Archive for University of Utah

Three and Out

Posted in Non Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2016 by jaclemens

three and outKnowing Rich Rodriguez is a good guy who never lost his team – no matter how many games they lost – makes it more difficult to hold him in disdain. Plenty of the problems that dogged him at Michigan were outside of his control, and some he could have addressed were outside his perception. I admit I was one of those longtime fans who was glad to see him go, and pleased when he was replaced by a “real Michigan Man,” Brady Hoke. When Hoke was replaced by Jim Harbaugh – who is among the detractors named in this book – I was ecstatic to be present in the stadium for his debut, a loss to Utah, just like Rich Rod’s.

imageRodriguez is now coaching Arizona, so Utah has the opportunity to beat him annually (Arizona put Utah away in double overtime last year). He’s the guy on the opposite sideline, so it would be easy not to like him. But his players did, and I do like them. Mike Martin and Taylor Lewan were teammates on the Tennessee Titans for a couple of years; Martin is now lining up with Brandon Graham in Philadelphia. Denard Robinson and Patrick Omameh are playing together in Jacksonville along with Chad Henne, the quarterback that Rodriguez struggled to find a replacement for until Robinson emerged from backup to repeat Offensive Player of the Week and Heisman hopeful. Unlike some of the QBs before him (Ryan Mallett, Steve Threet), Robinson did not transfer from Michigan when there was a coaching change, although he did try to meet with athletic director Dave Brandon to voice his support of Rodriguez (he wasn’t given the chance).

Those players who remained loyal to Michigan produced for Hoke in 2011, beating Notre Dame and Ohio State to go 11-2 (they lost to Michigan State and Iowa), and beating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Greg Mattison returned as defensive coordinator under Hoke, and the defense improved from 107th to 6th in scoring defense. Same players giving their all, different scheme, better results. Hoke was Big Ten Coach of the Year, and Michigan was back. As the roster changed the results regressed each year of Hoke’s four year tenure, sliding back to a 5-7 season without a bowl game. Hoke was replaced, and now coaches in the PAC-12 as Oregon’s defensive coordinator.

Harbaugh was also a PAC-12 coach at Stanford before taking over the San Francisco 49ers. He returned to the college ranks and his alma mater after the 2014 season. Harbaugh retained Mattison as defensive line coach, but brought in D.J. Durkin as defensive coordinator. Tyrone Wheatley, a former star running back, joined the staff as running backs coach. Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. came along as a tight end recruit, and was coached by Harbaugh’s son Jay.

Michigan lost the opener at Utah, shut out BYU at home, suffered a fluke loss to Michigan State, and got thumped by Ohio State to finish the year 10-3. The only loss I accepted was the first one, but routing Florida in the Citrus Bowl helped the progression from 2015 to 2016. Harbaugh’s first quarterback, Jake Rudock, is now a Detroit Lion, along with his center, Graham Glasgow. Harbaugh has not yet named his starter for 2016, but it won’t be long now!



Posted in Events, New release, Non Fiction, Reading List with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2013 by jaclemens

Election Day 2013November has been a big month for author events at the University of Utah.  For the second straight year, I spent Election Night listening to a prominent author.  In 2012, it was Brandon Sanderson at Weller Book Works; in 2013, it was Malcolm Gladwell at Abravanel Hall.  Mr. Gladwell was the esteemed guest for the inaugural Sam Rich Speaking Series presented by the Hinckley Institute of Politics.  Fortunately for the University Campus Store, the Hinckley Institute chose us to provide copies of Mr. Gladwell’s latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants for his first appearance in Salt Lake City.  It was easily the largest event I have worked in my bookselling career, and I didn’t do it all on my own.  Fortunately for me, one of our student supervisors volunteered to assist me in this undertaking. Lucy LaPutka’s involvement was an integral part of making this large event a success.  Lucy wanted to learn how events run, and she hoped to meet Mr. Gladwell.  We were able to listen to the closed-circuit telecast of his presentation – he handles his audience with exceptional skill – but we did not get the chance to meet him afterward.  Mr. Gladwell signed as many books as he could before he had to leave for his flight.  It still proved to be a late night, but I didn’t have much time to recover.

Sam Daley-HarrisTwo days later, the Hinckley Institute hosted Sam Daley-Harris, and invited me back to sell copies of the 20th anniversary edition of Reclaiming Our Democracy: Healing the Break Between People and Government. Daley-Harris is the founder of RESULTS, and spoke about his experience in harnessing the enthusiasm of volunteers and directing it into meaningful channels of change. This was a smaller scale event, which is befitting the author’s approach.  He was able to poll the students in the audience about their belief in the efficacy of implementing change, and explained why he remains firmly in the hopeful camp.  It was an uplifting message for those who heard it in person or via radio broadcast.

I was surprised to learn of another event the following Tuesday.  A shipment of books arrived at our store without an order.  I contacted the publisher and was informed of an event that evening!  When I arrived at the venue on campus both the organizers and the authors said they weren’t aware I would be there.  Nor was I!  The topic of discussion was “The Loud Absence: Where is God in Suffering?”, sponsored by the Veritas Forum.  Margaret Battin, a professor of philosophy at the University of Utah, and John Lennox, a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, led the discussion.  I was on hand to sell Lennox’s books, such as God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway? and God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?.   For an unanticipated event the sales were decent, but it made for a long bus ride late at night.

A week later I had a fourth event on campus.  I knew about it in advance, but I was one of the few who did.  A miscommunication in publicity resulted in a small audience for Tim Cope, who had spoken to 800 people the night before in Santa Barbara.  Cope is an adventurous Australian traveler, who has cycled through Siberia, rowed a river boat to the Arctic Ocean, and ridden horses from Mongolia to Hungary.  His book On the Trail of Genghis Khan: an Epic Journey through the Land of the Nomads recounts the daring 10,000 kilometer ride through five countries.  In October it won the Grand Prize at the Banff Book Festival.  The title of the book didn’t grab me, but Cope’s personal presentation certainly did.  He sat on the front of the stage and spoke to our intimate group over a slideshow of still shots and video footage from his immense journey.  It was an incredible presentation, and I urge you to visit his website,, to learn more.

David and Goliath has been on my to read list for some time, but On the Trail of Genghis Khan is the book I’m reading right now!

Black Friday

Posted in Events with tags , , , , on November 23, 2012 by jaclemens

The third week of NaNoWriMo was my best yet! I wrote 2,900 words in five days! That’s the highest weekly total and the highest per day average (580) thus far. I haven’t exceeded 1,000 words in a single day since day two, but I improved my daily consistency. I’m close to completing another chapter, which will be the sixth new chapter in the past two months. During NaNoWriMo I have added 7,100 words, pushing my WIP over 25,000 words. It’s not the 35,000 words I’d need to be on pace for 50,000 by the end of the month, but it is a 39% increase. With another 2,000 words in week four I could reach 50%. I won’t be out shopping on Black Friday, but, following Utah’s season finale this afternoon, I may go to a certain bookstore to write.

Special Envoy

Posted in Events with tags , , , , , on April 24, 2012 by jaclemens

Recently I had an opportunity to hear Senator George J. Mitchell speak at the Tanner Humanities Center World Leaders Forum at the University of Utah. I first became aware of the senator in 1995, when the former Senate Majority Leader finished his final term in office and donated his papers to his alma mater, Bowdoin College. I matriculated at Bowdoin in the fall of ’95 and worked in the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, where the collection was on display. I worked in Special Collections, which now bears the senator’s name. His name was next brought to my attention by U2, who publicly thanked the senator for his efforts in brokering the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland. Mitchell was later appointed a Special Envoy to the Middle East by President Obama, and it was on this topic that he was invited to speak at the forum.

The key point of his talk was that Israel must resolve a two-state solution out of self-interest. Demographics indicate that a democratic Jewish state will not be viable in the near future, making a compromise necessary. This will require flexibility and leadership on all sides, as well as U.S. involvement. From the standpoint of writing Grandpa Art, that was the key point of Senator Mitchell’s speech. I had already considered the role of a U.S. Special Envoy (Sen. Mitchell is an archetype for Grandpa Art, in fact), but I will also have to bring courageous and flexible leaders to the bargaining table.


Becoming a Book Buyer

Posted in Book Buying with tags , , , , , , on February 12, 2008 by jaclemens

It was a long and unpredictable road from the Preservation department at the Marriott Library to the General Book department at the Campus Store, in spite of the fact that the two buildings are neighbors at the University of Utah. I loved my job in Preservation but it was only a work study position, which meant I had to leave when I graduated and I had hardly begun the training necessary for a career in the field. I already had a family to support when I graduated, so more schooling wasn’t a very attractive option. Neither was going into the foreign service, which had been my plan when I decided to study History and Russian. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I also knew I needed a steady income, so I took a job with Hertz, the first company that offered. What do books and rental cars have in common? Unless one gets left in the other, not a whole lot!

I applied myself nonetheless, becoming a rising star (entry level to branch manager in less than a year) that quickly burned out (I quit less than a year later). I assumed that my education and work experience combined made me a desirable candidate for a multitude of positions, so I quit without lining up a new job. Huge mistake! My education actually priced me out of multiple opportunities, while my experience wasn’t nearly as valuable as I anticipated. I couldn’t get a job! I sold cell phones for a couple of months, picked up some substitute teaching gigs, and spent a summer basically unemployed. One of my more memorable job applications was for a position at the county library: I filled out the application, took the skills test, and waited for an invitation to interview. Instead of an invitation, I received a letter informing me that I ranked 11 out of 13, and that the top five candidates would receive interviews. That was a blow to the ego! I could live with not being in the top five, but I certainly didn’t expect to finish near the bottom! A couple of weeks later, I received another letter from the county. It explained that a computation error had resulted in a mistake in the rankings. Aha! That made a lot more sense! The letter went on to explain that my new rank was 13 out of 15! They actually used more of my tax dollars (okay, cents) to send me a letter notifying me I was even further from consideration! I still have the letter, naturally!

Our finances reached a critical point, and there was nothing else I could do but take an entry level position at Target. There I was, a college graduate, mopping the Bakery floor alongside high school students making the same wages. I started working again (the only point that mattered to my family) on September 12th, 2001, so I couldn’t feel too sorry for myself right then. That crept in later, as I spent four years working in different departments, always on the grocery side of the store, with no hope of advancement. What do groceries and books have in common? More than rental cars, as I will shortly explain!

My book Orlando and Geoffrey was published while I worked for Target, and I tried to get them to stock it, but they rarely carry items of “regional interest.” I decided to go to graduate school for an MFA, but then I ruptured my Achilles tendon, and that plan was set aside. I applied for more jobs in the book industry – I had a lunch interview with Gibbs Smith Publishers which seemed promising but never went anywhere, and a fine interview at Barnes & Noble, but they only offered me a position in their cafe (although they did stock and sell my book!). I didn’t know how I would make the switch from food to books. On a long shot I answered an ad for a position in the Merchandise department at the University Campus Store. Had I been able to work in soft goods at Target I’d have felt better about my odds of getting the job, but I went for it anyway. The interview went extremely well (Jaima Dyer, the Merchandise manager, also had rental car experience), and I was offered the position! As it turned out, the position was responsible for running the candy counter in the store, so I had the necessary experience after all.

That got my foot in the door of the bookstore and brought me back to the university campus, nearly full circle. From Merchandise I moved to Shipping and Receiving, and then, after our store dropped its contract with Ingram, I was able to move into a newly-created Book Buyer position! Now I work in General Books with Drew Goodman, a fellow History major and published author, who likewise started in this store running the candy counter! Yet another example of the truth being stranger than fiction!