wish God would move things along FASTER (I am a sprinter, after all LOL), I can’t say that I’d like to be doing anything else. I’ve been looking at a few plots of land, so prayers from yourself and your audience are greatly appreciated—if I do end up finding the right piece of land, may it be a place of healing.

 

Lastly, do you have any endeavors like penning a book or opening a gym in your future? I’m all about writing books, as you know.

I definitely touched upon this in the previous question. However, YES. I do have more writing in mind for the future. Whether it’s an e-book, or a complete 225 piece of non-fiction, I’m not yet sure. It will depend on what will best bring healing to people.

Thanks so much for having me, Josh!

 

For anyone who would like to contact Nic directly about what he does or any other follow up, you can reach him at this email: nicsaluppo@gmail.com. 

Okay, It’s Here! #TheRoadToMars

Enough with the hype already! My book is available. And you can check it out here. Or by clicking on the picture. road-to-mars-cover-6x9-bleed

First off, what a process this has been! Lots of learning and lots of time I didn’t foresee having to work through, but hey, I won’t bore anybody with those details. That’s probably best served for another day. Or maybe never. Either way, the wait is finally over.

And as a special bonus – yes, a bonus – I have included the first few pages of the sequel, The Shadow of Mars, at the end. So, if you’re like me and love to spoil the endings of things, you may feel free to skip ahead. And thus, spoil some of The Road to Mars. But hey, that’s your call!

Happy reading, folks. And don’t forget to comment and leave me notes telling me how much you love (or hate) the story. I appreciate it!

And another big thank you to my friend, Immanuel Mullen, for designing the cover and back. Thanks again!