Take This Job and Slam It!

"Why I Slam" via Wordle

When it comes to the slam I maintain my integrity
’cause someone out there is listening closely.

“Why I Slam”

First off, “slam it” does not mean “shove it.” Quite the opposite, actually, and it was too provocative to not use it!

Second, I am totally burying the lede, but context is king, so read on. It’s kind of a fun story, complete with a happy ending.

The snippet and Wordle above are from an old (and mostly awful) poem called “Why I Slam,” which I wrote back in June/July of 1998, shortly after I made the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe’s National Poetry Slam Team,  and our victory that summer in Austin, TX led to Burning Down the House and subsequent adventures in poetry and publishing, some related, some not.

It’s an unapologetic and belligerent mash-up of my first year in the poetry slam scene, and while the writing is embarrassingly sophomoric, the underlying sentiment holds up: When I throw myself into something, I do so 110%. Also, I don’t suffer fools gladly or quietly.

That tendency towards full immersion is something I’ve always considered a strength — and for anyone in a community organizing/engagement role, an absolute necessity, IMO — though the downside is it can often leave little room for other interests, even directly tangential ones. In some cases, it can even cut into more important things like family time, though usually only for short stretches. (My wife and kids will surely argue that point!)

For the past 16+ months, I’ve been as fully immersed in all things Digital Book World as I’ve ever been in anything since the peak of my poetry slam days, back around 1999-2000 when I was still running a little bit louder, writing consistently, had been elected to the Executive Council of Poetry Slam, Inc., and occasionally even slipped in a short tour or two. As with DBW, I was  driven by the thrill of carving out a new niche from scratch, and engaging with a passionate community, and it was an all-consuming endeavor, fueled by a delicate balance of pugnaciousness and unabashed optimism.

Last week’s Digital Book World 2011 Conference, the ultimate measuring stick of everything I did under the DBW umbrella, was a resounding success by pretty much any measure, doubling paid attendance from 2010 and expanding the “conversation” to include bookstores and libraries, and exploring new areas like transmedia. From my perspective, it reached what I thought would be 2012’s goals one year early, and one of the most rewarding things I’ve seen is how often variations on the word “optimism” have appeared in press coverage the past several days, sometimes without even the slightest hint of irony or snark.

In slam lingo, and in my humble opinion, the Conference was a high-energy group piece that earned a perfect 30!

That doesn’t mean it was without fault, of course, but if you’ve ever been to a slam, you know a perfect 30 isn’t really about perfection, the poet, or even the specific poem itself. It’s really about a perfect moment in time: the poet(s), the words, the performance, the emotional connection with the audience… everything syncing at the right moment for an unforgettable communal experience.

The only perfect 30 I ever got in a slam was the night I proposed to my  girlfriend from the stage of the Nuyorican with a poem — March 20, 1998 — and it came with a bonus point because she said yes. 🙂

But I digress.

Forgive all that preamble and context as I confirm that I’ll be leaving Digital Book World at the end of February.

It’s a bittersweet departure as it’s been an exciting run, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with a variety of intelligent, creative people who gave my sense of optimism multiple points of reference, and reaffirmed my belief in publishing as a community service in an age where content is increasingly devalued, and made the work I was doing with DBW immensely rewarding and worthwhile.

Perhaps the most bittersweet aspect of it all is walking away from the new StoryWorld Conference, for which I’ve been laying the groundwork for months, but I am thrilled that it’s now in the hands of the wonderful Alison Norrington, someone I look to not only as a mentor and inspiration, but also a friend. If anyone can pull it off, it’s going to be her,  and she’ll have DBW’s excellent events team behind her and my DBW partner-in-crime, Matt Mullin, who is stepping up into the Nightwing role! And, of course, I look forward to supporting her in any way I can to ensure that it’s as amazing an event as possible.

But all good things do eventually come to an end, and for me, on the heels of an amazingly successful DBW11, I realized I was coming upon a crucial fork in the road, and while the DBW path will surely continue to be an exciting one for those continuing on, it’s one I realized would ultimately take me away from my true passion: Books, Authors, Readers and the myriad connections still to be made between them.

[B. A. R. Hmmm….]

The conversations currently being had and experiments being conducted across the industry are all great and necessary, and whatever role I may have played in helping shift the tone  away from the pointless gloom-and-doom, I am eternally grateful for having had the opportunity, but now I want to leave the talking to others and get back to the doing. (That doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly be quiet, of course!)

Like a quarterback for whom the comfortable confines of the pre-game studio never quite matches the thrill of being on the field, I want to get back in the game.

I’m not sure yet what my next step is going to be, but I knew I needed a clean break in order to take it most effectively, so during the transitional period of the next few weeks I’m looking forward to exploring every potential opportunity that presents itself.

Books? Magazines? Apps? Transmedia? Audience Development? Community Organizing?

Yes. Bring it all on! Give me the damn ball!

Seriously.

Contact me via email or LinkedIn and let’s talk. I’m all ears and ready for the next adventure!

[NOTE: If you’re one of those deep-pocketed angel investor types interested in publishing, read this and call me!]

To everyone who has been part of the DBW Community over its first year, in any form or function, my sincerest thanks, not just for your support, but more importantly, for your passion and perseverance, and for enabling me to continue to believe that the future of publishing is bright not because of technology, but because of the people who are dedicated to doing it right, no matter what tools they have at their disposal.

I fully intend to remain a member of the DBW Community, though probably wielding a slightly sharper optimistick from now on. 😉

Published by

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

As in guillotine. Old/new media pragmatist. Sometimes loud, one-time poet, still opinionated. Reading, writing, running, gaming, soccer, beer.

26 thoughts on “Take This Job and Slam It!”

    1. Babette, thank YOU for being such an integral part of that community. All things considered, when it comes to optimism, you take the cake! Kudos on the new job, and I’ll definitely be seeing you around. We’ll always have Botanica! 🙂

  1. Guy,

    Stopping by to say thank you for being such a positive force in the publishing arena. You and DBW have been thought leaders in what was once a very panicked landscape.

    Thanks again and good luck with whatever comes next.

    1. Mayowa, thanks for the compliments. Whatever I accomplished at DBW was thanks to a great community of people who were already out there, but perhaps didn’t have the right forum to amplify their positivity above the noise and chaos of the pundits. Thank you for your smart contributions as well. Keep up the good work!

  2. Guy,

    You Rock, and great job on DBW.

    Publishing is just getting started; with so many more participants and venues. Whatever you decide to slam next, I sure we’ll all be eager to support.

    Best,

    TED

    1. Ted, thanks for the compliment and vote of confidence! And kudos to the PW team for your support, and more importantly, for aggressively pushing into the future, ignoring the skeptics who’ve ridiculously counted you out. I’m looking forward to your exciting new initiatives!

  3. No question DBW rates a 30, you pulled together a thoughtful, energizing and empowering conference that was what few professional conferences ever are: productive!! I will see you on the other side of our transitions! Enjoy the extra family time! 🙂

  4. Sincere congratulations on all that you’ve achieved – DBW is an incredible force to be reckoned with, thanks to your tireless efforts and incredible spirit. I’m so glad to be a part of this community, though it’s in more of a sideline capacity right now. You’ve inspired me in so many ways. We seem to keep missing each other at events, but one of these days I will track you down. Best of luck with your new adventures. I look forward to seeing what you do next!

    1. Charleen, I can’t believe we STILL haven’t met in person. We must rectify that at the next event. Are you going to Book^2 Camp? As for the community, your participation did not go unnoticed. I’ve valued your curiosity and insights, and your Google Reader feed is always a good read. 🙂

      Thanks!

  5. Guy, for the past year I’ve frequently pointed to you and DBW as an example of how to go about creating a community from scratch. You, your energy, your consistent engagement, your passion and good humor–these were the things that held it all together. Congratulations on a job extremely well done and all best wishes for whatever comes next (I’m sure it will be interesting!)

    1. Tim, Thanks for the wonderful compliments! On the flip side, I’ve always pointed out that everything I did would have been for naught if not for such a great community already existing. DBW didn’t “create” the community so much as we built a hub around which the community could gather itself. Thank YOU for your contributions to that, and for making my job such a pleasure. Keep in touch!

  6. Watching this all grow from a distance both figuratively and literally it has been absolutely amazing. At a time when so much fluff and hype is tossed around the social media sphere of life, you REALLY created a community, that is both engaged and thriving.

    Congrats on that and the future. By the way the only things that are sophomoric are the things we are afraid to do!

    1. Patrick, Thanks for the kind words, and for the support and camaraderie over the past couple of years. Your insights and commentary on social media were always helpful in shaping my own approach to community organizing, so while technically at a distance, I’ve always considered you part of the DBW community. Keep in touch!

  7. Ha ha – you think you’re WALKING AWAY from StoryWorld Conference? Hold on right there buddy .. You SO totally get the whole transmedia process, you see the value and appreciate the hard work as a writer that is involved in crafting and creating a robust storyworld.

    StoryWorld IS going to be an amazing event and I’m already receiving a heap of tweets and emails asking for more information.

    Folks, don’t be surprised to see Guy in San Francisco from 31 October – 2 November… He has loads to offer and I’m not letting him escape too far..
    x

    .

    1. Alison, Of course I could never completely walk away, especially not with you involved! I’m looking forward to working with you on StoryWorld and other projects in the future. And I’m going to hold you to that veiled invite to be in SF! 😉

  8. Guy, you’ve made such a great contribution to the wider publishing community in your role at DBW. I’ve so enjoyed your joy, enthusiasm, knowledge and community spirit. Thank you.

  9. Double G,

    You have definitely made a mark, left an imprint, and lit the spark.

    Thanks for the opportunity you gave me, and I wish you the best of luck, although trailblazers such as yourself usually make their own.

    1. Joe, Much respect! You walk the walk when most just talk the talk, and your work has been an inspiration. If there are trails to blaze, I fully expect to see you along the way, usually a step ahead of me! Talk soon.

  10. LeCharles…
    Isn’t that what a mother would do – call you by your middle name when she needed to get your attention? SOO – now that I have it…
    Thank You doesn’t seem enough ~ either in depth or scope ~ to say to the person who inspires so many. I for one had the extreme pleasure of being on the ‘inside’ and truly seeing the amount of work you put into this ~ the struggles and hurdles that were put in your way which you handled with extreme professionalism and sheer will to do the right thing for the community you so love! Just remember, I know how to contact you – and I will use my power! 😉 Oh – and you introduced me to Alison – so all bets are off! No need to wish you luck – you’ll rock whatever house you walk into… NSM

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