Thursday, February 28, 2013

OMG! I Am Listening To Shirley Jackson! Her Voice!

I worry that I use too many exclamation points. I've read that they're like bullying. Still, I am listening to Shirley Jackson as I type these words. I must exclaim, because I am, you will recall, obsessed with her.

On Valentine's Day, Jessa Crispin did a post at Blog of a Bookslut on the possible reasons behind Shirley Jackson's name being missing from the list of great twentieth century authors. In her post she has embedded a link to Jackson reading from her short story, The Daemon Lover on an album.

I couldn't make out the words, but it was her voice. At least, that's what Jessa says.

I've Read A Skulduggery Pleasant Book That Many Of You Probably Haven't

I recently finished reading my niece's copy of Dark Days by Derek Landy, Book 4 in the Skulduggery Pleasant series. What's that? You're wondering where my niece got Dark Days, since she is an all American girl and this book isn't published in the U.S. of A.? Why, she got it from her favorite aunt, who ordered it for her from England for Christmas. Yes, I know. All young people should have aunts like me.

When we last saw Skulduggery here at Original Content, over two years ago, he was in dire straits. I will not get into how dire, because you can get that particular book in this country, and I don't want to spoil it for you. Since this is a series (that is becoming a little more serial like) I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that he's functioning in this book.

I have to admit that this time around I had trouble keeping all the bad guys straight. Since many of them had appeared in earlier books, if some American publisher had seen fit to publish this one, that might not have happened because I would have read it closer to the last book. I am also going to quibble with the red shirt moment  that occurs around the halfway point in which two brand new characters appear so that they can be killed off right away. I wasn't enthralled with the ending.

The book is still filled with the wit this series is known for, though. And I'm very much liking the suggestion that Skulduggery may be quite a bad guy. For those two reasons, and because I think it will make my niece happy, last night I ordered the next two books in the series, from England, for her birthday. They should be here just before Easter, when I'm hoping RJ will be here to eat my holiday bread and cake, though I am not sure exactly what form they will take this year.

My Easter cake is up in the air, but I'm certain I'll be able to read the next two Skulduggery books in rapid order.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

March Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

I'm surprised we didn't have more Read Across America events this month, since it's on March 1st. We do, however, have a new bookstore showing up in the calendar this month. The Monte Cristo Bookshop opened in New London in December.

Sat. March2, Janet Lawler, Cat in the Hat Ball, Clarke Center, Mitchell College, New London, 11 AM

Sat. March 2, Stephen Pastis, R.J. Julia Bookseller, Madison, 4:00 PM

Thurs. March 7, Annabel Monaghan, Westport Public Library, Westport, 7:30 PM

Sat. March 9, Kimberly Newton Fusco, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 4:00 PM

Sat. March 9, N. Dunham, Monte Christo Bookshop, New London, 7:00 PM

Sat. March 9,  Francis Gilbert, Bank Square Books, Mystic, 2:00 PM

Tues. March 12, Mary Cashman and Cynthia WhippleR.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 10:30 AM

Sat. March 16, Ken Shuey, Bank Square Books, Mystic, 11:00 AM

Sat. March 23, Kimberly Newton Fusco, Bank Square Books, Mystic, 11 AM

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: Checking In On Those New Year's Goals

Remember those New Year's Goals and Objectives we created on New Year's Day instead of making resolutions? Mine are printed out and pinned up in the office. They were weighing on me a bit these last few weeks because it was taking so much time to publish Saving the Planet & Stuff. With that out of the way this past weekend, I knew I'd knocked off one goal with its accompanying objectives and decided to see how I was doing on the others. This is another example of recapitulation, which I wrote about at the end of 2012.

Goal 1. Publish Saving the Planet Done, done, done. Donedidy done.

Goal 2. Publicize Saving the Planet throughout the year I've been planning for this goal for months and have been moving ahead with various objectives. In fact, I did some on-line announcements and sent out a press release this morning and will be doing similar work this afternoon.

Goal 3. Maintain Time Management Tuesday Project Yup. Here I am, working on that. I have been working on Objective 3, planning the NESCBWI time management workshop for a couple of weeks, using three or four units of time each week.

Goal 4. Submission Binge That's coming next month, and I do have some places in mind to submit to. The fact that I overhauled my files (that will be a later TMT post) will make this easier.

Goal 5. Write and submit an essay on blogging I did research a magazine market for this one. While I still think the essay idea is valid, I may try submitting other things first.

Goal 6. Write an outline for "mummy book" during May Days. Terrific. I'd forgotten that I was only talking an outline. I have been prepping for the May Days effort with some character and situation planning. I'll try to get more intently into that during the March Madness Submission Binge.  I have been working on Objective 1. Reading Wired for Story. I do sometimes find reading writing books helpful while getting started on a writing project. Not in any kind of logical way, but helpful nonetheless.

Goal 7. Continue with community building. I've completed the first three objectives for this goal, as well as Objectives 5 and 7.

Goal 8. Publish a free Hannah and Brandon e-short story to support the Hannah and Brandon eBooks published by G.P. Putnam's Sons. I'm changing this goal. If I do write a Hannah and Brandon short story, I'm going to try to sell it to a magazine. For one thing, I'd like to generate some income. For another, I don't think the Hannah and Brandon age group will be a big market for e-short stories, even if they're free. A traditional magazine might be a better way of reaching those readers.

Goal 9. Plan publication of My Life Among the Aliens and Club Earth eBooks for winter, 2014. I'd be willing to drop this goal altogether and replace it with the one I'm going to mention in the next paragraph because right now, I'm burned out on self-publishing. Working out the cover illustrations for two more books, hunting for ways to promote them while I'm still trying to promote Saving the Planet...I'm having trouble getting pumped for this. On top of all that, I've been getting a sense from my reading that middle grade isn't a big market for eBooks. My publishing partner is a masochist, though, and he's interested in getting started formatting these books. Have a blast, Computer Guy! I'm not feeling this one right now.

A New Goal (Actually a goal I forgot about in January): Last June I revised a children's manuscript, working it into an adult book. I want to work on that more this year and submit it to agents. I'm much more psyched about that, at this point, then I am about hammering out another self-publishing project.

Hmm. Maybe the first chapter of that book I'm revising would make a short story submission next month. That could be an objective toward the goal of getting that book published.

Right now I'm feeling better about how well I'm staying on task. I've also done a little shifting around of goals, which is a good idea. That will have an impact on my planning from here on.

The point is, folks, check out your goals. Are you using your time working toward them? Do you want to make changes in what you plan to do?

Monday, February 25, 2013

"Saving The Planet & Stuff" Is Now An eBook

Yes, finally, the eBook edition of Saving the Planet & Stuff has been published and is available for both Kindle and Nook.

I believe my first mention of this project here at OC was on March 1 of 2012 (when we hadn't yet settled on the spelling "eBook"), so it has been very, very close to a year that the Saving the Plant eBook has been in the works. Go back to Saturday's post on publishing to get an idea of what we've been dealing with while I've been trying to juggle other work-related tasks that are in various stages and my computer guy/publishing partner has been holding down a full-time job.

You'll continue to hear about my experiment in self-publishing as I work on promoting this title over the coming months. In the meantime, look at what we did! A book trailer!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Weekend Links

 I actually worked several hours today, which I don't normally do on Sundays, and that has cut into my linking time. I can only offer three quickies.

the writer's dojoI've mentioned here a number of times, I'm sure, that I've been a martial arts student for over ten years. That's why you often see me writing about writing and studying the same as training, which is what we do in my taekwondo dojang. Imagine how much I loved stumbling upon The Writer's Dojo: Where Writing Ninjas Come To Train. It is an entire website for writers developed around what you might call the martial arts training metaphor. It's very clever and probably very helpful to the writers who train there.

This is kind of a 360 turn from martial arts, but I've seen two blogs offering assistance to people suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal. GreenBeanTeenQueen did a Post Downton Abbey Reading List. The Porter Square Books blog  did a Downton Abbey Fan? We've Got Some Books For You post. Oddly enough, there is no duplication.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Weekend Writer: The Difference Between Traditional Publishing And Self-Publishing

I am a very linear person and had planned to begin this series with the beginning of a writing project. However, this past week I "attended" IndieReCon, and I'm going to be making a self-publishing announcement, myself, next week, so I decided to start writing about the end of the writing road.

While I suspect most of my readers are very knowledgeable about the publishing process, there are many people who are not. And a lot of them want to write and publish books. This post is for them.

What Needs To Be Done To Publish A Book

Editing--Before publishing, any manuscript needs both developmental (what I used to call "content") and copy editing. Developmental editing involves an editor working with the author to make sure that

the plot makes sense

characters behave consistently and logically within their storylines

there are no unnecessary characters

scenes are not drawn out or unnecessary

voice is maintained throughout

and a great many other things are done correctly.

Copy editing usually involves another editor checking for spelling, punctuation, and usage.

Proper editing is the hallmark of a professionally prepared book.

Cover--The cover needs an illustration as well as design layout with whatever titles are required. If this is a paper and print book, the spine and back cover must be designed. Fonts must be chosen and guess what? Some of them are copyrighted, so someone needs to deal with that. A good cover is another hallmark of a professionally prepared book.

Interior design--Someone has to lay out the pages, deciding how wide the margins will be, what the text will look like, what kinds of fonts will be used for chapter titles, etc. If this is an eBook, someone needs to format the manuscript.

Marketing and promotion--Someone needs to find a way to get the book into the hands of reviewers, whether they be print journals or blogs. Should there be press releases? To whom should they be sent? Should the author do public appearances? Where? Who should be contacted to try to arrange them?

Distribution and Sales--If this is a paper and print book, will bookstores carry it? How will the book come to their attention? Will Amazon carry it, and how will that be done?

There will probably be more things I haven't thought of.

Traditional Publishing

With what has been known in the twentieth century as traditional publishing, a publishing company selects manuscripts submitted to it on the basis of quality or marketability and agrees to do all the above for the author. In return, the traditional publisher gets a big chunk of the profit made on the book. An author might get, say, twelve percent of the cover price on her book with the publishing company getting the rest. However, the author hasn't invested any money in this project, only the publishing company has. In addition, the author has received an advance payment against the income she's expected to receive on sales of her book. She gets to keep that even if the book doesn't sell enough copies to meet that expected income.


With self-publishing, an author does all the work that needs to be done to publish the book. If she can't do it herself, she has to find other people to do it and pay them. She gets to keep a much bigger cut of the money that comes in from sales, but she's done a great deal more work and invested her own money in the project. If sales aren't great enough to cover her costs, the loss is hers.

I've seen blog posts from self-published authors that suggested there were a few simple steps to publishing a book. One traditionally-published author who was planning to self-publish her next book announced that she was going to have her mother edit it, because mom had a master's degree. The Honest Inside Scoop or the Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing by Jessie Harrell, which appeared at the IndieReCon site this past week, is a very good assessment of the work involved with self-publishing. IndieReCon also ran Costs of Self Publishing by Miral Sattar of BiblioCrunch, which will give you an idea of what some of the expenses can run up to. (Hey, you know what? If your mom's good enough to edit your book, she ought to get paid.)

The point I want to make here is that publishing a book is publishing a book. The same work has to be done whether a traditional publishing company is doing it or you're doing it yourself. Self-publishing is a serious endeavor. The people who are making any money at all are investing time and money into their work.

You don't really need to know a great deal about publishing if you're lucky enough to have a manuscript accepted by a traditional publishing company. I certainly didn't when I first started publishing. If you're thinking about self-publishing, you'd better know a lot or find a way to learn what you need to know. This isn't something you want to go into blind.

Friday, February 22, 2013

2012 Science Fiction Award Nominees

You can check out samples of this year's Nebula nominees at Galley Cat. The site includes links to the complete nominated short stories.

The nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy are:

Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill
Black Heart by Holly Black 

Above by Leah Bobet 
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst 
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman 
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis 
Every Day by David Levithan 
Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall 
Railsea by China Mieville 
Fair Coin by E.C. Myers 
Above World by Jenn Reese

I happen to have just started reading Every Day.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gail Gauthier--The Giver

I learned yesterday that my application to serve as a Book Giver for World Book Night has been accepted. I don't know which of the three books I asked for I'll be getting, but I'll let you know.

Oh, yes, I'll be letting you know lots about how this goes down. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Matthew Crawley, Lit Guy

I finally finished watching last week's episode of Downton Abbey and have only this to say of the final few minutes...Cliche Alert!

I'll write, instead, about some bookie bits I stumbled upon relating to Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley. Turns out, he was a judge for last year's Man Book Prize. We're kind of vague about what that is here in the U.S., so that probably explains why we haven't heard much (in my case, anything) about his involvement with it. He is also editor-at-large (whatever that means) for a lit quarterly, The Junket. Looking After #numbertwo is a recent Stevens' contribution to that site.

While reading it, I first thought, Ah, Stevens is so much a twenty-first century man, not at all like his Downton Abbey role. Then I thought, But, Gail, Matthew was an early twentieth-century man when all around him were determined to stay rooted in the nineteenth. If Matthew Crawley were real (and not reel) wouldn't his mind have been working like that of the author of Looking After #numbertwo?

Yes, I have been told I think too much.

Getting back to Dan Stevens, Lit Guy, which is the real subject of this post, I will go on to tell you that he is also a columnist for The Telegraph. These personal essays, My Week on the Porch and My Week of US Festivities, for example, are a little over the top arty for my tastes. But at the same time, he has some interesting things to say. He describes porches as "occupying that liminal zone between creature comforts and the great outdoors." Okay, "liminal" probably supports my point about his writing being intentionally arty, but it's a word I happen to like, and I think it does fit here very well. And of our Thanksgiving Day Parade, he says, "Towering Smurfs are flanked by a gargantuan Pillsbury Doughboy, a titanic jug of Kool-Aid and a monumental Ronald McDonald, looming down on the crowds with a terrifyingly reassuring “thumbs up”. These are also brands that have fed the nation’s economy – indeed the giving of thanks for the “harvest” has increasingly metaphorical, commercial connotations."  I have never thought of that, but I'll be thinking of it every Thanksgiving from now on.

Has any American actor had so much literary activity while at the same time appearing on a big show like Downton Abbey and then on Broadway until earlier this month?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pitch-Fest At WriteonCon

WriteonCon, the people who brought us a free, on-line conference focusing on YA  last year, are running a Pitch-Fest March 18 through 22. Right now they have a Perfect Your Pitch workshop running on their forums so that people can have their pitches critiqued before submitting them to the Pitch-Fest.

Time Management Tuesday: Final Thoughts On Boost Your Willpower

Really? After four weeks, she has more to say about about the Yoga Journal Boost Your Willpower program? Yes, I do.

The program included several e-mails on the impact stress has on willpower, which I wasn't able to work into my four TMTuesday posts. But since it seems a significant factor when talking about willpower and self-discipline, which have a connection to time management, I wanted to mention it.

Stress, YJ claims, actually "drains willpower." It causes the ol' fight-or-flight response to kick in. We want to flee the workstation. Stress can also shove us into "a reward-seeking state by increasing the excitability of your dopamine neurons." (Science!) We want to feel better right away. The most obvious example of this is stress eating, but leaving the file we're working on to run to our "friends" on Facebook or to dive into any pleasurable reading experience would be others.

YJ's suggestions for relieving stress include yoga and meditation, of course, because it is Yoga Journal. Exercise, spiritual practices, and simply getting outside for a walk also make the list. My own thought is maintaining some kind of regular practice involving any of these activities could help contain stress in the first place.

When stress is upon us? The Ten-minute Timeout/unit system plans we discussed last week could help us delay the gratification we think we're going to get by stopping work. YJ also suggests training ourselves to slow our breathing. "When we slow the breath, studies show, we activate the prefrontal cortex and shift the body from stress to self-control mode." Slow breathing in front of the computer screen for a few minutes could calm the stress and keep us from moving away.

Boost Your Willpower conclusion: My takeaway from this program is using "I will" statements, using the unit system to keep me from giving in to the What the Hell Effect, and using the unit system to keep me from giving in to the desire to do something other than work right this minute. And  I'll be paying even more attention to my breathing during yoga practice.

Next week we will be on to some other aspect of time management.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Next Big Thing Roundup

Here is the Next Big Thing round-up I promised last month. Some of these writers are NESCBWI members, some are author/bloggers I know, and a few are authors whose work I've liked, so when I saw they were taking part in this meme, I linked them up. Yes, I am in the list, in alphabetical order, so you can read, once again, about my Next Big Thing, which is coming very soon.

Linda Crotta Brennan

Leslie Bulion

Tanita S. Davis 

Erin Dionne

Matt Forrest Esenwine

A.C. Gaughen

Gail Gauthier

Julia True Kingsley
Margo Lanagan

Dawn Metcalf

Laurie Smith Murphy 

Joyce Ray

Sarah Stevenson

Linda Booth Sweeney

Elizabeth Wein

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weekend Links

My first link today is Little Miss Bronte JANE EYRE at Kelly Fineman's blog, Writing and Ruminating. Why? you may ask. Because it's a board book. A Jane Eyre board book. According to my calculations, I have posted about Jane Eyre here at OC twenty-three times. Because, you know, I love her. And that's enough to get you to link to a post about a board book, Gail? No, I bought the book Friday night. I am determined to spread my love of Jane to other generations of Gauthiers.

I found a terrific stash of podcasts at Write the Book. Write the Book is a radio program out of Burlington, Vermont that is all interview, and all "interviews with authors, poets, agents, editors, and illustrators." What I like about these podcasts is that they truly are "all interviews," which is why I keep repeating those two words. I've stumbled upon a couple of other podcast stashes in which the hosts describe their podcasts as including interviews or being about some particular subject but then organize the podcast as if it was a variety show covering a number of other things. Thus I am stuck listening to five or ten minutes of fluff before I get to the one thing I want to listen to. Write the Book...again...all interview.

Does Social Media Sell Books? Gillian Flynn's Agent Gives Her Perspective at Huffington Post has some interesting points. According to the interviewer, two of 2012's best-selling authors weren't terribly involved in social media, at least themselves. And agent Stephanie Rostan says, " matter how active an author is online, the conversation about them and/or their book must be picked up and carried on by others for it to truly have an impact on sales." I think a lot of people--writers and people in publishing, too, probably--forget that part. We have blogs. We have Facebook pages. That's not social media in itself. The group has to accept the message and pass it along to get the social part.

On that sad note, I need to sign off.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Introducing The Weekend Writer; Also, IndieReCon Is Next Week

I have written about writing process here, but usually I'm whining. I've frequently written about plotting. I've written about publishing and e-publishing. But I've never been one of those writers who actually writes Advice for Writers or maintains that kind of information at her website. For one thing, reading about writing can be boring as Hell, and I wasn't confident that I could do anything about that problem. For another, many writers are already doing that at their websites, and I had no reason to believe I could do it any better. For still another, I've never thought that I have all that much to offer. And, finally, I thought this blog is probably read mostly by other writers, litbloggers, and my computer guy, none of whom are looking for writing advice.

However, earlier this week a friend from long ago contacted me to, indeed, ask for some publishing advice. She had written a story, found a publisher on-line, and contacted it, evidently giving someone there her telephone number. This was a self-publishing company with a "Not Recommended" rating at Preditors & Editors. What sounds like a salesperson called her, offering her a deal if she signed a contract by the end of the week. After that, the price would go up several hundred dollars. She was considering borrowing money to take advantage of the offer.

I am still upset about this.

There are so many people out in the world who want to be writers and have no idea how to even begin. Writing words on a piece of paper is the least of it. There's the whole issue of how to write and what is good writing and how do you know if you're even approaching good? Publishing is a whole other thing that should come long down the road.

Writing is becoming very professionalized. That's not a bad thing. Studying/training in your field in order to learn all the things discussed in the last paragraph--a very, very good thing, in fact. But I don't think a lot of people outside the writing world realize that you ought to actually know something and go out and learn it before you even try to publish whatever it is you think you've written. Some people would argue that a lot of people within the writing world don't know it. But one of the issues with training for a life as a writer is how? Must you go to college and graduate school? Can you get what you need from reading books? Going to conferences?

And a lot of the training is expensive. Going to college and, possibly, getting an MFA, for those who do it, costs some serious change. Conferences, retreats, workshops, professional memberships--not cheap. It's not too much of an exaggeration to say that I come from a rural, poor background. The idea that a writing career could be out of the reach of people like myself because of its cost, just as so many other careers are, is disturbing for me.

I'm not one of those all-dreams-can-come-true types. I'm a use-objectives-to-work-toward-goals type. That requires knowledge. Who can tell what a dream requires?

I still think I probably have limited help to offer and there are probably few inexperienced writers reading this blog. Nonetheless, I'm going to try to become a little more organized with my process and publishing posts, focusing them on Saturdays so that someone interested in just that type of information can stop by here one day of the week to get it. A lot of these posts will involve links to other writers and bloggers who are writing for writers, so that I can, at a minimum, direct readers to help. I may try to get other writers to add information in the comments. I may try to find a way to organize The Weekend Writer posts so that readers  can find them all easily in one spot. I may try to get Computer Guy to make me a The Weekend Writer button.

Yeah. I'd like a button.

Anyway, not to waste any time, I have some publishing information for any of you who are interested in learning more about self-publishing. Next Tuesday through Thursday  IndieReCon, an on-line writer's conference, is going to be held...ah...on-line. And it's free. This will be similar to WriteonCon. I've registered, though I'll probably have to "take part" in most of the Wednesday and Thursday events after the fact.

You'll be hearing about my experience at IndieReCon, maybe in a Weekend Writer post.

Friday, February 15, 2013

If Barnes & Noble Goes Under, What Happens To All Those Nooks?

More doom and gloom about Barnes & Noble today. It appears that Nook is going to lose more money than expected. I guess if losses had stayed flat, as was expected, the situation would have been better, if not actually good. Even though it sounds as if even then we wouldn't be talking about making money.

I was reminded of an LA Times article I read last month. The author, Michael Hiltzik, said that we ereader users don't actually own the eBooks we purchase. We are "licensees." "Nowhere does Amazon, Apple or any other distributor pledge to support its digital formats in perpetuity. Quite the contrary: They typically warn that they can cancel their service at any time, without warning, in a way that could end your access to a lifetime of e-book purchases."

He doesn't say anything about a "distributor" going out of business. So my question is, if Barnes & Noble goes belly up (to put it indelicately), what happens to Nook users?

Now you must excuse me while I leave to do a final copy edit the Saving the Planet & Stuff copy we have ready to upload to Nook.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I Have One Word For You--Lent.

I usually write about time management on Tuesdays and this is Thursday, so what's going on here? Well, I thought of something today that some of you might want to consider, and consider soon.

For those people whose faith/spiritual tradition involves observing the season of Lent, I'd just like to point out that Lent is a unit of time. Units of time are significant in time management because we can use them for planning tasks. At the beginning of units of time, our will power is often at its highest. Working with a unit of time that has a specific ending date is supposed to increase efficiency because people work harder when they know they're going to have to stop. Lent ends either on Holy Thursday or the evening before Easter. I didn't even realize Lent was here until today because Easter is a moveable feast, and someone moved it to the end of March this year. Easter is early. Lent is early. I didn't do any planning for it, but I'm itching to get my hands on this unit of time now.

Here's my thinking: Traditionally, people give something up during Lent as a form of penance. Would it be dreadful to give up something that damages our writing practice so that we're using our abstinence for something other than penance?  Facebook before quitting time? Checking e-mail before lunch break? Yes? No? I'm also wondering about using the Lenten period to add something to our work lives instead of giving something up or to use it as an extended training period. I'm wondering about using it to develop discipline/willpower. Would it be so very bad to use Lent to try to improve ourselves?

I'm going to take a chance and use Lent as a training period for discipline. I've been noticing that the beginnings of weeks are better for me, at least psychologically. Wednesdays and Thursdays, when I rarely work because I'm doing elder care, have become very hard for me recently. The unending small family- and life-related tasks seem particularly overwhelming on those days. It's hard to recover on Friday, and then the weekends go primarily to family and personal work again. It's not just a matter of needing to find a way to overcome what's happening to me so I can make the best use of what work time I have. I have to find a way to overcome what's happening to me so I don't meltdown.

I came up with a plan yesterday to focus on those Mondays and Tuesdays in an up and cheery way instead of focusing on those Wednesdays and Thursdays in a doom and gloomy way. I could be far more selective about which telephone calls I take (I have the technology to do that), for instance. I could stick to checking e-mail after lunch and start holding off on replying to personal e-mail until evening. Yes, I could do those things. Usually plans like those fill me full of joy.  (I think they had something to say about that in the Yoga Journal Boost Your Willpower program.) But this time I was having trouble cranking up any enthusiasm. I'm already up to my neck in managing time. How much more can I do?

Lots more!

Someone asked me today if I'd given up chocolate for Lent when I turned down an offer of some. I told her Lent had blown past me this year because Easter won't stay put. I hadn't been prepared for it. She insisted that it's never too late to take part in Lent. I don't know this woman. She attends a drop in yoga class I've only dropped in on twice. I wouldn't recognize her. Clearly she's more devout than I am, since she mentioned speaking to her priest last night, Ash Wednesday, and the last time I spoke to my minister it was because we were both at the bank. But...but...she may have been one of those yoga messengers you hear about in the Bible or some place. Ya think?

I realized she was right when she said,  "It's never too late to take part in Lent," because it only started yesterday, one of my worst days of the week. My worst day of the week was the first day of Lent. Oh, yes. A sign. I can do Lent!

I now have a 40-day training period to work on developing some Monday and Tuesday discipline. Well, a 38-day training period, because 2 days are gone. I am psyched, though. And when that  training period is over, the Easter Bunny will be coming. It's all good.

I know that woman said it's never too late to take part in Lent, but I wouldn't wait too long, if I were you.

Forget About Chocolates And Flowers

February 14th is the annual announcement day for Cybil Award winners. Check out my response to Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, one of the graphic novel winners.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bridget's Book Coming Next Month

When I was a teenager, I believed that writing would make me immortal. So long as one of my books was on a library shelf or in a second hand book bin, I was still in the world.

 Some of us in the Kidlitosphere either knew or knew of Bridget Zinn, a writer, librarian, and blogger who died  in 2011 after her first book was accepted for publication. Well, that book, Poison, will be published next month by Hyperion. I'm sure you can see how my mind is running with this.

Good luck to Bridget and Poison.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: Week 4 Of Boost Your Willpower

Week 1 of the Yoga Journal Boost Your Willpower program: choosing a focus/goal; Week 2: committing to the goal and choosing something to do that will remind you of the goal. Week 3: dealing with setbacks. Week 4 is about "transcending self-improvement," finding your place in the world, connecting with something bigger than yourself, etc. This is the first time with this program that I'm not finding the daily e-mails all that helpful with the week's theme. There's some good stuff in the e-mails, but except for one that advises that we use the self-reflection questions for Week 4 to help us take what we've gained in the program and help others, I'm not seeing a lot to assist with the connect with others thing. I must admit, though, I'm pretty sure I lost one of the e-mails before I read it, and there's one final one coming tomorrow.

Here's something we can use as individuals, though:

Mere desire/anticipation of the happiness we will get from something like, say, visiting our blog reader or Facebook right this minute, or, better yet, checking out Salon or Slate's (Salon AND Slate's) Monday morning recap of Downton Abbey creates a rush in the brain that can act like a stressor. ("Those recaps are fast reads. I just won't look at any of the comments.") We actually feel pressured by the anticipation of how great we're going to feel if we just give in right this minute.

What Yoga Journal calls the 10-minute Time-out can help us deal with that pressure. A 10-minute delay is supposed to be enough to undermine anticipation stress. (I've actually read this before in relation to eating.) If we can divert ourselves for 10 minutes, our minds may let us off the hook. If we can stick with writing that essay/chapter/letter for 10 minutes instead of giving in right away to whatever was threatening to distract us, we may become so involved with the job that we'll no longer be experiencing the stress and can just keep working.

If you know me at all, you know what I'm going to tell you now: What is 10 minutes? It's a unit of time! Once again, the unit system can come into play here. Say you've been working with the 45-minute units of time that the unit system traditionally deals with, but you cannot stick with work for the 30-minutes you have left. You must have your Facebook or Downton Abbey treat. Before giving in to that instant gratification, reset your timer for 10 minutes, leading your brain to think it will get what it wants very soon, and continue working. If the desire/anticipation has relaxed its grip on you when the timer goes off, it may be happy to let you continue working. If the desire to do something else is still there, try setting the timer for ten minutes again. And again. By then you will have worked the 30 minutes that was left in your original 45-minute unit of time.

Then go read the Downton Abbey recaps during your 15 minute break between work sessions. I believe this is what's called having your cake and eating it, too.

Next week I'll do a Boost Your Willpower wrap-up. Then it will be time to dwell on some other aspect of time management for a while.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weekend Links

I've just stumbled upon Interviews: How to Become a Writer at Kelcey Parker's blog, ph.d in creative writing. I haven't read any of the interviews yet, and, I must admit, I haven't heard of any of the writers in this series. That doesn't say anything about them, or me. Writers are very specialized and function in different worlds. What I'm liking is Parker's "basic premise is that becoming a writer is not rocket science, but it’s not magic either. Being a writer is a lifestyle choice...It requires writing about writing, reading, writing about reading, attending readings, meeting writers, writing to writers, writing about writers, maybe even teaching or class-taking. (Notice that I haven’t even mentioned publishing. That will come.)" Oh, my gosh, yes. You have to like and want the lifestyle because that is what sustains you when nothing else does. (Excuse me for sounding all deep. Not to worry. It will pass. Yup. There it goes.) Scroll down to her four reasons for doing the How to Become a Writer series. "Most advice out there is about short cuts: how to write better novels or how to get published or how to outline a killer plot..." Once again, Oh, my gosh, yes.

Hmm. Ms. Yingling says that the number one concern of middle school students is losing long time friends. That seems like a little tidbit I should file away for later use. Then check out her experience with boy readers and eBooks, as well as those of her commenters.

Top 10 Things One Writer Learned About Social Media Marketing at Mystery Writing Is Murder (By way of Cynsations). Note in particular Items 2 and 5. I've seen this kind of advice a lot. Yet I also see writers on Facebook who only show up to make an announcement, then disappear, and writers who use their blogs as an announcement page, posting maybe a dozen times a year. I'm never going to win any awards for my social skills, but I understand what the word "social" means. Yeah, that's why later this evening I hope to post a picture of the pizza I made for dinner tonight at my personal Facebook page.

This is not very much, I know, but I've been shoveling a lot of snow this weekend. I'm hoping in the future to include more podcasts, and you'll be hearing why in a week or two. If you are in New England and you don't have power, stay warm.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

An Attempt At Community For Writers

As a general rule, I don't care for readings. You know, the whole listening to someone read out loud thing. Lectures I can get into sometimes. I've been known to enjoy a few minutes of a talking head TV show while on a stationary bike. Radio interviews, okay. But I can't remember a time when I've gone to a public place to listen to writers read from their work when I haven't been left thinking, How soon can I get out of here? soon after I took my seat. I much prefer to read the piece, myself. Plus the atmosphere is often very pompous and humorless at book readings, and they tend to go on and on. I missed a chance to hear Christopher Moore read at UConn several years ago. His writing is funny, and I probably would have liked that. When I saw Margo Lanagan in person, she kept her readings, and the whole event, short. That was more than three years ago, and I'm still talking about it.

I start with all that to make clear how taken I am with the literary series described in A New Burlington Writers' Co-op Debuts a Literary Series, in one of my favorite Vermont publications, Seven Days. Susan Weiss, one of the members of the writers' co-op that sponsors the series says the co-op was formed, among other reasons, because "I wanted to find ways to be a writer within the community, not just when I’m sitting at my computer."

Ah, community. In this case, Weiss isn't just talking about community for writers, but writers becoming part of the greater community.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Can I Make Myself Comfortable Without Forcing Myself To Change?

My Facebook wall lit up today over The Atlantic essay Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up at School. It could have been called "Buck Up, Kiddos!"  The essay is very short and doesn't get into much depth. It's made me want to seek out Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain, which I read about last year.

I have no knowledge of research or science behind introversion and extroversion, only the same kind of anecdotal experience that my Facebook friends write about. I have two thoughts here:

1. Introversion may lead some of us self-identified introverts to behave in over-the-top, "out there" ways in some social and professional situations in which we have to function outside our comfort zone. We don't know how to be "on." We can only behave in ways that we think are "on." As a result, many people may be surprised that this person or that one believes themselves to be introverted because they often appear rather mouthy and loud.

2. Introversion may be relative. I think it's safe to say that three of the four members of my very immediate family identify as introverted. We believed the fourth was an extrovert. For, myself, it was marvelous to think that one of us had escaped what I obviously feel is a difficult personality issue. However, at one point it became clear that his friends didn't see him as an extrovert. His friends saw him as introverted, his family saw him as extroverted. He didn't necessarily behave any differently with one group than the other. I think it was more a matter of where those groups fell on the introversion/extroversion scale.

I do not think that introversion is something about myself that I need to change. I do, however, work on making myself comfortable in bigger, extroverted world situations, on the theory that if I'm comfortable, I'll function better. Just this past week, I managed to split my registration for a conference at which I'll be speaking this spring. I'm teaching on the Friday afternoon of a three-day conference at a site only about an hour from my home. The prospect of having to be with hundreds of people 24-hours a day for 3 days was filling me with anxiety. As it turned out, there wasn't even much being offered on the second day of the conference that I was interested in, though I did want to take part in a 3-hour workshop on Sunday. In terms of time, staying for the whole weekend would have been wasteful. I have family issues I could deal with at home on Saturday and nothing really to gain in terms of conference content if I stayed. So I arranged to teach my workshop on Friday, attend Friday evening social (extrovert!) events, stay over, head home Saturday morning and come back Sunday morning. We're talking a couple of extra hours of driving. For an introvert, that is nowhere near as exhausting as having to struggle to be on for an extra 24 hours with strangers and near strangers.

Now, once again, we may be talking a relativity situation here. Extroverts (like the teacher who wrote The Atlantic essay) could very well say that I've allowed my introversion to deny me some professional networking time. I suspect many introverts would say that networking is highly overrated and that I have come up with a way to give myself my best chance of a successful weekend by slipping myself into and out of Extrovert World.

Needless to say, I'll be blogging about how this goes come May. I'm also hoping to read Quiet at some point.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

I Thought It Was Some Of The Best Fiction Of The Year, Too

The 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults list was announced last month by YALSA. There were a number of books on it that I've read and liked. The one I was particularly happy about seeing there, though, was The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher. I liked that book a lot, but didn't see it getting any attention. And now it has.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: Week 3 Of Boost Your Willpower

Okay, so Week 1 of the Yoga Journal Boost Your Willpower program was about choosing a focus/goal. I chose staying on task while working. Week 2 was about making a commitment to that focus/goal and choosing one thing to do that will remind you of said focus/goal. I chose "I will" statements. Week 3 is about self-compassion.

Now, self-compassion is going to sound a little squishy and New Ageish to many people, but what Week 3 is really about is dealing with setbacks. In a Week 3 Yoga Journal Chat with Kelly McGonigal, who designed the Boost Your Willpower program for YJ, McGonigal says that success with using willpower to meet a goal has less to do with how enthusiastic people are when setting out ("I'm going to write 7 hours a day!") then it does with how they respond to the first setback. ("Oops. I talked on the phone for half an hour this morning.")  And the second ("I spent forty-minutes analyzing last week's episode of Downton Abbey in an e-mail I sent my sister during work time.") And maybe the third or fourth.

Because I tend to think in metaphor a lot of the time, I often compare managing the time for my writing practice to managing eating. What happens when we've been trying to control our eating and we eat something we feel we shouldn't have?  We give in to what Yoga Journal called in one of its Boost Your Willpower e-mails "The What-the-Hell Effect." What the Hell? We might as well eat some more because we've ruined the eating plan, anyway. In for a dime, in for a dollar. And the same is true while trying to stay on task with work. If we are diverted from the task for a while, we can feel that the morning, the afternoon, even a big chunk of a day is shot. What the Hell? We might as well give in and continue to wander mentally.  "This cycle--of indulgence leading to regret leading to greater indulgence--is one of the most dangerous to willpower," the Boost Your Willpower people state.

Think of competitive ice skaters who fall during competition, get up, and continue with their programs. Writers who have wandered from the task have to come up with a way to pick themselves up off the metaphorical ice and continue with their writing practice. How? I, of course, have a couple of suggestions.

1. That was then, this is now. The Zenny business about not dwelling on the past--even the very recent past of this morning or an hour ago--could be helpful here. That moment of slipping away from the task at hand is over, and I'm living in another moment in which I have an opportunity to stay on task. So I will. (Oh, I just made another "I will" statement.)

2. The unit system. Yes, I know. I'm treating the unit system as a freaking cure-all, but that's because it has the potential to be one. If we are accustomed to thinking of a work day as a unit of time that's broken into more, smaller units of time, then we are used to starting over again, over and over, during the day. So, if we've blown off some time, and we're able to put that behind us, we can then see that we have X units of time left in our workday--just as we would have had if we hadn't wasted some of them just an hour or so ago. Something changed in our very, very recent past because we didn't work as we'd planned to. But nothing has changed in our immediate future. The time we had planned for working is still there.

I actually used the unit system to get me back on task yesterday afternoon. While posting a link to the  NESCBWI spring conference schedule in a blog post, I became distracted and spent what seemed like a considerable amount of time perusing said schedule, trying to determine which days I wanted to go and whether or not my computer guy should go for a day, too. My indulgence led to regret, because I'd had a good work morning and I believed I'd destroyed the whole day in the afternoon by doing something I hadn't planned to do, something I could have done in the evening after my workday was over. I was teetering on the brink of succumbing to greater indulgence. But I happened to look at the clock and realized I could do another 45-minute unit on the specific writing project I'd planned for that day. Because I am now used to thinking of 45 minutes as a significant work period, I went ahead and used it to work.

From this experience--and this week's Boost Your Willpower material--I'm led to wonder if learning how to get back on task is as important as staying there in the first place.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Weekend Links

I've actually had a little time to look at some of the Internet gleanings I've been saving up these past few weeks. And I can't wait to discuss them.

It took a while for me to get around to The Last Word on Blurbs at Educating Alice, because the documentary about Gary Shteyngart's blurbs that Monica links to runs 15 minutes. When I finally saw the  little film, I found it interesting because it seems to project the pointless nature of blurbs and suggest that the literary world, itself, doesn't take them seriously, while all that same time portraying Shteyngart, a well-known "blurb whore" in blurbing circles, as a nice guy trying to be helpful. As I was watching it, I imagined hundreds, if not thousands, of writers contacting him, hoping for a blurb, not because it would say anything particular about the quality of their books but because it would be neat to have a Shteyngart blurb. I'm thinking it could be like collecting autographs or balls signed by athletes.

Some of what you'll see at Six Things I Learned About Publishing a Book That Very Few Books Will Tell You at The Huffington Post you probably have seen in a lot of books. However, I was particularly interested in Points 1 and 2. 1. The author, Nataly Kelly, talks about connecting with an editor on LinkedIn. I have wondered about whether or not LinkedIn would be useful. I rarely hear any talk of it in author promotion materials. However, my limited knowledge of it suggests that it is professional rather than social. Shouldn't that mean you'll get fewer political rants and odes to pets there and more real professional exchanges? I could be convinced to link up with LinkedIn. 2. Kelly says an agent is necessary to assist with negotiations, even if you "made" the sale yourself. I've often heard that. However, in this video Mark McVeigh did for the 2010 WriteonCon, he said that getting an agent at that point is a little late, and that for most new authors, an agent won't be able to do much more for you than the editor's original offer. Which way to go? I am at a loss.

New Developments in Self-Publishing at Turbo Monkey Tales. Note that in spite of the new technical developments related to self-publishing, the post also makes the point that self-publishing is still publishing. In order to publish a book, someone has to do the work of a publisher--"editing, design, and marketing, at the very least." If authors publish themselves, then they either have to do that work or they have to pay someone to do it. But there's no getting around the fact that it needs to be done.

And while we're talking about writers needing to spend money, as we were in that last para, let's also touch on them making money. The financial realities described for genre novelists are similar to those for children's novelists. I would add something to this quote from the excerpt from Brian Keene: "And you probably won’t see a royalty check until another year AFTER your book has been published (provided enough copies have sold to earn out your advance)." The part about "provided enough copies have sold to earn out your advance" is extremely important. Many books never sell enough copies to earn out the authors' advances, and, thus, those authors never see a royalty check, never see money beyond the original advance. Some authors only make money the years they receive advances. 

Okay, we're going to end this weekend's links on a lighter note. Maybe. Take a look at 7 (More) Children's Books by Famous "Adult" Lit Authors at Brain Pickings. My personal favorite is the first one, The Crows of Pearblossom, by Aldous Huxley. It's about a crow couple who are having no luck at all starting a family because a rattlesnake that lives below their tree keeps eating their eggs. Seriously. It eats 297 of them. They trick the snake into eating two stone eggs, which, as you might guess, kills him. They then go on to live happily ever after, I guess, with the 60-plus children they proceed to produce. There is a Greek tragedy element to this story that appeals to me.   

Friday, February 01, 2013

February Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar

Things are picking up this month, mainly because of a large number of author appearances at R. J. Julia.

Saturday, Feb. 3, Victoria Kann, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 3:30 PM

Wednesday, Feb. 6, Mike Lupica, UConn Co-op, Storrs, 5:30 PM Book launch

Thursday, Feb. 7, Dawn Metcalf, Granby Public Library, Granby, 11 AM - 12:30 PM Speaking with writers' group

Thursday, Feb. 7, Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 7:00 PM  "Straight signing"

Tuesday, Feb. 12, Mary Cashman and Cynthia Whipple R. J. Julia Booksellers, 10:30 AM

Saturday, Feb. 16, Beth Revis, Fiona Paul, Morgan Rhodes,   Elizabeth Richards, and Jessica Spotswood, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 6:00 PM  "Breathless Reads Tour"

Tuesday, Feb. 19, Dawn Metcalf, Granby Public Library, Granby, 2-3 PM, Discussion group

Wednesday, Feb. 20, Peter Lerangis, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 4:00 PM

Monday, Feb. 25, Mark O'Brien and Jeannine Marie, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 7:00 PM