Thursday, September 06, 2018

Some Literary Tourism Coming Up With Ernest Hemingway

I'm going to be MIA for a while, for travel not family drama.

While traveling, I like visiting author homes or homes connected with authors somehow. Like James Thurber's in Columbus, Ohio. Green Gables on Prince Edward Island. One of Gene Stratton-Porter's homes, in Rome City, Indiana. This month I'm going to Ernest Hemingway's Birthplace Home Museum in Oak Park, Illinois.

Usually I read something by the author involved with these excursions. But I've got to be honest. I am not a Hemingway fan. Reading Girl of the Limberlost on vacation back in '15...that's an experience I don't want to repeat anytime soon. So no Ernest Hemingway for me.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Connecticut Book Award Finalists...And Some Of Them Are Children's Books

The Connecticut Center for the Book has announced the finalists for the Connecticut Book Awards. There are three categories of adult books and two of children's.

Young Readers--Young Adult

Jake Burt of Hamden, Greetings from Witness Protection!
Karen Romano Young of Bethel, Whale Quest
Sarah Albee of Watertown, Poison

Young Readers — Juvenile (includes authors and illustrators)

Gigi Priebe of New Canaan, The Adventures of Henry Whiskers
Lauren Baratz-Logsted of Danbury,  I Love You, Michael Collins
Susan Hood of Southport,  Double Take! A New Look at Opposites
Deborah Freedman of Hamden,  This House, Once
Andrea Wisnewski of Storrs, Trio, The Tale of a Three-legged Cat

The winners will be announced on Sunday, October 14 from 2 to 3 PM at Staples High School in Westport. There will be a keynote speech from Okey Ndibe, a reception, and a book signing with this year’s winners, finalists, and Ndibe  from 3 to 4 PM. Open to the public, with tickets.

Sounds like a good Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: The Law Of Diminishing Returns And Slow Work

At last! I've found some real talk about doing less to do more.

In How To Accomplish More By Doing Less at 99U, journalist Tony Schwartz (I wrote about him here back in 2013) describes how the quality of the hours we work is as significant as the number of hours we work. "Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy – physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually – requires refueling it intermittently." As we become physically, mentally, emotionally, and, perhaps, spiritually worn out, our output becomes progressively worse. Planning a workday around rest stops can mean getting as much done, or even more, than if you kept yourself chained to your desk for a longer period of unbroken time.

Schwartz uses a study of pilots and another of violinists to support his argument.

I think it's pretty obvious how this article relates to my goal of finding ways to improve productivity by slowing down. Schwartz is literally talking about working fewer hours without a drop in output. It also relates to a couple of things discussed here in the past. (Besides Tony Schwartz.)

The Unit System

Planning your work time around stops, so you can recharge and sort of trick your mind into thinking it's starting the day over, is what I've been calling the unit system. (Other people, I've learned, refer to it has segmenting.) Whether you break your time into 45-minute units, as I've read about several times, 20-minute units, as in the Pomodoro Technique, or 90-minute units, as Schwartz prefers, you're managing your energy as well as your time. You're making it possible to slow down and still produce.

Minimum Effective Dose

Last week, I wrote about the minimum effective dose and slow work. "In terms of productivity," I said, "the theory goes that you can find a minimum effective dose--or the minimum amount of time/effort--needed to get the work result you want or require."

Schwartz's argument about the law of diminishing returns and using work units to manage your work hours instead of working randomly sounds very much like a minimum effective dose to me.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Cybil Season 2018

The Cybils folks, those people who sponsor the children's and young adult bloggers' awards, are looking for bloggers to act as judges right now. The awards are over ten years old, so the administrators have plenty of information on the position and how judges are picked.

You have less than a week left to apply.

Friday, August 31, 2018

September Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

September is supposed to be considered more of a beginning than January these days, which may be why we're seeing more activity in Connecticut than we have in a while.

Sun., Sept. 2, Mark Seth Lender and Valerie Elaine Pettis, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 to 300 PM

Sat., Sept. 8, Donna Marie Merritt, Book Club, Bookstore & More, South Windsor 10:30 to 11:30 AM Story time and craft

Sat., Sept. 8, Leslie Bulion, Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 11:00 AM to 1200 PM Storytime

Sat., Sept. 8, Jessica Bayliss, Barnes & Noble, Milford, 4:00 to 6:00 PM Book launch

Wed., Sept. 12, Karen Romano Young, Byrd's Books, Bethel 7:00 PM

Wed., Sept. 12, Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:30 PM

Fri., Sept. 14, Beth Turley, Bank Square Books, Mystic 5:00 to 7:00 PM

Fri., Sept. 14, Leslie Bulion, New Britain Public Library Literary Libations, New Britain 5:00 to 8:00 PM Ticketed event; showcase of authors

Sat., Sept. 15, Judy Siegel, Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Sat., Sept. 15, Kimberly McCreight, Book Club, Bookstore & More, South Windsor 2:00 to 3:00 PM  In conversation with Chris Wolak.

Wed., Sept. 19, Katie L. Carroll, Milford Public Library, Milford 2:30 Part of the 2018 One City, One Story program for middle grade readers.

Sat., Sept. 22, Joanna L.C. Meyer, Bank Square Books, Mystic 5:00 to 7:00 PM

Sat., Sept. 22, Donna Marie Merritt, Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM 

Sat., Sept. 22, Lana Bennett, Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 12:00 to 1:00 PM Launch party

Fri., Sept. 28, Janet Lawler, Pratt Children's Book Fair, Hartford 11:30 to 3:30 Sponsored by Hartford Downtown Council and UConn Barnes & Noble.

Sat., Sept. 29, Stacy DeKeyser, Mark Twain House, Hartford Writing Workshop, Part of Writers' Weekend. Registration fee for entire weekend event.

Sat., Sept. 29 and Sun., Sept. 30, Dana Rau and C.D. Bell,  Mark Twain House Writers' Weekend, Hartford  9:00 AM Sat. to 9:00 PM Sun  Registration fee for entire weekend.

Sun., Sept. 30, Mark & Sheri Dursin, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 to 3:00 PM

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Like Misty, But Different. And Right Here In Connecticut.

I'm reprinting below a post from October 17, 2016 about my excursion to the Land of Misty of Chincoteague. You're probably wondering what leads me to do such a thing. Well, last week I stumbled upon a pony from Assateague Island, the home base for ol' Misty herself, right here in Connecticut.

Where here in Connecticut? Flamig Farm in Simsbury. If you're trapped in New England and want to see an Assateague pony, Flamig Farm's your spot. If you're going to head south, check out the travelogue below.

On The Trail Of "Misty Of Chincoteague"

On vacations I like to visit author homes. This year I couldn't find an actual author home. So, instead, we ended up spending a couple of nights on Chincoteague Island, Virginia. Yes, that's Chincoteague of Misty of Chincoteague fame.

I read that book a long time ago. Loooong time. Pretty much all I remember is a pony...some kids...horses swimming... It was enough for me to drag my family there maybe fifteen years ago when we were driving south and saw a sign for Chincoteague. It was enough to take me back on this trip. However, I wasn't enthusiastic about rereading the book. As one of my relatives said, "You no longer want a pony."

So I have nothing to say about the book. But I had a neat time on the island. And I have pictures.

I'm not using any footnotes here. My info comes from signs on the walls in a National Park building, a municipal park kiosk, and a cool gift shop owner I was yakking with while waiting for the bearings on my bike to be replaced at Mid Town Bike Store, which I only mention because the place is fantastic.

Ponies on Va. end of Assateague


Okay, first off, Misty may be of Chincoteague, but she wasn't actually from Chincoteague. She was from another island, Assateague, which is close enough to Chincoteague that, if you are a healthy horse, you can swim from one island to the other. Interesting bit of trivia--two-thirds of Assateague Island is in Maryland. One-third is in Virginia, like Chincoteague. Who knew?

To be clear, there are no wild horses on Chincoteague. They're all on Assateague.  They've been there for around 300 years. Two theories about how they got there: 

  1. They are descended from horses that escaped from sinking ships belonging to early explorers.
  2. They are descended from horses that were kept on Assateaue by settlers trying to avoid taxes. 

I kind of like that second story. It shows initiative.

Chincoteague Fire Department
There are two herds on the island now. One, on the Virginia end of Assateague, has been maintained by the Chincoteague Fire Department for something like forever. The herd on the Maryland side is maintained by the National Parks Service. Maintenance means controlling the size of the herds so they don't destroy the Assateague Island habitat with overgrazing. Which, of course, would not be good for the horses, either.

The Fire Department controls its herd with an annual auction of ponies that has been going for something like forever. A vet selects horses on Assateague that are healthy enough to make the swim to Chincoteague at the end of July. Supposedly ten thousand people descend on the island for the auction. Or maybe tens of thousands. I heard that, too. Horses that don't sell, swim back to Assateague.
Ponies on MD side of Assateague

Why the popularity for these horses? They are now a designated breed. Some of these animals can sell for over $10,000, though the average price is significantly lower.

Rumor has it that the National Park Service maintains its herd with neutering. Don't know what goes on with that.

Carnival grounds
The Fire Department also runs a carnival at the time of the auction. Early in the 20th Century, downtown Chincoteague experienced two serious fires. The fire department started running the carnival at that time, raising money for equipment to deal with crises of that type.


What About Misty The Book?

Miss Molly's Inn
Author Marguerite Henry went to Chincoteague in the 1940s. She was already a published author, often writing about horses. (As a Vermont child, I was familiar with her Justin Morgan Had a Horse.) And there she heard about a pony named Misty and came up with her book idea. Misty of Chincoteague was published in 1947. It was a Newbery Honor Book in 1948. Yeah, that's all I've got about the book, because, remember, I didn't reread it.

The inn in Chincotague where Henry stayed still exists, and visitors to the island can stay there. Though we didn't. Henry bought Misty, and the horse seems to have bopped around a bit between Henry's home...somewhere else...and the island.

Misty All Over Town

In 1961, a Misty movie came out. There was a premiere in the Chincoteague theater, which is still open. Misty showed up in town for this event. You can see her hoof prints in concrete outside the theater. And, wow, she signed them!

Misty's Descendants
Well, ponies don't last forever. Misty sure didn't. She died in 1972. She has descendants on Chincoteague, and I got some pictures of some. For the life of me, I can't remember where we saw these horses. And I've looked all over the Internet. (EDIT: A reader identified this place for me. It's the Chincoteague Pony Center, which describes itself as "the home of the largest herd of Misty family ponies on the Island." Thank you, Anonymous.)

Misty's Present Day Home
Misty is gone, but...not really. You can see her in a preserved (stuffed) state at the Museum of Chincoteague Island. Happy to say, we weren't there on one of the days the museum is open, so I missed out on this treat. If you hunt carefully on-line, you can find a photo here or there of what you might call Misty's Afterlife.

So there you have it people. Your Misty tour is complete.

You can check out more Misty-related Chincoteague  photos at my Following "Misty of Chincoteague" Around Town Pinterest board.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Indie Author Day In Connecticut

Author Katie L. Carroll contacted me a couple of weeks ago about Indie Author Day on October 13 at Norwalk Public Library. Well, folks, it turns out that Indie Author Day on October 13 is a thing nationwide. In Connecticut there will be Indie Author Day events at the following libraries:

  • Hartford Public Library, Hartford
  • Manchester Public Library, Manchester
  • Northwestern Connecticut Community College, Winsted 
  • Norwalk Public Library, Norwalk
  • Welles-Turner Memorial Library, Glastonbury 

Unfortunately, most of the venues aren't publicizing what they're doing yet. I can tell you, though, that Norwalk Public Library will be running a program from 9 to 5 with a number of authors attending.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Minimum Effective Dose And Slow Work

So I'm creating my own slow work program here, folks. Where to begin, where to begin?

How about with this: I don't see how someone can slow down while continuing to do the same amount of work. To slow down, I'm going to have to do less, right? But I don't want to do less. As far as I'm concerned, the whole point of a slow-down program is to do more. Or, if not actually more, to do better. How can I do less without doing less?

Minimum Effective Dose

Last year, I came upon a productivity article on minimum effective dose (MED). "In medicine, the minimum effective dose is the lowest dose of a medicine that gets you the result you need. Taking more than you need either doesn't improve things or has the potential to make your condition worse. In terms of productivity, the theory goes that you can find a minimum effective dose--or the minimum amount of time/effort--needed to get the work result you want or require."

I'm quoting myself there, by the way, and referring to a Lifehacker article.

My thinking with this minimum effective dose business as far as productivity is concerned is that there comes a point where continuing to throw time and effort at a problem/task/issue doesn't provide any benefit. Self-control is strongest first thing in the morning and decreases as we work, for instance. We become less effective as the hours pass. Working more isn't necessarily going to get you more. We'd be better off figuring out how to work more while we're most productive and less while we're not.

MED For Writers

What are some specific examples of minimum effective dose for writers' work?

  • Blogging--How many posts and what kind are necessary to maintain the readership you want? What about narrowing the focus of your blog's content, so that you are spending less time and effort on it, but the work you do do has more significance? I, for instance, will rarely be doing reader responses here for the immediate future. I'll continue to focus on time management and the Connecticut writing scene, but I'd also like to use the blog to at least think about my short form writing. My hope is that since I'll be doing less, I can try to do some more significant work. 
  • Europe First--You have multiple tasks you're working on. Work on whatever happens to be most important to you at that point in your life first thing in the morning, even if it means you aren't going to be able to finish it. Remember, you're going to become less effective as the day progresses. You don't want to wait 'til you're spent to get to work on something major, assuming you're able to get to it at all. This is especially important if you only have a few hours to work. If you can only do a little, slow down and make sure the little you do is on the important task. "Europe first" comes from a Forbes article describing how the strategy for fighting World War II was to win Europe, then turn to the Pacific. The point of the Forbes article being, choose your Europe. It's a strategy that could help you to slow down while remaining, or even becoming more, productive.  (Yes, that's the second analogy I've used in this post. I love them.)
  • Marketing--Marketing time is a huge issue for writers. We're often throwing huge amounts of time and effort into marketing tasks even though it's difficult to tell what pays off. Our own experience, or the experience of other writers, can help cut down on this. I've heard a couple of experienced writers say, for instance, that they question the effectiveness of the blog tours they've done, given the amount of effort they needed to put into them. Spending time and energy creating marketing plans for books that haven't been written yet may be a poor use of time, too. I've seen articles in which agents say that for fiction writers, at least, they're not that concerned about a big social media presence for new writers. They're more interested in the manuscript, itself.  (It's more important for nonfiction writers.) Saving marketing for the right time in the book's life and creating a plan that doesn't involve doing everything is another way a writer can slow down and become more productive with writing, itself.
When trying to work slow in order to improve productivity, looking for the least you can do doesn't make you lazy. It makes you more focused and could mean you could get more real work done.

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.