Producer and Artist

Sam Mahlstadt —  April 13, 2012 — 1 Comment

First things first, the new STORY site is up and as beautiful as ever. I am a huge fan of HTML5, but this is a great example of why flash is not dead.

The site has some videos of past talks, and I watched Sean Astin talking about his process for making a film adaptation of the acclaimed children’s book Number the Stars with his wife. They are raising 100% of equity for the film prior to lining up distributors, cast, etc. This style of producing the film goes against the grain of traditional large house production companies. And I love it. He had the following to say about his decision to self-publish raise the funds themselves:

My commitment to doing it this way I was always thinking about it as protecting the creative process…But it actually is the creative process. The journey to get the movie made the way we want to make it requires all the discipline and sensitivity of an artist. I’m willing to fail and do it this way and fail rather than compromise.

This is a concept I have tried to wrestle to the ground in my own work, namely my book, Creative Theology (which you can get in print in a few short weeks!). I wanted to create a book that was a fusion of thought and art. The form needed to match the concept.

The design is too good to be tucked away and forgotten. The ideas in the book are presented in such a way to begin a conversation, not end one. The writing is terse and lean. The book is designed to be out, where it can be skimmed, referenced and spur on conversations about faith and creativity.

I pitched the book to a literary agent, and his response was “no thanks.” Of course, I don’t have a large enough platform to mitigate the risk of a book that is very expensive to print. I get that. I also can’t take the content and put it on white pages with black ink, to drive down the printing price to a comfortable margin. It wouldn’t work.

I’m willing to do it this way and fail rather than compromise. And that’s a terrifyingly wonderful place to be in.

So I became the producer and the artist. I have skin in the game, even after a successful $5,000 Kickstarter campaign. Financial failure is a real possibility, and I knew that going in. But I’d rather fail financially, and have produced the best book I can, than create something that lessens the risk.

You know what they say, high risk, high reward. Or maybe high risk, garage full of books… :)

One of my goals for 2012 is to invest in the right things. Most often, this will center around building relationships, and investing in those people.

I observed Lent this year, as you know if you’ve read the blog in the last month or so. I wrote a daily series on my observations as a way to both keep myself accountable, and have something to look back on when it was over. Now that we have celebrated Resurrection Sunday, I am moving on from that series. But I’d love to share something with you about what happened during Lent.


Since I was feeling the weight of the looming Holy Week for the first time in my life, I asked a few colleagues if they’d be interested in getting together to read scripture and reflect over the lunch hour. I tell a bit about this in my post, Insurrection in the Empire, which you can read here. But out of those conference room meetings came deeper relationships that I would have ever imagined forming at work. I made the small choice to invite a few guys to read and reflect. I took a very small step with the aim of investing in relationships. No end goal. No book sales. No increased blog readership. Just relationships. And image what happened…relationships formed.

What does this have to do with a newsletter? Great question….allow me to explain.

While I will continue to invest in you, the reader of this blog, I am not sure what 2012 will look like here , as I’ve wrestled with its direction for some time now. I will continue, at least for now, to post on faith and creativity, and my observations of their intersection. But as the year unfolds, my newsletter readers will get the best of what I have. There’s a few reasons for that.

Inbox permission

My newsletter subscribers have granted me access into their inbox. This is important. If you think about your social networks, and who gets what permission, the inbox is the most guarded. I want to honor this with my time, attention and output. I’ll make more time for those who respond to my monthly newsletters. I’ll engage in conversation and provide feedback. I’ll also continue to dedicate exclusive content only for those who subscribe, which is my small way of saying thanks. You may get this blog delivered to you inbox, which is awesome. But it isn’t quite the same. Case in point: you can’t reply to me out of that email. It’s not built for conversation, it’s built for delivery. I’m striving for conversation.

Long-term Connection

You may be an avid reader of this blog, subscribed and engaged. Thank you. I truly mean that. My goal is not just to keep you reading. My goal, in the grand scheme of things (this is my being completely honest) is to build a community around my work. It’s the same theory that drives Noise Trade; I plan on giving away great content in order to build a base. Any marketer, especially in the publishing world, would call this building the platform. But more than just a career move, this is about connection. Remember, my goal for this year (and beyond) is to invest in these relationships. Yes, my newsletter subscribers will hear about new projects first. But this is only because I will be creating projects (books and whatever else gets dreamed up) for the community. This is about resourcing a community, not throwing together random projects.


I mentioned building a platform. Usually this requires engaging big names to talk highly of you. I did a bit of this when I solicited for endorsements of my book. But really, building a platform is about having relationships with others who may be interested in your work. This blog is part of my platform for sure. In fact, that’s why I created a subscribe page. I would consider my social networks to be a part of my platform as well. So when it comes to marketing a book, these are the folks who get blasted with marketing. While I have engaged in that, and will continue to a degree, the email list is what many would consider a warm market. They know me, they know my writing, and they have given me permission to share with them directly. The more of this, the less I rely on tweets, posts, blogs, interviews, etc etc etc. And for a writer who is just insecure enough to hate all of the self-hype, this is gold. So to help me in my attempts to unmarket my work, I will offer my best stuff. Conversations with thought leaders, giveaways, long form reminations on faith and creativity and publishing and justice and life, and other things you may be interested in hearing.

Join us!

The community is brand new (only 4 newlsetters sent so far) and will grow and change over time. I’d be honored to have you as a part of the community. You can sign up for my newsletter by clicking here.


Resurrection Sunday!

Sam Mahlstadt —  April 8, 2012 — 1 Comment

He is risen!

The first Easter marked the firstfruits, or a foreshadowing, of the great Resurrection that will come one day.

The implications of this is huge, of course, as the resurrection of Jesus broke in a new reality for his followers. We understand that with the first resurrection, we are living in the now but not yet.

The eternal life is now, and we are invited to participate in that life. And the great Resurrection will come, and Christ will finish the work of redemption we’ve been called into. But we can wait, even in this fallen world, with a great hope. For he is risen!

Today, on Easter Sunday, we are blessed to know that God sent his only son to take on our burden, but that he also left it in the grave.

The tomb is empty.

He is risen!

This is the final post of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

I have noticed in myself, and in the American church, the tendency to glance at the cross, bypass the tomb, and skip to Resurrection.

There is no resurrection if we don’t first acknowledge the bloody death on the cross and the burial in the tomb.

Yes, the first Easter was the most important moment in human history. We are set right. We have been redeemed. The price has been paid. We are sons and daughters of God.

As we work out our salvation in trembling, it’s important to keep in perspective that we must first die, and be buried, before we can rise again. That is why we act out the death and burial by submerging ourselves in water before we break the surface of that same water a new creature, washed and made new.

So today, after we acknowledged His death on Good Friday, and are waiting for the resurrection to come, may we remember the tomb. The power of the resurrection is truly felt when we’ve allowed ourselves to weep over the tomb.

Some of the greatest lyrics on this season and process of our generation:

Though the Earth Cried out for blood
Satisfied her hunger was
Her billows calmed on raging seas
for the souls on men she craved

Sun and moon from balcony
Turned their head in disbelief
Their precious Love would taste the sting
disfigured and disdained

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

So three days in darkness slept
The Morning Sun of righteousness
But rose to shame the throes of death
And over turn his rule

Now daughters and the sons of men
Would pay not their dues again
The debt of blood they owed was rent
When the day rolled a new

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke holding keys
To Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with keys
Of Hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid death in his grave

He has cheated
Hell and seated
Us above the fall
In desperate places
He paid our wages
One time once and for all

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.

On this Good Friday, may we reflect on, and join in, the suffering of the savior of the world. Our God, who created the heavens and the earth with his breath, stooping in love, crucified by the Roman Empire on a cross. He took on our transgressions so that we may be called sons and daughters of God.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.