Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Read Less To Read More, Part 1

The numbers on annual book publication vary just a bit. I've seen claims that  300,000 books, more or less, are published each year. I've also seen the 1,000,000 figure used. I suppose that after a certain point, it doesn't matter how many books are generated each year. More are published than you or I can read.

Then there are magazines, newspapers, and professional and literary journals. The Internet is groaning under the burden of blog material being generated. There's more of that coming out than you or I can read, too.

But many of us want to read. We want to read lots and lots of things. How to find time for all the reading we want to do?

My theory is that if we read less of some things, we'll be able to read more of others. But what should we choose to ditch? Well, of course, I have some ideas to share.

Reading I'm Cutting Back On

Listicles. Listicles are articles written in the form of a list. We're not talking bulleted material broken out of a section of an essay in order to make effective use of white space and highlight information for readers. No, the hardcore listicles really are just lists of related or semi-related facts. Sometimes they're clever and witty, but there's rarely any development of thought. I gave up reading these a few years ago.

Interesting point about listicles: Some on-line publications indicate in their submission guidelines that they're interested in publishing listicles. Yeah, I'm not going to speculate about what that means.

Articles With Numbers In The Title. Seventeen Agents Give Us Their Biggest Turnoffs In Submissions. Our Six Best Procrastination Tips. These articles are more sophisticated listicles. But not much. The quality of the listed items varies a lot. Depending on the number of items in the overall article, you might find a couple that are useful. And those you'll wish had been developed into essays by themselves.

As a general rule, there are only so many facts about any subject, so there's often a lot of repetition both within these number articles and among different ones. If you're reading a number article on a subject that you're at all knowledgeable about, you're probably going to see things you already know.  I cannot tell you how many numbered time management articles I've read that included suggestions to eat properly and get a good night's sleep and plenty of exercise as three of their items.

I have cut way back on the number articles. I try to limit myself to ones with small numbers in the title.  And even then, I skim them.

Clickbait That Ends With Some Variation Of "You Won't Believe What Happened Next." If I won't believe it, why bother reading it? Also, if you've been suckered into reading some of these things, as I obviously have, you are aware that the unbelievable portion of the article isn't that unbelievable. It's usually cute (if it involves animals) or heart warming (if it involves people). I have had enough cuteness and warmth to last a lifetime. I can avoid these and read something else.

Random Marketing and Writing Process Internet Articles/Blog Posts. If you're a new writer, reading all kinds of info on writing and marketing is probably going to benefit you. But if you've been doing it for decades, it's like the Articles With Numbers In The Title thing above. There's a lot of repetition. Lots of marketing/writing process items are written by writers who have been advised to start a blog and then told, heck, write about writing process and marketing. You know what I'm talking about because you've read that kind of thing here. Once again, there are only so many things to say about writing and marketing just as there are only so many things to say about everything. Over the last year, I've picked up a few good things about marketing and read a terrific process book that I heard about at the NESCBWI Conference. But that's a small figure compared to the enormous number of articles I've read.

I've finally cleared out my bookmarks. My plan now: If I see something that's good enough to read, it's good enough to read right away. I'm staying away from the bookmark section of my toolbar.

Are We Reading News Or Are We Reading Entertainment? In The Influencing Machine, Brooke Gladstone says, "Neil Postman once observed that back when we had only newspapers, "news"was information we could use and act on locally. Postman says the moment we could get instant news from everywhere--news not directly relevant to us--that's when news became entertainment." She then goes on to argue that we are in a different era now and news from everywhere these days is relevant. It is "news that affects us all."

But is it? How many of the articles at news sites or in traditional newspapers about events far from you involve news you can use? Instead, how often are we reading pieces about murders and deaths in other parts of the country or the world, personal tragedies that are hugely important to the people involved and their communities but with no relevance to us at all? They will never impact our lives other than providing us with a few minutes of distraction while we're reading about them. Sometimes we're spending more than a few minutes reading about a specific tragedy because new details turn up, but the basic story doesn't change. A child far from us died under horrific circumstances. A child we didn't know, whose family we feel for but have never met, a crime that will not impact anything in our town.

Why do we keep reading those things? Is it for...entertainment?

Now when I see articles about children killed by their parents or how couples planned murders, I feel like a dirty voyeur. Yes, that does help me to trim my reading of "news."

So You're Going To Just Read More With This Time You've Saved By Reading Less, Gail?

I'll have some thoughts about that next week.

In the meantime, what kind of reading can you cut back on in order to make more time for reading other things?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Another "Lottery"

I'm not sure how I found The Lottery by Beth Goobie since it's a fourteen-year-old book. It was one of those situations where I bring home a book from the library, leave it on my library pile for weeks, and when I find it go, "Why, whatever could this be?"

Okay, time to remind everyone about my Shirley Jackson obsession. No doubt The Lottery title was the initial draw for me. There definitely is a conection between this Lottery and Jackson's. The basic premise of Goobie's book is that a secret club, the Shadow Council, exists at Saskatoon Collegiate High School. Each year the members, which change as students graduate and move on, select a victim for the year. The victim serves the Council by running errands that primarily involve delivering notes instructing students to do their unsavory bidding. Oh, and the victim is shunned by the rest of the student body for the school year. Then a new victim is selected, and things go back to normal for the old one. In a manner of speaking.

Yeah, it sounds pretty far-fetched when I put it that way. But I totally bought into it, just as I, and so many other readers, bought into Jackson's Lottery. One of the fascinating things about both stories--all the townspeople/students had to do was say, "No." All the characters bought in, just as the readers do. They gave the lotteries their power.

A little drawback to the Goobie book: It's a problem book, which is fine. Main character Sal is dealing with a significant and interesting problem. But it's not the only problem. Sal has a troubled backstory. There's a character in a wheelchair and another who's autistic. It's a little bit of a pile on.

But otherwise this was a good world/reading experience.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

In The Kitchen With Gail

This was another weekend of cooking during which I didn't feel that I was binging. It was more a matter of "We need dessert." "I'm out of bread." "I want to eat pears in a way that I have never eaten pears before." Then I dragged myself around the kitchen and made this stuff. A binge is a little more ecstatic and less needy.

I continued my attempt to find podcasts of people reading a piece of writing instead of people talking about writing. What did I listen to?

Zahna by Dorothy Bouzouma at Slice Magazine. This is an essay that Slice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The author married a man from Mauritania, and her essay is about his family's effort to turn her into a Mauritanian woman during a visit there. The author sounded somewhat down reading Zahna, and I have to say I found myself feeling distressed listening to it. It seemed as if Bouzouma was being taken over, losing herself, to this culture that wasn't her own. I found myself thinking, Is any man worth this? It's a pretty successful essay in that it drew such a strong response from this listener.

Then I found No Extra Words, a flash fiction podcast. Over the past two years, I have worked steadily completing and revising a couple of novels. But the only truly new works I've written are two pieces of flash, one fiction and one an essay. I listened to a few pieces at No Extra Words and found them well done. But nothing moved me the way Zahna did. I'll go back to this site and explore some more.

Finally, I went back to The Memory Palace, where I listened to Family Snapshot. Now The Memory Palace is a storytelling podcast about the past. I think the stories could be described as creative nonfiction. While listening to Family Snapshot, I thought about all the writing
process advice about the necessity for conflict in fiction and sometimes even the need for an antagonist. But in true life stories is that always the case? Can "something happen to somebody and
so what" (my definition of story) without traditional conflict?

Once again, I'm taking part in the Weekend Cooking meme at Beth Fish Reads.
You can also check out all my Podcasts in the Kitchen posts at Pinterest.


Friday, August 19, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Aug. 15 Edition

Hmm. I need some kind of image to accompany these "Done" posts.  A goal for next week.

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives.  Am focusing on Goals 2 and 6 until the middle of September. And I'd like to make a couple more submissions.

Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission. Making progress. Seriously.

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. Submitted a short work.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

Work Pays Off blog post. Promoted to Google+ and Twitter.

Agents/Editors/Writers Conference blog post. Promoted`to Facebook and Facebook group. Google+, a Google+ community, and Twitter.

Diva and Flea blog post. Promoted to Facebook community, Google+, and Twitter.

Started a Time Management Tuesday post.

Began CCLC for September and October.

Posted  Nameless City  to Goodreads

Posted  Winter to Goodreads.

Posted  Diva and Flea  to Goodreads.

Posted Bread Loaf Pinterest post to Goodreads blog.

Goal 6. Generate New Work: Worked on the NaNoWriMo project.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Diva Could Be Renee's Dog

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems with illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi is about a French dog with a home and not much sense of adventure and a French cat, Flea, who lives on the street and is very into adventure. And they become friends and have a positive impact on each other, and that's all very meaningful and nice.

Here's the reason I'm taken with this book. Diva belongs to a gardienne, Eva, who takes care of a building. Towards the end of the book, we see Eva's feet as she sweeps a floor. I thought, Sacre Bleu! That could be the concierge in The Elegance of the Hedgehog!!!

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery was an odd (the in the best sense of the word) 
international bestseller from France around eight years ago. It had two main characters, a twelve-year-old girl who lived in an upscale building and Renee, the upscale building's concierge. Renee is quite fantastic, a nobody building maintenance worker who is also a French intellectual. Though no one knows it. Like Diva, she becomes friendly with someone quite different from herself. Or is he?

I must say, The Elegance of the Hedgehog includes an event that left some readers shaken. (I'm looking at you Sally Allen.) Still The Story of Diva and Flea and The Elegance of the Hedgehog could be companion books. Young readers could read Diva and Flea preparing themselves for the philosophy and shock of Hedgehog.

Yes, I recall that Renee was a cat person. But look at the cover of Diva and Flea. Diva is one of those fluffy little dogs that could pass for a cat.

My Goodreads post about Hedgehog from 2012.

Monday, August 15, 2016

An Agents/Editors/Writers' Day Next Month In Maine

Maine Lakes Resource Center
As of this morning, five spaces were left in the one-day Agents/Editors/Writers' Conference on Saturday, September 10 at the Maine Lakes Resource Center in Belgrade Lakes, Maine. While this is not a SCBWI sponsored event, SCBWI member Cathy McKelway organized it. She has recruited agents you may recognize from SCBWI functions this past year and editors from two New England publishers. Most of the spots she still has open are for YA critiques. However, one is for picture books.

Agents Attending:

Kaylee Davis, Dee Mura Literary
Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary
Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary
Rebecca Podos, Rees Agency

Editors Attending:

Melissa Kim, Islandport Press
Audrey Maynard, Tilbury House Publishers

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Work Pays Off With A Book Sale

My writers' group colleague, Nancy Tandon, has just sold her first book. From Publisher's Marketplace:

"Nancy Tandon's SAY MY NAME, in which two speech-therapy 'rejects' draw strength from heavy metal music and Muhammad Ali as they search for their true voices, to Rana DiOrio launching Big Dill Stories, in a nice deal, for publication in Fall 2017 (World)."

Nancy is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, has attended its programs, and is the moderator for our writers' group, which is sponsored by the New England SCBWI. In addition, she's  been a finalist for the Tassy Walden Award. In fact, I believe she's been involved with that award more than once.

My point being, she has been training as a writer for a while now. This sale didn't just happen, didn't just drop in her lap. She worked for it.

That's how it's done.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

An End To "The Lunar Chronicles"

I enjoyed The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer so much that I bought several of the books for my niece. I even liked Fairest: Levana's Story. And nobody likes Levana.

The last book in the series, Winter, is not my favorite. That would be Cinder, followed by Cress. Winter reminded me of Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor. Both books were the finales of fantasy war romances. Or war romance fantasies. Or... you get my drift. Both of those final books ended up dwelling on getting those romances resolved. And in Winter there were a number of romances to resolve. There was lots about whether A has told B he loves her. Will C get back together with D. You get my drift. All that will be a treat for big F fans. I am a little f fan. I'm not that keen on stopping to talk about feelings.  (Yikes. I sound like a family member who used to complain that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was the "feelings Star Trek." "More battles! More explosions!")

Oh, my gosh! We're not really done with The Lunar Chronicles! Stars Above is a collection of short story prequels to the Lunar Chronicle books. If you are what's known in book collecting and reading circles as a completist, you will probably have trouble resisting that.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Collecting Some More Material On Pinterest--The Bread Loaf Board

This year's Bread Loaf Writers' Conference starts today. Don't worry. I'm not going to bore you with another story about the great time I had working in the Bread Loaf kitchen back in the day. No, I'm going to link you to a Pinterest board collection of all my stories about the great time I had working in the Bread Loaf kitchen back in the day, as well as some never before published pictures.

You're not going to see photos like these anywhere else. Anywhere.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: A Little Schadenfreude And A Little App

I went to writers' group last night. It was a particularly good session pour moi, but it took place during my blog-writing time. Since I haven't worked out how to be in too places at once, and, what's more, do two tasks at once, I don't have much of a TMT post this week.

What I can tell you is:
  • Writers' groups are good for schadenfreude, that distastefully satisfying feeling you get when you hear that every writer you know is suffering from monkey mind this summer. 
  • I am experimenting with a time tracking app! Yeah, man. Bet you've been wondering why I've never gotten around to discussing those. Well, you can look forward to hearing about one soon.