Friday, August 31, 2012

Gail "Goes" To WriteOnCon

This year's WriteOnCon was held August 14th and 15th. The beauty of this free, on-line, children's writers' conference is that you can still access most of the events. I, for instance, just finished up doing everything I wanted to do this past Monday. Most of the presentations were shorter than you'd see at traditional conferences, which is not a bad thing. There were a lot of newish agents and some talk of newish things.You can just access the full schedule and pick and choose what you want to do.

Some of the high-points for me:

Tips for Starting a New Project with Marissa Meyer. I think what she's actually talking about here is getting your plot down.

The Importance of Craft by Molly O'Neill. This is an essay. It was actually the first thing I read/saw at the conference. The significance of craft to writing seems so obvious, but with the explosion of interest in marketing and self-publishing, you can easily get the impression that some people aren't focusing on it.

Plotting With 3 x 5 Cards with Kimberly Griffiths Little. Yeah, she was talking about plotting, too. Both Meyer and Little talked about scenes, something I'm going to pay more attention to in the future during pre-writing/plotting. I actually tried to get started on a new project with index cards a year or so ago, but got diverted into other projects. I'm willing to try this again and see if some variation will work for me.

Blogging Pet Peeves with Lenore Appelhans and Phoebe North had some clever stuff I think my blogging readers will enjoy. Personally, I think all the things they were talking about are cliches, but they're probably nicer than I am.

Building Characters Into Real People with Frank Cole. I stuck with this vlog at first because I was kind of mesmerized by the way Cole rocked by and forth in his chair and seemed to throw his whole body into his talk. In addition to that, though, he did a good job of organizing his presentation by doing an intro in which he told us what he was going to tell us. And, in the body of what was almost like an oral essay, he made some excellent points about characters' ages and the difference between a scenario and a reaction to that scenario.

I also heard or saw some talk of new adult books. This isn't a particularly new concept. I've been hearing things about a specific category for books marketed for readers in their late teens/early twenties for a number of years. I have a feeling after what I saw at WriteOnCon that perhaps there has been some movement in that area.

Okay, now I have had a chance to share my WriteOnCon experience, and after transferring a few notes to my journal, I can toss my notes, thus clearing my desk. Good job done, Gail!

September Connecticut Children's Literature Calender

Saturday, Sept. 1, 11:00 AM, Peter Arenstam, Bank Square Books, Madison: Signing for the The Mighty Mastiff of the Mayflower

Thursday, Sept. 6, 7 to 9, Victoria Sherrow, The Writers' Room, Westport: Free Writing for Children Workshop

Sunday, Sept. 9, 1 PM, Stacy DeKeyser, The Noah Webster House, West Hartford: Family- oriented presentation for The Brixen Witch

Saturday, Sept. 15, 11 AM to 2 PM, A.C.E. Bauer, Branford Reads, Branford, Presentation and book signing

Saturday, Sept. 15, 12:30 to 2 PM, Leslie Bulion, Branford Reads, Branford, Presentation and book signing

Thursday, Sept. 20, 10:30 to 11:30 AM,  Maggie Stiefvater, Yale Bookstore, New Haven: Signing for The Raven Boys

Saturday, Sept. 22, 7:13 AM, WTNH, Leslie Bulion will be interviewed by Jeff Valin

Thursday, Sept. 27, 4:00 PM, Loren Long, R.J. Julia, Madison: Discussion of Nightsong

Friday, Sept. 28, 4:00 PM, Avi, R.J. Julia, Madison: Discussion of Sophia's War: A Tale of the Revolution

Friday, Sept. 28-30, 11 AM to 2 PM, Leslie Bulion, Durham Fair, Durham: Book signing for The Universe of Fair
Friday, Sept. 28, 5-6 PM, Leslie Bulion and Frank Dormer, Durham Fair, Durham: Draw Funny!
Saturday, Sept. 29, 6:15 PM, Leslie Bulion, Durham Fair, Durham: Reading

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Is It Okay To Talk About Guy Stuff?

Jack Ferraiolo, who wrote Sidekicks, has written a blog post about the response to the "erection scene" in that book. He raises the question of whether male sexuality is less accepted in novels for young people than the more common female puberty talk.

I liked the book. I found the scene in question both funny (for me) and humiliating (for the character). Jack wanted to be careful not to get into "gender politics," so I'll do it. Why is it okay for girls to read about characters dealing with sexual issues that they face, and thus have the opportunity to "try out" responses to, but it's not okay for boys? Not that any boy reader is ever going to have to worry about "trying out" a response to being caught with an erection in public while wearing a Spandex superhero costume. But you'd think the lack of reality in the situation would make it more acceptable. What's the problem here? Could it be that there something about male sexuality that is aggressive and scary whereas female sexuality is passive and nonthreatening?

Oh, I really am getting into gender politics.

Quite apart from the whole gender thing, Jack's blog post is interesting because it gives some insight into how long an author might dwell on a situation or idea--and build upon it--before beginning to write.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

So What's With "Peace Like A River," Gail?

So, way back on Sunday, I told you about how I stumbled upon Peace Like A River by Leif Enger. You remember--my World Book Night experience.

Okay. Well, liked the book, love how I came to read it, really admire and enjoyed the ending.

Peace Like A River is about Reuben Land's recollections of his twelve-year-old self. He is the son of a devout Christian who is able to perform miracles and the brother of a seventeen-year-old boy who kills two teenagers who have broken into the Land's house intent on physically harming family members. They've already terrorized Reuben's younger sister. Not wanting to give anything away, I will merely say that older brother Davy ends up on the run and Reuben and his sister Swede and father Jeremiah undertake a journey to find him.

It sounds like a downer story, but Reuben has a disparaging wit, Swede has a way with a narrative, and  Jeremiah is a saint, in the good sense of the word, not the grim, oppressive one. I will admit there were a few moments when I felt the story was dragging a bit, but that is a minor complaint.

Reading this book was fascinating because as I was doing so, I felt I had a handle on what the story was about. Davy is the big, dramatic character--what with having killed people and being wanted by the law and all--but the story was about Reuben. It was, I felt, the story of what it's like to be part of that kind of horror show. It was the story of a family member who has to deal with another family's member's crime. Davy's action is the disturbance to Reuben's world that initiates the plot's action. It comes around page 50, which might be a little long to wait, but that's still pretty early on.

Then I got to the end of the book and realized I had been totally wrong. This book was not about Reuben's reaction to Davy's action. This book was about Reuben and his father, the miracle worker. The disturbance to Reuben's world comes in the first two pages when he is born dead, and his father performs his first miracle, giving Reuben life. All the stuff about Davy killing the intruders and the search for him--that's just Reuben's family situation. It could have been some other situation, so long as Reuben and Jeremiah were there.

The book was a good read, so the fact that I didn't realize what it was actually about until the end wasn't a problem for me. If it's true that all books are mysteries, the ending of this one, for me, was the solution to a mystery.

Now, what to do with this copy of a World Book Night book? I will have to think of something special.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: Fallback Plans

Yesterday morning I finished the second of two tasks I'd been working on for a couple of weeks. What did that mean? It meant that I found myself in a period of transition, that phase between ending one project and beginning another. I know I have trouble with transitional time and tend to waste it. Sure enough, I got myself some lunch and went on-line. Which is fine. I'm delighted if I can stay away from Facebook and the news sites until I'm eating lunch. Unfortunately, I stayed there for way too long yesterday, even ending up looking for local friends on Facebook. (And I found one.)

I was finally able to shift gears and get back into some kind of work because I had a list of blogs I want to contact regarding some promotion for the e-book I'm publishing...sometime. I rechecked the blogs and came up with topics for guest posts to pitch. Not a bad little project.

But I was only able to do it because I already had it in mind. It was something I was able to fall back on during a period of time that I was just blowing away.

Believe it or not, I have a fallback workout program for days when I'm not feeling well. This summer I came up with a short fallback yoga practice for days when I don't have time for my already short practice. As God is my witness, we have a fallback weekend getaway planned for October in case the one we've been trying to go on since last fall has to be cancelled once again because of bad weather. We are developing a list of backup activities ready to go for those weekends we find out at the last minute that we don't have elder care duty and, thus, have an opportunity to do something if only we could think of something.

Fallback plans are just as important for work. Situations change rapidly. The end of a project can creep up on you and without knowing what other things you have to do, you could easily end up wasting far more than an hour or two. For writers, especially writers who have been publishing a while, it's not that difficult to have a multitude of fallblack plans--marketing, revising short fiction and essays, researching markets, researching editors, professional reading, studying, cleaning out files, and going over notes from workshops come to mind, just off the top of my head.

Actually, fallback plans may be the only hope of getting through all this stuff.   

Monday, August 27, 2012

Yeah, I Needed To See This Article Related To Book Trailers

An article called Are Book Trailers Effective? at what is now Build Book Buzz quoted a Wall Street Journal article on the subject. "There is scant evidence . . . that the average book trailer actually has much impact on book sales."


Hey, but that post and that article are both four years old. Everything's changed since then, right? Besides, my book trailer will be above average. And that article wasn't about above average book trailers, now was it?

Somebody's Looking Embarrassed

Or, I should say, conventional wisdom suggests a lot of somebody's should be looking embarrassed after this weekend's New York Times article on buying book reviews. Salon has an article arguing that the news is a step back in self-publishing's quest for respect, since you're not hearing a lot about, say, Joyce Carol Oates or John Irving laying down cold, hard cash for a few five-star customer reviews. Shelf Awareness's comments on the Times article include the following: "Locke and others who pay for reviews may have benefited handsomely: Amazon reportedly does major online and e-mail marketing pushes for books that receive a certain amount of four- and five-star reviews, efforts that are greater than for some established authors. These programs have created bestselling authors, some of whom were then signed by traditional publishers."

Please note that that quote includes the word "reportedly," as in "Amazon reportedly does major online and e-mail marketing pushes..." So, interesting as that tidbit is, it's something we've heard but can't be sure is true.

Yesterday a friend sent me a link to the original NYT article to make sure I knew about it. And I heard from a writer friend this morning who told me he's heard of a site where you can buy a book review for just $5. No, I did not ask him how to find it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My World Book Night Experience

Earlier this year, I read about World Book Night, which was held on April 23. Individuals could pick up copies of selected books and then distribute them the night of the 23rd or soon thereafter. I knew there was a bookstore distributor near me (well, within 40 minutes), and I considered volunteering to give away books. But I thought you had to give away 20, and my impression was that you needed to give them to strangers, not your reading buddies. I just didn't have the time to even wrap my head around how to do this, forget about actually doing it.

Well, imagine my surprise when late in April I'm standing in the lobby of the skilled nursing facility where I spend waaay too much time, probably waiting to get in to see the business person who has become my rock this past year, and I look down at the coffee table and see...a book with "World Book Night U.S. 2012" stamped at the bottom of the cover! Someone had left a copy there.

The book was Peace Like A River by Leif Enger. I'd never heard of the book or the author, but it appeared that it was an adult book with a child main character. My legions of followers are well aware of how attracted to those things I am. I was sorely tempted to take the book, but, knowing about World Book Night, as I did, I felt I should leave it for someone who perhaps didn't read as much as I did.

I took it over to Debbie, who works the front desk, because I knew she was a reader so I could tell her about my find. Something like this happens to you, you've got to tell someone, right? So I tell her about World Book Night and the book and the whole thing. We both agree that we will leave the book on the coffee table. If it didn't disappear "in a while," one of us would take it.

The book disappeared. So much for my World Book Night experience.

Okay. Time passes. In the lobby of this snf there is a pseduo fireplace between real bookcases filled with real books. So I'm down there one day a month or two ago, looking for a book with my family member who lives there and what do you suppose I found? Yes! Peace Like A River was there packed in amongst everything else!

A sign, n'est-ce pas?

Yes, readers, I snatched it up because "a while" had passed. I'd given the 128 residents of the snf and all the staff their chance.

My response to Peace Like A River will follow another day.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Buyer Beware

I've been reading recently about companies that sell book reviews. Today The New York Times published The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy. It's a long article, so I'll quote a couple of juicy bits.

1. A professor from the University of Illinois, Chicago "estimates that about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake."

2. One woman who worked for the company profiled in this article described her work process: "For a 50-word review, she said she could find “enough information on the Internet so that I didn’t need to read anything, really.” For a 300-word review, she said, “I spent about 15 minutes reading the book.” She wrote three of each every week as well as press releases. In a few months, she earned $12,500."

Reading this article suggests that readers should be particularly leery of books that have large numbers of 5 star reviews, since those are the most popular purchases. I have to wonder if some day we'll be seeing writers announcing, "I am a 3 star writer, and I'm proud!" Or at least "I'm honest!" or "I'm not out a lot of money!"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

No It's Not Tuesday, But Here's Another Time Management Post, Anyway

Thank you to Tanita Davis for bringing a time management post at Cynsations to my attention. I would have found it myself, but probably not for another month or so. Reading blogs regularly is something I've given up in order to find some time for family paperwork and life tasks.

Today at Cynsations author Mette Ivie Harrison has a guest post up on How to Find Time to Write. Harrison has written six novels while raising five kids and running an Ironman triathlon each year. She offers  a number of lists of suggestions for managing time.

Early in her post she says: "If you want to add writing (or more writing) to your current schedule, the first simple principle is that you will have to make room by taking something else out." What interested me the most is what she lists as things that can be "taken out"--TV, movies, shopping, lunch with friends, and volunteer work.  

What she's talking about is busyness. Busyness is one of the few places where I think someone can truly "find" time. Cutting out the busyness to get to that time is rough, though. Harrison says, "No one is going to make writing time for you. You will have to wrest it away from other commitments, and it will not be painless." Busyness provides a lot of our connections with people. Eliminating any of it is going to have an impact on your life.

Not everyone who writes has to do this. Jane Yolen, for one, can work and be busy, too. And by no means is a desire to remain "busy" an indication that someone struggling with time doesn't have a commitment to writing. I'm just saying that busyness is a "place" you can look for time. It sounds as if Mette Ivie Harrison agrees with me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: Knowing What You're Doing

At the beginning of July, I wrote about busyness--filling our lives with things to do that suck up time we need, or even want, for other things. Today I'm going to write about being busy, busy, busy at work.

I am reading It Takes An Egg Timer, A Guide To Creating The Time For Your Life by Joanne Tombrakos. At one point, she suggests tracking your time for a week. Then she asks, "How much of your "busyness" was the good kind--focused and engaged--and how much was distraction from real work?"

This got me thinking of the whole idea of "busyness" at work. How many times are you asked how work is going, and you say, "Oh, I'm busy." Or, worse yet, you're asked what you're actually working on, and you reply, "I'm crazy busy."

If we're really concentrating on how we use our time, we ought to to know what we're doing and be able to describe it. Quickly. If we've been breaking our time into units (something Tombrakos writes about, too) and assigning tasks to them, we should know what those tasks are, correct? Conversely, in order to assign tasks to a unit of time, we have to have tasks in mind. Particularly if we're talking about using some big units, weeks or months, we need to know what it is we're hoping to achieve.

For instance, I can tell you that in June I worked on a lengthy revision that I needed to finish by the end of the month. I had some real time in June. I can also tell you that since then I've only been working part-time. I knew that was going to happen and was able to plan to use the shorter amounts of time I had for planning marketing for the e-book I'm publishing. Researching marketing and planning a book trailer don't require the lengthy immersion periods that I need for writing a first draft or even doing a revision.

Fortunately, I have a number of different kinds of work to do and am now concentrating on matching tasks with whatever time situations I have to deal with. In the past, I might have been blown over by the fact that I had so little time.

Think about whether or not you can describe what you're working on now. Do you know what your time situations will be in the coming months and can you plan tasks that will fit them so that you're getting the best out of whatever time you have?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Plot Vs. Theme

For a couple of years now I've been writing about my lack of enthusiasm with the Wants/Obstacles/Resolutions writing plan often lauded as a way of creating plots. I don't find it very helpful because:

1. You're supposed to give characters something to want. Well, what are they supposed to want? And, for that matter, what characters? Then there's the matter of coming up with obstacles for them to overcome so they can get what they want. Who is supposed to come up with those things, anyway? This seems to me like pulling a plot out of...ah...nowhere.

2. It also seems to be less a method of creating any kind of plot than it is a method of creating a formulaic story about overcoming adversity, the adversities being the obstacles to getting what the protagonist wants. Even if you're not talking a traditional problem or victim story, but a journey story, survival story, or romance in which the protagonist wants to get somewhere, live, find love, there's an overcoming adversity aspect if you are simply tossing in problems for characters to overcome. There's nothing wrong with formula stories, if you happen to enjoy the particular formula involved. But telling writers to use a give-them-something-to-want-and-then-keep-it-from-them formula is not really telling them how to create a plot--which is, by the way, supposed to be a series of causal steps leading to resolution and not just problems to overcome.

I recently finished a reread of Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. The author, Rust Hill, says of formula stories "...the formulas were sometimes wonderfully nebulous, like the almost equally famous "Twelve Basic Plots" (or however many it was), which would present one of the so-called "basic" plots in a single word like SEARCH, then start listing: "Search for identity," "Search for loved one," "Search for the father," and so on. The categories never seemed to have much connection to plot; if they had any relevance at all, surely it was to theme."

Rust didn't elaborate on his thinking. But I think the Wants/Obstacles/Resolutions or give-them-something-to-want-and-then-keep-it-from-them format isn't a plot any more than "search for identity" is a plot. It's a formula and formulas, as Rust says, are all about theme. "Searching for identity" is thematic. It's about a story's world view, a world view that determines that individuals need to learn who they are. "Overcoming obstacles so you can achieve your heart's desire" expresses a world view that that type of thing can actually happen.

Formula/theme may have an impact on plot. But it isn't a substitute for plot.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Do You Have To Have Read Some Of Those YA Bad Girl Books To Get This Movie?

I saw Young Adult last night. It wasn't wildly funny, but it was extremely interesting.

Here is the basic premise: Mavis Gary was a dreadful teenage girl, who became a dreadful thirty-seven-year-old woman who writes a series of YA novels that sound as if they're about a dreadful teenage girl. Having read a few volumes from similar YA series, having seen a few mean girl movies, just that situation hooked me.

The guy who was watching this movie with me? Not so much.

I said Mavis was dreadful, right? She's dreadful because she hasn't developed past her dreadful teenage self. She's a dreadful teenage girl in a woman's body. Or, at least, she's the dreadful teenage girl who appears in many YA series novels. A disturbance to her world comes in the form of an e-mail birth announcement--her high school boyfriend has just had a baby with his wife. Mavis wants her guy back. She heads back to her home town to woo him and win him.

Now, as I was watching this, I was feeling a little annoyance about the stereotype of the "successful" woman unhappy without a man, jealous of a woman with a baby. But we're not really dealing with a woman here. We're dealing with a nasty teenage girl who wants something another "girl" has. Not the baby, either. Mavis wants her boyfriend back, or, at least, her memory of him. This bitchy woman has a teen romance idea that people are meant to be together and everything will work out in the end.

A few years back, I needed some info on popular kids and asked a young neighbor for some insight. She said, "The popular kids are kids nobody really likes." Presumably the popular kids don't know it. That is definitely the case with Mavis. She's disliked and even pitied, but is not aware.

As I said earlier, Young Adult has some laughs but isn't really a comedy. It's a fascinating movie for viewers who know what is going on it. The ending, the kitchen scene between Mavis and Matt's sister...I'm thinking there's something very YAish there. There's probably lots of YAish stuff here that I missed.

The guy who was watching it with me? He's never read one of those YA bad girl books. He missed everything.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Post

Yeah, I still haven't worked out what I'm doing with this calendar. I do have a little calendar content for you, though.

Tuesday, August 21 at 2 pm Amy Beth Bloom, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Connecticut

Amy Beth Bloom is also known as Amy Bloom, a writer of adult fiction.

I'm thinking that maybe I should be a little more definitive about what's going on by next month.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Time To Start Thinking About The Cybils

The Cybils folks have issued a call for judges for this year's award. Good times, good times.

To give you an idea of what a big deal this award has become, the organizers have had to make a policy regarding publishers nominating their own titles. They are limited to nominating 10% of their catalogs. Holy smoke! What were they doing that led to that ruling? Plus the application form for judges leads me to believe that the organizers are getting a lot of applicants these days. Certainly enough that they can ask for proof that the applicants actually write about the genre that they want to judge.

Once again, no applying for me this year. I will try to read some of the nominated books, though. And I'll be going over my reading to see what I can nominate.

Why would I want to nominate a book for the Cybils? It's a way for me to get some extra attention for books I think readers ought to know about. It's your chance to do the same.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How Much Does Prestige Matter To Anyone Outside A Literary Community?

A Prestige-free Zone in Salon makes an argument that women writers dominate YA fiction (which may or may not be true) because "YA is a prestige-free zone, or at least it has been for most of the decades of its existence as a self-identified genre. Perhaps this is changing, now that we’ve seen certain very popular YA series bestride the bestseller lists: Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games. Yet I don’t think the prestige of YA has changed all that much, not really. Unfortunately, I can’t prove it."
Not what I'd call a powerful thesis statement.

I think that what the essayist, Laura Miller, might have been driving at is that historically women have gathered in low-prestige jobs that men didn't want. Nursing and teaching were low-prestige, poorly paid fields in the past, so men stayed clear of them, leaving them for women. Thus if there are a lot of women in YA literature, it must be because it's a low-prestige genre. That's why this might change "now that we’ve seen certain very popular YA series bestride the bestseller lists." If there's money to be made, the guys will want to make it, they'll come into YA and, bless 'em, give it prestige. Because, you know, they're guys.

I don't think she actually gave her piece much of a feminist spin, however. She dwelled more on literary prestige.

Here's the thing about literary prestige: Miller says, "There are prizes and other honors within the children’s book community, but they’re nearly invisible outside of it." Honey, literary prizes and honors within all book communities are nearly invisible outside them. There are communities for every kind of book. Their members know about the big selling and prize winning authors within that field. People outside those communities may never have even heard of the giants in them, unless they happen to run across an article about one of these people the week they die.

The most fascinating aspect of literary prestige is how very limited it is. That's not unique to children's literature.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: Don't Be Flexible, Adapt

I have mentioned before that I am not fond of flexibility, as applied to behavior rather than joints. Whatever I have achieved in life, I've achieved because of a bit of obsessiveness that has helped me to sometimes function as if I'm wearing blinders. I will stay working with a manuscript, not necessarily efficiently, but there in front of the computer screen. I will stick to working out. Again, in a random, inefficient way, but I put in the time. I attended taekwondo classes for years without fail, not even considering doing something else. When my children were signed up for two weeks of swimming lessons each summer, we were at the lake at the scheduled time even if it was raining. We did not travel on weekends they had Sunday school. No decisions had to be made. They went to Sunday school. The elder family members needed attention, so for two years I assigned myself days when I was supposed to be with one or the other of them, and I went.

We are talking inflexibility here, without a doubt. Inflexibility has helped me a great deal in life. Inflexibility is my friend.

In my experience, when people are urged to be flexible it's usually because someone wants them to go off task. "Be flexible. Take a day off and go _____________." "You don't have to do _____________."

But what I've found--not just in myself, but in others around me--is that flexibility leads to lack of order and a breakdown of the plan. The word flexible has bad connotations for me, and I'm very sensitive to connotations.

Thus when I've been thinking about Situational Time Management and the need to change how we manage time depending on what life situations we find ourselves in, the stumbling block for me has been how flexibility figures into the model. Because I don't believe flexibility works. For the past couple of months I've been thinking about dexterity in relation to managing time. It has a meaning related to being mentally quick. But this weekend a family member objected because it also has a meaning relating to fine motor skills. Plus one of the forms of the word, "dexterous," doesn't roll smoothly off the tongue.

"Adapt" came up in our weekend discussion. Adapt is a great word for what I'm getting at with Situational Time Management. With Situational Time Management we're adapting our management of time to fit a new situation. That's pretty much the meaning of "adapt"--to make suitable to a specific situation.

Of course, we will talk about adaptation more on future Tuesdays.

Monday, August 13, 2012

That Crazy Chick Made The "L.A. Times"

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick made an article in the LA Times last month called Nine Books NOT to Read at the Beach. The book was described as a "young-adult novel that’s embarrassing to read in public for all its laugh-out-loud guffaws." That wouldn't bother me. I'm in my little world at the beach, and if I want to laugh, I will laugh. Ha-ha-ha. Like that. Though I don't always look great when I'm laughing.

The article also suggested avoiding reading Charlotte's Web at the beach so you won't have to cry in public.

It's common knowledge the most people look like hell when they're sobbing. When was the last time you heard anyone talking about how people look when they laugh?

That's beside the point, of course. The point is, two children's books made the same list! And, remember, there were only nine books on the list to begin with. Hurray! I guess.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I'm Always Leery Of Anyone Called A "Debutante"

In my rural, working class youth, I somehow got the impression that "debutantes" were rich girls (rather than women) who got dressed up in not very attractive gowns and went to a bizarre elaborate dance where they were assigned a rich male dancing partner. Said dance was some kind of rite of passage, like an over-the-top prom before proms became over the top. I do not know what magazines I was reading or television shows I was watching, but my information must have come from those sources. I thought of debutantes as being very passive people, that a debutante ball was something that was somehow done to them or for them.

I totally understand now that I had and have no idea how the rich live. I'm just offering up this information to explain why the word "debutante" doesn't have a lot of positive connotations for me.

Now we come to Diary of a Literary Debutante, a column at Salon that is going to follow the experiences of a writer, known as Yuko Mishima for the time being, as her first book gets closer to publication. "With each installment, I’ll share some lesson — often hard or humiliatingly learned — about my weaving, stumbling path toward (I hope) eventual publication."  I'm in. I'll be reading.

Here's the disturbing debutante thing, though. Mishima spent many years working on her manuscript and "...finally finished it. I sent the manuscript to agents. I chose an agent, and she submitted it...the six agents I sent the manuscript to were the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh people besides me who had ever read the book in its entirety..." As some of those making comments pointed out--Six agents? She submitted to only six agents and was able to choose an agent because more than one of that small pool was interested? This is not the average writer's experience. It is the experience of a narrow group of writers, just as debutante balls are the experience of a narrow group of girls

The book may not be an average book, which would explain how easily that portion of the publication process went for Mishima. As I said, I'm in. I'll follow the column. Depending on how the column goes, I'll give the book a shot. But I have to say, right now this part of the author's story, does, indeed, make it sound like a debutante's tale.

Editing Note: The title of this post was changed from the embarrassing I'm Always Leering Of Anyone Called A "Debutante" to I'm Always Leery Of Anyone Called A "Debutante". I am quite humiliated for having made such a big copy error, though not for the first time. And, I fear, not for the last.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Perhaps You Can't Miss When You Begin With A War Story

I am ashamed to say that I don't read as many author guest posts at blogs or articles about unfamiliar authors as I know I should. The reason? Just how different is the writing experience? I can't read the same thing over and over again.

So I didn't expect to get far with the Cynsations Guest Post Ed Briant on Hitler, Miss McNally & Stephen King. I hadn't heard of him or his books and the post looked a little long. It was an excellent piece of creative nonfiction, though, telling a story from his past that relates to his attitude toward the books he writes in his present. It also fits the definition of a "personal essay" that I learned years ago--it deals with something specific from his life that has a universal connection.

And it throws in a story about a real survivor of the Blitz. Blitz survivors may be a bit of a cliche in fiction, but they're still pretty compelling in real life.

Story And Medicine

Diagnosis: Storyteller is an interesting post at Writer Unboxed in which the author describes doctors thinking of diagnosing ailments in terms of  "selecting the most plausible storyline for your illness." It caught my attention because it's an example of how the whole concept of "story" is so important to our lives, and because I saw a video this past winter in which Lee Gutkind talked about narrative medicine.

Gutkind went beyond the descriptions of narrative medicine I've seen elsewhere, past medical people understanding story to help them listen and absorb from patients, to medical people understanding story so they can place information for patients into a story framework in order to help them understand and remember unfamiliar material.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Over the years, I've tried to support Connecticut children's lit events, be they the Connecticut Children's Book Fair or individual author appearances. Lit events are part of the whole authorial world, I guess is how I'd put it. Recently I was very taken by Amitha Knight's BosKidLit Author Events calendar of children's lit events in the Boston area, which she maintains at her blog, Monkey Poop. I'm interested in doing something similar for Connecticut, central Connecticut, at least. However, right now I'm working my computer guy to death with this e-book business for Saving the Planet & Stuff. So for the time being, I'm going to be more active, myself, about posting about events until he has time to work his magic.

Today I can tell you that Tommy Greenwald will be making a couple of appearances here in Connecticut to support the release of his new book, Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Extra Credit.

Wednesday, Aug. 15th at 4 pm. R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Connecticut

Wednesday, Aug. 22nd at 7 pm Barnes & Noble, Westport, Connecticut

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

But "The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep" Is Different

There are a lot of misfit-boy stories out there. There are a lot of misfit-boy-who-likes-comics-or-some-other-formerly-outsider-interest out there. It's a scenario that I probably liked the first few times I saw it, but, you know me. My tolerance for familiarity isn't all that great. The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To by D.C. Pierson is very well done, but I almost gave up on it early on, because even though it is funny and poignant, lots of those misfit-boy stories are funny and poignant. I felt I'd read it before.

I stuck with it, though, and the payoff was that Pierson has mashed up that well known misfit-boy story with a science fiction tale. The science fiction aspect actually comes right out of the comic book world the main character, Darren, and his friend, Eric (the boy who couldn't sleep), have been creating. This is what gives The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To a feel of the new. That's what kept me reading.

Pierson is a subtle and impressive writer. An example: Darren, our main character, has an older brother who is like something out of A Clockwork Orange, which is mentioned at one point. (The brother is probably modeling himself on Fight Club, but I haven't seen that, so I can't be sure.) Big Bro' really is repugnant. Yet, he goes  to Outback with his father and younger brother every week. The three of them take off at Christmas time. In what passes as a generous act, he gives his younger brother drugs and doesn't make him pay for them.  In this chilling guy is something rather family oriented. A reader can feel that if he doesn't get killed or imprisoned, he could turn out okay.

I found The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To in the YA section of my local library. Yet it appears to have been published as an adult book. It seems a YA book to me. Yes, Darren is telling his story after it occurs--a couple of years after it occurs, when he's a freshman in college. We're hardly talking a whole lot of adult perspective on the experience here. Yes, there's a lot of rank language and drug use and some real sex, not just the thinking about it kind. I can't recall having read a YA with drug use, but certainly rank language and sex appears in the genre. I can't think of a real reason why this couldn't have been published as YA. I do think it can be viewed as coming-of-age--"Oh, I had a life-changing, grown-up experience." Personally, I think adult readers like that kind of thing more than teenagers do, so maybe these kinds of books get published as adult because that's where their biggest fans may be.

Plot Project: I don't think Darren's story is about something he wants and struggles to get. It's much more about a disturbance to his world--he finds out that his new friend never sleeps, is sort of a living and breathing science fiction character. What possibilities does that open?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: Making Decisions

For a couple of weeks I've been obsessing on the impact clutter has on our time. Our need to keep the materials we need for any project close by, whether we're still working on the project or not, is one reason clutter happens. But another is problems making decisions about what we're going to do with stuff. Where should this document go? What about this portfolio of materials from a conference? These books? These notes? My copy of the workshop proposal I submitted? Decision-making can take time, we feel we don't have time to think about the decision, so we put the item we've been thinking about on a shelf, a table, or, often in my case, on the floor, believing we'll take care of it in the future. When we will have more time.

Decision-making, like self-discipline/self-control, will be another long-term study topic. Right off the bat, though, I can think of two things that can help the deciding-what-to-do-about-this-thing-in-my-hand problem.

1. Check out the filing system. While working on cleaning my office during my morning transitional time, I've realized that I need to do an extensive overhaul on my files. Not knowing where to file things or double filing because my system isn't doing a good job for me is definitely sucking up some time and struggling with filing is leading me to let it pile up.

2. Precycle. Don't bring unnecessary materials into the work area in the first place. This is something I've been doing, to some extent, in the rest of my house for years. How much advertising bling do I need to pick up when I'm at a bookfair or writers' event? Do I really need to save these magazines or can I just cut out a couple of articles? For that matter, will I ever read these articles?

Ah, but precycling involves making decisions, doesn't it?

Monday, August 06, 2012

Today We're Too Nice. But Back In The Day...

Against Enthusiasm in Slate deals with "The epidemic of niceness in online book culture." The author, Jacob Silverman, says, "if you spend time in the literary Twitter- or blogospheres, you'll be positively besieged by amiability, by a relentless enthusiasm that might have you believing that all new books are wonderful and that every writer is every other writer's biggest fan. It's not only shallow, it's untrue, and it's having a chilling effect on literary culture, creating an environment where writers are vaunted for their personal biographies or their online followings rather than for their work on the page."

Personally, I think he makes a lot of good points. When everything that's discussed in the on-line literary world is wonderful, doesn't "wonderful" become meaningless?

On the other hand, writers of the past didn't worry much, or maybe at all, about being nice, especially to other writers. When Writers Attack...Other Writers is a slideshow of literary battles.

I remember hearing about the Mary McCarthy/Lillian Hellman thing at the time it was going on, though I didn't know a lot about it--just the "every word is a lie" bit. When I was young, I was a fan of the idea of Dorothy Parker. Oh, how I loved witty repartee. Well, I'm older and wiser, and these days I wonder if Dorothy P. wasn't an early practitioner of literary snark.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Reaching The NESCBWI Blog Tour Finish Line

I'm hitting the finish line on these blog visits I've been doing--for months--during Olympic Week. How perfect is that? It's very perfect, in case you can't tell.

Nicole Tadgell's Studio NT (I don't know what the NT stands for) is interesting in that, while it definitely is a blog format, it appears to be functioning as illustrator Nicole Tadgell's website. Though there's plenty about her on the Internet--at publishers' websites, for instance, and other blogs--she doesn't appear to have a real website. Links to the right of the page about her book titles or events take readers to blog posts relating to those subjects. This is a much better set up than many writers who rely on blogs for their main Internet presence use. Often times, there's just the blog, with no way for readers to find important information. Nicole's actual blog content appears to be  primarily about announcements relating to her work, though recently there have been posts that show her work as well.

Another illustrator, Jennifer Thermes, maintains both a website and a blog, Art, Words, Life. We get a lot more of Jennifer's work-in-progress at the blog, as well as announcements. Her website is very well organized, in my humble opinion, giving me lots of info very quickly.

Kip Wilson Rechea's blog, Write, Travel, Eat, Repeat, is interesting because of what she does. She writes and publishes short form work, both fiction and nonfiction. She includes at her blog a page on what she's querying and another on published and forthcoming work. A recent post deals with publishing work with magazines and anthologies.

And my final blog visit is so very, very meaningful because it is to...Jane Yolen's Journal. My first mention of Jane Yolen at this blog came on April 16, 2002, the second month of Original Content's existence. There was a long period when I was kind of stalking her, tormented by her accounts at her journal of the incredible stuff she did--the amount of writing and travel and shopping and visiting with friends. I finally was faced with the choice of either improving myself in an a la Jane manner or stopping the self-torture by staying away from her journal. I'm sure you have no trouble guessing which way I went.

Well, I just got back from taking a look at her journal, and it's the same old Jane. She's been writing a poem a day for a year and a half. It looks as if she's working on eight different projects in different stages of completion. She's got two speeches to prepare for later this year. She's also had a family come stay for three days and went to a bunch of places with a bunch of people.I tried to recall what I was doing during the same two-plus week period. I finished one lengthy revision, and I bought a new cooler. Seriously, hers is the journal of a person with a powerful work ethic and enviable self-discipline.

Talk about some self-discipline--I finished this tour.Oookaaay, it's true I started in November of last year, but I pride myself on persevering. Speed isn't such a big issue with me.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Another Adventure With Those Incorrigible Children

I am definitely a fan of Maryrose Wood's books,  The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. The serial plays off a number of my favorite types of childhood reading. My favorite book in the series is the second, which I never blogged about, though I've just finished Book 3, The Unseen Guest. These are very sophisticated books with historical and literary references that will be as entertaining for readers who get them as pop culture references are for those who stay on top of that.

Notice I called The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place a serial. Each book has a separate thing going for it--Book 1 introduced the situation, Book 2 took the wolfie children and their intrepid governess to London, and Book 3 deals with the Victorian fascination with the dead and contacting them. But there definitely is an overall story we're dealing with. Who are the three Incorrigible children? Were they brought up by wolves? If so, what kind of wolves would take in children? Did a human help them out in the wild? If so, who was it? What's with Lord Fredrick who took them in and pays for Miss Penelope Lumley to care for them? What happened to Miss Penelope Lumley's parents?

I could go on and on.

These books illustrate a frustration with even the best serials--readers have to wait for the next installment and by the time it comes, how much can they recall of earlier books? The best way to read a serial, I suspect, is after the entire story is done. Years from now, I see some young Gailish person going to the library to pick up another Incorrigible book. Or perhaps s/he will wait for the e-book to become available for download to an e-reader.

Friday, August 03, 2012

You Will Probably Be Hearing A Lot About Book Trailers Here

I am planning a book trailer for the new e-book edition of Saving the Planet & Stuff. Evidently you can train for the Olympics in less time than it takes to make a book trailer. And, as with so much that writers do regarding self-promotion, there's not a lot of evidence that you get much return on investment. However, when I originally decided to publish this e-book, back before I realized that my e-book editions are my back list and valuable for that reason, one of my goals was to learn new promotional/marketing...things. And trailers, worthwhile or not, are a new promotional/marketing...thing.

So far, I've looked at book trailers and read The Book Trailer Manual by Darcy Pattinson. I've looked at more book trailers, reread Saving the Planet & Stuff, and created a log of juicy bits and dialogue. I've come up with a few trailer ideas and looked at book trailers. Now I'm working on a storyboard and looking at book trailers.

A family member sent me The Big Tease: Trailers Are a Terrific Way to Hook Kids on Books in School Library Journal, which includes...trailers! I've also stumbled upon 7 Brilliant Book Trailers at Brain Pickings. Most of these were too long for my taste. I am already firmly in the school of "keep 'em under a minute and a half." But I wanted to bring your attention to the first one, for Maurice Gee's Going West. I was drawn to that because I was so taken, years ago, by Gee's book, The Fat Man. The trailer for Going West is visually stunning. I have to say, though, that while I was riveted to the images, I barely noticed the soundtrack. Someone was reading something. That's all I can tell you. Is that good? Is that bad? At any rate, I now know Gee wrote a book called Going West, which I didn't know yesterday.

As happens whenever I am involved in something for work, you can be sure I will keep yammering about it here. In the meantime, if anyone wants to recommend a book trailer, feel free to do so in the comments.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

A Guide To The Olympics

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide To The Olympics

I would just like to add that the real reason the Olympics is a treat is that it includes a lot of individual sports competitions that don't take hours to watch. It is an event custom made for people like myself who don't have a long enough attention span to watch a UConn women's basketball game or anything else that involves a ball passing among a bunch of people.

A vault in gymnastics--Over in seconds.

Fencing--Three three-minute rounds, and you are done. Though what happens if the third round is over and neither opponent has reached 15 points? That didn't happen this morning.

Swimming--No marathons there.

Archery--Didn't seem to take that long to shoot a bunch of arrows when I was watching Japan vs. Russia this weekend. Though even there I lost interest and left the room before the winner was determined.