2013 DIGIFAM SPEAKER: Clay Nichols

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This is a series of interviews with the speakers of Digital Family Summit 2013, October 11-13.
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 Clay NicholsClay Nichols is a co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at DadLabs.com, an online resource for fathers, where he blogs and produces the videos that recently won the International Academy of Web Television Award for Best Educational Series 2012 and a was a Webby Honoree for Best Writing.  He is also the chief creative officer of LookOut Social.  He is co-author of “Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts” (MWP), “DadLabs Guide to Fatherhood: Pregnancy and Year One” (Quirk Books), over a dozen plays, a smattering of magazine feature articles, and a regular column for Austin Man and Austin Family Magazines.  Nichols is a veteran of a dozen years in the high school classroom, having taught in the areas of English, Creative Writing, Drama and Filmmaking.  As a consequence he has read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn way too many times. Father to three, an avid runner and wine lover, he resides in Austin, Texas. 

twitter: @daddyclay
website: http://www.dadlabs.com
website: http://www.lookoutsocial.com

How did you get involved with blogging?

I always wanted to be an actor and writer, going back to high school days. I was involved in drama in high school and college, and received a graduate degree in playwriting. After writing lots of plays, I sold out for the big bucks and went into teaching high school. At that school, I started a filmmaking program. This led to a book about filmmaking that I co-authored with a fellow teacher, which in kind of a backwards way led to us making for videos for ourselves. About being a dad. We worked nights and weekends producing DVDs, got a distribution deal, let teaching and founded DadLabs.com — a video site for dads. Over the next 8 years, we produced videos (over 800) from a tiny, homemade studio in South Austin. We made lots of friends, won some awards, made a little money and had a blast being creative every single day.

What’s your favorite technology to help you blog/write/tweet/edit?

Dragon Dictation is awesome. Some days I just can’t face the cursor. Writing seems like such work. But talking? Talking is easy. Dragon Dictation lowers the barrier to creating content.

What blogs do you read regularly?

I have an amazing tumblr feed that I can really get lost in. It’s a great way to discover articles from Atlantic, Esquire, Mother Jones, Wired and other sources — especially running magazines (my addiction). I use feedly to aggregate all my favorite parenting blogs.

If you could travel back in time and send yourself a message, what would it be?

I would warn myself about allowing others to define what success looks like. I attended a highly competitive private boys school where being successful was defined pretty narrowly. Most of my choices in life have led me outside that narrow definition, but what I learned as a teen still dogs me. I would also encourage myself to be kind and stay away from cigarettes.

Any advice for young bloggers?

See my presentation!

What do you think is the greatest opportunity for digital teens today?

Storytelling. We have the greatest set of tools in the history of humanity for telling stories and finding an audience for those stories. Sharing stories and creating a shared history with family members makes stronger families. Taking risks and creating stories using blogs, photos and videos prepares young people for a fulfilling life of making and contributing.

What’s the biggest danger facing digital teens & their families today?

Anonymity. The problems that face today’s teens, tweens and their families are essentially the same that faced the previous generation — my generation. We faced drugs and alcohol, sexual issues, bullying, abuse, insults to our reputation and on and on. And those challenges are best faced now as they were then — by being honest, loving and present. There is one exception to that, anonymity. Technology has provided a level of anonymity that was not present a generation ago, and that is proving toxic. It’s up to parents and kids to work together to avoid toxic environments. Identifying them is simple — they allow users to be anonymous. Avoid.

What are you going to talk about at the conference?

Being creative, putting yourself out there, exposed and at risk, has always been the plight of the artist. And there have always been critics and naysayers. For people creating for an online audience, the rules have changed in ways that can threaten and inhibit creativity. How can we be productive and creative Digital Knights? With a touch if shining armor, of course. I hope my talk will light the armorer’s fire.

What’s next for you after the Digital Family Summit?

I’ll go to work producing videos for DadLabs and the University of Texas when I get home. I’ll be writing a lot about digital technology and families for LookOut Social. I’ll be speaking at the Greenhill School in Dallas next week and Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans later this year, hopefully.

Who are your Creative Heroes?

My friend Ben Austin, an independent features writer that has recently published articles with Wired and the New York Times magazine, has come a long way since we were English teachers together. I’m also very proud of a young woman I shared the stage with as an undergrad. She has managed her career well, managed to find success at an age when most actresses are history, and has brought to life inspiring characters of moral depth — Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, Nashville).

Do you have any hobbies other than digital media creation? What are you passionate about?

I’m a runner. I’ve finished over ten half marathons and three marathons. I’m hoping to qualify for the 2015 Boston Marathon but running really, really fast in the Houston Marathon this January. I ran the Baltimore Marathon last year and loved it.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I am enormously proud to be speaking at the Digital Family Summit. I can’t think of a more worthy and important event for families happening this year.


 Adam Gertsacov is the co-founder and co-organizer of Digital Family Summit.  He wears many hats, including those of a professional clown, an author and publisher, an artist/educator, a non-profit administrator, a P.T. Barnum impersonator, a flea circus impresario, and the esteemed hat of the Clown Laureate of Greenbelt, Maryland.  

In his copious freetime, he blogs at http://www.clownlink.com and http://www.dadapalooza.com, as well as a few other places.
You can find out more about his clown work at http://www.acmeclown.com

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