Taking a Little Break

14 Nov

I started my blog, A Place for My Stuff, back in January of 2013. Today, 119 posts later, I still have so many things I want to share with you all. I hesitated for years to launch a writer’s blog because I thought it would turn into a grind, and that I would quickly run out of things to write about.

Boy, was I wrong.

Over the past 22 months, I have written about a diverse array of subjects, including parenthood, book reviews, current events, sports, social media and the occasional quirky work of fiction. I have averaged at least one post a week during a period when I lost my father, got laid off from Hallmark, found a new job, published my first novel and, of course, continued to be a husband and a father and a pet owner. Despite all the complications of modern life, I managed to find new, interesting things to write about. I discovered that maintaining a blog was actually fun, and served as a creative spark for my writing. It has also been gratifying to receive comments and feedback from my 163 subscribers, as well as others who have visited the blog.

That being said, I am going to take a little time away from A Place for My Stuff in order to concentrate on writing my second novel. I am about 130 pages into the new book, but my progress has stalled as I have focused most of my creative energy on promoting A Plot for Pridemore and updating the blog. I will still post from time to time but, for the next three months or so, I want to focus my limited “writing time” on the new book.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and following my blog. Feel free to check back anytime to see if there is anything new. I look forward to sharing some more information about my next novel when I feel that I have something worthwhile to report.



Wear What You Want for Halloween

30 Oct

A few days ago, a friend remarked on Facebook that he recently attended his child’s pre-school Halloween party, and one of the three-year-old boys was dressed as Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen, even wearing high-heels. My friend declared it “the ballsiest thing I’ve seen in a long while,” and complimented the kid and his parents for their bravery.

Witch, 1974

Witch, 1974

I could not help but think how sad it is that a three-year-old’s selection of a Halloween costume would be judged as ballsy or anything else. But in today’s polarizing culture, where every action is viewed as some kind of a political statement, a little boy dressed as Elsa probably is pretty bold. I know I would be a little nervous, as a parent, about what the other kids would say. Hopefully, everyone at the party was nice, and Elsa got lots of candy.

When I was three years old, I decided to be a witch for Halloween. My parents agreed and I went door-to-door with a pointed hat, blond wig, black sheet and an old broom. I don’t remember any of our neighbors making a big deal about it. Some of them might have thought I was a little girl. If my parents were embarrassed or worried about it, they never let on. It was simpler back in the early 1970s. Adults didn’t seem to fret about what kids dressed up as for Halloween, or anything else they did, for that matter. Today, we seem to be much more wrapped up in our children’s lives, as this recent Halloween story colorfully illustrates.

Ghost, 1973

Ghost, 1973

Anyway, I was lucky to have parents who let me be who I wanted to be for Halloween. I’m also fortunate to have had a mom who enjoyed creating my costume most years. I’ve included photos of some of the early ones. My “Jack O’ Lantern/Scarecrow” outfit actually won a contest back in the second grade!

My son is only four years old, but I’m pretty impressed so far with his originality when it comes to selecting Halloween costumes.

Jack o' Lantern, 1978

Jack o’ Lantern, 1978

While many of his peers will dress up as Marvel superheroes or Disney princesses, my son wants to be a dinosaur. Specifically, he wants to be a Pteranodon. (If you aren’t up-to-date on your dinosaur names, a Pteranodon is a winged creature very similar to the more famous pterodactyl. In fact, I don’t know the difference between the two.) We ordered the costume off Amazon, and it seems to fit him pretty well. He can’t wait to spook his neighbors, and also educate them a little bit about paleontology.

Last year, my son went as a ghost, and that was a big success. We couldn’t find any toddler-sized ghost costumes, so my wife cut up a couple of pillowcases and layered his face with white and black makeup. He had great fun running through the neighborhood, a little white blur wearing silver and green tennis shoes. “I’m a ghost! I’m a ghost!” he shouted repeatedly.

Devil, 1976

Devil, 1976

I suspect that my son watches just as many movies and TV shows as any other kid his age. I’m a little surprised he doesn’t want to go trick-or-treating as a Power Ranger or a Minion or even one of the ponies from My Little Pony (still one of his favorite shows). I am sure the day is coming when he will fall into rank with what everyone else wants to be, but I hope not. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. It takes a lot of nerve, or even some balls, to be different in this day and age.

Be Royal

23 Oct

Today I have nothing to share except this:

Royals win
And this:

Royals win 2
That will be all. Have a wonderful Thursday.

The Crayon Box

21 Oct


I am re-posting this because my dear college friend, Michael Schwartz, has launched a KickStarter campaign to fund a movie he wants to shoot at locations around the world before he loses what remains of his eyesight. A truly inspiring and courageous endeavor that you can learn more about by clicking here: http://kck.st/ZF2RC9

Originally posted on A Place for My Stuff:

I met Michael Schwartz during my first semester at the University of Missouri in 1989. We shared an English class with about 10 other easily startled freshmen. Our instructor was a slightly mad fellow by the name of Aristotle Baklava, who did everything in his power to turn English 101 into a left-leaning political science course. Each week, he had us write term papers on different chapters from a book called Courage of Their Convictions: Sixteen Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court. We wrote about gay rights, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and the uniquely American right to burn the country’s flag at the Republican National Convention. I have to admit I learned a lot about writing in that class. Once my terms papers started taking on a decidedly liberal slant, my grade average magically rose from a low “C” to a solid “A.”


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I Sure Am Going to Miss My Dad

14 Oct


Hard to believe, but it has been a full year since since Art Roth Jr. passed. I love and miss you, Dad.

Originally posted on A Place for My Stuff:

Dad talking business; me playing with my stuffed giraffe.

Dad talking business; me playing with my stuffed giraffe.

Some time in the summer of 1977, when I was a six-year-old happily growing up in LaGrange, Georgia, my mom took me to a fish and chips place for lunch. She ordered me a basket of hush puppies and explained that my dad’s job was going to be transferred to the headquarters of Milliken & Co., and that he would be moving to Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“Well,” I said after some thought. “I sure am going to miss him!”

My mother then went on to explain that she and I would also be moving with him to Spartanburg, and thestrange reality of an impending uprooting, away from all my friends and everything else I hadever known, slowly setinto my six-year-old mind. There would be other moves, all of them between South Carolina and Georgia, in my growing-up years as my father’s…

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Georgia on My Mind

8 Oct

One thing I have learned in my three-plus months as a published author: sometimes things don’t work out exactly as you had planned.

PlotForPridemore (2)I was originally slated to speak about A Plot for Pridemore at the Georgia Literary Festival in Augusta on the weekend of November 7-9. Last week, I learned that the festival had been canceled for this year. This sent me scrambling to set up new gigs to fill up my weekend visit to Georgia.

Thanks to some understanding folks who were willing to work with me on just a few weeks’ notice, I have been able to pull together a few appearances in the Peach State:

At 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8, I will sign books and possibly do a reading from Pridemore at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock. FoxTale is one of the top independent bookstores in the Atlanta area, and has hosted many Mercer University Press authors over the years. I am thrilled that FoxTale is willing to fit me into its schedule on such short notice.

At 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 9, I will be signing books at the Barnes & Noble in Columbus. This will not be a formal author appearance, but I will be in the bookstore’s coffee shop to meet with people and chat.

Finally, at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 10, I will be speaking and signing books at the LaGrange Memorial Library as part of its “Author Talk” series. This is especially meaningful because it is the first author event I have done in my hometown of LaGrange. I am really looking forward to catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a few years.

So that’s the plan for my trip to Georgia next month. If you happen to be around those parts on that particular weekend, or know someone who is, I would appreciate some company at any of my scheduled appearances. Can’t wait to get down there!

10 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Your Week off to an Awesome Start

30 Sep

Here are the 10 things I do every Monday morning to ensure that I have the most successful, productive work week possible. Some Mondays, I do not get through all of these steps, but this has proven to be a very effective day-starting process for me:

  • Wake up. Almost nothing can be accomplished if you are asleep.
  • Turn off the clock alarm. I have mine set to a country music station, and it is just really annoying if I let it keep playing.
  • Shower. Good hygiene is an important aspect of success!
  • Dress. Nakedness is an advantage in only a few select professions and scenarios.
  • Eat something. Feel free to mix this one up. Some days, you might crave breakfast cereal. On other days, you might prefer a bran muffin. Experiment!
  • Turn off your curling iron, or any other device you use to get ready that could potentially burn down your home.
  • Remember your keys. This is an important aspect of starting your car. If you use public transportation, you may still need your keys to get back inside your home.
  • Bring blankets. If you live in a frigid part of the country and there is a possibility of driving through a snowstorm, you should have blankets in your car in case you get stuck.
  • Use your mirrors. Rear- and side-view mirrors are invaluable tools that help you monitor traffic around you while driving to your workplace. These mirrors can also help you spot facial hair or smeared makeup that could cause embarrassment among your colleagues.
  • Bring treats. This is the most critical aspect to your Monday morning routine. Studies show that 87% of workers who received a promotion in 2013 regularly brought food into the office for coworkers to consume. These can be donuts, bagels or even, on rare occasions, scones. Be sure to send an email out with the subject line, “Treats.” It is vital that you copy your supervisor on this email.
  • Stephen Roth is author of the award-winning novel, A Plot for Pridemore. Learn more about Stephen and his book here.

    Conversation with an Eight-Year-Old

    23 Sep

    I recently read an interesting article by self-help hipster Mark Manson that was titled, “7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose.”

    One of those strange questions stuck with me long after I finished the article. It was Question #2: “What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?”

    The point of that question seems to be that, if what you are doing today does not capture the passion, purpose and idealism that you once had as a child, then perhaps you do not lead the fulfilling life you deserve. It got me to thinking about my own childhood self, and what he would think about my current activities. What would it be like if I were able to time-travel back to the year 1979 to visit with eight-year-old Stephen Roth? What kind of wisdom would I share with him, and what wisdom would he share with me?

    Here’s how I think our conversation would go:

    43-year-old Stephen: So how are things going?

    8-year-old Stephen: Pretty good. Mom took me to the mall last night and we ate pizza and she bought me a Star Wars action figure. I got a Jawa.

    43-year-old Stephen: That sounds like fun. How is school?

    Eight-year-old Stephen and his mom.

    Eight-year-old Stephen and his mom.

    8-year-old Stephen: How do you think it is? I hate it. I finally learned how to read, so that’s good. But math and cursive are killing me. It gets better, though, right?

    43-year-old Stephen: What? School?

    8-year-old Stephen: Yeah. It gets easier, doesn’t it?

    43-year-old Stephen: Eventually. Let’s just say that you are probably going to have some setbacks in your sophomore year of high school. I’ll just leave it at that.

    8-year-old Stephen: (Scowling) That’s really not what I wanted to hear. So how about you? What are you up to?

    43-year-old Stephen: Let’s see. Well, for starters, I have a wonderful wife and a four-year-old son. We have an English Shepherd named Keiko.

    8-year-old Stephen: Is your wife pretty?

    43-year-old Stephen: Of course she’s pretty. She’s a beautiful woman.

    8-year-old Stephen: What color is her hair?

    43-year-old Stephen: It’s dark brown. She’s a brunette.

    8-year-old Stephen: I like blondes. Farrah Fawcett is a blonde. She’s very sexy.

    43-year-old Stephen: Well, I think you’ll find that a woman doesn’t have to be blonde to be sexy. You’ve probably been watching too much TV.

    8-year-old Stephen:Hey, as long as your wife is pretty, that’s okay with me. So what do you do? Do you have a job?

    43-year-old Stephen: I do have a job. I’m a copywriter and content manager for a company that provides financial services for the trucking and transportation industry.

    8-year-old Stephen: Hmmm. What’s a…what did you call it? A contest manager?

    43-year-old Stephen, trying to look artsy.

    43-year-old Stephen, trying to look artsy.

    43-year-old Stephen: A content manager. It means that I create and manage all the writing and information that appears on our sales materials, websites, that sort of thing.

    8-year-old Stephen: What are websites?

    43-year-old Stephen: Um, there’s this thing called the Internet…You know what? Never mind all that. I’m basically a writer. I also wrote a novel that just got published.

    8-year-old Stephen: That’s cool, I guess. But I was kind of hoping you would be doing something different at your age.

    43-year-old Stephen: Like what?

    8-year-old Stephen: Well, I hoped that maybe you would be kind of an outlaw. I mean, not a bad guy, really. More of a Robin Hood kind of person.

    43-year-old Stephen: I see. You mean the kind of person who steals from the rich and gives to the poor?

    8-year-old Stephen: Sorta. You ever seen a show called The Dukes of Hazzard? My friend Curt and me watch it every Friday night. Then, the next day, we get on our bikes and jump over a gravel pile and pretend like we’re driving the General Lee. The General Lee is a really cool car. It’s a 1970 Dodge Charger. Curt’s a little better at jumping his bike than me. He takes more risks.

    43-year-old Stephen: (Smiling) Yes, I remember that.

    8-year-old Stephen: So I guess I was kind of hoping you would turn out to be a Duke boy. Or at the very least, a sheriff’s deputy.

    43-year-old Stephen: I see.

    8-year-old Stephen: Basically, someone who drives a cool car really fast.

    43-year-old Stephen: Got it.

    8-year-old Stephen: You could also be a truck driver. You ever seen Smokey and the Bandit?

    43-year-old Stephen: Of course I have. I’ve got it on DVD.

    8-year-old Stephen: What’s DVD?

    43-year-old Stephen: Oh, it’s…nothing. Look, I’m sorry you’re disappointed. I guess you’ll find out when you get older that your priorities change, that you have different interests and discover new talents. Sometimes we follow a very different path than the one we imagined.

    8-year-old Stephen: (Staring off into the distance) Sure. Okay. So tell me, what’s high school like?

    43-year-old Stephen: High school is a very interesting time. What do you think it’s like?

    8-year-old Stephen: Well, in high school, I think it’s very important to be cool. There’s a lot of cool music and a lot of cool dancing. There’s also a lot of kissing. Like in Grease. You have to wear a cool leather jacket and slick your hair back like John Travolta. Also, the girls aren’t cool unless they wear tight leather pants. And they need to be blonde.

    43-year-old Stephen: Okay. Well, high school is a lot more complex than that.

    8-year-old Stephen: Really?

    43-year-old Stephen: (Thinking for a moment) Well, maybe not that much more complex.

    8-year-old Stephen: (Yawning) Are we done talking? Diff’rent Strokes is on in 10 minutes and I’ve gotta finish this stupid grammar worksheet.

    43-year-old Stephen: I think we’re done here. Good luck with the next 35 years.

    8-year-old Stephen: (Starting to cry) Thanks. It sounds like I’m going to need it.

    Stephen Roth is author of the award-winning novel, A Plot for Pridemore. Learn more about Stephen and his book here.

    A Strike Against SIDS

    18 Sep

    In July of 2011, the Kansas City Royals were stumbling their way through yet another losing baseball season, their 26th in a row without a trip to the playoffs.

    In July of 2011, our volunteer board for SIDS Resources Inc. gathered in Columbia, Missouri, for our annual face-to-face meeting. In case you haven’t heard of it, SIDS Resources is an organization dedicated to educating the public about ways to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and also supporting families that have lost a loved one to SIDS. It is a small nonprofit that serves Missouri, as well as parts of Kansas and Illinois. I started serving on the SIDS Resources board in 2007, and I became its chair in 2010 through 2011.

    Strike Out SIDSBecause our board was split between people who lived in Kansas City and St. Louis, most of our interactions were conducted through monthly conference calls. Each summer, most of the board members would drive to the middle of the state and meet for a few hours in a hospital conference room in Columbia. It was a chance to brainstorm new ideas, get to know each other, and enjoy pizza from Shakespeare’s, Columbia’s best-known restaurant. During our brainstorm in 2011, one of our members had a very good idea. Our Kansas City office was lacking in an annual marque fundraising event. St. Louis already had a couple of big fundraisers, including one that involved the beloved St. Louis Cardinals. Why not do a summer event around baseball in Kansas City, the board member suggested. Perhaps it could be one of those events where kids and their families could run the bases, or do batting practice on a real baseball diamond?

    That idea became “Strike Out SIDS” which debuted in 2012 at Community America Ballpark, home to the independent league Kansas City T-Bones. The event was fun – kids ran the bases, adults hit batting practice, we had hot dogs, Cracker Jacks and a couple of the usual bouncy houses – but the crowd was fairly modest. Only about 200 or so people attended. I left the SIDS Resources board after 2012, but the nonprofit moved forward with its plans to turn “Strike Out SIDS” into a big event. Last year produced a breakthrough as the big-league Kansas City Royals agreed to host “Strike Out SIDS at the K.” The “K,” in case you don’t know, is shorthand for Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals play. This was a fantastic opportunity for SIDS Resources, and last year’s event turned out to be a big hit.

    This year, it will be even bigger. The once-maligned Royals are in the hunt for the American League Central crown. Friday’s “Strike Out SIDS at the K” will be a crucial game against the division-leading Detroit Tigers. It will be a sellout, and perhaps the most important baseball game in Kansas City since the 1985 World Series.

    A big baseball game in September represents the kind of exposure and awareness that SIDS Resources has always lacked in Kansas City. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the third-leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, claiming 2,226 lives nationwide as recently as 2009. While there is no known “cure” for SIDS, organizations like SIDS Resources do important work teaching parents and day care providers how simple steps like putting an infant to sleep on his back on a firm mattress can sharply reduce the risks of SIDS. Despite all the access we have to information, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and mythology about what SIDS is, and how it can occur.

    This afternoon, I picked up some “Strike Out SIDS” T-shirts for my wife, myself and our son. We’re looking forward to joining 45,000 other fans at the K tomorrow night and watching the Royals win.

    We already know it will be a big victory for our friends at SIDS Resources.

    Ode to IKEA

    10 Sep

    Today an IKEA store opened in Kansas City.

    The local newspaper has been making a big deal about it for months. Apparently, some people camped out several days in advance to be among the first to walk through the new building’s glass doors.

    Each morning on my way to work, I drive pass the IKEA store, which looms over the Interstate like a blue-and-yellow fortress. The towering IKEA store sign alone is imposing. It has the exact same color scheme as the CarMax dealership at the next exit.

    I have heard a lot about the IKEA brand over the years. Earlier this week, we received the company’s free “Book-Book” in the mail. Skimming through it, I thought the furniture looked streamlined, cold and impersonal. I understand IKEA is the leading furniture provider of single, male apartment-dwellers in most major cities. Now I know why.

    I have never been inside an IKEA store. I am sure I will visit the new one in Kansas City sometime. I could use some help organizing some shelving in our laundry room. Right now, the room suffers from an inefficient use of space.

    Kansas City is usually the last metro area to get a newish retail chain store. That was the case with Crate & Barrel, Trader Joe’s, and countless other trendy merchants. It seems we are something of an afterthought here in America’s Outback.

    Nevertheless, it is a big deal in Kansas City when something new opens, not unlike a Taco Bell finally arriving in a farm town. There will be big crowds at the IKEA store for several weekends to come. I think I will sneak over there during the week, when I can examine the flat, efficient furnishings with minimal disruption and leave, more than likely, without having made a purchase.

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