Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: How Temporal Landmarks--And Goals And Objectives--Could Help You This Year

Last Thursday, July 2, was the mid-year point, which I'm sure is a relief to many. An official mid-point to a year is what's known as a temporal landmark. Temporal landmarks create fresh start opportunities. "The first half of the year is done! For the rest of the year, I'm going to do A!" Or "For the next quarter of the year, I'm going to do B!" Pick your own unit of time to go forth. As well as your own A and B.

I had planned to check in with my goals and objectives for 2020 at the end of each month, also temporal landmarks. I think I got distracted from that even before this pandemic thing started. Reaching the mid-year temporal landmark, however, jolted my memory. So I took a look at what I had managed to do and considered what I wanted to focus on for the rest of this very, very unique year.

Goal 1. Concentrate on submitting completed book-length projects as well as completed short-form work. I've done 27 submissions of both book-length and short-form work in 2020 to date. I've had one acceptance, resulting in the publication of Fears That We May Cease To Be at The Blue Nib Literary Magazine website.

This next month or two I'm focusing on objectives for this goal that involve submitting a seasonal essay and buckling down on agent/publisher research. 

Goal 2. Work on short-form writing, essays and short stories.  I didn't actually address the objectives I created for this goal. Instead,
  • I wrote two humor pieces. After submitting them to a number of places, I experimented with publishing at Medium with Well, How Many Masks Have You Made? I have plans to continue that experiment in the coming months, and you just know a blog post will turn up about that at some point.
  • I'm signed up for a six-week flash writing distance workshop that begins tomorrow night. Again, you can expect to hear about that.
During the six weeks I'll be taking part in the workshop, I will concentrate on all things flash--writing and reading. That, my friends, is a new objective, since I had no idea this workshop was coming up back in December when I was creating my goals and objectives for 2020.

Goal 3. Work on the 365 story project.  I've done absolutely nothing on this.

However, one of my objectives for this goal was "Focus on this as short-form writing."  I may be able to integrate the 365 story project into my flash study this summer.

Goal 4. Work on YA thriller that could become an adult thriller. I actually did a great deal more on this than I planned to.
  • I have the most extensive blueprint/outline (an actual objective) I've ever had for a book project
  • I've done well with developing Character 3 (another objective)
  • I'm good with theme (still another objective)
  • I've actually written nearly three chapters.
This is going on the back burner for the next six weeks, while I work on flash. I will, however, try to keep up with some reading on history I've been doing in relation to this book (This was not an objective for this year, but I've done quite a bit with it.), as well as adding to that blueprint. 

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.
  • I've switched from maintaining a calendar of Connecticut author/illustrator appearances (because there aren't any) to doing a couple of posts a month supporting new books publishing during the pandemic.
  • I was actually registered for the NESCBWI spring conference (an objective), which, of course, was cancelled.
  • I've taken part in a few local NESCBWI Zoom gatherings.
  • I'm attending a Zoom workshop for the next six Wednesday nights.
  • I've been promoting Original Content on social media. 
Goal 6. Stay On Top Of Upcoming Known Events Easy. There are none. Or are there? I could actually be doing more with the objectives for this goal.
  • Do more planning for the year/particular months. I could try to plan work projects for each month, as I have for the rest of July into August. (In fact, I will have more to say about this at some point.)
  • Check in with goals at the end of each month. Yeah, I could make a point of doing that. Look what checking in at the mid-point of the year has done for my planning.
  • Expect the end of the year to be a disaster. Some family members have already started discussing the impact of the pandemic on the holidays. It could actually have a...calming effect. We must keep our minds open.
 Goal 7. Continue collecting material and ideas for an adult scifi project, far in my future. Ha, ha, ha. Interesting story. And I'll tell it here at OC soon.

So, what is the takeaway here after you've read this post all about Gail, Gail, Gail? Looking at your goals and objectives for the year (and you do have them, right?) could be a very good use of time. You may find that you've done more than you thought you had, which is always encouraging.  And you can use your goals and objectives to help you make the best use of the rest of the year.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Me And Mother Jones, We've Got A Thing Going On

Until this spring, all I knew about Mother Jones was that it was the name of a magazine I'd never read and didn't know anything about, though I can tell you now that it does investigative journalism. Then this spring,  I was reading A People's History of the United States, and the author, Howard Zinn, starts in about "Mother Mary Jones, a seventy-five-year-old white-haired woman who was organizer for the United Mine Workers of America," I thought, Aha! That can't be a coincidence. And it wasn't. The magazine was, indeed, named for Mary Jones, known as "Mother" during her later activist years.

Stick With Me, Folks. There's A Mother Jones Childlit Connection Coming

A couple of months after reading A People's History, I'm reading the March/April issue of The Horn Book and what do I see but a review of Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children by Jonah Winter with illustrations by Nancy Carpenter! The book deals with an incident that appears in both the AFL-CIO bio of Jones and the Mother Jones magazine material about her in which Mother Jones organized child workers in a march from Philadephia to President Theodore Roosevelt's home in Oyster Bay, New York.

Two Points

  • I love it when something new to me repeats in my life, the way Mother Jones did in the Zinn book and this picture book review. I'm sure I've written about this before here. And I'm guessing there is a word to describe this experience. Not deja vu, since that deals with the experience of feeling you've been somewhere before or lived an experience before. Perhaps the Germans have a word for this, since they are quite good at coming up with words for odd experiences.
  • Though I have not read Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children, the set up for this book sounds like a classic way of introducing children to a historical figure we wouldn't necessarily expect them to connect with. The author finds something about the subject children should be attracted to, in this case, other children. That aspect of the book reminds me of Susanna Reich's Minette's Feast, in which child readers are introduced to Julia Child by way of her cat. 


Oh, And Since We're Discussing Introducing The Young To Adult Subjects...


A family member who is a middle school librarian brought  A Young People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn with Rebecca Stetoff  to my attention. It's a young adult edition of Zinn's original book. I would not say that this is the only history of the United States a young person, or anyone else, should read, but it certainly will give someone who already knows something about American history something to consider.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

"Dragon Pearl" Wins Locus Award in YA category

The Locus Awards for 2020 were announced yesterday as part of a virtual weekend event. Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee won in the YA category.

The other nominees were:

  • King of Scars, Leigh Bardugo
  • The Wicked King, Holly Black
  • Pet, Akwaeke Emezi
  • Catfishing on CatNet, Naomi Kritzer
  • Destroy All Monsters, Sam J. Miller
  • Angel Mage, Garth Nix
  • War Girls, Tochi Onyebuchi
  • The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth, Philip Pullman
  • Shadow Captain, Alastair Reynolds

Friday, June 26, 2020

More June Childlit Book Releases

So here I go with my second list of childlit books publishing in June. These are books releasing during the 2020 Pandemic and thus not having access to traditional public appearances for their authors.

Once again, these are titles that came to my attention through social media. Many, many more books are publishing this month.

June 2 The Day I Was Erased, Lisa Thompson, Scholastic Press 

June 2 Donut the Destroyer, Sarah Graley and Stef Purenins, Graphix

June 9 Glitch, Laura Martin, HarperCollins  

June 9 Five Things About Ava Andrews, Margaret Dilloway, HarperCollins

June 9 Doodleville, Chad Sell, Penguin Random House 

June 16 The Stepmom Shake-up, Niki Lenz, Penguin Random House 

June 16 Smooth, Matt Burns, Candlewick  

June 16 The Rider's Reign, Jessica Day George, Bloomsbury

June 16 Raising Lumie, Joan Bauer, Penguin Random House

June 16 American Immigration: Our History, Our Stories, Kathleen Krull, Harper Collins

June 23 Ick, Melissa Stewart, Penguin Random House  

June 23 National Regular Average Ordinary Day, Liza Katzenberger, Barbara Bakos illustrator, Penguin Random House

June 23 Beastly Bionics: Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature, Jennifer Swanson, Penguin Random House

June 23 My Eyes Are Up Here, Laura Zimmerman, Penguin Random House 

June 30 Our Favorite Day of the Year, A.E. Ali, Rahele Jomepour Bell illustrator, Simon & Schuster


June 30 The Great Chicago Fire, Kate Hannigan, Alex Graudins illustrator, First Second

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

"Gone-Away Lake" And Books As Places To Escape To

Recently Jen Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page wrote about the gift of being able to go back to visit books, "no matter what happens in your regular life." Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright is one of a list of books she has revisited many times and reread this summer.

I certainly recognized that title, because it is a much-beloved--perhaps cult, in the good sense of the word?--book. I knew I'd written about Gone-Away Lake here at Original Content. It turns out that twelve years ago, I actually read it. It doesn't sound as if it was a big comfort read for me, but I did find it interesting, because the book was published (and a Newbery Honor book) in 1957. The child leads are from the 1950s, but the book also deals with a couple of older characters from an earlier period. In 2008 I said,

"There's nothing here that will provide a big, climactic scene or even much of a plot. Gone-Away Lake is just a lovely, elegant, atmospheric story about a really good summer.

Back in the 1950s it probably gave child readers a window into an earlier, more elegant time. What I find interesting about the book is that now, after all these years, it gives us a window into the 1950s." 

The book was contemporary, supposedly, at the time it was written. But because that was 50 years before the time I read it, it had become a sort of historical document.

"After reading Gone-Away Lake, I envision the 1950s as a time when young boys dressed up in flannel suits to travel by train. Their older sisters wore hats while traveling. Boys (but not girls) carried "killing jars" so they could off the various bugs they collected. (There's something you don't see often in kids' books these days.) My gut twisted up into knots when the kids decided they would keep Gone-Away a secret from Julian's parents because it was fun to have something just for themselves. But keeping secrets from your parents doesn't appear to have been dangerous back then. Nor was it dangerous to enter a stranger's ramshackle house. And nobody thought twice about elderly people squatting in abandoned houses because they didn't have the money to live anywhere else.

It was a different time. Not a better time. Not a worse time. Just different."

I can definitely see why someone today would want to spend some time reading something like Gone-Away Lake, why they would want to visit a different time.

When I have heard of the love for Gone-Away Lake, it's usually come from adult readers recalling having read the book. I don't know how twenty-first century children new to the book would feel about it. I hope Ms. Yingling sees this post and can offer some insight into today's young readers and Gone-Away.

Sadly, my own experience rereading beloved books has not gone well.

I've just learned that Elizabeth Enright was also a short story writer. New Yorker subscribers can access a couple of her stories from the 1950s at the magazine's website.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Mark Twain House Offering A Virtual Writers Weekend

The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut runs writers programs off and on throughout the year. On Saturday and Sunday July 10 through 12 it is offering a Virtual Writers Weekend. This means you don't have to be in the greater Hartford area to attend. Or, of course, worry about what to wear, gassing up the car, where to park, or what you'll do for lunch. 

The weekend involves speakers and programs on a variety of different types of writing. I don't see anything specifically for children's writers, but the Mark Twain House expects to be adding more presenters to the schedule so something could come. Keep checking.

The registration fee is only $75.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Reading "Boundless Creativity"--Finished!

I finished reading Boundless Creativity: A Spiritual Workbook for Overcoming Self-doubt, Emotional Traps, and Other Creative Blocks by Martha Alderson last week.  I have to say, I found a lot of the spiritual aspects of the book heavy going. There are some more practical elements that did work for me.

In fact, using this book really kick-started a project for me this summer. It got me out of what I call an "overwhelm period."

"Boundless Creativity"'s Practical Takeaways For Gail

Inner Spiritual Goals. I found this helpful, and I hope to stick with using it. My inner, spiritual goal is, by the way, "Finish something." I work to keep this goal in mind especially when I'm exhausted and/or overwhelmed from too many tasks. Finish something. Choose one task that can be completed, even if it's cleaning the kitchen counter, and finish something. Finish something.

Yeah, this is what passes as spiritual for me.

Outer Creativity Goals. I am going to stick with one inner spiritual goal, at least for a while, but outer creativity goals will change with time. Mine for May/June was "Completing a book blueprint for 143 Canterbury Road by mid-June." The system Alderson described for reaching an outer creativity goal, for breaking down the goal into daily objectives/tasks, was very helpful. It could be described as adding a visual element to planning and working. I altered her instructions and, still, I'm actually writing using the blueprint I worked on.

Inspiration For The Future


 As a result of reading Boundless Creativity, I
  1. hope to do more visual daily objective planning for future projects.  

  2. plan to rework a time management strategy I've discussed here in the past with ideas I got from this book. 

  3. will try to come up with a way to make finishing projects easier. 



FTC Disclosure:  I received my copy of Boundless Creativity from a publicist marketing it. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Whispering Pines--The Retreat And The Conference Center

The New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators was bummed this past week by the news that the University of Rhode Island is closing the Whispering Pines Conference Center and Environmental Education Center at its W. Alton Jones Campus in West Greenwich. This was the site of the NESCBWI Whispering Pines Retreat for nearly 25 years. Though this fall's retreat had been cancelled, for obvious reasons (I'm looking at you 2020 Pandemic), it looks as if planners were  thinking about 2021 before the closure news broke.

Many people attended this retreat annually. It was sort of an intellectual, creative get-together for them and friends/colleagues. My guess is that the NESCBWI will be able to move on and find another site where writers can have the same kind of experience. Change can be good. Embrace the change. Look forward to new opportunities. Ommm.

Personally, I only went to Whispering Pines twice. 

Gail At Whispering Pines

I first attended Whispering Pines in 2006 as a featured writer or mentor/staff member. I don't recall what I was called. This was back in the good old days, because 2006 was two years before 2008 when publishing was hammered by a recession. (This year, we call 2008 the good old days.)  I was very pumped up by the experience. I hadn't been there twenty-four hours before I was thinking about graduate school, as I used to do every few years.

While ruminating still more about my first Whispering Pines experience, I got over my interest in graduate school. I mean, I was over it in days. In part this was due to the fact that the Whispering Pines staff put me up in what is known as the Eisenhower Suite, though I just learned that Ike never slept in it during his visits with Alton Jones. He never stayed overnight there at all. Oh, no! The suite had a private bathroom, though. Even distance MFA programs usually have a residential requirement at some point on a college campus with a traditional housing situation. After Whispering Pines, the concept left me cold. The place spoiled me.

In 2010 I went back to Whispering Pines as a day participant. While there I had one of my first experiences with how sophisticated SCBWI members are in critique groups.

And Now...Pictures!

All my Whispering Pine pictures are from 2006. They are interesting because they are so totally focused on what interests me--walking and eating. My Facebook Friends will confirm that I rarely post about anything else.

First off, the main building. On the campus, there are others where workshops were held and conference participants slept. We had our meals here, and the faculty slept here. I guess I was feeling self-involved and didn't take pictures of anything else.


My weekend at Whispering Pines was jam-packed with literary and people stuff. I did squeeze in a walk of around 20 minutes, if memory serves me.

Another view of the so-called Eisenhower Suite.  It was a little rustic, but there was plenty of room to roll out a yoga mat. Years later, I would attend another weekend retreat as a participant. I did swing a room by myself, and it did have a private bath. But it took "rustic" to a whole other level. The Eisenhower Suite was presidential in comparison.

Last, and most importantly, the buffet. There was also a wine bar available the first night. (Maybe the second, too. I don't remember.) I do like a glass of wine with dinner. Whispering Pines had a reputation, at least in the past, for good food. In fact, I have a family member who attended a weekend event there who found the food too good. In my very limited experience of  retreat sites, this place did, indeed, have very good food.

I have a couple of pictures of the dining room, but they're blurry. I have standards to maintain here at O.C.

So Whispering Pines was a lovely spot. But as I am always saying here, on the rare occasions that I go to conferences/retreats/workshops, I am interested in content. I'm sure the Whispering Pines team can bring their well-regarded content to another site.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

June Childlit Book Releases

As usual, these are childlit books publishing this month that have come to my attention through social media or on other people's blogs. (Mainly Ms Yingling Reads this month.)  Depending on what I see over the next couple of weeks, I may do another post before the end of the month.

June 2 A Song Below Water, Bethany C. Morrow, Tor Teen

June 2 You Should See Me In A Crown, Leah Johnson, Scholastic

June 2 Dusk Explorers, Lindsay Leslie, Ellen Rooney illustrator, Page Street Kids

June 2 A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, Roseanne A. Brown, Harper Teen

 June 2 Brave Like That, Lindsey Stoddard, HarperCollins

June 2  Silver Batal: Race for the Dragon Heartstone, K.D. Halbrook, Henry Holt 

June 9 American as Paneer Pie, Supriya Kelkar, Simon and Schuster

June 9 Seven Clues to Home Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskins, Knopf Books for Young Readers

June 9 A Family for Louie, Alexandra Thompson, G. P. Putnam's Sons

June 9 Kindergarten Hat, Janet Lawler, Geraldine Rodriguez, Simon and Schuster

June 30 Play in the Wild, Lita Judge, Roaring Brook Press

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Taking Advantage Of A Pandemic

My group writing spot

 The Group Write

You may have heard stories about writers getting together somewhere to write. Maybe at a coffee shop. Maybe at a library. Maybe at a little diy retreat at someone's home.

No, I've never done anything like that. I've never seen the point. Why do I want to be with others to write? I am, of course, speaking from the privileged position of someone who doesn't have children at home or a day job to work around. I know some people like to do a group sprint in order to get some control of their time, to force them to take advantage of a small amount of time, and I understand that. In the past, however, when considering a writing get-together I always thought about the time I'd be using to get dressed up enough to be with other people and then drive back and forth to the writing site. How much time will I have to spend on being friendly? And what if everyone works harder and faster than I do? Why would I want to risk experiencing that?

Yesterday, though, I took part in a one-hour noon write-in on Zoom organized by the Greater Hartford SCBWI Meet and Greet Group. Four of us gathered from...wherever...with an image and sound of a fireplace playing on a corner of our computer screens for ambiance... A pseudo-retreat.  We barely saw each other. Chatting was limited to messaging about whether or not we could hear the fireplace and saying good-bye at the end of the hour.

Seriously, this went well for me. I did work the whole hour, beginning writing on a project I've been outlining for weeks. I definitely got something done. I was happy.

This would not have happened if people could get together for real. In a coffee shop or a library or at a diy retreat in someone's home.

A Workshop On My Sun Room Couch

If only I could attend all workshops from here

I wrote here back in April about the digital workshops the SCBWI has been offering for its members during the pandemic. Yesterday afternoon I viewed one that had been originally presented in May, Using Scene To Build Story with Linda Sue Park.

This was an excellent program, especially for those of us who self-identify as organic writers (often referred to as pantsers) and have trouble isolating and working on the elements of a story. Park talked about using character/plot/ setting together.

I probably wouldn't have attended this workshop in a traditional conference setting, mainly because I don't go to that many conferences. And when I do, I look for workshops with "plots" or "plotting" in the titles, hoping that they'll address what I see as my number one writing problem. Given a number of workshops to choose from, I might not have realized that this one would, indeed, address my number one problem.

What Does It All Mean?

Both yesterday's group writing gathering and the workshop were positive experiences for me. And I would never have done them in a pre-pandemic world. I don't know what to make of that. What does it mean for what I'll be doing in a post-pandemic world? Will this type of on-line living still exist?

Well, why speculate about the future, right? I will just live with the more robust on-line life I have now. Omm.