Sunday, May 29, 2016

Was Patanjali Talking About Writing?

I was in the car for a few hours today, which meant I was able to reread a couple of old Yoga Journals. How old? I read Journey to the Light by Kate Holcombe in the May, 2010 edition. The article is a sort of primer on a few of the sutras from the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali.  Holcombe says, "While Patanjali is concerned primarily with calming, focusing, and refining the mind, the ultimate goal of doing this work is to reduce suffering." I, personally, am all for that.

Holcombe translates one of the verses of the Yoga Sutra as:

To achieve a strong foundation in our practice, we must practice over a long time, without interruption, believing in it and looking forward to it, with an attitude of service.

When I read that today, shortly after leaving a Dunkin' Donuts, I believe, it made me think of writing.  Indeed, if you can accept that you must practice over a long time, without giving up, believing that the work you're doing each day is valuable for what it is that very day and even looking forward to getting back to work the next one, then, yeah, the suffering goes way, way down.

I, personally, am all for that.

Friday, May 27, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 23rd Edition

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives.  Oh, my gosh. I had to spend the better part of a day dealing with ordering a lift chair. At least it was for someone else. I also was offered an opportunity to interview the director and committee chair of the Hallmark Great Stories Award, which took some time to research and prepare for. And I received an unexpected request for a complete manuscript submission. You'd think I'd be ready for that, but I needed to get some things in order before sending it out. The CCLC was huge this month, and I had to put some of my day work time into it.

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. The flash story is finished. I also finished reading the new issue of Carve. I'm definitely liking that journal.

 Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

No Connecticut Children's Book Fair This Fall

The UConn Libraries has announced the end of its partnership with the UConn Co-op Bookstore,
a partnership that's largest project was the Connecticut Children's Book Fair. The announcement included the news that there will be no Book Fair this fall, though something may be planned for next spring.

This action, UConn Libraries states "is due to the vote by the UConn Board of Trustees to partner with Barnes and Noble Education to run its bookstores for the future and that transition will begin after June 7th." However, we can't tell from this particular communication whether Barnes and Noble Education has no interest in working on the book fair or isn't coming on-board early enough in the year to get the fair up and running in its traditional November month.

Well, this leaves a void in the Connecticut children's literature community that some enterprising group could move to fill. In the meantime...

Waily, waily, waily.

Time Management Tuesday: A Gardening Model

I've written a lot here, and I mean a lot, about working with units of time. I've gone on and on about working in forty-five minute units. And I've written about working in month-long units.  I don't think I've considered a year-long unit, planning work for a whole year or around the seasons. That's what gardeners do, or so I've been told. They practice a form of of situational time management, with the requirements of the season determining how they'll spend their time.

You see any grass? No.
To be honest, I don't actually know much about gardening. Like Buffy, we live on the Hellmouth. The soil around here has been scorched by Satan and his minions. Grass does not grow. It can't. The ground cover we bought to plant on a bald spot got the blight. Landscaping stones don't stay put in these parts. It's as if they're alive.

But when I stumbled upon a copy of C.Z. Guest's 5 Seasons of Gardening at my local library book sale earlier this month, even I was reminded that real gardeners do certain things at certain times. C.Z. Guest was a socialite gardener who maintained gardens at her multiple homes. At one of them, she grew vegetables for her French chef. Do not be put off because Guest thinks there are 5 seasons when there are only 4. (She includes Christmas.) In spite of her wealth and rather over-the-top blue blood lifestyle, she couldn't bend nature to her will. She, or maybe someone she paid, had to work with it.
The Blight

Writers Who Use A Gardening Model

For the most part, writers who use a gardening model, working around specific situations in their year, are responding to work and/or family restrictions. For instance:

  • Writers who teach on any level may plan to use school vacations to do their heavier writing work, such as generating new writing or doing a big revision.

  • Writers who do freelance work and can control the number and kinds of jobs they do, can plan writing around the times of year when they are less likely to have big freelance obligations.
    It Lives! It Lives!

  • Writers who are primary caregivers for young children may  plan lighter work loads for school vacations  or plan marketing tours or travel research that they can do with children when they're out of school. This could also be a good time to plan to do small social media tasks--updating websites or blogs--that can be completed in short periods of time.

However, even full-time writers may think seasonally/annually.

  • Writers who do a lot of public appearances and workshop teaching sometimes create blocks of time each year when they don't do that kind of work so they can write.
  • For children's writers who work regularly in schools, the school year is a significant period, almost seasonal in nature.

  • Some full-time writers who presumably can write any time still use National Novel Writing Month as a tool for getting new books started.

For the past couple of years, I've treated April as Earth Day Month, a specific time for marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff. September is a travel month (which has to be prepared for, by the way) when I do professional reading. As I've mentioned recently, I'm thinking of doing NaNoWriMo this year. I'll need to be prepping for that during most of the fall season.

 

Gardeners cannot change the coming and going of the seasons and what happens during them. They have to plan what they can do within those periods. For writers, it's the same thing. We can't change our family responsibilities or ignore the fact that we work with all kinds of restraints. We can do long-term planning for working around and with those restraints, though.

 

We are not quite halfway through the calendar year. This would be a good time to think about what you could be doing "seasonally" through December. Can you plan to work on specific 2016 goals/objectives at different points the rest of this year?     






Monday, May 23, 2016

Lois Lane, Crusading Teen Reporter

I have a family member who thinks that if you're going to make dramatic changes in an established character and her world, why not just give her a new name, too? To him, you're no longer working with the original material.

I, on the other hand, enjoy it when someone messes with the known. The first Mission Impossible movie when Mr. Phelps ended up doing what he did? The rest of my family was distraught, but I loved it.

So, yes, I liked Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond.

Lois is a contemporary teen, not someone from the original comic book era or an adult. She's a bit of a troublemaker. Is it because she's had to change schools a lot because she's a military brat? Or is it because she has an uncontrollable need to help the downtrodden? She has a future as a crusading reporter, though she doesn't realize it at the beginning of the book.

You know, "crusading reporter"--that's a phrase I don't hear much anymore.

This teen Lois also knows teen Superman, but only on-line. And, of course, she doesn't know he's Superman or is going to become Superman. This Lois can almost do without him. She doesn't need no Superman, especially in the form of a teenage boy who will only interact with her over the Internet and won't even tell her his name. But, okay, okay. Lois Lane is from the Superman universe. I get it. He has to be there, whatever his age.

One of the most interesting things about this book doesn't have anything to do with the Superman narrative. Fallout is about bullying. We're not talking an improving "Bullying is baaaaaad" story. This is a thriller in which students are turned into bullies and then bully others into becoming bullies, too. It's all part of an evil plot, which I won't go into because that's a particularly good part of the book.

But Why Don't Any Adults Notice?


This is, I have to say, one of those books, like Evil Librarian, in which dire things are happening and no adult seems to notice. The bullies are all dressed in black and behaving in a disturbing manner and not a single teacher raises a red flag? I get why the principal and computer teacher didn't, but they weren't the only adults in the building. Teenagers with behavioral problems have done some horrific things in schools over the last decade or more. One kid like the bullies in this book might be able to stay under the radar, but, logically, that many would have had someone keeping an eye on them. (I sure hope so, anyway.) It's also unbelievable that not a single parent voiced concern over the dramatic change in their kid's behavior. Or raised questions about where their child was going in the afternoons.

But Otherwise...


Lois, herself, is great. She has personal power and an edge. A second book came out this month, one that looks as if it will take Lois out of the high school. And there are a couple of free digital short stories, so you can be introduced to Lois and her world right away.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Another Cooking Binge, Another Podcast: "The Memory Palace"

Podcasts Losing Their Attraction For Me


Last week I was just about ready to throw in the towel with podcasts. I'd been interested in listening to them while working in the kitchen as a way to take in work-related material while doing an unnecessary creative act. I did pick up some good information, particularly on content marketing, but I was trying and discarding a lot of podcasts. Things I liked the first time I listened to them got old fast when I tried them again. When pods involved more than one personality, the ratio of chitchat to important content was often pretty high. I guess you can tell you're an introvert when you can't even take listening to others having a good time.

Big Cooking Binge
But I really like something going on sound-wise when I'm working in the house. Music is a definite option. Nonetheless, last weekend, I was embarking on a big cooking binge and thought I'd take another quick look on-line. Somehow, I stumbled upon The Memory Palace.

All About The Story


The Memory Palace's creator, Nate DiMeo, describes his podcast as "a storytelling podcast and public radio segment about the past." He takes isolated historical events and creates a written narrative about them. If you go back to the early days of the podcast, the story is often just an account of something that happened. But eventually his pieces began to include something on the event's significance. For instance, in his story about nineteenth century singer Jenny Lind, he talks about a major difference between her time and ours. In her day, before sound could be recorded, before recording sound was even thought of, you could only hear music during a performance. In many cases, you would never have another opportunity to hear a singer. Did people even give that a thought? Or was it just a normal part of life?

The significance part of these stories is important. History isn't just a list of facts. It means something. And in terms of The Memory Palace being a storytelling podcast, meaning is huge. Many times without including an understanding of a real event, all a storyteller/writer is doing is passing on a list of things that happened. What does it all mean, Mr. Natural? brings a piece of writing to another level.

Another thing that's neat about these podcasts is they're short. So far, I don't think I've listened to one that's more than fifteen minutes. DiMeo is "interested in keeping things small because I was interested in the smallness of those things" (the historical "moments" he finds) "and the way they added up to a larger picture."

These short podcasts are like flash nonfiction. They are intense and complete. They give listeners an opportunity to see how someone finds meaning in an event in  a quick, concise way. They have the potential, I think, to become a painless model for looking for and finding stories.

Hope I still like them in a few weeks.

I heard about Weekend Cooking through blogging buddy Alex Waugh of The Children's War.  I most definitely cook on the weekend, and it is often somehow connected to writing or reading, as is most things in my life. So this weekend I am taking my first shot at joining the weekend cook/book people at Beth Fish Reads.
interested in keeping things small because I was interested in the smallness of those things and the way that they added up to a larger picture. - See more at: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/66573/20150707/interview-nate-dimeo-memory-palace-podcast.htm#sthash.mXTcUSxE.dpuf

Friday, May 20, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 16 Edition

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. I feel as if I'm doing this because I'm feeling all creative and motivated. Would like to see a little more material in hand, though.

Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission. As a result of reading a book recommended by a NESCBWI workshop leader, I'm actually thinking of doing another revision of this. (Multiplier!) My writers' group will be thrilled. Also, I have some editors lined up to submit to.

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs.
  • Still working on the flash and liking what's happening with it. That's influenced by the book I'm reading, too.(Multiplier!)
  • I also made a submission
  • Am reading the new issue of Carve
  • I knocked off a 500-word flash essay
  • Received a rejection on an essay submission. However, that rejection came from publication that had ignored an earlier submission, not responding at all. So this response suggests to me that I did a good job of matching submission to market. Just not good enough, of course.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Weekend Writer Print Resources post--Promoted to Google+, Google+ community, Facebook community, Twitter
  • Sherlock Holmes post--Promoted to Google+ and Twitter
  • Books from Sherlock Holmes post reviewed at Goodreads
  • TMT post--Promoted to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter
  • Arts Center East post--Promoted to Google+, Facebook community, and Twitter
  • Call for CCLC material
  • Submitted material for CT Center for the Book website

Goal 6. Generate New Work: I'm considering doing NaNoWriMo this year.

Am I using anything I learned at the NESCBWI Conference? I'm reading the book I mentioned above (and will write about here at length at some point) and what I'm taking from that I am planning to apply to a couple of different writing projects. Which makes reading that book a Multiplier. It applies to more than one goal.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Call To Traditionally Published Children's Book Authors And Illustrators

CREATING A PICTURE BOOK -- National Literacy Month Exhibit
Arts Center East (ACE), a regional arts center in Vernon, Connecticut with beautiful gallery space, easy access off I-84 and ample free parking is hosting an exhibit, tentatively scheduled for mid-September – mid-October 2016, that will focus on the thought and work that go into creating a picture book. The exhibit will display and compare the process from sketches or dummies and manuscript drafts to final versions. ACE is calling for a variety of materials from published illustrators and authors (no self-published artists and authors please):
·         
       Matted and framed original art from a book
·         Framed prints of original art
·         Framed facsimiles/copies of dummy spreads
·         Framed (copied) sections of early drafts
·         A copy of the printed book to be handled by visitors

Authors and illustrators will have opportunities to sell their own stock of books, and to give a talk, a workshop/activity, or a reading of their book. Illustrators may sell their originals and/or prints.

Please note: ACE is a relatively new organization, with a limited budget. Participants are responsible for framing, matting, insuring and transporting their materials. For more information, please contact:  Joan Sonnanburg, Executive Director at joan@artscentereast.org / (860) 871-8222. Please indicate the type, size and number of your pieces when you respond.

NOTE: This event is not limited to Connecticut authors. Just keep in mind that participants must cover their own insurance and shipping costs.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: The Longest Day Of The Week. Seriously.


Anyone else notice Tuesdays seeming particularly long? Me neither. But it's supposed to be a thing.  "...time can feel like it's passing more slowly on Tuesdays compared to other days of the week."

There are a couple of theories as to why this happens. The one that I can just barely understand goes something like this: Weekends we don't do so much. We're not filing away a lot of events/tasks in our memories. Monday we're transitioning into the work week, still not doing as much as we will later in the week, still not filing away a lot of events/tasks in our memories. "On Tuesdays, we're in the thick of it. Hence, it's possible that our brains generate more discreet memories on Tuesdays, making Tuesdays seem as though they're longer than other days."

A lot about time management involves psyching ourselves out. We work in 45-minute units with brief breaks so that when we start a new unit we think we're starting the day over with a fresh load of will power. It's also a "trick" that provides us with an external support for will power. We try to treat our time slip-ups with compassion so we don't succumb to the what-the-hell effect. Is there some way we can use the illusion that Tuesdays are longer to actually do more?

My guess is no, since it sounds as if those who feel Tuesdays are longer days do so because of their memories of what they've already done and not because they perceive Tuesday as being long, and thus providing more opportunities to do things, while they are actually living through the day.

The theory above lends support to my impression that Mondays are lousy transitional days, though. "On Mondays, we're just getting caught up." All day?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sherlock Holmes: Nineteenth Century Superhero

Like many young people, I read Sherlock Holmes as a teenager. I struggled to learn the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning. (Yeah. I never worked that out.)  I wanted to be Holmes.

As an adult, though, I've wondered why I see so very many children's and YA books relating to Sherlock Holmes.The original Sherlock is not a fun guy. He's kind of stodgy. I can't recall any young people in the original stories. Thematically, the original stories are not about place in family or separating from family or finding a place in the world, which is what child and YA books traditionally are about.

But I recently read two Sherlock-related stories, one after the other, that suggested something new to me. Sherlock Holmes was an early superhero. His superpower? His intelligence.

A Study in Charlotte


In the YA Sherlock update A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty were all real people, not characters in books, and their descendants walk among us. (Hmm. That's sort of like The DaVinci Code.) The present Holmes and Watson representatives are teenagers Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson. Their families no longer have contact with one another, so what a coincidence that they should land at the same private boarding school in Connecticut. Jamie's kind of a regular guy. He is, after all, just the descendant of a writer. Charlotte, however, is something else. Holmeses have been Holmeses for generations. She is a chippy off the ol' Sherlock block, brilliant, intense, a bit haughty, and fond of drugs. She's been known to help out at Scotland Yard. So, of course when someone starts framing her and Watson for murder, she doesn't just sit back and let the local police take care of things. No one can handle the case as well as she can. Because, you know, she's got that super intelligence superhero thing going on. And now with Jaimie, she's got a sidekick, too.

This book's neat stuff:
  • The members of the Holmes and Watson families are not a hundred percent terrific people. The members of the Moriarty family are not a hundred percent awful. 
  • Though Holmes and Watson are drawn to each other, I didn't read this as a romance. (Though I may be mistaken.) It's more like Holmes and Watson are more together than they are apart.
  • I've read YA books that were essentially adult thrillers in which the main character had been replaced by a teenager, a teenager who was very adultish, we were all just saying s/he was YA. That could have easily happened here, since the source material is adult fiction. But it doesn't. Charlotte, for all her Holmes-behavior, is also very young. She actually gets along with her boarding school roommate. She may have actually wanted to go to that dance. She's a victim of...well, I won't give that away.
  • Like Marvel superheroes, Charlotte suffers.
  • A couple of YA thrillers I've read recently are very unrealistic in their portrayal of adults. In order for the YA characters to have control of the action, the authors don't deal with the fact that, realistically, some adults somewhere would have been wondering what was going on and trying to protect their kids. Here the adults are present and trying to do what they can for young Holmes and Watson.
A Study in Charlotte trailer: Though this is twice as long as I thought book trailers are supposed to be, if you've read the book, it's like watching a mini-movie adaptation! I hope this is Emma Pfaeffle's audition for the real movie adaptation.

Powerless


In the middle grade Powerless by Matthew Cody, Holmes and Watson were characters in books. In this book, main character Michael just admires Holmes and studies him. It's a good thing he does, because he moves into a new town, a new town with kids who have secret superpowers. Real ones like flying and super strength. While Michael seems powerless in comparison, being merely smart and heavy on acquired Holmes knowledge, when these superkids are having their superpowers stolen from them, they don't need another guy with superpowers to lose.

This book's neat stuff: 
  • These kids are losing their powers on their thirteenth birthdays. Some kind of comment here about puberty destroying childhood? Because adolescence is a freaking train that knocks you right off the tracks? 
  • Is Michael an everyman character?  A regular person who readers can identify with because there's nothing special about him? And then he saves the day, just as we like to feel we would if were in that situation? Or...
  • Is Michael a superhero in his own right, his intelligence making him the equal of the super kids?
Well, you know what side I come down on in that discussion. Obviously, he is a Holmesian superhero.

Why Child Readers--And All Readers--Like Sherlock Superhero


My theory now is that child and YA readers are not attracted to the man Sherlock Holmes, who only only comes out of his apartment to work and who only has one friend. What they're interested in is what I was interested in as a child reader of Sherlock Holmes--his ability to right wrongs and serve justice simply with his mind. His super intelligence didn't come to him because he is an alien or was exposed to some kind of chemical that changed him. It's something he just had or developed on his own.

Therefore, Holmes is a hopeful hero for us, because while we learn pretty young that exposure to chemicals and radiation leads to some grim things and not spidie sense and that nothing alien has ever arrived on our planet that looked like Superman, intelligence is another thing. Maybe we have super intelligence like Sherlock Holmes and don't know it, or maybe we can develop it somehow.

There's a chance we can become like Sherlock Holmes. And that's why there continues to be a child audience for Holmes-related stories.