Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Sabbatical Or A Retreat?

Or are we just talking a three-day weekend?

I'm off until Monday.

The Environmental Book Club

The Nature Generation announced the 2016 Green Earth Book Award winners nearly two months ago. The good thing about being late mentioning this means that I'm giving these books some new attention after talk of the award is in the past.

The Stranded Whale by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Melanie Cataldo won for best picture book.

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin won for best children's fiction. By the way, it was also a National Book Award finalist.

Children's nonfiction went to Mission: Sea Turtle Rescue by Karen Romano Young (Facebook friend) and Daniel Raven-Ellison.

The Beast of Cretacea by Todd Strasser won for young adult fiction.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: How About A Sabbatical?

The August issue of Yoga Journal has a section on taking sabbaticals called Ready, Set, Stop. Being Yoga Journal, the section includes articles about three yoga instructors who took sabbaticals from teaching for various reasons. There are two additional articles on preparing for a sabbatical, both financially and in terms of expectations.

Here at Original Content I am into curating information that can be applied to writing and time management for writing and then distributing it, no matter where I find said information. Material about sabbaticals definitely falls into the category of how writers can use their time.

Why Would Writers Want A Sabbatical?

Of course, we could be talking a need to get away from the pressure of working and submitting and working and submitting for a while, of rethinking your material and your career strategy. Unless you're an established writer generating a good income, taking that kind of sabbatical should be relatively easy on a practical level--you're not talking about cutting a necessary income stream.

 Otherwise, I'm thinking of two situations in which writers would be interested in taking time off.
  • Writers doing work for hire and editing who want some time to work on their own writing.
  • Writers with full-time day jobs who want some time to work on a writing project.


And How Would They Do It?

As the Yoga Journal article points out, a sabbatical takes a lot of planning over a period of time because of the money involved. If you're talking about someone whose income supports a family, or even just contributes to supporting a family, it could mean having to save up a significant amount of money.

Then for writers who are talking a working sabbatical, one in which they expect to write, another kind of planning needs to be done. A serious sabbatical probably calls for some intense goal and objective setting.

You might want to adhere to the traditional S.M.A.R.T. plan for goal setting, making sure that what you plan to do during your sabbatical is:

  • Specific. You have a very specific writing goal/story/nonfiction project in mind. Don't, for instance, just plan to "write more." What does that even mean?
  • Measurable. You have a plan for how much work you hope to get done on that writing goal. You can do the NaNoWriMo thing and set a word count, or decide on a number of chapters. Again, don't just plan to "write more." Define what "more" is.
  • Achievable. You can actually reach this goal in the time you have, whether it's a first draft, a certain number of chapters, a certain number of words. If you can only take a few months off, you probably shouldn't get any ideas about learning a new language so you can write a book in Italian.
  • Relevant. Whatever you're going to do should relate to the goal. Taking on volunteer work because you have some free time? Traveling to all the far-flung family members' homes? Only if the volunteer work and the travel relates to the writing goal.
  • Time-Bound. Your sabbatical has an ending date, presumably. So the time-bound part should be easy.
To be honest, sabbaticals are probably of interest to me, because my father-in-law was a college professor who left on a sabbatical leave a week or so after I got back from my honeymoon. So to me, this is something people really do with their time.

Monday, June 20, 2016

An Excellent Reading Experience

We're having a little trouble with Interlibrary Loan here in central Connecticut, so I haven't been using it lately. Instead, I've been browsing the "new books" shelves at three area libraries. This means I'm stumbling upon things I might have overlooked, if I was just ordering books I'd seen reviewed somewhere.

John Stone And His Many Lives

The Many Lives of John Stone by Linda Buckley-Archer is one of those books that leaves you feeling you've read something unique. In large part, that's because it doesn't fit neatly into the YA mold. For one thing, the John Stone of the title is an adult, not a teenager. For another, though it could be argued that Spark, a teenage girl who is sought out by John Stone, is the main character, this book is really about Stone, not Spark. It's his story. She's part of his story.

On the other hand, though this book is about an adult, there's a great deal of focus on his teenage years. So we're brought again to the YA world.

Oh, but this is one of those situations in which you wish you had a third hand, because there is still another aspect of this story you'd like to consider. The aspect I'm talking about is Spark's age. She's just finishing up what we'd call high school (the book is set in England) and waiting to see what she'll do about college. She's old on the YA continuum. She's teetering into adulthood.

Years ago, when I first heard about the possibility of a new category of books, something that would fall between YA and traditional adult publishing, John Stone was the kind of story I thought would fit into that category. I thought we were talking about books about a slightly different period in young people's lives. The literary equivalent of a gap year. Then New Adult came along. Usually when I read of bloggers and writers talking about New Adult, sex and romance is a factor. There's nothing wrong with sex and romance, but what about all the other experiences people have between leaving high school and becoming full acclimated adults, say mid-twenties or so?

Well, New Adult or not, this book is a mash-up of historical fiction and scifi with a little Gothic business going on about a young woman called to an old house by a mysterious older man. A sophisticated work for an older audience by the author of Gideon the Cutpurse.

Thanks For The Trouble. Really.

I read Thanks For The Trouble by Tommy Wallach right after I finished The Many Lives of John Stone. Another elegant piece of writing with some strange stuff going on.

This is one of those stories in which two characters meet cute (main character Parker robs a young woman named Zelda) and develop an intense, emotional connection that's played out over a short period of time.Think Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist without the rock and obscenities. It was a magnetic read, though I did think it romanticized death a bit.

However, for me, the ending fixes that. I liked the ending in this case, even though I'm sure some would argue that it gave the story a frame that older readers--really older, like me--will recognize. But it also gives readers a choice, one that I appreciated.

Is There Something You're Not Telling Us, Gail?

Well, yes, there is. I'm not telling you the essential situation, set-up, what these books are actually about. I'm not putting that on the table to protect your reading experience.

I picked these things up off a library shelf with only a vague idea of what they were about. They sat around my house for a while before I got around to reading them. I no longer remembered why I was interested in them. What a great time reading that first book was. Then the second book was just as good.

And about something very similar.

I love it when this kind of thing happens. I don't want to ruin the reading experience for anyone else.

Friday, June 17, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? June 13 Edition?

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. Ah...I'm not really feeling it, and yet... We'll have to see when I'm done with this. Okay. I'm done. I want to do more next week.

Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission. I did finish a new first chapter. Though it doesn't have much voice, which doesn't make me happy.

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. The essay I nearly finished reworking last week? Yeah, I'm still struggling with the last line. Or thought. I just need a couple more words.

Also, I received a rejection this week on a piece of flash fiction. Rejection is good. It means you're submitting. It means you have work ready to submit, or at least, you thinks so. Yeah. That's my story.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Went to the Building Your Community of Readers and Advocates program last weekend. Two hours of driving each way, people, and five hours of program. Yeah, I include lunch.
  • Building Your Community Yada Yada post--Promoted to Google+, a Facebook community, and Twitter
  • Picture Book post--Promoted to Google+, Google+ community, Facebook community, and Twitter.
  • TMT post--Promoted to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter
  • B&N Teen Bookfest post--Promoted to Google+, Facebook, Facebook communities, and Twitter
  • Creativity post--Promoted to Google+ and Twitter.
  • Continued working on a Pinterest project. It is so much work, and I do not know if it will be worth it. Except, you know, I'll know how to use another social media platform, so booyah!
  • Posted picture book reviews to Goodreads.
  • Posted to my Goodreads blog.

Goal 6. Generate New Work: I'm continuing to read Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town in relation to the NaNoWriMo project I'm considering. Also, continuing to make some notes.

Am I using anything I learned at the NESCBWI Conference? The book I heard about at the conference and keep writng about here has had an impact on the essay I've been working on, as well as the new chapter to the mummy book.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

How Creativity Happens

The Readers And Advocates Program

Where I toyed with an idea.
I'm sure you all recall that on Sunday I went to a Build Your Readers and Advocates program. As a result of the morning session, I began to toy with an idea relating to the picture book I've been working on for months and will, no doubt, be working on the rest of my life.



Add Writers' Group

Came up with an idea while with woman on right.
Then Monday night I went to my writers' group with that picture book manuscript that I had thought, until I printed it, was in pretty good shape. But by the time I was stapling it together, I was unhappy with the lack of voice. And reading the thing aloud made clear there were some structural problems. (Little aside--Writers' groups hear your awful work.) I came up with an idea for a big revision.

Add Tuesday Morning's Workout

Here's where breakout happened.
Actually, for a couple of years now some of my workout time has gone to yard work, because ours is kind of overgrown. (And that, lads and lasses, is another example of a multiplier--a task that addresses two goals.) So I was dragging a rake through the periwinkle Tuesday morning when I had a  breakout experience. Which was:

If I was going to do the big revision I'd decided to do at writers' group on Monday, anyway, I could revise in such a way that I could use the idea I was toying with at the workshop on Sunday!

Bringing together different parts of your life or different experiences to make something different...X + Y = Something New.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Barnes & Noble Teen Book Festival In Connecticut

I have a few photos from YA authors taking part in the Connecticut portion of Barnes & Noble's Teen Book Festival this past weekend. I believe there were over 30 events spread over the state involving YA authors.

Joyce Stengel appeared at the B&N in Glastonbury. Joyce sent me two photos, but I...ah...well, lost one. So she gets first mention.

Dawn Metcalf's appearance was in Enfield. As you can see, I had a better handle on what was coming into my e-mail by the time her photos arrived.

K. C. Tansley/Kourtney Heintz was in Waterbury.

 So were Michael Slaughter, Joseph
Adomavicia, and Patrick Freivald.

Here's Katie L. Carroll at the North Haven Barnes & Noble.

Where Tara Sullivan also appeared. 

Katie has a wrap-up describing her B&N appearances.

Thank you to the authors who provided me with photos and identified the people in the group shots.

Time will tell if the Barnes & Noble Teen Book Festival becomes an annual event.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Can We Do Something About Completion Bias?

Last week I discussed completion bias, our tendency "to focus too much on tasks that are easy to complete -- often at the expense of the tasks that are more important." (Lindsay Kolowich) This week I'll get a little more into the subject and  whether we can try to deal with it.

Are We Talking Procrastination?

Procrastination, according to Timothy Pychyl "is the voluntary delay of an intended action despite the knowledge that this delay may harm the individual in terms of the task performance or even just how the individual feels about the task or him- or herself. Procrastination is a needless voluntary delay." Completion bias sounds similar to me. Even though the tasks we're choosing to do are real tasks (marketing tweets, researching agents or journals to submit to), if we're choosing to do them instead of taking on a more important, but harder, task, it seems as if we're using completion bias to procrastinate.

We might call it productive procrastination. We're not shopping on-line or reading up on the latest elderly actor to die, we're doing real work. What we're doing just may not be important work, or the most important work we could be doing at that particular time. We're doing these tasks because they're short and easy.

To get big, harder jobs done, we're going to have to come up with some strategies.

The Swiss Cheese Method Of Time Management

This seems like a good opportunity to recall Alan Lakein's The Swiss Cheese Method of Time Managment. Lakein's "theory was that many people put off complex tasks, hoping to have more time for them at some later date. Lakein claimed you could get started at jobs like that right away, chipping away at what needed to be done with small chunks of time. These small chunks of time were compared to the holes in Swiss cheese. With enough holes, the cheese either disappears altogether, because the job is done, or enough of it disappears to make the job seem manageable enough to work on in a more regular manner."

For a writing project, this could mean breaking a story down into its elements--character, setting, plot, point of view, voice--and working on planning one at a time instead of trying to sit down and write a whole piece at once. You can add planning scenes to that strategy and then writing those scenes one scene at a time.

All those pieces of the whole become the smaller, easier tasks we can complete and feel good about. But they are pieces of a greater whole, getting us closer to completing a bigger job.

And Then There Is The Unit System

The unit system, you will recall, is my term for working in short chunks of time.  Many time management people discuss some variation of this technique. It helps with maintaining self-control, procrastination, and all types of time woes.

In the case of completion bias, units of time could become an easier task we take on. We can't get on-board for that big revision? Can we get on-board for doing one unit on it three days this week? Every day?

If we're viewing the unit of time as a task, when we complete one, we should get the psychological buzz we'd get from completing any small task. And eventually, if we complete enough of them, the bigger task will have become smaller, just as Lakein describes with his Swiss cheese analogy.

External Supports For Willpower

Yes, we're talking using external supports for willpower here. And we're doing what I would describe as manipulating ourselves.

Go for it.

I'm going to go get my timer, so I can put in a unit on a revision.

Monday, June 13, 2016

More Picture Book Research

Tonight is my writers' group meeting, and I'll be bringing my picture book manuscript. Again. Yes, you may well wonder how long it takes to write a picture book. It takes me a while.

At any rate, today I'm offering you some more humor picture books from my research on same. I'm talking just two authors.

Mo Willems

I've certainly heard plenty about Mo Williams over the years, but when I read one of his books years ago, I was impressed by the illustrations but not so much the text. Now that I've read his Pigeon books, though, I totally get him.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! are funny in concept and in incredibly simple execution. On top of that, I think few children will be able to resist interacting with the adult reading these to them.

I want to read these to somebody!

William Joyce

William Joyce is an author I've liked for a long time.  The retro, intensely representative art work...the slightly twisted narratives... Love it all.

Billy's Booger, A Memoir is a very clever, funny-in-a-subtle-way, picture book for older kids, older kids who have experienced writing stories for school. The story involves a fourth-grade boy writing a kids' book for a contest. His entry, Billy's Booger, The memoir of a little green nose buddy, appears in the center of the book on smaller, colored pages, with its text looking as if handwritten, its illustrations appearing as if done by a gradeschooler.  You get a real book within a book.

Memoir seems like a neat genre to discuss with and teach young kids, since it would help them understand how their lives can become material for their writing.

I had suggestions for humor picture books from a couple of people the last time I posted about them. I haven't forgotten. At some point, I'll be taking a look at those titles.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Working On Sunday?

The summer yoga sanctuary
Last week I had to make a decision. Should I spend today doing a couple of hours of yard work, a little baking, some reading, spend twenty minutes in the summer yoga sanctuary, watch the season finale of The Americans? Or should I attend a NESCBWI day-program, Building Your Community of Readers and Advocates? It would be really funny, if, after all that build-up, I said, "I did some yoga and watched The Americans." But, no, of course I went to the NESCBWI program. You know I'm a sucker for the whole community building thing, and I like those day-long programs. They're deep and extended without getting ridiculous about it the way, say, an MFA would.

Kirsten Cappy
This was a marketing program led by Kirsten Cappy of Curious City, a children’s book consulting company that creates marketing projects that focus on engaging readers. The focus of today's event was on discovery rather than traditional selling. Hmm. I don't think I heard a word about making bookmarks and postcards. No book launch parties. I could probably live without those.

I have to go to Twitter to look for the new people I met.

And I still watched the season finale of The Americans.

UPDATE: At today's program, someone brought up William Carlos Williams' The Red Wheelbarrow. Read it. Then read this about it.

I do recall who mentioned this poem, but I don't want to get into it, because she's working on a project related to it. If it works out, I will most certainly bring it up again.