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To Get More Creative, Become Less Productive

"The problem with creativity is if you think about the things you have to do, you have to learn a lot, you have to explore new possibilities, you have to follow your way down different rabbit holes in order to try different prospects. The problem is at any given moment, you may not have come up with anything that's really good yet. Unlike typical product management, with reaching milestones day by day, with creativity, you could go weeks without having a great idea, and at that point it's hard to tell the difference between you, and if somebody's not doing something at all." 

"You need to have some down time. If you're constantly under the gun and never relax, you'll never be able to produce a good amount of creativity." 

Dr. Art Markman


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Matt talks with Dr. Art Markman, the director of the Human Dimensions of Organizations at the University of Texas and is a member of the editorial board of Cognitive Psychology.  Dr. Markman discuss his article, “To Get More Creative, Become Less Productive."

Join The Matt Townsend Show, Weekdays 9am-12pm ET on BYU RADIO (Sirius XM Channel 143) or

"Lockwood and Company"

By Rachel Wadham, Host of “Worlds Awaiting”

As a children’s literature specialist in an academic library, I’m blessed to engage with a wide range of books in every genre and in every format. My own personal tastes are expansive and very eclectic. As you continue to read in this blog and as you tune into the show, you’ll probably hear a lot about all the different kinds of books I love to read and share with my community. 

Today, however, I’d like to focus on one of my current favorites: the Lockwood and Company series by Jonathan Stroud. Designed for late elementary and middle school readers, Stroud has created a most intriguing adventure series. Laced with mystery, a little horror, and lots of humor, these books recount the tale of Lucy Carlyle who lives in a version of historical London that is plagued by ghosts. To fight the plague, a number of Psychic Investigations Agencies are founded and employ gifted children who can see the ghosts. Lucy finds herself at the smallest and most run down of these agencies run by Anthony Lockwood. But when Lucy and her companions stay overnight in one of the most haunted houses in England, they find that solving this mystery could make them one of the most renowned agencies out there. Thus begins Lucy’s adventures which are now chronicled in four books: The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy, and The Creeping Shadow.  With spot on characters, an imaginative and interesting setting, and tons of action in the plot, this series will have wide appeal with readers who love something that’s just a little bit spooky and a little bit funny.  Stroud’s knack for getting his heroine and heroes into and out of sticky situations is perfect, and makes me as a reader cheer every single time. 

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud.  Disney-Hyperion, 2013.

The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud.  Disney-Hyperion, 2014.

The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud.  Disney-Hyperion, 2015.

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud.  Disney-Hyperion, 2016. 

Reading Happily

By Rachel Wadham, Host of “Worlds Awaiting”

In my job as the education librarian, I love to read about all the great things that other educators are thinking and talking about.  I recently re-read the book Happiness and Education by one of my favorite educational theorists, Nel Noddings.  In it she wrote, “through more than five decades of teaching and mothering, I have noticed . . . that children (and adults, too) learn best when they are happy.”  Noddings contends that happiness should be an integral aim of both life and education.  I fully agree with this great theorist—especially when it comes to reading. Reading is best done when we are happy. And, for us to be happy when we read, we need to read stuff that we enjoy. Far too often, we adults give books to children just because they made us happy. But therein lies the problem: when it comes it reading, it is clear that no one book will make all readers happy. I’m sure we have all had an experience of reading a book that we just loved. So, we decide to share it with a friend. However, our friend found that he or she could barely tolerate the same book we loved. We all have different experiences with text; no two readers are likely to interact with a text in the same way. This is why I encourage all the students I teach at the university to really get to know the readers they are working with at a personal level. Only then will they be able to really find the right kinds of books that will resonate with those readers. The same advice goes for anyone wanting to share books with kids: first find out what makes them happy, then find books that fit those needs. Happily, along the way, we are sure to find the book that we can all share and love, which in my family happens to be The Judge by Harve and Margot Zemach. But even if we don’t agree, we’re still bound to explore the wide world of great literature in new and exciting ways that will make us all happy to read and learn.

Happiness and Education by Nel Noddings. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

The Judge by Harve and Margot Zemach.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969.

Can't Wait to Get Off Work Every Day?

Can't Wait to Get Off Work Every Day? Here's How to Find More Happiness at Work: 

"If your ultimate goal in life is to get away from work, maybe you are missing something. Maybe you are missing what your driver is, which could be to no longer be in a stressful work place. But you need to find what the drivers are. So we've got to figure out what the drivers are around you. Are the drivers the people around you? Are the drivers the opportunities to be creative and imaginative and inventive? Is it just being more optimistic?

So you've got to figure out what moves you, and as you look through the people that your with, and the activities your doing, you'll discover what helps you become more active in your job."

 - Matt Townsend

Tune in to the rest of the podcast here

Matt hosts a segment 1-3 times a week called "Coaches Corner", which are tips to help you better your life and the way you look at the world.

 Join The Matt Townsend Show, Weekdays 9am-12pm ET on BYU RADIO (Sirius XM Channel 143) or

Graphic Novels?

Such a tremendous honor to speak with Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell about the March graphic novels on BYUradio. (Link to interview below.) 

It's hard to express how powerful these books were to a white girl raised in a white community in the Western US. School sivics lessons didn't convey the scope of the ‪#‎CivilRights‬ struggle, or what it had to do with me. It was simple to sit comfortably in my position of white privilege and say, "I'm not a racist. I believe skin color shouldn't matter," then close the history book and feel smug about living in a day when America is so "colorblind," we've elected an African American president. This is why I agree with so many others who've said the March Trilogy should be required reading in high schools around the country. It tells the story of the Civil Rights movement through the eyes of John Lewis, a central figure in the lunch counter sit-ins, the freedom rides, the March on Washington in 1963, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and the list goes on. He was beaten and jailed dozens of times, but never lost his commitment to non-violent protest, never raised a finger in retaliation. The March Books are history in comic-form, but they feel very current with simmering tension between police and communities of color, and the rise of the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ movement. 

"I'm not a hero," Rep. Lewis told me. "I saw things I didn't like and I was told, 'That's the way it is.'" But he didn't accept that. He stood up for what he believed was right, even when it could have meant his death. He never became bitter or hostile, never embraced hate. And his message to young people today? Speak up. Speak out. Make a contribution. 

Listen to our conversation here

Pokemon Go


By Rachel Wadham, host of “Worlds Awaiting”

In my work to research and expand my own understanding of evolving 21st century literacies, I often look to popular culture for new conversations.  While many may discount the often corporate driven popular icons of our day, the reality is that these are often the things that are pushing boundaries, especially when it comes to literacy.

The recent explosion of Pokemon Go as a worldwide phenomenon has underscored this for me.  While I don’t wish to downplay some important and valid conversations that this game is creating over concerns with privacy, safety, and social responsibility, it seems that along with these potentially negative aspects there are some great benefits to this game, especially when it comes to literacy.  I would contend that one of the most engaging things about this game are the fact that it engages in real world literacy skills all dressed up in a very engaging fictional environment.  Because the made up world is overlaid on the real world, there is some great visual literacy here as players learn to read and navigate maps.  Being aware of where we are in space and time and being able to read maps to find our way around, is an essential skill that this game can develop.  There is also some great potential here to mathematical literacies.

Memorizing Pokemon character names and abilities, computing combat power potentials, and leaning to assess information from data banks of information are certainly mathematical skills that are apparent in the game.  But even with all of those literacies in the game, one of the main things we can’t forget is the social literacies that people are employing like never before.  As I look at the 300 people who gathered on my local library’s lawn, I can’t discount the number of new friends made along with this increased interaction in both the real world and as players join teams online.  The types of lines this game is crossing in communities by gathering people of different ages, races, cultures, backgrounds, and socioeconomic status around one beloved fictional world, really underscores the amazing potential this game has to bring humanity together in peaceful engagement.

Even with social interaction as an added bonus, if you connect the potentials for Go players to interact with the other media like television, movies, and yes even books, you have created the perfect storm where a wide range of literacies can be developed and nurtured.  So, next time you encounter a Pokemon, you may just want to think about the kinds of literacies we care about here on “Worlds Awaiting,” that you might be capturing.    

Pitching Yourself: Tips on How to Encourage Employers to Look At You

"For the entire year as I had moved from the Middle East, I was really thinking about, how can I show these companies that I would fit in, even though I'm coming from a different market, from a smaller size company, that I could still fit in here? A year later I realized I was going about it all wrong. What I should have done is think about how I would stick out, rather then fit in; more the unique values I could bring as Nina rather than Candidate X. That's where I was able to guide the conversation." 

Nina Mufleh

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Matt talks with Nina Mufleh, a marketing and communication specialist who is focused on moving companies and organizations onto the digital space to connect with and engage their consumers. She is the co-founder and former Director of Client Strategy at The Online Project where she developed social strategies for Fortune 500 companies and high profile organizations operating in the Middle East and North Africa.

Join The Matt Townsend Show, Weekdays 9am-12pm ET on BYU RADIO (Sirius XM Channel 143) or

How Does Shakespeare Impact Prisoners?

This is a picture of Indiana State University English prof Laura Bates teaching Shakespeare to a class of maximum security prisoners in solitary confinement. See their faces peering out from the slots in the doors? She had no idea just how much Shakespeare's criminal tragedies (think Macbeth, Hamlet) would resonate with these men serving sentences for violent crimes, including murder. I spoke with Laura Bates and one of her former students who says learning that even men of high moral character (like Macbeth) could make terrible mistakes helped him understand that crime is not his only option. It was a fascinating conversation. Listen here on BYUradio: Shakespeare Saved My Life

By Julie Rose, host on Top of Mind

Highway 89: Interview with Samuel Adler

Highway 89 host Steven Kapp Perry (SKP) recently chatted with American composer, conductor and educator Samuel Adler (SA). This is a full transcript of their conversation; you can also hear the interview in the BYU Radio’s archives.

SKP: You have a long and storied career. 65 years of teaching music. So you know a lot about music in the US, I wonder if we can just start off in general. Compared with when you began teaching, and as you look at music education in universities and public schools now, what changes do you see in that time?

SA: Well in the first place we have to say that I get around the world a great deal.  And we, in America, have the finest higher education music system in our schools that exists in the world. That’s why so many people from all over the world, especially now from Asia, are coming here to study. Our standards are the highest in the world and I must say from a compositional point of view we have such great talent in our universities and colleges. I’ve never seen anything like it. But people don’t realize that because we push our popular music so much throughout the world that people think that’s the only thing we have, when the actuality is that we have in this country the highest standards of musical composition among our young people. I’m sorry to say that’s sort of kept as a wonderful secret—

SA: --nobody knows about it and people care less about it. And that’s too bad because what they would find is a treasure-trove of wonderful music being written by young composers today.

SKP: Are there places where communities are beginning to hear some of the current composition?

SA: Yes of course. Colleges are the places to hear them. For instance, here at BYU you have a New Music group, [and there are others] all over the place. I had a few stops on the way here. I was at Indian University where they have a huge New Music program.

SKP: The Jacob’s School of Music.

SA: And I was down at the University of Texas in Austin, they have a big New Music program [too]. The problem is that it has been so anaesthetized from the mainstream. For instance, I would rather have a piece of mine played between Beethoven and Mozart or Beethoven and Brahms or Mozart and Rossini than between Joe Blow and Mary Doe. Because in the 60s we started to put music by contemporary composers, by living composers let’s put it that way, in a different category from dead composers. Dead composers are okay, living composers are suspect.

SA: Because of the difference between music of the 20th century, which does not have one style prevailing, when you hear a piece by Mozart and you suddenly find out it’s Haydn, well you weren’t far from wrong. They have one style. It’s great, it’s wonderful music. And so it could be by either one or it could be by Paisiello or Salieri or anybody else living in those times. You can’t do that with the 20th century because there [were] so many different styles coexisting.

SKP: Is that because there were so many conventions at the time, of how it was to be done?

SA: Correct.

SKP: Have we let go of those conventions?

SA: Well it broke down with the breaking down of authority generally. I mean you have that in literature, you have it in art, you have it in every form of artistic endeavor these days because, you see, we don’t have a prevailing one-fits-all anymore. Which actually is very good because that happened in the late 19th century. Look at the difference between Debussy and Hindemith, or Debussy and Strauss who lived exactly at the same time. There was the Rhine in-between them [but] there is no explaining this. You have in the late 19th century a preponderance of nationalism and the rise of the nationalistic composer and we had that in America. As soon as our young men and women came back from France after the first World War they wanted to write American music. In my youth, since I studied with [him] Aaron Copeland for instance or Walter Piston, we wanted to write American music. It was supposed to sound like Aaron Copeland and Piston and people who used the vocabulary of American folk music as a basis.

SKP: And some of them had gone to study in Europe because that was what you did back then.

SA: Of course.

SKP: But what were they defining American music as? They were exploring to try and find that.

SA: Let’s take a man like Dvorak. The difference between Dvorak and Brahms is that Dvorak was wedded to his Bohemian heritage and wanted to incorporate that in every piece that he wrote. Brahms was wedded to his German ancestry [and] he wrote a lot of arrangements of German folk songs. I think there are 200 in a volume of Brahms songs that are folk song arrangements, but he did not use those except in one piece, the Academic Festival Overture, and he did not use [them] in his symphonic work. And that’s the difference between Dvorak and Brahms. [This is how you] take someone like Copeland who used vernacular, American work, especially in his great ballets.

SKP: Yes.

SA: Also in the 3rd Symphony which is, I think, one of the great masterpieces of the 20th century.

SKP: Where are the outlets for composers today? I’m aware of people being specific enough to say that they’re going into writing music for video games and some are going into music for film scoring. Where are the opportunities?

SA: Well there are lots of them. You just mentioned two outlets. The most important thing is that they learn the craft of composition. After that they can do whatever they want. The big outlet of course for composers is to teach at a university or college, and get the music played there, and also orchestras and chamber groups are very interested these days in playing New Music. Happily that is going on all over the world. You go to Europe or you go to Asia, I mean I’ve been in China four times and Korea and of course I had a course in Berlin every year for the past 11 years, and there’s New Music played all over the place. The audiences may be small, but many of the mainstream organizations are now featuring one piece of New Music with other pieces of the canon which is the way it should be done.

SKP: Just this year with the Utah Symphony’s 75th anniversary, I think I’ve heard three different pieces this year that were commissioned.

SA: And you see that’s an outlet for composers, and we have so many. People say “Well uh, there are so few” [but] that’s not true. There are hundreds and hundreds of composers. I started my career in Texas, and when I went to Dallas after serving in the US Army I was one of two composers in Dallas, Texas. Now I’m sure there are over a hundred there. There is this explosion of creativity all over the world and that, I think, is the most wonderful thing.

SKP: As we were sitting down and setting up the microphones and chatting, you mentioned people having a fear of New Music. Will you tell me about that?

SA: Yes. You see, our audiences are not educated like the audiences were in the 18th and 19th century. First of all, these people that went to concerts were the “upper crust” and they were also amateur musicians. Most of the people that went to concerts, by let’s say Beethoven, these people were also amateur musicians. So when he did something they didn’t understand, they loved it because it was something new. What happened is [that] they wanted something new. Today’s audiences that are not musicians themselves but are music lovers, which I think is wonderful, they expect to hear what they already know. And the fear is to be bored, or to be somehow aggressively…against their sensitivity [made to] hear something that shakes them up. I think people go to a concert to sort of be lulled into a nice euphoric state, which is the wrong way to go to a concert. You want to be moved to do something! And that is what I would expect from an audience that would hear music of mine. There’s a wonderful story I can tell: Aaron Copeland was the moderator for the Sunday concerts when I was a student in Tanglewood. And there was always a question period at the end. Of course they didn’t want to ask us questions, they wanted to ask him questions. A lady got up and said, “You know Mr. Copeland, I love music. I live in York and I come home at 5 o’clock and I lie down but I want to snooze a little so I put on [the local radio station] and they play Mozart and Haydn and Debussy and I can snooze. But when they play your music I get very jangled and very nervous and I can’t snooze.” And he [Copeland] said, “Madame, I’m very happy about that because I wasn’t snoozing when I wrote [it].”

SA: So, you know, it’s that way. Today we want to talk about our situation, the way we live. Well we live in a very, very powerful world. We live in a world that has terrific things happening scientifically, medically, technologically, and on the other hand we have the Bomb which could destroy the whole world. We have pollution that could destroy us. That’s what we’re dealing with. We cannot write music like Schubert who was living in a different age. He wrote the most wonderful music, but it’s different because he was talking about his age as we have to talk about ours.

SKP: You work with students so much, of varying ages, and even the very youngest. Talk about how we could educate our younger children so they could be open to all kinds of music.

SA: You’d be surprised. Younger children have no prejudice. When they hear a piece by Stravinsky, or by Schonberg, they don’t say “Oh I don’t like 12-tone music.” They don’t know! They just love it because it’s music. And if it’s done right, if it’s not put upon the like “you’ve got to listen to this,” it’s new for them. They don’t care if it’s Bach or Ligeti, for them it’s an experience. I have never found children who dislike contemporary music. They take it like all other music. Unfortunately we don’t expose them enough to it, and that’s why this program that they have started here [at BYU], the Systema Type Program, is so important. It shows these kids that music is all the same. It isn’t just one period of music, that you’ve got to love Schubert or Beethoven or Brahms or something like that, of course you should love them but it’s much easier because that’s the kind of music that they’re used to and they’re very excited about hearing something new. Especially when, and I always recommend [this], you let them write their own music. “That’s my song” is a very important part of it.

SKP: Samuel Adler is Professor Emeritus of the Eastman School of Music, retired in 2014 from Julliard although still teaching there until May. He’s in Utah right now working with students at the University of Utah, also here today on the BYU campus, and will be at Utah Valley University. You really have a passion for teaching and reaching students, don’t you.

SA: Yes I do, because I think that’s my mission in life.

Highway 89 is a live music performance program distributed nationally on Sirius XM 143 BYU Radio with classical format shows airing in Utah on Classical 89. Produced in BYU Broadcasting’s state-of-the-art recording studios in Provo, just 45 minutes south of Salt Lake City, Highway 89 features professional musicians in all genres. You can follow the show on Twitter @byuh89 and @byuradio. And you can contact the show producers by email.  

Book Review: Rayie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Book Review - from Rachel Wadham, host of "Worlds Awaiting"

Raymie knows she can make her father come back if only he can see her picture in the newspaper. To accomplish her goal, she is determined to become Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975.  But before she can do that she has to learn to twirl a baton. At her first class Raymie meets Louisiana, an orphan with a unique sense of reality, and Beverly, the rebellious daughter of a beauty queen. Ever since her father left, Raymie knows she has lost the spark that inflates her soul, but as she gets to know her new friends Raymie sees glimmers of hope and happiness.  Moments that then lead up to that one spectacular minute when Raymie is able to save Louisiana and everything finally and truly makes sense.

Newbery medalist DiCamillo, offers a beautifully thoughtful portrayal of a young girl’s journey to a new normal after her life is split apart. This is far from a hard-hitting problem novel. Yet it deals with real issues like homelessness, abandonment, and grief in a beautifully simple way.  A small touch of the old-fashioned that certainly comes from the 1970s setting just adds a lovely sense of reflection and nostalgia to the story. The three girl’s distinct personalities all weave seamlessly into the perfectly paced plot. Punctuated with moments of humor, Raymie’s thoughtful reflections are right in line with her character and her emotional growth is realistically developed.  A beautifully crafted book that is perfect for readers of all ages to share.

by Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick Press, 2016.

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At “Worlds Awaiting” we discuss a wide range of information aimed at supporting adults who want to build literacy skills in their children. We understand that there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to children’s development, so the information we provide is intended to reach a wide audience. The books and other resources we recommend will also naturally cover a wide range of interests and subject matter that addresses a range of maturity, reading, and comprehension levels. Since no one understands a child’s needs better than their caretakers, we encourage families to critically select the books and resources that meet their own individual needs and standards.

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