Conversations – I Never Promised You a Rosewater, Part 2

Wednesday, October 13th – “Once upon a time, the best way to get into R&D was excelling on the Pro Tour. I believe nowadays there is just as much promise by becoming a writer and demonstrating you understand how the game ticks.”

In case you missed yesterday’s epic, it can be found

Today’s continuation finds Mark discussing his favorite writers, what he would love to see more of in Magic writing, and an extensive discussion on innovation.

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What voices from the past do you really miss these days?


My favorite Magic writer of all time is Jamie Wakefield. I felt like he wasn’t a Magic player that wrote but rather a writer that played Magic. He definitely helped influence me to write more about my life and not worry about getting off topic. I loved how he stressed that Magic is part of his life and how interwoven it was. Plus, the boy can write. I remember he spent a whole article writing in a completely different style (in a magazine feature style if I remember correctly) just to demonstrate a particular tone.

One of the things that’s missing when people talk about writing is craft. Writing is a skill and part of that comes from some very technical aspects of writing. Jamie was a solid technical writer. You can tell that everything he did was a conscious decision. I find it funny how often when I talk with people about my writing and I get into decisions about why I did something that people seem shocked the amount of time that went into figuring out exactly how I wanted to write something. Good writing feels effortless, but that doesn’t mean a lot of effort didn’t go into it. It’s very hard to sound like you’re just saying what’s coming out from the top of your head. It’s a skill I focused on lot on when doing stand-up comedy that’s all about mimicking sounding like you’re talking as thoughts come to you. Anyway, while Jamie is an entertaining writer, there’s also all this craft that might be invisible to most people but is obvious to other writers that Jamie nails.

I loved Jamie Wakefield writing so much I often read his other writing about his life. In fact, the most emotional I’ve ever gotten reading anything was when I was catching up on his blog and stumbled upon the last six months of his wife’s life. For those that don’t know, Jamie’s first wife, Mare (as he called her), died of cancer, and Jamie wrote about all of it from her getting diagnosed through her death, and it was one of the most brutally honest things I’ve ever read. It affected me so much that I got us to make a card in Mare’s honor (Timbermare from Planar Chaos) that we let Jamie preview.

I’m quite happy that Jamie has been able to bounce back and find a new life for himself. He just got married — Congratulations, Jamie! He’s also writing again (well, about Magic), so that’s awesome.

Another voice I love, and he still writes from time to time is Mark Gottlieb. His writing cracks me up. Mark is a wonderfully comic writer, and he has a real flair for writing that’s both funny on the surface but also funny at the same time subtly in the structure. Mark’s writing needs to be read more than once because you’re just going to miss some jokes the first time through. Mark also loves to parody me, so that’s extra fun.


I’m also one of the guys that have really appreciated Jamie’s skill at writing over the years (I found his writing during Mare’s illness devastating), though his general stubbornness has made the more recent forays into Magic writing a little tougher for me to enjoy. That said, everything you listed above about his attention to craft is true, and I think he’s pretty happy now, so the joy he used to display before will seep back in gradually.

Gottlieb, on the other hand, just makes me angry. He’s a little like Jeff Cunningham in that they have these immense talents, but somehow only manage to trot them out on display a couple of times a year, if that. So yeah, Gottlieb is a fantastic writer and tickles my brain on multiple levels with every article. He’s funny. He loves puzzles. He has goofy eyes. All of this makes him undeniably great to read. He’s also an asshole because he doesn’t write more. 

Having passionate fans is a two-edged sword.


As a man with passionate fans, I’m well aware. I often share some of my letters with R&D because it is hard to fathom some of the things that people write to me about. And not just what they write but how they write it. I consider my email to be a perk of my job. It is fascinating to have an ear to the public. Occasionally also scary but fascinating nonetheless. I also will second Jeff Cunningham as a great writer. Like Gottlieb, I wish he wrote more as well.


While on the subject of writers with families, here’s something I’m curious about. How did having kids affect your writing? Obviously your time constraints changed immensely (especially with the twins), but I’m guessing the impact was a bit more dramatic than that.


The biggest impact of kids is this — kids change who you are as a person. Not in a bad way. They just make you rethink a lot of priorities that you’ve had in the past. Being responsible for the welfare of another living person causes one to reevaluate a lot of things. Who you are as a person directly affects who you are as a writer, so obviously there’s a huge chain of events at work. The most noticeable shift I’ve seen is gaining a greater sense of responsibility as a writer. Just as I’m now responsible for making sure my kid grows up okay, I’ve realized that I have an equal responsibility to my readers.

There is a lot of power that comes from writing especially with the size of audience I have. I have to use that power responsibly. The geek in me can hear Uncle Ben saying, “With great power comes great responsibility” (Okay, not exactly what he said but that’s what everyone thinks he said). I’m very conscious about the messages I send, and I try to hit upon truisms when I can. A lot of my most personal columns have come with serious life lessons I was trying to share. One of them was even called “Life Lessons.”

Having kids, I believe made me a better person, and in turn a better writer. One of my most cherished moments as a writer was after I wrote “Life Lessons.” In it, I explained my decision process for asking Lora to marry me. Four different people wrote in to me to say that my column inspired them to propose to their girlfriend. While I don’t know how all of them turned out, I know at least two led to marriages. One of those, by the way, is an old time Pro Player with a Top 8 on his resume.


Do you think there is a lack of innovation and risk-taking in today’s Magic writing?


Yes, I do. Now take my answer with a grain of salt as I’m all about innovating and risk taking in my writing. My personal favorite column of all time (
“Topical Blend #1: To Err Is Human”

) came about because I wanted to test myself as a writer. That was the column where I promised to write a column interweaving a Magic topic and a non-Magic topic chosen by my audience. The winning topics were My Ten Biggest Design Mistakes and Girls. I ended up writing one of the most personal things I have ever written, and it created the largest positive response in the history of my column.

The writer snob in me would like to see more Magic writers grow themselves as writers. The reason innovation and risk taking is so awesome is that it pushes you to places that you wouldn’t naturally wander. Would I have ever just chosen to write an article about all the dating mistakes I’ve ever made and explain how my design mistakes were the same mistakes? Never in a million years. But I pushed myself and as a result found a new voice. That article really taught me that it was okay to be personal in my writing.

I often talk about how people relate to people, not ideas. “To Err is Human” was me putting a real personal face on design mistakes, of showing that
they are just as human as any other type of mistake. Be aware that not every risk I’ve taken has worked out.

while one of my personal favorites, was hated by a large chunk of my readers. People throw the word “hate” around but that column generated an unreal amount of negative response. To be fair, it also created a lot of positive response. I’m glad I did it even though it probably turned numerous people off my column.

The gauntlet that I threw down before really was me saying that I want Magic writers to embrace being writers and stop worrying so much about making sure to get the requisite ten deck lists in their article. (Although as a former editor, I do understand the power of decklists to pull in readers.)


If you could go back and unwrite one article you have published, which one would it be and why?


It’s not so much that I want to unwrite anything as much as I want to rewrite it. I wrote an article called
“Free Association.”

The premise of the article was I wanted to demonstrate the quirkiness of trading card games in that the designer doesn’t control the order that the public sees his work in and that each person sees it in a different order. To parallel this, I wrote an article that started in a random place such that each reader would experience the article from a different vantage point. While I love the concept, I executed it poorly. I feel like I squandered an amazing idea with poor execution. Normally, I know when I’ve hit a cool idea, and spend extra time making it shine. This article was one of the big exceptions where I didn’t do that. If I could rewrite any one column, this is my first choice.

But your question was about unwriting an article, and I’ll be a good interviewee and answer the question asked of me. If I had to unwrite an article, I guess it would be my Facebook article,
“After Party,”

that was the follow-up to my IM messaging article,
“IM Legend.”

I’d unwrite it for two reasons. One, it besmirched one of my best articles which really didn’t need any follow-up. Second, I did a poor job executing it, as the premise of the format wasn’t met by my execution. The article doesn’t read well right now because all the Facebook formatting got messed up when we changed over the site to a new program. The execution done by now R&D designer Dave Guskin was the best thing about the article.


What do you feel is the greatest strength and greatest weakness of your writing?


In college, I started doing stand-up comedy. One of the things they kept stressing was the importance of finding your voice. I feel writing has a similar issue. The best writers find a natural rhythm that both conveys them as a writer and is something the audience can grab on to. I think my greatest strength is that I’ve managed to find my voice as a writer. Once you do that it allows you to talk about just about anything because the audience is in it for the journey as much as the destination.

I believe your biggest weakness is your biggest strength pushed too far, so I think my biggest weakness as a writer is that I too often let the voice stray away from the structure. I’ve become so comfortable with writing that I often forget the importance of the structure to it. Basically I meander when I’m supposed to be getting to the point. My writing is strong enough that I can get away with it most of the time, but it’s lazy, and the left side of my brain gets real mad at my right side for constantly hi-jacking my articles. I would be a stronger writer if I could rein in the left side of my brain better.


 What role do you think humor plays in Magic writing?


One of the biggest mistakes column writers make is they forget the main purpose of what they’re there for. One of the lectures I’ll never forget from college was in a class called Social Ethics of Media. (I attended Boston University’s College of Communication.) The class was all about understanding how media works and what impact it has on the public. Metaphorically, the communication college felt if you’re going to fire a gun, they figure you better take a class in gun safety. The fascinating thing about the class was how it kept asking questions you thought you knew the answer to only to find out you didn’t know as much as you thought.

Why do people use media? When you look at the data (mostly surveys), “getting information” came in third. Second? Being entertained. First? It’s a habit; it’s just something they’re used to doing. I think too many Magic writers are more focused on providing information than they are on being entertaining. (I’ll leave creating habits up to the websites if they’re doing their jobs correctly.) A big part of making a column entertaining is understanding the value of humor. Not every article calls for humor (for example, I take a very serious tone when explaining controversial issues), but usually if doesn’t cause problems with the tone of the article, it’s a mistake not to have some humor. A writer needs to put his reader’s at ease and entertain. Nothing does that easier than well done humor. (Not that all my humor is well done.)


 You have a reputation for doing very offbeat articles. Do you do them because they service your content or more because they service your style as a writer?


I wish I could say I always do them to service my content, but sometimes it’s more about challenging myself as a writer. As I explained earlier, I write because I enjoy writing. Along with that comes the desire to push myself as a writer, to stretch my boundaries. Often times this results is something fun, but I’ve had my share of gimmicky articles that have flopped. The lesson I’ve learned over time is that a gimmick without context will almost always fail. I shouldn’t do something just to do it. When I come up with a novel way to approach my article, I try to wait until I have the right article topic for that gimmick. That may take a few months or a few years. I’m trying to learn to be more patient.


 Is there any Magic topic you wish more writers would write about?


For the number of articles about Magic, it’s sad how few topics actually seem to be covered. New set coming out? Let’s have eight thousand people tell you what they think of each card. As the Head Designer, I would love to see more writers actually talk about the design. Look at the set holistically and talk about what’s going on or look historically to understand what this set is bringing to the game overall.

The game has a rich history but so little of it is ever talked about. I’m shocked when I describe some highlight of Magic history how much of my audience has never heard about it. (The fact that Ben’s Top 10 articles do so well, by the way, is a sign that the audience is hungry for this kind of thing.) The same is true about the history of Magic design. No one (other than me) tends to talk about innovations in the game or how elements of the game had changed.

I would love to see more writers that understand the history of the game (and note I’m talking about the game not the metagame — Flores alone covers that) walk newer players over how new sets change the game or challenge old concepts. I would love to see a set review that isn’t about cards but about the set as a whole. I’d love to see the equivalent of movie review for sets where it isn’t about the pieces but the entirety of the thing. To continue the metaphor, I feel like current set reviews would be like a movie review that goes like this:

“Okay, let’s start with the first scene in the movie. Beginning with a wide shot and then cutting in to an interior. I’ve seen that like a thousand times. And then the first line is voice over from an unknown character. I was a little intrigued. I like voice over narration when it’s not too heavy handed, but then we cut to see the person who’s talking and I’m like — that’s the first shot of the character? Couldn’t it have been a more striking composition? ”

How about a set review that talks about whether it’s a good set overall and why? Or even an article that talks about what parts work for them and what parts don’t. Also, like a good movie review, it would put it in context. Anyway, number one — I’d love to see more writers talk about the game in a more macro and less micro sense.

Also, it’s important for people to look at a set through a lens greater than the one element that drives them. I remember once when Jamie Wakefield reviewed Ravnica through the lens of monocolor green cards. He wouldn’t even include hybrid cards with green in them. And guess what? The set didn’t look good to him. As it shouldn’t because Ravnica just wasn’t about monocolor green creatures.

Second, I want to see more writers bringing their lives into their writing to show how Magic impacts their lives as I said before. Third, I want to see more variety in the types of players and the types of games we hear about. Too many articles are all about the one same vantage point. I know it’s what pays the bills, but part of the monotony of modern Magic writing is how many people are trying to say the exact same thing.

Note to Magic writers — try to say something that no one else is. Part of this is the writers finding their own voice and part of it is having
the willingness to explore new areas. For example, you had an
article a few weeks ago

talking about which version of cards the writer should use in her cube based on art. That was fresh and very compelling. More of that.

Finally, I want Magic writing to have some of the depth you see in writing about hobbies. There are glimpses of what I’m talking about, but I wish it were more the norm and less the exception. Aim higher. Write articles that your non-Magic friends might actually want to read.

One of the signs that I’ve done something extra special with one of my columns is when I’m told by players how they showed it to their friends and family that don’t play Magic because what the article was saying was bigger than just Magic. I would like to see more Magic articles that the same could happen with.


StarCityGames.com is actually moving towards what you suggest in a number of ways. Along with Ben’s takes on things — which are almost always interesting and unique because of his perspective — Geordie Tait is back and tackling design and flavor in ways readers rarely get a chance to see, particularly outside of the Mothership. Talking about design can be a tricky balancing act though because most people think they are qualified to do so but they just aren’t, so that might be why you don’t see as much of it as you might like.

Plus, we’ve now announced our Talent Search and categories where we are actively scouring the community for new voices and ideas across media. Magic players are really clever, but I don’t think our site has done a great job pushing the envelope like we used to. Magic is a great game and the product turned out of R&D is better than ever — sites like ours need to rise to the challenge, find new takes and perspectives on things, and generally try to bring back more of the fun inherent in what for most of us is still a delightful game of discovery. SCG was stagnant for a number of years — now we’re moving forward in giant leaps and bounds trying to catch up.


I’m excited to see what you guys can do.


 If you could give any advice to other Magic writers, what would it be?


Don’t be afraid to let “you” into your writing. Write things that no one but you could write. My most popular columns are always the ones where I connect my life with my job making Magic. It takes courage to tap into your life, but that is what writing’s all about — finding truths in what you are talking about. Also, and this is me letting out my “old writing geezer” out — take some time to learn the basics, and then use them. There’s a reason, for instance, why good writers use a thesis paragraph to start off their article. A reader needs to be introduced to what they are about to read. Also, break up paragraphs and use headers and cross-link to other articles that are relevant and so on and so on. If you want to be a good writer, take the time to learn what you need to do to make your writing as approachable as you can.

Finally, if you really want to be a good writer, create a situation for yourself where you’re on a weekly schedule that forces you to write. If you want to get good, that will come from doing it. Become a columnist if you’re not and just put in the hours. Once upon a time, the best way to get into R&D was excelling on the Pro Tour. I believe nowadays there is just as much promise by becoming a writer and demonstrating you understand how the game ticks. Do you have some insight into the game? Write about it!


One of the topics you discuss regularly in your column is innovation. In fact, it appears to be one of the more important elements of your job (and the job of designers in general) — there is a constant need to create the appearance and feel of something new, even when if it is an extrapolation of what has gone before. I find that link between innovation and nostalgia to be fascinating and something you guys typically do very well.


 While my job is very much about innovation, I don’t think it’s in the way most people think of. The biggest part of my job is essentially recreating the same basic game in a way that feels fresh and new while still doing all the things that have to be done to make the game feel like the same game you played last week. The biggest innovation is not doing something you’ve never seen (which a smart Magic blogger pointed out is invention and not innovation), but rather doing what you’ve seen us do time and again but in a way just different enough that it feels new. A lot of my job is not trying to innovate enough but trying not to innovate too much.

Magic design space while fertile is not infinite. If we want to design Magic as a classic that will be around after the current R&D is pushing up daisies, we have to make sure that we harvest the new design space slowly and carefully. In addition, my media training has taught me that the importance is not how to feel different and foreign but rather how to feel familiar and comfortable. Magic has to feel like Magic. Design can push the pendulum in different directions but it keeps coming back to center.


Because you have done your job for so long and clearly spent so many hours thinking about the topic in general and its application in specific, you might just be one of the world’s foremost experts on innovating (Pat Chapin aside, obviously). Apple are brilliant innovators, but only deliver a couple of products a year. The best car companies are similar, and the same goes for game studios. You deliver four “products” a year, but more on the order of 500 new cards, right? That is a lot of time spent trying to think new and derivative thoughts.


One of the most interesting things about design that I think the average player never thinks about is how many things we try that get thrown away. I’ve designed more cards and sets than any Magic designer in history. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, and I’m lucky if 1% of the cards I design ever see print.

I think the trick I’ve found to be innovative is to not self-censor. I will explore ideas that sound crazy at first blush because often a crazy idea is a stepping-stone to something cool that we never would have gotten normally. That’s one of the reason I keep talking about restrictions in my column. My mantra “Restrictions breed creativity” comes out of having a job where I have to be creative every day (both in card design and in writing my column). I love having to design in a space that I haven’t before because I know I’ll find something new. In fact, a trick I often use when I don’t have a restriction is to just make one up. If I’m stuck on a card design, for example, I’ll just say to myself, “Okay, let’s design a few cards inspired by doughnuts.” It just kicks me out of my rut and just gets my mind working in a different area.

I had a whole column about my take on creativity (
“Connect the Dots”

) where I explained that I believe creativity is the ability to find connections between things. I’ve worked very hard on this skill, and I think it’s one of the big reasons I can be so creative. Many people might say, “How can a card be like a doughnut?” where I’m like, “Oh, it has some kind of filling” or “What if it has a glaze on it?”

I design a lot of cards and R&D provides feedback. (Getting me the things Malcolm Gladwell was talking about.) When I did the first Great Designer Search, a lot of people were critical because they felt we treated the designers so harshly. My feeling is that in R&D while the people aren’t treated harshly, the designs surely are. You can work on something you’ve carefully crafted for a long time and someone within a minute of playing with it will go, “Well, this sucks.”

Magic is a great place to learn innovation and creativity because the system demands it. Magic is a hungry monster, and we have to feed it.


Is there a handout of rules you give new designers (or review yourself) that helps put them in the right mindset regarding innovation?


There’s no official handout. Whenever I get a new designer I always explain that the most important thing about a design is understanding who you’re designing for and making sure that that person gets what they want out of the card. I also stress that we can’t just do things to do it. New designs have to have a reason. We can break our own rules, but we only do so when there is a point to breaking them.

As an aside — hey if my columns can have asides why can’t my interviews? — it always humors me when we break some rule that I’ve carefully outlined in a column. There’s always some portion of the player base that’s so taken aback. “Hey, you said you couldn’t do that.” I always talk about how much humans crave familiarity and how they’re scared of change. Magic is a game all about breaking its own rules.

Every set we do something we’ve never done before yet still any change we make upsets people. Especially so when they feel like I’ve explained why we won’t do that. And then once we break a rule, they’re upset when we go: no that was a special exception; the rule’s still there; we’re not going to break any more. You know, until there’s a reason to break it again. Yes, Magic design has rules, but the rules exist in many ways so that some day in the right place and the right time we’ll break them.

In many ways our official policy with new designers is to throw them in the pool. You know what motivates you to swim? Drowning. I’m kidding a little, but there is the nugget of truth in that you kind of just have to get in and do a creative endeavor to understand how it works.


What is the difference between innovation and creation?


: Innovation is about taking a known thing and doing it in a new way. Creation (or invention) is about doing something that’s never been done before. While Magic design has creation, it is a super rare commodity that we have to dole out in small amounts. Most of the surprises are innovation, not creation. It is my belief that at this point Magic design is as much craft as art. There are so many rules and nuances you have to learn that a lot of the innovation comes from finding subtle ways to do things.

Another big difference is that with innovation, it is working with known things from the past and thus has a much better baseline to work from. While you might not know exactly how players will respond to a tweak, you have a general sense of what happened every time before. Creation is diving into virgin waters. You can make rough guesses but most of the time you just have to playtest and experience it.


Do you think innovation for Magic (or gaming) is different from what occurs in other industries?


I think Magic has more elements that push towards innovation. The entire structure of a trading card game is set up to keep reinventing itself. One of the reasons I innovate so much is that I have to. Magic design is all about keeping the public on their toes while simultaneously making the game everyone loves in a form that they can continue to love.

In another way though, I don’t know if we’re any more innovative than the other companies out there that are constantly trying to reinvent. I’ve talked numerous times about how I’m a giant fan of Apple’s design. Love or hate their business, their design is spectacular. They really understand the importance of making designs that work the way the end user expects them to work. 

A big part of any designer is to constantly look at other people’s designs to find things that you can incorporate into your own designs. Design is a lot like science in that each innovation extends what is possible for everyone. I like to think that the work I’m doing inspires other designers in other fields to help their design. And likewise, I’m constantly inspired by the many things I see.


Name three products in the last two years that made you sit back and say, “Whoa, that was really cool,” regarding some level of innovation.


Here’s my test for “whoa”: once introduced to this thing, do I go, “Now that I know of this thing’s existence, I will never return to a life without it.” The first example of this that I remember was when I got an answering machine. I’m an old geezer, but for all of my childhood, if someone called and you weren’t there, you didn’t talk to them. You didn’t even know they called. So when we got an answering machine, I was floored by it. Now, I could always know when someone wanted to get in touch with me, and I could know what they wanted to talk with me about. That was huge. Why would I ever live without that ability again?

So, what in the last two years has had that kind of impact? Let’s see.

1) Instant Netflix — Once upon a time, if I wanted to watch a show, I had to be in front of my television when it was on. In my youth, the yearly showing of
The Wizards of Oz

was a big deal because that was our one chance to see it. Then VCRs got invented, and I could time shift my viewing. Then DVRs got invented, and time shifting got taken to the next level. Instant Netflix is just at the very beginning of what I’m about to talk about (and Hulu gets counted as well, I just got exposed to Instant Netflix first). Now if I want to be entertained, I can choose from among tens of thousands of options. Understand, that current Instant Netflix is Pong to the future’s World of Warcraft. I know there will be a time when at my whim I can watch anything that’s ever been recorded.

The second crazy innovation of Instant Netflix is not just the what but the where. On my computer, is a little impressive. On my television, is more impressive. On my phone, is downright crazy. As long as I’m somewhere with 3G reception, I can watch whatever. I’m sure Netflix and Hulu and some companies I don’t even know or don’t exist yet are going to merge into some entertainment entity that will be the dominating force for my grandkids many years from now.

2) Forever Stamps — I think it’s very easy to only look for the big innovations that you miss the important small ones. The Post Office finally cracked a really annoying problem — the “you don’t have the right stamp” problem. The most innovative part is the simplicity of the answer. Let’s just sell one stamp that’s always good. It doesn’t matter when you buy it. This entity will just be usable forever. It’s shocking that this solution wasn’t found years ago. That’s a sign, by the way, of awesome innovation — when the idea seems so obvious that you can’t believe it didn’t exist yet. My best success in this area for Magic was hybrid. It seemed so obvious when I came up with it that I couldn’t believe no one had done it yet.

I call this phenomenon the Paper Clip Effect where an idea is so good that people don’t give it credit because the idea seems so obvious that it feels like of course someone had to come up with it. The funny thing is from a design standpoint that this is the Holy Grail of design. When you stumble upon something like this you just thank whoever you thank that you were lucky enough to find it.

3) iPad — I choose this one for two reasons. One, I think this is an amazing innovation that hasn’t played out yet, meaning that while people fifty years from now will look back with admiration that the majority of people right now don’t even understand the innovation. These people can only see it as a bad version of six other things and not get that it is not any of those things. Not that I’m going to change their mind with this interview. The innovation to me is the combination of various forces to make something that has its own sense and does its own thing. It’s fun watching my behavior change around it, and I don’t feel the true innovation with how to use it has even happen yet. (I would have named apps as one of my three innovations but they’re more than two years old.)

The second thing isn’t really an innovation of the iPad as much as it was the iPad that made me see the innovation. I bought a book for my iPad to read while in line at San Diego Comic-con. I only got through part of it. Then weeks later while waiting for something, I realized that I could continue reading the book on my iPhone. The idea that the book was no longer a single entity tied to one physical presence really rocked my world. I now had this book that I could access from anywhere essentially. I had various tools to get to it, and I could enjoy the book where and how I wanted. If ever I had a “that’s going to change anything” moment of the last two years, that was it.


Mark, I know you are incredibly busy, and I just want to thank you for devoting a ton of time and thought to this expedition. I was delighted when you volunteered to be part of it and what you’ve put together here has exceeded any expectations I might have had.


This has been a lot of fun for me. As someone who likes to show behind the scenes, let me explain how this article was made. (Sorry Ted if I’m ruining all your secrets.) Ted writes to me with some questions, and then I answer. Then Ted adds in things inspired by my answers, and we trade emails back and forth for a month.

It was unto itself a very innovative idea for interview creation that I’ve never seen before. It allowed us to say what we wanted while still having an organic feel. The end result feels like a back and forth interview (because it was, just not in the linear sense that one assumes while reading it)

I had a blast doing this interview and will leave an open invitation for Ted if he ever wants to do another one. It’s hard to believe that if you go back a few years that Ted and I didn’t get along all that well. Let me end this interview by stressing one last time that I feel there is so much untapped potential for Magic writing, and I hope I can inspire at least one person to pick up the gauntlet I’ve thrown.

I always end all my interviews reminding anyone reading it that if you have something to say to me I want to hear it. You can write me through the link on my column or on

(@maro254) or through one of the threads of my columns. I honestly want to hear what all of you want to say about Magic or my writing or whatever really.

Thanks Ted, this was awesome.