JASON BOYETT

COPYWRITER / JOURNALIST / AUTHOR / GHOSTWRITER / PODCASTER

Introducing the Hey Amarillo Podcast

Jason BoyettComment

I've listened to podcasts for almost a decade. Podcasts are in my ears when I exercise, when I work in the yard, when I clean the house, and when I drive alone. I keep up with about five or six on a weekly basis. Back in 2012 and 2013, I created and hosted 52 episodes of my own podcast called 9 Thumbs. I've been interviewed on podcasts to talk about my books. I've allowed travel podcast recommendations to set the itinerary for family vacations and relied upon political podcasts to maintain my sanity over the past couple of years. I think podcasts are one of the best corollaries that resulted from the invention of the iPhone.

This summer, my wife and I were listening to a podcast on the way home from our son's basketball tournament. It's called With Friends Like These, and the episode featured an interview between the journalist Ann Marie Cox and our friend, the writer Jeff Chu. Ann Marie asked such good questions—different questions—that I left feeling like I'd learned more about Jeff. And I knew Jeff already. 

Amarillo has a lot of interesting people who live here, and who a lot of residents feel like they know. They may have familiar names. They might be local politicians, business owners, entertainers, public figures. We might see them on the news or around town. But who are they? Why do they do what they do? Why do they live in Amarillo? How did they even get to Amarillo in the first place?

What if there was a podcast that asked those questions...and what if it wasn't worried about gaining a national or international audience, but just about introducing those people to the 200,000 residents of the city? (Or the 400,000 residents of the Texas Panhandle?)

I couldn't get those questions out of my head. What if I tried a local podcast about local people?

No such podcast existed. In fact, I couldn't really find any podcasts that were so microfocused on a single, medium-sized city. So I decided to start my own.

Hey Amarillo launches today. It's a weekly, one-on-one interview podcast with some of the most fascinating people in Amarillo, Texas. My first guest is Mayor Ginger Nelson. Other guests will not necessarily be politicians. They won't necessarily be anyone you've heard of. But I promise they will be entertaining.

If you like podcasts—or even if you're new to podcasts—I hope you'll subscribe and listen. The first episode is embedded below, or you can subscribe via  iTunesGoogle Play or Stitcher. Enjoy!

The Pursuit of Justice

Jason BoyettComment

He was a cop.

She was an abused child about to enter the foster care system.

Her abuser was intimidating her in court.

The cop was asked to join her in the courtroom, to keep the abuser from bullying her.

Struck by her story, the cop got certified as a foster parent.

He and his wife fostered the young girl.

Then they adopted her.

Now she wants to be a cop, too.

Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

The History of Nursing in Amarillo

Jason BoyettComment

"Before Amarillo had a hospital, it had precisely four nurses. And had those four nurses not arrived when they did, the city might not even exist..."

Photos by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

Photos by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

In the October issue of Amarillo Magazine, I had the opportunity to write not only about the history of nursing in Amarillo—it's a fascinating story that involves a typhoid outbreak and nuns named Cleophas, Eugenius, Winifred and Conrad—but also about the current state of nursing education. I was impressed by the passion of local nursing educators at Amarillo College and West Texas A&M University.

This was a complicated story with a ton of interviews and research, but as usual, it left me impressed by the people I had the privilege of talking to. Read "Municipal Health" here.

Rehabilitating Belief: Arrow Child & Family Ministries

Jason BoyettComment

Some stories are emotionally difficult to write, like the August cover story for Amarillo Magazine. I'm always impressed with individuals like Clay Thomas, Sam Yarbrough, and Amy Anderson who invest so much time and energy into young lives. Raising and caring for children is a tough job, period. Raising and caring for troubled kids who are burdened by the emotional residue of the foster-care system? Exponentially harder. The employees at Arrow are pursuing a powerful calling and they're doing powerful work.

Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

An excerpt:

Consider one 11-year-old who recently arrived at Arrow’s new Residential Treatment Center (RTC). Arrow represents her 10th placement. That means she’s lived in 10 different places since entering the system. Ten different schools. Ten different roofs over her head. Ten different moves. Ten different communities of people. Ten different times, her life has been upended and her surroundings have completely changed. And that happened after she was removed from her family due to abuse.

“The trauma, feelings, hurt and frustration that they have are real. It’s not that this is a bad kid or a behavior they continue to choose,” says Thomas. In these cases, acting out through violence or even criminal activity is far more than just willful defiance. It’s a coping mechanism. It’s how children deal with the trauma they’ve been dealt.

Read the full article here.

Life on the Line: Learning about Xcel Energy's Line Personnel

Jason BoyettComment

My cover article about lineman for the June issue of Amarillo Magazine was challenging to write and interview. Because I've written about and researched so many different subjects, I enter most assignments knowing a little bit about them already. But other than understanding why it's important to shut off the proper breaker before installing a ceiling fan, I knew next to nothing about the area's electrical grid, much less the job of utility linemen and the history of Xcel Energy. Getting to tour Xcel's 8,000-square-foot training facility in Amarillo was quite the education.

Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

Linemen are almost always on-call, are highly educated technicians, perform hard physical labor, and are often serve as technical first responders during disasters—from tornados and fires in the Panhandle to Hurricane Sandy in New York City. These guys impressed me.

Read the full article here.

My Newest Book: 100 Days of Trump

Jason BoyettComment

After writing a fast, research-intense book on Greek mythology in late 2015 and a fast, research-intense book on world religions in 2016, I didn't think I had another book in me for awhile.

Then the American people elected Donald J. Trump to be the 45th president. About two weeks into his presidency, I found myself obsessively browsing news sites to find out what he had said that day. It was always something completely unpredictable—sometimes self-promoting, or controversial, or patently untrue. Whatever it was, it was completely different from the ways other presidents had talked.

The media didn't know what to do with it. They were used to reporting almost every word that came out of a president's mouth, and so they dutifully reported what Trump said or tweeted. Every statement would dominate the news cycle for a few hours. Then he (or members of his administration) would say something else that captured the nation's attention. So the news cycle jumped on that. Day after day after day.

As a writer, I believe that words matter. Especially if you carry the title of President of the United States, which filters everything you say through the world's largest megaphone. Rather than forget about each statement as it flowed through and then drained out of the daily news cycle, I wanted to remember the president's words. 

Early in February, I was discussing this new reality with my wife, Aimee. "You should write a book about all these quotes," she said.

Uh-oh.

So I started writing. Every day, I picked a quote that had gotten significant coverage in the day's news cycle. I wrote a paragraph of context explaining why the quote mattered, or why it had captured our attention. I could have done it for weeks or months, of course, but I decided to limit it to the president's first 100 days. I released 100 Days of Trump yesterday, on his 101st day in office. Self-publishing is immediate, and I think it's a perfect medium for this kind of book.

Whether you supported Trump or not, I hope this compilation of quotes provides some insight into the neck-breaking pace of this period in American history.

Download it for Amazon Kindle ($2.99).
Download it for free at NoiseTrade Books (tips accepted).

The PARC in Amarillo

Jason BoyettComment
Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

For the April issue of Amarillo Magazine, I had the honor of spending some time on-site at The PARC, where I interviewed staff and the organization's members. The Panhandle Adult Rebuilding Center is located near downtown on Sixth Avenue. It's designed to be a place where Amarillo's homeless community can engage in creative pursuits between meals, job interviews, or other appointments. It's a safe place that provides human connection and meaning for a population who typically are only focused on survival.

From the story:

“They don’t get called by name. They don’t have time for someone to sit and look them in the eye and have a relationship with them,” she says. “We felt that was the missing link in breaking the cycle and finding confidence to do the things needed to get out of homelessness.”

Until the PARC, Amarillo’s homeless population didn’t have a safe, hospitable place to be productive and creative, a place to engage in meaningful conversation, or even to do something most people take for granted: starting a project and finishing it. “When they come here, we have projects for them to do and classes for them to participate in,” says executive director Valerie Gooch. “They can start something and finish it. If they don’t finish it, it will be here the next day.”

I love using creativity as an approach to help struggling people step out of a vicious cycle that can begin to strip their lives of meaning and usefulness. Everyone I spoke to at The PARC was happy, friendly, and eager to talk about the things they were creating. Volunteering here looks like something anyone can do—they want volunteers to show up, sit at a table, join in a creative pursuit (from adult coloring books to painting to other crafts), and just engage someone in a conversation. Easy.

Read the full article.

Pets in the City

Jason BoyettComment
Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

This month I have a fun new, multi-part cover story for Amarillo Magazine's April issue. Titled "Pets in the City," it takes a look at responsible pet ownership from a variety of perspectives—from tending a small flock of urban chickens to maintaining a pet-friendly yard.

A few highlights:

I spoke to Richard Havens, Amarillo's director of Animal Management and Welfare, who used to keep pet arachnids—including an Antilles pinktoe tarantula—and educated me about the municipal code related to chickens, ducks, goats, etc. in the city limits.

I spoke to three families raising backyard farm animals in an urban environment. The Simpson and Stone families have chickens. Lindi Willis has three ducks living in her San Jacinto backyard. The Lee family has chickens and a pot-bellied pig in the Gene Howe neighborhood.

Finally, I interviewed a host of gardening and lawn experts about pet-friendly landscaping, including Jake McWhorter of Amarillo Arborlogical, Warren Reid of Coulter Gardens, Justin Young of High Plains Food Bank, and Ben Thoennes of Grow. Pro tip: Don't leave your dog in a backyard without shade trees. "Go sit in the 95-degree sun for six hours every day and see how you feel,” McWhorter told me.

Read the full issue online here.

I know more about Amarillo pizza than anyone ought to

Jason BoyettComment
Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

What happens when you're tasked with writing a multi-part cover story about pizza in Amarillo? You learn way more about pizza than you thought was possible. Here's the introduction for the March issue, and here are links to all the various slices:

Amarillo's Pizza Past Everyone remembers Shakey's Pizza.

A Short Guide to Pizzeria Jargon You hold a pizza by its cornicione.

575 Pizzeria The Omni is my favorite.

The Proof is in the Crust Brad Davis is like a pizza crust savant.

Pizza Planet I used to eat here when I was a kid, 35 years ago.

Salad Daze Those Pizza Planet chef salads look delicious.

A Day in the Life of a Delivery Person I love that this guy takes pride in being able to find places without looking at his phone. That's legit.

Fire Slice Back Alley Pizzeria Try the Hot Momma.

Stranger Things I draw the line at barbecue sauce on a pizza.

Winging It Why do wings go so well with pizza? Here's your answer.

Local Pizza Restaurant Listings Let me know when you've tried them all.

The one and only therapy product that helped my plantar fasciitis

Jason BoyettComment

For more than a decade, I’ve been a runner and dealt with minimal injuries. That is, I was injury-free until a couple of years ago when we replaced our carpet with hardwood floors. I work from home and had always spent my days barefoot. I got a height-adjustable sitting/standing desk and started using it. In early 2015, I ramped up from my usual 9-10 miles a week to start training for a half-marathon.

All of these changes—the floors, the standing, the extra mileage—resulted in a lingering case of plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue at the bottom of the foot connecting heel to toes. It’s common among runners and athletes. The easiest way to diagnose it is, well, the stabbing pain you feel in your heel upon first getting up in the morning. I would wake up, get out of bed, grimace, and limp into the kitchen for some coffee. Then the pain would gradually subside by the time I started running or working out a few hours later. It didn’t hurt while actually running. It only hurt in the mornings.

Annoying and painful, but I could deal with it. I thought the pain would gradually go away.

It didn’t. By last spring, I’d had PF for a full year and started looking into some therapy to fix it. I bought new running shoes with better support. I slept in an ankle-supporting foot sleeve. I started stretching every night. I rolled the arch of my foot on spiky therapy balls (which feels great but only offers temporary relief). I abandoned my barefoot approach and wore Oofos slides instead around the house. I spent hours researching treatments and therapy options.

Nothing helped. After a year of discomfort, I quit running altogether during the summer of 2016 to see if the time off my feet helped. By this point, I’d become more flexible than ever before thanks to the nightly stretching of my hamstrings, quads, and calves—I have tremendous hip flexibility but had literally never been able to touch my toes until this month. Even after that, I woke up every morning to heel pain.

The plantar fasciitis wasn’t going away.

Finally I ran into one treatment that finally offered some actual relief: the Strassburg Sock. I’m not sure why this product didn’t show up during my earlier online research sessions, but there it was. It’s just a tall sock with an attached Velcro strap that keeps your foot in a slightly flexed position all night. It turns out this sock was the only therapy for plantar fasciitis that actually got results in an independent research study.

The Strassburg sock is literally the only product that helped my plantar fasciitis

The Strassburg sock is literally the only product that helped my plantar fasciitis

I got one and began wearing it. The sock took some getting used to. The foot position was uncomfortable at first and woke me up several times over the first few nights. But eventually I was able to sleep and forgot it was there.

After wearing it several nights in a row, I woke up, got out of bed, and had no heel pain for the first time in more than a year. It worked.

Today, my plantar fasciitis isn’t gone entirely. I don’t wear the sock every night, and if I forget to wear it to bed after a long run that day, I will still wake up to some pain. But the relief it offers is real, and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by how well it works.

If you can get past the weird foot flex while you sleep, it may work for you, too. (Most of the negative reviews on Amazon for this product are from people who found the Strassburg sock to be uncomfortable.) Good luck!

* I’m not a paid endorser for this product, but any links above are affiliate links and I’ll make a few cents if you click them and end up buying something.

Pastor Anthony Harris and the Road out of Poverty

Jason BoyettComment
Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine (January 2017)

Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine (January 2017)

One of my clients is an international child advocacy organization for whom I regularly write proposals and field reports for donors. One of the major themes of these reports, based on realms of research and statistics, is that education is one of the biggest factors in the reduction of poverty. This is true in India and Kenya and Ecuador, and it's also true in the United States.

I had the honor to meet and interview Pastor Anthony B. Harris of St. John Baptist Church in Amarillo. He and church member Lanitra Barringer are hard at work promoting education among the families living within a five-mile radius of the church. Their annual college tour for high school students represents many of these kids' first opportunities to leave the Amarillo city limits. It exposes them to the benefits of higher education and helps them visualize a life outside the low expectations of poverty.

By all accounts, the bus tour works. ‘Three of our students have already applied to Tech just from seeing the campus and knowing there are other options outside of Amarillo,’ says Barringer. Another attended the Air Force Academy. Still others end up at local schools. One of those is Shannon Thomas, a long-time St. John member who received a scholarship to WTAMU. She’s getting her basics out of the way in Canyon before transferring to Huston-Tillotson, a private, historically black college in Austin, where she’ll be pursuing a degree in social work.

Read the full article in the January 2017 issue of Amarillo Magazine, and don't miss the sidebar at the end. "The Reality of Poverty" tells a harrowing story that will be foreign to readers living outside impoverished neighborhoods.

Amarillo's First Responders

Jason BoyettComment

For the December issue of Amarillo Magazine, I interviewed the heads of Amarillo's Police Department, Fire Department, and Emergency Medical Services. From a personal standpoint, I appreciated their personal ethics and focus on serving the community. A day in which an average citizen comes face-to-face with one of these first responders doing their job...is not always a good day. All three—APD's Ed Drain, AFD's Jeff Greenlee, and Will Hendon of Amarillo Medical Services—provided to be thoughtful advocates for their employees and the city itself.

Photograph by Craig Stidham for Amarillo Magazine

Photograph by Craig Stidham for Amarillo Magazine

A Dog in the Hunt

Jason BoyettComment

One of the cool things about my work for Amarillo Magazine is that each month's cover story is so wildly different from previous months. For the September 2016 issue, I wrote about a support group for grieving widows. This month? Hunting dogs.

It was fun interviewing so many different hunters, all of whom were probably more passionate about seeing their dogs work than actually shooting birds. The bond between hunter and dog is a powerful thing—as is the instinct and excitement dogs show when they get out in the field.

Photo by Davy Knapp for Amarillo Magazine

Photo by Davy Knapp for Amarillo Magazine

In addition to the striking photos by Amarillo photographer Davy Knapp (a long-time friend), this piece gave me a chance to go with a slightly more creative introduction than usual, writing from the dog's perspective.

The dog knows.

As the fall months approach, the morning temperatures turn crisp. The sunlight changes. Leaves litter the ground until finally, early one morning, the dog’s master arrives, in the darkness. He opens her crate.

Maybe he gives a special command, like “Let’s go.” The dog knows what that means.

Maybe he wears a certain coat or boots. The dog knows what those mean, too.

Maybe a small change to the dog’s home environment clues her in. The presence of a certain pickup truck. A travel crate that’s been taken out of storage. A special Thermos. These are small changes to her home environment, but the dog recognizes them. She understands their significance. She can barely contain herself.

It’s hunting season.

Read the full article here.

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

Jason BoyettComment

My wife, Aimee, and I just returned from a bucket-list trip to Peru to visit Machu Picchu. Due to the epic scenery we were told to expect, we opted to take the less-regulated Salkantay Trek rather than the more famous Inca Trail. Over five days, we walked 60-plus miles (according to my Fitbit), reached elevations higher than anything we've experienced before, and got a tiny glimpse of the incredibly diverse, spectacular Peruvian landscape.

"Amazing" barely begins to describe it. We booked the tour with Valencia Travel and highly recommend them. One note for anyone interested: The elevation is no joke. You will walk and climb some serious trails. It can be done by people of all ages and body types (we saw all kinds) but definitely prepare for it before you go.

Some photos from our experience:

Cucso, Peru

Cucso, Peru

Half a mile into the Salkantay Trek

Half a mile into the Salkantay Trek

Scenery for days

Scenery for days

These mountains are thousands of feet higher than anything in the continental U.S.

These mountains are thousands of feet higher than anything in the continental U.S.

First night's campsite, in the shadow of Salkantay Peak

First night's campsite, in the shadow of Salkantay Peak

Chilly morning at 12,600 feet

Chilly morning at 12,600 feet

The trail to Salkantay Pass was like trekking into the Lord of the Rings

The trail to Salkantay Pass was like trekking into the Lord of the Rings

Top of Salkantay Pass and our highest elevation of the trek (15,000+ feet)

Top of Salkantay Pass and our highest elevation of the trek (15,000+ feet)

One of our campsites at a lower elevation

One of our campsites at a lower elevation

Following the tracks to Aguas Calientes

Following the tracks to Aguas Calientes

Here's Machu Picchu, surrounded by early morning fog

Here's Machu Picchu, surrounded by early morning fog

The view from atop Waynapicchu (the triangle-shaped mountain overlooking the site)

The view from atop Waynapicchu (the triangle-shaped mountain overlooking the site)

If you don't take a selfie here, it's like you never came

If you don't take a selfie here, it's like you never came

Some of the gear we used:

  • We take this collapsible, lightweight Chico Bag backpack everywhere. An ideal daypack for travel or backpacking.
  • Packable, lightweight raincoats are a necessity.
  • These Saucony Ulti-Mitts are my favorite gloves. I bought them for running but they were great in this cold, high-elevation environment.
  • Saucony Drylete arm sleeves allow you to stay warm even in a t-shirt. And they're easily removable once the temps rise.
  • Bug repellent is an absolute at the lower elevations. These 30% wipes travel well, but in some locations you're going to want 100% Deet products.
  • I wore these Makino quick-dry hiking pants the whole time and love them—especially the zippered pockets. They're Chinese, so even though I usually wear 30x34 pants in the U.S., I got an XL (I had to take up the waist about an inch).
  • This Ex Officio BugsAway shirt worked well in the buggy rainforest portion. However, it's heavier and bulkier than I prefer.
  • At the highest elevations, we saw temps around 35ºF. The 20º-rated Marmot Trestles sleeping bag was perfect—and super lightweight.
  • Aimee and I both used our old GoLite backpacks, which proved to be a little large for this trip (porters carried the majority of our stuff). If we did it again, we'd probably take something in the 35-50L range, like the Osprey Kestrel.

 

Panhandle Archives: Exploring the Secrets of PPHM

Jason BoyettComment
Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

Photo by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine

No question: This was probably the most interesting cover story I've had the pleasure of writing for Amarillo Magazine. I got to take an almost three-hour tour through the storage rooms and deep archives of Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in Texas. There are literally millions of artifacts the museum's busy curators are helping preserve—some of which have never been seen by the public.

Combine all the inventory of the antiques shops on Sixth Street and it still doesn't compare to this collection of art, weapons, tools, vehicles, clothing, and other curiosities. So much fun for a history lover like me.

Read the full article here.

A Q-and-A with Myself

Jason BoyettComment

Today is release day for 12 Major World Religions, so I'm celebrating it with a quick, self-interviewed question-and-answer session. Enjoy!

What was the writing process like?
Since the book was intended to provide a comparative approach, my research for each religious system was built around several categories—beginnings, historical timeline, major figures, major tenets, etc. Those sections are where I started with each religion. Other sidebars and different details developed from there as I studied and read. As for sources, I spent a lot of time between academic or anthropological books about the religion (like Mary Boyce’s valuable works on Zoroastrianism, for instance) and those written by leading voices within the religion (like Pickthall’s The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an).

Is it hard to write an unbiased book about religion when you come from a Christian background?
Not as hard as you might think. It would be arrogant to pretend that I didn’t have some biases going in, though I worked to limit them. I definitely am more familiar with the tenets and teachings of Christianity than any of the other faiths I wrote about. I’m also more familiar with Christianity’s more negative or problematic aspects, too. So I think those balance out. But I want it to be clear that, despite my background, this is not a “Christian book about world religions.” I try to keep as secular a perspective as possible and approached every religion, including Christianity, from a neutral viewpoint.

What religion was the most interesting to you?
Sikhism, without a doubt. After spending hours writing about a religion, I would sit down at dinner and share a little about that faith with my wife and two teenage kids. I found myself talking most passionately about this misunderstood Indian faith which focuses on equality, hospitality, and inclusiveness. You've seen Sikhs before, especially if you've taken a cab in a large city like LA or New York—they wear turbans and have a long history of persecution, at the hands of Muslims and Hindus in India and even from Americans in the days after 9/11. There are so many things I found inspiring about Sikhism.

What religion surprised you most in your research? 
Zoroastrianism, again without a doubt. I had some familiarity with this ancient and influential faith from previous books (including this one), but the more I've dug into its teachings, the more I see its similarities with elements of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The doctrinal overlap between these faiths are controversial in a lot of circles—it has to do with how you date the development of Zoroastrianism compared to the Babylonian Exile—but they are fascinating to consider. 

Which religion did you like the least?
I'm not answering that. :)

What are some random religious beliefs that now interest you?
In no particular order, here are things I still find myself telling people about: towers of silence (Zoroastrianism), the Sikh principle of seva (Sikhism), naked Digambara monks (Jainism), the Muslim appreciation of Jesus as the prophet Isa ibn Maryam (Islam), the idea of work as worship (Baha’i), and Tibetan prayer flags (Buddhism). In fact, my wife and I recently hung Tibetan prayer flags on our back porch because 1) they look cool and 2) I like the symbolism.

Where can I get the book?
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Powells
Book Depository

My New Book: 12 Major World Religions

Jason BoyettComment

Last September I put the final touches on my Greek Mythology book and headed to Europe on a vacation with my wife. I returned in October to an email from my editor. "I'm hoping you have had a good experience working with [us]. If you have the time and inclination, I have another project I hope you'll be interested in: a comparative look at the 12 most major religions."

Having written extensively about evangelical Christian apocalypticism, the Catholic saints, and the various afterlife teachings of a variety of world religions, it's not a stretch to say that religion has long been my "beat" as a writer of nonfiction. I've been fascinated by it since I began reading outside my own Southern Baptist faith tradition in my late high school years. One of my favorite college-level classes was a world religions survey course—a humanities elective, I think—led by a Catholic priest friend of mine. 

So, yeah. My editor was right in thinking I would be interested in the project. By the end of that October, we were discussing an outline and had put together a very condensed writing schedule. During my kids' Christmas break, I began writing and researching in earnest. My deadline for the manuscript was in April.

That gave me about 16 weeks to write chapters about Egyptian mythology, Greek mythology, Norse mythology, and the teachings and beliefs of a dozen world religions in what would become an accessible, intensively fact-checked and well-sourced reference book.

It. Was. HARD.

I've written a lot of books on tight deadlines, but this was definitely the most challenging project I've ever done. But I am thrilled with the result. My author's copies arrived last week, and every time I page through the physical book, I'm surprised by the diversity of information in there. While this book lacks the snarky "voice" I've adopted in previous books—for better or worse, depending on whom you ask—it has become THE book I'll put at the top of my resume. 

From the current election in the US to terrorism and other events on the world stage, religion runs the show. It drives decisions. It influences behavior. It colors our perspective of almost everything that happens on our planet, from scientific advancements to the arrival of new technologies.

We need to understand religion better—our own faiths, and those belonging to others.

12 Major World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths releases a week from today, on August 30. I'm proud of this book and hope you'll pre-order a copy.

Hope is a Four-Letter Word

Jason BoyettComment

Really proud of my cover story for the August issue of Amarillo Magazine. It's called "Hope Is a Four-Letter Word" and tells how nonprofits and Amarillo residents are working to transform the historic, troubled San Jacinto neighborhood from the inside out. Interviewed a ton of people for this one, from the medical staff behind Heal the City to formerly incarcerated women rebuilding their lives at Patsy's Place Transitional Home to poverty activists who have a big vision for the area. I was especially impressed with the senior adults serving a weekly meal to other senior adults at Acts Community Resource Center

Brady Clark summarized the work happening there with a fantastic quote that found its way into the piece: "No one agency, no one ministry, no one organization can deal with this. It’s too big.”

As Heal the City continues to expand and Square Mile Industries works on bringing a grocery co-op to the neighborhood, I'm excited to see how things continue to shape up in San Jacinto.

[photos by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine]

[photos by Shannon Richardson for Amarillo Magazine]

Mile Marker 13, U.S. Highway 163 in Monument Valley

Jason BoyettComment

Mile Marker 13 on US Highway 163 in southern Utah's Monument Valley is the place where Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run. It's the site of one of the most iconic photos of the American West. And because it's also sort of between the Grand Canyon and Moab (Arches National Park), we decided to drive it during our June road trip.

It's a ridiculously scenic drive. When we first got to the famous marker, we were alone. By the time we left, several vehicles and a large crowd of people had stopped.

We let our kids shoot the middle-of-the-road photo, but only with one parent looking in one direction for oncoming traffic and another looking the opposite direction. You can see a long way in the photo above, but there's a rise behind you. Could be dangerous for people not paying attention—like one guy with a video camera who almost got run over as we were leaving. He just set up a tripod right in the middle of the highway and was shooting away, oblivious to the fact that, you know, THIS IS A HIGHWAY.

Get the photo. But don't be an idiot.