Saturday, August 18, 2018

I'm Not Getting Enough Rejection

Thursday #ShareYourRejection was a thing on Twitter. Writers, and I suppose others, shared stories of their most significant, ironic, humorous rejections. While I have plenty of rejections filed away, I don't have a juicy one. The best I can come up with is the guy who told me many years ago that they weren't interested in my story, but I wrote a good query letter. Yeah, that's not much.

As a result of the #ShareYourRejection thing I stumbled upon a Brevity Magazine blog post by Jay Vera Summer. In #ShareYourRejection: I Received 330 Writing Rejections in One Year, and I'm So Happy About It, Summer describes how she spent years submitting manuscripts, much as I have in the past. She'd submit, get rejected, think about it, submit again, get rejected again, and give up after a few times.

And then one year she submitted stories 330 times, getting 330 rejections. But she also got 12 acceptances.  "To earn those twelve acceptances," Summer says, "I had to sustain 330 rejections...That’s roughly 28 rejections for each acceptance."

I made a little over 30 submissions last year and the year before. And, yes, I "sustained" a little over 30 rejections each of those years. I've only submitted 17 manuscripts in 2018, though I have had one publication. I need to crank up those submissions. Fortunately, I've been heavily into market research this month, prepping for a submission binge after an autumn trip.

Cranking up submissions means cranking up rejections, of course.  But, hey, that's the job.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wendell Minor On The Cape

I have contacts on Cape Cod this week, and they informed me that Connecticut artist and illustrator Wendell Minor is part of an exhibit at the Heritage Museum & Gardens in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Check out this neat two minute film and text description of Wendell Minor's America, which runs through October 8.  The slides accompanying this article show a children's work station connected to the exhibit. I have it on good authority that this set-up is a particular hit.

I first heard of Wendell Minor while attending my first Connecticut Children's Literature Fair at UConn. He was there with author Jean Craighead George, who he did a lot of illustrating for. I  heard him speak, mostly about working with George, and stood in line forever to have Jean Craighead George sign a book for my niece.

So I feel as if I have a (probably stalker-like) connection with Wendell Minor and am always happy when I hear good news about him. Which is the only kind I ever hear.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Combining Two of The Best Things About Life, Bread And Books

I made my first loaf of bread when I was a teenager. Bread baking was not something I learned at my mother's knee. She didn't make bread. None of my relatives made bread. I didn't know anyone who made bread. This was just before making bread became a thing. You couldn't walk into a library back then and pick up something like "The Big Book of Baking Bread." I must have just found a recipe in my mother's one cookbook. I think she only had a bread pan because she used it to make meatloaf that I wasn't fond of.

I have no idea what I was thinking. Why did I make my first quilt back then, too? I don't know. My guess is that I read about baking bread and making quilts in books. Novels.

I have baked a lot of bread over the years. In college I worked summers in a kitchen, for the baker. Later, I baked elaborate tree-shaped and teddy bear-shaped bears at Christmas time. The braided bread with with hard boiled eggs at Easter. Cinnamon rolls. Sticky buns. Lots of those. I made stuffed sandwiches of various kinds. Yes, stromboli. I worked out how to let bread rise overnight so I didn't have to do the kneading and some of the rising the day I wanted to serve the bread to guests. (I didn't want to bake the day before, because, you know, day-old bread.) I've done Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I have a stone for baking. I have  peels for getting bread into and out of the oven. I'm on my third bread machine. I have a baguette pan.

Which brings me to my point.

Baguettes And Books


I was walking through my local grocery store last spring and passed the book section where some children's books were prominently displayed. What do I see, but Nanette's Baguette by Mo Willems? I see that it's a beautiful book. It's shockingly cheap. And it's about bread!

Well, right away, I mean in...stan...taneously, I knew I could do things with that book.

As it turns out, Nanette's Baguette is a terrific story about a trip to a bakery to buy a baguette and the tempting splendors of this marvelous bread. It's a really fun read, particularly if, while reading it, you're eating baguettes. And you have a guest to eat them with.

With the help of that bread machine I mentioned earlier (and my baguette pan) I made baguettes the morning I was expecting company for dinner.











The baguettes were a big hit with my visitor, as was Nanette's Baguette. So much so that I froze the leftover bread, brought out it out the next time he came, and, since the book was still in the dining room, he ate bread, and we read again. (Frozen, reheated baguette is a little limp. Still.)

Love baguettes. Love Nanette.

Today I'm taking part in Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.


Thursday, August 09, 2018

Environmental Book Club

I discovered April Pulley Sayre last winter. She uses photography to illustrate her writing. Or maybe it's the other way around. Maybe her photography inspires her writing.

Full of Fall  combines stunning photography with spare, expressive, poetic writing.


This spring I became interested...just a bit, to be truthful...in nature poetry. That's what Sayre's Best in Snow is. Nature poetry for children with some more fantastic nature photography. I wouldn't have thought I would like the photography as much as I did.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

#STPStwittered: The Results Post

I finished my July Saving the Planet & Stuff summer reading push a couple of days into August. But I did finish it.

You will recall, of course, that the July marketing month involved a series of quote images from the book. They cover the entire story without giving away the entire story. The Kindle edition, all that's available now, has been marked down from $2.99 to $1.99 since July 1. I did a post here at OC on Saving the Planet's Vermont setting, as well as one on the Norwegian textbook that includes a STPS excerpt and the recycling crafts described in the book.


What Did This Book Marketing Get You, Gail?


Well, here is what I hoped to gain from this effort:
  • Sell a few books.
  • Get a couple of decent Goodreads or Amazon reviews.
  • Collect a few new Twitter followers
  • Gain experience running a new marketing strategy. 
Here is what happened:
  •  I sold 1 eBook. Hurray! Really. Hurray!
  • No new Goodreads or Amazon reviews, decent or otherwise.  
  • Whatever new Twitter followers I got last month were due to my own trolling. People were not beating a path to my door because they were so impressed with my quote images.
  • Computer Guy and I did gain experience using Twitter quote images as part of a marketing campaign.

 

What Questions Does This Book Marketing Experience Raise?


Notice I didn't ask "What have I learned?" That's because I've learned nothing. Absolutely nothing. I just have questions I didn't have before.

  1. Is this quote image thing just a poor marketing tool? It is free and pretty easy, after all, and "You get what you pay for" is a much more accurate cliche than "The best things in life are free."
  2.  Are older books like Saving the Planet & Stuff impossible to market?
  3.  Is Saving the Planet & Stuff impossible to market? 
  4. I've been experimenting with different types of marketing over a long period of time for what is now a self-published book. Is this pointless? Are self-published books just like traditionally published books? The only opportunity for sales is during the big opening, like movies?

It's All Good

 

This afternoon, a family member and I were discussing how we'd used part of our summers on activities that weren't very productive when we could have been doing other things that might have been more so. (He did better than I did last month.) But all experience has value. What we did will be good for us somehow, sometime. 

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Grand Opening For New Bookstore In Central Connecticut

For months I've been hearing about a new bookstore coming to Wethersfield, Connecticut. That Bookstore opened on July 15th, and it's grand opening will be this Friday, August 3.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: I Need Something Simple

Another library patron is waiting for The Deep by Cal Newport, so I'm going to wrap up my thoughts on the book.

Recall that Newport defines "deep work" as "Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate." He spends half his book arguing the value of deep work and the threats to it. Some interesting points:

  • Some people thrive without working in depth, but they tend to be high level CEO's whose jobs involve making decisions, not generating new work. Someone else in the organization does that for them.
  • The trend toward open and distracting office space and use of social media for business decrease workers' ability to do deep work.
The second half of the book involves ways to get into deep work. I found a lot of this aimed toward privileged workers who are in positions in which they can cut themselves off from others so they can work deeply in a monastic manner or can periodically devote a large chunk of time to deep work while eliminating other kinds. It's a bit of a fantasy for most writers who are often working jobs, writing/editing for hire, and/or dealing with families.

Newport talks about: 1. Attention fragmentation, when our attention is...fragmented and we're not able to concentrate, a concept I like. 2. Mastering hard things (like staying on task for deep work) requires deliberate practice. He says it's actually more important than natural talent. Deliberate practice I can get behind, too.

What that deliberate practice should be/can be I'm not clear about, though. The rest of the book is filled with disciplines and reasons, examples and tips. James Le does an excellent job of describing the book content in his blog post The 6 Productivity Strategies to Integrate Deep Work into Your Professional Life.

For myself over the last few weeks I've often had days filled with appointments and telephone calls when I could only write a few sentences. When I have that little time, I need to work on work, not on time management so I can work. Time management has to be something that doesn't require a lot of time and effort.

I'm still thinking about trying to develop some kind of slow work process. Since I've admitted that I sometimes only get a couple of sentences a day written, I know it could be argued that I'm well down that road.

 

Friday, July 27, 2018

August Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar


I haven't heard anything that suggests fall will be any more active for childlit in Connecticut.

Sat., Aug. 4, Liz Delton, Mark & Sheri Dursin, South Windsor Farmers' Market, Sponsored by Bookclub Bookstore & More South Windsor 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM  

Thurs., Aug. 16, Lisa McGloin, Bookclub, Bookstore & More, South Windsor 11:00 AM Story Hour

Thurs., Aug. 9, David A. Kelly, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 2:00 PM

Thurs., Aug. 16, Chandra Prasad, Avon Free Public Library, Avon 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Is The Internet Really Fragmenting Your Attention, Or Is It Something Else?

This week, we continue with our summer read, Deep Work by Cal Newport. 


Newport writes about "fragmented attention," which occurs when we are distracted, taking our attention away from work goals. Or, as he says, deep work, "Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate."  For writers, that would be writing. Newport describes a study that "found that an interruption, even if short, delays the total time required to complete a task by a significant fraction."

He makes very clear that he believes the Internet, and social media in particular, and e-mail are the big fragmenters of attention. He quotes another writer as saying, "Twitter is crack for media addicts." He calls one subsection of a chapter of his book "The Cult of the Internet." "Cult," like "crack," rarely has good connotations. Another entire chapter is called "Quit Social Media." I think that speaks for itself.

I like the expression "fragmented attention." I think it definitely describes a real situation, the way our attention is broken by what is going on around us. In my experience, though, Internet-related activities just are not that big a fragmenter.

What's Been Fragmenting My Attention For Over Ten Years


I have definitely been suffering from fragmented attention since the end of May. Here's what's been going on:

  • A family member, who isn't well under the best of circumstances, became ill with a life-threatening condition and then suffered a stroke. She rallied.
  • A sibling and I visited her skilled nursing facility daily, then slowly cut back to two to three times a week each.
  • For a month or so I was reporting several times a week by e-mail to siblings on my visits. Other days, I received reports from the sibling doing the visiting.
  • I e-mailed multiple cousins about their aunt's condition. (I really ought to send them an update.)
  • I was involved with a cousin visit.
  • Because of our family member's impaired state, one of her hearing aids ended up on the floor of her room and was destroyed. This meant contacts with her audiologist, and a trip to the audiologist's office to pick up a new hearing aid and have it synced with her other hearing aid, so I was at the snf twice that day.
  • During this time, a paperwork problem came up for my family member that was totally unrelated to her condition. This involved two calls to an attorney on my part. A call and stop on my husband's part. My sister then had to meet with another attorney, and the two of us ended up going into his office.
  • An out-of-state family member was in town twice this summer. 
  • Two other family members needed medical testing in June, and I was assisting with babysitting and rides for that. (Everything worked out, but it ended up being three consecutive days.)
  • I visited another elderly family member a few times because her primary caregiver was sick.
  • I caught whatever he had and was sick for two days.
  • I've been shopping for both elders.
  • I had to go to urgent care twice this past week for an unattractive skin infection that, thank goodness, isn't in a particularly obvious place. 
  • I had to drive a family member back to Vermont this weekend.
As I mentioned here last month, this kind of thing has been going on in my family, to one degree or another, over and over again, for over ten years.

What Has NOT Been Fragmenting My Attention For Over Ten Years


I bored you with that long list describing how I've been using my time recently to make a point. Notice, please, that nowhere in the above section did you see any of the following:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Blogging
  • E-mail (Thank you, God, for e-mail for keeping family members up-to-date. Imagine having to contact one person at a time by phone or mail.)
  • Social media, in general
  • The Internet, in general
The kind of family issues I addressed above are not unique to me. They happen to many people in all walks of life.  Add childcare to that for those with children. For writers and other creatives, add day jobs. And, yet, it's the Internet that is so often targeted as destroying our ability to work. Life problems, not so much.

Why The Internet Is So Easy To Blame


Cal Newport is not the only writer to see the Internet as a major player in distraction or work problems. There's been talk of Internet addiction for years. Arianna Huffington writes frequently about our relationship with technology. (She has concerns.) Twitter and Facebook are routinely described as time wasters for writers. For everybody.

Material on managing work time while putting out fires all over your family over and over again isn't as easy to find. (Please feel free to prove me wrong with links in the comments.)

I think there's a simple reason for this: A piece of writing on managing time or work that only points out problems and offers no solutions isn't going to be terribly useful or popular. The Internet, however, is a problem with a solution. We can grit our teeth and limit our surfing time during the workday. We can avoid Facebook or leave Twitter. We can schedule when we check or respond to e-mail. But most of us don't have what it takes to grit our teeth and ignore elderly, young, and ill family members.

So Is It Hopeless, Gail?


A dear family member has made it clear that my positive attitude is very possibly my worst trait. So, of course, I don't believe those of us with unending family problems are in a hopeless situation.

I have some ideas I'm toying with while I'm using my little bits of time to write a couple of sentences now and then on my major writing project, continue my Saving the Planet & Stuff promotion, and continue trying to submit. (I got two submissions out the week before last. Then an out-of-state family member arrived. August is another month.)

Here's something interesting I've noticed: Last summer we also had family issues here...a surgery...an elder moving...a baby arriving and landing in the NICU. I ended up not working at all for a while. I haven't had to do that so far this year. I'm not working a lot, but I'm managing to get some things done. I have some thoughts about why that's happening, too.

As always, stay tuned.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Can't Say Enough About Recycling And "Saving the Planet & Stuff"

A few years ago, I did a post here at Original Content called The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" Part Eleven: DIY Recycling. You can go back there to read an excerpt from the book in which main character Michael Racine surveys the items his hosts, Walt and Nora, have been holding onto for years in order to keep them out of a transfer station. Their plan is to reuse them in some way. Not only will they then have kept them out of the transfer station, they will have avoided using new resources to make whatever they've done with them. 

I so understand what they were doing.

Today I'm going to do some more on this recycling idea, mainly because I've got a bunch of pictures I've been saving for this purpose.

Useful Looking Things I Have Held On To, Planning To Do Something With Them Someday  


My most successful recycle. Making a quilt from used denim.  I'm starting with my most successful experience with recycling, because with short, business-like nonfiction you want to put the juicy stuff upfront in case your readers wander off. So my greatest recycle project was this denim quilt.

A Lot Of Denim
Denim, the kind that isn't the result of an unholy breeding program with Spandex, can be used for a lot of things. So I have a lot of used denim. And I am hanging on to this stuff no matter what. It will move with me wherever I go. It will have to be pried out of my cold, stiff hands. I made a good-size denim bag for a gift a couple of years ago, and if I am ever able to have the DIY Weekend Sewing Retreat I keep talking about, I'm going to make one for me.

I Mean A LOT Of Denim
A family member once gave me a pair of used denim pants for my denim collection. The pants were actually in better shape than some I wore. Those are in my closet now. That's recycling, too.
 

My second most successful recyle. Cutting up Christmas cards to make name tags for Christmas presents. Honest to God, this was a thing years ago. You saw it in magazines. If you own a pair of pinking scissors (and I do), you can make these look pretty good. You ought to also get yourself a paper punch. And some curling ribbon. Yeah, this is some work.

This is a DIY project that's on it's way out, because if you really want to be environmental, you don't send Christmas cards. Plus more and more of the people who do send Christmas cards send personalized ones with their family members' pictures instead of generic Christmas scenes, because they're easy to do. Probably easier than cutting up traditional cards, punching holes in them, and stringing them on the curling ribbon you wrap around presents. 

So-so recyles. Bubble-wrap. Like Walt and Nora in Planet, we held
on to bubble wrap that came in packages we received so that when we had to mail something, we could use this perfectly good stuff and not have to buy more. Turns out, we don't mail that many packages.

Gift tins. Walt and Nora have some of these, too. This was a little more useful back when I was a part of a mom world whose members all baked for one another at Christmas time. Everyone went back to work, and it's all we can do to bake for our families.

Cardboard boxes. This became a huge attic collection. We had a used gift box collection up there, too. Walt and Nora have a box collection, also.

"Plastic sacks filled with more plastic sacks." That's a quote from Saving the Planet & Stuff. Yes, I have a plastic bag collection. Two, in fact. And I have a paper bag collection. I should have placed this higher in the post, maybe as a third most successful recycle. It only seems unsuccessful, because it's on the floor of the pantry. But I reuse bags a lot.

And then there is my Yoga Journal collection. I had years of those things, because the articles were so good and I spend soooo much time rereading magazines.

Recycling Conflicts With Time Management


Taking care of a lot of stuff takes time.  Additionally, a lack of order in surroundings can impact impulse control. And lack of impulse control leads to procrastination. So during multiple purges, I unloaded the bubble wrap, the gift tins, the Yoga Journals, and most of the cardboard boxes.

I have never been that successful a recyler, definitely not on a par with Walt and Nora.