Today’s post is an interview with my long time friend Matt Jo Diaz, author of The Last Day of Regret blog and soon to be book. Thoughtful, compassionate, passionate, driven, and wise are words that I would use to describe him; we have had big laughs, deep talks, and life forming experiences together. His joy is contagious, and his heart is big.
In The Last Day of Regret, Matt Jo gives insight into everything from scripture and spirituality to movie reviews, to the very art of becoming a writing itself. We wanted to promote each others blogs, as well as give insight to the person behind the keyboard. So without further ado, here is an interview with Mat Jo Diaz.
Brian: Give us your current life stage as of today?
Matt Jo: I’m in my sixth year of teaching a high school New Testament epistles class at Northwest Christian school. I also get to teach an Intro to Graphic Design class as well. I’ve been married to my wife Katie for nine years and we have four wonderful children ranging from twelve to two. My hobbies include endgame survival practice during the hottest months of the summer here in Phoenix. This week it has finally cooled off with the rain which is a nice break from the triple digit temperatures. Seriously though, my hobby other than writing is traveling. The school I work at has provided me many opportunities to go to new places, one of which is Cambodia where I will lead a team of fifteen student in June of 2019, it will be my third time there.
Brian: What is your earliest memory of me?
Matt Jo: What can I say about Brian Grayum that has not already been said about…(Playa Hater’s Ball throw back)? It was the summer before my freshman year in High School and we were at a Christ In Youth conference at Point Loma University in San Diego. Brian was one of the good ol’ boys of the graduating seniors. He was among the heroes of old, Kelsey Drayton and Michael Garrison being two other people I remember cracking jokes on the beach. My timeline could be totally off.
Brian: When did you start your blog?
Matt Jo: I started and stopped a blog three times, this one being my third attempt. My first one was right after the death of my sister in January of 2014. I put a lot of pressure on myself to create something that was way too thought out and a reflection of my broken soul that I got six weeks in and stopped writing. I had this idea of talking about life as a journey and got caught up in this analogy that I eventually realized was super repetitive. However, I kept it and it’s still viewable through blogspot.com. It’s in the archive section on my current sight. I didn’t write anything again until I returned from my second trip to Cambodia in July of 2017. I wanted to capture my experience there and teach about the history and culture of the Khmer people. I think I only wanted to write the five segments that are there but hoped it would spark more thoughts. I left it there in adobe spark and placed in the same archive tab. This most current blog, the last day of regret, was set up in June of this year and I’m writing more than I ever have, still trying to find my niche, but getting there.
Brian: Why did you start your blog?
Matt Jo: I started my current website, that features a blog called thelastdayofregret.com through wordpress.com on the advice from a friend. I was at the tail end of finishing the manuscript of my first book and wanted advice about self-publishing. I was told starting a website and a blog were essential to start creating connections online to market the book. So, my end goal, is that I will write this blog in preparation for the launch of my book which won’t happen until probably next May…fingers crossed. I have a completed manuscript that is just now being edited. It is painstakingly slow. However, I have started to refine my writing, finding my voice and telling a story that is true, painful, but completely transparent.
Brian: Has your blog changed in terms of writing style or purpose?
Matt Jo: My first two posts were specifically about my book. It took me a while to realize I just needed to write about whatever until I figured out what my place in the blog world is. I still haven’t found where it should fit but, I’m just trying to write as much as possible so that people can go back and see what my style and interests have been. As a first-time author, I want my audience to have some context to who I am as they read the book. I’ve decided I’m going to hit on movies I like, things in the Christian culture I think need to be critiqued and bible teaching snippets since that is what I do for a living. I have a lot of former students after ten years in ministry and five years of teaching that I think I can still connect with. They might remember me as Matt Jo, or more recently Mr. Diaz and if they see me as just a guy still trying to speak truth into their life than I think that is a worthwhile endeavor.
Brian: When has been the best times for you to write, either day or season of life?
Matt Jo: The best times to write have been when I have something to write about. Sounds obvious but if there is nothing to write about than I start forcing words that don’t really make sense. That’s why I wanted to do this blog swap, to help me write. Process my own goals and decide if I need to rearrange them. For now, I think I have time for two a month which isn’t a lot, but it’s something. I need to start promoting before I post, of when the next post will come. It’s a marketing strategy that will hopefully gain interest before it happens. I hope this interview with you will accomplish that for the both of us.
Brian: What do you find yourself writing about the most?
Matt Jo: I think I had mentioned earlier that I went from talking about life as a journey, to social justice and now onto the art of writing itself. My selected categories are culture, both secular and Christian, and theology. My most recent post that was a satire piece on the song Prodigal by Sidewalk Prophets got the most views, so I think comedy is a topic I need to include more. As we have learned from Jon Acuff or more recently Jon Crist, there is a place in the Christian community to laugh at ourselves. Really though, it is about connections and I think that is what my book will hit on the most. Can you find your own brokeness inside the story of my brokenness? Maybe some feelings you have can surface and you can deal with those bottled up emotions.
Brian: What is your favorite post?
Matt Jo: My favorite post is in two categories. One is my favorite title and then the other is based on the content. My favorite title was “Memoirs of a Guy…” (https://thelastdayofregret.com/2018/06/13/memoirs-of-a-guy-bad-movie-pun/) A play on words off the book and movie Memoirs of a Geisha…a terrible dad pun. It’s a short post asking a question, “Who is my audience?” I’m still trying to find that answer, but the more I write I know that will be fleshed out.
My favorite post by content was on my first blog I started called “A Path Obscured.” The title of the post is, The Spirits Path (https://thelastdayofregret.com/a-path-obscured/). It’s a post about how I see the Holy Spirit working in my life. I’ll share a quote that sums in all up. “More often than not, when faced with obscurity, to stop and go nowhere prevents the Spirit from taking you to a place that is somewhere. Sometimes the point of the path being unclear is to test if you trust enough to travel only with one step in front of you” (2/20/2014). I still find this true 4 ½ years later, life is revealed one moment at a time, I think it’s all I can handle. I know we want to know the future, but I’ve learned to trust that God has a reason for us not seeing the future. I don’t think we would be able to handle the pain of life and so God asks us to trust him in each moment.
Brian: What is one thing you desire people to experience when reading your blog?
Matt Jo: I want them to either think, “I agree it makes sense,” or “I disagree and let me leave a comment to exchange in dialogue.” It helps my writing if someone critiques it. It is feedback that allows me to refine or restate what I intended or stand by it. If you agree, I hope you are encouraged, inspired or empowered. If you disagree, I hope you are encouraged, inspired or empowered. It can happen either way. Agreeing with everyone isn’t possible, but learning what other people think and believe is.
Brian: What are your dreams for the future of writing?
Matt Jo: It has been on my bucket list to write a book, but more specifically to publish a book. The publishing part is just as long if not longer than the writing. After that, I will either be encouraged to write more or discouraged and focus on the other things I am good at (laughing face emoji here). Seriously though, the book I’ve titled, “The Last Day of Regret,” is a very transparent story of my relationship with my sister Hannah who passed away in November of 2013. I hope that it validates people who feel imperfect in their relationships, and want to be better friends, family members, parents or spouse. I also hope that people who have lost a loved one can find a part of themselves in my story here Jesus telling them that the best days of our life are still in the future. Whether in this life or the next, hope for a better tomorrow is what people who grieve need to remind themselves of often.
Every good article or story takes on a new morning once you have the context of the person writing it. I find it interesting that both of our blogs began with the death of a family member, I think that says something about the narrative that is taking place inside of all of us; and it also shows the important role that writing can play in our lives. Matt Jo has found a passion and skill in writing, and I hope this interview strikes a note of inspiration.
ThelastDayofRegret.com contains an interview with me if you would like to check that out.