Friday, January 30, 2015

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Jan. 30th Edition

Not a stellar week. However, I did work on:

Goal 2. Short Work. Knowing that I was going to lose a lot of time this week to blizzardlyness and eldercare, I planned to work on short pieces, hoping that that would be a more efficient use of my limited time. I ended up focusing on one and even checking out a potential market for it. The market I'm interested in requires a number of either interviews or examples of some sort. I spent time collecting some on the topic I was interested in, then got diverted on the issue of getting permission for using quotes from published sources. I finally started writing yesterday and kind of broke down after para one. This morning I got an idea for going about things differently.

I'm going to save this project for weeks like this one or at the very least I'm going to be careful to commit only a few days a month to it. I don't want to commit a lot of time to this the way I did with a piece of flash last year that I haven't been able to publish.

Goal 5. Community Building. I completed and posted next month's Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar and did some networking with the Connecticut Women Writers Facebook group. I posted to a community on Google+, and I'll try to do some Twitter work this evening.

Goal 6. Marketing STP&S. This isn't so much marketing STP&S as marketing me. We're working on a cosmetic tweak of my website that's turned out to be quite a bit of work for Computer Guy and requires decision making of me.

As I said, not a stellar week. But what time I had for work I managed to commit to goals and objectives. So, hurray me.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why I Can Never Benefit From Groupie Groups

Literary crushes and book boyfriends--they're a thing. I was kind of stunned when I first heard about them a few years ago. Various bloggers would carry on about their book boyfriends, a popular one being Mr. Darcy, that narrow-minded stick-in-the-mud, from Pride and Prejudice. Crushes, I always thought, were sort of shallow, not something anyone would admit to. Especially crushes on imaginary people. Especially if you were an adult.

But book people do enjoy them and do like to talk about them, and writers can talk about theirs in Special Features that will get shared on social media and everyone will love reading it. And I will never be able to be part of that because I don't do crushes particularly on imaginary people.

And when I like a really terrific character I don't crush on them, I want to be them. But not Mr. Darcy. And not Elizabeth Bennet, either. Jane Eyre, okay. Jo Bhaer in Little Men, not Jo March in Little Women. I wanted to be Sherlock Holmes when I was a kid. Not so much now.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

If This Had Happened This Week, We Wouldn't Have Been Dancing In The Road

John Rocco has a picture book out called Blizzard that's been getting a lot of attention the last couple of months. It would have been terrific if I read that this past week and could write about it now after the events of the last couple of days here in New England. Yeah, well, that didn't happen.

I did pick up Rocco's earlier book, Blackout, from the library a while back. It would have been terrific if we'd had a power outage this week, a threat that was hanging over our heads this past weekend, and could write about it after reading Blackout. Yeah, well, that didn't happen, either.

But I'm still going to tell you about Blackout because it is beautiful. I am not the only person who thinks so, because it was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2012. It is beautiful looking with a lovely, simple story of people having a great time when the lights go out. That simple story is told without a lot of text, something that doesn't happen as often as you'd think with picture books.

By the way, Rocco also illustrated How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton, which happens to be a big hit with a member of my family.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: A Goals And Objectives Guest Post

As of 7:45 AM, we still have power. Some significant snow is coming down right now, and it looks as if we've had 8 inches or more. So far so good.

Today I'm directing you to my guest post Ditch Resolutions for the New Year and Create Some Goals and Objectives for Your Writing at 10-Minute Novelists. I go over the difference between goals and objectives and why they're both better than New Year's resolutions.

The post appeared on January 8th.

I'll be shoveling snow soon.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Writer Prepares For A Storm

As I was saying yesterday, this week's expected New England blizzard was a bit of a surprise for me.  Today was committed to preparing to get through the next few days, which could mean a power outage in cold weather.

I spent a great deal of time preparing food that could be reheated on the wood stove. During a power outage after a hurricane, we ate pretty well. We also have 10-plus gallons of water for 3 people, one tub full of water, another tub with pails of water, pots of water in the kitchen, baby wipes to use for cleaning hands, flashlights, candles, oil lamps... We've done this before.

What I also did today was some work prep. First off, I posted the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar in case I can't do it later this week. Additionally, I printed out some material related to the short work I'd decided on last week. The plan, and I have one, is to find some moments to at least outline some of these things. In the event that there's no power, I'll go back to working in the old paper journal. The best part of this scheme is that it directly addresses one of my goals for this year.

Maybe we won't lose power after all, and everything I did today was for nothing. One can hope.  Hmm. Perhaps I should be thinking about an essay regarding why we worry so about the lights going out.

February Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

A so-so month for author events. Note that we have more library events than bookstore. I've been seeing this kind of thing over the last year.

Notice that I'm getting this calendar up before the snow devil hits? Well, it is snowing, but not in a particularly devilish way.

Sun., Feb. 1, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, West Hartford Public Library, Bishops Corner
Branch 2 to 4:30 PM  Please note that this event is at the Bishops Corner Branch, NOT the Noah Webster. The site was changed.

Wed., Feb. 4, Wendy Rouillard, New Canaan Library, 3:30 PM

Thurs., Feb. 5, Eric Walters, Bank Square Books, Mystic 4:00 to 5:00 PM

Sat., Feb. 14, Cindy L. RodriguezWest Hartford Public Library, Noah Webster Branch 12:00 PM

Sun., Feb. 15, Jane Sutcliffe, UConn Coop, Storrs 3:00 PM

Sunday, January 25, 2015

This Doesn't Sound Good

Last Friday I was concerned that I wouldn't get much done this next week because of various appointments. As recently as this morning I was planning what I would concentrate on with the work time I did find myself with.

Ah, those were the good old hours.

I live in that part of the country that's expecting the snow devil to descend upon us sometime tomorrow. I've got an elderly family member moving in with us tomorrow and expect her to stay until at least Wednesday, depending on what happens with power. She'll be bringing a cat. At the very least, I'll be shoveling snow. At the worst, I'll be dealing with preparing food without power, keeping the woodstove fed, working out where we'll sleep, bringing in firewood, and shoveling snow.

If this blows out of the state by Thursday? I have appointments on Thursday and Friday.

My storm prep tomorrow morning should include some work-in-the-storm prep. We'll see how I do with that.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What Did You Do This Week, Gail?

My second attempt at making sure I'm working on this year's goals:

Goal 1. Mummy Book. I continued working on the mummy draft, but I didn't continue on from chapter three, which was what I was working on a couple of weeks ago. Instead, I'm eliminating chapter two, all back story, and threading some of that material into chapters one and two. I really have to be satisfied with the beginning before I can move on.

Goal 2. Short Work. I had picked out a couple of earlier short projects to work on this year, then came up with another in the car on Thursday. I actually have a few notes.

Goal 4. Make Submissions. I made the Fletcher Farm Body submission I wanted to make this month.

Goal 5. Community Building. I worked on the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar, did some work on planning some website changes that will affect the CCLC newsletter I'm hoping to get going in a few months, did my Friday Twitter work, and started going over the offerings for this spring's NESCBWI Conference.

Goal 6. Marketing STP&S eBook. I contacted the Connecticut Authors' Trail group about taking part in its summer program.

I have so much to do next week and three days are messed up with appointments. Yikes!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Environmental Book Club

No, I am not going to claim that The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is an environmental book. Though, I suppose I could. When I'm looking for environmental books, I look for experienceThe Snowy Day is all about a child's experience of winter, of a snowy day. Peter is immersed in a winter environment.

What I'm going to do, instead, is argue that environmental children's books need a The Snowy Day.

Back in 1962, The Snowy Day broke the color barrier in mainstream children's publishing. Little Peter is African-Amercan. But nowhere in this book is there anything that says, "Oh, this is an important story I'm telling here. Here is a lesson for us all--we're all alike when it snows!" Deborah Pope of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation said in a NPR interview that Peter's ethnic background "...wasn't important. It wasn't the point." She said that Keats "wasn't necessarily trying to make a statement about race when he created Peter." He was a white illustrator who had never used a child of color in his work and decided he would. The Snowy Day is the story of a kid having a good time in the snow. He just happens to be black.

So many children's environmental books are heavy with lesson. The mini-lectures undermine whatever story is there and destroy the experience of being immersed in some natural element. I'd love to see an environmental equivalent of The Snowy Day, in which child characters simply go about their business recycling or composting or living in a solar house or living as a part of some ecosystem or another without hammering readers about the significance of what they're doing.

Maybe for the time being I'll settle for The Snowy Day as an environmental book and read and watch little Peter  surround himself with winter.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: What Are Your Bad Work Habits Doing For You?

My sister subscribes to numerous magazines that get passed on to me. Oprah is included. I find Oprah odd because it carries articles on how to be your best you along with others promoting purchasing quite expensive things. I feel there's a mixed message in there. Pricie stuff is inspiring? You can ignore that part, though, and just read the multiple pages on books the mag carries every month.

While I was making my way to the book section in the January issue, my eye was caught by some  lengthy material that seemed to be about dieting. Dieting is not managing time. However, remember that procrastination, a major aspect of time management, is a self-regulation issue and similar to overeating (as well as gambling and trouble with managing money). I've found that a lot that's written about these other problems with self-regulation can be used to address managing time.

Say, for instance, the shortie Oprah article Bad Habits? They're Actually Solutions. (Sorry, the Oprah Magazine website doesn't carry a lot of its print content, so no link for you.) Deborah Grayson Reigel is referred to in it. Grayson Riegel argues that bad habits are solutions we come up with for dealing with some other problem. They're just not very good ones. "Diet Coke provides energy when you're tired; fast food saves time when you're too overscheduled to plan, prepare, and cook a meal;" The trick is to identify the problem your bad habit is solving and then come up with something better to replace it.

A True Life Example From My True Life

Don't think this bad-habits-as-solutions-to-problems business can possibly relate to time management? When I read that article, I immediately recognized a former bad habit in myself. And, of course, I'm about to tell you all about it.

I used to spend an hour to an hour and a half in the morning going to a couple of news sites and Salon and then playing several hands of on-line solitaire before I started to work. I would often play solitaire until I won. A couple of times. This was pre-Facebook and Twitter, by the way. I rationalized this by describing it as being part of my pre-writing process. I needed this to relax. Then I would work, work, work.

I was unable to shake that behavior until I was working on the Time Management Tuesday project and started reading about transitional time. Transitional time is that time we need to move from one project/activity to another, especially if it requires a big mental shift. Spots of transitional time occur off and on all day. If you work outside the home, you need to transition to the workplace once you get there and then transition again when you get back home after work. If you've ever dealt with kids getting home from school, you've probably seen big transition issues with either unpleasant behavior or exhaustion.

In my particular case, that bad morning work habit wasn't so much about procrastination as it was about difficulty making the transition to work. I was able to replace all that on-line reading and game playing with fifteen minutes of office clean-up each day. I seem to like that and appreciate the benefit. It got something positive done, and I was able to slip into work afterward.

This past year, I tried replacing the fifteen minutes of office clean-up with a twenty-minute writing sprint. Disaster. Everything fell apart, and I was back to a troubled transition. I'm doing office administration again now and much happier with it.

I still need to come up with a new behavior for the end of the work day, when I tend to blow off time checking out various sites on-line. This month I'm trying to "reward" myself for the end of the workday with a short yoga practice. I've been having trouble fitting that into my life, anyway, and I find transition time to be one of the few ways we really "find" time that we can do something with. Jumping up from the computer to get onto the yoga mat may take care of my afternoon transition.

So, think about your bad work habits. You know you have at least one. What is it actually doing for you and how can you replace it with something better that will do the same job?