Thursday, April 27, 2017

May Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar

This month we have a variety of events coming up--a group appearance, a book launch (for Sarah Darer Littman's new book), and a visit from Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine.

Thurs., May 4, Rowboat Watkins, Brendan Wenzel, Sergio Ruzzier, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5:00 PM. Registration requested.

Tues., May 9, Sarah J. Mass, First Congregational Church (sponsored by R. J. Julia), Madison 6:00 PM. Ticketed event.

Sat., May 13, Gail Carson Levine, Byrd's Books, Bethel 1:00 PM

Sat., May 13, Anna Raff, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM. Registration requested.             

Thurs., May 18, Sarah Darer Littman, Cos Cob Library, Greenwich 7:00 PM

Sat., May 20, Wendell Minor, Bank Square Books, Mystic  1:00 PM

Sun., May 21, Shoshana Banana, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM.  Registration requested.

Tues., May 23, Sarah Prager, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 7:00 PM. Registration requested.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: Wasn't I Going To Do Some Research On Slowing Down?

Last fall I did a TMT post called Could I Do More If I Slowed Down?  Evidently I had been suffering from monkey mind last summer, and I was trying to deal with that. Additionally I felt that"Feeling rushed and overwhelmed is unpleasant, and I don't know that hurrying does any good as far as getting work done is concerned." I also thought rushing and feeling overwhelmed attracted monkeys.

I wondered, though, if working slower meant doing less. At the end of the post, I said, "Working slower is going to be my new research focus for the next few months. I am going to be doing it slowly. I'll be checking back."

Then I didn't touch the subject again. Not another word.

Slowing Down? Doing Less?

I started thinking about this recently because I've given up my modest yoga practice. I was having to avoid more and more poses to avoid various aches and pains and realized that if I let it go, I could use my yoga time to practice tai chi, which I've been studying in formal classes for three years or so. For the last year or so, I've been trying to do both.

I kept hanging onto the yoga practice, though it hadn't been working for me for a while, until I realized that while struggling to keep up with both yoga and tai chi, I wasn't doing terrifically with either one. I wasn't getting much from either one, either. I started looking forward to being able to do just one thing. And giving up my subscription to Yoga Journal after more than 10 years? Boo hoo? More time to read other things, people, including the professional magazines that I subscribe to and fall behind on.

That isn't exactly slowing down. It's doing less. Though, I've got to say, the last week or so I've been spending as much time on tai chi as I did on yoga and tai chi together. So I'm not actually doing less, it just feels like it because my attention isn't being split up.

"You Work All The Time"

A family member pointed out to me recently that I work all the time. By which he means, I work all evening taking care of social media, blogging in particular, so I don't have to do it during the day, taking time from my writing. He was right.

Social media is important for a number of reasons that I won't go into here, because this is a post about time, not social media. Nonetheless, I'm working all evening nearly every evening. Okay, to be honest this is partly due to the fact that the monkey is always circling my mind, and I often skitter across the Internet while I'm supposed to be working. Nonetheless, I'm on the laptop all evening, not reading magazines, sewing, looking for new things to cook, and planning vacations, which are my downtime activities. Assuming I have downtime, of course.

Working Slower? Working Less?

Now I really am going to study this, because I need to start managing my time differently. (Yes, I know. I'm always saying that.) This spring is a perfect time for me to make a change, because someone in this house is having work done on his shoulder, which will necessitate some temporary shifting of responsibilities. I'll need to take on some new patient and eldercare work. Since the days are only so long, I'll have to juggle and drop some of my regular work to take on the new.

Or maybe I can just become more efficient and productive. By working slower? By doing less?

By the way, my poor relative's surgery is a temporal landmark. The date is set, so it's a calendar event that's creating a fresh start opportunity for me.  I may be able to disconnect myself from my past imperfections and make changes as a result.

I'm Not Making This Up

I'm not making working slower and working less up, though I would do it without a second thought, if I had to. However, it turns out that slowing down is thing. In Slowing Down Can Increase Productivity And Happiness pay particular attention to Item 4, which deals with time perception. This is new for me. Unfortunately, I have barely a clue what this guy is talking about.

 Doing less is also a thing. Notice the section on the Pareto Principle in Accomplish More by Doing Less.  We covered that here last year. There's also a section on consistency, which I don't believe I have thought about, though my guess is it probably relates to staying on goal. 

Can You Slow Down Without Doing Less?

My initial superficial hypothesis is the same as it was last fall: I don't see how you can really slow down without either becoming hyper-efficient (hahahaha) with your slower work or doing less over all. Let's see what I find out and try over the next month or so.

Monday, April 24, 2017

There Are Fevers And Then There Are Fevers

Okay, I've written here a number of times about the Megan Abbott book I started reading on the plane on my way from Seattle a couple of weeks ago. As it turns out, The Fever is an adult book with a child or YA main character (YA in this case), which is a particular interest of mine. I sometimes write about these  types of books here. In fact, I wrote about an earlier Abbott book, Dare Me.

The Fever is what I'd call a literary thriller. Maybe a mystery, but not a traditional one with a detective-type character of some sort. The mysterious carryings on are carrying on and the characters are enduring them with no one figure working to bring order to this world. By mysterious carryings on, I mean that the girls at a high school are becoming ill with something unexplained and disturbing. Their parents are terrified, as they should be. What is happening to their babies? What is snatching them away (metaphorically speaking), and how can they put a stop to this and get their darlings back?

Interesting Point One: Fever's main character seems to be teenage Deenie, but we often get point-of-view switches to her brother and father, meaning we're talking two generations of narrator. One reviewer described The Fever's story as being told by a family, which I think is a great way of describing what's happening here. They're not just three narrators. We see that kind of thing all the time. They're three narrators tightly bound to one another, without, say, the sexual tension we often see between dual narrators in YA.

And speaking of sex, that brings me to

Interesting Point Two: Sex is used in an interesting way here. (Not that sex isn't always interesting.) Teenage characters are becoming sexually active in this story. I'm reading along thinking, Ah, this is taking me away from who's going to get sick next and what's going to happen to them. Bring me more sick girls. Then I thought,  I guess the author is trying to create a realistic teen angsty world, and teenagers have sex. And angst about it. (Well, who doesn't?) Then I got to the end and realized that sex has absolutely everything to do with this story. It is essential to the plot. Readers just don't get that until the end. Which was a neat little epiphany.

Often in books, particularly YA books, I'll see romance/sex that appears to be there because, Oh, we need some of this. The Fever shows readers sex that truly supports the story it's in.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? April 16th Edition

Finally getting back to real life this week.

Goal 2. Generate New Work Through End Of April--Adult Novels. I'm doing the plotting thing with this. Seriously. I came up with something brilliant for one of my characters yesterday. And for another one, too. Finished reading some research. I've got more plotting done for this project than I've ever had for a book I've only written two chapters for.

Goal 4. Make More Than 33 (last year's number) Submissions Of  Completed Work Throughout The Year. I thought I'd come up with a new publication for an old manuscript. But, nope, it folded. Worked a bit on an agent list.

Goal 6.  Support And Promote Diverse Literature, Diverse Culture. Posted about Thunder Boy, Jr.

Material I tweeted or retweeted:

Larger Than Life: The Fierce and Fabulous Lena Horne - via
Okay, she's not a childlit person. But she's Lena Horne. Come on.

reading on Easter morning Thunder Boy Jr. as good as you've heard. .


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cover Reveal For "Pirate Island"

Fellow Connecticut author Katie L. Carroll has a new book coming out this fall, Pirate Island. She's doing a rather impressive reveal of the book's cover  over the next two weeks, which I'm taking part in.

Cover Illustration: Susan Tait Porcaro
Publication Date:  October 2017

"A thrice cursed island, a legendary pirate treasure, and one not-so-brave boy. What could possibly go wrong?

For centuries, the whereabouts of Captain William Kidd’s lost pirate treasure has remained a mystery. When Billy’s best friend, Andy, proposes they look for it on nearby Pirate Island, Billy thinks it’s just another one of their crazy adventures. It’s usually Billy who ends up in trouble as a result, but he goes along for the ride…like always. The more he delves into the life and death of Kidd, the more he thinks the treasure is real and that it might be buried on the small island in Long Island Sound. Billy—nope, call him William—becomes obsessed with the captain of the same first name. He even believes he’s possessed by Kidd’s restless soul. Now he and the spirit of a long-dead pirate are leading the crazy adventure on Pirate Island. And what they find is far bigger than the treasure they imagined."

You can also check out the neat teaser below.


Other bloggers taking part in the reveal today:

Juneta at Writer’s Gambit
Joshua David Bellin’s YA Guy
Waibel’s World
J.Q. Rose

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: While We're On The Subject Of Shame

Last week I wrote about how shame motivated me to work for about an hour while I was on a plane a week and a half ago. It didn't do anything to help me last week while I was trying to get back to normal while preparing for a major family gathering, though.

Why Shame Doesn't Help Much With Managing Time

Our old friend Kelly McGonigal says in The Willpower Instinct that self-criticism (shame, for instance) undermines motivation and self-control. Feeling bad about ourselves leads us to give in, give up. (That's in Chapter Six, according to my notes.)

Timothy Pychyl in The Procrastinator's Digest says something similar about why some of us don't "self-regulate" better than we do. We want to feel good now. We want to avoid what's making us feel bad (being ashamed of not working harder and longer, for instance), and we want to avoid it right away. Which usually means doing something easier and more fun than staying on task with our work. (Chapter Three, according to my notes.)

It's kind of amazing I did anything at all on that airplane when I could have immediately escaped to that Megan Abbott novel I've been talking about for days.

Instead Of Avoiding What's Shaming Us, How About Using Some Other Kind Of Motivator?

Or you could put it this way--avoid using shame. Develop discipline in another way. But how?

Well, Kelly McGonigal had a whole list of ideas that didn't involve shame that she talked about back when she designed a Yoga Journal willpower program a few years ago: "want power," automatic goal pursuit, implementations, commitments, and the distress tolerance we discussed recently.

Timothy Pychyl offers strategies in The Procrastinator's Digest for improving discipline that, again, don't include shame.
  • Recognize that we're putting short-term mood repair before a long-term goal.
  • Recognize that the task is making us feel bad, and what we're trying to run away from is a bad feeling. 
Shame doesn't work, at least not for long, and there are plenty of other things writers can do to at least try to keep themselves working.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Reading

No, I didn't make all these.

All that time I put in doing all kinds of things for prepping for Easter instead of working, sort of paid off, because yesterday morning I managed to find fifteen or twenty minutes for reading with a young family member. Yes, yes, that's fifteen or twenty minutes I could have been down in the office. Instead, I had a good time, and I'm not sorry.

An Alphabet/Art Book

We started out with An Artist's Alphabet by Norman Messenger, hand-picked for my reading companion who is a fan of visual puzzles. This is a traditional alphabet book with letters formed in stunning images of animals and plants. A really beautiful work. It was a hit with both of us.

A Cat/Art Book

We moved on to Papillon, The Very Fluffy Kitty by A. N. Kang.  This is a lovely story about a cat that is way too fluffy, so fluffy he can float. This is a real problem for him. His human, Miss Tilly, tries to come up with a solution for him, but this is a good book so our animal protagonist/child stand-in has a big hand in the resolution, in large part because he makes an improbable friend. Improbable for a cat.

There are some neat things reading companions can talk about with this book. For one thing, there's the issue of why this book is clever or maybe even funny. It's because cats don't float, people. It's that incongruity that grabs readers. Or grabbed us, anyway. Another thing to talk with your reading companion about is the art work. It's lovely, but each page tends to be a solid background color with black images drawn on them. Except for one small point of red. You can discuss why the artist wanted to put that red in. I just noticed that it appears far sooner than I noticed yesterday. We could have had fun looking for red.

You could also talk about how Miss Tilly never appears, just her dialogue bubbles. And papillon in French means butterfly, a creature that can, indeed float. Okay, it flies. But flying is like floating. Both words begin with "f."

A Sherman Alexie/Art Book

You may recall my recent concern about running into Sherman Alexie on my way home from Seattle, and he would be working intently on the plane while I wasn't, and I would be ashamed. Well, fortunately he does work harder than I do, and last year he published Thunder Boy, Jr., illustrated by Yuyi Morales. This book got a lot of buzz, and this is a case where it was well deserved.

Thunder Boy Smith, Jr., known as Little Thunder, is unhappy with his name. But it's not, readers come to realize, because his name is Thunder Boy. It's because he wants his own name, not his father's, as awesome as Dad is. What's interesting and unique about this story is that Thunder Boy, Jr. isn't looking for a Tom, Dick, and Harry type of name. He wants a name that sounds like him, that celebrates something he's done. He goes over a series of suggestions that are both funny and poetic. The name he and his father hit upon at the ending is both surprising (because, as I said, it's not Tom, Dick, or Harry) and perfect.

This is a unique story that's told without lots of extra text. The illustrations work fantastically, showing us Thunder Boy's life as a Native American child in a Native American family. The artwork definitely carries that part of the story.

You can see why I don't regret not working yesterday. The reading was great.

Friday, April 14, 2017

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? April 9 Edition

I have 15 people coming here for dinner on Easter Sunday, and I was out of town last week. No food here when we got back, no clean laundry, and the plans for the weekend were just coming together. I've been e-mailing relatives, chopping up Halloween candy to put in an Easter cake, making cupcakes, hunting for new vegetable recipes on-line, raking the parts of the yard people will see when they get here, and feeling anxious about not working for two weeks. Except for blogging, I've done nothing for work.

Yes, that's right. That's what I did last week, too.

The blog, though, has done very well the last few days. I've had very good stats. So that's gratifying.