Breaking the top 50 — Joe Cooke

I’ve been writing novels seriously since the turn of the century (that sounds so weird) and my lifelong dream is to hit the New York Times best-seller list. As I close in on that dream, I want to record the journey here for the benefit of any who might be on various stages of a similar journey. My coach and mentor reminds me to reach back and lend a hand to those who follow, so that is what I am hoping to do here.

My most recent effort, a thriller about a young assassin, just hit the top 50 in the Launch Pad book competition, and is trending high on the Coverfly list of projects. Both of these are big accomplishments for me, but I don’t have much time to stop and wonder right now. I’m rewriting a screenplay, starting another one from a logline and synopsis I wrote (I spend most of my “writing” time outlining and rewriting and reoutlining and thinking), starting on the sequel to Art of the Kill, writing on my memoir which is about halfway done, and teaching and chairing the business department at the local community college. Oh, and I am trying to finish off writing and curating content for an MBA course on financial statement analysis. So, I can’t really afford to slow down and luxuriate in the intermediate successes of my creative works. Too much to do.

However, this is a big deal. I’ve made the top 50 out of thousands of entries. Honestly, the good news has me a bit paralyzed with giddiness. I’m cleaning house a bit in preparation for a guest who is going to help me with ideas for a rewrite on this very project based on input from another writer.

Input and critique are tricky things. Aaron Sorkin got stuck when he was writing The American President because he was trying to write what he thought Rob Reiner wanted, rather than writing according to the style and voice of Aaron Sorkin. He admits he was less confident back then, but still-he’s fucking Aaron Sorkin! So it can happen to the best of us; writing to someone else’s standards and ideals. Not to say that I don’t write to an audience-I most certainly do-but it is a particular audience that loves my unique voice and style.

So this is not a post about accolades, but rather about focus. I believe the Universe, or God, or however you think of a power greater than yourself, imbues us each with dreams, talents, and passions and that our responsibility is to ply those dreams, talents, and passions and to find where we fit in the grand scheme of things. It’s easy to get distracted and to follow a path that is not meant for us. On the other hand, it is also easy to get distracted by shiny things along our own unique paths.

This is really cool, top 50 entry in a prestigious contest. But I am also moving forward with this and other projects. I have a vocation as a business professor, but I have an avocation as an author and writer of screenplays, and I know that is where I belong. I am a creative, and my real job is to create art and to speak to people, my people, about what it is to be human, to make us think, to encourage us to follow our paths, as strange and scary as they may be.

I told my mother one time I was an author, and she scoffed and said, “Author is what other people call you. You can’t just call yourself that.”

Why on earth did I think she was an expert in goal setting and visualizing and being complete and aware and confident? She was none of those things.

I am an author. I am a prolific and creative writer. I have so many good stories to tell, it’s sometimes hard to focus on just one (as you might have noticed from the first paragraph.) And I LOVE writing. I love the process and the pain and the outcomes, no matter how they turn out. They are like my children: flawed and yet perfect to me. I love this life and all it’s weird meanderings and wrong turns and glorious successes.

Gotta go. A phone interview awaits, and then I am going to ride my freshly-washed motorcycle for about a half hour to clear my head, and then back to work.

Originally published at on February 15, 2022.




Lifelong learner, fully committed to the idea that our job as instructors is to teach our students how to be successful

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Joe Cooke

Joe Cooke

Lifelong learner, fully committed to the idea that our job as instructors is to teach our students how to be successful

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