Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: Gail Needs Goals And Objectives For 2023

Though I have been getting back into work since mid-January and have had in mind the "going forth" I mentioned last week, I have definitely felt the lack of firm goals and objectives for the coming year. The big value of goals (what is to be done) and objectives (how what is to be done will actually be done) is that you can keep going back to them to make sure you are spending your time on the things you want to spend it on.

My goals and objectives this year have been shaped by a decision I made during last month's retreat. Retreats, the kind where you're really retreating and not somewhere taking workshops, are great for creative thinking, in my experience.

This year, I decided, I will commit to my adult writing, particularly short form. While I published eight children's books with a good traditional publisher, it's been fifteen years since I've seen any movement in my writing for middle grade and YA. During that time I've had short stories and essays published for adults and have moved into humor writing, publishing on Medium. That seems a more productive use of time. 

Why Choose One Age Group?

Writing requires much more than just writing. Writers should be reading what is being written for the age groups they write for to help them understand what others are doing and where they are doing it. They should be doing market research for their age groups, meaning, for short-form writers, what publications are publishing what they write and, for long-form writers, what agents and publishers would be interested in considering what they're doing. There are different types of workshops and other types of studying to do for each age group. There are different social media groups to network with for each age group.

I am also interested in a variety of short-form writing--humor, essays, short stories. Writing about eating, versus food writing. I've completed and submitted a humor piece already this year, I'm working on an eating essay, and I'm thinking about another essay about time management for writers. Needless to say, all three of these pieces need to be submitted to different places, meaning I have to stay up on what the three different publications I'm interested in require for submissions.

Trying to work for two different age groups has been spreading me too thin. I hope that concentrating on adult work will give me opportunities to write more, submit more, study more, and build more of a reputation as an adult writer.

How Will This Impact Original Content?


Original Content will continue but with more focus on my adult work. I will continue to support children's books, particularly if they somehow address one of my interests. But you're going to see more adult books and adult writing concerns here in 2023.

If you look to the menu on the left, you'll see that I've added links to sites that collect my work on Medium and at Literary Mama, so that visitors can easily access my work at those sites. I've eliminated the Children's Literature Links, which mainly went to blogs. 

I'm also going to add a new feature, Getting Serious About Humor, in which I will be writing about and analyzing humor books I've read. I've got one post ready to go for that and two I need to write. Those posts will all be easily available by way of a link to the left. There's another new link there called Reader Response that will lead readers to all my blog posts on books tagged Reader Response.

Now For Specific Goals And Objectives For 2023


Goal 1. Finish 143 Canterbury Road As An Adult Book. This book was always straddling the border between YA and adult. I was thinking of it as YA so I could bring it to my NESCBWI writers' group. But I'm stepping back from that group for this year, freeing me to focus on adult themes, such as the impact of chance on our lives, rather than traditional YA themes such as place in and transitioning from family.

Objectives: 
  • I've been rereading the manuscript and creating a blueprint of changes to be made by chapter and determining what chapters I need to finish the book and developing those.
  • I need to write an essay one of the characters writes.
  • Use the blueprint to finish a draft.
  • Send the draft to a reader I've lined up to check out technical information.

Goal 2. Work On Adult Essays, Short Stories, And Humor.

Objectives:
  • Complete and submit something every month to a Medium publication.
  • Revise some short stories and essays, preparing them for publication.
  • Increase my reading of both traditional and on-line journals--market research.
  • Spend more time with flash and essay Facebook groups, places to find both material to read and publications for submitting to.

Goal 3. Revise An Adult Manuscript Called Good Women

Objectives:

  • This will require some research regarding changes I am interested in making.
  • Blueprint where those changes will go.
  • Make the changes!

Goal 4. Submit Adult Books To Agents

Objectives:
  • Research agents for adult books
  • Submit Good Women first, since it's closer to being done and may have some current events interest

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Provide social media support for adult writers and continue supporting children's writers when appropriate, which means when the spirit moves me.
  • Attend virtual events for adult writers, fewer for children's writers.
  • Attend workshops for adult writing.
  • Use NetGalley to support authors with new books publishing this year.
  • Continue promoting Original Content at Facebook communities, Goodreads' blog, and Twitter.

Monday, February 06, 2023

A Charming Sort-of French Spin On Friend Issues

Copy provided by NetGalley

Publication Date: April 25, 2023

I sought out My Not-So-Great French Escape by Cliff Burke on NetGalley because of the French setting. I'm always hoping books with some connection to France will throw in some French phrases that I actually understand, which will do my ego a world of good. There is, indeed, a little of that here. But the book is a very enjoyable read even for those not interested in the language.

This is another story that deals with friends drifting apart. But instead of happening in an elementary or middle school, it happens on a French organic farm that provides an opportunity for students from foreign countries to stay for a few weeks. The idea is that the students will learn about organic farming and improve their French. It provides a new spin to the friend situation that, I am told, really is a major concern for kids.

Rylan, who appears to be around 12, accompanies a newly rich friend who he isn't that tight with anymore, to France. No sooner are they there, than the friend cliques up with a group with a bit of a superiority complex, leaving Rylan to make his own connections with the kids who are left. Rylan has some believably low moments over this but rises to the occasion.

A sub-plot involving Rylan's estranged father is resolved in an interesting way. The friends Rylan makes are far more interesting than the ones his old buddy ends up with. There is French food. And Pierre, the organic farmer, is a charmer.

There is plenty here to like.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: Time To Begin Again. Again.

Yes, you have seen very little of me since December 19.

One of my first Time Management Tuesday posts involved the necessity of controlling our personal time in order to have work time. "...the boundary between professional and personal time is very thin and very wobbly," I said. "It is all too easy for personal time to bleed into work time," I said. And that is just what happened in December and January with some health problems for a couple of family members that were more time consuming than serious, and, of course, the holidays, and a branch of the family having COVID Christmas weekend, which resulted in holiday celebrations being moved and not finished until this past Saturday. Interesting side note: We had seven members of the extended family with COVID between mid-November and the first week of January. In case you were thinking the pandemic is over. We managed to avoid it Chez Gauthier, though we had what seemed to be a pretty good exposure the Wednesday before Christmas.

Retreat reading & yoga view

Also, I went on retreat earlier this month. 

For the last couple of weeks, I've started to get up off the mat and begin again, to mix martial arts and meditation metaphors.

That Was Then And This Is Now

Usually at the end of December I go over my goals and objectives for the past year to see how I've done and decide what I want to do going forward. I'm not going backwards a month to do that, because I'm already going forward. 

I will say, though, that last year I:

  • Made 32 submissions resulting in 8 publications
  • Walked 112 miles on trails in state forests and parks
  • Biked 44 miles

And What Is This Going Forward You Mentioned?


That will be covered next week. As a tease, I will say that I hope to have a slightly different look for the blog by then.

 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Lockwood & Co Is In The News

Lockwood & Co, an adaptation of a series of books by Jonathan Stroud (something is amiss with his website right now, so I can't link to it), premiered on Netflix a few days ago. As an introduction to the Lockwood world, I'm republishing a post from 2016 written after reading the first three books. I've just learned that there are two more, which I'll be seeking out.

Interesting point--a couple of the reviews/articles I've read about the TV show don't mention that it's an adaptation for a book series.

 

 May 9, 2016 "Lockwood & Co." A Good Binge Read

Well, it wasn't a total binge read because we're having trouble with Interlibrary Loan here, which may be the subject of another blog post one day. So I knocked off the first two books in this series, and then had to cool my heels for a bit before I could get the third.

Jonathan Stroud wrote the Bartimaeus series, which I liked a great deal, particularly Book Three, Ptolemy's Gate. His new series, Lockwood & Co., is totally different and yet similar because, once again, we are in a very intense and detailed alternative England. Though there isn't a character as amazing as Bartimaeus in these books, they're still very good.

 The Lockwood World


In the Bartimaeus universe, a demon world is controlled by human magicians, at least to the extent that they are able to drag various kinds of demons into the human world to do their bidding. These magicians are in positions of power in government.

In the Lockwood universe, a ghost world is totally uncontrolled. The dead turn up not to do the bidding of the living but to torment and even destroy them. Instead of powerful magicians we have children with powers.

Children are able to see the spirits. Depending on their powers/gifts, children may be able to hear spirits, see them, "feel" a presence. Children and teenagers are tasked with protecting adults from the spirit scourge. That is, until the children age out and become adults who need protecting, themselves.

This is a universe in which we have cars, telephones, and doughnuts, but no computers or cellphones.

The Lockwood Characters


Anthony Lockwood, the teenage head of Lockwood & Co., a small, "select" group of ghost fighters, is charismatic, brilliant, and heroic. Note the English cover of The Hollow Boy to your right. Note that Lockwood appears on all the English covers.

He is not, however, the main character in this series. That would be Lucy, one of his agents. She is extremely gifted, spook-wise, and just a little bit sympathetic to the plight of at least some of the dead who are hanging around where they're not wanted. We readers can see that she is a little bit attracted to Lockwood, too.

The third member of this Scooby Gang is particularly interesting because he's the stereotypical tech nerd for the group. Except, remember, I said there is virtually no tech here. Still, he performs the tech nerd function, because he is always running off to archives to do research on their cases.

Oh, wait. There's another character. A Bartimaeus-like character. He's pretty minor, and I'm not sure what's going to happen with him down the line.

The Lockwood Structure


Each book has it's own story-line/adventure with a violent climax that often has an "all-is-lost" moment. At the same time, each book has a modest cliff-hanger, or at least a lead-in to the next volume, making them part of an overall story encompassing all the books. And, like I said, something's going on with that Bartimaeus-like thing that isn't limited to one book.

And What About The Lockwood Darkness?


These are really dark books. Death is a daily threat for everyone, and there doesn't appear to be any hope of a Heaven waiting for those who don't make it to tomorrow. There's no talk of school for children. They go to work young and at horrible, dangerous jobs. If they don't die first, they'll grow up and lose their ability to see and deal with ghosts. What will become of them then?

A lot of YA fantasy is dark. The Bartimaeus books certainly are. So is Skullduggery Pleasant.  The Daughter of Smoke & Bones series is pretty grim, particularly for a romance. And, now that I think of it, I believe all those books have a violent climax, too, with some characters at risk or even lost altogether.

Well, conventional wisdom claims that young (and not so young) readers can safely explore disturbing or even frightening subjects in fantasy because none of this stuff can really happen. The dead don't come back. There are no demons controlled by high-ranking politicians. (Yeah. I know. There's a joke there.) Skeletons don't wear fedoras and drive fancy cars.

Not only can readers explore disturbing stuff in fantasy because it doesn't happen, it's okay to enjoy it. If these things could really happen, it would be so wrong.

Another Lockwood & Co book comes out this fall. If you wait for that, you'll have four books to binge on.

That would be fun. Maybe you could do it in October, for Halloween.

Thursday, January 05, 2023

What Is Going To Become Of This Girl?

Copy provided by Netgalley

Publication Date: January 17, 2023

This Is Not A Personal Statement by Tracy Badua wasn't quite what I expected, which is not a complaint. After being rejected by her top choice college (and all her choices) the main character, Perla, comes up with a plot to go, anyway. I thought she was going to somehow actually attend a full schedule of classes, enjoying freshman life, just not be on the books.

Granted, that would have been quite far-fetched.

Instead, Perla is living a disturbing, secret life, and attending only one class, if I recall correctly. Her plan is to find out what she did wrong with her application and apply again for spring semester.

She doesn't learn much about what she wanted to know, though she does spend a great deal of time thinking about her relationship with her parents who have no idea what she's doing.

I found Perla a little talky as far as her family expectations are concerned. But this is an intriguing set-up for a story and toward the end there is some tension over what's going to become of her. This reader was even left with some tension over what will become of her in the future.

Last fall I read of a man pretending to be a student managing to live on the Stanford campus for ten months. So the living on campus part can happen.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Happy Holidays, People

Clint Patterson@Unsplash
December has beaten me this year. It wins. I'll be taking a break, possibly until the middle of January.

Good luck surviving this month! 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

An Old-Fashioned Girl

Original Content's 20th anniversary year is almost over, and it's been a while since I've done an anniversary post. I stumbled upon these from 2010 related to An Old-fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. I'm doing a post about them, because I think they illustrate something that was going on in the literary blogosphere back in the earlier part of the century. They are, therefore, historical. Also, I don't think anyone says blogosphere, anymore.

Back in the day, it wasn't unheard of to see on-line book discussions. Lauren Baratz-Logsted led a great one at the late, great Readerville community, though I can't remember the name of the book. But the discussion was terrific. Someone at Readerville also led a discussion of short stories, which was good, too. That was how I came to read A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka and that led to me reading The Metamorphosis.  In 2008 I took part in a "Big Read" of a volume of Shirley Jackson short stories, that wasn't particularly successful, though I finished it.

Then in 2010, Mitali Perkins led a monthly discussion of a classic children's book "focusing on race, ethnicity, gender, and class. She and her followers will be looking for what qualifies the book as a classic, but also looking to see if the attitudes in the book are dated in terms of how we feel about race, ethnicity, gender, and class now." I don't know how many books she discussed, because I took part in only one discussion, the one on An Old-fashioned Girl.

Reading this book was the beginning of a turn-around in my feelings about Louisa May Alcott. You can check out my takes on various aspects of the book below. 

What Do We Think Of Them Now?

An Old-Fashioned Girl: What Is It?

An Old-Fashioned Girl: Poverty Is Ennobling--So Long As You're Not Irish

The Women Of An Old-Fashioned Girl

An Old-Fashioned Girl: And In Conclusion


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

This Is What They Mean When They Say "Thought Provoking"

 I attended Facebook friend Sarah Darer Littman's book launch for Some Kind of Hate, published last month. I attended by Zoom, and I meant to catch a picture, but I was distracted because I was late joining. Why? Well, I kind of forgot about it until the last minute.

I mention this, because it illustrates the beauty of Zoom. I sure wouldn't have been driving to that bookstore a minute or so after the event was scheduled to start. I also mention it, because the interview with Sarah at her book launch relating to how she came to write Some Kind of Hate and the background information she's accumulated was fascinating. She has materials at her website on the book.

Some Kind of Hate is written from two points of view, as many YA books are. One is Declan's, a young person who becomes involved with a white nationalist group, and the other is Jake's, Declan's Jewish friend, whose local community becomes a target for Declan's new friends. The points of view almost become separate stories. A book totally from Declan's point of view might have been a hard sell. He's risky, because he's not likable. He's definitely a realistic character: not very strong-willed even before a life-changing accident he brought on himself, and from what I've read, he's the perfect mark for a hate group. But he also is unwilling to accept responsibility for the boatload of grief he brought down on himself and his family. He projects responsibility for his circumstances onto others instead of shouldering it himself, which would then make it possible for him to take some kind of positive action about his life. He also illustrates very well why it is so difficult to reach someone like him. His hate group buddies support his misery and give him beliefs to make him feel better. It is difficult for his family and friends to use logic, fact, or family history to convince him to change, because he believes and belief doesn't require logic, fact, or any kind of knowledge. How deep a hole is he going to dig for himself becomes the narrative drive for Some Kind of Hate.   

I kept talking about this book as I read it, and I think the reason I found it so thought provoking is that I come out of a world similar to Declan's, though much more rural. So I kept thinking, why didn't I or anyone I know go Declan's way? There are a couple of answers: 1. It was a different time, hate groups weren't as prevalent, probably because there weren't as many opportunities for haters to find one another, because the Internet hadn't been invented. I worked for the one Jewish storeowner in our area, so I was aware of verbal unpleasantness directed toward him. But if I hadn't had a connection, I might not have known these things happened in my day and age, there was that little communication in the world. 2. For all I know, people I knew growing up are now members of some of these groups or at least sympathizers. I don't belong to the kind of on-line groups where I would run into them. 

After my sons left home for college, I would hear on the news about some good-awful thing a young man had done, and I'd wonder, Did I remember to tell my kids not to do that? One time I actually asked my younger son about one of these things I'd read about and asked him if I'd ever told him not to do it. He looked at me and said, "You shouldn't have had to."

As I was reading Some Kind of Hate, I wondered if I had forgotten to tell my sons not to be antisemites or racists, the way Declan's parents forgot to tell him. While it appears I didn't have to with my own children, it looks as if kids like Declan have to be told point blank.

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: Let's Take A Moment To Complain About December

I am taking a break from my Dan Harris arc to complain about December, an almost annual event here for at least ten years.

As I said in 2017, 

"My control of my time is so tenuous that anything new that enters the playing field, like a holiday that requires hours and days and weeks of preparation, like two of them coming a month apart, is overwhelming. December/the Christmas season packs a double whammy, because in addition to being very time consuming, it involves an emotional toll. Christmas the secular event is supposed to be magic, whatever the hell that is. We're supposed to be creating magic. Yeah, we're talking a whole other level of time with the magic thing." 

Last year things were a lot better, something I put down in a blog post to being a practicing minimalist so I didn't have as much cleaning to do and my Christmas spark book. My conclusion was:

"The best I can offer for writers who observe a labor-intensive holiday of any kind at any time of the year is to get your house in order. Get rid of as much as you can and write everything down."

Things were better last year for another reason, too. A couple of years ago I stopped working on big, intense projects during the month of December. Instead, I spend the month just starting a short piece each day, humor or flash. The ideas are pulled from my journal. A number of last December's starts became published pieces this year.

Success Ruined Me


I remembered last December so fondly that I looked forward to it this year. My recollection of last December clearly became glorified and inflated. For the last six months I've believed that when December came this year, I'd be able to do so many things, because last December went so well. Why, in addition to all those starts I was going to do--coming up with something to do a few sentences and jot a few thoughts on every single day, without fail, you've got to do this, Gail-- I would be able to:

  • Research all these agents I've been thinking about.
  • Plan agent submissions, actually get them written up and ready to send next year.
  • Get all these ideas I've been emailing myself into my journal. (I use my email as a to-do list.)
  • Clean up my three email in-boxes (because, as I just said, I use them as to-do lists.)
  • Do some extra blog posts.
  • Clean my desk.
  • Get some planning done in next year's bullet journal.

On a personal level, I would be able to:

  • Get ready for Christmas.
  • Sew.
  • Write some emails/letters that I've owed since summer.
  • Contact some contractors about some work we want done in the house next year.
  • Bake cookies for a church event for the first time in, maybe, ten or fifteen years.
  • Restart my daily yoga practice. 
By the 4th or 5th of the month, I realized things weren't going well.

Too Much


I planned too much for this month. I had seriously unreasonable expectations. I was living in a fantasy world, something I don't think of myself as doing.

My first thought while writing this was to say that all I can do now is slog through and keep on keeping on. But, no, the month is not even half over. Come on, Gail, pull yourself together, woman.

What I Can Still Do


I can still grab the unit system lifeline that has helped in the past

Again from 2017:

"...if you think in terms of forty-five, twenty, and even ten minute units of time, suddenly work options appear. Forty-five minutes at least a few times a week will work for editing a draft or maybe even progressing with  a new one. Twenty minute sprints each day can help keep you in a new project, even if you can't make a lot of forward movement with it. It can make a dent in blog posts or take care of some professional reading. Ten-minute sprints on a laptop set up in whatever room you're working magic in can allow you to knock off all kinds of work." 

I've used a couple of units of time this morning to jot down today's (and yesterday's) humor start, delete a couple of emails, and finish this blog post. I'll spend the rest of the day on creating magic. 

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Real Problems For Real Kids

 Copy provided by Netgalley

Publication Date: January 17, 2023

Between the time I requested this arc on Netgalley and the time I received it, I forgot why I was interested in it. It was until I got to the end and saw a picture of the author that I realized that Figure It Out, Henry Weldon was written by my old blogging buddy, Tanita S. Davis. So to be open and above board, I kind of know the author. But I didn't realize that while I was reading this book, because evidently I don't pay attention to author names on covers.

Tanita has done a very nice job of creating a kids' book developed around children's problems. Henri Weldon has a learning disability specifically related to math. The issue is recognized by her family. In fact, until recently she attended a special school to address her disability. She's now getting ready to attend a traditional school where her problem is still recognized and addressed. This is not a child surrounded by uncaring adults left to fend for herself.

That's a big part of what I liked about this book. Because while Henri is supported, she still has problems. Which, sad to say, is life. Her problems are not those we often see in children's books, the problems adults value big time: Death, divorce, death, old age, death, illness, death, war, death, tragedies, and death. They are the problems that children have and that are important to them.

Problems Like:

  • Getting lost in the new school building. Sounds minor, but isn't being unable to find a classroom a classic adult dream? What's that about, huh? Henri's struggles to get around made me anxious for young family members who will be finding themselves at new schools.
  • Making friends. Not just in the sense of making any friends but making friends who will actually be friends for you. Minor? Then why are we always reading articles about how difficult it is for adults to make friends? It's not minor when it's us, is it?
  • Sibling issues. The problem presented here is fantastic, because it's not about rivalry. It's about support. Should Henri be befriending someone who had a falling out with her sister, even bullied her?
  • Parent issues. Not parents fighting or getting a new boyfriend but parents who have their own work and time problems that they are dealing with in addition to being parents.
On top of all that, foster children are portrayed in a realistic and positive way here. My understanding is that there aren't a lot of foster children in children's literature. So this is significant.

And, finally, Tanita is writing in the third person. Again, that doesn't sound like a big deal, but not many children's books are written in the third person.

Many people are going to admire Figure It Out, Henri Weldon's portrayal of children with learning disabilities and in foster care. But it should also be admired for being a good book.

Check out Tanita's blog, fiction, instead of lies, which features poetry and, right now, Henri Weldon.