I’m going to level with you. I don’t have much time to introduce you to this week’s Awesomepreneur We Love because I’m hoping to finish my current read before lunch. (Shhh! Don’t tell my clients!)
The book is Votary Nerves. The author is, well, an awesomepreneur we love. You can call him Jeff Phillips. And he’s not only the authorpreneur behind Votary Nerves (like how I did that?) he’s also a playwright, filmmaker, podcaster, comedian, and one hell of a grassroots marketer.
Reading Votary Nerves, a novel about in-transition adolescent Chad Duncan, I kind of feel like I’m back in high school again. And Jeff Phillips is the cool dood I double take in the hall, crossing my fingers we’ll end up at the same college. In real life, I did go to college with this mega cool dood, so I guess dreams come true, albeit out of sequence.
You can get a copy of Votary Nerves on Amazon.com or peruse Jeff’s other writing wares: his first two books, Whiskey Pike: A Bedtime Story For the Drinking Makind, and Turban Tan. But I recommend reading his interview first.
1. Who are you?
Give us a quick heartography of yourself.
When I was ten years old I discovered my parents’ camcorder and made little movies with my friends. That fostered in me an enthusiasm for creating story experiences. In my mid-twenties I began to fall in love with writing itself as its own vehicle for a story.
2. What do you do?
Describe your heartwork.
I write stories and scripts, sometimes produce and perform as a member of the Chicago comedy production group, Wood Sugars. For a while we did a variety show podcast with audio sketches: we do live sketch shows and videos. But equally important to me is my own literary writing on the side, short stories, novellas and novels. I guess I have a couple of creative faces, my goofier side is a good match for the Wood Sugars projects. But creatively I’m also a little dark, and that fits in more with my literary writing, stuff that is a little more tragic, and a bit trippy.
3. How did you get started as an awesomepreneur?
I began my storytelling venture focused on acting and producing, but after starting an original works theatre company out of college, the now defunct Three Leaves, I formed a good friendship with playwright Dan Mac Rae, and enjoyed seeing his writing process. I got to do some writing of my own for one of our productions, The Drowning Exercises, and had a ball playing the language of it, and got a lot of encouragement from viewers. I started to throw down more writing, mostly as spontaneous prose, and felt hungry to explore that more. I had also begun to read more and more, and genuinely enjoyed digging into a good book. I began getting excited about authors as artists the way I used to about actors and film directors. I really started to see literature as a mind altering substance. Through a book, an author will get inside my head, while at the same time I’m getting inside their head.
I started my blog, TheIglooOven.com, as a playground for some of my prose experiments, which led to Stephen Louis Grush of the XIII Pocket collective asking me to contribute some writing to their Seeding Meat literary publication, so I got a little more serious about crafting short stories. Then I wrote a short story about whiskey, which I thought would be interesting to illustrate as a sort of bedtime story for the drinking mankind, which became Whiskey Pike, my first published piece. I self published it, and really quite enjoyed the process of laying out, designing, overall creating the book. I wanted to do it again, so I did with my novella Turban Tan. That carried on with an obsession to create a novel length work of my own, so I did the NanoWrimo in 2009 to get it all out, and to surprise myself. Needless to say, writing a novel in a month really just leads to spewing out a lot of raw material, so the next 3 years became about shaping that text into a workable story, and a readable one, and is now my most recent title, Votary Nerves.
4. Do you have a day job?
How do you fund your heartwork?
I do have a day job. By day I work in Business Development, sales and marketing a payment gateway for credit card processing, which may sound boring, but in doing business to business, you often get to learn the story of other businesses. In a lot of ways it complements my development as an awesomepreneur, because it’s kind of like a big laboratory for studying communication and persuasion, which is important, one must learn to persuade someone to take time out of their day to read your work.
5. What is your biggest work challenge?
When does your heartwork feel like hard work?
Continuing on from the previous question, persuasion can be very difficult. We live in a noisy world, and we all have differing priorities. It’s easy to take things personally, someone putting you off, both in my writing work, and in a sales job. It’s kind of like that thing they tell salespeople, no just means not now. So very often I need to stop and put things into perspective. Now may not be the best time for someone to crack into my book, but that doesn’t mean come spring break, or summer, or some cold winter night someone is snowed in, that my book won’t pique that same person’s interest and potentially be a stimulating experience for them.
6. What is the best thing about being an awesomepreneur?
Why do you love what you do?
I absolutely love the autonomy. If I feel like writing a story, it really requires very little resources. I like the freedom to sit down and experiment with a story idea and actually work it out, versus running it by other people and getting a green light. Story ideas tend to begin for me as a strange image and ambiguous emotion, and it becomes something I want to explore. They rarely are these clever concepts that would get people jacked in a pitch meeting.
And in a sense, writing stories, I get to be a kid and play make-believe, yet in a very grown up way, expanding my command on the English language.
7. What is your #1 tip for working with heart?
What do you want to share with other awesomepreneurs?
I’d say it’s important to continue to learn about your process. And to learn about process, one has got to jump and do what they do, and think about what they do. What may have worked for you a year ago, may not work for you in the coming year. For example, I used to do my best writing in the morning, now I seem to do my best writing in the evening. In the end, we are not machines, so it’s important to pay attention to one’s rhythms, and changes in one’s rhythms so that we continue to enjoy our work.
Check out Jeff’s writing playground, TheIglooOven.com, as well as his Chicago comedy group, Wood Sugars. Or get your Sugar fix below with a trailer (starring Jeff! our heartworkthrob!) for the short film NSFT.
Jeff, my last question for you: when are you taking your book tour to Mexico? Love, A Fan.
We love Jeff Phillips!