Friday, November 30, 2007


The CDP Interview

As some of you know, fellow blogger theCDP has written a book, 65 Poor Life Decisions. No, this is not my biography, rather it is a collection of his essays. He was kind enough to sit down with me last Saturday for an interview about the whole process. Since it was conducted via chat room, I have taken the liberty to rearrange some answers to make this flow more coherently.

His book may be purchased from Lulu, or directly from him.

To get the book directly from him, follow these instructions:

$21 includes an autographed and personalized copy of the book, shipping to anywhere in the nation and FREE CDP MERCH with every order. I'll accept money orders (payable to Ryan Zeinart) and well-concealed cash (at your own risk), but no checks, please. It's a really good deal; I've done the math. Make sure you include a return address, e-mail address and a name to make the book out to, as well.

PO Box 865
Sun Prairie, WI 53590

And now, the interview. With the man, the myth, the legend...theCDP...

JT: First off - are you wearing pants?

thecdp: I am, but just barely. It's Saturday, so all bets are off.

JT: If a train leaves New York, heading West at 75 mph, and another train leaves Memphis, heading east at 60 mph, what time will they meet? Show your work.

He chose not to answer this one, citing religious freedom, and drawing a giraffe instead.

JT: When did you first develop an interest in writing?

thecdp: I started writing short stories when I was about...gosh...6 or 7 years old...

JT: About dragons or unicorns?

thecdp: I liked the paranormal, Stephen King and whatnot, so I started writing horror stories. Mainly just to make my mom think there was something wrong with me....

JT: Nice. Did you ever write anything so scary you were afraid to read it again?

thecdp: No, but I've written a few things I never want to read again, for one reason or another. For every gem, there's a ton of crap, and I'm left to determine what is what. Around the 4th grade, I was pretty much the class clown, and I got in the habit of writing weekly comedy stories to please my classmates.

JT: Any angst-ridden poetry around junior high?

thecdp: Oh, God yes. My freshman year of high school, I wrote over 100 different poems, each one more terrible than the last. I don't write a lot of music or poetry anymore, but I'm still interested in it. It's funny, but not in a 'ha-ha' way. More like, "I feel really, really sorry for you."

JT: Especially the poor kids who go to open-mic night at the coffee house.

thecdp: Yeah. We have a open-mic downdown called 'What's your damage?' where people get on stage and read these awful poems from their teen years. It's hilarious and everyone gets a real kick out of it. One day, I will have the balls to do a few myself. I have plenty in the filing cabinet.

JT: That actually sounds pretty entertaining, if you're willing to admit what an ass you were at 15.

thecdp: I'm willing to admit that I'm an ass now; no worries whatsoever.

JT: Likewise. Did you ever entertain a career as a writer in high school?

thecdp: In high school, I was in a band, so I put most of my writing skills towards music. Also, I wrote tons of letters to tons of different women. It kept me sharp, and allowed me to appear sensitive and literary. I never wrote for the paper or anything, but I did acting, Student Congress and drama. You know....super-gay stuff.

JT: At least it wasn't ROTC or something...I was a tuba player in the marching band.

thecdp: Tuba is a difficult instrument to well as carry around during parades. You should be proud of yourself.

JT: I did it mainly for the chicks.

thecdp: Isn't that why anyone ever does anything?

JT: It's my only motivation in life.

thecdp: Now that I'm married, I pretty much only do things to make my wife content. Things never really change.

JT: Yeah...I know the feeling. When did you decide to start the CDP?

thecdp: I started the CDP in February of 2004. I just graduated from college, was unemployed and more than a little depressed. I started writing to keep in touch with friends and relatives back home, and it blew up from there. Essentially, it was a way to keep myself sharp and suicide-free, and I guess it did the trick.

JT: Has anyone ever been offended that you wrote about them on the CDP?

thecdp: I think in the over 650 essays I've published, only one or two people have ever been offended by something I had said. In both cases, however, I was completely right. There are two main rules that I follow whenever I write an essay: 1.) Nobody looks worse than I do, and 2.) I always learn something. I've strayed from the path a few times, but I always maintain a moral and stake my claim as the dumbest person in the story.

JT: Yeah, I'm always amazed at how much I can learn about myself by writing about myself.

thecdp: Sure can. This is therapy. This keeps me grounded. I don't write because I think I can sell some books and make a career about it, I write because I absolutely HAVE to. When I don't write, I become a mess. It's an addiction. These last few months, having to not write new stuff while pouring over my old stuff, has been hell to me. I cannot wait to sit down and write a brand-new book with brand-new essays. Seriously. I'll crank that thing out in two months.

JT: I bet it was hell. How hard was it, going back over old essays, and picking what to keep, what to cut, and what to rewrite?

thecdp: It was mixed. I had over 650 essays and 1800 pages to sift through, and I ended up with 65 essays on 298 pages. So yeah, it was a huge undertaking. There were essays that got cut just seconds before I sent the book to print. At the last second, I got a bad feeling about them, so we had to update the cover, title, PDF, everything. Just the sifting and cutting took a couple of months. The editing took almost less time.

JT: Wow. Which one stands out as your favorite?

thecdp: My favorite essay? Hmmm...I like the essays that would make good movies. Ones like "No Scents Whatsoever," "The Homecoming Quadrilogy" and "My First Job" always strike me as interesting and resonant with others. Other times, I prefer the off-the-cuff essays that I think nobody will care about, that ends up being super-popular. "Tackling Reggie White" comes to mind.

JT: That one is actually my personal favorite.

thecdp: Well, there you go. Just like I was saying. You never know what stories people are going to jump on, and that was a very pleasant surprise for me, to know that other people felt good reading about that moment. I'd be a bad marketer, because I can never tell what's going to work. I just go with what I like, and hope it sticks. It was a crazy childhood moment, and sitting down to think about it really brought the memory back.

JT: I was in awe of how well it was written, how much feeling was conveyed in it. I still say you should submit it to Sports Illustrated.

thecdp: Thank you, sir. Now that I've published it, Sports Illustrated. wouldn't want it. They'd get sued. :)

JT: That would be awesome. If you won the suit, I would want one of those football phones.

thecdp: Yeah, and one of those tiny-beer dispensers.

JT: That would be nice also. When did you decide to turn the essays into a book?

thecdp: I had been thinking about it for a couple years now, and finally in May, I realized that now was a perfect time. The Missus convinced me to get my priorities together and work on a big project, and she was right. I've been putting the hours in since May, and now we're only 6 days away.

JT: What made the timing right in May? Write something long and meaningful. I'm going to get a beer.

thecdp: I was thinking about all these things I wanted to do on the CDP. Podcasts, viral videos, books, things like that. I was thinking so much about everything that I overwhelmed myself and didn't want to do ANYTHING. The missus got my head on straight, told me to take things one at a time, and pick the project that I felt was the most important. I felt that the book was something that I had been thinking about for the longest time, so I went for it, with the idea being that I could release the book on her birthday, November 27. I was three days off, but she forgives me.

JT: That, my friend, is a hell of a gift. My birthday is September 9th. Just saying.

thecdp: Thanks. Furthermore, I want this book to be the closing chapter in this stage of the CDP. In 2008, expect to see new, different and hopefully interesting things.

JT: I'm intrigued. Any hints on what direction you're taking?

thecdp: Well, I started the blog because I wanted to write books some day....I consider this book the bridge between blogger and author, and I want to move further over to the 'author' side of the equation. Keep the blog, but separate the two just a little bit more. My next book will be 100% new, non-blog material. Which should be a lot more appealing to...well, everyone.

JT: Got it. Oddly enough, I started Spork Nation because I was trying to write a book, and felt it was too disjointed, so it became a blog.

thecdp: Blogs are a good way to get your head on straight. Write about the little things, notice the big things and expand on them thusly. It's also a good way to see what's working and what isn't. Instant feedback.

JT: Are you ever taken aback by how popular the CDP has become?

thecdp: Yes. Every day. When I started out, I was getting 4 hits a day. Now, I get 10,000 every month. This is a drop in the bucket when it comes to massive-scale blogs, but to know what people are interested by my essays is an honor every day for me. Writing a book is a dream come true, and the CDP readers made it a reality, no doubt about it. So no, I'm not jaded just yet.

JT: You do have a very loyal group of readers, and thankfully some of them have started coming to visit me as well.

thecdp: The people I've met, the e-mails I've received and the way I've been treated is incredible. Yeah, I'm also really happy that the CDP Network has expanded in that way, as well. Fans of my page are becoming fans of each others' pages. It's the unity and sense of community that rules to me. This interview, for example. It will cross-promote both of our blogs, which is good for everyone.

JT: I prefer some of pur readers to people I know in real life.

thecdp: I agree. My friends and relatives are already far too sick of my crap to visit every day.

JT: As someone who was around in the days of dial-up modems, pre-AOL, I'm constantly amazed how much the world has changed.

thecdp: I agree. Last night, my wife wanted to know what Kenny G's real name was. In two seconds, I knew the answer. I couldn't have done that in 1993. See how much better off we are?

JT: Now I'm curious. What is his real name? Now I'm curious.

thecdp: Kenneth Gorelick That's.....terrible.

JT: Yikes. No wonder he went with "G."

thecdp: Yeah, that's a pretty disgusting last name for a guy that plays a horn for a living. I hear that he's hilarious live.

JT: Huh. Never woulda thunk it.

thecdp: Like, genuinely funny. Shows what I know.

JT: I used to have to scour local BBS's for grainy pictures of Cindy Crawford in a bikini, now I can get directions to her house and sleep in her shrubbery with just a few clicks.

thecdp: Exactly. I can't imagine what it's like for kids now. Back in the day, finding a basement full of Playboys was the holy grail to a 12 year old. Today, a google search will destroy any sense of wonder or accomplishment...I'm just saying.

JT: It's true. There is no sense of mystery. So...big time author, adored by millions...what's the next step? Multi-media magnate? International playboy? Pirate captain?

thecdp: I'll lay out my 5-year play to you...Release the book on November 30, promote and market the book until February...Take a month off of the CDP, redesign the page, all merch and whatnot...come back stronger than ever...Keep the blog strong while writing Book #2...release Book #2 at the end of the year or early 2009...Profit. Retire to a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, emerging only to collect my check from the mailbox. Never been seen or heard from again. Die.

JT: I like it. Will you grow a beard and wear overalls, smoking your corn-cob pipe?

thecdp: You'll never find me without a jug with three X's on it. All the good authors do it.

JT: I don't know why I assume you'll be buying a log cabin in Kentucky, as opposed to Aspen.

thecdp: I've been to Kentucky, it's an allright place. Nowhere I want to retire, though. Overall, I just want to keep creating new and funny things.

JT: Well, man, I don't want to take up too much of your Saturday afternoon. Anything else you want to get off your chest? Where you buried the bodies? Deep dark family secret? Your social security number?

thecdp: Write to live, live to write. Meet new people, expand the empire and stay happy with this great hobby. This has been a good 4 years, but we're just getting started. Hopefully, those that have made the trip worthwhile will stick it out for the long haul. And I can't thank you enough for the interview. This was a neat idea, man.

JT: It's been fun. Alright, buddy. Thanks for taking the time, this will be a fun post.

thecdp: Yeah, thanks again! I'm looking forward to reading it. Go Clemson!

JT: Hell yeah. Thanks, man. Take care, and tell the Missus hello.

thecdp: You got it. See you later!

I originally intended for this to take a more humorous slant, but it's hard to do that when someone is as sincere about something as theCDP is about his book. We still had a good time with it, and I was too engrossed in the conversation to finish more than one beer. I was also slightly late to a party I was supposed to go to, and I'm never late.

I hope everyone enjoyed this as much as we did. Now go buy the book, it's a perfect stocking stuffer.

JT out.

Thank you so much for this interview idea. You're right about the mood of the chat; the 'live chat' is a good way to really talk to someone off the cuff and find out what they're really thinking about. This is actually one of my favorite interviews that I've ever done. Not all that funny, but insightful and with really good questions. Great idea.
Wow, great interview fellas! :)
Yes, we get to see a softer, gentler CDP. So much playful banter, gets me teary.
It went better than I thought it would. Very cool.
I'm pleased. At some point we'll perform a more zany interview where I ask you questions like if you would rather have Ellen Degeneres redecorate your house, or have to eat nothing but radishes for the rest of your life.
Radishes. NEXT!
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