Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: Working In Chaos

As a general rule, I find that material disorder--the kind where your stuff piles up around you, the kind where you lose your cell phone under some unopened mail on the kitchen counter, the kind where you find clothes you'd forgotten you had in the ironing or maybe that's the mending--saps my chi. It distracts me. As I've said before, "I do not deal well with mental and physical disruptions and confusion." I never suggest that homemaking has little value and that writers or anyone else can just laugh it off in order to make time for art. That kind of thinking is sure to come back to take a big old chunk out of your butt. Really. Somebody did a study that showed that very thing.

However...


...I've been working in the bedroom for a month or two now, because my desk in the office is a mess, and who has time to deal with that? A couple of weeks ago, I had twenty or thirty minutes to work. That was it for the day. Probably that was it for the next couple of days. A couple of hours earlier, I had stripped my bed. Disorder! When I used to have a yoga sanctuary in that room, I couldn't roll out my mat if the bed wasn't made. Work? Ha!

But, remember, I had no more than 30 minutes to work. How much of it did I want to spend looking for sheets and making up a bed with them. Wouldn't I be better off, I thought, if I had such incredible concentration that I could work no matter what kind of surroundings I found myself in?

Well, you might describe my concentration as "incredible"depending on how you define the word. I can assure you that we're not talking the kind of incredible that allows you to get much done unless the stars are lined up just right. Nonetheless, I sat down at my desk, with my back to the bed, and worked.

Improving Concentration


I've been interested in improving my concentration for a long time. Self-discipline. Impulse control. Fortunately, I'm the kind of person who enjoys the journey, because I'm sure not getting to the destination.

But this summer is different. It's one thing to let your mind wander where it will when you have three or four hours a day to work. It's another when you have three or four hours a week, if you're lucky. I'm feeling a little more motivated to get some kind of power brain thing going.

So next week, and maybe the week after, I'll be focusing on focusing.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

So Mrs. Bennet Has Her Fans

Years ago I read an article about Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice in which the author made the point that while Mrs. B. may be foolish, she is also correct. Her daughters will be in dire straits without husbands to provide support.

I think this is why Pride and Prejudice and Zombies works as well as it does. Finding husbands is a life-and-death proposition for the Bennet daughters. Bringing in zombies is just a higher degree of risk. Little Women and Werewolves, on the other hand, wasn't as good a mash-up. The March daughters' response to the werewolves in the story doesn't make sense in the context of Little Women world.

I'm going on about this, because there was a discussion on my Facebook wall today about an article at The Literary Hub called Jane Austen's Most Widely Mocked Character Is Also Her Most Subversive by Rachel Dunphy. It's very intriguing, putting a feminist spin on Mrs. Bennet.

I like it, but I suspect Jane Austen wouldn't have a clue what Dunphy's talking about.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Thrill Me

In Boy X by Dan Smith, young Ash wakes up in a strange place with no idea how he got there. (Yes, this is middle grade fiction, not a twenty-something documentary.) By "strange place," I mean "strange medical place." He appears to be alone there. No mother! No one else, either. He stumbles outside where he finds a girl whose father works in the facility he just left. She informs him that he is on an island in Costa Rica. And he's been there for two days. The last he knew, he was in New Jersey. So, man, what's happening?)

Within minutes an alarm goes off! Men are running! Oh, gunshots! A helicopter is shot down! And Ash can feel himself changing.

The two kids end up having to save their parents (because Ash's mom is there, after all) and pretty much the world. What makes this believable is that changing Ash is doing. Sure it's far fetched in our world, but it's what makes what's happening in the world of the book work.

A real kid thriller.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Writing Who You Are

One of my French-speaking aunts.
The Therese Book
No Time Management Tuesday this week, because instead of writing a TMT post I spent a three-day weekend in Vermont for a Celebration of Life ceremony for my aunt. Aunt Tessy was one of the four Theresas/Thereses in my Gauthier family for whom Therese LeClerc in The Hero of Ticonderoga was named.

Butch and Spike's ancestors.
The Cootch Book
One of my Couture cousins came down from Ottawa for this event. Actually we're all
Coutures through my grandmother Gauthier, who was originally Beatrice Couture. And that is where Butch and Spike's last name came from in A Year With Butch and Spike.

My father referred to one of my grandmother's brothers as "Uncle Cootch," and now you know why Butch and Spike became known as the Cootches.

Still Another Couture Book
My Couture family also is responsible for the last name of the family in the Aliens books. Beatrice's youngest sister, Anna Couture, married a Denis. She died around the time I was writing My Life Among the Aliens, so the main characters became Will and Rob Denis. Which I pronounce "Deh knee" not "Dennis," since that's how my Canadian family pronounce that name.

Yes. I do obsess over names.




Friday, July 14, 2017

Norton Award

I'm very late with reading about the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. Better late than never, however. Here is the short list with the winner highlighted.
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers)
  • The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s)
  • The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK; Abrams)
  • Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
  • Railhead, Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press; Switch)
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, Lindsay Ribar (Kathy Dawson Books)
  • The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Delia Sherman (Candlewick)
You can check out all the 2016 Nebula Award winners at Tor.com

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: I Have To Finish Something. Anything.

I don't know how many weeks I was into my most recent care giving experience when I began to notice heaps of things around the house. Well, I probably noticed them early on. I'm not blind. But what it took me a while to notice was that many of them involved unfinished tasks. There's laundry in the cellar that hasn't been folded. A room full of
ironing. A desk in my office heaped with papers, books, and some other things. There's mending in a couple of places up here. A counter and a table that...and shoes...and

...then there's the month's worth of Publishers Marketplace Deals I want to read, the submissions I want to make, the synopsis I need for a couple of those submissions, the books I've read and haven't done blog posts for, the...

Oh, and, yeah, I've got a bunch of books and magazines I've read just part of. I'm getting kind of worried about that. Lots of unfinished reading probably says something about a person, huh?

What's With Not Finishing Your Tasks, Gail?


I'm sure behaviorists would say letting tasks go unfinished is a sign of fear of failure or success, that there may be an attention disorder at work. But it can also happen because:

You're Fighting Fires--You have too much to do, too many tasks to complete in the time available, so you keep jumping to the one that blows up in your face and appears to need attention right this minute. Before you can finish it, another fire blows up in your face.

You're Dealing With Tasks Coming From Other People--You're attending to other peoples' needs, real needs of the sick, children, or elderly. And before you can finish attending to one of their needs, another one comes up.

Finishing Things For Writers


Fortunately, I stumbled upon a Five-Step Plan for Writers on finishing what you start.

Step 1: Stop Starting New Projects. Well, no! Who wants to do that? Though, to be honest, I did think about this in relation to the mending I mentioned in the first paragraph. No new sewing projects until I finish that mending.

Step 2: Assess Your Current Projects. But there are so many!

Step 3: Choose One Project to Focus On. Okay. I can do this. I have done this.

Step 4: Decide What "Finished" Will Look Like. Ermm.

Step 5. Set Some Milestones (And Start Hitting Them). This will work for me so long as we're not talking about timed milestones. I make milestones sooner or later.

Finishing Things For Anybody


Two things have helped me get started on finishing things again:

I finished one thing. I cleaned out a personal file. That included collecting paperwork from the office in he cellar and the dresser in my bedroom.

I started a new to-do list. I had been keeping a to-do list for a couple of years, but I lost that habit this spring. It's baaaaack, and I'll be doing a post on it soon.




Friday, July 07, 2017

Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Update: Jane Sutcliffe At UConn Next Week

Tuesday, July 11
7:30-8:30 pm
UCONN Barnes and Noble Bookstore at Storrs Center
1 Royce Circle, Storrs, CT 

Bringing History to Life through the Lens of Nonfiction Writer Jane Sutcliffe

Hear a presentation and conversation between local nonfiction writer Jane Sutcliffe  and Confratute presenter and children’s book advocate, Susannah Richards. The conversation will highlight how Sutcliffe identifies, researches, and writes nonfiction. Q and A and Book Signing to follow.
 
This event is part of Confratute @ UCONN, but is open to the public. It will be of particular interest to teachers, teacher candidates, writers, and nonfiction writers.
 
I've heard Jane speak and attended a panel discussion Susannah moderated.  (Probably more than one. She's very active in the Connecticut  and New England children's literature community.) This should be a well done, professional presentation.
 

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Aren't All Science Fairs Freaky?

Eerie Elementary: The Science Fair is Freaky! by Jack Chabert with illustrations by Sam Ricks is one of the best chapter books I've read, even though it does involve a science fair, a volcano project, and three friends, which, yes, has been done before. By me, if I'm being honest.

This is part of a series in which three elementary students know that their school is controlled/inhabited by the mad scientist who designed it a century earlier. (A good reason to retire old school buildings.) The book is a coherent story about the kids finding a mysterious book that the school wants to get back with a climactic scene at the science fair.

In addition to the decent story and writing, there's something about a school being evil and some children (one being a hall monitor) protecting others from it that is kind of deep. Profound or meaningful or something.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Like You're Reading This On The 4th Of July

Wasting a perfectly good post on a holiday when readers are eating at friends' houses and visiting relatives instead of keeping up with their blogs would be very poor time management. So I'm saving my post on finishing tasks for next week.

Enjoy yourselves.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Update: Neil Gaiman Is Coming To Town

Neil Gaiman is getting attention right now because his American Gods has made it to TV. But he's also the author of the Newbery winner, The Graveyard Book, and other children's books. And he's coming to the Bushnell in Hartford on Monday, July 10. That's a week from today, folks.

If you live in central Connecticut, "coming to the Bushnell" is a very special expression.