Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: Keeping Research...Or Not

Trust Me, There Was Craft Research Here
Last fall while working on an office purge, I cleared out a second binder full of general writing craft research I had done years ago. I did the other one last spring. These were nicely organized binders with section labels like "Character," "P.O.V.," and "Voice." I had both print-outs I'd made of Internet material I once liked and many pages of notes I'd made from books and magazines that didn't belong to me.

Why Discard Craft Research?


You've Forgotten You Had It. That was the case with me. The two binders were taking up prime shelf space, but I never opened them or thought about them. Some of this material had been printed and was time stamped. It went back to 2007. You know that advice you hear about throwing out clothes  you haven't worn in X amount of time? Yeah, well, 11 years is too long to keep craft research you haven't looked at.

It's Not From A Reliable Source. Some of these things came from blogs I know nothing about. In looking it over again, I question whether it was good information or just somebody's random thoughts on writing or literature. I can think randomly about writing and literature, myself. I don't have to have someone else do it for me.

It Looks Like Old Wine In A New Flask. Some of this stuff was just variations on standard information. Some different terminology, but nothing life changing.

It's Made Up Stuff For A Workshop Or Journal Article. Some of what I had was obviously workshop instructors' write-up of their workshop content. I've been to a few workshops. I've taught one and submitted proposals for others. What we're often talking here is the old wine in a new flask I just mentioned or something new for the sake of being a new workshop you can teach and get paid for. I would give you an example of a new-for-the-sake-of-new workshop proposal I submitted and then tried to sell as an article, but I'm not going to in case I'm able to use it some day.

You've Saved Notes From Craft Books You Remember You Didn't Like. I included the book title on some of these. Craft books written by academics, in particular, don't work for me. Why do I need to keep notes made on those?

It Relates To A Type Of Writing You No Longer Do.  You've moved on, so move on.

I Don't Mean To Go All Marie Kondo On You, But...

 

A disordered work environment drains your impulse control!!! No impulse control, no staying on task!

You can impose order by getting rid of some of those things of yours that are disordered. That includes craft research that doesn't help you anymore. Assuming it ever did.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Happy Birthday, Ethan Allen

Happy 271st birthday to Ethan Allen, rogue historical figure and hero of Ticonderoga. The Hero of Ticonderoga, a twentieth century Franco American girl's take on "one of the wickedest men that ever walked this guilty globe" is no longer available in print. I own the rights but haven't done anything about an e-book, so you can't read it that way, either.

However, the print book is available at many libraries.

And to celebrate E's big day, you can still see my Ethan Allen talk given at the Ethan Allen Homestead in Burlington, Vermont.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

An Author Does Story Hour At A New Bookstore

Human children and animal babies all go to sleep. That's the entry point that makes Snuggle Down Deep by Diane Ohanesian with illustrations by Emily Bornoff work. Each section involves both some light factual material with the "snuggle down deep" repetition. The book combines nature, poetry, and...sleeping. It's a lovely book with an ecological thread.

The Event


Cookies A Work Of Art
This morning Diane Ohanesian did what could be called a master class in how to do an author story hour in a bookstore. She had an audience of close to a dozen kids from around two-years-old to maybe six or seven. Yes, she brought cookies, which made a much nicer impression than I would have expected.

Making The Story Interactive
What was really impressive, though, was the way she got control of her group with the first words she spoke. In a whisper, she asked her audience to do something and they did it.  She kept control with a terrific board kids could interact with as she was reading. She finished up with a simple art project that went over extremely well, probably because of the great box of supplies she brought with her. She had brand new packages of paper!
Treasure!

Watching Diane illustrated why new writers should take advantage of opportunities to see writers experienced with speaking and dealing with the public.

 

 

 

The Venue



Diane read at the new River Bend Bookshop in Glastonbury, Connecticut. It's a nook and cranny independent bookstore, the kind where browsers can get a sense of the intellect curating the offerings. I "have a bookstore" in Stowe, Vermont I go into once a year and walk around until something jumps off the shelf and tells me to take it home. River Bend
Children's Nook
could be that kind of place.

Of course, today I bought Snuggle Down Deep.

River Bend is hosting writers and other literary events

Thursday, January 17, 2019

An Italian Thriller For Child Readers

Time to start blogging about some of the reading I've been doing. Because otherwise I'm just talking about reading, not showing that I've read.

Okay, I found Run for Your Life by Silvana Gandolfi, translated by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, in my mail sometime last year. No idea how that happened. I don't know that it ever has before.

Silvana Gandolfi is an Italian children's writer whose work has been widely translated. According to the publisher of this translation,  Run for Your Life won the Prix Sorcieres in 2012. (I say "according to the publisher," because I can't even begin to read Italian.)

Run for Your Life deals with a child whose family is involved with the Mafia in Palermo, Sicily.  The first half of the book is an interesting back and forth between chapters involving Santino, whose father crosses his Mafia bosses and is murdered along with Santino's grandfather, and Lucio who lives with his mother and younger sister in another place. I figured out what was going on just before the big reveal, which is always satisfying. The rest of the book is a more traditional thriller.

Far more interesting is the world of the book, illustrating the intense history Palermo has had with the Mafia. This will be a unique read for American child readers being exposed to different cultures with literature.

Run for Your Life was published by Restless Books' Yonder Imprint, "devoted to bringing the wealth of great stories from around the globe to English-reading children, middle graders, and young adults." These people have published a book from the Icelandic! This could be your home for foreign books in translation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: Time To Set Up Those Bullet Journals

This month my Facebook page has been humming with people talking about setting up their bullet journals for the new year, so I thought I'd rerun a post from just last October in which I discussed my attempt to keep a bullet journal. I am still keeping a bullet-like journal with major concentration on planning by week and day, a little work with planning over the course of the year, and none at all by the month.

New page layout
Last fall I found I found a new page format to use that is far more organized, though, of course, more labor intensive. But, then, that's bullet journals for you.

Do other people suffer from bullet journal anxiety? On the last day of my reading retreat, I found myself becoming anxious because I was going home to a bullet journal page for this week that hadn't been filled out. I didn't get much reading done that day.

Oct. 16, 2018 I Break Down And Try A Bullet Journal 

I finally tried a bullet journal more than a year ago, but I've never had time to write up how things went with it.

That's not true. Of course, I had time. I chose to use my Time Management Tuesday writing time writing about other things. A family member asked about bullet journals a couple of weeks ago, which motivated me to use some time to write about the bullet journal experience now.

The first thing you have to understand about bullet journals is that they are to-do lists kept in a formal journal with items preceded by coded symbols like bullets. Thus the name. (I wanted to get that out of the way.) The to-do lists are pretty elaborate, so much so that some people supposedly keep keys of their coding system. But they're to-do lists, nonetheless. That is not to denigrate them. I am a big fan of to-do lists. But when I first heard about bullet journals, I got the impression they were some kind of magical cure-all. I found them more hard work than magical. (Remember that key for the code.) Some of the work I found hard I never did. (The table of contents and the codes, to name two.) Others I've continued to use after the trial ended.


How Bullet Journals Work


It seems to me that the most basic thing about bullet journals is that they allow you to break down your time so you can identify what you have to do and when you can find time to do it.
The Year--I still do this.

The Year. You'll start by breaking down the year. You divide a few pages in to 12 blocks, one for each month. Ten you enter what you have to do each month. You'll be updating this as time passes. I do, anyway. I don't know everything that's going to happen in September and October a the beginning of the year.

This aspect of bullet journals seems like a good idea. If you have a day job and/or family responsibilities that are going to be heavier some months than others, it's helpful to know that ahead of time. This will give you an idea of when during the year you've got your best shot at writing time. If you're a full-time writer and do things like teach at certain points of the year, you want to know that's coming up. You can block out time for revision, for working with an editor on books that are coming out, on marketing. You can commit time to new projects. You want to do NaNoWriMo? Put it in the bullet journal, and keep in mind that you'd better not plan for a lot of other things in November.

I've continued to do this kind of year-ahead planning.

The Month--I don't do this.
The Month. The next division of time is one month. You'll write out a number for each day of the upcoming month and then briefly note what you expect to be going on in your life that day.

This aspect of bullet journals also seems like a good idea, especially for part-time writers who have to contend with other kinds of work. You'll see when you have free days or at least free-ish days to work.  However, I found it to be a lot of work and gave it up after a couple of months.

Other Things You Can Do. According to this BuzzFeed article on bullet journals (language warning, in case you care about that), you can dedicate pages to things you want to keep track of. In which case, you probably would want that table of contents that I didn't bother with. I often keep track of when I exercise or how long, for instance, and I could have made a couple of pages for that. I didn't because that would be making things more complicated, and I am a simple sort.

The Day--Meh.
The Day. My understanding is that the next unit of time you'll work with in bullet journals is the day. If you're into coding, this would be a time to use that. There are codes you can use to indicate you've finished something or want to shift it to another day.

I wasn't crazy about this breakdown. The coding for one thing. All I need to know is that I have something to do, not whether the thing I have to do is an "event" or is some kind of "note" or is "scheduled." If it's on my list, I expect to have to do it, whatever it is. And once I do it, I'd rather just cross it out than have a code for "completed."

More importantly, though, I was used to breaking my day down still more. I separate my professional work that I do in forty-five minute segments, from home/life maintenance work that I try to knock off in the fifteen minute breaks between those forty-five minute segments. (You know...the unit system.)  And I don't like to pin myself down to doing a lot of things on a specific day, because if I don't get to many of them, well, how much does that stink? I think in terms of a week. Then if I don't get Monday's work done until Wednesday or Thursday, I'm still good.

I have found sites on-line that offer weekly plans for bullet journals. But they still seem to deal with a week of days.

My Weekly Yellow Pad System
The Week. I've been working with a week for years, as you can see to your right. All on one page. My work life. My personal life. Yoga. Walking and biking. After two months of trying a formal bullet journal with a monthly list and day notes, I went back to my weekly planning, but just put it in that nice black book I'd bought instead of using yellow legal pads. That's mainly because I'm cheap and had paid for thing and was out of legal pads.

So Am I Keeping A Bullet Journal Now?  

 

My first thought is no, I'm not. I can't bring myself to stick to the bullet journal format, so I'm not keeping a bullet journal.

However, in snooping around the Internet, I found some interesting sites relating to bullet journals.

My point is, there are people out there messing with the bullet journal system, making it work for them. Maybe this thing has escaped out into the wild and is mutating, mutating in any number of ways to meet any number of needs.

So maybe I am keeping a bullet journal. And maybe if you try one, you'll end up keeping one, too.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Are Personal Retreats Worth The Effort?

Retreat Reading Spot
Oh, come on. That question must be clickbait. Six days of doing whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, with no phone calls or e-mails about problems and when the weather is too bad to drive to a restaurant you just walk across the road to a lodge to eat dinner next to a fire? Of course, a personal retreat is worth the the planning, the packing, and the five-hour drive.

But What About Professionally?


Retreat Reading
Well, remember, the big activity on my retreats is reading. Yes, I spent 5 hours snowshoeing one day, snowshoed to a chapel another day, and to a bierhall still another. I made my annual visit to Bear Pond Books. That still left me enough time to read:

  • 3 UVM alumni magazines
  • 3 back issues of Writer's Digest
  • 1 back issue of Carve
  • The new issue of Seven Days
  • 30 pages of A Room of One's Own (I forgot I planned to read it during Retreat Week until Thursday.)
  • Maybe a third of Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer (Hey, it's a big book.)
  • The last few chapters of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • All of In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (My purchase at Bear Pond Books where something almost always jumps off the shelf at me.)
  • 9 short stories (4 in that issue of Carve)
  • 4 essays (2 in Carve)

Again, What About Professionally?

Travel Journal

Well, I also generated 9 pages of journal notes. Unfortunately, many of them related to a new project that's not part of my goals for this year. But I also got a few ideas for agents to research as a result of reading all those Writer's Digests. I've also got some lengthy notes for an entirely new essay and came up with an approach for another subject that could result in both a short story and an essay. Maybe flash.

So I guess I could say my reading-retreat week fired up some creativity. I've had similar things happen on just a regular vacation. The extra reading and the removal from my usual environment and the next thing I know I'm writing something in a journal.

 Retreat Reading View
Creativity doesn't always get its due. It's sort of an up-and-down thing. Right now it's down while we're focused on discovering readers and making that first sale and giving our main character something to want and then keeping it from her and the Hero's #@!! Journey.  Comparatively, creativity is kind of soft and squishy and maybe even a bit woo-woo. Except it's not. Creativity is how we generate new material. Without it, we're just staring at flickering computer monitors and virgin journal pages.

So if you go on a personal reading retreat, it jump starts your creativity, and you go home all excited because you have a handful of ideas and a book buzz on, how can that be anything but worth the effort? 


Friday, January 04, 2019

"Original Content" Going On Retreat

That annual disappear-with-books retreat I mentioned yesterday starts tomorrow. Original Content will go dark while I'm gone. You know, unless something incredibly juicy comes up that I just have to tell someone about.

I've started reading a short story or essay a day (Goal 1, Objective 4). You can look for me on Twitter  to follow what I'm reading and, in many cases, find links to the material so you can read it, too. So far, I've been reading the work of Naomi Kritzer, who I hadn't even heard of a week ago. I'm totally into her right now.

Cybils Finalists

The finalists for the 2018 Cybils Awards were announced on New Year's Day. There are ten book categories with five to seven finalists in each category, so a lot of titles are getting attention.

This is an award given by book bloggers for titles with book literary merit and popular appeal.

Congratulations to all.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Retreats Are Different Things To Different People

I'm prepping for my annual retreat week, at which I'll be reading for hours next to a wood stove, doing a little frolicking in the snow, hitting a few restaurants, and then sacking out next to the wood stove some more.

 

Yes, this is a pretty sweet retreat. But there are others that interest me.

 

Writers' Retreats


Registration opened last month for a summer writing retreat. This is a weekend event similar to a couple of retreats I've attended in the past. This one offers more writing time in bits and pieces than the ones I went to, but otherwise it's like the others--heavily scheduled with mentor presentations, critiques, readings, and panel discussions. These retreats are like conferences I've attended, but with far fewer people, both in terms of participants and staff. The retreats are often in more rustic settings than the conferences, though. Perhaps that's the "retreat" aspect.

Stampers' Retreats


As luck would have it, I have a family member who's a stamper and recently returned from a stamping retreat. At these things people arrive with loads of stuff. The stampers have stacks of envelopes of pictures that they are working on putting into scrapbooks. Or orange boxes of pictures from Shutterfly. There might be a few classes over the course of the weekend and a store with scrapbooking supplies. But there's no mentoring, critiquing, readings, or panels. These people work. For hours and hours.

At the retreat my family member attended, the cropping room was open until 1 AM Saturday morning and 2 AM Sunday. It opened again at 8:30 AM each day. The participants only left for meals. There was some chit chat, I'm told, but not enough to keep people from working. Some headphones came out, which I totally understand. I like music when I'm working, too. I don't work many twelve to sixteen hour days, though. None, to be honest.

My family member came home from that retreat with more than one hundred and seventy cards made. I remember working maybe thirty or forty minutes at my last retreat. No, I did not come home with the writing equivalent of a hundred and seventy cards.

The organization that sponsors this scrapbooking retreat does it every month. So many opportunities.

Would A Stamping-type Retreat Work For Writers?


Now, I will admit that my first thought when I heard about the goings on at this place and saw the accompanying picture was, Sweatshop. My second thought was, Why can't we do this? Why can't writers go to an organized event for a couple of days and just put on a headset and work?

I know an argument could be made that writers need the networking that goes along with mentor presentations, critiques, readings, and  panels. At those kinds of events, we hope we'll meet agents and editors who will take an interest in our work or we'll hear that someone is open to admissions or the sky will open up and contracts with international publishers will drop at our feet. But, come on, haven't we all run into writers who were planning how they were going to sell or market books they hadn't written yet? You really need to get the writing done first. And wouldn't one of these scrapbooking-type retreats be a way to do some of that?

So what I'm thinking is I'd like to hit a retreat with a room filled with tables and plenty of power outlets. I'd arrive there with all my research done, as well as a lot of blueprinting and with  headset and music in hand. I'd work in forty-five minute segments, pausing for a little chit chat or some Pop Corners before going back to the ol' drawing board.

I wouldn't expect to come home with anything like one hundred and seventy cards, but to have jumpstarted or finished a draft would be fantastic.

January Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Update

Sat., Jan. 19, Diane Ohanesian, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury 11:00 AM