Thursday, July 02, 2015

How Do We Feel About Another Author's Photo Showing Up On Our Work?

 An Author Photo Mix-up

Several years ago (just a little over four, to be exact), I read Why Is Someone Else In My Book's Author Photo? by Caroline Leavitt at Salon. In it, Leavitt writes about finding out that the Chinese edition of her book, Girls in Trouble, carried another author's photograph. She found it "discomfiting" and said of herself, "I mourn."

Now, I have learned only a handful of things in my lifetime, but one of them is that I just can't predict how I will respond to any experience. Would I feel that "an author’s photo is the reader-writer connection...It’s a public acknowledgment that a real person — me! — spent four years agonizing and obsessing over the story"? Would I mourn?

My Own Author Photo Issue

Rosemary and Olive Oil, my short story that was published at Alimentum, does, indeed, include someone else's photograph with the author info. Oddly enough, she looks a little bit like Caroline Leavitt.

How upset am I about this?  I probably noticed it three or four months or so ago. I just got around last night to writing an e-mail to the Alimentum editor to see if the picture can be replaced with one of mine. I'm not going to send it for a few days so my OC readers can enjoy checking out the story and the mystery photo. So, no, it doesn't seem to be bothering me that much, and I'm happy to get a blog post out of the situation.

Why Am I Not In Despair Over This Misplaced Author Photo?

Rosemary and Olive Oil was my first published short story for adults, so it was a very big deal for me. To date, it is still my only published short story for adults, so it is still a very big deal for me.  I had to rework it a number of times. I've submitted many short stories over and over again, but Rosemary and Olive Oil went to the third publication I submitted it to. I put this down not to the splendor of the story but to having stumbled upon the perfect place for it. Alimentum is a journal of the literature of food, and Rosemary and Olive Oil is, indeed, a short story about food. Finding the perfect home for a piece of writing is difficult and, sometimes, as in this case, kind of magical.

I think this is running off my back for two reasons:
  1. It didn't happen at the time of publication. My recollection is that Alimentum had just shifted from a print to on-line format when Rosemary and Olive was published. I don't believe it was using author photos with the bios at that point. I most certainly would have felt differently if this had happened with my shiny new story.
  2. I'm a bit of an in-this-moment kind of writer. I tend to be involved with what I'm working on now and not that intent on what I did in the past. When speaking with reporters while promoting new books, I can recall them asking if I was excited about the publication we were discussing. I'd have to say, "Ah, I've pretty much moved on to the next book." Rosemary and Olive Oil was published more than two years ago. Yeah, this author photo thing is interesting and I'm going to address it, but I'm far more concerned with the nine chapters I'm revising of my work-in-progress so I can go on to Chapter Ten and, some day, an ending.
I'll be sending that e-mail to Alimentum's editor in a few days, and I'll let you know what happens. If I think of it. If I'm not tied up with something else.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Finding Time For Meditation

On Sunday, I stumbled upon an article called So You Think You Can't Meditate... in the March issue of Yoga Journal. The first paragraph dealt with time issues, but in an odd way. "Sure, meditation could be just what you need right now. But who has time? Whether you do or not, you must find it..." It concludes with "So no more excuses for why you can't get started, or, if you already come to your meditation cushion regularly, why you can't seem to take it to the next level."

Find time, but nothing about how to do it. And the "next level" comment? Are we talking a little competitive meditation?

I began looking into and writing about meditation as an element of time management from the very beginning of my Time Management Tuesday project. I've been reading over and over that meditation can have an impact on concentration, and concentration is a big factor on staying on task with writing. The better you can stay on task, the more you can get done with the time you have, and you can see where I'm going with this.

Meditating, however, is not easy for a lot of us. And while it has the potential to help us manage time, it, itself, takes time.

Ways Writers Can Find Time For Meditation


If you walk. In Chi Walking Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer describe a "focusing walk." It involves picking an object ahead of you that you can keep your attention on while walking. When you've walked far enough that you can no longer use your spot as a focus, choose another. While your attention is focused on your object, you can "observe" your breath or concentrate on a word or sound. If you walk, anyway, this may be a way to work in some meditation, too.

Note that this is not true "walking meditation." Both the meditation workshop I took this past year and the Dreyers describe walking meditation being done in a specific area, walking in a circle, for instance. No distractions. If you struggle with the sitting still aspect of meditation, this might help.

If you do qi gong. Yes, this is a pretty big if. I take a tai chi class that includes a bit of qi gong. I can't actually tell you qi gong's relation to tai chi. I've seen them described as complimentary practices or arts. I've wondered if tai chi is a form of qi gong. Oh, for the simple days when I was doing taekwondo.

Anyway, the So You Think You Can't Meditate article describes qi gong as a Taoist method of meditation. Again, if you need movement, trying qi gong may help.
If you spend time waiting. I've read about being able to "drop into" meditation at odd times you can grab here and there. In fact, the May issue of Yoga Journal has an article, Does Ahimsa Mean I Can't Eat Meat? by Kate Holcombe (terrific piece, by the way), that describes a meditation process that begins with "Sit quietly in your home, in your parked car, or even on the bus or in the waiting room of the doctor's office..."

Can Writers "Use" Meditation?

People who are really knowledgeable about meditation might question the wisdom of trying to meditate while doing other things. In Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation And Practice (which I haven't finished reading, to be truthful) Shurya Suzuki talks about dualism. "For  Zen students the most important thing is not to be dualistic." He's referring at that point to keeping a mind open and ready for anything, not burdened by all it knows, leading to one of my favorite zenny sayings "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few." And he also says later in a section called "No Dualism," "When you do something, just do it should be your purpose." Is trying to meditate while doing something else dualism?

But, then, maybe people who are really knowledgeable about meditation might question the wisdom of trying to use meditation to mprove concentration and memory and relieve stress, again because of the dualism thing. In his "No Dualism" section, Suzuki also says, "We say our practice should be without gaining ideas, without any expectations, even of enlightenment." I most certainly use mine (such as it is) with the expectation of gaining something. He also describes someone trying to achieve emptiness through form (their Zen practice). " are liable to be involved in dualistic ideas: here is you, form, and here is emptiness, which you are trying to realize through your form." We could rephrase that for our situation: here is meditation, and here is concentration, which we are trying to realize through meditation. Two different states, duality.

Well, I have never been one to worry about whether or not I'm adhering to every rule and guideline. I'm definitely a rewarding-myself-for-approximating-correct-behavior sort of person. If it's okay for me to be practicing meditation in order to achieve the end of improving concentration and therefore make better use of my writing time, I'm also going to practice it while walking up the street.

But, of course, I could change my mind about that. 


Monday, June 29, 2015

July Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

This month is remarkable because we have only one store appearance, and it's connected to a college event. Libraries and colleges really stepped up to the plate for Connecticut's children's literature community this July.

Wed., July 8, Cory Lynn Arnold, Tony Abbott, Nora Raleigh Baskin, Susan Hood, Sarah Darer Littman, Dawn Metcalf, Kevin O’Malley, Rob Roy, Pegi Deitz Shea, Judy Siegal, Padma Venkatraman and Rosemary Wells  Author Reception for Kids' Lit Quiz World Final Competition, Memorial Hall, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain 4:30-5:45 PM

Mon., July 14, Julie Phillips, Woodbury Library, Woodbury 7:00 PM Hour presentation on writing and publishing picture books. Registration required.

Tues., July 15, Sarah Albee, UConn Bookstore, Storrs 5:00 to 7:30 Public reception prior to
Confratute presentation.

Thurs., July 16, Janet Lawler, The Goddard School, Orange 10:00 AM to Noon

Tues., July 28, Donna LaBlanc, Shannon MazurickJ.C. Phillips, Martha Ritter, Avon Free Public Library, Avon 7:00 PM  Local Author Festival Topic: "The Reader Experience"

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Weekend Writer: Writing Genre For Children

Have we discussed genre? Focusing your writing on a specific type of writing?

One of the interesting things about writing children's literature is that you can end up writing genre within genre. Children's fiction is a specific type of writing, a genre. Then within children's fiction you can have still other genres, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, maybe humor, maybe problem novels. I've read jokes about three books on a new subject is the start of a genre, raising the question of whether autism books became a genre a few years ago. Oh. Wait. Are they just a sub-category of problem novels?

Writing Genre For Children Can Be Tricky

For new writers the big issue with writing children's literature is that it must involve a child main character and be written from a child's point of view, whether you're talking using a first- or third-person narrator. This seems obvious, but some writers struggle with slipping in an adult character to fix things or teach. And it can become very tricky with writing genre. In mysteries, how do child main characters get around to investigate when they can't drive, may not live in an area with public transit, and may have limited financial resources to pay for transportation? In historical fiction, how can writers connect children to specific events they want to write about? How much knowledge do we have about children's experience during various historical periods?

All these thoughts of mine were inspired when I stumbled upon Must-visit Sci-Fi Websites at Now Novel's blog. It relates, of course, to the science fiction genre. It has sites to visit for research and even for research about space-based or robot stories. Science fiction writers for children may find help there for the science fiction aspect of what they're doing. The children's writing portion of the job is another story.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What Did You do Last Week, Gail? June 26 Edition

Goal 1. Mummy Book. I'm hoping that I have only two or three chapters to go on this. However, now I'm at that point that many writers complain about when they feel the project they've worked on for months is really, really lame.

Goal 2. Short Pieces. I did some journal work on at least one piece and a small amount of market research.

Goal 5. Community Building. I put in quite a bit of time on the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar. It's ready to post and e-mail this weekend. I also spent last weekend on the 48 Hour Book Challenge, which, sure, is about reading, but also about networking. It's fun networking.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I'm Loving Work Right Now

Years ago, when I had littlies here, there would come a point while working on a draft when I would get very into it while family chaos went on around me. As I got closer and closer to the end of that particular project, I would start getting excited. Perhaps you recall that old saying about the workhorse who picks up speed when he sees the barn? That's how I would feel. Once I reached the barn, I knew I could take a break and do something else for a bit while the draft sat simmering or was off with my editor.  I'd be all pumped up about what I was going to do next.

Now I have elders to deal with and a wedding coming up. I'm at that point in the first draft I'm working on when I'm really getting very into it while family chaos goes on around me. What was particularly exciting yesterday was  that we had hot dogs for dinner.  I wasn't all that interested in food, and I had to do something fast and easy. That's all I could think of. Back in that earlier time I was talking about, we used to have hot dogs a couple of times a week during drafting.

I've been feeling lately as if I'm back in the good old days. I am pumped up about what I'm going to do when I finish this draft. Clean my desk. Clean up my e-mail. Do some marketing. Look at some of my short stories and essays. Get started on revising. It's all very thrilling.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Little Summer Training

I know many people think of summer as a time to do nothing. It always makes me want to do a little something special. For work. Something special for work. Here are a couple of opportunities.


Nerdy Chicks Rule is running a Kidlit Summer School through its blog. They describe it as a "blog-centric event ... focused on craft." Just yesterday on one of my Facebook writer groups the issue came up of writers responsible for childcare trying to work in the summer when school age children are home. The Kidlit Summer School uses the marketing line "Are you looking for a way to keep writing through the dog days of summer?" Okay "dog days of summer" relates to the hot weather in July and August, but that coincides with kidcare, right?

While I know nothing about this particular project, I've enjoyed other short-term on-line programs I've taken part in. (A four-week willpower program, for instance.) This might be worth a shot. I think I'm going to register.

In Connecticut

Artist and picture book author Julie Phillips will be doing a one-hour presentation at Woodbury Public Library on Tuesday, July 14 at 7:00 pm. This is a program on writing and illustrating picture books, and registration is required. Did I mention that it's only an hour?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Be Ready To Start Again

Ernest Hemingway said of writing, "The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next."  And guess what? Jan Allen Graduate Mentor (Oh, how I love the name of that blog.) says something very similar. "There’s an essential task in your last five minutes of writing each day that will save time and increase your productivity. Five minutes before you stop writing, make a list of your next steps and ideas for continuing your writing at your next session."

What they're both saying is, Know what you're going to do when you come back to work.

What does this have to do with managing time? Getting started for the day can be hard and take a lot of time. If you know what you're going to do before you start working, you can hit the ground running.

Allen writes about flow in her Your Last Five Minutes of Writing Post post. Flow is a very desirable state in writing, and anything else. In addition to feeling good, it can move work along quickly. Among the conditions that can lead to it: concentration, feeling in the moment, and feeling in control. You don't get to flow struggling just to begin work.

As it turns out, I did know what I was going to do when I started work this morning.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The 48 Hour Book Challenge Finale And Theme Announcement

My 48 hour reading period ends around 7:10 this evening. It became clear before 6 that I wasn't going to get another book done. Book 4 was a no go for me after a couple of chapters. It would have had to have been an incredibly fast read for me to finish and blog about it before my deadline.

So I managed only three books this year. I finished Book One Friday night and blogged about it before going to bed. I started reading again before noon yesterday and finished Book Two in the afternoon and blogged about it then. I started Book Three but admit I was reading it while watching a movie in the evening, so that slowed me down. I started reading this morning, took a church break that ended up being around 3 hours, and finished Book Three this afternoon.

This Year's Theme

I like to have a theme for my 48 Hour Book Challenge Reading. One year it was magical realism. One year it was books from my To Be Read stash. Last year it was diversity. This year it was friends' books. I read books written by people I know through blogging or writers' group/NESCBWI.

This Year's Books

Mare's War by Tanita Davis

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

And I threw in:

Joshua 24: 14-16

Check out other completed 48 Hour Book Challenge readers.

Quite honestly, I veered from Challenge reading at bedtime because I've been reading The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf the third in a series I like a lot. So I would have gone a little further with the Challenge if I hadn't need to check out whether the werewolves were going to find the werewolf hunters, get their rock bands going, get a date, etc.

Now I am feeling both worn out and as if I've been on a vacation. I'm anxious about getting back to work tomorrow.

How Are You Going To Keep Them Down On The Farm, After They've Seen Paree?

My third book for this year's 48 Hour Book Challenge is also written in the present tense. Is this happening all over the place, and I just haven't been noticing?

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis is sort of like the finding grandparents books I wrote about recently. However, Octavia and Talitha have always known their chain-smoking, stiletto wearing grandmother. The discovery in this book is her incredible past/story as a WWII era WAC. And her incredible past/story as a WWII era WAC is even more incredible because she's African American, and she was serving in a segregated Women's Army Corps.

Book Structure

Mare's War is structured around a road trip. Octavia and Talitha are stuck driving cross-country with their 80-year-old grandmother who is headed for a family reunion. Marey Lee Boylen is fond of wigs, push-up bras, and stiletto heels. We get short sections involving the road trip in which Marey Lee Boylen (Mare to both friends and granddaughters) is quite a sophisticated, well spoken woman of the world. She's very knowledgeable about black history, particularly as it relates to the parts of the U.S. they're traveling through, and she appears to be quite capable of paying for the nice hotels where she likes to stay. These sections are told from the point of view of Octavia, who I believe, is around 15 years old. (Her sister Talitha is older, not in college yet, but old enough to drive.)

These sections alternate with longer, historical sections in which the 16 to 17-year-old Mare is the first person narrator. She tells of her rough life in Alabama, how she escaped it by joining the service, and her experiences while in that service. In these sections, Mare speaks in the voice of a very, rural, inexperienced rural girl. A rube, to be blunt. She sounds nothing like the mature Mare. That totally works. To a great extent this book is about how young Mare becomes very mature Mare.

YA Characters


Interesting aspect of this book is that we have two YA worlds, Octavia and Talitha's contemporary world and Mare's WWII era world. Octavia and Talitha's YA life is bland and dull compared to their grandmother's. And that works.

I could say more about characters--the sister issues, is Mare like her mother, but I have less than three hours left for reading. Allez!!!

Disclosure: I've "known" Tanita for years as bloggers. She has been a frequent commenter here, and I've done the same at the blog she maintains with Sarah Stevenson, Finding Wonderland. (Can't figure out how to comment at her personal blog.) I read a library copy of Mare's War.

By the way, my computer guy was so intrigued when he heard about the historical subject of this book that he's planning to research it this evening.