Hitting The Writer’s Block (And Breaking Right On Through It)

In all my nearly twenty years as a poet and writer, I’ve never believed in writer’s block.


And this isn’t a piece expounding on how I suddenly found myself staring into the blank Microsoft Word document glowing back on my laptop, how my fingers froze, or how some unfelt before fear from the Great Beyond had turned on the faucet and I started sweating profusely.

No, I still don’t believe in writer’s block.

But it believes in me, and it almost hit me nonetheless. Hard.

As many of you probably know, since March of 2013, I’ve been writing a series of mystery novels under the auspices of “Hipster Noir” on the PATH train during my morning and evening commute to work. Three novels later, over 200,000 words, and one proposal to pitch them all to an agent or publisher, I’m still going strong with my fourth novel, The Curious Case of Tomorrow (Or, The Trouble with Time Travel).

But this fourth novel, which is a direct continuation of the third, the way Quantum of Solace is a continuation of Casino Royale, started making me second guess some things. I would still get on the PATH train from Grove Street in Jersey City to the World Trade Center stop on the other side of the Hudson, and my fingers would still go to work with my iPhone music library shuffling between Tom Waits and Gin Wigmore, with an occasional Lykke Li ballad or Pearl Jam anthem cutting in over the seven-minute or so ride.

This time, however, felt different.

I knew that I was really searching blindly for a spark. Now I can’t get too detailed here because I’d have to divulge what my fourth novel is all about, and I haven’t even published any of the first ones yet, but this was the first time over the course of almost thirty-six months that the writing was not yielding anything that I was getting truly excited about, the way the first three novels had done.

Nonetheless, I kept going. I kept writing every morning and evening, just like I’d done for nearly three years. The only difference was that instead of having my characters, story, and all its plot twists, McGuffins and organically sprout from within, I was actively searching for that spark, yet never thinking to admit that I may have finally found what no writer has ever actively searched for:

The Writer’s Block. And yes, I capitalize it like a proper noun ‘cause it deserves a proper level of respect. Anything that pushes us to become better writers does.


The way I see it, we are the ones who create the Writer’s Block, by pouring out so much of who we are and what we are in our writing. At one point, we run out of things to write. But as Tom Waits sings, “you build it up, you wreck it down…” in a song appropriately titled “Hold On,” that’s exactly I did. I gave it form, shaped the shapeless into something that, in time, and once I found its weakness, I could hope to break right through.

Back to my Curious Case of Tomorrow. Amid my searching within not one, but two separate timelines that this new novel has split into; after figuring out that what I was writing this time around was no longer a mystery novel, but a science-fiction spaghetti western (if there’s even such a thing); when I finally surprised myself one day riding that iron horse through those morning and evening tunnels humming with the electricity of possibility, I knew I had finally blasted right through that ‘Block.

I had found my voice. Again.

Then I realized that it wasn’t the first time this ever happened, but it was the first time I became aware of it’s happening. And I dealt with it.

The Writer’s Block isn’t a stumbling block, it’s an uncarved block. It doesn’t necessarily have to stop your creativity. It’s not the blank page we stare blankly at, but the page that stares at us and pushes us to shut up our minds and write anything, which proves to be the most frightening thing for us writers –– to write without purpose. Without saying anything.

Writing for the sake of writing. Of calling ourselves writers.


The Uncarved Block, or Pu, as Taoist abstract art.

But at least we’re writing, and in doing so, we’re showing that ‘Block whose boss.

Not enough of us do this. We hit the ‘Block and we wait for the right words. We complain about it on Facebook. We may go out with our friends to forget about that blank stare for a few hours. And each of these may actually work (or seem to work) to get you back on track.

But to find the right words, you’ve got to write down the words. It’s the Taoist principle of Pu –– the Uncarved Block. Though this particular tenet tells us we should let the world carve us into what it wants. From a writerly perspective, we simply need to start with a vague idea and the raw materials of what needs to be said and then hack out the words that don’t add to it. This way, all we’re left with are the ones that do work, and which will resonate and be remembered long after they’re read.

They’ll also be the ones that will remind us why we started writing in the first place.

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Calling All Trigonauts! (‘Cause “Trigonaut” Sounds Cooler Than “Intern”)

The time has come for expansion, and I cannot do it alone!

As many of you probably know, I’ve been putting out crowdfunding advice for filmmakers and various other content creators and storymakers for over five years. Ever since I successfully crowdfunded my short film Cerise, I’ve been mentoring crowdfunding filmmakers and content creators in the fine art of online fundraising through Twitter, via my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, and exclusively for Indiegogo. But there’s so much more I want to do, mostly by way of content creation and various new ways of distributing that content and knowledge (Meerkat and Periscope, anyone?), so I’m looking for a Trigonaut –– an fellow explorer –– to work with me, to learn about and explore the chartered and unchartered realms of crowdfunding for independent film, and to help create more top quality content so that we, together, can keep the “indie” in independent film and make sure that creators are crowdfunding using only the best tools, advice and insights available.


So here’s what I’m looking for, specifically:

– Writing and editing (basic grammar and usage skills)
– Strong interest in crowdfunding, particularly for film (or creative projects)
– Graphic design (skills in Adobe Creative Suite, mainly Photoshop and InDesign)
– Editing content for social media that’s on-brand
– Organizational abilities
– Creativity and wit
– Speed (ability to execute tasks quickly)

– Owns a DSLR (or similar camera) and microphone
– Video editing skills (proficiency in either Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere)
– A moderate knowledge of digital advertising (Google AdWords, Facebook Ads / “dark posts”, etc.)
– Listens to The #AskGaryVee Show religiously

– Outreach (to film festivals for speaking gigs, blogs / movie websites, etc.)
– Writing content for Medium (will be credited as guest writer under my personal culture / branding
– Content creation (if we go the Gary Vee route; TBD)
– Filming any local events, speaking gigs
– Research on the crowdfunding space in general, but specifically crowdfunding for indie film / web / video content
– Discover and attend events, Meet-Ups, Tweetups, etc. pertaining to film and / or crowdfunding

– 2 -3 hours a day,
– Three days per week (preferably Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, to start, but I’m totally flexible here

– Crowdfunding (for filmmaking) knowledge and insights from a noted expert and practitioner in the field
– Travel to and from events (subway / Lyft)
– Lunch once a week, during our weekly meetings, preferably on Mondays
– Drinks (at events, and just in general –– there’s always something to celebrate)
– Depending on performance, we can talk…

– What it takes to be a proper crowdfunding consultant and / or manager
– How to utilize various forms of social media (FB / Twitter, plus Instagram & Periscope, perhaps) for crowdfunding
– How to build, broaden, and make “Beliebers” out of your community (really, how to turn your networks into actual relationships)

Now, if by reading this you feel like you’re standing in front of a mirror, then I want to hear from you sooner rather than later, so reach out to me at jtrigonis@gmail.com and let’s get ready to explore the ever-changing landscape of the crowdfunding filmmakers together.

Oh, and a neat hat and soul patch to match are not requirements :-)

Looking forward to hearing from you all soon!

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A Ferris Bueller Kind of Day Off

Yesterday, I sprained (or twisted, or something) my ankle for the first time ever.

See, I’ve never been all that much of a sporty kid. I suffered my way through gym classes for as long as I can remember. When football day rolled around, I wanted to feign a fever. I had mastered the layup in basketball, but no one would ever give me the ball ’cause I’d ultimately end up dropping it. I was one of the few kids who actually liked stretching, and when health class rolled around, I was ready to learn anything the nurse taught ‘cause it was one less game of hockey I had to make it through for the year.

Climbing the rope was the worst, though. I remember one time I after three years of failing this part of the final, I built up the courage and the upper body strength needed to climb the rope all the way to the top of the gym, but upon getting there, I completely froze. My fellow students were calling up to me, “just climb down the same way you climbed up.”

I slid my way down, burning my hands in the process, but I didn’t feel it because I was just so happy my feet were touching solid ground once more.

By the time I was a senior at Weehawken High, the gym teachers –– Mr. McNish and Mrs. Campenella –– had gotten to know me well enough to understand that I wasn’t a sports kid. So they let me do whatever I wanted, and throughout my junior and senior years, I played some really awesome rounds of hackysack and handball.

Anyhow, this isn’t a piece about the horrors of a high school gym class.

Today, while I was painstakingly limping my way from the Midtown Comics on Fulton Street to the World Trade Center where I catch my PATH train home, I naturally was moving at a much, much slower pace than my usual sprint to just about anywhere at any given time of the day. And as people passed my hobbling body by, for some reason I was reminded of that one iconic line in the classic John Hughes comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

“Life moves pretty fast,” Ferris Bueller, played by a young Matthew Broderick, says in a monologue at the beginning of the few, as well as a few times throughout. “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ferris Bueller

Thirty years later, this seemingly simple statement has become more true than ever before. I don’t wanna speak for the rest of you, but we take things for granted. Internet access. Accessibility to news as it happens. Apps for just about any- and everything you can think of. It’s all wonderful, of course, but we allow ourselves to get so sucked into these things, this world and the many things that happen in it, that we lose sight of truly important things. Let’s face it, the human brain is not equipped to keep up with the speed at which our world moves. But we certainly try. We hustle. And we do keep up as best we can, all the while knowing that there’s always a bigger fish –– there’s always someone who’s one step ahead of us. Working a little bit harder.

But at what cost?

Yesterday, I wanted to put in my eight hours of the work I love, mentoring and managing Indiegogo campaigns, then play a swell game of volleyball with my co-workers (yes, that’s how I sprained my ankle –– non-sporty John T. Trigonis serving it up with the best of ‘em!) then head to Midtown Comics to get my stash of indie comics before heading on back to Jersey City to sit for a while and revise a chapter or two for my second edition of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers before getting a little more writing in on my various other creative projects.

Spraining my ankle slowed down my journey home almost unbearably, at least at the beginning. Sure, I made a point to get to Midtown Comics –– it’s the one leisure activity I allow myself –– but man, was I in pain. And then, after leaving that store, my steps started slowing down, and the Freedom Tower started to look like a dream, and I started thinking to myself Man, will I ever get there at this rate?!

“Life moves pretty fast,” indeed, Mr. Bueller (Bueller? Bueller?) But it doesn’t have to. Not all the time, at least.

That’s something I forget about too easily at times, and sometimes it takes a sprained ankle for the Universe to show you that you really need to start seeing the world through the eyes of a child once again, so you can fully realize that sometimes, some things can wait.

Why am I writing a blog about spraining my ankle and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? ‘Cause it’s not about spraining my ankle. And it’s not about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, either. It’s about remembering to take the time to slow down and breathe. To make the time to do the things you love to do. For me, I haven’t written a blog post for myself since around February, and though I’ve been writing about many, many other things, I was moving too fast to realize that none of it was really for me.

So this is a reminder to all of us who get caught up in the world to stop and look around once in a while, and make sure that “once in a while” is more often than not.

TEDx Talk: “Crowdfunding Today, Tomorrow, Together” Is Here

Well, it’s finally here, folks!

I’m very proud to present to you all one of the crowning achievements of my entire life (thus far) –– My TEDxJerseyCity talk called “Crowdfunding Today, Tomorrow, Together.”

Since it’s only a seventeen-minute talk, I’m pretty confident you’ll all watch the entire talk. But if you only have a few minutes, and if you’re toying with the idea of running your own crowdfunding campaign for a film, product, or anything else, then I highly recommend you scrub toward the end of the talk (11:03, to be exact), when I begin talking about my new and improved “Three INs,” presented as the “Three Is,” as in the letter “I” (you see why it didn’t stick, I’m sure) during my talk.

See, around five years ago, I unveiled my “Three Ps for a Successful Indie Film Campaign” –– Pitch, Perks, and Promotion ––  which paved the way to my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers. Well, as crowdfunding for indie film evolves, so did those Three Ps. it was during this TEDx talk that I introduced the Invitation, Incentives, and Interactions as three ways “in” to your crowd’s hearts. A new Medium post outlining them in more detail is coming soon.

From talking about a plethora of local campaigns to ones like the JIBO and Solar Roadways, which are paving the road to a more sustainable and Jetsons-esque future, to talking about vampires and how El Diablo knows how to listen on social media, I think you’ll get a kick out of my talk, and perhaps it’ll even inspire you to make something you’re passionate about a reality.

Special thank to Alicia Ruth and the most excellent folks at TEDxJerseyCity for getting this up and running on the TEDx YouTube page and on TED.com, and, of course, to my darling Marinell, who watched my talk five times today and realized this very important thing:


I trust that by the end of my talk, their eyes –– and all of yours –– will have been opened in the widest of ways.

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37 Steps Toward My Thirty-Seventh Year

I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t it The 39 Steps, Trig?

Yes, The 39 Steps is the title of the Alfred Hitchcock film, but this month, I’m turning thirty-seven years old, and I wanted to write something with a meaningful title. Why am I not waiting for two more years so I can more appropriately title this blog post?

Because this blog post has nothing to do with The 39 Steps, as evidenced by the title.

But here's the poster anyway.

But here’s the poster anyway.

But what it does have to do with are thirty-seven “steps” that have helped lead me to this thirty-seventh year of my life. (Or thirty-eighth –– the math makes me thirty-seven this year, but I honestly feel as though I’ve lived two years for the price of one, which would make me thirty-eight.) Things that have benefited me in the short and long run, and things which I believe might benefit others. I’ve met a lot of great folks over the years, and I continue to meet a great deal of new people everyday, and once we start hanging out and they start to see my Zen approach to everything in life as evidenced by a Facebook status here or an Instagram photo there, they each ask me the same question. It goes something like:

“So what go you like… this?”

“Like what?” I ask right back.

“Like how you are –– always positive, energetic, excited about the simplest things in life.”

There’s so much that went into getting me this way, and instead of diving into an extensive blog post about that time I took a Comparative Religions course or how I wrote my master’s thesis on the train to and from Brooklyn College (apparently I’ve gotten a ton of writing done on trains in my short life), I figured I’d save time and just list out some of the things I believe have had an impact in teaching me how to enjoy everything this life has to offer.

So here they are: The 37 steps that each got me ones step closer to me (in absolutely no particular order, ‘cause that would be way too hard):

  • I haven’t eaten fast food in over ten years.
  • I enjoy my meals, whether I’m dining by myself, with my fiancée, or with a group of friends.
  • I always enjoy the company of others.
  • I’m honest with everyone, but especially myself.
  • I always do work that I enjoy.
  • I’ve created routines, and I’ve stuck to those routines up until this day.
  • I take vitamins and supplements; I haven’t been sick since the Blizzard of ’06.
  • If I can’t find the time in my day to do the things I really want to do, I make the time, even ten minutes at a time.
  • I start my day with some stretches, a little yoga, and some pushups and a sit-up routine like this one. (Actually, it is this one.)
  • I read a verse from the Tao everyday to remind myself to not take life too seriously.


  • I’ve read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
  • I practice those four agreements every day.
  • When I fail at something, I still a triumph, so long as I learn something from that “failure,” which I prefer to think of as a near-success before the real success.
  • I’ve read (and re-read) Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces so that I could understand that (1) all fiction is written the exact same way, even yours and mine, and (2) our stories are just as scripted as the best and worst stories ever told.
  • I’ve watched every film by Stanley Kubrick. Every film. Even Fear and Desire, his very first feature-length film.
  • I drink a lot of water throughout my day. A lot!
  • I know what I have to offer others is valuable, so I make sure to offer it to everyone.
  • I erased the word “can’t” from my vocabulary a long, long time ago.
  • I focus on the task at hand. Or at least I try my hardest to.
  • I’ve found someone who compliments me in every way, and who “gets” me and all my qualities and quirks.
Love this lil' Lady of mine!

Marinell and I in Vienna in winter, 2013, with a “wiener” between us.

  • I cut off any negative people from my life immediately with no second thoughts about it.
  •  I never (okay, I seldom) spread myself too thin, and therefore I have learned the value of saying “no” when spreading myself too thin seems imminent.
  •  I never stopped being a kid, although I tried it once for about two years when I was seventeen, and it totally sucked.
  • I constantly listen to my “boys in the basement” and they’ve never steered me wrong yet. Thanks, Stephen King!
  • Like Dirk Gently, I trust in the interconnectedness of all things.
  • I treat myself to an affogato every now and again. And again after that.
  • I’m not afraid to ask others for help when I really need it.
  • I show support to the things that matter most to me, and which have had a part in making me who I am today.
  • If I don’t have anything nice to say to someone else, I’ll find something nice to say, ‘cause there is always something nice to say.
  • I still call people on their birthdays.
  • I eat breakfast every morning ––granola with blueberries, or sometimes a banana, with almond milk. (No more cow’s milk for me.)
  • Everyday, I strive to add a little bit of goodness into the world through social media and #IRL, too.
  • I keep my memories close, but Winnie-the-Pooh closer. (As well as The House at Pooh Corner, The Tao of Pooh, and Te of Piglet, too.)


  • I don’t drink soda, and I don’t add anything artificial to anything that goes into my body.
  • Whatever happens to me, positive or not-so-positive, I truly believe it’s always for the best.
  • I’m not (too) afraid to try new things –– the older I get, anyway.
  • I end every night with a poem.

And just in case I’m actually thirty-eight years old instead of thirty-seven, here’s the most important thing I do, which we should all remember to do every single day of our lives:

  • Just breathe.


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The Ninjas We Know (And Those We Don’t See)

Let’s face it –– ninjas are awesome.

I hadn’t thought about this fact for a while, honestly, but the majority of kids, men-children and adults are fascinated by these fully masked assassins who stalk in stealth and kill with a quiet katana-swipe to the throat, and vanish in a cloud of smoke. This is only one kind of ninja that the 1980s and ‘90s passed down to my generation, and I thought I’d take a little trip down memory lane outlining the ninjas I know, and a few of those I don’t.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yes, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo were an immensely important part of my childhood. If I looked long and hard at these heroes in a half shell today, I still might not be able to pinpoint exactly what it was about them that shell-shocked me to the point that I absolutely had to own every piece of TMNT merchandise I could get my allowance money on.

It wasn’t just the super successful cartoon that started in 1987 and signed off in 1996 after ten amazing seasons of Splinter, Shredder, Krang and the gang; it wasn’t just the Playmates toy line that complemented the series so well that I had to own every single figure, including Usagi Yojimbo and (gulp!) Panda Khan; and despite a pretty terrible first attempt at a NES game, I was in it for the win because I was a fan of the original Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird comic book series by Mirage Studios that started it all off in 1984 –– and in bold black & white glory.

The first appearance of Leo, Don, Raph and Mike.

The first appearance of Leo, Don, Raph and Mike.

Ninja Kid. In 1986, Bandai released this NES title. I can’t recall how I got a copy, though it may have been a gift from my Dad or my siblings. All I remember is playing it nonstop once I got it. From throwing shuriken to getting stuck on some purple ooze dripping from a ceiling as you rode on a kite, Ninja Kid had to survive so he could defeat the evil forces of Demon Island. I’m not sure if I ever beat the game, but I’ve got a copy coming soon from Ebay, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ninja Kid "flying a kite" –– one of the coolest things about this game.

Ninja Kid “flying a kite” –– one of the most awesome things about this NES classic.

Ninjak. For those of you who remember Valiant Comics, you’ll remember Mark Moretti and Joe Quesada’s Ninjak, which will be brought back to comic shop shelves in his own series once again in this year. Much like Valiant Entertainment, Ninjak has gone through a renaissance from his initial appears in X-O Manowar and into the Unity story arc. But there was something about Quesada’s artwork that defined not only Valiant Comics, but the comic book art of the time. The Ninjak of the 1990s represents an entire zeitgeist of action-packed comic books. The Age of Image. The Valiant Era. It was all so meta it was scary, and we didn’t even have a word for it back then.

From Ninjak #1 (1994)

From the opening pages of Ninjak #1 (1994)

Jinx. Now if you were to guess who my favorite G.I. Joe action figure was as a kid and you guessed the obvious –– Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow –– you’d be wrong. I never even owned those two, especially since I wasn’t much a fan of G.I. Joe outside of the cartoon. But I did own Jinx, a crimson-clad ninja lady, who came with a hefty Reese Witherspoon/Wild-style backpack that held who knows what besides her twin katana blades. The wannabe Jinx from G.I. Joe: Retaliation? A far cry from the original Rawhide, that’s for sure!

The original Jinx in all her crimson glory.

The original Jinx in all her crimson G.I. glory.

Black Dragon & White Dragon. Do any of you remember the ridiculously short-lived 1986 cartoon Rambo: Force of Freedom from First Blood author David Morrell? If so, you’ll remember these twin ninja brothers: White Dragon, who uses his skills to aid John Rambo in the fight against S.A.V.A.G.E., and Black Dragon, who sells his skills as the world’s greatest assassin to the highest bidder.

Lady Shiva. While Batman Begins gave us a glimpse into the hidden world of the League of Assassins and Arrow plays around in this sandbox as well. I always go back to the original gangsta –– Lady Shiva. And I’m not talking about the latest incarnations, I’m talking about the Lady Shiva of the 1980s. To this day I have every panel etched in my brain of the fight scene between her and the Dark Knight in Batman #427, which still holds up in my mind as one of the best fight sequences every penciled by the Bat-master Jim Aparo.

Ah, the good ol' days when comics used sound effects.

Ah, the good ol’ days when comics used sound effects.

Now, there were some ninjas I didn’t have the luxury of knowing much about back in my younger days. I’ve already mentioned the most well-known ninjas of any toy line, but while I know Ninja Kid for the NES, I did not know about the more popular 1989 game Ninja Gaiden, released by Tecmo, which spawned two successful sequels each with some pretty rad subtitles –– The Dark Sword of Chaos and The Ancient Ship of Doom. And while we’re talking about NES, I think it only fair to mention Kid Niki: Radical Ninja, which was released by Data East in 1987.

Kid Niki Famicom box art. 'Cause everything's cooler in Japanese.

Kid Niki: Radical Ninja Famicom box art. ‘Cause everything’s better in Japanese.

And I think I owe it to my Taoist sensibilities to mention Zen, Intergalactic Ninja, which I was never much a fan of the comic series from the late ‘80s, and I never played the NES or Game Boy cartridges, either. But I did get to meet creators Steve Stern and Dan Cote at New York Comic-Con in 2013, where I picked up a 3-D issue that came complete with old anaglyph red/cyan glasses, and every image in that black and white book jumped to life beautifully, making me wish I’d taken this particular ninja a bit more seriously when I was a kid. I mean, looking back, the action figure wasn’t all that bad.

The action figure looks so much more serious than the comics.

The Zen action figure looks so much cooler than he does in the comics.

Why am I writing about Ninjas as my first post of 2015, you ask? Well, no reason, really, except that I just started writing a ninja assassin into my third novel, Sebastian Holden, P.I. in An Unlikely Liaison with the Living Dead. (Tentative title.) And I did so simply because late in December, I took a little trip to Video Games New York to browse around their amazing selection of NES, SNES, Genesis –– heck, just about every game you’ve ever seen on every system –– that no one seems to want. Well, I stumbled on Ninja Kid hidden in between Top Gun and Top Secret Episode. And when once my memories of this game had been completely taken from me like a ninja after hitting its mark, in that moment, all those lost memories came splashing back into me on seeing that cover.

That’s when it hit me.

I wanna write a ninja assassin into one of my novels, I thought to myself. Then I said it to myself out loud, ‘cause I have a tendency to talk to myself. A lot. I said to myself, “I wanna write a ninja assassin into one of my novels.”

So I did. ‘Cause you never know just where the right inspiration will strike. And you have to be prepared at all times to take it.

*         *         *

These are my ninjas of yesterday, climbing the walls of my subconscious and slashing open the vaults they hid themselves behind without my knowledge. What are some of your ninjas? Jot them down in the comments below –– I’d love to read about them!

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TEDx 2014: Living Up to My Middle Name

“Storyteller. Nostalgist. TED talker, too.”

That’s what I changed all of my bios on social media to ever since I had the privilege of speaking at TEDxJerseyCity on Saturday, November 8th, 2014.

Now I think we all know that TED is a big deal, but I didn’t put that into my head until after I got off the stage at PS4 on Bright Street in Downtown Jersey City because I knew I would have panicked. I consider myself so fortunate to have spoken at most of the top film festivals all over the world –– household names like Sundance, SXSW, and TIFF –– but a TEDx talk is a TED talk, and it’s an honor granted to a few people all over the world.

And for the first time in a long time, I had to work for it.

Here's the original outline. Very bare bones.

Here’s the original outline. Very bare bones.

I wanted to dive into what the process of preparing for a TEDx talk was like for me because it was very different than anything else I’ve ever had to prepare for. First of all, I had to audition for the part, and that brought me back to when I used to perform Shakespeare in the parks. I haven’t auditioned for anything since then, and the organizers of TEDxJerseyCity took this part of the process very seriously.

In fact, I almost didn’t make the cut.

When I did my first audition, I was trying not to focus so much on crowdfunding and instead veer that subject I could talk about in my sleep more towards the power of the crowd. My four-minute audition piece was quite honestly a mess. But one of the organizers, Alicia, believed that I had something truly important to say, and so she met up with me at The Warehouse Café and helped me shift the focus of the talk back to what I’m really meant to talk about –– crowdfunding –– and through that, reveal the power of the crowd through personal stories, examples, and a quick lesson on how ordinary people like us have the power to create positive change in the world because money is no longer an obstacle now that we finally have the tools to overcome the problem of lack of funding.

Initial draft of my first audition piece.

Initial draft of my first audition piece.

Freshly armed with that as my focus, and a couple days of hardcore rehearsals, I ended up wowing the judges during the callbacks that I almost didn’t get invited to, and I made it onto the roster along with sixteen other proud Jersey City speakers who would take the stage and talk about a “Brave New World” of their choosing at TEDxJerseyCity 2014.

The other part that was most difficult for me personally was the actual writing of the talk. See, whenever I speak at an event, I never write down what I’m going to say. It’s all very beatnik (I am a poet, after all) –– “straight from the mind to the voice,” as ol’ Jack would say. The only other time I felt I had to write out my talk was during my SXSW Future15 talk about being a face in the crowd of crowdfunding, where I talked about crowdfunding through the lens of the 1957 film A Face in the Crowd, starring Andy Griffith.

The first slide from my SXSW Future15 talk, 2014.

The first slide from my SXSW Future15 talk, 2014.

But I basically did the same thing with the written out version of my TED talk that I did with that SXSW one. I tossed it in the trash and winged it.

The thing about “winging” something is simple: You have to be confident that there’s a wind beneath those wings to hold you up, and that wind is the intention behind what you want to say. How you say it, that’ll always be secondary.

Before we bust into a chorus of Bette Midler’s famous tune, let’s get back to TEDx. Aside from the rough outlines/four-minute audition pieces, I wrote a full outline and a first and second draft of the talk. What I noticed was each time I wrote it, I would add more to it. Always more. Never less. And ultimately when I had a week left and was about to start rehearsing my talk, I let my fiancée Marinell read it.

And she liked it.

Sort of.

“I can’t picture you saying it like this,” Marinell kept on saying, and no matter how many times I reassured her that “the talk that I give on stage will most likely sound nothing like what’s written,” she still wasn’t convinced until I took her to my apartment and performed it for her for the first time. No notes. No cheat sheet. Nothing.

And she loved it.

And this is the last draft, complete with the notes that helped create the final draft.

And this is the last draft, complete with the notes that helped create the final draft.

Did the writing out of the entire talk help me keep the intention behind those words in the forefront of my mind? Sure. But knowing myself the way I do, I should’ve simply sketched out a quick outline onto a couple of napkins and worked off of that. When you know your subject matter, it makes no sense to spend all that time writing it out; just know what you need to say and practice getting it out in the order you need it to be presented, and all will be well.

I spent the next entire week practicing every night after work –– again, something I’m not accustomed to doing. I recorded each rendition of my talk into my iPhone, all the while timing it more old school on an old Breitling stopwatch I permanently borrowed from a high school science class. From my first time of twenty-six minutes to just barely cutting it down to the eighteen-minute TED maximum, the more I practiced, the more I knew what I needed to get across to my audience.

Screen shot 2014-11-15 at 12.24.25 PM

I was so happy when I snapped this photo for Instagram –– got that talk down to just under seventeen minutes.

On the day of the talk itself, I practiced one last time in the morning, and I was pleased to get it down to fifteen minutes. That meant, I now had precious time to infuse into the talk the spontaneity that makes all of my talks all the more memorable. The quick asides and off-the-cuff additions, but most importantly, working with the crowd in the moment to create with them the best talk possible. To give to them the speech they want to hear. And I think I accomplished that with my TED talk.

But man, it was a lot of work!


It’s been a week since my TEDxJerseyCity talk, and I’ve been thinking of my Dad a bit more lately. It always happens during this time –– he passed away eight years ago on December 16th –– but this time feels a little different. I find myself wishing I could take a minute and tell him all about my talk, and to hear him in that silent whisper of a voice he left this world with say that he’s proud of the man I’ve become.

I know he is, of course. But sometimes you just need to hear it.

But it’s funny –– We all know that “TED” stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design,” but it’s also short for “Teddy,” a nickname for “Theodore” and what the “T.” in “John T. Trigonis” stands for.

And it was also my father’s name, too.

My TEDx talk marks a huge milestone for me, and I have no idea where it will take me next. Perhaps nowhere. Perhaps it will afford me further opportunities to talk about the power that crowdfunding gives to mild mannered men and women all around the world. Time will tell, and I want to thank you all ahead of time for helping me get here.

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#TypeOctober: Re-Discovering the Genius of Type O Negative

My good pal Timo Voruensola Tweeted something the other day that made me smile big:

That’s right –– #TypeOctober –– an entire month to listen to and appreciate one of my favorite bands back during my longhaired leather-jacketed days, circa 1993 – 1998. It wasn’t until 1996 that I’d heard of this Goth metal band that had a flair for the dreary, dark, and depressing, and a penchant for All Hallow’s Eve, which is why I’m writing this during my favorite month of the year.

I had just become a senior in high school, and my headbanger friends Brian, Joey, and Tommy were introducing me to some heavier music than the Meat Loaf, Guns N’ Roses, and (gulp!) Debbie Gibson I was listening to for most of my high school years. It was through them I discovered the not-so-soothing sounds of Danzig, Biohazard, and The Misfits.

And Type O Negative.


Bloody Kisses (1993) was the first album I listened to. Of course, I was drawn in by the two women moaning in some kind of sexual discord in the opening track “Machine Screw” –– y’see, each album features literal “sound tracks” mixed in between the music –– and then I heard frontman Peter Steele’s voice toll its way into the song like a death knell: “Forgive her, for she knows not what she does.”

What a voice! I thought to myself. Deep, powerful, unafraid of the boogiemen and all the things that go bump in the dark because, as far as I was concerned that voice was the dark. By the time I got through the near nine minutes of “Christian Woman” and its three devilishly diverse parts, I was sold. From the gothic opening act, to the soft, guitar-plucked second, and the metal-centric egomaniacal conclusion, I realized that so many folks would simply pass these fellas off as a bunch of metal-heads singing satanic music with no substance to it whatsoever.

But not me. Nope, I could feel the composition beneath the heaviness of their music, and it was no different to me than a symphony by Mozart or an award-winning film score.

Unfortunately, there won’t be any new Type O Negative songs anytime soon. But I am proud to say that during my first trip out to Los Angeles, I got to see them perform live in hospital gowns at The House of Blues while they were on tour with their latest album Life is Killing Me (2003). It was in LA that I also stumbled on a Type O Negative “Brothers in Blood” button at a souvenir shop off Hollywood Boulevard, which I still own to this day, and always will.

So for this month of October, I’ll be listening to a ton of Type O Negative, including albums I’ve never heard, like Life is Killing Me, which I’m really enjoying, to classics like World Coming Down (1999). If any of you would like to join Timo and I this month in listening to The Least Worst Of (I’m not being messed up –– that’s the title of the “Best Of” album they put out in 2000) Type O Negative, here’s a few songs I recommend starting with:

  • “Christian Woman” and “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All) off of Bloody Kisses
  • My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” from October Rust (1996)
  • The entire World Coming Down, especially “Everyone I Love is Dead,” “Everything Dies,” and “Pyretta Blaze”
  • “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” and the title track off of Life is Killing Me

Enjoy those, and hey, if you wanna go way back with Type O and you’re all good with “Explicit Lyrics,” give “I Know You’re Fucking Someone Else” from The Origin of the Feces (1992). It has got to be the lewdest song I’ve ever heard with more expletives than I can count on two hands, but composition-wise, I place it right up there with “Christian Woman” and Beethoven’s 9th.

And although Mr. Steele is gone, he may just end up as a character in my third “Hipster Noir” novel, which I hope will be the ultimate homage to a talent who fell into a winter chill long before his autumn was over.

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This is What a “Hipster Noir” Novel Will Look Like

So I’ve written a novel. So what?

The question that perturbs me day and night is this: Can I actually be writing a novel without being an avid reader of novels?

Well, the answer I’ve come up with is yes.

And so what?

As you’ve recently read, the inspiration for my Muddled Mystery of the Murdered Muse stems from diverse source materials ranging from novels like Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently series and comics like Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT to classic Hollywood and international films and the music of the 1930s to 1950s –– we’re talking Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, that sorta big band sound you hear in most film noir pictures.

Don’t get me wrong, though –– I’ve read enough fiction to last me a lifetime between college prep high school English to majoring in two writing degrees, each requiring an onslaught of the written word be conquered before etching the first letters of one’s own onto the pages of a master’s thesis.

But today, I’m unveiling the very first image for Hipster Noir. No, this isn’t a comic book –– for that, be sure to check out Siren’s Calling over on Facebook –– and it’s certainly not a children’s book. It’s simply a book with pictures.

I want The Muddled Mystery to be words and images. Think back to those times you read A. A. Milne’s Winnie-The-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. A few pages of words go by, and there’s a nice little image by E. H. Shepard and Exupéry to aid in your imagination a bit –– an image that adds a little something extra to the standard storytelling and plot.

And yes, although those are children’s books, technically (you know you still pick up Winnie-The-Pooh from time to time more than J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan), I want to give readers of my Muddled Mystery to enjoy a sense of harkening back to their childhood while reading a very adult supernatural murder mystery, and also get them to see the world of Sebastian Holden how I see it.

“Holden Onto Heartbreak” is Coming Soon

In the next month or so, I plan to release to you all the first short story introduction into the world of Sebastian Holden, P.I. in “Holden Onto Heartbreak,” one of this hipster detective’s earliest adventures. And it will feature a more fleshed-out version of the following image, sketched by my friend and very talented artist Narciso Espiritu, Jr.:

Hipster Noir

Again, this is just a simple sketch from Narciso to get you all excited about what’s to come. The story itself will be a draft that is in need of your feedback, because what’s the point of writing a novel (or series of novels at this point –– I’m nearly done with book two!) if the audience doesn’t care to read it, right?

The bigger question for now is will I need to write my name as “J. T. Trigonis” once all’s said and published…?


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What is a Hipster Noir? Inspirations, Part One

When I first started writing my first hipster noir, now called The Muddled Mystery of the Murdered Muse, it began as a bunch of weird character sketches. Some of them were based loosely on folks I know in real life, while others were complete fabrications. And there were a few I pulled in from other ideas I’d initially drafted as screenplays or other kinds of creative writing.

But you may be wondering how this all began.


Well, aside from being bored during my morning and evening commutes from Jersey City to NYC and back, what initially started me writing what back then was only a character sketch a day is Mind MGMT, a creator-owned comic book series by Matt Kind, published by Dark Horse Comics. The plot centers on a mysterious organization of super spies known as Mind Management and one man’s quest to take it down once and for all while another faction fights to recreate a new, more powerful management. Hand down, Mind MGMT has to be the best read in comics right now.

Something Matt includes in each issue is a character sketch to a new character in an opening and closing segment, one on the flipside of the front cover called “The Second Floor” and the other called “Mind MGMT Case Files” that takes up the last two pages. It’s here where Matt introduce his readers to characters that are now starting to play a more prominent role in the story –– characters like “The Futurist” Duncan Jones, “The Ad Man” Karl Box, and “The Hulk” (not to be confused with Marvel’s green giant). “The Second Floor” also occasionally delves into side stories that help us piece together what Mind Management is all about.

Two Sisters

What I really love about these is how they start to connect to the larger world and story arc of Mind MGMT, creating a more holistic continuity in the universe that Matt seems to be expanding on with each monthly issue. In many ways, this exactly what happened with my character sketches; at one point about ten characters in, I create Sebastian Holden, the hipster detective protagonist of my story, and from that point on, a plot started to take hold of the writing.

I probably haven’t told you all that much about Mind MGMT, Matt Kind’s greatest series since Super Spy and Revolver, but I cannot recommend this series enough, which is available in three hardcover graphic novel editions as the monthly series stories boldly on with a movie on the way.


As for my hipster noir, I’m still writing them both a little bit every day. Instead of character sketches, the ones I’m writing now are chapters in the second novel while I revise and edit my Muddled Mystery and get it ready for the road ahead.

Stay tuned…

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