Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gritty Reading On My Kindle

My first reading experience on my new Kindle was a success, thanks in large part to Mattie Ross, the narrator and main character in True Grit by Charles Portis. The book came to me for a number of reasons: it was available right away through our library system; I had seen and liked the movie with Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges; and True Grit is an adult novel with a child (fourteen-year-old) main character. I am always interested in adult books with child protagonists.

Ah, but does True Grit have a fourteen-year-old main character? In reality, Mattie is a middle-aged woman telling the story of something that happened to her, something she did, when she was young. This is one of the classic differences between a children's book and an adult book with a child main character. With a children's or YA book, the main character is in the midst of living a childhood or teen experience. A book that involves an adult recalling a childhood event and coloring that recollection with adult knowledge is an adult book. And boy does Mattie bring in her adult knowledge. While the story takes place in the 1870s, Mattie offers up her thoughts on early twentieth century politics, her changes in religious thinking, and her attitudes as a result of long life experience. While True Grit could easily end up on high school summer reading lists as a bridge book between YA and adult literature, I think it's unlikely that it will ever evolve into a YA novel the way To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye have because there's no doubt that it is an adult telling this story.

Fantastic voice, by the way. Excellent, well rounded characters. Rooster Cogburn, a secondary character, gets enormous amounts of attention from readers and viewers of the two movie adaptations, but consider the Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf. He is both an elitist and a down and dirty lawman. Many of the outlaws are both good for nothing and sad.

Oh, and a great sense of place, too. Thematically what's going on here? Perhaps we're dealing with the question of whether tough, even unpleasant, human beings can step up to the plate at least once in their lives.

This is a marvelously well-balanced book, with all the elements given equal attention.

Plot Project: One might say that this is a give-a-girl a problem story, because Mattie is out to avenge her father's murder and has to overcome various obstacles--finding a man with grit to assist her, coming up with the money to pay him, dealing with outlaws, etc. etc. However, you could just as easily say that this plot is all about a disturbance to a character's world because the story opens with us finding out that Mattie's father has been murdered, a world-altering disturbance. Mattie, by the way, is no slouch in the true grit department. The plot's evolution is all related to this powerful character's response to the first disturbance and to every step she takes thereafter.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: The Self-Discipline Nightmare

Though I've been writing about time management here at Original Content for nearly half a year now, I've been seeking the perfect time management plan for much longer. Recently I've been going through my writers' workbooks and seeing all kinds of efforts I've made over the last three years to get control over my time or, rather, to make better use of my time. For a couple of months I've been thinking that the issue of self-discipline needs to come into play when managing time. But it's not something I've been thinking about a lot or thinking about in any coherent way.

Then last Thursday night I had an honest-to-God self-discipline nightmare. I could address different aspects of the dream and where they came from in my waking life, but not many people enjoy reading about that kind of analysis. So I'll just stick to the basic story.

I was on the first day of a multiple-day classroom visit. I was supposed to be making a presentation in one classroom, but when I got there, I realized that I had nothing prepared. (Yes, this is a variation on the Yikes! I have a political science exam and I haven't cracked the book all semester dream!) I truly didn't know what I was going to talk about. I turned to the chalkboard (Point--not many classrooms have chalkboards anymore. What does the chalkboard mean here? Wait. I said I wasn't going to discuss things like that.) and wrote the word "self-discipline" on it.

Then, the next thing I knew, it was night time and I was asleep on a bed in the classroom. (A family member asked why there was a bed in the classroom. I am not addressing that kind of issue here.) I was horrified. I had no recollection of what I had talked to those kids about, so I didn't know what I should talk to them about the next time I met with them. Also, I had every reason to believe that I had fallen asleep during my presentation, since I couldn't recall anything happening after writing "self-discipline" on the chalkboard. My humiliation was total.

This dream was so disturbing that I woke up. It was so disturbing that I was awake for a couple of hours afterward and never did more than doze until I got up for the day. By 7:30 I was guzzling diet Coke with caffeine because I was already exhausted.

I'm no fool. I know when I'm getting a message from the Universe or the great beyond or some higher intelligence that thinks I need a nudge. So by the time I got up, I decided I needed to do some studying on self-discipline. Right off the bat, I started hunting on-line for an Idiot's Guide to Self-discipline or Self-discipline for Dummies. Well, guess what? I didn't find one. Okay, if those fine series weren't covering the topic, there must be some go-to expert on the subject. Someone who had done some research. Someone who could write about the science of self-discipline. If so, he or she isn't easily found. Yeah, I turned up a few books, but what I was looking for was THE book.

I have not given up, though. The quest has hardly begun. You can expect to find the subject of self-discipline cropping up periodically on Tuesdays for the rest of the year.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Inner Workings Of Superheroes And Their Readers

I'm spending a little time this evening with my blog reader. Here's a choice post I found at Oz and Ends on The Psychoanalysis of Superheroes and Their Fans 

A Blog Tour About Blogging

This week you can follow An Unconventional Blog Tour, which is, essentially, a blog tour about blogging.

This is particularly interesting given the publishing world's embrace of the blog tour as a marketing device. The Unconventional Blog Tour doesn't appear to be about promoting anything. It seems to be more informational/educational.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend Blog Visits

It's a holiday weekend, and I'm taking it easy for a few hours. Time for some NESCBWI blog visits!

I met Brendan Gannon last month. His blog, Brendan Gannon, deals with "writing, reading and technology." He hasn't updated since the NESCBWI conference, but if you scroll back a bit, you'll find the tech talk you crave.

Marlo Garnsworthy (a Facebook Friend) is a writer, artist, and editor. This past winter, she was writing at her blog, Wordy Birdie about her progress on a novel--she's writing it, not reading it.

A.C. Gaughen's debut novel, Scarlet, was published this past February by Walker Books, a division of Bloomsbury USA. Many of her blog posts this past spring have been about the launch of her book. Check out her charts relating to The Apocalypsies.

Caroline Gray is a student at the Rhode Island School of Design and a greeting card designer. Her blog, Caroline Gray Illustration, includes a lot of images of her beautiful work.

I am a fan of Tommy Greenwald's first book, Tommy Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading. (Tommy is another Facebook Friend.) His blog covers a lot of info about what's going on publishing-wise with his books, but there's also thoughts on writing.

Slice of the Blog Pie is a bit of a mystery. The blogger is Alicia Gregoire, but who is Alicia? What is the Campaigner Roll Call. Or, for that matter, what's the campaign? Recently, Alicia has done a number of reviews, but there are also posts on her writing and...ah...zombies. Those are written by a zombie expert.

Okay. That's enough Memorial Day relaxing. I need to go do some other kind of relaxation now.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Launch Party For "One For The Murphys"

It turns out that book launch parties are fun events, at least for guests  who don't have to plan or run the show. Lynda Mullaly Hunt threw a party last night for the publication of her first book One for the Murphys. Get a load of the crowd who turned up.

Since Lynda and I live in the same town, we know some of the same people. And, it turns out, we have some of the same Facebook friends. I had a grand old time going from person to person, being perfectly appalling by commenting on my real world acquaintances' tans and how great they looked because, living almost totally in my cellar, as I do, I hadn't seen many of them in a long time. (It's supposed to be rude to comment on someone's appearance. In my experience, no one objects to being told they look good. If any of you meet me in the flesh, by all means, feel free to tell me I look fantastic. Perhaps far better than you expected, even.) Some of you may remember that last year I came up with this idea for meeting and greeting at professional events that involved going up to people and saying, "Gee, you look familiar. Do I know you?" Well, I was doing it all over the place last night, because there were people there who did look familiar to me. And I did know them. One way or another, at least. With Facebook people I was going, "Hey, do we know each other on Facebook?" And there were three people there I did know from Facebook.

A great time. Great time.

Ah, but the launch party wasn't all about me having a good time. This picture of author/host Lynda Mullaly Hunt shows her in a pensive moment. A still picture (especially one I've taken) can't portray how  comfortable she appears to be speaking in front of a group or convey that she's an excellent story teller. Part of being a good story teller is being able to recognize a good story, and she had at least three excellent ones last night that she told very well.

So One for the Murphys is now out in the world. Lynda is working on her next book.

For another Murphy Launch Party write up, and better pictures, check out Liz Goulet Dubois' Chat Rabbit

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Talk About A Disturbance To A World

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor could be described as both a romance and a fantasy, neither of which I enjoy reading. I did like it, though, and I think it might be because this story also has elements of mystery. What happened? Who is the main character, Karou? Why is the guy with the wings always hanging around her?

Recently I read about story secrets, and this story has three good ones that I'm aware of. Two I wasn't even thinking about, they just hit me, and a third I realized was a secret but I was wrong about what the secret was.

Karou is a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague. She, a human, was raised in an alternative world by four creatures who physically would be considered monsters. She moves back and forth between the human world and her "family's" magical one, often called by Brimstone, a father figure, who sends her on errands to collect teeth. Soon after being attacked by a beautiful stranger with wings, she's cut off from Brimstone and her other loved ones. Her plan is to get back into her old world and find her family.

A couple of factors make this more than a traditional boy-meets-girl story. For one thing, Karou has a journey thing going apart from the romance. For another, she's a person whose identity is unknown to herself and us and slowly revealed to both character and reader.

This was one of those books that became distressing as I approached the end because I realized that it was going "to be continued," as it says on the last page. It's the first in a projected trilogy. Quite honestly, though, I would have been fine with the ending of this book being all we get.

Plot Project: I most definitely think this is a disturbance story rather than a  think-up-a-problem-to-lay-on-a-character story. Karou straddles two worlds--one of them is then shut off to her. That is a first-class disturbance. It gives an author all kinds of opportunities to ask and answer questions. Then you've got the business about the mysterious flying stranger showing up. Again, classic disturbance. It is at the point where these two things happen that the story action actually begins.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Word "Weirdest" Here Could Mean Anything

10 of the Weirdest Children's Book Authors of All Time

My favorite comment was "You forgot Madonna"

Time Management Tuesday: To Write Or To Market?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the amount of time writers can spend working without actually creating any new material. This week I will refer you to Should You Focus on Your Writing or Your Platform? by Jane Friedman, which was posted at Writer Unboxed. She writes about something similar, specifically the time writers are now spending on platform, which is a form of marketing. Marketing has become a huge time suck for writers, and Friedman has some suggestions about how to decide when to focus upon it.
To get you interested, Friedman says, "...we now live inside an unending media conversation wheel, where anyone can find a niche readership, do solid work on building a platform, and even put writing on the backburner—and still reasonably claim to be a writer.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Does It All Mean?

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has filed for bankruptcy. It is not one of the so-called big six publishers, so we probably won't hear anything about the sky falling over this. And what does bankruptcy mean these days, anyway? Though, really, how many companies come back from bankruptcy and last long term?

Like most publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is the result of mergers of older companies. Its oldest publishing house goes back to the nineteenth century and published Ralph Waldo Emerson. If I have time in the next couple of days, I'll do some research on this and see how many Transcendentalists were involved in HMH's history.

UPDATE: Here's more on this subject from the LA Times.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Cybils Made It Into The Horn Book

The May/June issue of The Horn Book has a section on book awards. It gave an entire column to the 2011 Cybils winners.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Here We Go Again

Yes, people, it's time for some more NESCBWI member blog visits.

Today we're hitting Terry Farrish's blog, The Elephant Rag. Terry is a writer who is involved with the New Hampshire Humanities Council. The Elephant Rag "is about books for children and teens from many cultures, and follows the Humanities Council project to create a Nepali-English picture book with new Americans from Bhutan." Terry's book, The Good Braider, was published this month.

Shoshana Flax is a book seller and reviewer. Her blog, Walk the Ridgepole, has had a number of posts relating to the recent NESCBWI conference. She's also written about The Hunger Games, which is not at all surprising from a bookseller. Shoshana is also one of the contributors to the brookline booksmith's blog.

I met Deborah Freedman a few years back. She is an author and illustrator whose blog, logically enough, is called writes with pictures.

Words Not Taken, Bruce Frost's blog, has a lot of recent posts about his classroom. This looks like sophisticated writing on that subject. However, his site is divided into "paths."  The Picture Book Path is a compilation of articles, some he wrote for his blog, related to picture books and links to picture book biographies. This whole path or "way" thing, which he mentions in a couple of places--I so get that.

That's the "F" names. I would get started on the "G"s, but I'm kind of obsessed with Goodreads right now and want to get over there for a while.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

And The Winner Is... Tina Nichols Coury, who is in the running for my new BFF, took part in a blog tour last week in support of her new book, Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose, complete with raffles. On day two, she stopped at Jewish Books for Children with Author Barbara Bietz (notice what fine taste Barbara has in blog templates), where she ran a raffle with the prize.

Yes, I won a Kindle.

This just fits in perfectly with the way my mind has been running these last few months. I've been reading about epublishing and traditionally published authors epublishing their out-of-print books as a way of maintaining a backlist of their titles. As it turns out, I have an ebook backlist already, by way of the three books my publisher has published as ebooks. So I'm hoping to start doing some promotion for those titles as well as perhaps to publish another one myself.

Owning an ereader and being an ereader seems like a good way to begin my experimentation with this kind of publishing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Flash Everywhere I Look

I've written about flash fiction before, and now I'm going to write about it again.

This morning I decided I was going to take another shot at writing some flash fiction for my two page May Days goal. But first I thought I'd do a little flash research on the subject. Wouldn't you know it, today is National Flash-Fiction Day in the UK. The Brits also came up with World Book Night, known as Book Day over there, evidently. They come up with the best celebrations. Even Boxing Day sounds good to me.

What's more, in a British newspaper I found the best flash fiction how-to I've ever seen. Though, quite honestly, "don't use too many characters" is good advice for any kind of short story.

Not a Flash in the Pan is a quite good Q&A with some flash fiction writers and editors that appears in the latest issue of WOW! Women on Writing.

So, really, it looks as if I chose a good day to become interested in this subject again.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: The Black Hole That Is This Writer's Journals

Every writer keeps a journal, right? If you've been writing a while, you may have, say, a foot tall stack of the things. You may have 17 of them, in various sizes and shapes. They may have evolved over the years from an idea journal, to an idea journal/scrapbook to an idea journal/scrapbook/workbook to an idea journal/scrapbook/workbook/repository of everything.

Yeah, that paragraph describes my situation.

Now, those of you writers who do keep journals, how often do you refer back to them? How often do you actually use anything you wrote in them?

The bulk of the individual writing ideas I jot down in the journals are lost forever. Even if I pull a notebook that covered 1989 off the shelf and look at it, which could happen, the ideas I had back then probably don't interest me any longer. I wouldn't go so far as to say writing down ideas is a waste of time, because I think that recognizing ideas is a skill, and the more often you do it, the more often you'll be able to do it. So the very act of writing down the idea is beneficial, even if the idea never becomes a writing project.

The workbook aspects of my journals I use more regularly. I may free write relating to a work in progress, make notes about what I'm going to do on that project tomorrow or, say, when I get home from a trip. What I'm using is recent workbook work, not work from years ago.

Here's the real time-loss relating to writers' journals for me: I may think about a project for years before I start working on it. I may be making notes about it off and on during that whole time. When the day comes that I want to get started doing something serious with that idea, I may have to go back through several years' worth of journals to collect all my thoughts and work. And then how do I collect them?

Well, I started to address this problem last year when I purchased a program so I could start keeping my journal on the computer. The benefit? Instant organization and easy retrieval. I use Debrief's professional edition, which is not actually journal software. (I can't believe I didn't blog about this in depth last year, but I can't find a post.) I couldn't find anything that described itself as "journal software." What Debrief allows me to do, though, is very much what I was looking for. I can create folders for whatever topic I want, and I can add "notes" to the folders whenever I want. I can start a folder relating to an idea for a book, add notes off and on to it for a year, and then be able to find them immediately all in one place. I could even make those notes on things like "characters," "plot," and "setting" and keep adding to them. I can add links to any on-line content, which is important because I like to save newspaper and magazine articles that relate to story ideas, as well as reviews of books I might want to read on the subject. I haven't even learned how to use everything Debrief offers. I'm supposed to be able to outline with it and make note cards, but I haven't needed to try to do that yet.

That's terrific for the future, but what about those decades of journals filled with lost content?

I've started going through the most recent one for ideas for essays and short stories, since those have been what I've been working on for the May Days. I'm also going to be trying to collect what I know is quite a bit of information on my next big writing project. A lot of that I'll just transfer to the Debrief program on my computer.

But what about any old clippings I may have in there? I may find brochures, post cards, or any number of paper related items. Last Friday I bought a magazine file holder and a package of two-pocket portfolios. No way am I going through 17 notebooks, but as I'm hunting for the material for The Project, I'll pull out any scrapbook items I find relating to a few big topics that might turn into future projects. And anything new I want to save will go into them instead of into the void that is the journals. I should be able to find everything I've collected immediately

So how useful and easy to use do other people find journals?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Maybe Next Year

Perhaps after I've finished my year-long Time Management Tuesday Project I'll be able to write a book a year.

Oh. Wait. That could be next year's blog project--a book in a year.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The 3,000th Post, The 3,000th Post

All weekend I've been trying to come up with some special content to mark the 3,000th post at Original Content. Unfortunately, what's been playing through my mind is the theme song to Gilligan's Island. "The 3,000th post, the 3,000th post."

Yes, this is my 3,000th post. It is very cool that this pseudo landmark should come in the midst of OC's 10th anniversary year. I realized recently that our new look coming in 2012 is an anniversary present. The Time Management Tuesday project is also something different that's happening this year, which, like the cosmetic overhaul, I didn't plan ahead of time.

The year isn't even half over yet, so there may be other things just falling into place here. They will be a surprise for me, too.

Update: We now have a 3,000th Post Theme Song.

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
A tale of a kid-lit blog
That started in two thousand two
to start a dialog

The blog content was fresh and new
Original utmost
After ten years of daily work
the three thousandth post, the three thousandth post

The ISP changed our address
The blog could not be found,
But thanks to the toil of Computer Guy
The new blog stayed around, the new blog stayed around.

The blog began to pick up steam
And Gail goes on and on
With book reviews
Blog tours too
Time management Tuesdays
RSS feed and Facebook link
On Gail Gauthier's blog
Lyrics by Computer Guy.
I don't know about that line "And Gail goes on and on." Is that flattering or not?

Another Update: CG got his lyrics from life. "Gail goes on and on" is one of my blog labels. In that case, of course, it's flattering.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Joey Goes To War

Before Christmas I went into a Barnes & Noble hoping to score a copy of War Horse by Michael Morpurgo for my niece. I figured the movie adaptation was being advertised to death, a Christmas Day opening was planned, I should find a case of the books right by the front door. Nope. While checking out the situation with a sales clerk, I said, "Gee, I thought you'd have this out in a rack because of the movie." She was looking the book up on her computer screen and in that  bored or tired way that sales clerks have when they're doing that sort of thing said, "We had it. I can order you a copy."

I don't recall how I got Rebecca her book. But for the next few months, I kept thinking, Wow. What an opportunity missed. That's an older book that should have sold by the truckload with all the attention it has gotten not just because of the movie, but it's a Broadway show. Come on.

Well, I didn't need to worry about War Horse's sales. According to the book's author, they've gone from a couple of thousand a year to over a million copies total, and it has now been translated into over 40 languages, up from 4 or 5. It looks as if here in the U.S. Scholastic is promoting it for its book fairs.

It may be an odd book in terms of audience, though. The main character is Joey, the war horse, himself. He has a lovely, elegant voice, but the humans around him tend to sound alike. They also often speak in an hate to say it about a fairly grim war story...but, sort of sappy way. Maybe it's because Morpurgo is trying to recreate the speech patterns of another era. Or maybe it's because these people are often talking to or about animals. I have some family members who can be quite cloying when they're talking to or about my mother-in-law's cat. At any rate, the age group that's most interested in animal main characters may not be as interested in war experiences and battle scenes. And the age group that appreciates war narratives may not be crazy about having one told by a horse.

Of course, the fact that a million books have sold probably suggests I'm talking about a nonissue.

World War I was the forgotten twentieth century war for a long time, always existing in World War II's shadow. War Horse's renewed popularity is part of an upswing of interest in the earlier war and the era surrounding it.  A lot of what is portrayed in the book seems historically accurate as far as my knowledge of WWI is concerned. It could be argued that the outdated tactic of sending cavalry and single soldiers across battle fields into machine guns is handled in a pedantic, instructive way, but it did happen. An article on a horse that actually "served" in the war supports the end of Morpurgo's book, which shows the British army selling off its horses in France rather than bringing them back to Britain. I've seen some talk on-line about the book and the movie being sentimental, but at least with the book I think enough characters are killed off to avoid a claim that it glorifies war.

As with a number of children's books that are set in a specific era or time different from our own, I wonder if my knowledge of the events portrayed here helps me to understand the book in a way that younger, less well read readers won't be able to. Do you have to know something about World War I to get this book? Or is the horse main character enough to bring this long ago war to children?

Plot Project: I'm sure some readers would claim that this is a give-a-horse-a-problem plot and keep him from solving it. Poor Joey is at war and needs to survive it with one event after another putting him at risk. I would argue, though, that this is a plot that is definitely built around a disturbance to a character's world. Joey was a farm horse, and his world is disturbed when he is sold to the army. From there the plot just plunges into battle.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Well, people, I have joined Goodreads. I'm not at all sure what I'm going to do there yet, but that didn't stop me from signing on now, did it?

Feel free to look for me there. I'll be the person who's stumbling around.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A Chance To Buy Some Gauthier Hardcovers

My hardcovers are all out of print, but I noticed yesterday that Amazon still has some of two titles and is offering them at bargain prices. You can get these books for less than the cost of many paperbacks. In fact, right now you can get Happy Kid! for less than the cost of its Kindle version.

Happy Kid!

A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers
Notice that in the title of Three Robbers we use the Oxford comma. Yes, I am  pro Oxford.                     

Time Management Tuesday: Why Writers Might Want To Take Part In Projects Like "The May Days"

On the last day of April, Nancy Tupper Ling  started pulling together a group of writers to function as an on-line support group for something she was calling The May Days. The group members were to write two pages a day, every day in May, and report back periodically on how often they were able to reach that goal. The May Days isn't a critique group. There's no reading and responding to writing, so there's no extra work. The idea is to merely provide encouragement through accountability. I had only twenty-four hour's notice, no idea what I'd be writing about, but I signed on.

How many of you are thinking, Why would you do that, Gail? You write four days a week. You aren't writing two pages a day, anyway? Show of hands, now. Admit it. That's on your mind.

No, I have not been writing two pages a day. Since I came back to work after the most recent family crisis, I have written one new essay. I have, however, been working. Quite a bit, in fact.

Here's a bizarre fact about writers: If writers have been writing quite a while and have plenty of unsold material on hand as well as a variety of projects going in various stages of completion, they can park their butts in chairs and work a long, long time without generating any new writing. What kinds of things might they be doing? Well, since the end of January, I've been:

1. Making submissions. This involved first finishing a revision of a big project, researching places to submit, creating submission materials, which are often different depending on whom you're submitting to. I've also researched markets for shorter pieces and often did additional revisions of them before submitting. Since the beginning of February I've made twenty-one submissions of one sort or another, which is a lot for me. Since we're talking about time management, I'll mention here that I've been able to do that because of the way I've organized my time. Monday is Submission Day. I may do a little research here and there over the course of the week to make sure I'll have a place to submit to on Monday, but Monday's the day. I hate Mondays.

2. I've been revising a book-length manuscript, moving it from a children's story to one for adults.

3. I've been researching creative nonfiction, thinking I would use that material in another book project I haven't started yet. I've changed my mind about that, but the research certainly won't go to waste. I even used some of it for last week's blog tour post.

4. I've started doing a little research and planning for marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff as an e-book. I could spend days and days reading up on the whole e-publishing thing, and at some point, I may have to.

5. I've been reading and studying plotting. Learning is always a good thing, but in this case, I have some actual plans for that information.

6. I've been blogging during the work day more than I used to. Blogging used to be evening work. It's still my major marketing tool, so it's a legitimate use of time. (Really! It is!)

7. I did some reading on Lucy Calkins in preparation for some brief school visits.

I didn't make any appearances this winter or spring. For writers who did, that was a big drain on time. In addition to the actual contact days, there's prepping for the day, and the time spent e-mailing back and forth with the organizations' contact people. In fact, writers can spend some time responding to queries for appearances and maybe even doing some negotiating about what they'll do during them and have the job never materialize.

My point is, there is a great deal of writing-related work that doesn't have anything to do with creating new material. What I'm doing with this May Days thing is just starting projects--two pages on one thing, four pages on another. If it works, I'm hoping that at the end of the month, I can go over everything I've done and choose a few to focus on for completion and revision. If I'm able to do that, I may want to periodically assign myself  Two-page Months during periods when I'm immersed in the kind of work I've been doing recently.

An added positive aspect of The May Days: It requires that you write two pages every day, a valuable time management habit because it helps writers achieve flow.

Monday, May 07, 2012

What Could Publishing Look Like Seventy-five Years From Now?

I've been reading about self-publishing e-books because I'm moving toward republishing Saving the Planet & Stuff in that format. Among other things, it's a way for an author to maintain a backlist. In fact, my more recent books are already available as e-books through my publisher. It's probably the equivalent of the backlist for publishers, too.

Republishing a traditionally published book should be easier than self-publishing a brand new one, since it has already gone through both stages of editing, for content and copy, and there are some reviews to help with the marketing. You're not starting from scratch. Nonetheless, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by this project.

I've also been reading about established writers who are making the decision to leave traditional publishers and do their own publishing. Maybe this is what publishing is moving toward. I'm not making any predictions. But if it were to happen, there's a great deal of work involved for self-publishing...or independent...writers to do. For starters, they need to find editors, copy editors, cover illustrators, and, probably, marketing assistance. And, of course, they have to pay for all that going into the project.

Finding and keeping editors you want to work with, negotiating with illustrators over what a cover should look like, marketing every book yourself...we're talking a lot of time. It's time that's not going to writing or, shall we say, producing content but managing it after the fact. So I'm thinking that long in the future  your more successful self-published authors might start hiring people to manage all the nonwriting work for them. That is looking very desirable to me right now.

What would these managers be called? Well, how about freelance, independent publishers?

Friday, May 04, 2012

Blog Tour: "Minette's Feast" As Creative Nonfiction

If you're looking for Day Five of the Minette's Feast Blog Tour, you're in the right spot.

Minette’s Feast by Susanna Reich, illustrated by Amy Bates,  is a lovely picture book with a Parisian setting and a charming story. A woman living in Paris and studying French cuisine adopts a cat, Minette, that far prefers the results of her own food prep—hunting for birds and mice—to the cassoulets, soufflĂ©s, and pates her owner makes. She is finally won over, at least temporarily, by the leftovers from a dish that had taken three days to marinate.

The descriptions and illustrations of home, cooking, and food, food, food give Minette’s Feast the potential to become a comfort book, so it doesn’t matter that many young readers won’t know who the woman referred to in the book’s subtitle —“The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat”—is. Furthermore, Minette holds her own as a character. She does, after all, turn up her nose at meals prepared by a student at “Le Cordon Bleu, the famous cooking school.” Whether or not she will be won over to fine human food provides the narrative drive for this sweet piece of creative nonfiction.

That is what Minette’s Feast seems to be to me—creative nonfiction for kids. Creative nonfiction, as I first saw it defined years ago, is nonfiction that reads like fiction. It is written using  “elements borrowed from fiction to tell true stories,” as nonfiction children’s writer Melissa Stewart wrote earlier this year.  Descriptive language (“Julia and Paul were charmed by Minette’s delicate whiskers, her superior nose, and her quick little paws.”), dialogue (“Une maison sans chat, c’est la vie sans soleil!”), and the use of scenes (“And every time they went out for a walk, they enjoyed a fine, fine meal. They nibbled croissants in cafes where cats curled on chairs…”) are all examples of writing elements usually associated with fiction that a writer of creative nonfiction may choose to use.

In fact, in Lee Gutkind's collection of essays by writers of creative nonfiction, Keep It Real, scenes are described as the building blocks of creative nonfiction. They then need to be placed in some kind of order, or frame. In the case of Minette's Feast, Susannah Reich uses a traditional story frame to organize her scenes. A story is an account or retelling of something that happened told in a way that expresses meaning. That's why a beginning, middle, and end are so important to stories. We see the world of the story in the beginning, then a change or disturbance to that world in the middle, and the result of that change or disturbance in the end. We see what happened. Minette's Feast does read like a story--it's an account with a beginning, middle, and end of something that happened to Julia Child or to her cat, depending on which character you prefer to see as the protagonist. We also understand its meaning. This cat wouldn't eat Julia Child's cooking, for crying out loud!

Complete little stories turn up in all our lives (the story of how our parents met, the story of how we wrecked our new bikes, the story of how we came to settle into a career), but they aren’t always easily recognizable. And they don’t necessarily have any great significance or meaning beyond what happened to us. Creative nonfiction writers who choose to use a story frame have to recognize the potential for story while they are doing their research.  In her author’s note to Minette’s Feast, Susanna tells of having wanted to write about Julia Child for children “but I could never figure out how to make the story interesting to children.” She read Child’s memoir, My Life in France, “and discovered Minette, who inspired Julia’s lifelong love of cats. As a cat lover myself, I knew I had finally found my story.” 

Susannah’s story was actually Julia and Minette’s story. Through the use of creative nonfiction techniques, Susannah turned it into Minette’s Feast.

The Minette's Feast Blog Tour continues on Sunday at Great Kid Books. The earlier tour stops were:


Books Together

Tales from the Rushmore Kid

The Fourth Musketeer

After Sunday, the tour continues on Monday at Shelf-employed and Tuesday at ReaderKidZ

Don't forget about the Minette's Feast Giveaway. The drawing isn't until May 31.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

"Best Of" With A Classic Twist

I am not fond of "Best of" lists, but someone on Facebook linked to an interesting one at Pragmatic Mom, a blog which appears to deal with homeschooling. While poking around there, I found a couple more listy things. I think what interests me about these lists is that they all deal with so-called classics but in unusual ways.

First off, Top 10: Best Old Fashioned Children's Books and Their Modern Day Equivalents  This was interesting because I've been hearing about No. 1, All of a Kind Family, for years, though I've yet to read it. But I have read The Penderwicks, for what that's worth.

The next list I found interesting was Top 10 Children's Chapter Books: Best Old Fashioned Conflict-Free Families Yes, okay, there may be a sappy element to wanting to find conflict-free family books. But if you've ever had to live in the same house with battling siblings for years and years, you may want to find one of these things and hole up in the bathroom with it. This list includes The Saturdays, another book I've been hearing about for years and have yet to read. 

The last list: Top 10: Classic Children's Books Not Beloved Now. These are books that are not loved by the Pragmatic Mom's children. Opinions may differ. Though I have to agree with the littlies on Amelia Bedelia.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

You Know That Story That Goes Around About Boys Not Reading Books If A Girl's Image Is On The Cover?

Some people will also tell you that grown men won't read a book if a woman's name is on the cover. Seriously, sometimes I wonder what century I'm living in.

Yeah, that link came from Blog of a Bookslut, too.

I Guess You Don't Find A Lot Of Children's Authors Living In Hot Properties

I was hoping I would find that some famous children's author would have lived in one of these best properties "that have inspired some of the world's greatest writers" so I'd have an excuse to write about it here. It was touch and go there for a while. But then I saw the "Grade II" (which doesn't sound good) six-bedroom manor house which Emily Bronte visited and which "is believed to be the model for Thrushcross Grange in BrontĂ«’s Wuthering Heights." Score! My thirteen-year-old niece had to read Wuthering Heights in sixth grade.

And that link comes from Blog of a Bookslut.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: To Shower Or Not To Shower?

Today's post deals with the petty little decisions we make all day long that impact how our time is used. And, more specifically, it deals with the hope (maybe just mine) that the order in which we (I) do things will make some kind of massive difference in our (my) productivity.

Author Amok ran a 30 Habits of Highly Effective Poets series last month. (I believe I found it through Jeannine Atkins, who did Habit 30.) The very first post was from Laura Shovan, Author Amok, herself. She describes her writing routine. She reserves two hours a day, first thing in the morning, for writing. "I don't exercise or shower until after I've put in my two hours." Okay. That sounds like a good plan, doesn't it? I exercise and shower first. Maybe that's a mistake. Maybe work should come first, and when it's done, exercise and a shower would function as a reward. I should think about trying that system.

But consider On Discipline--A Guest Post By YA Author Joanna Philbin at On Beyond Words and Pictures. (Most recently I found this in my journal under "Time Management." I have no idea how I originally came upon it.) Philbin makes a good point on the distinction between discipline and enthusiasm. When we're not feeling enthusiastic, we have to rely on discipline. One of the ways she does that? "Even if I'm working at home, I try to always shower, get dressed, and brush my hair before I start to write." She does it because "if I get ready for work on the outside, it helps me get ready on the inside." But what she's also doing is treating her work--writing--like work. In almost any other line of work we'd shower and get dressed before heading off for a day at the salt mine, wouldn't we? Isn't showering and dressing before the work day respecting the work and effort and treating it seriously? Is treating ourselves as real working people part of maintaining an identity as a writer, which can be a big assist in managing writing time?

On the other hand, if I had only two hours a day to work, as Laura Shovan does, I could easily, easily, lose half that time to exercising. Then if I add in a shower and getting dressed, I could end up with thirty to thirty-five minutes of work time, during which I would be respecting my work and effort and treating it seriously, of course, but, still, thirty-five minutes...

Now, my regular readers are probably thinking, Gail, you're obsessing again. Different strokes for different folks. That's all you're talking about with little life scheduling issues. Indeed. But first you have to find the stroke that works for you, which is a trial for some people. And I'm not even touching on the whole issue of life happening and some days the stroke not coming close to doing the trick.

For those who are curious, I exercised this morning, wrote two pages, and exercised again. (Not my usual routine. I was feeling enthusiastic, as Joanna Philbin would say.) I've had a shower, but my hair is wet. I'm dressed but  in a pair of old blue jeans that definitely do not show respect for anything.

Shall we take a vote? How many are for showering before work and how many would rather put it off?