Sunday, August 18, 2019

Lodestar Award For Best Young Adult Science Fiction Or Fantasy Book Announced

The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book was announced as part of the Hugo Award announcements at the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland. I believe I have an acquaintance at that convention. One I've actually met in the flesh for a moment and been in the same room with, unlike other people I am acquainted with in other ways.

According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the Lodestar Awards are voted on by the same people who vote on the Hugos, but the Lodestar is not a Hugo. "The chief reason for this distinction is the principle that no single work should be eligible for multiple Hugo categories: Young Adult tales are not excluded from, and indeed have won, the Hugo for best novel and best novella." So now you know that. And it is interesting.

The 2019 finalists and the winner (in bold) are:

  • Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform / Gollancz)
  • The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black (Little, Brown / Hot Key Books)
  • Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
  • The Invasion, by Peadar O’Guilin (David Fickling Books / Scholastic)
  • Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman (Random House / Penguin Teen) lists all the finalists and winners.

Another Connecticut Bookstore Closes

While working on next month's Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar, I noticed that the website for Jack and Allie's, A Children's Bookstore in Vernon is gone. What do you suppose that means, Gail? I thought.

I did a little hunting, and, as I suspected, the store has closed. The lease was up at the end of May, and the owner is looking for another site.

In addition to selling books, Jack and Allie's hosted events such as birthday parties, baby showers, fundraisers, and reading camps.

This is the second Connecticut bookstore to close this summer. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

How About A "Girl In Hyacinth Blue" For Child Readers?

Recently I read about an agent who would like to find a YA Broadchurch, all three seasons of which I watched last month while I was sick. I'm having trouble getting my head around that, perhaps because I love the stars, David Tennant and Olivia Coleman, too much. How could some other kind of characters be the center of this kind of story?

Today I finished reading Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland, which traces the different owners of a Vermeer painting back across centuries. As I got toward the end, I thought, Okay. I could see a children's or YA variation on this.

When I was a teenager, I read historical novels that spanned generations of one family. Going back generations with one material thing doesn't seem like too much of a stretch.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Environmental Book Club

The Guardian in England reports that there is a Greta Thunberg Effect--"a boom in books aimed at empowering young people to save the planet." Thunberg is a sixteen-year-old Swedish climate change activist.

I wonder if this Greta Thunberg Effect is only in England, since The Guardian is an English publication. Greta Thunberg is on her way to America as I write this, so we'll see if she makes an impact in childlit here.

Okay, I'm going to admit that I'd only heard of Thunberg because she's one of the women on the cover of the September issue of British Vogue, guest edited by our own duchess, Meghan Markle.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: The Challenge Stress Mindset

Okay! Finally, Gail is getting to a new stress mindset, described by Kelly McGonigal in The Upside of Stress.

Now, remember, a mindset is how we perceive something. We can perceive stress the way our ancestors did as, Oh, my gosh! I have to escape this! (Flight) Or I have to beat this impossible situation, and it's going to be horrible. (Fight)

Or...we can perceive stress as a challenge.

Threats Vs. Challenges

The fight-or-flight stress mindset is a threat response, meaning a response to danger or emergencies. Most of us aren't confronted with true dangers and emergencies on a daily basis, but our minds continue to perceive some of what's going on around us in that way. In the case of writers, we perceive a work-related stress and either run from it (to, say, the Internet and other procrastinating activities) or engage in some kind of psychological struggle to overcome the stressor. A case in point...writing my second book was very difficult, as second books often are for writers. I can recall being up early to work on it, leaving a son off at an evening Boy Scout meeting once and going home to work some more. I would drop everything and go for a walk trying to force a breakout experience, though I doubt I knew that term at the time. Then there was that moment I remember so fondly when I grabbed my husband by the front of his shirt and screeched, "You don't understand! I'm going to have to give back the advance!" Writing that book was definitely an ugly psychological fight.

With a challenge stress mindset, though, the primary goal is to go after what you want instead of either escaping it or using brute force to fight it. You don't feel as if you're in some kind of danger, the way you do with the threat response. You want to perform well. McGonigal says a challenge mindset can be more like pursuit of an athletic challenge than a threat. It's considered healthier for the body than the flight-or-fight stress mindset, because that is designed for short term real dangers. The human body isn't meant to live under that kind of stress indefinitely. It can manage the challenge mindset better.

Additionally, in terms of time management, with a challenge mindset there is less desire to flee the stress, because challenges are good, right? And, thus, there's less reason to procrastinate. We should be able to work more.

Threat Vs Challenge Stress Mindsets For Writers

  • In New England, this is the time of year when NESCBWI members are submitting workshop proposals for next spring's conference. Interested parties are encouraged to be prepared to teach two different workshops over the weekend, which means creating two different proposals. Depending on how you write proposals, this could mean going a long way down the road to planning two workshops. Keep in mind that while you're spending time putting together a proposal, you're not writing or submitting. What is the best use of time? Also, some writers are working on these proposals knowing that if they are accepted, they are not going to be at all comfortable teaching. I have submitted proposals twice, and taught once. The challenge mindset doesn't come naturally to me. This was a stressful experience that I now avoid. I know people who love doing this...ah...stuff, though. Perhaps they have a challenge mindset.
  • At any point writers can find themselves engaged in agent hunts. In addition to finding one who will be interested in the particular project you're shopping around, you might also like to find one who represents other genres you write in. And one who might at least kind of like you. Personally, I think looking for an agent is a lot like looking for a significant other. Stressful? Or challenging?
  • And, of course, there are those points in your work when you realize the new project stinks big time and you should drop it. And marketing worries for books that sold. And what about freelance writers who actually get published regularly and often find themselves with multiple deadlines? Is all this stressful? Or challenging?


Do You Have A Threat Or A Challenge Stress Mindset?

Think about whether or not you have the skills and resources to deal with a stressful situation.

  • If you believe you don't, you can end up with a threat/fight-or-flight stress response
  • If you believe you do, you may go into a challenge response.
Think about the conference example I gave above. I know writers who are experienced teachers. They know they have skills and resources to handle a one- or two-hour class. Prepping for conferences and workshops may very well be more challenging than threatening for them.

Changing Your Mindset From Threat To Challenge

According to McGonigal, to shift to a challenge mindset:

  • Focus on your resources. Acknowledge your personal strengths.
  • Go over how you've prepared for similar challenges.
  • Pray. 
  • Reframe stressful meetings as learning opportunities. (Learn from past mistakes?)
  • Practice/train because a challenge stress mindset is like a sports challenge, which you would practice/train for.


Some Closing Questions

I definitely like the idea of thinking of stress situations as challenges instead of as...hell. But I do have some reservations.
  • What if you go over your resources and have to acknowledge that you have none for a particular stressful situation? You have no personal strengths that relate to this?
  • What if you haven't prepared for similar challenges in the past? 
I suspect that for many people who do not naturally think in terms of challenges, the challenge stress mindset is essentially a mind game they're going to have to learn to play with themselves. And that's fine. I'm good with mind games. Getting through life is arguably one big mind game. The trick here is making this particular mind game work for you.

So...I guess if you want to face stress as a challenge, the answers to my above questions are:
  • If you have no resources for a particular stressful situation, decide what resources you need to seek out. If you have no personal strengths for this, which ones do you need to develop? 
  • If you haven't prepared for similar challenges in the past, who has whose experience you can study?

If you'd like to read more on the science behind this subject, check out Threat or Challenge? The Surprising New Science of How We Think About Stress at Six Seconds. Kelly McGonigal is one of the writers the author refers to.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Weekend Writer

I noticed I haven't done a Weekend Writer post in a long time. Since I had this drafted, and it's a weekend, here we go.

 Where To Begin A Story?

This is a big deal in writing novels. Where do you actually begin a story? After lots of backstory? In the midst of action? How long will readers be willing to wait to get an idea of what your story is really about?

It's not unusual for writers to realize that their stories actually begin in Chapter Three, say, and they have to start doing some shifting, if not cutting altogether.

Where To Begin A Chapter?

This same question applies to chapters. You can find yourself writing pages and pages of interaction, dialogue, activity, and realize you’re just getting to the point. Do you need all this stuff you’ve churned out? Will anybody want to sit through this witty repartee or step by step movement through time to get to the meat, what the chapter is about?

What To Do? What To Do?

Take the attitude that every chapter should involve a change or a release of new information. Determine what that change or new information will be. Get to that change or where that change will happen as fast as you can. Get that new information out sooner rather than later. If you want to place it toward the end of the chapter in order to connect with the next one, make sure your chapters aren't too long.

It can be helpful to maintain an 'as-you-go' outline in which you list for each chapter what change has happened or what new information has been provided. Then you can be sure that you don't have any chapters that are just bloat.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: Stress Mindsets And Getting Started On Changing Them

Getting Back Up To Speed

It's been a while since I've addressed time management and stress mindsets so let's make sure I've covered enough so we can go forth.

This summer I'm reading The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal and trying to relate managing stress to managing time, particularly for writers. Procrastination is a particular problem for writers and stress is very much related to that. Remember, in Upside of Stress McGonigal says that people who see stress as harmful are likely to "try to distract themselves from the cause of the stress instead of dealing with it" and "focus on getting rid of their feelings of stress instead of taking steps to address its source." We distract ourselves with procrastinating. We focus on getting rid of our feelings of stress with procrastination. McGonigal also says that "The desire to avoid feeling anxious overtakes other goals." Getting rid of the stress of working toward finishing a draft overtakes the goal of finishing the draft.

Another of our old friends, Timothy Pychl, author of The Procrastinator's Digest, says something similar about procrastination. Procrastinators procrastinate because they're giving in to the need to feel good immediately. Revising this chapter is so much harder than I thought it would be. I am miserable. A Facebook break would make me feel better. Might even make me feel good. I would love to feel good.

You can see why jobs get dragged out forever and ever. At least, I can see why mine do.

Fight Or Flight...The Most Famous Stress Mindset

It's a rare reader of popular science articles who hasn't heard of the fight-or-flight response. The story goes that while we were evolving, the early humans who were good at deciding whether they should flee or fight wild beasts, natural disasters, or other humans were the ones who survived and whose good little fight-or-flight genes got into the gene pool. Nowadays those same genes have a lot less animal/disaster/other humans to trigger them, so turn their attention to things like public speaking, flying, what's happening with our kids, and work.

For many of us, fight-or-flight is our default stress mindset.

But There Are Other Ways To Experience Stress

In The Upside of Stress, McGonigal argues that there are other, more positive stress mindsets we could be using and even taking advantage of when dealing with stress. So far in my reading I've come upon mindsets involving:
  • Challenge
  • Tend and Befriend
  • Values
But where do they come from? If fight-or-flight is some kind of inborn response that we may not even think about, what are these other mindsets? Where do they come from and how do I get one?

Mindset Interventions

My reading suggests that some of these mindsets may be natural for some people and not others. But according to McGonigal, we can all switch to  more positive mindsets by either taking part in a formal intervention or making our own. She describes a number of research projects in which this is done and offers ideas for making our own interventions.

And that will be coming up.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Environmental Book Club

I bet you all thought I'd forgotten about the Environmental Book Club just because I've done only one post in the last year. Hahahahaha. I never forget anything. Hardly ever. I don't forget for long, anyway. I remember sooner or later.

Today's EBC post isn't about a book. Instead, I'm sending you to an Electric Lit article, All Literature Is Climate Change Literature by Jeffrey Arlo Brown. In it Brown makes the fascinating argument that while we talk about climate fiction as being a very contemporary genre, writers such as Shakespeare and Dante used "the language of climate" in their work. Something like climate fiction was being written before we knew what climate fiction is. "..our vulnerability to the climate," Brown writes, "is familiar."

Give some thought to the flood that's addressed in the Old Testament, as well as the early literature of other cultures. Could that be describing climate change, maybe?Hmm?

Should make you think twice when you're reading some of those boring, dead, white guy books, eh?

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

August Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Summers are always slow for childlit/YA appearances store appearances in Connecticut. Maybe shoppers are all reading at their beach cottages and lake houses? Sure, that's it. For eleven years, though, the Connecticut Authors' Trail has been bringing Connecticut writers to libraries in eastern Connecticut during the summer. We have two children's writers on the Connecticut Authors' Trail this month.
Sat., Aug. 3, Toni Buzzeo and Sara Levine, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM

Sun., Aug. 4, Amanda Bannikov, Storyteller's Cottage, Simsbury 3:00 PM Book Launch

Mon., Aug. 5, Katie L. Carroll, Voluntown Public Library, Voluntown 6:00 PM Part of the Connecticut Authors' Trail

Thurs., Aug. 22, Jessica Bayless, Scotland Public Library, Scotland 6:30 PM Part of the Connecticut Authors' Trail

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

NESCBWI Encore For Writers Coming To Connecticut

The New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators will be holding this year's Encore for Writers at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut on Saturday, September, 14, starting at 9:00 AM. Registration begins today.

Encore is a repeat of some of the best received workshops held at the NESCBWI spring conference. This year's workshops come from the last two conferences and include:

  • Themes, Threads, and the Core with Erin Dionne
  • Show Don’t Tell Your Manuscript’s Opening with Jen Malone
  • Lie Your Way to Greatness: Using a Synopsis to Create a Revision Plan with Tara Sullivan
  • A New Starting Place: Maps, Vision Boards, and Blank Pages with Lisa Papademetriou
  • If I Only Had a Brand: Successful Branding for Creative Professionals with Jessica Southwick

Registration is $70 for SCBWI members and $100 for nonmembers. Nonmembers can scroll to the bottom of the Encore page for information on how to register.