Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Feature: Creative Spotlight

Although I have yet to officially launch my blog with my first post “Where it All Began – Milwaukee, WI” about the origin of The Creativity Incubator, I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce a new feature to coincide with my thought, quotes, events, and question of the month posts (to begin in September) – gotta love how I continuously change this thing before I even launch. I will now add the Creative Spotlight of the month, featuring a story on the creative people, places, and things going on in the Valley and region that you might not be aware of. This is going to be pretty cool as it can tie into a few of my future posts. Since the idea behind the CI was to link together the creative initiatives and people of the region, it should be a perfect fit.

Rather than waiting until September, I have decided to launch this feature today, August 28, 2007, on Chris Barzak World Domination Day. I guess that gives away the first CI Creative Spotlight honoree.

I met Chris through Thinkers and Drinkers and am very excited that we have such a gifted and creative individual like him in Youngstown. Chris is one of those ever important boomerangers, people who bring their talents and ideas back to the Valley. He grew up in rural Kinsman, Ohio, went to Youngstown State University (go Penguins!!), has lived in Southern California, the capital of Michigan, and the suburbs of Tokyo, where he taught English in junior high and elementary schools. Currently he lives in Youngstown, Ohio, and teaches writing at Youngstown State University.

Why is he the first Creative Spotlight? Glad you asked. Man can he write. His stories have appeared in many venues. Recently he was nominated for a Nebula Award. But the biggest reason is that today he releases his first novel, One for Sorrow, published by Bantam Books.

From the press release: “Set in a small rural community and in the rustbelt city of Youngstown, Ohio, part thriller, part ghost tale, part love story, One for Sorrow is a novel as timeless as Catcher in the Rye and as haunting as The Lovely Bones. His stunning debut tells of a teenage boy’s coming-of-age that begins with a shocking murder and ends with a reason to hope.

About One for Sorrow, Publishers Weekly says, “Death forges a supernatural bond between two lonely teenage boys in Barzak's first novel. Fifteen-year-old Adam McCormick is haunted by the earthbound ghost of his murdered classmate, Jamie Marks. Barzak admirably defies convention...the novel's approach to familiar material is refreshing.” Jonathan Lethem, National Book Award winning author of Motherless Brooklyn, says, “Barzak's sympathy and humor, his awareness, his easeful vernacular storytelling, are extraordinary,” and Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club, says One for Sorrow is, “An amazing, original debut from an amazing, original writer.” Scott Westerfeld, author of the popular YA series Uglies, calls One for Sorrow, “An honest and uncanny ride through the shadows between grief and acceptance.”

A book reception will be held at the Oakland Center for the Arts in Downtown Youngstown on September 1, from 7 to 11 PM. There will be wine, food, and live music and art inspired by One for Sorrow. Barnes and Noble will sell copies of the novel at the event. Christopher Barzak will read from the book and sign copies.

Chris will also sign books at the following events this fall: Borders in Niles, OH, September 15, 2-4 PM; Mac’s Backs in Cleveland Heights, OH, September 22, 5 PM; Youngstown State University Poetry Center Reading, October 2, 7 PM; Barnes and Noble in Boardman, Ohio) October 9, 7 PM; and at a local Book Club Discussion Group at Barnes and Noble, Boardman, OH, October 18, 7 PM.”

So check out this must read and make sure you stop by one of those events to say hello to Chris. It will be a very worthwhile experience.

So from all of us here at The Creativity Incubator (or me), we thank you Chris for being our first Creative Spotlight. Here’s to you for being a creative spark, for energizing Youngstown.

And to everyone else, thanks for reading. At some point today you will have an opportunity to change our world through your creativity. Take it. I want to be writing about it in the future.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Networking in the Middle III

I just wanted to thank everyone who assisted and attended last night. Overall, I think the event was a success and a catalyst for future endeavors (can't wait to see the data collected). There are always things you can improve on and look to do better in the future, but we'll worry about those later. I'll just touch on the positives (or the plus):

What a fantastic venue! Great food!

There was in-depth networking taking place (as evidenced by the hard time getting people to listen to some of the speakers - no big deal).

The Cleveland Plus campaign was introduced to many for the first time (see My Links for site).

The Mahoning Valley was well represented and we were extremely happy to open our doors to our friends in the region.

People witnessed the new positive energy in Youngstown led by a Young Professional Mayor, a world-class Business and Technology Incubator, as well as the Pro-Yo Party, Defend Youngstown, and MVP 20/30 Club.

Many successful Youngstown State University grads had a chance to re-connect with each other and interact with their counterparts from other great regional universities.

A foundation for a new Young Leaders opportunity with the United Way began.

Many learned of the success of The Young Philanthropist Fund at the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley for the first time (that will never get old).

We re-lived a little history (thanks to the Mahoning Valley Historical Society) in a place where thousands of great men and women once stood, the Edward W. Powers Auditorium.

We also got a glimpse of the future as a Cleveland PR firm, a Mahoning Valley YP group, and the fastest growing privately-held software company in the country (Turning Technologies) collaborated on an interactive and fun display that will provide us with useful information to analyze.

What a catalyst for future opportunities.

All happening in Youngstown, in the Cleveland Plus region!

Pretty Cool!

Thanks for making it happen. See you soon (and in Akron for NW in the Middle IV).


Coming Soon!

Welcome to The Creativity Incubator, a place where we can "incubate" the ideas that will change our community and our world. Please look for the official launch soon.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Where it All Began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Official Launch)

Welcome to my new blog. I am dedicating this to the creative endeavors and ideas that will change our world. I will also use this site to continue the "Week of" e-mails I used to send out via e-mail (previous ones archived here). However, I will change them to monthly and will add another twist, a question of the month. The question will seek input on various subjects. I will pick the response I like the best and blog on it in the following month or just blog on all of the responses collectively.
The Creativity Incubator was actually founded in August of 2004. It was 3 years ago to the day (when this post was started) that I embarked on a journey to Milwaukee, a journey that possibly changed my life forever. I went there for a Young Professionals Group Conference representing the MVP 20/30 Club. What I came back with was something I never would have imagined.

Upon my return on a rainy August day, Lightning struck (literally and figuratively). My flight landed in the Pittsburgh airport and due to that lightning, we could not exit the plane. So I was stuck. All I had was a back of a Milwaukee Sentinel ad and a pen. Ironically, that was all I needed to "re-create" myself.

It was around that time that I began to realize that public accounting was not the correct career path for me. There was a job opening at YSU I was contemplating applying for. I figured that extra time on the plane would be a great moment to draft the cover letter to my resume.

I got one sentence done before I realized that I needed to find my path in life and then find the organization (or create it) that would support it. I stopped writing the cover letter, but I did not stop writing. What I wrote then was completely unexpected to me, certainly nothing like I had written before.

I created an entity called The Thinctank, a Glass of Opportunity (the c stands for creativity). A Creativity Incubator. I began to write about what I felt we needed in society and in Youngstown and how this organization would also change my life.

Forty five minutes later I had a blue print. One that I shared with only 8 people until now. Most looked at me like I was crazy. I pressed on. I boldly quit my public accounting job to pursue other endeavors. I lost a bid for State Representative. I failed twice in starting my own business. I went broke. I was miserable and possibly even depressed. I regretfully went back into the world of finance and accounting to make some money - I had to. I also gave up on me and my role in Youngstown. I was ready to quit it all and move out of Youngstown to start over. Take a new direction.

Then something happened: I turned to alcohol and rediscovered that little nerve I got up in my head. Well, not quite. A few months ago, I received a call from Phil Kidd and an e-mail from John Slanina. I was invited to participate in Thinkers & Drinkers for the first time. In the last few months, I have come to realize that I may not be crazy after all. There are like-minded individuals out there. Maybe just maybe I'm on to something. I recognized once again that I have a place. I know now (once again) that place is Youngstown, OH. The passion is back. The ideas are flowing. I am ready to do my part to re-create my hometown. Thanks to the T&D group for your ignition, for keeping me here.

There is a new beginning here that brings out new challenges. But together we will tackle them and we will make positive things happen. Let the ideas flow. Let's change the world today!

Now the launch.

Although most of this is outdated (it was three years ago) and a lot of my ideas have come to fruition since then, I present to you without further ado, for the first time publicly, what I wrote on the back of that Milwaukee Sentinel ad.

The Creativity Incubator is alive and well in Youngstown, OH. Thank You!

"I am writing this letter in response to the open position of Coordinator of Alumni Relations as advertised on your website.
I don't really want to do this. This isn't right. (I believe there was a pause while my brain began working). I need to find my path. I need to create an organization that will allow me to pursue that path (probably another pause).

The ThincTank (c stands for creativity), A Glass of Opportunity (a few scribbled out words until I settled on this).

[Insert a sketch of a tank with the water level at the half-way point.]

The Vision Statement: Some people may look at this glass and see it as half full. Others view it as half empty. Here at the ThincTank (c stands for creativity), we view it as Opportunity. The possibility to fill a void, the chance to finish that project already started, the ability to foster potential, to clean-up, re-tool, and re-load. Innovation thrives in the tank, a creativity incubator. Through partnerships, together we can help turn ideas into reality.

What we do:

We are a middle man, we link people together, we inspire. Whether you are in the ThincTank for 5 minutes or 5 years, you will leave enlightened.

How we do it:

· The MVP 20/30 Club needs infrastructure, an office space to move in a positive direction. We give them that space and the technology necessary to do so. One day we will help them find a full-time staff member.

· A morning coffee shop with Internet access to explore the world, a place to sell books that inspire.

· Put on speakers on various subjects.

· A thriving online community (a community calendar at your access, chat rooms set up to link aspiring actors, musicians, and entrepreneurs, a chat room with today’s hot topics, a place to securely pass on creative ideas) [Web Portal & Valley24]

· A space for students of all ages to broaden horizons. Currently we give students curriculums and classes. Let’s teach creativity. I don’t want to teach English, Science, and Math. I want to teach how English, Science and Math will make them better writers, teachers, athletes, musicians, restaurant owners, entrepreneurs, accountants, etc. We want to inspire creativity, what founded this country. A kid has a dream to design cars. Don’t tell him he can’t because he (or she) fails science. Instead help him learn the subject, inspire him or her, show them why you need science to do this, and then introduce them to GM’s design team to see how they did it. Don’t discourage someone from trying to be a professional athlete, let them know they need to get through school and how to do it. I was told to go into engineering because I did well in Math and Science. No one asked if I liked it or even told me what exactly engineers do. Let’s develop Life Curriculums, not 4 year ones.

· We can be a match-maker. Not love but life. Let’s put John a bass player looking to jam with a band that lost one. Let’s solve this problem: Mike Latessa, an accountant at Cohen & Company (then) has a movie idea (this is true…and still available) but no experience in screen plays. Well Susie, a screen writer, is waiting for her next opportunity. We’ll link these two with the next Martin Scorsese, the Historical Society for information, and the WR Film Commission (existed at the time). We’ll introduce them to a bank that understands film financing, Sequoia (Cohen strategic alliance) to help them analyze a financial plan, Cohen & Company to teach how accounting is needed, etc. You have a chance to do something great. I can learn a tax incentive that saves a client $20,000 and get paid $5,000 for it. I could honestly care less (work issues at the time). I go to a club and see a band I put together for the first time, even if I made $50, I will be as excited as ever. Let’s introduce the next Ben to the next Jerry.

· We can create happy employees. Examples: John likes his job but needs an outlet other than the bank he works at. He plays the piano. Bill a doctor, looking for the same thing plays the sax. That’s two-thirds of a jazz trio (perhaps they can play at the annual ThincTank Best Bands You Never Heard of Festival in the new flats created next to the convocation center). Jill wants to own her own restaurant. Let’s link her with the banks and accounting firms, financial planners and realtors. Let’s also introduce her to three people who failed and three who succeeded. Let’s develop a plan. This plan may include staying at her present job to learn a few more things. She no longer is working for a company, she is working for Jill. She will be happier, maybe even more productive. Granted she may leave in a couple of years, but you don’t lose an employee, you gain a friend, an ally, and maybe even a client. The Tank can host art exhibits for new artists, can host painting exhibits of artists that work in the Health Care Industry or any industry who might not have that opportunity. We could even auction them for charity.

· We can negotiate. [Someone – no need to name names] wants 20/20/10 to build new schools. [Someone], my man, you have a dream. Don’t let it hurt others, though. Instead of butting heads, let’s partner with the unions. Let’s promote the building trades in inner city schools and vocational schools. Let’s start up high school apprentice programs. Let’s make sure this problem doesn’t exist anymore, but let’s build the schools in the mean time. If you guys can’t do this, guess what I know this new pr firm that just started and would love this project. [an issue at the time – may have been resolved]

· We can host lunches, not to eat but to learn. Let’s use a cafĂ©’ format where we give you a topic (diversity for example) and some questions. You discuss them for 15 minutes and then move tables. At the end of the lunch, we form an action plan on what to do next. [Thinkers & Drinkers]

· Let’s help Jim Tressel find the next Jim Tressel. [Cohen client name] find the next [Cohen client name].

· (i)Cleveland wants to expand…well how about (i)Youngstown. We’ll link the necessary parties. How about instead of our interns scanning we introduce them to an entrepreneur trying to start a business. We brainstorm on Monday with him or her and give the interns Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to develop a business plan using all of the resources available – even partner them with interns from banks and ad agencies. We let them present on Friday to the entrepreneur. Tell me that isn’t a cool internship experience (our own Apprentice).

· We are not the chamber or business incubator, we are a creativity incubator and will link people to those groups when needed.

· If someone can sell baskets and put up a basket building, why couldn’t I do this and put up a big tank building in Youngstown that could one day host a Museum of Creativity and Innovation (never run out of exhibits). If it doesn’t exist already, we can become the creativity capital of the world. Possibly have the YSU School of Creativity and Innovation to design curriculums around the person's interests and goals (Bachelors Degree in Video Game Creation)

· There’s so many other things

· Many times I had an idea come to my head and I didn’t know what to do with it. Too much time passed and it died. I never want that to happen to me or anyone ever again. When this happens, you just simply log on to the ThincTank website or call the ThincTank hotline and confidentially share your idea. The next day, this person gets the following phone call: It’s Mike Latessa, Chief Creative Officer for the ThincTank. You sent us a cool idea. Let’s get together and brainstorm on ways we can make this thing happen!

· The bottom line is that I have too many interests to confine me to being a teacher, a coach, a political leader. However, all of the things I like about these roles can exist in the ThincTank. It inspires me. "

Some time must have passed, the lightning subsided and a new journey full of ups and downs began on August 18, 2004. But as the inside of my business card holder states, “Fall 7 times, Stand up 8.” And thus a new journey begins today, 3 years later – August 18, 2007 [When written]. Where will it take us? Can't wait to find out.

Be Creative and change the world today.