Seven Questions with Blake Sebring

OTTSIn what may be the most goal-oriented installment yet, the Seven Questions series continues with Blake Sebring, Fort Wayne author and longtime sportswriter for The News-Sentinel.

Blake has covered the Fort Wayne Komets for 27 years and authored several books, including the just-released On to the Show: Fort Wayne’s Lasting Impact on the NHL. Blake is also a colleague from my copy desk days at the N-S, one with a particular gift for finding and telling the stories of humor, faith, and perseverance that underscore every game. I don’t remember ever having to bug him about a name spelling or missing information … and you’d have to be an editor working on daily deadlines to fully appreciate that, but on to the show.

Blake’s latest includes stories with people such as Mike Emrick, Bruce Boudreau, Kevin Weekes, Dale Purinton, and others from Fort Wayne who have advanced to the highest level of the sport. Here, find out more about Blake’s laughs with legends, defining moments and what happens when a mild-manned sports reporter has murder in mind:

1. You mentioned this was the most fun you’ve ever had writing a book. Tell me what made it so.
 
SPT 08XX Blake mug3Every former Komet I reached out to called me back within a day, if not sooner. I told them it would take half an hour or so, but we usually ended up talking for two hours. The first hour would be reminiscing or catching up about past teammates and their families. There were always a lot of laughs before we ever got started on the actual reason for the conversation, and then they gave me incredible material to work with. Some of the stories I had never heard before, and that made me want to write the stories right away.
 
2. You’ve covered the Komets for so long, telling their stories on and off the ice. What is it that you wish more people understood about hockey?
 
A couple of things. I’ve never felt the sport has done a good job of selling how much better the game is in person than it is on TV because you can see everything. The other thing is hockey players don’t get enough credit for being such incredible all-around athletes. They aren’t the biggest, fastest or tallest, but they play a game that is almost as physical as football and requires as much aerobic conditioning as basketball, and they do it three or four times per week.
 
3. When someone mentions Bob Chase, the late voice of the Komets for WOWO (and the subject of Live from Radio Rinkside), what’s the first image/memory that springs to mind? 
 
Bob’s humility. When I wrote his obituary column, I talked about how everyone always felt comfortable coming up to say hi or ask him a question at almost any time, and he absolutely loved that. Every time I talked to him about an award he received, he’d always get misty-eyed and wonder why his life was so blessed. And if you asked him about his kids, the water works would really get going. Bob was exactly the same in private as he was in public.
 
4. What’s your favorite sports movie?
Probably “Miracle.” Usually, Hollywood ruins sports movies because the action looks fake (actors are generally horrible athletes) and they change the story by adding conflict and drama, which really ruins it if you followed it as it happened originally. They didn’t have to do any of that with “Miracle.” I’ve talked to former Komets Steve Janaszak and Mark Wells enough over the years to have some insight into the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and what they experienced. Their stories are in the book.
 
5. Your last book, Lethal Ghost, delves into darker territory than sportswriters (or most police reporters) encounter. What, if any, challenges did you run into in the course of writing it?
 
(Chuckles) I wanted to try something totally unexpected and out of character to challenge myself as a writer. When I write a book, I usually try to experiment with something different, and in this one I wrote the bad guy in first person and the good guy in third person, and maybe the most fun was when they interacted. I had the beginning and the ending figured out in my head before I started writing and just let everything else flow. Every time I’d run out of material, my mom would come up with a new way to murder someone or I’d let it percolate for a few days and a new idea would pop in. I’ve got two sequels planned. Bwa-ha-ha!
 
6. There is a “defining moment” theme in the fictional The Lake Effect, certainly, but also in The Biggest Mistake I Never Made, which talks about Lloy Ball’s decision to play volleyball for his dad at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne instead of Indiana University Bloomington. Can you share one of yours?
 
I was 23 years old and working as a sports editor in Sturgis, Mich., and I left after 18 months because my boss kept lying to me. I didn’t have anything else set up, other than I knew I had to do something different because the environment was so bad. I needed to stand up for myself so I came home and worked part-time at The News-Sentinel and loaded freight at the airport for six months until the paper created a full-time position for me. Loved the freight job, by the way.
 
7. What is one thing you never leave home without?
The expectation that I’m going to find something or someone new that I can tell a story about if I just keep my eyes and ears open. The absolute best part of my job is that every day, every game is unique, and I never know what I’m going to find or see. How many people are lucky enough to say they are never bored with their job? How lucky am I?
___________________
Learn more about Blake’s work at www.blakesebring.com.

Five great things about majoring in English

4421990486_37247437fa_bI started college 30 years ago knowing only that I loved books and literature and could write well. Advertising? Public relations? Journalism? Teaching? It all kind of swirled together in an abstract of future career possibilities. Even at 18, I think I also knew that a lot would depend on what job opportunities presented themselves when I finished this four-year marathon . . . and that the future does funny things to your efforts to prepare for it.

Journalism would have been a natural choice, but when I entered Butler University, the journalism department seemed in danger of being eliminated and its students were uneasy. The English department was all stability, warmth, and great books by everyone from Julian of Norwich to the poets and novelists who visited. How could I not major in English?

A liberal arts education was more fashionable back then, but I still got the invariable questions, all some variation of: “What are you going to do with it?” More than one person suggested business as a double major. Or I could at least join a sorority for the connections and a place in the university’s social order. (I did neither.)

What I did was intern for a couple of local publications, help a professor grade freshman writing exercises, and write a bit and edit tons more for the college literary magazine. I got to read and study great literature and practice the art and craft of writing.

Did my career path become clearer as graduation drew closer? Nope. Life kept happening. And, what do you know, that’s the nature of literature — and perhaps, life. We react, respond, and try to make sense of the world as it turns and shifts. Some of us write about it, or we study how other people write about it and what that means and why, and if we confuse the daylights out of everyone by the time we’re done, so much the better. (Just kidding. Mostly.)

Whether you are thinking about majoring in English or did so decades ago, here are five great things about it. These are based on my experience and observation; academic advisors, parents, and other advice-givers may say otherwise. As always, individual results may vary.

1. It’s highly flexible and applicable. The communication and critical thinking skills you will develop by majoring in English will benefit you in all kinds of work environments. Internships can give you valuable experience in specific areas such as teaching and journalism. If you find you can’t stand a particular line of work, you have plenty of other options without changing your major.

2. It works as a single or double. You can combine an English major with a major or minor in another discipline. For example: Double major in English and engineering (and have fun moving between those two worlds) and become a technical writer who can actually explain mechanical stuff to English majors.

3. It puts the ball in your court. What you do with an English major and how it pays off — whatever that might mean — is really up to you. There is no prescribed career path for a student majoring in English; you are free to create your own. Some paths are more financially rewarding than others. Some are more suited to your gifts, talents, and life circumstances than others. So you get to start by applying your critical thinking skills and creativity to your own life.

4. It allows you to see through eyes very different from your own. You will read books, poems, essays, and plays by writers from throughout history, all over the world, and many walks of life. Read the ancient Greek poets and see how a civilization comes together. Read Alice Walker and learn about resilience in the face of racism and male domination. Read Mark Twain and learn how a person takes the world’s woes and incongruities — but not necessarily himself — seriously.

5. It’s an important work in progress. Piecing together your classes, extracurriculars, internships, and whatever else your college years bring is a great introduction to piecing together your life. Studying literature and learning to form and express your own ideas is not a bad way to tell, and live, your own story.

Blessings on the journey.

Seven Questions with Alena Chapman

The Seven Questions series continues with author Alena Chapman, whose book, You Can’t Escape a Prison if You Don’t Know You’re In One: What is Blocking Your Freedom? was published in January. It quickly became an international bestseller on Amazon.com. I must disclose here that Alena is a client, and it has been my honor to work with her on bringing this book and her other resources to life.

11703585_626501670785560_1483092237041839402_oAlena is also a singer, music teacher, speaker, workshop leader, coach, mother . . . and survivor. Here’s just a snippet of what she has to say.

1. What we now know as You Can’t Escape a Prison if You Don’t Know You’re In One  started out as journaling about the transformational “tools” you’d acquired. At what point in the process did you realize you were writing a book?

Yes, I did start by sitting in a coffee shop writing in my journal. Mentors and experiences were happening so fast and I was learning so much, I really wanted to capture everything in a journal for my own memory. Soon I was giving examples of these tools being used by me and by other people. The journal entries grew into chapters with each chapter heading being the new tool I learned. One day, I took a look at all the journal entries and said to myself, “Wow, I wish I had a book like this when I started breaking out of my prison.” That is when it hit me — I was writing a book.

2. How have your sons adjusted to your more public persona since the publication of your book?

How they act with me is the same. However, when You Can’t Escape From a Prison If You Don’t Know You’re In One: What Is Blocking Your Freedom? became an international bestseller, I heard from other people how proud my boys were of me and they were telling everyone. The hardest adjustment is that I am working at home and very busy. My children are not used to me being home, but not really available. So we all have had an adjustment.

3. Describe the role of music in your life.

Music has played and continues to play an important role in my life. I started studying music at fifteen years of age. I sang classical/opera or operettas for a long time. In 1989, when traveling around the country to sing was not as feasible, I started teaching in area universities and colleges. I taught voice, gave opera workshops, vocal-coached musicals, taught music history, and directed choirs. This is when I found my love for directing.

For the past nine years, my love has been self-development and helping others grow in their awareness and their lives.

However, my house is filled with music of all types. If you see me driving by, I am the one dancing in the car.

Music raises our vibration, gives meaning, and just feels good.

51NTogNJ2dL._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_4. In your book, you describe being about to close on a new home for yourself and the boys, and being suddenly overwhelmed with old paradigms about not being able to do such a thing on your own — that you needed a man to take care of you. The book tells us how you got past it, but how does an independent, 21st-century woman get to that place to begin with?

Great question! Even though women have come so very far in our country, sometimes the men have not, especially the older generation. My dad was born in the early 1940s, so his ideas had not caught up with women’s liberation. Also, he always worried about me, my independence, and my creative spirit, which he did not understand.

Yes, I was very independent. I moved to another state, started my own life — but looking back, I see there were many times in my life I would hear his voice and it would alter my decisions for my life. Why? Because he was my dad, a major person in my life and I loved him dearly — along with trusting him.

However, I found that every decision I based on what another person believes or says always turns out wrong for me. I can now say from experience: I am the only one to know what is good for me. Any time I am not sure which path to choose, I may ask others their opinion, but it is my decision what I do with the information.

Really, I need to thank my dad. In a roundabout way he taught me to be even more independent, believing in myself, and strong.

5. What makes you stop whatever you’re doing and take a picture?

Beauty — awesome, ever-changing beauty. I love vistas — blue skies, sunsets, water with the sun dancing on its surface. Every day, we receive as a gift from the universe a new sky. Did you know there is never the same sky appearing to us? Each one is new and different. But if we do not notice, we miss that sky forever.

We wake to find clouds hovering below a mountain’s peak or an innocent fawn walking in our path. The old woman who shares her stories with the lines in her face and the sparkle of her eye and the two-year-old boy who holds a handful of dandelions as if they were made of gold. This is life in its splendor. A spectacular gift which, if I am lucky, I can capture with my camera to remind me of that moment.

My world always feels blessed when I open my eyes and see the beauty, the uniqueness, and the abundance of our universe.

This is what I stop whatever I am doing, become totally present, and take my picture.

6. What was on your gratitude list this morning (that you’d like to share, anyway)?

Gratitude lists start with, “I am so happy and grateful for…” Gratitude lists are a must-do to gain/keep your perspective, sharpen your focus, and raise your vibration. I always feel happier and ready to start my day.

The one constant on my list is my children. I can never be more thankful than I am for the joy and growth they give me.

This morning I also listed:

2. My ability to help so many people live lives that they love

3. My awesome friends

4. The wonderful partner in my life

5. I have a new day to achieve my desires

6. The beautiful fall day

7. All the blessings and opportunities entering my life

8. My own growth and discovery

9. The health of my family

10. Me

After I list what I am thankful for, I read through the list, feeling the thankfulness. This helps even more to internalize the gratefulness.

Next I become quiet, like a mini meditation, and I ask for guidance for the day. Then while still in this quiet state, I send love and peace to three people who are bothering me.

If you have never done a gratitude list or are trying to change your life for the better, it is best to write a list first thing in the morning and another before you go to bed. Soon you will find yourself being grateful throughout your day.

Gratitude is the attitude changer!

7. What are you working on now?

Right now I am very busy. I have a new program and course coming out in October. The program is recorded by me and includes a workbook, the CDs or mp3s, and my international bestselling book: You Can’t Escape From a Prison If You Don’t Know You’re In One: What is Blocking Your Freedom? The course is eight weeks, covers the areas in the program, and much more. Also, the course includes four half-hour private consultations with me, an empowering mastermind group with people from the course, and eight meditation CDs or mp3s. I am very excited to offer and teach these wonderful tools to people in such a great way.

Nov. 7, 2015 will be a highlight of the year. I will be having a one-day seminar at the Manchester University College of Pharmacy in Fort Wayne at 10627 Diebold Road next to Parkview Hospital. This is a great way to discover and see the opportunities and start on bettering your life or achieving your dreams. I will give you tools and plans to begin right away. If you seriously want a difference in your life — this is the event to attend. (Check www.alenachapman.com for more details and registration.)

And if all that is not enough, there is a new book just starting. It should be out in the summer of 2016.

•  •  •

Many thanks to Alena for being my guest today. Check out her podcast, “Conversations with Alena,” available on her website (above) and on iTunes. Happy Labor Day, everyone!