10,000 hours work on Shoki’s Bag

This is a transcript of the speech I gave at the Shoki’s Bag book release party on January, 25th.


I’ve been listening to a lot of Macklamore. His first song called 10,000 hours. It was the first time I heard that phrase. It’s taken from Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliners: the story of success. In the book Gladwell examines success and claims

“that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.”

I feel that work around Shoki’s Bag itself has 10,000 hours behind it, but the journey to get to Shoki also took 10,000 hours of practice.

The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz_-_W.W._Denslow_cover_(back)Confucius say “Every journey begins with a single step” my single step was writing in my copy of Wizard of Oz. Not yet able to write sentences beyond “See Jane run.” I pretended I was great writer who could scribble sentences that were as magical as L. Frank Baum.

The Tin Man lacked a heart. The scarecrow lacked a brain, the lion lacked courage…I had dyslexia. I’ve struggled with words all my life. Yet like a moth to a flame I’m drawn to the magic of the written word. I wished for a great and powerful wizard to cure me. But as in the book, the wizard has no magic only wisdom, it’s the belief in yourself that cures you.

I believed that one day I could write. So I worked on it. I wrote stories for class and my mother would proofread them and type them for me. I wrote in a journal everyday to try to find words that would describe how I felt. I listened to music and found the storytelling; I watch movies and dissected why they made me feel the way they did. I read as much as I could, slowly and absorbing and picturing each page. I put in my 10,000 hours. I wrote scripts, plays, music videos, articles and even bad poetry. I pushed myself to find my voice. I also pushed myself to believe that one day I could proudly call myself a writer.

Shoki book party bretToday I stand in front of you as a writer. Not because I found a way to put words together in a logical sentence structure but because of the rich history of storytelling that is in my family. Because of my grandfather Marko and because of my Aunt Lynne.

My ancestry is Serbian gypsy, we are storytellers. Our culture is rich with stories that bring families together. My grandfather would bounce me on his knee and sing me a story that I believe he made up that minute, because the song was always about me and how brave I was. My aunt and I would play dress up and we’d be princesses and slay the dragon or find magic talisman.

When I decided that in Shoki’s Bag the Water Spirits would have their own language I choose Serbian as a tribute to my ancestry and my family. My great grandfather’s home and country may be torn down, war-torn and rewritten on maps but our stories and our love of storytelling survive.

It’s the stories we tell that shape us as a culture. Whether it’s around the kitchen table or on the printed page, it’s the stories that stay with us, that show us a piece of the world and our place in it.

This book is for those who feel that the world is passing them by and that they feel they have no rightful place in that world. That they are good enough to have the things they love.

The heroes in Shoki’s Bag take us on an under-dog story of two people who have been counted out choose to believe that society rejected them so their very little shortcomings. Sound familiar?

In my short 36 years on this planet I have learned that our biggest obstacle is our belief in ourselves. I also believe that our greatest strength is that we can be of help to others. That is what Shoki’s Bag means to me and that’s one of the many things I wanted to explore in writing the book.

Belief in ourselves. Shoki was born disfigured his face covered by spots that look like bruises and peeling skin sometime looking self-inflicted. He believes that because of his face his mother didn’t love him and abandoned him on a church doorstep. He struggles with the idea that no one could ever love him because of the way he looks.

Nix was a joke to the Water Realm, constantly falling over her own feet and never fitting in with the pomp and circumstance of being the daughter to the Queen. She studied law before quitting to become an engineer – another great rift between Nix and her mother. Nix’s mistakes cause her baby sister to be kidnapped by humans. She bears the guilt and hears her mother’s words echo in her head “you won’t make it one realm without getting hurt or kidnapped.”

Shoki and Nix cross paths very early on in the book, Chapter 2 in fact. It’s here where we see that our greatest strength is when we can be of help to others. Shoki’s physical strength protects Nix. Nix’s emotional strength and perseverance saves Shoki. Their belief in each other and the compassion they feel causes them to literally walk on water.

A human and a Water Spirit. A man and a woman. A traveler and an engineer. Both with baggage of guilt. Both not believing in themselves, yet believing in each other and saving each other without hesitation.

I’ve put in my 10,000 hours on this book and now it’s time for the success that Gladwell and Macklamore talk about.

Those that know me, I’m a humble and ego-lacking person. I’m not one is who looking for fame. I write books and make movies that I hope will help people with some aspect of their lives. For each project I hope that it makes enough money to do another one.


I’ve come to learn something about success – you and only you determine your level of success. Others will try to do it for you – best seller’s lists, Oprah’s book list, Pulitzer Prize. My success will be if people read the book and see aspects of themselves in the characters, that they don’t feel like they have to carry their past around like a burden. That they believe in themselves and tell their story so they can help others.

There are 4 ways to help me out.

  1. Read the book.
  2. Write a review on Amazon
  3. Request the book at your local library so more people can read it for free
  4. This fall, help us make Shoki’s Bag a movie by donating your time, services, supplies or cash so that we can get this story out to more people.

Thank you.


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