Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: 2013 Recapitulation Post

Last year I started doing recapitulation posts, an opportunity to assess what I had done during a unit of time, a year in this case. At the beginning of this year, instead of making New Year's resolutions, I created goals and objectives for 2013. That's going to make this year's recapitulation easy. Assessing how I did with last year's goals and objectives will have a big impact on my planning of goals and objectives for 2014.

Remember, goals are what people plan to do, objectives are the steps they will take to meet the goal.

Goal 1. Publish the Saving the Planet eBook at the end of January.

  1. Final copy editing of text
  2. Assign ISBNs
  3. Amazon/B&N product description
  4. Work with Computer Guy regarding the uploading of final copy to Amazon and B&N
  5. Deal with any problems that turn up when uploading of final copy 
  6. Make sure website update is completed and posted
  7. Upload book trailer to YouTube
  8. Check press releases
  9. Contact first bloggers I'll be working with  and work with them regarding material they need from me
  10. Do a number of Original Content and Facebook posts building up to publication
Assessment: Met goal in February instead of January

Goal 2. Publicize Saving the Planet throughout the year


I have a multitude of objectives for this and will be doing a blog post on the subject later.

Assessment: I spent an enormous amount of time on this goal, managing coverage for the book at the following sites:

Alison Pearce Stevens Marketing Monday

Dude, Sustainable! 

Green Bean Teen Queen

Finding Wonderland: Review

Finding Wonderland: Interview

Little Hyuts

The Bibliophilic Book Blog

Word Spelunking

I was also able to promote the book at a high school book fair, the NESCBWI conference,  and the NESCBWI New Media Day. However, things began to fall apart for this goal in August when I had a disruption in my personal/professional boundary and had to spend some more time on the personal side of things. I let promotion slide in order to use my work time for writing and never got back into the heavy research I needed to do to continue promotion.

Goal 3. Maintain Time Management Tuesday Project (Last year's project went so well that it led to a workshop that I'll be leading at a writers' conference this spring.) 

  1. Continue Tuesday posts at least twice a month during this second year
  2. Read The Power of Habit
  3. Plan NESCBWI time management workshop for May
  4. Look for opportunities to write on the subject
Assessment:  I did Tuesday posts almost every week, read The Power of Habit, and planned and ran the NESCBWI time management workshop in May. I did not spend much time looking for opportunities to write about time management for writers.

Goal 4. Submission Binge (Last year's submission binge resulted in a short story acceptance and 2 excellent rejections, so I want to do another)  


  1. Plan a month or two period to do revisions and submit, probably September and October
  2. Look for markets in the months leading up to that point
  3. By July have one or two old stories selected and be working on them to make use of "archived" material.
Assessment: I did make seven submissions this year, one piece being brand new work, but I wasn't able to do it in a binge-like month-long period. I haven't been able to spend as much time researching markets as I'd like, though I did do some.

Goal 5. Write and submit an essay on blogging (Idea came about as a result of the NESCBWI Blog Tour I did earlier this year) 



  1. Seek out possible markets to determine whether or not this is a worthwhile project
  2. Write essay
Assessment: I have some notes for this essay. That's as far as I got.

Goal 6. Work on an outline for "mummy book" during May Days (I wasn't prepared for May Days last year. I hope to be this year.)


  1. Finish reading Wired for Story because I think we organic writers often don't know what our story is prior to writing, which makes plotting difficult.
  2. At least skim The Plot Whisperer for same reason
  3. Go over old research for this project and continue with more.
Assessment:  Did read Wired for Story and The Plot Whisperer. I also went over all my old research and did some more. I worked with the May Days Facebook group in May and again in October to plan out a series of scenes for this project, which for this organic writer is like an outline. I even put in quite a bit of time on starting the first few chapters.
Goal  7. Continue with community building   

  1. Next week--The Next Big Thing post here at OC
  2. Next Big Thing round-up post later in the month
  3. Support Cybils with a round up post of my reading of nominees; also post to Goodreads
  4. Continue with Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar and try to make a real calendar template accessible in the sidebar so the calendar can always be found and isn't buried in each month's posts.
  5. Continue looking for ways to publicize Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar
  6. Look for short,  local writers' workshops/retreats/events to attend
  7. Continue with the weekend roundup of blog and Internet  reading to help build community with other bloggers
  8. Consider the possibility of creating some kind of networking group for published writers, either on-line or some kind of local gathering. (This is a very low level objective because I suspect I won't find much support for it)
Assessment:  I met many of these objectives with varying degrees of success. The Next Big Thing--not at all successful. I supported Cybils early in the year and tried to support it this fall, but couldn't give enough time to it. Instead of a calendar template for the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar, we created a link in my sidebar so it can be accessed immediately. I joined a Connecticut bloggers Facebook community to help publicize the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar. I attended a writers' retreat and a couple of events at UConn. The weekend roundup hasn't been working well lately. I did make one feeble effort to get a networking writers' group started on Google+. It came to nothing. However, I joined Twitter this year, which I think could be argued falls under community building. Not one of my objectives, but a step toward the goal.
Goal 8. Publish a free Hannah and Brandon e-short story to support the Hannah and Brandon e-books published by G. P. Putnam's Sons.   

  1. Determine just how much publishing a free anything will cost me
  2. Reread the Hannah and Brandon books
  3. Check journal and files for story ideas
  4. Read other short stories for younger children
  5. Write the short story
  6. Decide how we will handle the cover
  7. Work with Computer Guy on the technical publishing work
Assessment: I dropped this goal early on, deciding that if I go to the work of writing a Hannah and Brandon short story, I'll try to sell it to a traditional magazine. Didn't even begin a story.
Goal 9. Plan publication of My Life Among the Aliens and Club Earth eBooks for winter, 2014 (I want to publish them together hoping to cut down on the time spent planning the marketing, which was very time consuming this year for Saving the Planet & Stuff)

  1. Wait for the return of rights for Club Earth (I already have the rights to My Life Among the Aliens, and the request for Club Earth has already been submitted.)
  2. Wait to see how Saving the Planet & Stuff sells before deciding whether to go with professional covers or look for a cheaper type
  3. Look into companies that prepare texts for e-book publication
  4. Discuss with Computer Guy whether I should go with a company for these books or have him prepare them as he prepared Saving the Planet
  5. Wait to see how Saving the Planet sells before deciding how to market these books--whether to buy advertising right away or start with promotion through blogs and websites
  6. Plan at least one book trailer 
Assessment: I do have the rights back to all my books that G. P. Putnam's Sons didn't do eBook editions for. However, my experience with the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook suggests that putting effort into creating more eBooks isn't a good use of my time. I gave this goal up mid-year in favor of getting back to more writing.

Next week I'll do my first Time Management Tuesday post of the new year. It will be my goals and objectives post for 2014. You'll see some carry over from this year, but you'll also see a big shift in where I'm going to be putting my time.

Monday, December 30, 2013

January Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

No witty intro this month because I'm huddled up on the couch with the remnants of a cold I've had since Thursday. Enjoy the calendar while I look for a bathrobe or quilt.

The  Maurice Sendak exhibit continues at New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain

Ends Jan. 3, The Art of Picture Books: Creative Process In Visual Storytelling Exhibit, Arts Council of Greater New Haven's Sumner McKnight Crosby, Jr. Gallery, New Haven, Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM

Tues., Jan. 7, Steven Parlato, Tolland Public Library, 6:30 PM 

Fri., Jan. 10 Bianca Turetsky, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Sat., Jan. 11 Marilyn Davis, Bank Square Books, Mystic, 1:00 PM

Sat., Jan. 11, Victoria Kahn, Westport Public Library, Westport 2:00 PM Part of Westport Reads. Registration required.

Tues., Jan. 14 Susan Hood, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM Story time

Sat., Jan. 18, Tony Abbott, Barnes and Noble, Westport 2:00 PM 

Friday, December 27, 2013

New UConn Bookstore

I was in Storrs, Connecticut earlier this month and noticed the UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center. I didn't get in there, but should be able to do so in the next few months. Though the main UConn Co-op has a parking garage these days, this new bookstore should be even more convenient to shoppers.

Yeah, I'm a pragmatist. Things like parking matter to me.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Let's Be Realistic

It's Christmas week. People start arriving at my house tonight. Christmas Day is my job this year. And we have a Christmas Eve luncheon, too. If I have a moment to do anything that doesn't involve icing cakes and preparing vegetables, I'll be collecting info for next month's Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar.

I'll be back Friday, maybe Thursday. If you celebrate Christmas, have a good one. If you don't celebrate it, I hope you get Wednesday off from work and have a day to go wherever your heart lies, to paraphrase Frank Gilbreth.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fellowship News For Published Writers

The deadline for the PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship has been extended from December 16 2013 to January 15, 2014. This is a $5,000 award to a published writer (U.S. publisher) whose work was well received by critics but isn't generating enough income to support the author. Writers need to be nominated by an editor or another writer. Check out the details.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Another Opportunity For Connecticut Writers

Write Yourself Free in Westport will be offering a four-week introduction to writing for children program in January that will be meeting in the evening and two eight-week daytime writing for children workshop series.  The eight-week programs run from January into March. All the classes and workshops will be taught by Victoria Sherrow.

Write Yourself Free offers programs for all kinds of writers. Other than that, I don't know much about it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

An Opportunity For Unpublished Connecticut Writers

Submissions are open for the 2014 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children's Book Discovery Award. This award contest is open to not only unpublished authors in Connecticut but unpublished authors throughout New England. Winners will present their work at the Discovery Evening in May and have their work submitted to a participating publishing house.

Guidelines, people. February 2, 2014 is your deadline.

So now you have something to look forward to once you're past the hurdle of Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: What's The 18 Minutes About In "18 Minutes?"

Last week I began writing about 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman. But I hadn't arrived at the point in my reading at which he describes what the 18 minutes in the title relates to.

It comes in Chapter 28 (Wait! It should have been Chapter 18!), "An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day." Bregman suggests:
  1. Spending 5 minutes in the morning planning your day, working with a to-do list and calendar. Dwell on what you can do that will relate to one of your plans for the year.
  2. Then set a timer and at the end of every hour, take 1 minute to assess how you used your last hour and think about the next one.
  3. At the end of the day, spend another 5 minutes evaluating how you spent the day.
Thus you have your 18 minutes spread over the workday. 

First off, note that he breaks the day into hour units, though he doesn't discuss the logic behind working in short units of time beyond using it to stay focused. So that relates to time management strategies we've discussed here.

As far as using a time/focus program that requires management ten times a day, once an hour for eight hours and then again morning and evening, I know from my knowledge of myself that that's going to overwhelm me. That's actually a lot of work, even though it doesn't require a lot of time. I prefer planning my week once at the beginning, keeping track of what I've knocked off my daily plans, and  adapting as I go along, if I need to. I don't want what I need to do to manage my work to become as much effort as my work.

However, I like very much his point about being careful to make sure your short-term work plans include working on some of your yearly goals. I'll want to include that in my planning next year.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Weekend Writer: Revision Means Getting Rid Of What You Don't Need

I'm in the midst of a big revision right now, and I'm doing things a little differently. I had two influences.

The Plot Whisperer

In The Plot Whisperer Martha Alderson writes about making sure that scenes include dramatic action, character development, and thematic significance. I'm working with a chart to keep track of those three elements in each chapter. What about material that doesn't relate to any of those things?

Some Disappointing Reading

For several years, one of my sons and I have been slowly making our way through a beloved fantasy series. I gave him the next volume last year for Christmas. He passed it on to me earlier this year with the comment, "It's not very good."

I finally started reading it a few weeks ago, and I have to agree with my offspring's assessment. Right away I could tell what was bothering me about the book. There was lots of clever, even amusing, material that didn't relate to any story. It didn't deal with the dramatic action and character development Alderson wrote about, and that early into the story I had no way of knowing if it had anything to do with thematic significance. This somewhat random wordiness made the book  slow reading. It was difficult to tell just what the narrative line was, so I had little desire to follow it. In fact, I've put the book aside.

What Does This Mean For My Project?

Taking the two influences together--Alderson's contention that dramatic action, character development, and thematic significance be included in every scene and my reading of a book with scenes that included a lot of material that didn't relate to any of those things--led me to become hyperaware of material in my manuscript that had nothing to do with action, character, or theme. What I'm finding is that a lot of that material no longer seems necessary. It drags down my reading. So it's being cut.

Right now I'm not missing it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Cupcake Project: The Value Of Writing Every Day

My long-suffering Facebook Friends heard me go on at length yesterday about the 120 plus or minus cupcakes I had to ice and box up. During a roughly 6-hour period I also made an additional two-dozen cupcakes that didn't need icing as well as some mini-meatloaves and asparagus for dinner.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Gail. But did you do any writing?

I did some yesterday morning. And that led to something happening yesterday during my cupcake binge.

While I was revising a chapter yesterday morning, I realized that a lot of what I was reading was similar to what I'd read in the chapter before. I felt that the new chapter was necessary because it dealt with the protagonist's parents' response to what he was doing. But this is a mystery, and the details being discussed had all appeared in the chapter before. If I couldn't come up with a new significant step in the story, I might need to eliminate a section. If I eliminated a section, I might be left with a hole in the plot that would need to be filled.

While I was working on cupcakes, the significant step I needed came to me. I had a breakout experience. With breakout experiences it's easy to focus on the breakout, because that idea/thought is so important. But the breakout can't come without some input first. You take in information, work to a point at which nothing more is happening for you, then let your brain relax with a totally different activity. Like icing and fancying up cupcakes.

So the work/input is important, maybe the most important part of the process.The more you work, the more opportunities you have for breakout experiences. Conversely, the less you work, the fewer opportunities you'll have for those breakouts. Writing every day won't insure a daily breakout experience, but it increases your opportunities for having them at some point.

In fact, writing every day helps make it possible for you to keep working when you're not, technically, working because you're relaxed brain is doing something with the material you provided it with earlier in the day.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: What We Need To Do In December

I stumbled upon 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bergman at my local library last week. 18 Minutes! A unit of time! Yes, I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. So since it's December, and I have nothing to do, I picked it up.

It's hard to say just what 18 Minutes is. It definitely doesn't deal specifically with managing time. There's lots in the first half of the book about things like finding ways to make your weaknesses work for you and ways to pursue your passion. I'm a little past the halfway point, and I haven't hit on anything about 18 minutes. I will admit, though, that I'm doing a lot of skimming. The short chapters with a carefully written summary at the end make that easy to do. Still, I haven't seen a lot that's new here.

Bergman does write about using a year as a unit of time and planning for same. That's appropriate for my purposes because on New Year's Eve I'll be doing a recapitulation post for this year and early in January I'll be doing one on goals and objectives for next year. One twist Bergman brings to the yearly discussion is making sure your daily plan relates to items on the yearly plan. That's something I could be more conscientious about with my situational planning.  He also writes about deciding what you're not going to do. We've talked about this a bit here in relation to recognizing the things we aren't likely to do, accepting that, and not wasting time and energy on them. Again, this is something to be thinking about while pulling together goals and objectives for next year.

Next week I hope to be able to report on what the 18 minutes in the book title refers to. In the meantime, here's what we need to be doing this month:

Sprinting to keep our heads in our projects 
Doing some recapitulating
Putting together some goals and objectives for next year 

Monday, December 09, 2013

CCLC Update For This Weekend

Author Lynda Mullaly Hunt will be speaking at the Barnes & Noble in Glastonbury this Sunday at 2:00 PM. Writing talk, raffles, and book signing are all on the agenda.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Great Discussion Whether You Liked This Book Or Not

I'm sorry to say that I wasn't thrilled with Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I found whatever I read about the book interesting enough to get me to pick it up, which is significant. I'm not a fan of romance, so they're always a hard sell for me. I did want to like it, the way I liked Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. I ended up just reading a few chapters and jumping to the end.

I wouldn't even mention the book here, since I didn't finish reading it, but I just saw a fantastic discussion of Eleanor & Park in the comments section of a review at School Library Journal. The commentary is all respectful with lots of E&P love and some E&P reservations as far as the title being a Printz contender. There is also discussion of and comparison to other books.

A great read, whether you liked Eleanor & Park or not. If you haven't read the book, the discussion may convince you to give it a try.

Friday, December 06, 2013

How Tough Do You Want To Be?

This past week two Facebook friends experienced professional setbacks. One received what sounds like a particularly disappointing rejection, and the other had two books go out of print within twenty-four hours.

When you've been through enough of this stuff, you really toughen up. I received a rejection a week or so ago, and never even considered telling anyone about it. In fact, I'd forgotten about it until we were all commiserating with my friend. I didn't tell the friend who was reeling from the two rejections this, because, hey, I can exert some self-control and not make everything about me, but I once had two books go out of print at once. Or at least I found out about them at the same time. My publisher never informed me (They were supposed to--I had a contract!), so the books could have gone out of print on different days. I learned this had happened when a librarian at a school where I was making an appearance couldn't buy the books for her students.

But is being tough a good thing? If you barely notice rejections any longer and make "Unless your name is Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, you're going out of print" jokes at professional gatherings, you've probably taken a few on the chin, metaphorically speaking. If you're thin skinned, it's because you haven't had to develop a thick one.

So I guess if you find a professional setback particularly painful, you're lucky. It means you haven't had many.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Now That Was A Good Zombie Book

Okay, Picture Book Month is over. Now it is time for...zombies!

Not to worry. I'm not doing a month on them. I'm not even all that enthused about zombies. I've read a couple of good books, seen a few movies, and that's about all I need. Especially since many zombie books are also apocalyptic novels. And, as Garrison Keillor once said about pumpkin pie, the best apocalyptic novel you've ever read isn't that much better than the worst.

That's why I ignored Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry for a long time when it was on my library's new YA shelf. It wasn't until I saw a review for one of its follow-up books that I gave the first book in the Rot & Ruin series a second thought and made a point of finding it.

What makes this book so intriguing is that while it is set in a vague American future, it has a western vibe. The characters in this book are fourteen years into zombie world and the little group we're interested in are living in a small town they've created to keep themselves safe from the zombie horde. One character goes so far as to compare the people living there to western townspeople protecting themselves from Native Americans. Horses figure in the story because society has fallen and power for machinery is limited.

Our protagonist's older brother fills the roll of the lone gunslinger with his own code, making him noirish, too. There's no law in these parts, so you've got outlaw types who are far worse than the zombies, just as you had outlaws in westerns. Our heroes head out of town to save their woman from said outlaws. There is even a scene that calls to mind the cavalry coming over the rise to save the day.

For those of us who grew up with parents who watched westerns on TV every night of the week, it's fun to pick up all the western, well, cliches. (I didn't enjoy doing this anywhere near as much while watching Defiance.)  It's been a long time since television was populated by cowboys, though. The western connection won't be an issue one way or the other for younger readers.

Rot & Ruin is an apocalyptic novel that works for me because the society in it isn't stagnant. So often in these books the world goes to pieces and stays that way for generations. No one shows any interest in technology or even changing the height of a hemline. Given the last 500 years or so of human existence, that seems unrealistic to me. Cultures evolve.

And there are suggestions that the culture portrayed in Rot & Ruin is going to. It's only been 14 years since the world fell to zombies, and already the young people who are growing up there are thinking that they'd like something better. If the zombies come, it seems likely to me that before long people are going to get sick of them and start thinking of ways to make a better life. Trying to make a better life is what we do.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: Will Sprinting--And A New Laptop--Get Me Through The Holidays?

Last year on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I asked the question Will The Unit System Get Me Through The Holidays? The answer, at least for Thanksgiving, was, "No." Four days later, all the only work-related activity I'd done was an e-mail. The next day I was still writing about oozing back into a writing practice.

Things went a lot better this past Thanksgiving weekend. This year I used a smaller unit of time to keep me at work--a twenty minute sprint. With that I was able to squeeze in a little writing every day except Thanksgiving, itself.

Why Was I Able To Work More On Thanksgiving Weekend This Year?

I think sprinting worked for a number of reasons:

  • Yes, twenty minutes is less time than the forty-five minute blocks I usually work in, so it's easier to find that short a chunk of time and stick with it.
  • I'd been sprinting once a day on workdays for a month or two in addition to my other work, so I had some practice with it.
  • I'd been trying to sprint on weekends for a month or two, so I had some practice with it.
  • I use a laptop now, which means I'm not tied to one spot in the house for work. My laptop is often wandering around the house with me, so grabbing it for a twenty-minute sprint on the couch or at the dining room table or even the kitchen counter is incredibly easy. There is no thinking about when I can force myself to the office.

What A Twenty-Minute Sprint Does For An Organic Writer

I am not wracking up a big word count with sprints, especially since I'm revising right now. But what sprinting during periods when you wouldn't normally work at all does is keep writers in their projects. For organic writers, that's a huge benefit. We can't plan out an entire book or even portions of it. Instead, writing generates more writing for us. Working on an idea generates the next idea. We depend on continuing to "work" with break-out experiences when we're not actually hammering out words to a greater extent than plotting writers probably do. Working for twenty minutes early Friday evening could mean that an hour or so later some ideas will suddenly spring into mind, ideas that will become part of our writing at some point, if not the very next day.

But without working on an idea, we're unlikely to generate the next one. The longer we go without working on the work in progress, the less likely it is new material will just break out of our minds relating to it. The longer we go without working on a project, the more difficult it is to get started on working again when we finally can.

Yesterday was the Monday after a holiday weekend. Getting back into work was incredibly easy. I suspect I can thank the sprinting I did on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for that.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Suddenly This Is A Familiar Story

Teacher/author/blogger Monica Edinger's book, Africa Is My Home, was recently included in a a New York Times Book Review column, 
a very positive response for a first book. But as Monica said in a comment to yesterday's post, Africa Is My Home is another picture book that took thirteen years to write, sell, and publish.

My observance of Picture Book Month is ending on an unexpected note. These stories of the realities facing picture book authors coming one after another like this are inspiring/reassuring for people well into a writing life. But I'm left wondering if people outside writing realize this is the way publishing can work. I think there's an understanding that it's a hard field to break into, but I'm not sure how many people know that just breaking in isn't necessarily getting you "in" to anything. At any stage in their careers, writers can find themselves with a decade or more of work and hurry up and wait on one project or another.

So my Picture Book Month is ending with a detour away from picture books themselves to a little coverage of the picture book writing life.

Friday, November 29, 2013

You'd Better Be Able To Work A Long Time

Earlier this week, I told you about Melissa Stewart (NESCBWI colleague, by the way) sticking with a book project for ten years. Then I heard about Anne Broyles (whom I also know) working on Arturo and the Navidad Birds for thirteen years.

Now I'm thinking that this should be the test for any project a writer is considering taking on: Do you think you could work on this for at least a decade, maybe more?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Picture Book Artist's Obsession

The new issue of The Horn Book includes an article by Leonard Marcus called Northward Bound: The Picture Book Art of Isol. Isol recently won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in children's and young adult literature.

Yes, she's notable for that reason. But what I found interesting about her was this bit from Marcus: "The two most celebrated Argentinian writers of the twentieth century--Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar--share with Isol what the artist, in a conversation I had with her in Stockholm this May, spoke of as an Argentinian obsession with the role of chance in every aspect of life."

There's something I don't hear about at many SCBWI events.

December Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

December is a slower month for author appearances than I recall it being last year. We do have two illustration exhibits continuing, though.

The Art of Picture Books: Creative Process In Visual Storytelling continues this month at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven's Sumner McKnight Crosby, Jr. Gallery, New Haven, Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM

 The Maurice Sendak Memorial Exhibition continues at the New Britain Museum of American Art.

Thurs., Dec. 5, Peter Lerangis, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 PM

Sat., Dec. 7 Deborah Freedman, Byrd's Books, Bethel 2:00 PM

Tues.,  Dec. 10 Yevgeniya Yeretskaya, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 10:30 AM Story Time

Fri., Dec. 13, Chris Grabenstein, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 4:00 PM

Sun., Dec. 15, Adrienne Werle-Austermann, Byrd's Books, 1:00 PM

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How Long Can You Work On Something?

Years ago, I met a guy in a hiking group whose wife had just had a baby. When he heard I wrote children's books, he said his wife was considering writing some children's books while she was home childrearing, to generate some extra income. I didn't know how to respond to that.

If only I'd had Melissa Stewart's timeline to publication for her picture book No Monkeys, No Chocolate. Ten years, folks. Ten years. You can be home with a lot of kids in that time.

Keep in mind that Melissa has written and published many books. Many,  many. And many of them were written and published during the ten year period she was working on No Monkeys, No Chocolate. Projects must be juggled. Sometimes for a long time.

Time Management Tuesday: A Case Study In Situational Time Management

I've written here frequently about situational time management and the need to constantly adapt how we manage time to the new situations writers (and all people who work for themselves) are always finding themselves in. Last week author Laurie Calkhoven wrote at Smack Dab in the Middle
about authors who work regularly for hire and their need to set criteria for the jobs they'll take on.  But I think her post also was a case study in how a writer's work situation can change and how rapidly it can change.

During a period when Laurie was working on a book of her own, she was offered a freelance job with a deadline that was only a month away. She accepted the job on a Friday, meaning her work situation for the next four weeks had suddenly changed dramatically. Then on Saturday she became ill. On Monday she had to quit the job she had accepted only three days before. Suddenly, her work situation had changed again.

I usually write here about more modest situational changes for writers: dropping everything to respond to a request for a proposal or an appearance inquiry or having to dedicate time to promotion, for instance, instead of generating new work. (Reactive vs. creative time.) But authors who do work for hire face these more extreme situational changes. Early this fall a Facebook friend posted about having just accepted a writing project with a Thanksgiving deadline and last spring I met an author/illustrator who had accepted a job that meant her next two years would be tied up illustrating another person's books. These are changes in work situation that can be sudden and intense, and the use of the author's time while in those situations has a big impact on their work output.

Monday, November 25, 2013

More Gender Issues With Picture Books

Last month I posted here about Barbara McClintock's presentation at UConn on the imbalance between the number of women illustrators in children's publishing and the number of women who win the Caldecott Medal. They dominate the profession but have only won 22% of the Medals, according to McClintock's figures.

Today author Laurel Snyder has a post at her blog relating to the Goodreads Best Picture Book of 2013 nominees, which are almost all written by men. (In defense of the list, this is the final round. There were more titles originally, though I have no idea how well women were represented.) She points out that the Goodreads' final round list was made by Goodreads' readers (after voting on that earlier list.) The earlier list that the final round list came from may have been determined through some kind of popularity figures available to Goodreads from its readers.

Laurel asks, "WHAT’S GOING ON? Do men actually just make better picture books than women? Do men get better marketing and publicity budgets than women for picture books?  Or… as I’m beginning to fear… do we, the (largely) women who buy and blog about picture books have a tendency to elevate books by men?"

She then lists picture books published by women this past year, recommended to her by readers posting in comments.

If you are a children's litblogger who belongs to the Kidlitosphere community, that group has been discussing this issue today at its listserv.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Weekend Writer: Picture Book Edition II

Earlier this month, I offered my limited knowledge of picture book writing. This weekend I can direct you to a couple of blog posts that will offer you more. They're both at Writers' Rumpus, and they're both written by Joyce Audy Zarins.

Why Thirty-two Pages? deals with the length of picture books, at least in terms of pages, not word count.

3 Ways to Pace Your Picture Book is a very meaty piece of writing on pace, how drawn out or rapid  writing feels when being read.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Oh, Look. An Article About A Picture Book With "Adult Appeal"

The current issue of The Horn Book includes an article called Hey, Al and the Choice by Kathleen T. Horning. Hey, Al, illustrated by Richard Egielski and written by Arthur Yorinks, won the Caldecott in 1987, even though it is, according to Horning, "clearly an adult's fantasy."

The entire article deals with the issue of Hey, Al being signaled out for an award for children's books when its protagonist is an adult. Horning says, "...I'm not sure it's a completely satisfying story for children. Essentially, it's a retelling of their mentor's masterpiece, Where the Wild Things Are, told from the perspective of a middle-aged man."

It's not a definitive article on picture books for adults, in general. Think of it more as a variation.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Writer Talk

I often hear that networking is one of the big side benefits of any professional gathering. Wheeling and dealing and making connections with people who can help you is supposed to lead to all kinds of good things. Intellectually I get that. Practically speaking, you could make an argument that I don't even know what networking is. Though I do know not to follow editors or agents into an elevator or public restroom and "network" with them there. I've heard about that happening at professional writer gatherings, too.

Yes, I'm one of those folks who tries to time her arrival and departure at events so as to get as little of the meet and greet and fun evening stuff as possible. What I do really like at a writer gathering, though, are the bits and pieces of writer talk you pick up at odd moments. Examples from this past weekend's retreat:


On Friday night I met a writer who is also an Episcopal minister.She's working on a YA historical novel dealing with a Biblical figure. (I'm thinking maybe something like Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean.) We got into a discussion of sermons (of which she has written many) as essays. She pointed out that the formal essays of the nineteenth century involved making arguments, whereas many ministers today use story in their essay/sermons. (Creative nonfiction?) Church attendance, she said, is supposed to be a transformative experience. (Now that I think about it, I believe I've read that reading is supposed to be, or often is, a transformative experience.) She wondered if an essay developed as a story would be as transforming as an essay developed around an argument created to convince listeners. Seriously, if you're into essays, this kind of discussion is golden.

On-line Research


On Saturday morning, a writer in my critique group told us about using YouTube for research. She's working on a book that is set, in part, in China, and she found YouTube videos of Chinese factories. Just what she needed. This is marvelous news. Need some convincing? Laura Hillenbrand, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and is extremely limited in how far she can travel and how long she can work, researched Seabiscuit on eBay. Before she wrote the book, Seabiscuit memorabilia was dirt cheap. The Internet is also golden.

Public Readings (Like Talking)

Saturday night, we had a sort of open mic night, with volunteers doing short readings for the group. We're gathering beforehand, and I start thinking, Oh, shoot. I keep forgetting. I don't like listening to readings. Should I run? But readings are much more enjoyable when you know some of the readers. And the readings are very short. And there's cake. Something to keep in mind.

The Hero's Journey Conversation

Finally, on Sunday morning I was walking to our meeting room with an editor, and we're talking about the hero's journey. The hero's journey freaks me out because of all the steps and charts associated with it. So I was telling her about a Salon essay I read in which the author argued that the hero's journey was a cliche, particularly in movies and YA literature, and that viewers and readers are getting tired of it. The editor said something along the lines of, "Oh, I totally disagree. The whole point of the hero's journey is that, if done properly, it fits every story. It's just more obvious in some than in others." Now, she didn't make me a believer in the ol' journey of the hero by any means. (Did you look at those charts?) But what struck me about that conversation was that it was a conversation.

Why Writer Talk Matters

So much of what I take in about writing, my work, is through reading. I don't get anyone else's take on it, because a writer can go a long time without being with another writer. And then you've got to find another writer who has read the same piece you read and cared enough about it to file some memory of it away. I like to think I'm a moderately analytical person with a data base of writing knowledge to apply to anything I read. But it's still just me, me, me. It's really quite marvelous to hear someone say something about the things I've been thinking about, even if I don't agree with it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Those Adult Picture Books I Was Talking About

When Picture Books and Adult Literature Collide at  Cultivating Culture deals with the issue of picture books for adult readers, which I was talking about yesterday. It doesn't go into the subject very deeply, covering mainly parodies (I have a copy of Goodnight iPad) and adult writers writing picture books. It doesn't address straight picture books written on subjects of interest to adults rather than children or using vocabulary or a voice that adults will appreciate more than children will.

I hope that before the end of Picture Book Month I'll find some more on this subject.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

And What Is This Supposed To Be?

I received It's a Book by Lane Smith for my birthday. I recall it getting a lot of attention when it was published in 2010, and I can remember something else, too, though I'm having some trouble putting my finger on it. Was there just a little bit of controversy over this thing? Maybe because of the text on the last page? Because some considered it too adult?

I think the whole book is kind of adult. It's all about a monkey trying to get through to a jackass that a book is a book, not an electronic device. The whole issue of children being too plugged in too early seems to be a very adult concern to me, not one that children are even aware of. You could make the argument that that is the point, to make children see this before they become too enamored of electronics. But if kids haven't yet become enamored of electronics will they understand terms like "text," "tweet," and "Wi-Fi?"

There's an overt message in It's a Book, I think, one that adult readers concerned about keeping reading a traditional book-centered activity will embrace. That's okay. I'm a big fan of picture books for adults. In fact, it could be a fun read-aloud for them with their little ones. I don't know how many young picturebook readers will get this on their own, though.

Time Management Tuesday: How Does A Retreat Impact Time?

  1. Last week I covered my concerns about committing an entire weekend to a writers' retreat. Would it be worth the use of that time? I think it's pretty clear from my last two posts that I think Falling Leaves was a valuable experience and well worth the two days I spent there. Specifically, I did meet my three goals. 
  1. Weekend Writing. All of Saturday afternoon was committed to free time for writing with one twenty-five minute critique with an editor, and there were plenty of other ways to snatch twenty or thirty minutes here or there to work.
  2. Escape. I most definitely got away from Gail Universe.
  3. Community Building. I did meet a number of people I'd be happy to stay in touch with, but I suspect that community building is one of those things you have to wait a while to assess how things went. Will we become part of a writers' community? I can't make that judgement at this point.

An Impact On My Time Now

What I didn't expect was that the retreat would have an impact on my time after it was over.
  • I'm struggling with re-entry, in large part because I keep a pretty tight schedule working in units of time and planning my week. I broke training for 3 days and have been wandering around with a cold for 2 more. I am definitely having trouble getting up to speed. If I went to more retreats, I'd probably know about re-entry problems and be able to plan some way to deal with this time issue. Live and learn, as they say.
  • I brought two manuscripts to Falling Leaves with me. One was critiqued by the editor, one was critiqued by a critique group. Now I feel a need to work on both of them. As an organic writer, that could be a problem. No, it most certainly is going to be a problem. One of the ways organic writers generate material and plot is by immersing ourselves in the world we're working on. I have a plan for flipping back and forth between both my worlds, with most of my time going to one rather than the other, but this is another thing I didn't foresee. Bringing two manuscripts to a retreat is probably a mistake. Again, live and learn.
  • The big post-retreat time impact, however, is that as a result of my weekend experience I'm now interested in finding a critique group because Saturday morning's went so well. To be truthful, I have been thinking about this a bit since the NESCBWI event in May, when a workshop leader gave us some critique time. I haven't been in a critique group for 6 or 7 years, finally quitting the one I was in because it was an enormous time drain. We prepared our critiques on our own time, meaning that in addition to the two evenings a month we met, we could end up using 4 or 5 hours of our work time each month on reading and critiquing other members' work. It was also an open group at a bookstore, so we weren't necessarily working with experienced writers or writers who had writing training through workshops or course work, even if they hadn't been published themselves, as happened with both the one-stop critique groups I was part of at SCBWI events this year. Just finding a critique group could be time consuming, and then working with one on a regular basis could cost me a lot of time.This is a big risk that I wasn't that keen on taking before this past weekend.

A Retreat  Should Have An Impact On Your Post-Retreat Time 

If any kind of short, intensive learning experience (as we used to call retreat-type events back when I worked for consultants) is worthwhile, it  should have an impact on what you do after you're back at work. That's the point of going, to improve yourself in some way. I forgot about that because I was so fixated on what was going to happen during the retreat, itself. Once again, live and learn.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Heart Of The Matter Weekend

On the first night of the Falling Leaves Novel Master Class Retreat, Kathy Dawson of Kathy Dawson Books ran a program she called The Heart of the Matter. It involved participants creating pitches, summaries, and catalog, back cover, or flap copy for their manuscripts, not for the sake of preparing marketing materials but to help them seek out a deeper element of their stories. The point was to help participants pinpoint what they believed they were saying in their books so they could make sure it was, indeed, in the books.

A Specific Case

The other editors totally got what Kathy was talking about and "the heart of the matter" was referred to over and over again over the weekend. I, however, didn't get it until towards the end of my meeting with Mallory Kass during the critique of the material I'd submitted. She kept talking about why my protagonist wanted to do what he was doing? And what about that relationship with his brother? How about making the older brother more of a problem child? I thought I'd been clear about why he wanted to do what he was doing, and was she talking about some kind of trite teen angst thing for the older brother? Hey, I don't do trite.

And, then, right there on the porch where we'd been talking for about fifteen minutes, I suddenly realized that there was something deeper going on with my protagonist. I had even hinted at it a few times. And his relationship with his brother could be a big part of it, in a very nontrite way. This book had a heart to its matter that I had only been toying with.

Not every book will have some kind of deeper heart, and not every book has to. A book that's all about action, in which the action is the point, can often get along with just that. But if you have a story that does, indeed, have a deeper element, maybe something thematic, maybe a so what?, why not find it and bring it out, like a thread in a the pattern in a piece of material?

A Reverse Halo Effect

Back in the Dark Ages when I worked for a management and personnel consulting office, we ran workshops and distributed evaluations to participants after the events. The professors were concerned about the halo effect, the tendency to believe that because you had a good time at a workshop, liked the instructor, and enjoyed the lunch, the content of the workshop must be good, too. Participants who evaluated a workshop at the end of the day and again a few weeks later, often gave lower scores on the second go-round. By that time, the glow was off and they'd had a chance to see whether the workshop content had been beneficial to them.

If I had evaluated the Heart of the Matter presentation on Friday night, right after hearing it, my response would have been, "Yeah, this is okay." It was only in the context of the whole weekend that I appreciated what the "heart of the matter" is about and how it could impact my work. In a twist on the halo effect, I would rate it higher now that more time has passed.

An Interesting Comfort Book

I've had The Dark by Daniel Handler writing as Lemony Snicket, with illustrations by Jon Klassen. floating around the house for a little while because, quite honestly, I didn't quite get the first volume of A Series of Unfortunate Incidents by L.Snicket. Life is short, time is limited. Should I spend any of it reading another Snicket book?

Why, yes, I should.
What I particularly liked about The Dark was its coherence. It both seems to lead you astray, suggesting this is going to be a creepy piece of fluff or a clever joke, and then with that same material makes clear that all this time this was a very straight story. Anthropomorphizing the dark could mean turning it into a monster or it could mean turning it into a logical, calming follow.

Which way did Handler/Snicket go?

The Dark is a Cybils nominee this year in the fiction picture book category.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Next Year's Master Class On Picture Books

The Falling Leaves Master Class Retreat sponsored by SCBWI Eastern New York alternates its topics among novels, nonfiction, and picture books. Next year it will be time for another picture book retreat.

"Don't Hold On To Desire" And "Always Say Yes"

Well, my plan to blog my experience at the Falling Leaves Novel Master Class went up in smoke when I couldn't get on-line while I was there. This was due to my inability to control my new laptop and make it understand that I am the boss, because other participants were getting on-line with no problem. This is too bad because I had an initial post planned about how 70 percent of any writer excursion is getting there in the first place. I'll have to save it for another trip. And now I can wring more blog posts out of the experience, because I've had time to overthink it. This is what people mean when they say, "It's all good."

I was able to deal with the collapse of my blogging plan because the whole mindfulness/do not hold on to desire (as in a desire for how things are supposed to be) thing is becoming a science for me, an absolute science, I tell you. Another big factor in the success of my weekend was the book I was listening to in the car, Bossypants by Tina Fey. Fey has a background in improvisational comedy, and listed some basic improv rules, only one of which I remember, "Always say yes." As in, yes, I will build on whatever my improv partner shoots my way. She sees this as a life skill, by the way, which can be used in many situations. "Don't hold on to desire" and "Always say yes" were big factors in the success of this weekend.

I had a fantasy about what this retreat would be. It involved intensely working on my manuscript with other writers who were working on theirs in some kind of monastic situation while one of the editors in attendance walked among us doing the "When you can take this stone from my hand, grasshopper" spiel. I do not know where this came from. It was delusional. By the time I went to bed Friday night (I've included a picture of my bedroom--and yes, I am slovenly--because I love that kind of behind-the-scenes stuff.), I realized that wasn't going to happen. We were 35 writers  working in reading and responding workshops, not the sweatshop of my dreams. There was a lot of weekend left, and I made a conscious effort to let go of my desire for things to be one particular way because it seemed like the best new plan at the time.

Now, Saturday morning we divided up into critique groups, and in the afternoon we each had a twenty-five minute individual critique with an editor. This is where Tina Fey's "Always say yes" came into play. In order to get anything from critiques, you have to be willing to say yes. Probably not to everything that's said to you, especially when you're in a group where some of the feedback could be contradictory, because you would go nuts. But overall, you have to take the attitude that yes, something here could do me some good.

In this case, "Always say yes" is similar to the zenny/martial arts admonition to "Maintain the mind of a beginner." The beginner who knows little has opportunities to learn. The really knowledgeable are kind of scre...ah, out of luck...because if you know it all, what more is there for you to gain? Not a good situation to be in.

I almost did that to myself in the afternoon while working with my editor, Mallory Kass of Scholastic. She's talking about wanting to know my protagonist's problem, and I'm thinking, Oh, problem, problem, problem, that is so cliched. (Please, God, don't let me have said that out loud, though I suppose it's too late to be praying for that now.) All of a sudden, as we're batting thoughts around, I come up with the beginning of something that is desire/problem like enough to be a desire/problem but new enough to keep me happy. This could, indeed, add depth and maybe even some more logic to the manuscript in question.

At the last minute, I managed to "say yes" and "maintain the mind of a beginner." The picture to the left shows the spot where I worked for an hour and a half revising my first chapter after talking with Mallory.

Today on the way home, I listened to the rest of Bossypants. Fey talks about working with Alec Baldwin. She said something along the lines of  "Working alongside Alec may not make me a better actor, but now I know why I'm bad."* This weekend's retreat may not make me a better writer, but now I know why I'm bad. With many skill-oriented activities, knowing why you're bad is a big step toward becoming less bad.

Lots more retreat thoughts to come.

*Remember, I was listening to an audiobook. Quote is pulled from my memory.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rethinking Richard Scarry And Those Animals Who Drive Trucks

Last month's Carnival of Children's Literature included Playing by the Book's post on a new edition of Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. I'd been planning to share that this month, anyway, but a quick conversation with a family member earlier this week made me decide to blog about it sooner rather than later. The family member didn't remember Richard Scarry, possibly because his mother didn't care for the author and moved him out of those books as fast as she could.

What was my...er...her objection to the Scarry books? No narrative. She was a story person and needed something happening to somebody with her reading.

No harm was done, but in thinking about Richard Scarry recently, I realized that this is another situation in which adult gatekeepers and children aren't necessarily going to be interested in the same things. And do adult interests have to trump every time?

Sometimes, I decided, when you're sitting with a two- or three-year-old, you just have to suck it up and look at random pictures of bears dressed in clothes and riding around in vehicles. There are worse things you can be doing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Anyone Remember Rabbit Ears?

Okay, so you remember a few days ago I said I was going to do a blog post about a discussion I had with David Johnson at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair? And you've been waiting and waiting for me to get around to that? Well, wait no longer.

David pointed out that his book, The Boy Who Drew Cats, was published by Rabbit Ears Entertainment, a Connecticut company. Rabbit Ears, Rabbit Ears, I thought. I started accessing my memory files. David is telling me that Rabbit Ears made children's videos with narrators such as Meryl Streep. Rabbit Ears...Rabbit Ears...goes the google search  in my mind.

"Theater?" I may have said out loud.

David had done the art work for some of the Rabbit Ear videos, The Boy Who Drew Cats being one of them. And now Rabbit Ears had published the story as a picturebook with the art David had done for the video and perhaps more. I was busily going Rabbit Ears? Rabbit Ears? and wasn't as mindful with my listening as I should have been.

You all know I am just obsessive enough not to have left this alone. And after seeking out the Rabbit Ears website, I found what I was trying to remember, not Rabbit Ears Theater but Rabbit Ears Radio, a program on public radio distributed by Public Radio International in the 1990s. It sounds as if the radio productions were the audio of the video productions. Rabbit Ears Radio brought a marvelous and really different angle to public radio, which is news and arts for adults.

Rabbit Ears Entertainment appears to be publishing picture book versions of its videos, which is interesting because usually it goes the other way--the book comes first and then a film version.

Writers, Check Out KidLitCon Recaps Regarding Blogging

I am not a writer who has a blog. I am a writer, and I am a blogger.

I often get the feeling that many writers who self-identify as writers who have blogs instead of as bloggers don't  feel that blogging is a specific type of short-form writing and certainly don't understand the community building aspects of it, which could be incredibly helpful to them. Their blogs are often pretty much a hole on the Internet that they throw a hodgepodge of things into every now and then.

Therefore, I am referring any writers seeing this to Jen Robinson's Book Page and her post in which she rounds up nine blogger posts on the recent KidLitCon held in Austin. I suspect that a lot of writers aren't familiar with KidLitCon, since the blogging events held at BEA have been getting a lot of attention in recent years. But KidLitCon is a blogging convention that goes back seven years and involves many bloggers who got involved with blogging early on, when blogging was new and edgy and the litblog that just serves as a conduit for writer and publisher produced content hadn't been thought of.

Children's literature blogging started with these people.

In addition to checking out the individual links for recaps, note Jen's list of the subjects covered at the conference. This is the kind of stuff writers can use to help them with their blogging, whether we're talking writers who have a blog or writers who are also bloggers.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Can This Picture Book Be Saved?

My library is running a little project in which the staff is asking the public's opinion about culling some picture books from the collection. We get to vote on specific titles, one of them being George Shrinks by William Joyce. I am a Joyce fan, so I expected to vote to keep it just on principle. Come on. Joyce.

It turns out, though, that George Shrinks is better than I remember, mainly because I remembered nothing about it. It's a Kafkaesque tale about a child who wakes up, not a bug, but tiny. And he manages just fine on his own, thank you very much.

Though why is he on his own? Merely an adult question, or is it significant here?

In addition to being a good book, George Shrinks inspired a PBS series that's still running. I'm a big believer in connecting series like that to their print versions. It seems like a golden opportunity to encourage a littlie with reading.

So you can guess how I'm voting.

Time Management Tuesday: Writers' Retreats

This weekend I'm off to the Falling Leaves Master Class for Novels Retreat that I told you about back in September. This takes place over a weekend, a weekend is a unit of time, what am I going to do with that time? For that matter, all retreats take place over a unit of time, a unit of time that writers could use for anything, the retreat being just one of their options. There is an opportunity cost involved with our choices on how to use our time. Do we gain enough from a retreat to justify the time cost?

What Is a Writers' Retreat, Anyway?

I tend to have a very formal, traditional writers' retreat fantasy that involves going some place remote and working away from the distractions of family, home, and day jobs. My fantasy does include getting together with other writers for meals and doing some exercising and reading. Okay, it pretty much involves doing only what I want to do.

That isn't necessarily what other writers think of as retreats, though. A writer friend once told me she didn't see the point of going away to be with other people and then work and not be with them. I've also heard a writer discussing a  retreat she attended at which writers worked together on a couch while either instant messaging or tweeting each other. The writer telling this story had a good time.

Additionally, many writers' retreats have programs and events scheduled for most of the day. They're like mini-conferences for limited numbers of people often in a remote, scenic area. My guess is that the big difference between a conference and these kinds of retreats is the size and the number of programs offered each hour--one at a retreat versus multiple at a conference. At any rate, many retreats appear to be about something other than actually working.

How To Get The Best Bang For Your Time


Choose Carefully.  I contacted the Falling Leaves staff to see if there would be any writing time during the weekend before applying. In addition, this is a master class retreat. While there are four presentations from editors, those presentations are related to the manuscripts we submitted in order to be accepted, and we've had to prepare for them. This could end up being like some kind of monastic study experience. I'll actually be bringing two projects to work on.

Create Objectives. I had three original objectives for the retreat when applying.
  • Community-building.
  • Writing
  • Getting away from Gail Universe and enter another for a couple of days. 
I've been prepping for over a week for the editors' presentations, and now that I'm back into this project I would switch the writing and community-building objectives. I'd really like to get more work done, even if it's not traditional writing but some kind of revision or planning.

Now, I have far more experience obsessing about time and how I'm using it than I do with writers' retreats, but the way I feel right now, it's unlikely I would take the time to go to a writers' retreat that is primarily presentations without a specific work project involved.

But we will see how I feel about the time involved for writers' retreats next week. At the very least, I'm expecting to meet my objective of getting away from Gail Universe for a couple of days.


Monday, November 11, 2013

The "How I Live Now" Movie Almost Got By Me

I saw a movie review for How I Live Now this weekend. The movie seemed to come out of nowhere. This was a big book when it was published and a good one. I can't find the movie review I read on-line, but it was pretty similar to the one in The New York Times, saying that Saoirse Ronan is good, but who is this movie for?

More On Aaron Becker

I just met Aaron Becker on Saturday,  and here he is again at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. It's a beautiful post packed with images. And what did I notice? Aaron meditated two hours a day for eight years.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My One-Hour Tour Of The Connecticut Book Fair

I was only able to get to the Connecticut Children's Book Fair for one hour yesterday afternoon, but I had a particularly good time. I wasn't able to attend any author or illustrator presentations, but I did get around the room meeting people.
My first stop was with Tui T. Sutherland, author of the Wings of Fire series. I heard on Twitter just this past week that Wings of Fire made the NYTimes series bestseller list. Tui also writes under other names, meaning she is producing a lot of work. And yet she doesn't look worn out or exhausted.
Then I talked with Jonathan Bean. Jonathan has won awards for both his writing and his illustrations. I've been seeing his newest book, Big Snow, mentioned all over the place.

Terri Goldrich, co-chair for the fair and curator of the Northeast Children's Literature Collection, for which the Connecticut Children's Book Fair provides support, happened by when I reached Aaron Becker and offered to take a picture of us together. Don't know how he felt about that, but I jumped right into the frame and forgot all about getting a photograph of him by himself. I had a copy of Aaron's book, Journey, at home. Another book and author/illustrator who happen to be getting a lot of attention right this minute.

I hustled across the room to meet Ann M. Martin because I heard some people talking about her around one of the book tables. Ann created The Babysitter's Club and continued writing the series for years. She's also the author of stand alone novels. Particularly interesting moment when I was with Ann--my first picture of her included a woman who was assisting her with signing stock. She was there from Ann's publisher. That is the big time.

 The man to my right is David Johnson. He's going to get his own Original Content post later this week because we got into a discussion of something that I want to go on about for a while. It's also something that will make a good Picture Book Month post. One of the books he was signing yesterday was The Boy Who Drew Cats.

Phoebe Stone,author of The Romeo and Juliet Code and eight other books for young people, including a Romeo and Juliet Code sequel was the reason I got myself to the fair yesterday. Phoebe and I attended the same high school, though at different times. I knew her younger sister, Abigail Stone, also a writer, when we were in either eighth or ninth grade. Phoebe now lives in a town in Vermont that borders my hometown. In fact, my father was born there.

When I was growing up and wanting to be a writer (without having a clue what writing meant), I thought Vermont was the end of the Earth. Wanting to be a writer was like wanting to be an astronaut or president. And here is Phoebe, someone from the same place who is doing the same thing. I can't help but be amazed by this. 

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Narrative In Pictures

I'm sure that Journey by Aaron Becker is probably viewed as being about creativity because it involves a young girl using a red marker to create the devices she needs--a door, a boat, etc.--to function in a world she has found. What I like about it is that, like Bluebird by Bob Staake, it's really all about narrative even though the story is told without words, just images. I think that narratives are almost stronger in these silent picture books.

Becker says at his beautiful website, "My debut children’s book, Journey, follows the adventures of a young girl who escapes the boredom of home to find a magical realm – in which she can control her destiny with her imagination." The question of whether or not we can control our worlds has become a favorite theme of mine in my own writing. I love seeing it in a picture book.

Aaron Becker was one of the authors and illustrators at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair today. I'll be posting about my journey there tomorrow.