Monday, December 31, 2012

January Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar

January is going to be a quieter month for children's authors in Connecticut.

Saturday, Jan. 12, Barbara Mariconda, Educator Reception, Barnes & Noble, Westport, 11:00 AM

Sunday, Jan. 13, Janet Lawler, Granby Public Library, Granby, 1:30 PM

Saturday, Jan. 19, Peter Goodman, Barnes & Noble, West Hartford, 11:00 AM

Saturday, Jan. 26, Dan Yaccarino, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 4:00 PM

Another Author's Recapitulation Post

Jo Knowles has done an excellent recapitulation post, Goals, Dreams, And Themes, at her blog, Jo Knowles. She didn't call it a recapitulation post, but we know one when we see one, right?  Twenty-seven goals was rather ambitious, at least by my standards, and I don't dream, myself. I think in terms of goals and objectives, as you'll see in tomorrow's post. But this was great reading for a writer, and Jo's Goal 23 is going to figure in my thinking for my goals and objectives post for Time Management Tuesday. (That's tomorrow, folks.)

Know of other author recapitulation posts? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

That Recapitulation Post I Was Talking About

Yes, I was talking about unit end recapitulation last Tuesday. Not to worry. I'm not talking about recapitulation in the sense of "recalling a charged event" and "feeling remorse if appropriate." I'm talking about what I did and how successful I feel I was with it. Because that will be a factor in my planning for next year.

Time Management Tuesday

I managed a Time Management Tuesday post, every single Tuesday. Even during Retreat Week. Even on Christmas Day. In terms of managing time and perseverance, terrific. But did it do me any good in terms of work?

First off, my time management research last year led me to submit a workshop proposal to the New England SCBWI for its spring conference. It was accepted, and I will be teaching a Situational Time Management workshop that weekend. I have spoken at professional conferences before, even at a writers' retreat. This is the first regional conference.

Secondly, I have been using the unit system (which has evolved a lot since I first wrote about it back in February), transitional time, and constant planning to manage my time.

Which leads us to...

The Saving the Planet E-book Edition

Preparing this e-book has been hugely time consuming for both my computer guy and myself. I will go into his work at some other time. I spent huge amounts of time seeking out and planning ways to publicize the book. The unit system and constant planning (see above) were significant here, because for many months I was working part-time. Planning units for the various research helped to make good use of the time I did have. Given that I often had only two days a week and that they were frequently Mondays and Fridays, trying to get into a big writing project might have been extremely difficult. So this was a good use of the time I had. But the fact that it took up so much time will definitely influence what I do next year.

Submission Binge

I did a binge of submitting short stories and essays early in the year, which resulted in a short story being accepted for publication at Alimentum. Again, that will have an impact on my plans for next year.

The NESCBWI Blog Tour 

This is a little project I assigned myself last year and finished this year. This was worthwhile for a couple of reasons. It provided content for Original Content, of course, but was also a community building effort before I even got into building community. (See below.) I friended some of the bloggers on Facebook and made connections of one kind or another. And it could have an impact on my planning for next year.

May Days

Last year I took part in a Facebook event called May Days, which was sort of like binge writing for a specific unit of time. I wasn't prepared for the project, so I just wrote two pages of anything every day. At least one piece I worked on was reworked this fall into a press release for Saving the Planet & Stuff. Again, this will be coming up again during my planning for next year.

Community Building

When you consider how late in the year I became interested in community building, I managed to do quite a bit with it--at least, by my standards. The Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar, the weekend reading roundups, and the Next Big Thing Author Meme, which I expect to be posting next weekend, all involve community building. I've also been more conscientious about taking part in the Carnival of Children's Books this past year and have taken part in the Carnival of Creativity a couple of times. How will community building figure in to my plans for next year?

Not only are these the bigger projects I've been involved with this past year, they're the projects I've written about here at Original Content. I'll use them as examples for next week's Time Management Tuesday post.

It Appears That I Remember Almost Nothing About "The Giver"

Jeff Bridges Making "The Giver" Movie.

Hmmm. Hmmm. The name "Jonas" sounds familiar. And...and...was there a sled at the end?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Connecticut Winter Workshop For Writers And Illustrators

The Shoreline Arts Alliance, home to the Tassy Walden Awards, is sponsoring a one-day workshop for writers and illustrators on January 12th. That's only a little over two weeks away. Note that the deadline for registration is next Wednesday, January 2nd. There will be two morning workshops and a networking luncheon as well, as an optional afternoon prep workshop for people interested in preparing manuscripts or portfolios to submit for the Tassy Walden Award.

The day starts at 8:30 AM, costs $65, and will be held at the Guest House Retreat & Conference Center in Chester, Connecticut.

Among the workshop presenters are Lynda Mullaly Hunt and A.C.E. Bauer. I actually know Lynda and have met Alice. In fact, I may have met other writer/presenters for that workshop and apologize, if I've forgotten.

If this isn't the first Connecticut writers' conference of the year, it's very close.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

So How Did We Do With Holiday Book Giving? And Getting, Of Course?

Okay, so let's talk about the important stuff we got and gave for Christmas. Books.

I received a subscription to Bookmarks Magazine, which I'm very excited about. Also a Barnes & Noble gift card and an Amazon gift card, with which I hope to buy masses of things for my Kindle. And 500 Pizzas & Flatbreads, which was unexpected but very me.

I gave:

Fairest  Vol. 1 by Bill Willingham

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett. The family member who received this and I were making our way through the Discworld books back in 2011 and got sidetracked. I'm hoping to get this as a loaner from him later this year.

When Rain Falls by Melissa Stewart

You Are A Lion and Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo

Bomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--The World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin  This was a gift to the extended family because family lore has it that my husband's grandfather was surprised to receive a citation after WWII thanking him for his contribution to the making of the atomic bomb. Another family member definitely worked on a project in the 50s studying structures that could survive an atomic blast. His group's conclusion? There were none. Bomb is supposed to be passed around among us.

The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery by Nancy Springer

Skulduggery Pleasant: Dark Days by Derek Landy. I'm hoping to borrow this one, too.

Sew What You Love by Tanya Whelan

Growing Up Sew Liberated by Meg McElwee

Last, but not least, for the first time I gave e-books, sending them to family members who own Kindle Fires:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

Giving e-books, for Kindles, at least, is unbelievably easy. You can order them and have them delivered on specific days, such as Christmas. The books are sent between midnight and 3:00 AM, so the receivers found them ready to download Christmas morning before everyone else was up.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: The End Of Time And Recapitulation

Earlier this year, I wrote about the significance of the beginnings and endings of units of time. I was interested then in how easy it is to waste time when a unit is coming to an end. A year is one massive unit of time, and today, Christmas Day (I did notice), is  very close to the end of this one. When you're talking about a year, it's very difficult to maintain a work schedule, anyway, because the end of that unit of time is heavy with holidays in Judeo-Christian cultures. Then you've got the ending issue coming on top of that.  "Doing absolutely anything work-related during those lost hours at the end of a unit of time would be better than just blowing them off," I suggested back in the summer, long before I was giving any thought to merry making.

One work-related "anything" we can be doing at the end of any unit of time is assessing what we did. Kind of late in the day to be doing that, you say? But the end of a unit of time means another one should be starting soon. Assessing how did with your old work time should help determine what you're going to do with the next one.

The December issue of Yoga Journal included an article called Out With the Old by Sally Kempton. This being Yoga Journal, the article is a little long on things like "vibrant energy." The ritual of "recapitulation" that the article describes as "a process of recalling a charged event, bringing it to consciousness, feeling remorse if appropriate, and then letting it go" probably requires more intensity than most of us need when thinking back over how well we did with carrying out our work plans. I also don't think we necessarily need to be creating a list of negative thoughts so we can tear it up. However, Kempton  talks about recalling "things we'd accomplished," "changes," and "conflict," all of which could be very useful to consider when working out the plan for the next unit of time.

What worked? What didn't work? How can we use what we did in the last unit of time in an upcoming unit? Next week begins a new year. Traditionally, people get very excited about the beginning of new years, making resolutions relating to what they're going to do over the next twelve months. They might do much better to make an actual plan. And an actual plan will come together better if you assess what you've done so you're building on the good and not repeating the bad.

Before next Tuesday, I'll try to do some sort of recapitulation on this past year, with a lot of focus on my time management study.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sharing Kindle Deals On Facebook

You may have picked up on the fact that I'm lukewarm on Facebook in terms of its usefulness for building community or marketing. And let's face it, marketing is what drives many writers over there.

But you know what Facebook has been great for? Finding Kindle deals. I happen to be friends with a large number of writers and bloggers. Many writers will let their Facebook friends know when the Kindle editions of their books go on sale. Many bloggers will let everyone know when books they particularly like are part of a Kindle promotional deal.

This is a totally unexpected benefit to being on Facebook for me, particularly since I didn't get my Kindle until this past year. But right now hearing about sales is probably my favorite Facebook perk.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Maybe I Should Treat My Filing Cabinet As If It Were A Closet

I have a family member who subscribes to More Magazine. A few times a year, she sends me a stack of back issues. That means I'm seeing an awful lot of articles and advertising relating to wrinkled and sagging skin all at once. However, you find some gems (like the mag's book coverage) in these things, too.

A case in point, Lose the Clutter, Find Your Style in the October issue. Most clean-your-closet articles (which is what this was) focus on the same thing--If you haven't worn something in some specific length of time, out it goes. This article, by Jennifer Braunschweiger, takes a different approach. Braunschweiger suggests actually wearing those items for a day because many people keep things they still aren't going to make much use of. She made a vow to wear every item in her close. A day at work with all this stuff gave her a better idea of what no longer fit comfortably, what made her feel dowdy, what made her feel that she was presenting herself the way she now wants to present herself.

Where am I going with this?

Well, I've recently been working on overhauling my filing cabinets. (You can look forward to a Time Management Tuesday post on that, once I'm done.) I have files going back...ah, well, I have files going back a long time. I probably have more writing projects I've begun than I have items of clothing. I have bits and pieces of stories I started and never finished. I have things I finished that are dated. I have lots of things that need work. For a fleeting moment a week or so ago, I wondered if I should keep all  these things. Then I refiled it all with my new system.

After reading Braunschweiger's article, I'm wondering if I should "wear" those story attempts for a day or two. Meaning maybe I should try rewriting them soon. The projects that feel comfortable, that make me feel that this is what I want to be writing now, I would keep, even if I didn't finish any of them. The projects that makes me feel dowdy and uncomfortable could go.

It's not actually a plan yet. Just something I'm thinking about.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Scarlet" Took Me Back--Way Back

Reading Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen was a fascinating experience. The book is the Robin Hood story from the point of view of Will Scarlet, one of Robin's band of so-called merry men. Except in this rendition, he's a cross-dressing young woman.

First, I was caught by the voice. Voice can be tricky in historical novels. Characters from the past shouldn't sound twenty-first century, but at the same time, making them sound nontwenty-first centuryish can also mean making them sound contrived or stilted. And while we know how people--particularly educated people--wrote in days of old, we can never really know how they sounded. The key to Scarlet's voice is that she's very ungrammatical. She appears to be unaware of the third person singular of the verb "to be," throwing "were" in everywhere. "That were Rob's version of a greeting." "'First, Freddy Cooper were arrested,'" I said, looking around. It weren't good news." Also, she uses the word "lads" for the other band members. I like the word "lad."

So I liked Scarlet's voice right away. What I didn't like was when she said things like, "Rob looked at me, and as were fair usual, I felt my heart jump." I thought, Oh, no. A romance. Why must there always be a romance? I don't know if I'm going to be able to take this for long.

I switched between reading Scarlet and another YA historical novel, figuring I'd stay with the one that hooked me first. As it turned out, it was Scarlet.


Because I realized I would have loved Scarlet when I was a teenager. I...mean...loved it.

The girl who dresses up like a boy so she can escape the restrictions of her society and be tough and strong and do exciting things? Teenage Gail loved those characters.

The girl-who-is-torn-between-two-lovers scenario, as Scarlet is with Rob and someone who will remain nameless? As an adult, I find that a tedious cliche. As a teenager? Loved it.

The star-crossed lovers who are always misunderstanding cues and take forever to get together? As an adult, I want to slap those characters and tell them to get on with it. But teenage Gail couldn't get enough  of that Elizabeth Bennett/Mr. Darcy vibe.

As I was reading this book, I felt as if I was being transported back in time. Not back into the time of the story, but back into my past. I don't think I have ever read a book that took me back to my teenage reading experience the way Scarlet did.

Also, there is a great reveal in Scarlet that I never saw coming but realized immediately made sense.

Plot Project: The whole Robin Hood mythology is one of those cultural things everyone seems to know about even if we can't remember why. (Maybe even more so than King Arthur, probably because Robin Hood is a much more democratic and contemporary sounding figure. He's all about redistribution of wealth, after all.) I suspect that Gaughen tweaks much of the basic Robin Hood narrative for her plot. Good story, but what is even more impressive is the situation/world she came up with to put the storyline within. There's more going on here than just making Will Scarlet a female.

Scarlet is a Cybils nominee in the YA category.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: The Time Involved In Community Building

For the last few months, I've been interested in community building, by which I mean a creative, professional community related to writing. You will recall, I am sure, that what got me started on this was the Crafting a Public Identity Workshop I attended in September. Artist Sharon Butler discussed her commitment to becoming part of an arts community that was apart from her own art career. The experience of being part of the community was valuable in and of itself, but it also ended up helping her professionally.

Butler talked about how the Internet and social media helped with her community building. She was talking primarily about her blog, Two Coats of Paint. This blog can be found plenty of places on-line, but the "reviews, commentary, news, and background information about painting and related subjects" that Butler says Two Coats of Paint is about, seem to all be generated at the blog. The blog is the center of her creative community building.

So I've been working on building a writers' community here at Original Content. I got started with The Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar, which is all about building professional community here in this state. The various weekend reading roundups (which I should provide with a consistent name) are about rebuilding the on-line community I was part of years ago. My portion of the Next Big Thing Author Meme, which I'm still pulling together, is about writers helping writers and building professional community in that way.

Here's the thing with community building--it is hugely time consuming. It takes a lot of time to do it, and it takes a long while for the work to pay off, either in terms of becoming part of a community or in terms of the community providing any kind of help for a career.

In my experience, community needs to be more than just joining Facebook or a few other "people pools." I don't see a lot of "professional" interaction at Facebook. Writers network their blog posts or make announcements regarding their work, but lots of that just drops with no response. There's not a lot of the "commentary, news, and background information" that Butler describes in the "About" section of her blog. Goodreads, my other social media spot, is primarily lists of books read by members. Not much discussion of those. Writers on Goodreads will often network the same blog posts they've put up everywhere else. Again, not that much reaction. So while joining places like that is easy and posting doesn't take much time (especially if you're not putting up much besides your blog posts), I don't see how anyone can get a real feeling of community there.

There also may not be a lot of interest in real community building among some types of professionals, writers in particular. Artists like Butler have a very public face. Their work has to be shown somehow in order for people to see it. Artists have to get the work out there somehow, have to click with the galleries and groups that show art. They have to meet with people. That is less of an issue with writers. Yes, we have to market, and we have to spend more and more time doing that. But because in publishing there's what I call the "opening weekend" model for new books, writers sort of binge market when a book comes out and then disappear.

A lot of what we do is hit and run. Marketing is hit and run. Submitting is hit and run. Getting a first draft done is hit and run. Community needs to be maintained regularly. We don't work at anything regularly.

I'm a bit obsessive and recognize that there are no short cuts for most things in life, so I'll continue working on community for... mmm...maybe another half year? But any kind of community I manage to create is going to have to be one that can be managed in a time efficient way.

I've already started working on next month's Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Weekend Reading Round-up

I did a big gift wrapping last night, visited with an out-of-state relative at lunch time, and baked cookies and made candy this afternoon. I am so ready to browse.

Earlier this week, I heard on Facebook about Book Blogging 101: Is Originality Gone?, published at Parajunkee. It's all about the giveaways seen at so many book blogs, as well as "press release" type material that doesn't appear to be original work from the blogger. Interesting stuff, interesting comments. We had an interesting discussion about this post on the Kidlitosphere listserv.

Here's something else interesting that I just discovered: One day later, Parajunkee carried a post called  Welcome to the Giveaway Social, and it lists 50 giveaways at blogs. Aren't giveaways one of the things  that Book Blogging 101 was describing as unoriginal the day before? Well, anyway, if you're interested in trying to find some free stuff, there's 50 chances for you.

Here's something else I found at Parajunkee that I think is interesting: This is another Book Blogging 101 post, from 2010, called Book Blogs vs. Mommy Blogs. I stumbled upon a link to this post and followed it because I visited a couple of localish Mommy Blogs a few months ago, looking for places that might be interested in linking to the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar. I'd heard things in the past about how writers ought to "get in" with the Mommy Bloggers, and I thought blogs that focused on families might be interested in reading, visiting with authors who make appearances in their areas. Well, I was quite amazed to see that the blogs I found appeared to be small businesses and not all that family focused. I have no objection to the business aspect. I just wasn't expecting it. And I wasn't expecting it, because of the label "Mommy Blogger."

Is that a derogatory term, by the way? Is it an attempt to belittle these businesses because they're run by women?

Parajunkee doesn't address that question, but its post does discuss differences between book bloggers and Mommy Blogs. Wish I'd seen it earlier.

Also, why is Mommy Blog capped, but book blog isn't?

Enough about Parajunkee for one week.

Carmela Martino has a post up at Teaching Authors on Building a Writing Portfolio. I'm interested in  writing portfolios because I write different types of things. I've also been a little surprised by the number of people I've met over the years who just decide they're going to write a book without having done any other kind of writing. Okay, some people manage to do it. Nonetheless, it seems an awful lot like walking up to a stage door on Broadway when you haven't put in any time acquiring other acting experience.

Ms. Yingling writes about graphic novel editions of City of Ember and A Wrinkle in Time.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Good Easy Reader Is Hard To Find

I have "known" Melissa Wiley of Here in the Bonny Glen for years. She's written five books, three of which came out this year. Fox and Crow Are Not Friends is the first that I've read.

This clever Step into Reading book uses three tidy chapters to show Fox and Crow interacting in nonfriendly ways. At the same time, the book is a complete story with a climax and surprise reveal. The images don't just illustrate text but really do carry part of the storyline. The reveal makes sense in terms of the illustration. At the end of the story, we suddenly ask ourselves, Ah, yes. Where did the cheese come from?

And this little volume is full of literary references, starting with its title. Fox and Crow Are Not Friends calls to mind Frog and Toad Are Friends the first of the Frog and Toad  I Can Read books by Arnold Lobel. I once saw this series referred to as the best I Can Read books ever written. The chapter title A Good Smell Is Hard to Find has to make adult readers think of Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man Is Hard to Find, a short story I've never understood. Another chapter title, Revenge Is a Dish Best Served with Cheese is a play on "revenge is a dish best served cold," which is not a Klingon proverb, people! And the reveal at the end, which I don't want to give away--did it not make anyone else think of the Berenstain Bears?

I hope we'll see more Fox and Crow books in the future.

Fox and Crow Are Not Friends is a Cybils nominee in the Easy Readers/Early Chapter Books category.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I'll Wait For Another Day

I was going to do a post today on filing. However, I think it's pretty well known that I'm in Connecticut. Our state is in shock. I'm nowhere near Newtown but have contacts in the Connecticut children's writing community who are. For today, I'm speechless.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Very Skulduggery Christmas

My niece and I are fans of  Skulduggery Pleasant  by Derek Landy. I am, in fact, Rebecca's Skulduggery supplier. Seven Skulduggery Pleasant books were published in the United Kingdom. For some misguided and lame-brained reason, only three were published in the United States. I began feeling anxious for Pleasant back in 2009 when I read that Landy was making appearances in this country hoping to help the series catch on here. What was the problem? Were they too clever and witty? Did someone object because this fantasy wasn't all doom and gloom? Well, okay, it was pretty doom and gloom what with Skulduggery being dead and all and fighting some group that often seemed unbeatable. So if depressing tragedy is a requirement for fantasy on this side of the Atlantic, the books had it. They were just amusing about it. Is that a crime?

And at the end of the third book, our hero suffered a major setback. Rebecca and I have been left hanging for a year or two now.

Well, anyway, I ordered a copy of Volume Four from merry old England. The seller claimed to have a used copy that was like new and the fee for mailing it was incredibly reasonable. Unreasonably reasonable, I feared. The book wasn't going to arrive until after Christmas, but Rebecca is cool. She'd be happy to know it was coming.

Except it isn't coming! It's here! It arrived yesterday and the description "like new" was entirely accurate. The book looks fantastic. And it's English. I hope it's full of Englishisms like lorry for truck and lift for elevator.

Merry Christmas to me! I Rebecca.

I better go wrap it right away.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: Who's Doing What? When? Where? And, Maybe, Why?

We lose a certain amount of time--and energy--here at Chez Gauthier because we have trouble making sure everyone in the clan who needs to know about certain activities actually does know about them. Sometimes a plan is of limited use, if not everyone knows about it. Or, even worse, if you're the only one who knows you've made one.

Communicating what's happening so it can happen can relate to managing personal time in order to make professional time. But it can also be specifically about professional time. Writers who make appearances and travel or work with partners or people who manage their graphic and technical needs risk spending extra time bringing others up to speed. It's far faster and more efficient to keep people in your loop in the first place.

A few weeks ago, while trying to research a connection between yoga and concentration, I stumbled upon Creativity and Time: An Interview with Jeffrey Davis at author Laraine Herring's blog. Davis is a writer and creativity consultant. In the interview with Herring, he talks about keeping track of schedules with his wife. He says they will regularly ask each other, "“What do you need today in terms of time?”

I thought of this practice of his this weekend after we experienced another family member slipping through the cracks relating to holiday planning. Now, I have to tell you, Gauthiers are not likely to ask, "What do you need in terms of time?" We're more "Here's what's happening. Now don't you dare tell me you didn't know about it" kinds of people. And touching in every day would really get on all our nerves. But making sure plans have been communicated, especially if they're my plans, seems as if it could save time that I'd rather use for work.

So, I've started a new Sunday planning practice with family members. (Which is not to be confused with my Monday morning planning practice, which I do by myself.) On weeks when the extended family is involved or might want to know what's happening, I'm including a group e-mail. The planning includes what's happening, who is involved, and where it's happening. Sometimes we will have to get into why. The planning could relate to weekdays, evenings, or weekends. It could relate to anything that deals with professional or personal responsibilities.

Knowledge is power, so they say. My theory is that it also saves time.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blog Culture AndThe Next Big Thing Author Meme

I am taking part in The Next Big Thing Author Meme, thanks to Sarah Stevenson. Google "The Next Big Thing" and authors. It's all over the place.

This very professionally focused meme is an example of the collaborative nature of blog culture. I think a lot of authors don't understand the blogging world. They hook up with Blogger or Wordpress, post some stuff occasionally, and say they have a blog and, thus, a platform. But they don't really understand the networking aspect of blogging. Yeah, they hope for some kind of viral thing to happen to their book. Somehow. But blogging remains apart from them. It's something they do because the marketing books and many, many how-to articles say they should.

I haven't even done my Next Big Thing blog post yet. I've only been mentioned as doing one in the future. The stats for this blog have jumped these last two days. That, my lads and lasses, is blog culture at work.

You have to be part of the culture to have things like that happen. You have to be somebody who has connected with other somebodies in the blogosphere. You can't just treat blogging like ordering post cards and bookmarks, part of the marketing plan that you're forced to do.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Weekend Reading

I have just spent several hours with Christmas baking, some of which did not turn out very well. The word "nasty" may end up being applied to one concoction. I have been looking forward to sitting down with the Internet for nearly an hour.

Reviving Your Out-of-Print Novel as an E-book Part 2 at Tales from the Rushmore Kid. I actually saw this guest post on Friday. We did Item 1 differently than Tina's guest blogger did with her e-book. In order to make sure we had the book as it actually was printed, we sent a copy of the completed book to be scanned, which did, indeed, come back to us as a Word document. The scanning process changed the appearance of the text, in large part because there are a number of different fonts used in the book. All the different fonts had to be corrected by my computer guy. In addition, the scanning process caused all kinds of minor copy errors, such as dropping quotation marks. I've copy edited the book twice and plan to do a third run through before publication at the end of January. Between the two of us, we've probably put in a hundred hours, anyway. Was there an easier way to do this? I don't know.

What Creative Nonfiction Isn't at Celebrate Science. It's hard for me to resist a creative nonfiction post.

150 Ways to Give a Book at MotherReader. I think that when Pam started doing this a few years ago, the list was much shorter.

In Sendak "born to Holocaust survivors"? at Oz and Ends, J.L. Bell notes something I totally missed in The Believer Sendak Interview.

Ah, Days of Blood & Starlight, the follow up to Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, was released last month. Ah, I was vaguely aware of that because Laini and I are Facebook friends. Which, in this case, means we don't actually know each other.

Well, this prowl around was nowhere near as relaxing as I'd hoped it would be, since I have probably a half hour of work to do on the so-called "good computer," if only someone else would give up whatever game he's playing on it. There are hours of other things to do here, too.

Back to the salt mine.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Joel Stein, Role Model

The most recent issue of Time has an essay by Joel Stein about the Common Core requirements regarding nonfiction in the schools. He says that he has "found out that there are English teachers who assign my column as reading material."

When my sons were in the upper grades of elementary school and in middle school in the 90s, writing essays was being pushed big time in their schools, primarily just before the state mandated tests, which tested essay writing. To my knowledge, they never read essays at school. I saw nothing to even suggest they saw anything that would show them what an essay should be or make them want to read or write one.

I did, indeed, slip my sons the occasional Joel Stein column in those days. He could use a thesis statement and then continue writing about what he had told readers he was going to write about. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Then why doesn't every essay writer do it? On top of that, Stein is self-deprecating and witty without being cruel.

I'm not saying he's the perfect writing role model. But, seriously, the Gauthier boys could have done a whole lot worse.

And, yes, they can write.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

More From Ivy And Bean, Two Of My Favorite Girls

I have been a fan of the Ivy + Bean books by Annie Barrows for years. As I said back in 2007:

"Bean could be described as a Junie B. and Clementine type of child in that she tends to go her own way. Her creator describes her as "loud and wild." The difference between Bean and the other leads in the big, girl series is that Bean is comfortable with who she is. She isn't always anxiously interacting with adult characters who reassure her in some way or are involved in helping her learn a reassuring lesson. Most of Bean's interaction is with another child and not adults. She interacts with Ivy, her co-lead, who, superficially, is your stereotypical quiet little girl.

Yeah, your quiet little girl who is into magic and potions, and who is sharp as a tack. Talk about still waters running deep." 

Their eighth book, No News Is Good News, is more of the same, and the same is very good. Ivy and Bean want to take part in a school fad that requires money. Their first plan to make some involves selling potions that Ivy would make. Surprisingly, that doesn't work. So they fall back on creating a neighborhood newspaper, as Bean's father did when he was young. They grasp the concept of selling subscriptions right away. That they will have to provide something to the people who paid up comes as something of a surprise to them. They also struggle with the concept of "news."

Yes, stories about child-run newspapers have been done before. But not with Ivy and Bean.

Ivy + Bean No News Is Good News is a Cybils nominee in the Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books category.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: Taking On Procrastination

Okay, my lads and lasses, today I am finally taking on the subject of procrastination. No, I have not been procrastinating about doing so. I have been studying the subject. Back in October, I began to wonder if what a lot of us call procrastination had become a catch-all term. According to Timothy Pychyl who maintains the blog Don't Delay at Psychology Today and is the author of the very fine book The Procrastinator's Digest A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, I was right. According to Pychyl, procrastination is not just "putting off work for whatever reason," as I stated here in October. It's not just waiting until the last minute and working madly to catch up. It is more than a habit.

Pychyl says that true procrastination "is the voluntary delay of an intended action despite the knowledge that this delay may harm the individual in terms of the task performance or even just how the individual feels about the task or him- or herself. Procrastination is a needless voluntary delay." It has a very specific definition within psychology.

True procrastination, Pychyl explains, is a self-regulation issue. Individuals are not regulating their behavior in order to achieve goals, meaning they are risking not achieving those goals. He doesn't describe procrastination as a time management problem. Instead, it's similar to gambling, drinking, overeating, and trouble managing money. Real procrastination, the hardcore stuff, involves individuals choosing to do something that will, essentially, harm them, meaning not doing the work toward a goal that would benefit them. You can procrastinate about going to the doctor, getting started on a diet, working on a book, submitting writing to an agent or publication.

All these things have value to the individual who wants to do them. Thus, choosing not to do these things is harmful.

A big part of the reason procrastinators procrastinate is that they're giving in to the need to feel good immediately. Yes, loosing forty pounds would make my health better six months from now, but if I eat three cookies now, I'll feel good immediately, so I'll put off starting the diet until tomorrow. Yes, finishing writing this book I've been working on would be a very positive thing because my editor has already voiced interest in it, but feeling good about finishing that won't happen for a couple of months and I can feel good about talking with some friends on Facebook right now.

Pychyl's book is extremely well organized and clearly written. He discusses various aspects of procrastination and strategies for change. Procrastination is much, much more than just a time management issue. However, I think there is one classic time management technique that writers could combine with one of Pychyl's strategies in a very helpful way.

Pychyl talks about implementation intentions. Essentially,  with implementation intentions you're planning ahead what you're going to do in specific situations. (And you know how I love the whole situational thing.) He suggests using an "if-then" format for phrasing the intention you plan to implement. You've heard these kinds of things before relating to other behaviors that require self-regulation. "If I'm going to a party, then I will eat something before I leave so I won't get there hungry and overeat." "If I'm meeting friends at the casino, then I'll only bring $30 of gambling money so I won't risk losing more than I can afford."

Writers concerned about procrastinating can try combining an implementation intention with the unit system. "If I want to stop working while the timer is on, then I'll wait until it goes off."  There are two helpful aspects to this scenario: 1. We've talked about relatively short units of time here, under an hour. So if  procrastinators have to rely on their intention to get them through the unit, they shouldn't have to work long to make it to the end. 2. The break between units can serve as a reward. Whatever they do in the break can make procrastinators feel good now, and they can also feel good because their intention worked for them.

This feeling good thing is important because Pychyl says procrastinators often suffer self-esteem issues over procrastinating. So another plus I see with using the unit system to help procrastination is that if people can't make it through the short unit, they've lost only a small amount of time, and they can start again the same day.  The unit system gives many opportunities over the course of a day to meet the implementation intention, feel good, and actually get some work done.

The Procrastinator's Digest is a marvelous book. If you have an e-reader, you can get it dirt cheap.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Yes, Ivan Is A One And Only

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is one of those books that is saved by a really great character. Ivan is a gorilla, and he tells his own story in short chapters laid out in short paragraphs. They aren't indented and are spaced in such a way that the material on the pages could pass for lists. This all seems to me to suggest the way a nonhuman would tell a story.

Ivan's is a hard core outsider story, because, though he describes himself as having had a life as a human at one point ("My life as a human was a glamorous one, although my parents, traditional sorts, would not have approved."), he clearly has not. He lived in a human family only as long as the human family could tolerate him. He observes humans from inside a cage.

He may not quite get that his understanding is often just a little bit off. So all his observations and philosophical sounding statements are from the point of view of someone who is watching humans but not always totally getting beyond the surface of what he observes. This is not to say that he's superficial. He does the best he can with what he's got to work with.

Applegate was inspired by a true story of a gorilla who lived much like Ivan did. Since this included spending decades in a cage, you might think this is one of those evil people doing animals bad stories. But the entire human race isn't written off here. Even Mack, who could be described as the heavy, is portrayed as more unenlightened and maybe confused than wicked.

The One and Only Ivan is a clever, often very readable story. But it also often doesn't have a lot of narrative drive. Which brings us to an opportunity to do a Plot Project piece.

Plot Project: You could describe The One and Only Ivan plot as being built around  a character wanting something and having to overcome obstacles to get it. Ivan wants to save a young elephant. But that young elephant doesn't enter the story until about a quarter of the way through the book, and Ivan's mission to save her doesn't become clear until close to the halfway point. You could also describe The One and Only Ivan plot as beginning with a disturbance to his world--the arrival of the young elephant. But, again, that doesn't come until a quarter of the way in. The real story here, the something that happens to somebody and so what, doesn't begin for quite a while. Until then, you're talking world building and characterization.

Ivan is a wonderful character, but it wasn't until the last third of the book that I became interested in what might happen next.

There's a discussion of The One and Only Ivan in the comments to this review at the Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog. The One and Only Ivan is also a Cybils nominee in the Fantasy/Science Fiction category. That seems an odd place for it, given what we think of as fantasy these days. But it is about a gorilla who can write a book, so...

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Gail's Weekend Blog Finds

Alex at The Children's War reviews The Poppy Lady, a picture book about Barbara Elizabeth Walsh, who popularized poppies as a tribute to WWI veterans. Though I haven't read the book, myself, I like the idea behind it because many children see groups selling artificial poppies to support veterans groups. The Poppy Lady sounds as if it connects the past with the present.

I don't read a lot of blog book reviews prior to reading books because so many of them are favorable, sometimes over the top favorable. There's no need for me to read the reviews. The fact that a blogger is reviewing it means the review is going to be about how good the book is. I may try to skim the first para to see what the book is about, and if the book is reviewed at a lot of blogs, I'll probably recall the title and may pick it up and look at it if I stumble upon it somewhere. So blog reviews aren't wasted on me, I just don't use them the way most readers do. (Or maybe I do, I don't know how most readers use them.)

At any rate, I've been seeing the title Bomb, The Race to Build--And Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon for a while now. But it was only a few minutes ago, when I saw Tea Cozy's review, that it really hit me what this book is about and why I might be interested. As a young man after WWII, my father-in-law was involved in a study to determine what structures would withstand an atomic bomb. If I recall correctly, the group's conclusion was that there were none. He once told me that the work had paid well and been fun.  So now I'll probably be picking up Bomb when I stumble upon it. I may take a look at it and see if it would be appropriate for a "family gift" to pass around to relatives interested in reading about something connected to their Papa's work as a young man.

I actually found Defining Contemporary, Realistic & Historical Fiction at Stacked earlier this week. I had some thoughts about this post but was unable to post them there. (I'm often unable to post comments. Do these people see me coming?) Now I can't remember them! Though I do think I was wondering if  when a contemporary novel becomes dated it can become historical fiction. I think not. It's just dated, which isn't considered a good thing.