Today meet Dan Blank, author of Be The Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience. Through master mind groups and through individual consulting, Dan shows writers like me how to connect with our audience. Dan puts heart, intuition, and collaboration into the business side of writing. He's taught me authenticity is marketing. He advocates napping. His approach speaks to me, because authenticity and napping are my core values.
I’m a Dan Fan. If he says the best thing for sharing my stories is to grab my light saber, steal the Millennium Falcon, and attack the Death Star—I’m in.
Dan’s business is called We Grow Media, and you’ll learn from his website he’s grown a lot of media. The evolution of a self-described “art kid” unfolds in snapshots. There he is in college, collating the pages of the music zine he published. The grainy photo of his guitar and four-track recorder, from the days he played in a band. And from his creating-pop-up-books period, a black and white photo showing the tools of his trade scattered around the floor: blank papers, stickers, instruction books, Sharpees, x-acto, an old tube television.
You have to do what Dan calls a deep dive to get to the section of his bio that’s earned him my deepest gratitude.
At the bottom of the “About Dan Blank” page are present-day photos of Dan in an elementary school classroom.
Since 2003 he’s been working with “tomorrow’s great writers and creative professionals, the kids up at PS 123 in Harlem.” Those are his words. He’s "helped the students plan dozens of events focused on publishing, literacy, and communication.” Fourteen photos are laid out in a tidy grid. A picture for every year from 2003 to 2016. My favorite is 2006. The kids are looking up from their workstations. I imagine they’ve been interrupted by a teacher getting them to look over here for a minute. Computers are lined up off to the side glowing with bright ideas, and way in the back in the shadows, Dan. In 2007, boys and girls are posing in a tight cluster, a little girl in the front with ponytails sticking out. Dan stands behind them, a head taller. The children are every shade of brown, Dan’s face the only white one. Year after year, 2003, 2004, 2005 … 2016, Dan’s in the classroom, elbow to elbow with “tomorrow’s great creative professionals.” Steady as a heartbeat.
Looking at those photos, I feel like the little girl with the ponytails: seen, taken care of.
While writing "The Cleaning Women," I worried about how to talk about race. I have very strong opinions on the subject, loud and worthy of a soap box. My opinions matter only to those who agree with me. Otherwise, they’re divisive. I decided to leave race out of the essay. Then I saw Dan’s photos.
I don’t know Dan’s opinions about politics, race, education, poverty, Harlem …. The image of his quiet presence with those boys and girls—that’s all I need to know. For the complete picture of Dan Blank, you can’t leave out the music zine, and you can’t leave out PS 123.
I couldn’t leave the issue of race out of The Cleaning Women.
Dan inspired me to leave out my opinions, and paint the picture with my feelings.
Thank you, Dan.