Campaigning for Democrat Tom Malinowski in NJ-7

Nov 7 Update: Tom Malinowski defeated Leonard Lance in NJ-7. Yippee!

Update to this post a few hours after publishing it on Sunday, Nov 4—I see that Tom Malinkowski is featured on the front page of Washington Post reporter Dave Weiegel’s daily campaign trail report. So here’s a link to Weigel’s piece and screenshot of the opening about Malinowski below—with a quote from the candidate about the fact that while he’s talking a lot of about healthcare, in his suburban district he’s also talking with voters about Trump’s hateful rhetoric about immigrants—followed by my original post. 

Had a productive day Saturday campaigning for Tom Malinowski, DEM candidate for the House in #NJ7. I’ve been aware of Malinowski for several years, from when he worked on the National Security Council for the Obama administration in human rights initiatives, with a strong background in diplomacy and foreign affairs. He has an interesting background, having been born in Poland, and emigrating with his mother to the US when he was six years old. An overwhelming number of volunteers answered the call for the noon-3pm shift in the town of Summit, about an hour train ride from Penn Station in Manhattan. We made a pleasant 15-minute walk to and from the station.

The trainer for my group of about 50 volunteers was the home owner—and a 2016 candidate in her town—she told us that she lost a local election that year by a single vote, underscoring the importance of all our effort this year. She added that her next-door neighbor was Republican senate wannabe Hugin, whose yard signs populated their neighborhood, but not her yard. These two pieces of information got the room buzzing even more than when we sat down. We learned from an organizer, John Marshall, that they gave out more than 250 info kits plus many sets of handouts to more than 400 volunteers by the time we moved up near the head of the line for materials.

We campaigned on the street in Summit, and got lots of thumbs-ups from people who’d done early voting, and talked with other folks who’d yet to vote and were very receptive to Malinowski. I’m hopeful he will unseat Republican incumbent Leonard Lance this coming Tuesday, help flip the House to a Democratic majority, and place a serious check on Donald Trump. The progressive group Swing Left, along with John Marshall, and host Lacey, did a great job organizing the volunteer effort. Below are pics of Kyle and myself with our co-volunteer Satya, plus the handout volunteers were provided, and some urban landscape photos we took during the relaxing train ride both ways. #vote

Sold: “SHATTERED MINDS: How the Pentagon Fails Our Troops with Faulty Helmets” by Robert Bauman and Dina Rasor

I first blogged about SHATTERED MINDS: How the Pentagon Fails Our Troops with Faulty Helmets in 2016, linking it to a Washington Post story by Ben Guarino about an amazingly hard material found in nature:

“UC-Riverside scientists and engineers say they have detected a heretofore unknown natural structure in the outer layer [of the mantis shrimp claw]—the critical ‘impact area’— of the club. Were helmets or body armor to be created following this mantis shrimp template, they say, soldiers and football players could be protected from immense blows. When viewed under a microscope, the outer layer of the club has what the scientists describe as a herringbone structure. There, fibers of chitin and calcium compounds are arranged in a series of sinusoidal waves. When the shrimp strikes a prey’s shell, the researchers think this herringbone wave buckles, dispersing the impact throughout the club without causing catastrophic damage to the predator.”

Authors Robert Bauman and Dina Rasor were still working on their manuscript in 2016, and I was preparing to begin submitting the project to publishers. There’s an unusual backstory to the book, which I’ll outline below.

In 2008, when I was acquiring books as Editorial Director at Union Square Press, I read a stunning NY Times story about two whistleblowers at a defense contractor in North Dakota who at great personal risk revealed that their employer was knowingly shorting the amount of the protective material Kevlar in the combat helmets they were fabricating for the Pentagon, to increase their profits at the expense of troop safety. At the suggestion of Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. I commissioned a book on this grotesque boondoggle to be written by two ace reporters on military procurement and the Pentagon, Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman. In 2009, while they were working on the manuscript, and discovering yet another brave whistleblower to include in the narrative, I left that job and parent company Sterling Publishing canceled the contract, handing the rights back to the authors. Fast forward several years and Bob and Dina approached me to see if in my new role as an agent I would be game to try to help them re-sell the book to a new publisher, which I agreed to, with generous approval from their original agent Bonnie Nadell. This is exactly the type of “imperative nonfiction” I have long cultivated as a publishing professional, and I was very excited to accept the challenge of reselling it to a new publisher. This was part of my pitch letter to publishers:

This revelatory book, written by two authors who’ve covered the Pentagon for many years, reports that in the twenty-first century, while traumatic brain injury (TBI) has become the signature injury suffered by our troops, the defense establishment has failed US fighting men and women by continuing to issue them an antiquated military helmet that fails to mitigate the worst of this tragic harm, even though superior design and technology are increasingly available. This investigation by Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman, the first book to examine this most basic item of military equipment, features the stories of two sets of whistleblowers determined to expose the truth about the failures of the military helmet bureaucracy. Their book braids together the two stories of two sets of whistleblowers to chronicle the helmet scandal and its human impact.

Indeed, in 2017 I sold the book to Potomac Books, a military and public affairs imprint at the University of Nebraska Press, as documented in the deal report below posted at the book industry site publishersmarketplace[dot]com.


Potomac has scheduled the book for publication in March 2019. I’ll post a cover when they have it ready. Meantime, the authors have already received these superb endorsements:

SHATTERED MINDS will set a challenge for technologists, designers, people who use 3D printers, materials scientists, and high level defense thinkers to finally design the most protective military helmet possible. Despite the Pentagon’s failures to this point, we hope to gain their attention to bring new talent and focus to the goal of producing a superior helmet. In the same regard, we are excited about the effort being undertaken by the Head Health Challenge, which also relates to football helmets, an effort that has been covered by Liz Stinson in Wired magazine. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to forge a constructive link between the Defense Dept and the NFL, in as much as the league often cites its cooperation with the US military. I recommend you read the fascinating article by Ben Guarino, which also has video from UC Riverside scientist David Kisailus.

Matt Mays and Terra Lightfoot Raisin’ the Roof in Brooklyn

Matt Mays and Terra Lightfoot played a great show at the Knitting Factory last Monday night. It was good to re-meet ace music producer Gus Van Go in the audience. I look forward to hearing him play at the same venue with his band Megative on Oct 13!

Sold: “The Twenty-ninth Day: Surviving a Grizzly Attack in the Canadian Tundra” by Alex Messenger

One of the most exciting things in my work as an independent editor and literary agent is when I have the opportunity to work with a new writer on their manuscript, helping them develop it to the point where a publisher later makes an offer to publish it. That is what’s occurred with writer Alex Messenger’s book, The Twenty-ninth Day: Surviving a Grizzly Attack in the Canadian Tundra, which I recently sold to Blackstone Publishing. They’re an Ashland, Oregon-based company that in the past couple years has grown from being a publisher of audio books only (several months ago I sold them audio rights to The Last Days of Sylvia Plath), to now having a full print program, with reissues such as Mr & Mrs Hollywood: Edie and Lew Wasserman and their Entertainment Empire by Kathleen Sharp (by coincidence I edited the original edition for Carroll & Graf Publishers in 2004) and new, never-before-published titles. Below is a lightly edited version of the pitch letter I submitted to editors with the manuscript, prompting the offer from Blackstone. 

A denizen of the wild places and freshwater lakes of northern Minnesota, by his early teens Alex Messenger had already gone on many wilderness and canoeing journeys, sometimes with his family, other times with peers through a local YMCA camp. The summer he was seventeen, a friend encouraged Alex to be a paddler on what would be his most ambitious trip yet: 

“’You should come,’ Mike urged me. Going on the Hommes du Nord expedition would mean spending forty-two days traveling through northern Canada, a near month and a half on trail, of whitewater canoeing, of portaging, of sleeping on a thin mat in a thin tent, forty-two days of dried food, adventure and fresh air.”

For the first twenty-eight days, Alex and his fellow paddlers confronted many difficulties in the Canadian sub-Arctic, including ferocious whitewater rapids that challenged their paddling skills, and an island locked in by shifting ice that barely allowed them to paddle their canoes away from it. The most dangerous animals they encountered were ornery musk-oxen. But on the twenty-ninth day all that changed when on a solitary hike Alex encountered a grizzly bear that attacked him. A life and death struggle ensued as Alex tried to retreat from the bear’s grasp, then bounced his heavy camera case off the bear’s snout, all before slipping in to a state of semi-consciousness. 

When Alex came to, he was alone, wounded and bleeding but somehow still alive. Forcing himself upright, he struggled back to camp in terrible pain from a severe thigh wound, where he was soon being treated by his resourceful companions who sought advice on emergency care from doctors back home via their satellite phone. An immediate evacuation was considered, but in the short term they resumed the canoe journey, hoping to reach the point on the map where the whole expedition was due to conclude at a remote fly-in village. In the days that followed, Alex tried to make himself useful on the water, helping to paddle when he could, though his injuries made the effort excruciating while aggravating the wound.  

A few days later, Alex, his fellow paddlers, and the camp directors back in Minnesota faced a difficult decision: let the party navigate to the village, or have Alex evacuated right then. I will let you discover their decision for yourself. 

The 85,000 word manuscript recounts an unusual coming-of-age story filled with inspiring descriptions of Arctic landscape, thrilling riverine adventures, and high risk adventure, all written more than a decade later from the perspective of a more mature Alex Messenger, who continues to enjoy wilderness camping and works in the outdoors and camping equipment industry with outfitter Frost River, for which he attends many trade shows; these will afford him an excellent opportunity to promote the book. 

Two comparable books that you might look to as models of success would be Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston and The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, which it so happens I edited and published at Carroll & Graf in 2001. 

Below is an announcement that ran in the book industry newsletter Publishersmarketplace. The photographs illustrating this post are by Alex Messenger, whose Instagram handle is @messengerphoto. If you enjoy adventure and survival narratives such as  Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild (where by contrast the young protagonist did not survive his wilderness ordeal), Admiral Richard Byrd’s Alone, and Great Heart: The History of a Labrador Adventure by James West Davidson and John Rugge, then you’ll definitely enjoy The Twenty-ninth Day  when it’s published in 2019 or 2020.