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Author Archive: "John Kenney"

Apparently I Can’t Dance

I didn't get the job.

You probably saw it in the New York Times yesterday.

The job was director of dance at the Paris Opera Ballet.

It went, instead, to Benjamin Millepied, the choreographer and a former principal at New York City Ballet. And the star of Black Swan. And Natalie Portman's husband. Is it a surprise that I lost out to a guy whose last name means "a thousand feet?" Seems like cheating to me, frankly.

Maybe you're saying to yourself right now, John Kenney! I didn't know that you were a first-time novelist AND a trained dancer/choreographer!? That's amazing. Because from your photo you look kind of like a lumbering jackass. (Bizarre that you say that because the name Kenney translates to "one who can't dance.")

While I'm not "technically" trained in ballet, choreography, tap, jazz, ballroom, or dancing of any kind and am, in fact, encouraged by friends, family, strangers, and orthopedists to avoid dancing at all costs, here are my qualifications:

  1. I take my four-year-old daughter to ballet once a week, carrying her because she doesn't want her ballet shoes to touch the ground and get dirty.
  2. We have


How I Write

Here's something I've noticed in my incredibly short time as a published author: how frequently people — in interviews, at readings — ask how I write.

Do you write in the morning or the afternoon?

Do you write in longhand or on a computer, and if it is a computer, is it a Mac, and if so, what are your thoughts about the Apple Air?

Do you write with an animal nearby, and if so, is it a lemur?

Do you sit or stand? Bartleby the Scrivener stood. He was weird, right?

What do you wear when you're writing or even to bed?

Do you wear cologne because I'm smelling something and it smells like cookies. Is that you?

I wish I had a better answer than the reality.

I wish I could say, "Well, the answer is incredibly interesting. First, I perform a ritual cleansing, shaving my body of all hair. Next, I don a white linen robe. I stand before a window, facing east, where I address the sun. Words then flow from my body onto the page. Then I break for lunch."

I read once that W. ...

Writing a Commercial for Yourself

May I ask you an asinine question?

If you were a brand, what would you be?

Are you a Lexus or a Volvo?

Nike or Adidas?

McDonald's or Burger King?

I spent 17 years working as a copywriter. These are the kinds of questions often bandied about in ad agencies and focus groups. We also talk about how awful the word "bandied" is.

I spent a lot of time between projects — early mornings, late at night — working on my other writing, trying to escape advertising. Not that I didn't like it. I just wanted to see if I could make it outside that world. The jury remains out on that.

So imagine my surprise when, having finally sold my first novel (which was released yesterday), my publisher asked me to write a commercial for it.

They said, "Look. We've given you everything you asked for. We gave you an advance of well over a million dollars. We gave you a helicopter. We arranged for you to have a coffee with Miss France. Now we need you to do something for us."

This isn't exactly how the conversation went.

It was more like, "Look. Most of ...

Novel Experiences

Well, it's January 22 and you know what that means.

It's time for the World Economic Forum at Davos!

What fun!

Have you been? Neither have I.

But then, it's not ideally suited to freelance writers and first-time novelists for a number of reasons. One, I don't own a plane. Two, I'm not the CEO of an incredibly large corporation. Three, I'm not Bono.

Davos is all about incredibly rich, powerful people talking about how incredibly rich, powerful people can solve the problems of less incredibly rich, less powerful people, while at the same time helping incredibly rich, powerful people become more incredibly rich and powerful.

Interestingly, according to today's Guardian newspaper, British CEOs are among the world's most downbeat, which I thought was sad.

I think I'd like Davos. It'd be a new experience, and I find lately I need new experiences to try things that take me outside of my comfort zone. I find it too easy to get into a routine, to forget to be present wandering the same path to the supermarket or the subway.

Also, Davos is in Switzerland and I generally have a very positive view of the Swiss, ...

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2013

Hi. My name is John Kenney. Do you recognize it? No?

Okay, try this.

Do you recognize the name E. L. James?

That's right, the author of "Fifty Shades of Grey."

That's me.

I'm not a woman. Does that surprise you? It surprises me sometimes.

People say to me, "Hey E. L. Why 50 shades? Are there 50 shades of grey? Is looking at 50 shades of grey like looking at those Benjamin Moore paint swatches, where after a few minutes, you feel like your head might explode because you stop seeing the difference between different shades of grey like Fieldstone grey, Cos Cob Stonewall grey, Puritan Grey, and Shaker Grey?"

To which I say, "Yes."

I've never blogged before.

But then you're probably now aware of that from reading the previous paragraph.

And now I look like a jackass because I'm not E. L. James, nor am I a woman. I'm sorry I lied to you.

My real name is George Saunders.

That's a lie, too.

Powell's was kind enough to ask me to blog this week because my first novel, Truth in Advertising, comes out Tuesday (and also, I think, because a couple of other authors ...

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