Sunday, August 31, 2014

More On Susan Juby

I liked Alice, I Think by Susan Juby very much, but I'm not sure what the story is here. This may be one of those books you have to be zenny about and just experience.

Alice is the offspring of crunchy parents who homeschooled her because on her first day of traditional first grade (she didn't attend kindergarten), she showed up dressed as a character from The Hobbit. Things didn't go well for her. One could say that learning to read early leads to no good.

I was never a hundred percent sure why Alice was seeing a therapist, unless it had something to do with poor socialization because she was homeschooled. It was probably one of her parents' ideas. Alice heads out to regular school at fifteen, inspired by her younger brother who has always attended school. He may have been too bright for their parents and had some instinctual knowledge that you just don't dress up in costumes for school. Alice says outright that she has no problem with playing favorites. She definitely prefers her brother to her mother and father.

Oh, and Alice aspires to be a cultural critic.That is a fantastic aspect of the book.

Juby describes Alice, I Think as a Teen/Adult book, and I think that's very apt. There are aspects of this book that adults are going to find more entertaining than I think teens will. The section on the people holding some kind of memorial to the late, lamented Princess of Wales, for instance, is probably far more meaningful to adults than the younger than seventeen-year-olds who don't remember the world-wide mourning at her death. As much as I liked the cultural critic business, that might be for your more sophisticated teen readers, too.

Some of you may remember that my first Juby book was Home to Woefield, definitely an adult novel published in 2010. Next I read her teen book Getting the Girl, published in 2008.  I thought the main character was wonderful, "like a younger, less raunchy, undamaged Seth from Home to Woefield." Alice, I Think was published in 2003, and I think the young girl in the 2010 Woefield might be a variation on her.

Interesting to read so much of an author's work and see her world.

Alice, I Think has a sequel. In addition, a one-season TV series was made in Canada. Yes, I may try to get hold of it. If I watch it, you can be sure I'll let you know.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Waily, Waily, Laptop Wailies

Updates have been spotty at OC this past week because we're experiencing laptop woes here at Chez Gauthier. My laptop didn't actually start smoking earlier in the week, but the noise it was making and the message that appeared on the screen suggested that it could happen. It has gone off to my computer guy's computer guy. This is one of these deals where Computer Guy #2 must be contacted in some mysterious way and then have the laptop passed on to him by Computer Guy #1 with great amounts of e-mailing and computer talk following.

I've always tried to blog after my workday was over to avoid using creative day time for blogging/marketing. (This is like a Time Management Tuesday post, but different.) Since I've had my laptop, I've fallen into blogging in the evenings while sitting in front of the TV. So last night I tried to work with another family member's laptop. I spent half an hour or so just trying to get on-line and to Blogger. I wonder if Computer Guy #2 gives discounts?

While I am a TV viewer and don't care who knows it, I rarely just watch TV. What, you may wonder, is Gail going to do if she can't find a laptop to use in the living room to blog and read blogs and articles? Well, last night I hemmed pants for one of the elders.

What am I working on now? We have a number of desktops in various stages of life. I don't believe we have any dead ones, anymore.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

September Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Book festivals are continuing in September.

Sat., Sept. 13 Local Authors Expo, Mystic & Noank Library, Mystic, 1:00 to 4:00 PM. No idea if there will be any children's authors involved.

Sat., Sept. 13 Jeanne Rogers, Newtown Arts Festival, Newtown, 3:00 PM. Presentation, Festival admission

Sat., Sept. 13 and Sun., Sept. 14 Sheila Murphy Adams, Dawn Aldrich, Catherine Gibson, Jason MarchiNewtown Arts Festival, Newtown, 10:00 PM to 5:00 PM each day. Admission

Thurs., Sept. 18, Randall Enos, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Westport, 7:00 PM

Sept. 21 Jack Jones, Diane's Books/Tudor Investments Corp, Greenwich, 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM.  Book launch

Wed. Sept. 24, Phil Nel, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center, Storrs, 4:00 PM. Speaking on "The Genius of Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon."

Sept. 30, Julie Phillipps, Cheshire Public Library, Cheshire, 7:00 PM. Hour-long Picture Book 101 presentation for beginning writers

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Minimalizing Instead Of Organizing

"No matter how organized we are, we must continue to care for the stuff we organize, sorting and cleaning our meticulously structured belongings."

You'll find that line in  A New Memoir About What Happens When You Get Rid of All Your Stuff , an excerpt from Everything That Remains by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus that appears in Slate. The point Millburn and Nicodemus are making is that so long as you keep the stuff, you have to continue to take care of it.

Taking care of stuff takes time.

Dealing with life's stuff may seem beyond the focus of this blog series, which is time management for writers. But, remember, "the boundary between professional and personal time is very thin and very wobbly," particularly for writers who often work without workstations outside the home and function as their own supervisors. The less we have to deal with in our personal lives, the more we'll have to give to our professional lives.

Millburn and Nicodemus say that organizers accumulate things, they just think they have control of the situation because they're organized. But organize is a verb. It's something you have to do. Minimalizing, simplifying, not having a lot of possessions to handle may be the more time and energy efficient way to go.

You can minimalize your work world, too. I tossed some writing books a month or two ago. And then there was the file purge I did a couple of years ago.

Of course, minimalizing takes time, too. But once things are gone, they're gone. Keeping them organized, on the other hand, goes on forever.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Time For A Horn Book Post

The Horn Books are piling up around here, so it's time to review one of these review journals. In this case, the May/June 2014 issue. I didn't rush to get to May/June because it was dedicated to Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I am a member of that minority of people who are not Harriet fans. I didn't read it until I was well into adulthood, which may have been too late. I can't recall whether I read it aloud to my sons or not. What I do remember is reading the last page and thinking, What? I may have found the book overtly literary. But I'm talking a long time ago, so don't hold me to that.

You can understand why my favorite article in this issue was Becoming a Book Detective by Cathryn M. Mercier. She wasn't crazy about Harriet, either. Plus, both Mercier and I read Reader's Digest Condensed Books when we were kids. Hmm. Is this nostalgia I am suddenly feeling? I have so little experience of it, I don't know.

Horn Book Reviews That Caught My Eye

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones, completed by Ursula Jones. Because I have a thing now for Diana Wynne Jones.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  The reviewer calls this a "taut psychological mystery" and says "The ultimate reveal is shocking..." I like being shocked.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor. I've read the first two books in this trilogy. This review explains why I wasn't crazy about book two. It moved from urban fantasy to high fantasy. I was hoping the end of that volume suggested that book three would be back to urban fantasy. But, no, reviewer says we'll be going on to "epic fantasy."  I'll try it, anyway.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel. I'm reading this now.

Fighting Fire!: Ten of the Deadliest Fires in American History and How We Fought Them by Michael L. Cooper. Fire. History.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell.  Read it.

The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis. I'm a Saint-Exupery groupie, and I've liked Peter Sis's work.

Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud & Divided a Nation by Sally M. Walker.  A feud. History.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Environmental Book Club

I think I was on the page 3/4 spread of Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman with illustrations by Beth Krommes when I gasped because of the fantastic concept. I know this business about spirals in nature is something I should have known about, and I had heard of it. But I know a whole lot more now and in such an incredibly easy way.

Sidman explains in an afterward that a spiral is "a shape that curls around a center point. Spirals occur over and over in nature because they work so well in so many ways." In her marvelous picture book she organizes her information around various kinds of natural spirals. Some expand, some protect, some reach out.

What is particularly impressive is that this really is a picture book for the very young. There is only a modest amount of text. In fact, I can imagine sitting with this book and a child and not even reading the text, simply hunting for spirals on the pages.

I'm kind of excited about all my new spiral knowledge.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Aunt Cybil Wants You

The Cybils folk sent out the call for judges this past Monday. I can't find anything about a deadline.

Can't commit time to judge? If you're a blogger, you support the Cybils in other ways.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Your Mindset Can Impact Procrastination

Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson wrote a post at her website last winter on procrastination called How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don't Want To. Among her suggestions and my take on how they apply to writers:

Promotion vs. Prevention Focuses

A promotion focus encourages someone to work to better themselves. Will working today mean meeting a deadline or enable you to make a submission? Will studying today enhance the quality of your writing? Will just putting in time writing enhance the quality of your writing? That's all about promotion.

A prevention focus encourages someone to work to maintain what they have and prevent loss. Will working today help me to maintain my tenuous place on the writing career ladder? Will it help me to stay published? That's about prevention.

Halvorson argues that choosing a focus can keep you working.

Do You Have To Feel Like Working In Order To Work?

This is a question of particular interest to writers and other creatives because there is a stereotype that we have to be inspired in order to work. There are muses that are supposed to visit us. Personally, I think this is a very old-fashioned attitude, at least as far as creative people are concerned. I never hear it from published writers or anyone serious about publishing. Actually, I only hear it from people who don't do creative work, and even then rarely. I don't hear about writer's block, either. The realities of publishing have moved most of us past that.

If-Then Planning

Timothy Pychyl also talks about if-then statements, calling them implementation intentions.  You plan ahead to deal with problem situations--form an intention and plan how you'll implement it. I, for instance, plan to keep working until a timer goes off. Halvorsan says, "...if-then plans dramatically reduce the demands placed on your willpower... In fact,  if-then planning has been shown in over "200 studies to increase rates of goal attainment and productivity by 200%-300% on average."

Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Update

Author Lynda Mullaly Hunt will be making an appearance at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Glastonbury on Sunday, August 31st at 2:00 PM.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Possible New Reading Plan For Serials

Roger Sutton recently had a post at Read Roger in which he expressed frustration over reading books and finding out, without warning, that they aren't complete. They're the first in a serial. Oh, yes. I've had that happen so many times. He concludes, "Thank goodness Tolkien had already finished The Lord of the Rings before I got to the end of The Two Towers and “Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy.”

I didn't have that experience with The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood. I had that experience with The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling, which was the first book in this serial. The Interrupted Tale is the fourth. I've liked them all, but The Interrupted Tale took a long time to get into. These books have a very distinctive voice, one I enjoy, but it's not a very natural one.

I enjoy binge-reading adult mystery series. While I was reading The Interrupted Tale, I started thinking that binging might be the way to read serials, too. How great it would have been if I could have read all The Incorrigible Children books one right after another. There would have been no "getting to know you" period for each book. I could have just lived in the serial.

So what do those of us who enjoy binge-reading a serial after it's concluded or a series after there's plenty to binge on need to do? As Roger pointed out, we often don't know that a book we're reading isn't a complete story. Once we've accidentally stumbled into a serial, do we just put reading the rest on hold for years until the serial has been completed? And when we are aware of a "new trilogy," do we avoid it and make a list for sometime in the future?

Hmm. Perhaps I'll have more on this in the future.