For its 20th birthday, the VJs and producers behind MTV's sequel channel tell the story of a music-video network too beautiful to last Andrew Unterberger // August 1, 2016
Reprinted with permission from SPIN Magazine.
Posted by Kris Wellen May 2016
It's one of the shortest words in the English language, and yet, for so many it is incredibly hard to say in the professional world. Employees are too often afraid that by saying 'no' to anything from -a project to severance- they will somehow tarnish their reputation. Within reason, of course, this is absurd, and may just be the thing that is keeping you from reaching your true potential. That's right- instead of saying yes to everything, see what happens when you say no.
I stumbled upon this little secret quite by accident. The first time it happened, I was a radio DJ living blissfully in Omaha, Nebraska. Say what you will about the Heartland, but that time and place were a huge highlight of my career. Most people never get to see what a gem of a city Omaha really is. I was in heaven. So when a potential new employer in a bigger city offered me more money for a more high-profile job, I said no. It may sound crazy, but I was that happy in Omaha.
But here's the thing. That would-be employer? He didn't take no for an answer. Instead, he came back with an offer for more money! Believe it or not, I said no a second time. I wasn't playing games. And guess what he did? Yep. He came back again, only this time he asked me to come say no in person. Now it just so happened that I had a good friend living in that particular city, and I saw it as a great way to network professionally, while catching up with my friend. Needless to say, the weekend was a huge success, and the rest was history. My friend needed a roommate, and the employer offered me even more money. Turns out that by saying no I made the employer want me even more.
Years later, I would use the 'no' secret again. It was at the end of a job; not the beginning, but it still had a positive outcome.
I had been working at a start-up that was clearly not working out the way I'd hoped. I could see the writing on the wall. The media department I had been hired for never got off the ground, department heads were let go, and layoffs began. I began to brace myself for being laid off, and to tell you the truth, I was fine with it, because whereas I had kept my promise to do the "temporary" research they asked of me, they never kept their promise to utilize my twenty years of media experience (in all fairness, those who had made these promises were let go, and the few remaining didn't seem interested in my television background). So in those last few weeks, I went to work knowing the hammer could fall at any time.
When the layoffs began I wasn't surprised. Day after day someone new would be called into HR, and leave the building with a cardboard box. The day they called me in, I was mentally prepared. I went in, and listened closely to what they had to say. I said nothing beyond nodding, and telling them I understood. I thanked the HR professional for her time. That can't be a fun job. The underboss, a young man decidedly fresh out of college, explained that I had a right to speak with the CEO, and here's where it got interesting. I said yes, I definitely wanted the outgoing interview with the Big Cheese.
"You want the meeting?" he asked confused.
"Yes, I do."
"But you'll just have to come back again. He's not here."
"That's fine," I said before leaving with my cardboard box.
People get funny when you've been laid off. As I left that day, there was a wake of condolences as good wishes from my coworkers, and whereas I appreciated that, I didn't need it. I couldn't have had a healthier mind-set. You see, in my original line of work, Radio, lay-offs are par for the course. They are so commonplace that you begin to accept them as inevitable, so when I was laid off of the start-up, it was really no biggie to me, especially since it wasn't the job they'd advertised. I don't think anyone expected to see me so upbeat on my way out. It was liberating!
When I got outside that day, I had a great idea. I immediately called my friend, Mary Jane, an expert in HR.
"MJ," I said. "I think I want to try a social experiment."
I explained that I had just been laid off, and that after everything, the severance packages were pretty meager.
"Do I have to accept what they offer? Can I ask for more?"
"Sure," Mary Jane said laughing. "They don't have to give it to you, but I'll bet with your positive attitude they just might. It's worth a shot- what have you got to lose?" MJ and I shared another laugh and she wished me luck.
The very next day I dressed well for my exit interview. When I arrived, the energy in the room was strange. Some people looked at me with surprise, like "Why is she here?" Others were already aware of what I was trying, and they were all smiles. The younger boss who had given me the news just the day before approached me sheepishly. A newfound confidence swelled inside me as I smiled at him.
During my meeting, I was cordial, professional, and very upbeat. I explained that I absolutely understood the reason for their changes. I consoled them for having to let so many talented people go.
"I know that can't be easy, nor fun."
Then, I simply explained that the severance package they offered wasn't fair, given the promises I'd been made, my original reason for being hired, and other jobs I had turned down to be a part of their company, and the fact that it was past Thanksgiving, and nearly impossible to find a job until the new year. Then I I politely declined the severance package as not commensurate with my experience. Just like that.
The room was very still before the boss spoke. If anything, I think he admired my guts. Or maybe he agreed with me completely. Either that, or he just wanted to move on. Regardless, I ended up getting more money that day, and perhaps most importantly, maintaining my professional integrity. As a bonus, I was later told by a coworker that I was something of a legend in that office for having my unique exit meeting. All because of that little word... No.
Who really runs the world? THE ILLUMINATI GARDEN CLUB (64K) begins with SAMANTHA PENDRAGON (17) a girl who longs for a traditional family life, not the free-range Bohemian one her mother, CLAUDIA (36), has created far from their wealthy, estranged family in Savannah. Dad is out of the picture so when Claudia is the victim of a hit and run, Sam has nowhere to turn. Foster care looms imminent until long-lost aunt, CHARLOTTE WESTCOTT(65), appears out of nowhere to save Sam from social services.
Charlotte is everything Sam admires. She's a self-made millionaire, an elegant socialite, and respected by everyone. Sam relocates to Chatham House, the family mansion in Savannah, where she discovers an enchanting world of cotillions, and what it means to be part of a powerful, Southern family. Dreams become reality with instant popularity at her new prep school, the promise of her dream college, and a fledgling relationship with the perfect boy. Life is as sweeter than a fresh-picked peach until things start to take a strange, and dark turn.
Slowly, Sam begins to discover the sinister truth behind her family's riches, and the real reason Mom ran away. But the clock is ticking as Charlotte's garden club declares Sam the Foxglove Queen for a clandestine Spring ceremony. Using Savannah's storied past, its secret tunnels, and Oaken streets; and with the help of an unlikely ally, can Sam escape from the terror Charlotte's friends have in store for her, or will she end up a monster just like them?
On its surface, THE ILLUMINATI GARDEN CLUB is a Southern psychological thriller blending suspense with a dark secrets. And like Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, every element of my story is drawn from happenings throughout history. Furthermore, at the heart of IGC is a social commentary that explores the role of older women in society, and defining what 'family' means today. Beta readers have compared THE ILLUMINATI GARDEN CLUB to Rosemary's Baby, DaVinci Code, The Lottery, and Harvest Home.
An award-winning Television Correspondent, I've seen some strange things while on location. THE ILLUMINATI GARDEN CLUB was inspired while I covered Savannah for Discovery. I have also worked for ABC News, CBS, Conde Naste, Hearst, MTV and US News among others. I maintain all of my contacts in TV, Radio, and Online news outlets. My degree is in Communications & Journalism.
Please find below a sample of my MS. Thanks for taking a peek. I know you are hard pressed for time. I truly appreciate yours.
THE FIRST 250:
I’m standing there reflecting over the past year of my life. Never mind that the standing is more like kneeling, and the reflection is quite literally in a pool of blood. My head is starting to spin as I realize what I’ve just done. And what I have to do next.
It isn’t as if I have a choice. The wheels are in motion; the ritual begun. According to the rite, if I don’t go through with this, what they call the End of Days will begin, as in fire and brimstone. And if you’d seen what I have in the past year, you’d be a believer too.
From the small cellar window I could see the Equinox moon rising. There wasn’t much time left. I had to hurry.
The Order had been comprised of eight people. I was to be the ninth. Now I was the last one standing, and I had to finish the ceremony alone. You know how people jokingly say, ‘I threw up a little in my mouth’? Well, I just did.
The signs were everywhere, but instead of listening to that little voice inside me, I just took what I wanted. The money. The attention. The parties. The power. The more I got, the more I craved. I was becoming one of them, and I didn’t even realize it. By the time I figured out what was happening it was too late. Now, I have blood on my hands, literally. Lady Macbeth’s not nothin' on me.
This could easily be my shortest article.
I could say "Don't do it!" And be done with it, but let's be honest, the world is more complicated than that. People do curse it the workplace, and that can make all the difference in your professional atmosphere.
Naturally, if you're a school teacher, or preacher, cursing just isn't part of your vernacular, so this article may be irrelevant to you. But what about the rest of us? Those working in more casual atmospheres, like Technology, or Sports; The Arts? Or how about dangerous jobswhere its easy to accept an F-Bomb flying out of a shocked electrician? S#!+ happens.
For the sake of this article, let's call the person who curses The Perp. Also, its fun to say 'Perp'. There have been Perps in every job I ever had in the media. They curse equipment (Oh, the equipment!) In Master Control they curse talent that has gone rogue, and off-script. Sometimes these folks get caught on tape cursing. Perps can also curse to defend a story they believe in. In radio, the cool kids used F-bombs to punctuate a sentence all the time. That is, until they cracked the mic. Then it was all Happy, Sunny, Smiley Day. Don't even get me started about Wall Street cursing.
What about when the employee isn't the Perp at all... the customer is?
According to a poll conducted by The Marchex Institute, the Number One industry to hear swear words in is Satellite Television (the full list is below). They note that 1 in every 82 phone calls by customers results in at least one of the Seven Deadly Swear Words that we in the media cannot, and will not broadcast.
And when cursing becomes hostile? Take this video of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (said to be one of the nicer Uber execs!) His rant went viral. That's embarrassing. And if Susan J Fowlers experience at Uber is to be considered, this sort of behavior is rampant there.
An HR issue?
It can be. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines Harassment as "unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information." Not swearing, although these Perps usually find a way. However, the US Labor Law says a hostile work environment "exists when one's behavior within a workplace creates an environment that is difficult or uncomfortable for another person to work in." And that most definitely can include your potty mouth.
So can you curse at work? Legally, you probably can (unless it causes harm to your employer's brand, or a coworker, in which case you better start looking for a new job). But should you curse at work? Absolutely not. Its unprofessional and vulgar, so simply put... wait for it... Don't do it.
Each November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (nano-ry-mo). The national "competition" is a personal challenge for budding authors everywhere to complete their manuscript, whether it be the implied novel, or memoir. And while there are badges, and honors awarded, you aren't entering a traditional contest, nor are you cheating any people- NaNoWriMo participants challenge only themselves.
NaNo was born from the desire to get everyone who says they can write a book to actually do it. From its humble beginnings with only 21 participants in 1999 writer Chris Baty's brainchild has grown into a creative writing community supporting (arguably) more than a million participants. And Baty's project works! There are no less than a dozen popular books, and best sellers that originated from NaNoWriMo. In fact, self-publishing's Big Kahuna, Hugh Howey, completed the first draft of his mega-hit WOOL using NaNo. The novel, and Mr. Howey's subsequent work has made him a millionaire, and WOOL has been optioned by Hollywood-great Ridley Scott for theatrical rights.
So if the competition works, then why on Earth would I cheat, let alone do it so proudly? After all, I'm a fan of the annual event. Well, after having participated in NaNo three times now, I have found that what I end up with is indeed a completed manuscript. It's just a really really really bad one replete with typos, unintentional red herrings, and plot holes. Furthermore, I've found that I end up taking longer to hunt for, and fix mistakes I would never have made in the first place if I weren't in a rush to get 50,000 words on the page in 30 days.
So this year I decided to try something. I'd cheat!
I had been wanting to retell a classic story for some time. I believe that like all the great Shakespeare retellings, and others like Pride, Prejudice & Zombies, and Cinder- this was my opportunity to bring a great story to people who may be intimidated by antiquated diction, and unrelatable fatal diseases. This was my opportunity to record my idea in a short period of time. But to reread the lengthy book (did I mention the antiquated diction??), take copious notes, and change names, places, events & even plot lines to fit this century in 30 days would be next to impossible. By sourcing public domain material, I cut & paste chapters from the original (well over 200 years old, thank you very much) into my document. From there the fun began. I was able to rewrite each chapter chronologically in a new time and place with updated, and composite characters. One thing I've learned during this experiment is that the Victorian era mentioned everyone, and their cousin, in the ballroom!
Now, more than 20 chapters in, I feel great about following the blueprint of my source material. My new version also contains notes on how I can deviate from antiquated plots, edit or shorten otherwise bland scenes, and still come back to the mainline. Best of all, I was reminded of quotes, trivial happenings, and nuggets that made the original so great, and drop those into my new story as easter eggs for the savvy reader to find.
At the end of the month, I'll simply delete all of the borrowed source material, leaving only my revision. From there, I can also tweak the ending, or plot to better suit savvy readers like yourself. Granted, I know after that's done, I'm certain to have fewer than the 50,000 words that NaNoWriMo defines as a novel, but I'm guaranteed a clear outline for my next completed novel.
What are you writing?
NAMM (the National Association of Music Merchants)
SHOWCASING A COMPLETE PRODUCT LANDSCAPE SET WITHIN ONE OF AMERICA’S MOST MUSICAL CITIES—NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE—SUMMER NAMM CELEBRATES THE LOCAL COMMUNITY MUSIC STORE AND HONORS OUR INDUSTRY’S TOP 100 DEALERS. ENJOY STAR-STUDDED EVENTS AND THE LURE OF THE NASHVILLE NIGHT LIFE WHILE MAKING CONNECTIONS THAT WILL LAST A LIFETIME.
Here's a clip from Samsung's VR (Virtual Reality) concert:
Posted by Kris Wellen
As a media coach, and former Presenter for Monster.com's Diversity Leadership Program for outgoing college students, I've been asked this question many times, and the answer is always the same: Definitely Maybe.
Over the years I've been hit with many angry responses to my advice, ranging from 'You should never work for free!' to 'You'll only devalue yourself if you work for free' to my all-time favorite, 'But I have a college degree!'
There are endless articles online, and in print, that will tell you that a college graduate is expected to make X-number of dollars in their first year. While that may be true for some industries, it is by no means the case across the board. For most of us, what employers really want to see, more than your fancy piece of paper (which I guarantee they don't really want to see!) is some value in you. Having studied something specific in university simply isn't enough, and that's a good thing.
What are you made of? What are your work characteristics? Your productivity? The hidden talents that you don't even know you have? No one can know that just by one interview. They can, however, get an idea of how you tick by delving into your work history.
What's that you say? Just got out of college, and don't have a work history yet? A-ha- that's where volunteering comes in. Align yourself with a company when there is absolutely no risk to them. That's just good business. You have an opportunity to show them what you're all about, and they get to see if you're a good fit, without going through reams of employer paperwork.
You may not be guaranteed a paying job for your final effort, but I'll bet you'll go home knowing more about your chosen industry than you did that morning. Plus, you'll be networking with others all day long in your field, and if your field is anything like mine, you will run into the same people over time.
Here's a little secret. Start your job search before you graduate. Intern while you can under the credibility of your university. Trust me, this opportunity won't be as available to you later (which I'll go into at a later date). Attorneys do it. So do business students, and anyone else savvy enough to think about the fact that companies are inundated with resumes from recent college grads each year. And guess what? Many internships are non-paid.
In my own industries: TV, radio, and entertainment, the competition is fierce, so any networking is a benefit. And if you're looking to break into showbiz and make a good living in the first few years? Yeah, well, good luck with that.
So, yes, I am a big believer in volunteering your time, and effort fresh out of college. Arguably my career has been predicated on it. Through volunteering, I've made friends, gotten well-paying jobs, and I sharpened by skills too.
All this being said, what I would caution you on is to limit your volunteer work. For every honest employer who wants to 'give back' to the next generation, there's some jerk ready to take advantage of your good nature. Never take a volunteer job without having some work strategy (like a limited time, or number of hours).
Just remember, quitting a volunteer job should be just like quitting a paid job. Unless there are dire circumstances, you should give notice, and act professionally. I've seen more than one intern out there who didn't think it mattered how they acted, since they weren't being paid, so they were reckless. They took office supplies; they came in late, they didn't give notice when they left. So how do you think we treated their resume when they tried to get a gig a few months later?
In short, you should at least consider volunteering in some capacity that will help you, even it isn't monetarily. You never know where the road may lead.