Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Connecticut's 2015 Tassy Walden Award For Children's Writers

The Award

Connecticut's Shoreline Arts Alliance in Guilford sponsors the Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature. This is a program for unpublished Connecticut writers and illustrators, and awards are given in five categories. Entries are judged on the basis of literary or artistic quality, and the organizers are quite clear at the website that didactic and popular content are not considered. (Didactic material frequently raises its preachy head in children's literature.) The Tassy Walden people even run informational workshops for writers interested in submitting.
Leslie Bulion and Lorraine Jay

The Tassy, as you sometimes hear it called hereabouts, began fifteen years ago. Two of the founders were Leslie Bulion and Lorraine Jay.  There are cash prizes for the top winners, but what really makes this a significant award in this state is that a number of winners have gone on to be traditionally published. Among them are A.C.E. BauerLeslie Bulion, Stacy DeKeyser, Frank Dormer, Deborah Freedman, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Martha Seif Simpson, and Jane Sutcliffe.

And The Winners Are 


 The 2015 Tassy Walden Awards winners, finalists, and honor mention designees were announced a few weeks ago. Last night a reception was held for them at the James Blackstone Memorial Library (pictured above) in Branford. Attendee and finalist Nancy Tandon provided Original Content with photographs of the event.

To the left are the winners:
Edward Tucchio - Illustrated Picture Book
Janet Croog - Illustrated Portfolio
Kelly Hill - Young Adult Novel
Jeanne Zulick - Middle Grade Novel

There was no winner in the Picture Book Text category this year, but there were four finalists: Erika Bajrami, Charlene Haukom, Cherish Ann Lisee,Wi and Linda Zajac.

Other finalists and honorable mention authors:

All honorees
Illustrated Picture Book: Carolyn Bull and Gabriella Svenningsen

Illustrator's Portfolio: Diane Holtzworth, Dominique Monroe, and Virginia Zimmerman

Young Adult Novel: Holly Howley, Karen Lindeborg, Christine Dokko, and Karen Fortunati

Middle Grade Novel: Jacquelin Devlin, Heather Sherlock DiLorenzo, Meira Rosenberg, Nancy Tandon, and Rudy Vene

New Voices

Remember, this is an award for unpublished authors. Good luck to everyone going forth with your careers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Shadow Work

According to Daniel J. Levitin in The Organized Mind, shadow work "represents a kind of parallel, shadow economy in which a lot of the service we expect from companies has been transferred to the customer. Each of us is doing the work of others and not getting paid for it." He gives as examples scanning and bagging our own groceries, keeping track of our banking on-line, and pumping our own gas.

Shadow Work Is Technology Driven

Technology makes a lot of shadow work possible. We're making our own hotel reservations on-line instead of calling the site and asking an employee to do it for us because on-line exists. We're researching and making purchases at home instead of getting assistance from store employees, because so many stores have a web presence. A great deal has been made of the fact that many of us don't browse for books in bookstores because we're ordering books from Amazon. Amazon is an example of a completely technology driven company. There would be no Amazon without the Internet.

Shadow Work's Big Impact On Writers

Book marketing is writers' shadow work. In decades past book marketing was definitely part of publishers' jobs. Publication parties and book signings were connected with big-name writers and publishers were usually involved. While publishers are still printing and distributing galleys to reviewers, including new publications in their catalogs, and sending out sales people to promote books, writers of all different levels are running and funding their own real-world marketing events. They are also often publicizing them through Internet connections, the technology-driven aspect of this situation.

Social media marketing is a big part of the book marketing writers do, and it exists because of technology. All the social media platforms writers use are on-line: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram, and something that was probably created while we were sleeping last night. Formal social marketing did not exist before the Internet. It's an example of technology driven shadow work.

Where Does The Time Come From?

Book marketing shadow work is an example of computers making more work for people, simply because they create possibilities that didn't exist before. Writers have more work because of the marketing that has been transferred to them, but nothing has changed in terms of the number of hours in a day or days in a week. For most of us, the time for shadow work comes out of writing time. We cut down on production to market.

If I find anything in The Organized Mind on changing the number of hours in the day/days in a week. I'll let you know.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Weekend Writer: Publishers

 The Top 20 Publishers for New Authors at Authors Publish is a list of publishers that authors are supposed to be able to submit to directly. Many of these I haven't heard of, so I can't comment on the quality of the list overall.

However, I have heard of Chronicle Books and Alloy Entertainment, which I understand to be a book packager rather than a traditional publisher. Bloomsbury Spark is connected to Bloomsbury, which is certainly well known. DAW is an imprint of Penguin Books, and Penguin Books is huge.

When you're ready to start submitting, checking these publishers out could be worth your time, especially if you don't have an agent.

Friday, May 22, 2015

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 22nd Edition

Last week when I did my weekly assessment, I realized I'd only worked on one goal, and it didn't seem as if I'd put that much time in on it. So when I did my planning for this week, I planned more.

Goal 1. Mummy Book Finally made some nonrevision progress on this puppy. Then went back and merged the first two chapters, cutting ten pages. So now I'm revising again.

Goal 5. Community Building 1. Started work on next month's Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar. 2. Began putting together workshop proposals to submit to a conference.

This proposal thing was interesting because the conference involved prefers that people submit proposals for two workshops. And wouldn't you know it, I had ideas for two workshops. However, the conference administrators require a detailed outline. While getting started on one of the workshops proposals, I realized it would take days of research to do the outline. It would be way too costly in terms of time, and I decided to drop it. Then yesterday morning, I was hit with a breakout experience in the shower. One outline idea after another came to me. It went on for most of the day. So I'll be submitting two proposals after all.

Goal 6. Marketing STP&S. Or marketing in general. I watched Planning Successful Social Media Campaigns and was overwhelmed.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sam Vimes Finds A Picture Book Flaw And Fixes It

I had a chance to read Where's My Cow? by the late, great Terry Pratchett this past weekend. I ordered this book, and it arrived encased in plastic. Since I purchased it as a gift, I didn't open it. So my first reading was a bit of a surprise.

I thought it was the book Sam Vimes, head of the nightwatch of Ankh-Morpork, runs home from work each evening to read to his son. What Where's My Cow? is really about is Sam Vimes reading Where's My Cow? to his son. It is more than I expected.

Sam Vimes may be my favorite Discworld character. He's essentially a cop, and I understand cop stories pretty much wherever they're set. Because he is a superior character, he recognizes an interesting point about animal picture books. And he fixes it.

A review by Steven H. Silver does a great job of describing Where's My Cow's artwork. I agree with Silver's conclusion that the book is probably best appreciated by Discworld followers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Satisficing

When I was in college, back before every mother's child was supposed to be gifted across the board, I knew at least two people who let some of their course work go in order to focus the bulk of their time and energy on their major areas. They didn't fail anything, they just didn't worry about taking a B or B- for a class so long as it wasn't in engineering or nursing. They were not being shiftless and lazy, they were strategizing. They went on to successful careers, by the way.

According to Daniel J. Levitin in The Organized Mind, they were satisficing. Levitin says Herbert Simon came up with the term "to describe not getting the very best option but one that was good enough. For things that don't matter critically, we make a choice that satisfies us and is deemed sufficient."

How does that apply to writers? We have to manage our entire lives in order to make time to write. But we can't just blow off things, leave them totally undone. Remember the environmental disorder study last year that found that a disordered environment leads to self-regulatory failure? We definitely can't just ignore taking care of our homes, for instance, to make more time for writing because the environment we make for ourselves could lead to problems with staying on task. Instead, we have to find a level for what doesn't matter critically that is satisficing, good enough.

It's even true for professional work. Our work situation is always changing. When we have a contractual deadline, we have to focus on writing, but we can't just forget about marketing and other types of writing. They aren't critically important at that point, though. We satisfice. When a new book comes out, marketing does become critically important. We satisfice with the writing then.

We move among all the things we have to do, focusing our effort on some things and  spending only as much time as we have to on others.

Monday, May 18, 2015

"Fairest: Levana's Story" Now This Was Interesting

Fairest: Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer is part of her Lunar Chronicles series, a complicated multi-volume story involving a Cinderella cyborg hot for a prince, a Red Riding Hood character who gets way too involved with the big bad wolf, and a Rapunzel computer wiz hoping for a prince. Levana is the evil queen who is the fly in the ointment of their romances. Fairest is her backstory. With it we also get the backstory of many of the other characters. Way back backstory. 

I like the Lunar Chronicles. It’s an extended romance made interesting by its setting and the problems of this world, problems that extend far beyond who is going to end up with whom.  Levana’s back story is interesting for those reasons and because it’s romance gone bad.

Reading it was an interesting experience because at the beginning, I’m thinking, Come on. Levana goes nasty because she’s not pretty enough? What? She’s nasty because she isn’t loved? Isn’t that kind of clich├ęd and shallow?

But if you’re into this whole series, it works. All the other women in this world have been loved in their pasts, even if they weren’t aware of it because most of them have had pretty awful lives. Plus, in addition to this absence in Levana’s life, her family is pretty close to being bat shit crazy. Levana being ignored, being tormented by her sister, being unloved only goes so far in explaining her behavior. This princess was never going to be anybody’s Queen of Hearts.

One really interesting aspect of this book is Levana’s obsession for Sir Evret Hayle. It’s similar to a relationship in another recent book, Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. Two young women with obsessions for a male, two very different results.

One more interesting point: Levana ages out of YA by the end of the book. She must be in her mid-twenties by that point. Again, in terms of the whole series, this works because we only know her as her evil adult self in the other books.
The Lunar Chronicles is another series I wish I’d waited to read until it was completed. What a binge this would have made! The last volume, Winter, comes out this fall.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Weekend Writer: What Aspiring Children's Writers Need To Know

Marlo Garnsworthy, an illustrator, editor, and teacher who has been working with writers for over fifteen years, has a very good post at her blog, Wordy Birdie, called So You Want to Write for Kids: The Least You Need to Know. Read every word.

The parts I found particularly interesting:

Know Your Audience--Know the Genre. It's not unusual to hear of writers with a new children's book who know little about children's literature, itself. I've read recently about people wanting to write children's books because they enjoyed it as a child, but they don't read it now so they just don't know what's happening in the field. I really love hearing about authors of YA books who say in interviews that they just wrote what they wrote and their editors/publishers decided it was YA. You really can't depend on something like that happening. On top of that, my gut feeling is that people should know what they're doing, no matter what they do for a living. That includes knowing that you're writing YA.

Think Story, Not Message. How many adult readers tolerate reading message books? Why do so many people think it's a necessity for children's books? Teachers teach. Preachers preach. Writers should stick to stories.

Learn. Marlo says, "One of the things that always surprises me is that newer writers think they should automatically know how to write a publishable story." I'm extremely embarrassed to admit that that was probably the case with me when I was getting started. But I was wrong. Even before I finally got my first book published, I realized I needed to learn more. I needed to learn more after the first book was published and after the second book was published, too. My seventh and eighth books have some structural problems I regret. I should have known more. I have spent the last ten years studying and changing how I write.

I am quite taken aback when I am in elementary schools and teachers ask where their students can submit work for publication. A few years ago I was in a school and students were telling me their parents thought they should publish. To tell children they they know how to write a publishable story, to let them believe that, is such a disservice. Show them how they can learn how to write.

Get to Know People. This is more necessary now than it was when I was getting started, in large part because so many more people are trying to get into writing. Especially in children's writing there is all kinds of networking going on, and gatekeepers will remember names of people they've met or heard about through others they know. It won't get a bad manuscript published, but all things being equal, it could get that last bit of attention that makes a difference in who gets published or who moves up the ladder because s/he is known. On top of that, nowadays if you have a network of literary friends/contacts, those people will help promote your newly published book in many ways.

Marlo covers a lot of material in her post, and there's a reason for that. You really need to know a great deal in order to have a chance of getting into the publishing world.

Friday, May 15, 2015

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 15th Edition

I finished a chapter on my May Days project and started a new one. I also did some planning for the next two chapters. That's new work instead of revision. Hurray. And it's new work on my major goal for the year. Hurray, hurray.

However, I'm not working very much. Definitely wasting time. I got off to a bad start this month because I was traveling the first three days, and then had days during the next week when I needed to deal with family. So while I have worked all but two days this month on the May Days project, I often was working short amount of times because I only had short amount of times. Staying on that task under those circumstances seems like a very positive thing. I may, though, have gotten used to working like that. Except for two small administrative things, I only planned to work on the mummy book this week. But instead of committing big chunks of time to it, I figured, "Hey, I can finish this chapter easy," and dragged the work out.

Next week, I'll try to step up the pace. I do planning for the week on Monday. I'll plan to do more than just working on May Days this week and see if that will help keep me moving.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A "Horn Book"...Postview?

The May/June Horn Book has arrived in my home. Yes, I am still reading the March/April issue. You know me so well. So this is hardly a preview.

Some Favorite Horn Book Articles

Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson This was Nelson's keynote address at a Horn Book at Simmons colloquium last fall. It deals with the issue of diversity in children's literature. Why is it needed? "Children believe in story only if they've experienced the magic of living in one. This may never happen to young readers with few opportunities to see themselves in the books they read." Nelson raises a wonderful point. It's not enough to publish diverse books. Those books need to get to child readers. Do they? (I'm asking that last question.)

Designing Woman: The Achievement of Atha Tehon by Leonad S. Marcus This is another one of those "women in children's publishing" articles that The Horn Book does from time to time. I sometimes find them a little, well, Cult of the Childlit Woman Warror for my taste. But this one was written by Leonard Marcus, who should be the center of a cult himself. He does more than just place Tehon on a pedestal. While writing about her, he writes about why book design matters.

Some Favorite Horn Book Reviews


Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman

I Don't Like Koala by Sean Ferrell with illustrations by Charles Santoso

Grandma in Blue with Red Hat by Scott Menchin with illustrations by Harry Bliss 

The Tight Rope Walkers by David Almond


And that is as far as I've gone with my reading.