I know a lot of gifted writers. I also know some amazingly talented musicians, some phenomenal dancers, and some folks I can always count on to make me laugh. Then there are the behind-the-scenes people I admire. The ones who live their faith 24/7, whether anyone's watching or not. They don't just take a turn serving soup at the shelter. They open their own door and invite the homeless in.
I'm sure many of you can say the same. But how many people do you know who do all of the above?
Today I'm going to introduce you to one.
I'm not sure when I first met Dustin Aguilar. He and my nephew, Nathan, have been best friends since some point in elementary school. I saw him through the years at birthday parties and other events, but I really connected with him one-on-one a few years ago when he asked me about publishing.
Dustin had written a middle-grade chapter book called Harvard Heart of Gold and The Writer of This Book. He'd already sold it to a very small, very new publisher for a very small print run, which turned out to be a very huge disappointment for a number of reasons, none of which had anything to do with Dustin's story or his dedication to making it great. He was maybe twenty-four years old at the time and had earned a college degree in creative writing, but knew nothing about the publishing industry. When he approached me, he'd learned enough the hard way to want to go back to square one.
I'm no expert on publishing, but I knew more than anyone else in his acquaintance at the time. I agreed to read his book and offer any advice I could.
Oh. my. soul. I started laughing out loud on page one. I also quickly realized this wasn't just a book for kids. Harvard Heart of Gold is Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets The Chronicles of Narnia. I don't think it's an exaggeration to compare Dustin’s humorous, rabbit-trail-chasing style to Douglas Adams, his whimsical ideas to Roald Dahl’s, and his philosophic musings to those of C.S. Lewis. I couldn't put the book down. It was (and is) one of the most creative, original, delightful stories I've ever read. Here's the endorsement I wrote:
“I love this book! Dustin relates to a child’s imagination, yet speaks to philosophical issues that adults through the ages have labored to understand. And the whole time you’re laughing. Harvard Heart of Gold is an inventive, entertaining, provocative, and delightful story that challenges, but never condescends. I wish it had been around to read to my children when they were young.”
I'm not the only one who felt that way. Here's another endorsement he received from Brian Morris, a retired engineer at NASA’s Thermochemical Test Branch, Propulsion and Power Division, Engineering Directorate (i.e., a rocket scientist):
“The best book I’ve ever read…. Mind bending, deep, thought provoking story lines. Harvard Heart of Gold has stimulated me to wonder about all the things I thought I knew.”
So, that's Dustin's book. But that's only one facet of the man. Not only is he the fabulous lead guitarist in the band, Darcy, he also has a just-for-fun musical alter ego, a rapper named MC2. Dustin is a creative PR guy, a patient teacher, and a tender-hearted servant of Christ. In preparation for this post I spent a good part of Wednesday afternoon on his YouTube channel. I was moved to laughter. I was moved to jealousy. I was also moved to deep appreciation. I was never bored. I couldn't pick just one video to share with you, so you're getting a representative sample, starting with MC2. (Yes, that's a nod to both Hammer and Einstein, and the irony doesn't stop there. Listen carefully to these lyrics.)
Here's another rap video that gives a glimpse into his whimsy and love for words. Of course he does the music and production on these videos, too.
You probably noticed both of the above videos served as playful ads for Darcy concerts. The next video is an ad for Darcy's CD release. I love the funny, self-effacing captions. Oh, and the "dancing moron" is my nephew. What can I say? I guess beauty and coordination run in the family:
There are lots of others I would love to share, too, and I encourage you to watch them on YouTube. Like the video of Kelsey, one of his guitar students. Her skill demonstrates his playing and teaching ability, and her confidence is a sign of his sincere encouragement. There are clips from concerts, band tour montages (fave title: the "Don't Take No Prisoners For an Answer" tour), one featuring his awesome dance moves, and more funny ads. And then there's the last one I'm going to post here.
I'm not sure why Dustin made this one. I'm guessing it was by request for some program or church. I just love what it reveals about his character and heart. And I also love what I know about his heart that none of these videos have captured. I know how he reaches out to the poor, how he loves in word and deed, how his friends trust him implicitly to hold their secrets, wounds, and deepest needs in confidence before the throne of grace.
It will be exciting to see what God will do with a young man so full of talent, potential, creativity and faith. It will be exciting for his brand new beautiful wife, Tina. It will be exciting for all the people whose lives he will touch.
And it will be very exciting for the literary agent who snatches him up and watches his career explode. (Seriously. What are you people waiting for?)
Jeanne Damoff loves brilliant writers who make her laugh, who make her think, and who inspire her to love Jesus more. (She also has his contact info if you know an agent who loves writers like that, too.)