Friday, May 18, 2018

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 18th Edition

Weren't we just doing this? Like, a week ago?

Well, I took care of a nine-month-old for half a day, which was a better time than you might think, and a half a day of unexpected errands, which wasn't. Then I'm painting my living room tomorrow, which seemed like a good idea when I came up with it, but then I had to spend some time today putting up tape and taking drapes to the dry cleaners and...well...nothing revolutionary happened here this week.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With "Good Women." So, I finished the chapter I was working on last week, and started another. That wasn't as well planned as the two earlier chapters I've done this month. It's not done, but some more planning has been done for it. And I'm painting that living room tomorrow. Breakout experience potential!

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.

I must admit, I blew off writers' group this month. I can live with my decision.

Blog work:

Sent out the request for Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar events.

Started following National Novel Promotion Month, though I am way, way behind. 


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Terrific Interview With Michelle Cusolito

Michelle Cusolito's first book, Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-sea Submersible Alvin, will be published next week. Today Kathy Halsey interviews Michelle at the GROG blog.

This is a terrific post that includes great material describing how Flying Deep can be used as a mentor text. The interview itself stays focused on book launches. Both interviewer and interviewee did good work with this.
 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: "Minimalism Is Really About Time"

I'm a believer in our personal environment having an impact on how we use our time. Disorder, for instance, undermines impulse control. Not Into Industrial Lofts And Capsule Wardrobes? This Is Minimalism For The Rest Of Us  by Lindsey M. Roberts in The Washington Post describes a new book called New Minimalism by organizing experts Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici. In the article, Quilici is quoted as saying, "Minimalism is a tool that you use to uncover what it is you want most in life." The article concludes with a section that begins with "Minimalism Is Really About Time." "Think about what you would rather spend your time on than hunting for something in a drawer or organizing on the weekends."

We Original Content folks would rather spend our time writing.

Minimalizing The Office


Fortin and Quilici maintain a blog at their decluttering and design services website. Last year they did a post on five core principles they used in a workshop. All five are thought-provoking and should be useful. But the one I'm going to address is Focus Your Space. "If your space feel(s) chaotic, asking too much of your space is commonly the culprit... for each room in your home, designate the #1 activity that takes place there. Then assess, is that room optimized to support that designated activity? Additional activities can be added to the space as long as they do not detract from the stated #1 activity."

As it turns out, I'm planning to purge my office in the next few months. I'm not talking about just the desk, which I've worked on cleaning many times before. I'm talking about the shelves full of books I can't reach. Take a look to your right.

Quite honestly, I haven't been writing in there for months. I've either been working next to the wood stove in another room, in the living room, or, now that the weather has improved, a sun room.

Take a look at that picture to your right. Does that room look like the #1 activity that's supposed to take place in there is writing? Or any other kind of work? It looks like a storeroom. A lot of stuff is just stored in there.

As always, I'm looking for ways to impose order, order which should support self-discipline. Because there are things I'd rather do with my time than hunt through that office looking for things or organizing that mess over and over.

I may have more to say about minimalism in the months to come.

Monday, May 14, 2018

For Alcott Fans, Women's History Fans, Women's Lit Fans, Art Fans...You Name It

My faithful readers are aware that I can be a bit obsessive about Louisa May Alcott. I've gone on and on here about Little Men, which I reread last year. I went on and on about An Old Fashioned Girl back in 2010. Honest to God, I've read Little Women and Werewolves. I've been to Alcott's house. I've been to her grave. I've been to Fruitlands. In truth, all this activity was spread over many years. We're not talking an Alcott scholar here.

But I'm going on and on like this to explain why I was attracted to the adult book Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott by Jeannine Atkins.

 May Alcott was Louisa May's youngest sister, the inspiration for Amy in Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys. This novel about her adult life is impressive in the way it uses what I, at least, know of the Alcotts' lives. There are lots of small details, like the reference to Louisa's childhood birthday party at which she had to give away all the little cakes to her guests and didn't get one herself, that I'd heard of. Or recognized from Louisa's books, which, remember, had some connection to her life. There's also playing off the books. May in Little Woman in Blue is unhappy with how she is portrayed in Little Women. And, when you think about it, who wouldn't be?

This book is a marvelous mind game for readers who have knowledge of the source material.

But it's more than that. In Little Woman in Blue May Alcott is a single woman who is overwhelmed by her family. I will hazard a guess that this is a classic theme in women's literature. In this case, the needy parents and the needy married sister and her family don't seem to even realize what they're doing or that there's anything unusual in draining their family members. I say "members" because it's not just May they're doing this to. Louisa bears the financial burden for all the Alcotts, as she did in real life. Louisa and May could be described as draining each other, too.

This book also shows the life of "single working women" in the 1860s and '70s. It sounds very much like a section in Louisa Alcott's An Old Fashioned Girl. And then there's all the talk of art and specifically art in nineteenth century Paris at the beginning of the Impressionist movement. (Read Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore, covering the same period? I have.)

So there's something here for several different types of historical fiction readers. And good somethings.

UPDATE: Reading this book motivated me to record Little Women on PBS last night, which I would probably have passed on.


FTD Stuff: Jeannine Atkins is a Facebook friend, one I actually interact with. I purchased an eBook edition of this book during a sale period.

Friday, May 11, 2018

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 11 Edition

Did pretty well, people.

Goal 1. Submissions. I had an essay accepted for submission! Needed to do a little administrative type stuff on Monday for that. And I did some research for more submissions.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With Good Women. Knocked off one short chapter and fourteen pages of another. Little disappointed that I didn't finish that second chapter, but I didn't have as good an outline as I did for last week's work. I'll try to get a few minutes in this weekend.

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.

  • Maurice Sendak Post. Promoted to Google+, a Facebook community, and Twitter.
  • Time Management Tuesday Post. Promoted to Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Environmental Book Club Post. Promoted to Google+, a Google+ community, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
  • Worked on getting some books I've read onto Goodreads.
  • Started reading some marketing posts that I'll probably be writing about at some point. 




Thursday, May 10, 2018

Environmental Book Club

Sometime in the past, I wondered here if environmental books couldn't work with environmental settings instead of environmental themes. I'm not certain what environmental themes are. "We must save the planet?" "Humanity is destroying the Earth?" "We must save the planet from us?" If so, they are themes that are often used in cliched and very preachy ways.

Books with environmental settings or, maybe, situations, can have nonenvironmental themes, giving a book more complexity and getting away from heavy-handed lessons and warnings. A good example of this is Kissing Frogs by Alisha Seviny, which is a romance set on a trip to work with endangered frogs. The theme here could be described as the rogue outsider finding love with an opposite, which does not have anything to do with the environment. The setting--the work with the endangered frogs--provides the environmental aspect to the story.

Another example is Blight by Alexandra Duncan, a traditional dystopian, post-apocalyptic story set within a world in which only a few types of food plants are viable, because of a...you guessed it...blight. Agribusiness is the bad guy here, as business often is the bad guy in post-apocalyptic worlds. There's not a lot of dwelling on what happened, what brought humanity to this state, though. AgriStar is the bad guy not because it caused the blight (Though it may have. I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember.), but because of what it's done since the blight. 

We've got a plot driven adventure here, including a journey story. We've got rebels. We've got evil junkers, a group of seriously bad guys who also appear in The Girl With All the Powers and The Boy on the Bridge. There are junker-like characters in the Rot & Ruin books. They may be a staple of post-apocalyptic stories.

My point is, this is the kind of narrative that could exist in many post-apocalyptic settings...a zombie apocalypse, an alien apocalypse...or in a religious dystopia. Blight is set in an environmental situation, but because it's more interested in its plot-driven adventure, it's far less environmentally cliched and heavy-handed than many books that might be described as environmental.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: The Dark Side Of Temporal Landmarks/Units Of Time

I try to do what I call a "story/essay idea a day" thing in my journal. My theory is that creativity begets creativity, and that the more ideas I come up with, the more I will come up with.

Sometimes this works better than others. Sometimes I have long dry periods. Sometimes I have ideas, but it's just so inconvenient to open up the journal on my laptop, or I'm not home, or there's some other perfectly logical and legitimate reason why I can't get these thoughts done. And then they are lost. Perhaps they are out there in the universe, and they will go to someone else, because I did not accept them. Oookaaay.

And then there is what happened last month. I was coming up with ideas, but in a major impulse control failure I decided that I would start writing them down at the beginning of May. No idea how much I lost that way.

A Powerful Date, A Powerful Temptation


We all remember what temporal landmarks are, right? "...special occasions and calendar events (e.g., a birthday, a holiday, the beginning of a new week/month), which demarcate the passage of time and create numerous “fresh start” opportunities at the beginning of new cycles?" And we also remember the significance of beginnings? How we "get excited about our plans for "new" blocks of time?" It's going to be so terrific when the beginning of the year, Easter, summer vacation, the beginning of the school year, or the first of the month come and we get a fresh start. As our old friend Kelly McGonigal tells us, we think of the future as a wonderful place where we'll accomplish great things. You combine that with an upcoming temporal landmark that's combined with the beginning of a time unit?

Well, clearly you'd need to be tougher than I am to deal with that.

What Was The Problem Here?

 

Temporal landmarks and the beginning of units of time can work for us if they initiate a new surge of work, create enthusiasm. May 1st was the beginning of a May Days writing project for me. In the weeks leading up to it, I prepared.

I didn't prepare to start the story/essay a day project on May 1st. Instead, I waited for the temporal landmark/beginning of a unit of time to arrive.

Preparing is doing something. Waiting isn't. And that's where I made my mistake.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Maurice Sendak Going To UConn

This isn't hot-off-the-presses, having been announced a couple of months back. But it's newish for me.

The Maurice Sendak Foundation has chosen the University of Connecticut to maintain Maurice Sendak's papers. According to Arthur Yorinks in a Hartford Courant article, Sendak's materials, close to 10,000 items, will be kept in the Northeast Children's Literature Collection, which is at the Thomas Dodd Research Center. I've had some terrific experiences at the Northeast Children's Literature Collection. Ate dinner there once and Lois Lowry was sitting at the very next table. Yeah. And then there was the time I gave someone a Band-aid to give to Anita Lobel while I was there.

But this is about Maurice Sendak.

Sendak was a Connecticut resident with connections to UConn. He was a guest in Professor Francelia Butler's classes back in the '70s and '80s and received an honorary doctorate in 1990.

This is great news for the Northeast Collection, which also has Tomi de Paolo's, Natalie Babbitt's, Richard Scarry's, and Barbara Cooney's papers. 

Friday, May 04, 2018

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? The May 4 Edition

The first week of May Days, the group binge write I'm taking part in, didn't go badly, all things considered. I didn't get started until Wednesday, didn't work most of Thursday because it's my run-around day, and still managed the following:

Goal 1. Submissions. I made two and did some research for future submissions.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With Good Women. I wrote a new twenty-three page chapter, working from a blueprint I created earlier this year and did a lot of clean-up of earlier chapters.

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding. I got back on task with promoting blog posts. 


  • Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar Post. Promoted to Google+, Facebook, a Facebook community, 4 tweets on Twitter.
  •  Sent out the CCLC newsletter.
  • What I Found in the YA Department Post. Promoted to Google+, Twitter, and Goodreads.
  • Time Management Tuesday Post. Promoted to Google+, Facebook, and Twitter
  • Jazz Picture Books Post. Promoted to Google+, Twitter
  • Environmental Book Club Post. Promoted to Google+, Twitter, and Goodreads

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Environmental Book Club

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals with illustrations by Ashley Wolff is, as the title suggests, an alphabet book. I don't read a lot of these. I know they're often on a particular subject, but this one is really informational. All the letters connect with items that can go into compost piles.
From "Organic Life"*

Now, I didn't pick up this book just because compost is an environmentalish subject. No, I have a compost pile. I was going to take a picture of it for this post, but I forgot and now it's dark. So I'll just say it's one of these three-bin systems like the one to your right. I'm not an expert or anything. I will confess that in the winter I am often too lazy to go out to the bins with my compost. And I don't know if you're supposed to use compost bins in the winter. What I don't know about compost would fill a book.

But not Compost Stew.

Filled With Surprises


The point I'm getting around to is that though I am not a composting neophyte, there were items in this book I hadn't heard of. I had heard of putting hair clippings in a compost pile, for instance, but not oatmeal. Egg shells, but not lint. So I'm sitting there reading this with a young child going, "What?" "Whoa, there."

Note about the illustrations: They are collage-like and have a recycled look that fits the theme of the book. Very neat.



*How to Build a Three-bin Compost System Because you know you want one.