art, community, compassion, experience, social media, technology, theatre, Washington

This just in: Dear Evan Hansen – theater review

Dear Evan Hansen at Arena Stage
Dear Evan Hansen at Arena Stage

As someone who’s used social media for everything from meeting new friends to learning to generating career opportunities to dating, I’ve been thinking a lot about the underside of social media. What if it doesn’t help us connect? What if people don’t like our posts or accept our invitations or offer support when we so clearly needed it? What if we do that hideous comparison game of viewing our own real lives with all their difficulties side-by-side with the perfect lives that people espouse to live via their shiny screens? If we already have anxiety, and who among us doesn’t?, interacting on social media is nearly as frightening as the real world. It’s yet another avenue for rejection and disconnection.

These are the kinds of questions and scenarios that Dear Evan Hansen raises in its gorgeous premiere production at Arena Stage in Washington D.C. The odd and awkward actions online and off that are showcased made me laugh, cry, and contemplate just how hard it is to wrestle through our digital world and navigate its border with the physical world.

There were so many times that my heart just hurt for Evan Hansen, a sweet and shy teenager who’s just trying to get by without having a breakdown. He doesn’t have a lot of friends—he never has—and his family life is less than ideal. He always feels separate and apart from the world around him. He’s someone with a good heart who just can’t connect with people, sometimes rubbing them the wrong way with his awkwardness. He reminded me of a man I used to know, a man I wish I still knew, who also suffers from the same social anxieties and misfortunes with people. I sent that man a virtual hug during the show, not online but in my heart, and I hope wherever he is that he felt it.

Unlike most musicals, Dear Evan Hansen‘s songs aren’t commercial breaks. They move the story along with power, grace, and humor in just the right amount at just the right time. Ben Platt’s voice and demeanor exudes charm and heartbreak, grace and raw honesty. I wanted to run up on stage numerous times, give him a hug, and tell him that it’s all going to be okay. Because that’s really all he needs to know—that someone’s going to stand by him, listen to him, and care about him, especially when he feels uncomfortable and frustrated. He needs to know that someone’s going to be patient with him when he can’t be patient with himself. Isn’t that what we all need and want? Isn’t that the real definition of love? Tom Stoppard said, “It’s no trick loving somebody at their best. Love is loving them at their worst.” I agree.

After seeing Dear Evan Hansen, I didn’t have the best weekend. I’ve got a few personal situations I’m juggling that feel sad and confusing. To be honest, I’m at a little bit of a loss of what to do, say, or feel. My heart and mind feel jumbled and tired. All I could think to do to feel better was smile more, reach out more, and feel more. The instinct might be to shrink away from discomfort, but thanks to Dear Evan Hansen, I leaned into my weekend. The results were mixed, but feeling all of it actually felt better.

And that’s the power of theater. It reminds us that we aren’t alone in our experiences. So much of what we think, feel, see, and bear is shared across space and time by so many others. At its core, Dear Evan Hansen is about friendship and our need to feel cared for and accepted, flaws and all. See it. You’ll walk away a better, kinder person for carrying this story with you online and off.

Dear Evan Hansen will be at Arena Stage until August 23rd. And I’m sure it will have a very long life in many cities across the country soon.

business, entrepreneurship, legal, technology

This just in: I’m in love with

I highly recommend
I highly recommend

I had the best customer experience that I would like to shout from the rooftops. After completing my taxes for 2014, I’ve decided to continue freelancing as a writer and consultant as an individual while conducting a full-time job search in D.C. There’s no tax advantage to keeping my company as a legal entity, Chasing Down the Muse Inc., for my freelance work so I decided to dissolve it. The dissolution process is long and arduous to do on my own so I just Googled “can anyone help me legally dissolve a business?” was the top result so I called them.

Steven, one of their fantastic customer service agents, walked me through the steps that took all of 3 minutes. When their process is complete, I’ll get a receipt. That’s it. There’s nothing else I need to do. The customer service agent was wonderful, helpful, and kind, and LegalZoom saved me days of frustration and work. And they are also incredibly affordable. My whole dissolution process is less than $200 and that includes the $60 fee to the State of New York as well as the shipping of the forms to all of the state agencies that need them. I’m thrilled!

If ever I decide to set up another company or need any legal work put together, will be my first stop!

action, creativity, environment, future, innovation, technology

This Just In: The breakthroughs we need to build the future we want

Our future is in our hands
Our future is in our hands

A brighter and better future is before us because we have no other choice but to evolve and change. Our population is growing and the world is in need of innovative solutions to meet that growing need now more than ever. Our future is literally in our hands.

I read a report yesterday entitled “The 50 most critical scientific and technological breakthroughs required for sustainable global development”. If you are an entrepreneur, or just someone concerned about the future of our planet, this report is full of ideas to apply our creativity and efforts to build a better world. Many of the solutions center around energy, farming, and technology. Here are some of my favorites:

1. The need to desalinate our increasingly salty water around the globe.

2. E-textbooks that dynamically adapt content for different skill levels, languages and
other user-specific needs.

3. Truly smart smartphones that are cheap, need almost zero power, and do anything a computer can do. And truly smart homes that are cheap, built in urban environments, sturdy in the face of natural disasters and storms, and require very little power to be comfortable and functional.

4. New long-lasting chemical mosquito repellents delivered in novel ways. (As someone who is violently allergic to mosquitoes, I want these little buggers out of all of our lives!)

5. Solar-powered everything from medical devices to appliances to irrigation pumps to mini energy grids.

We start creating the future today. Let’s do it sustainably.

business, community, technology

Inspired: Movie theaters, senior living, and farmers embrace technology to foster community

Seniors who met through a virtual community take in a movie together
Seniors who met through a virtual community take in a movie together

It’s exciting to see a plethora of companies across industries scooping up new technology and innovating to grow and enhance a sense of community. Here are some of my favorite recent examples:

For a long time I’ve wanted a subscription to a movie theater that would give me unlimited access to one of my favorite pastimes. I came up with all kinds of ideas why this wasn’t possible – impossible to predict when / if a movie time was sold out, crowd control, and the question of profitability all came to mind. Much to my surprise, and delight!, AMC Theaters is giving it a go with MoviePass. Starting in Boston and Denver, the movie chain will offer a movie-a-day subscription for $35 – $45. I can’t wait for them to get to my city. With my movie going habit, this subscription will be well worth it. Of course the chain hopes that this type of program will lure people out of their comfy homes and back into the immersive world of big screens. I hope so, too!

The sharing economy
We have a number of services that allow us to share durable goods such as cars, lawn equipment, and power tools. But what about delicious, local, and healthy perishables? Is there a way to reinvent the barter system of food among farmers so common in the markets of a long ago age? Crop swaps are popping up from the Bay Area to New Haven, and they’re growing in popularity. Coordinating events online, farmers, professionals and hobbyists, swap their homegrown goodies, stories, and tips, and delight in a homemade life.

Senior living
If the idea of a nursing home or a retirement community makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Now that so many seniors are healthier much further into their golden years, they want to stay in their homes. But they also want companionship and purposeful ways to spend their time. Enter Virtual Villages—robust online spaces that have a relatively low yearly membership fee for seniors to meet other seniors who are interested in getting together in the real world, to get advice, and to find resources that can help with tasks like walking the dog, getting the gutters cleaned, and weeding the garden.

These examples provide ways to think about technology, new and not so new, as a means to build community, drive revenue, and delight customers. Technology is a catalyst for change. With insight and the genuine desire to serve, it can be used as a force for good for all.

career, education, media, movie, story, technology

Inspired: Big Hero 6 will motivate you to take up computer science and become a maker

Big Hero 6I saw the movie Big Hero 6 yesterday. The powerful storyline is an incredible motivator for kids and adults to go into computer science and get involved in the making community. While many of the tech stories we hear today involve pricey acquisitions and the latest greatest photo sharing app, the movie shows that a career (or even just a hobby) in technology can and does yield incredible results.

We are standing on the precipice of many difficult decisions as a society—health and wellness, climate change, energy consumption, food distribution, and the list goes on. Technology won’t solve them all, but it can certainly put a hefty dent in any of them. While we can throw stats and doomsday scenarios at people in an attempt to get them to care about these issues, storytelling like that in Big Hero 6 may be the most powerful weapon we have to scare up the resource we need in greatest abundance—human care and concern for the future.

books, creativity, technology

Inspired: 4 books that show girls they can build anything they can imagine

Rosie Revere, Engineer
Rosie Revere, Engineer

My college pal, Jen, posted a link to a story about a Barbie book that makes my blood boil. The short of it: Barbie, the computer engineer, can’t build the game she designs and needs her male friends to build it for her. (Don’t even get me started on everything that’s wrong with this message!)

To combat this ridiculous Barbie book, that quite frankly Random House should pull out of production, here are four awesome books that send girls the right message about science and technology—they can create anything they can imagine!

Rosie Revere, Engineer
This book explores the life of a fictional character, Rosie, who is an inventor and maker. She shows us the trial and error process of building, and illustrates all the ways in which engineers make our world a better place.

What Do You Do With an Idea?
This gorgeously illustrated book helps kids realize that their creativity and initiative to turn their ideas into real-world projects can and will change the world. This is the positive push that kids (and the adults who love them) need to boost their confidence and encourage the power of imagination.

Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist
Written by her son, this biography tells the inspirational story of the female rocket scientist whose crucial contributions launched America’s first satellite.

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain
There are few areas of science more exciting that the workings of the human brain. This book uses clear language and excellent illustrations to explain the complex workings of our brains to kids, their family members, and teachers.

The outrage over the Barbie book, online and off, is warranted, but let’s not let the conversation end there. The best way to combat ignorance is to kill it with knowledge. We’ve got loads of stories and activities that show girls they can do anything and be anything. Put the books above, and the scores of others like them, under the tree this holiday season for all the girls in your life to bolster their confidence and encourage their imaginations.

books, creativity, technology, writing

Inspired: Why all writers need to try Scrivener software

Sample Scrivener window in corkboard mode
Sample Scrivener window in corkboard mode

I learned about Scrivener, a software package for writers, through National Novel Writing Month. As a sponsor of the event, Scrivener is offering a free extended trial for NaNoWriMo participants. Did you just groan? I did, at first. I’m usually wary of sponsor-offered trials, but the community around NaNoWriMo is so generous and supportive that I decided to at least give Scrivener a look. Apparently the snappy inventors of the software got inside my brain when I wasn’t looking and built me exactly what I’ve always wanted – writing software that makes me a better writer.

For writers of every feather
I’ve shied away from other writing software packages because my writing varies widely: blog posts, essays, journalism, web copy, playwriting, nonfiction books, and now a novel. Many software options cover only one or two of these options. Scrivener works for all of them.

I’m usually guilty of harboring numerous Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, photographs, scribbled notes on post-its and napkins, and a mess of links that resemble a giant blob of letters. I constantly worry that I’ll forget or miss a key lightbulb moment that I had somewhere along the way. Scrivener keeps even the most copious note takers organized and makes the mind numbing tasks of project management a joy.

I’m not a terribly visual person by nature. I’m one of those oddball auditory learners. However, fiction pushes me to use my words to illustrate visuals. To help me in that process, I often pin photographs, sketches, graphs, and art onto several Pinterest boards that I consult during the writing process. I’m also a big believer in the power of inspirational quotes (and incidentally so is Emerson Page, the heroine in my current novel, Where the Light Enters.) Scrivener’s split screen option makes it possible for me to open a portion of my writing on one side of the screen and have images and virtual posts that I created on the other side. Scrivener makes these visuals a constant reminder and inspiration to me without hindering the act of writing.

Research incorporation
Curious to the nth degree, the research aspect of writing gets me jazzed about a new project no matter what genre it takes. I love being an archaeologist of words and ideas. Scrivener helps me keep all of that research organized and on-hand with its research folders, easy-to-build research templates, bulletin board functionality, and synopsis creator.

Putting it all together
God bless copyeditors. I adore them. I’m so glad there are people who love that work because it drives me bonkers. I also hate that my dislike for copyediting makes life for my copyeditors more difficult. The compiler feature of Scrivener helps lessen my copyediting guilt. With a few simple clicks, Scrivener assembles all the pieces of my manuscript into a cohesive whole in a variety of formats so at least the formatting is uniform and my copyeditors can focus on editing at the word level.

I hate to download software and then feel like I’m on my own to figure it out. Given all the work I’m doing to prepare for NaNoWriMo, I didn’t want software that would take weeks to learn nor a tool that would be clunky to use during the mad dash of the month-long event. Scrivener has a comprehensive set of informative and entertaining videos that show you its power to enhance your writing. The basic 10-minute video explains all of the key features any writer needs to dive into Scrivener. For those who want to use the more advanced features, there are short videos to explain each of those features. There’s even an interactive demo available to you at all times. Have specific question? Just email them. They got back to me in 24 hours with a detailed answer. Scrivener is a feature buffet: use as many or as few as you like and be a better writer for it.

Other goodies
Scrivener takes dictation and integrates with my audio recording software that I use for my voiceover work. This is perfect for getting true-to-life down on paper. Creating revisions in one document is a snap and the Scrivener dovetails well with Microsoft Word. Importing and exporting content is a snap with drag and drop. For fiction writers, it’s got a groovy name generator tool. Outliners (like me) rejoice – outline until your heart’s content with many layers of organized detail available as you build your story from the ground up.

I could go on, but just go see it for yourself. Invest 10 minutes to watch the intro video and you may discover your new perfect writing partner. I certainly did. Now if they could make my meals, do my laundry, and walk my dog during NaNoWriMo, that would be perfect!

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, may the force be with you and let’s connect to cheer each other to the finish line of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. You can find me on the NaNoWriMo platform as christanyc.

child, children, choices, learning, story, technology

Inspired: Proof – stories and technology are better than cookies


My niece, Lorelei, had a choice for her after dinner treat: a cookie or playing on my iPad with an app that helps her write stories. She chose to write stories. “Stories are good for me and sugar is bad for me so I’m choosing stories.” A girl after my own heart (not that I have anything against cookies!) Some people may bemoan technology and kids’ obsession with it. I celebrate it. For my nieces, it opens up whole worlds for them and enables them, at a very young age, to tell their own stories. Kid, if you have a story you need to tell, you can use my iPad anytime you want.

blogging, communication, creative, creativity, design, health, innovation, media, product development, stress, technology, work, writer, writing

Inspired: Check out my magazines on Flipboard for travel, stress-busting, product design, and office design

Check out my Flipboard profile:’m now on Flipboard as @christanyc and created 4 magazines to curate content in travel, product design, workspace design, and stress reduction. I hope you’ll stop by and check them out:
Travel on Purpose – use your travels and vacations to build a better world

Insanely Cool New Products – the coolest new product innovations and the awesome people who make them

Crazy Creative Workspaces – interior design inspirations for the places where we work

Stress Sucks – the science of stress and how to bust it

happiness, memory, technology

Inspired: Make some memories that are just yours

From PinterestIn our hyper-connected, over-sharing world, it’s a good practice to regularly set aside anything and everything with a battery, cord, screen, or buttons. I’m in Florida for a few weeks with my family and happy to be able to power-down for at least a little while every day. I’m looking forward to making some memories that only exist in real-time powered by nothing more than sunshine and laugher.