Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Weekend Writer: Not Happening

This is a holiday weekend at Chez Gauthier. All my weekend work involves cooking mass quantities of food. I'll be back obsessing about writing on the weekend next Saturday.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Where Has Gail Been Recently?

Last year, I read about a blogger who did a monthly thank you to all the bloggers who had included him in posts in some way. I have no recollection of who this guy was now, but I do recall that he was mentioned all over the Internet. That is not a situation I ever find myself in. However, this month I have been around more than usual, so this is a collection of the posts and blogs that either featured or included me in some way over the past four weeks.

Alison Pearce Stevens--Marketing Monday Gail Gauthier.

GreenBeanTeenQueen--Guest Post Gail Gauthier

bookshelves of doom--The Epic Elizabeth Peters Lovefest

The Writing Reader--Carnival of Creativity

Finding Wonderland--Turning Pages: Saving the Planet & Stuff, By Gail Gauthier

Secrets & Sharing Soda--March 2013 Carnival of Children's Literature

Thanks, folks.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I'm Looking For A Green Issues Link

And I found it! I heard about this at the Kidlitosphere listserv, lost--Oh, you don't need to hear about all that.

What I've got here is a list of children's books on Green Issues/Sustainability/Recycling posted at Playing by the book. Check out the comments for more recommendations.

Goodreads Sold! What Will We Do?

Facebook is on fire over the purchase of Goodreads by Amazon. What little I've read about this deal suggests it has a lot to do with Kindle and eBooks. But I'm seeing people fearing for indie bookstores, which don't sell eBooks as a general rule, because Goodreads presently has "Get a copy" buttons for a very wide variety of on-line stores that includes "Indiebound"--at the bottom of the list. "Amazon" is already at the top, and Barnes & Noble, has its own button. Even if Amazon gets all "It's our site, now, and we'll do what we want to," I think it remains to be seen how great an impact this will have on independent bookstores. How much were they relying on Goodreads? 

Some people aren't addressing the impact of this on independent bookstores. They just seem to feel that Amazon is bad on principle, because it is hugely successful. I think it's kind of like hating Anne Hathaway, except that she's also young and beautiful in addition to being successful, whereas Amazon makes up for the youth and beauty thing by being really, really successful.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

April Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

We have a wide variety of venues this month.

Sat., April 6, Anthony Paolucci, Bank Square Books, Mystic, 2:00 to 4:00 PM

Sun., April 7, Karen Romano Young, Byrd's Books, Bethel, 2:00 PM

Mon., April 8, Tom Angleberger, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 4:00 PM

Wed., April 10, Gail Gauthier, Norwich Free Academy Book Expo, Norwich, 6:30 PM

Thurs. April 11, Michael Hassan, Barnes & Noble, Westport, 7:00 PM

Sun., April 14, Susan Hood and Chudney Ross, Greenwich Academy Book Fair, Greenwich, 2:00 PM

Tues., April 16, Frank Dormer, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 10:30 AM

Sat., April 20, Susan Hood, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Norwalk, 10:30 and 11:30 AM

Sat., April 20, Erin Bowman, Barnes & Noble, Canton, 1:00 PM

Sat., April 20, Kate Hanscom, Lynda Hanscom, and Jeff MackBarnes & Noble, Enfield, 11:00 AM

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Saving the Planet & Stuff News

Just in from Finding Wonderland: The Finding YA Weblog, a review of Saving the Planet & Stuff

Tanita and I are going to be talking self-publishing at Finding Wonderland sometime soon.

Time Management Tuesday: The Beginning Of A Habit Arc

I spent Sunday in bed getting over something, which I'm mentioning here because Sundays have a big impact on my work life. Sundays are when I try to get a lot of personal things done and out of the way, making it possible to attend to my work life on weekdays. We have to manage all our time in order to have some in which we can work. A loss of a Sunday is a big deal to me, especially with Easter coming up next Sunday. It's a social event for my family, so I won't be doing my usual work then, though prepping for it was some of the work I was supposed to have done this past Sunday and didn't because I was in bed. Personal work is piling up. So, originally, I was going to do a woe-is-us kind of post all about how do we recover from the blow of losing time? As if I had an answer for that.

Then I realized that on Sunday evening, when I was finally able to stay awake for four hours, I posted my Weekend Links post here at OC and even got started writing a big part of yesterday's. I did it because I always do the Weekend Links post on Sunday nights. Yesterday, while I still wasn't feeling normal, I used my starting work transitional time (I've needed to do another transitional time post for a while) to work on clearing out my e-mail in-box. Because that's what I always do before I start work. I managed to get a few things done during a rough time because I always did them. They were habits.

Last fall I wrote about the difficulty in forming habits when your routine/work situation is always changing, as it does for many of us. But evidently I've managed to form a few, anyway.

As luck would have it, I happen to have a copy of  The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg in the house, and I started to read it this morning during my morning transitional time. (Not to be confused with my work transitional time, which I mentioned a few paras ago. Yes, it is definitely time for another transitional time post.) In fact, it was the intro to that book that made me realize what had been happening with me over the past weekend--that habits I hadn't realized I'd formed were kicking in.

So, I've got the book, I'm going to be reading it, and I'll be posting here about what Duhigg has to say about habit that can be applied to the Situational Time Management program I've been discussing here. I may find that there's not a lot because it appears that only a third of the book is about the habits of individuals. Fortunately, it's the first third, so we should know soon.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Do We Really Need To Rebrand Books?

In MIND MELD: Rebranding Fiction as Young Adult  (SF Signal back in January) a number of writers give their suggestions for adult titles that could be rebranded as YA.

I think some of these people may not have a very good understanding of what YA is. There's lots of talk about things like "suitability," suggesting the people making the suggestions don't read much fiction for teenagers. "Suitability" of material and language is far less a concern in YA than that the book's themes, situations, and characters relate to YA experience. If raw language and ugly events relate to said themes, situations, and characters, than they are suitable for YA.

Additionally, I wonder if it is necessary to actually rebrand a book for a YA audience with a new cover and marketing campaign. Once you do that, the book shifts to YA, and while you pick up YA readers, you're going to lose adults. How many people believe that Ender's Game is a YA or even children's book, for instance? How many people believe that To Kill a Mockingbird is a YA book, in large part because it's taught in secondary schools?  In spite of all the talk about adults reading YA, many older people won't pick up a book they think is for kids.

And does labeling something as YA really make it YA? Julius Caesar is often taught in high schools. Has that become YA? Should some put a YA cover on it? Years ago I saw both Grendel by John Gardiner and The Awakening by Kate Chopin in the YA section of bookstores. Is there any kind of rebranding that could possibly make either of those books (particularly The Awakening) YA?

Maybe the adult world should simply be directing these adult books, just as they are, toward YA readers, which will then be helping them make the move to adult books, rather than telling them they should read them because "Look! We changed our minds! It's YA!  See? It has a YA cover!" One of my fondest early teen memories involves my Uncle Mickey's trunk. He was the only person in my immediate family to have been to college (He married into the family, obviously; he wasn't actually a Gauthier.), and his trunk was filled with paperback books. He handed me a couple of volumes of Ray Bradbury short stories one day. I did, indeed, read them.

This young person, at least, experienced a thrill moving on to adult books. I had a sense that I was doing something very different by reading these things. Okay, maybe that was in part due to the fact that Uncle Mickey had been to college, as I said, while my own father hadn't finished eighth grade. In my early adolescence, I may have been attracted to anything that my own parent was not. But, still, imagine being handed Ray Bradbury short stories with a YA cover. Wouldn't the magic go up in smoke?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekend Links

Many of this weekend's links are recent ones because the Feedly reader is working so well for me, and I'm able to hit the blogs I actually want to follow on a more regular basis.

Go to India with Mitali Perkins. Great photos and captions. At the end of this post, Mitali writes about being able to speak in Bangla in many of her conversations while in India, mostly due to her parents. Not two hours before I saw this post, I had been feeling really proud of my self because I'd been able to read and understand an off-color joke in French that my cousin had sent me. It was kind of as if Mitali and I had had the same kind of linguistic experience, don't you think?

Every marketing effort counts--Author Scott Peterson is in California, but a Connecticut on-line paper gave his new book some coverage because he used to live there. That's, like, the other side of the country.

Heard through  Jen Robinson this week that Robert Cormier's books are available in eBook editions. This reminded me, of course, of my Robert Cormier story.

I shared 20 Embarrassingly Bad Book Cover for Classic Novels at my professional Facebook page, but it's good enough to share again and again. Got this from Melissa Wiley.

I've only read one book on this listMagic for Beginners, but the list really sounds like one for those teenage girls who aren't jumping up and down waiting for the next girl-torn-between-two-boyfriends story.

I love the idea of including "Authorial Asides" in a book post, the way Tanita does in this one for Awakening by Karen Sandler.

Roger Sutton on judging some of the judges involved in this year's Battle of the Kids' Books.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Weekend Writer: Hunting For Your Story With Characters

Okay, so, if all you have for an idea is a situation or scene, how do you get to a real story idea, one in which something happens to somebody and so what? Well, remember the elements of fiction, the basic parts of a story? I mean the most basic parts that you may have studied in middle or high school, not more involved, elaborate ones from college or graduate school know...somebody's blog? I'm talking character, setting, point of view, theme, and plot.  Every story has these elements/parts, and sometimes if you can work on developing those, you can use the material you generate to get to what happens to someone and why anyone would care.

Character--Try working on some characters, particularly the one who might end up being your protagonist. You can end up changing your mind about this. You can find various charts to help you do this. Some people suggest that these charts go over the top. How much does anyone need to know  about another human being, especially one who only exists in your mind and who you might end up deep-sixing before you start the writing? There's also the possibility of overwhelming yourself with detail. I used character charts for a couple of books, but  quite honestly, I haven't sold them. But beyond that, yes, working on characters can help you determine what these people have to do with your original situation or scene.

Some things to consider: How this character may change because of the scene, it's impact on him or her. Also, you can't go wrong dwelling on the classic journalistic questions of Who, What, When, Where, Why in relation to this character, not the story as a whole. Who is this person, of course, but additionally what is she doing in the scene/situation, when is this scene/situation going down, where, and, most importantly in my humble opinion, why.

This should give you some material that will intersect with the other elements when you start working with them. More on that next weekend.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wait. Maybe I Do Have An Idea Here.

When I see John Green do a vloggie for his brother, I realize that there is a reason he is a giant, and I am not. It's not because he's more talented, wittier, or smoother on camera than I am. All those things may be true, though I'm not saying they are. But they're not what makes the world embrace him while the world isn't sure where I am.

No. What makes John Green JOHN GREEN while I am gail gauthier, is that he is nice. Did you see him talk in that vlog about how traveling means he has to be away from his family, as if that's a big drawback? Yeah, well, with Gauthiers that's the number one reason to go on the road. Not so nice, eh?

If my sister and I were exchanging video thingies, we would be bitching...on camera...the entire time. We would be bitching about our other relatives, primarily, but we are fairly sophisticated women and can branch out to the Royal Family, cable providers,  Nurse Jackie (I'm sure you can guess that I love her. My sister does not.), and chain restaurants. A three-minute vlog would not begin to give us enough scope for our opinions, most of which are not warm and fuzzy and John Greenish.

The question of needing a bigger canvas for our complaints is secondary to the one of whether or not anyone would want to sit and listen to two people express them. It would depend on what we were complaining about, I suppose. People listen to Mika complain about Joe on Morning Joe every day. That's pretty much her function on the show. That suggests there is a market for this kind of thing. You just have to know how to tap it.

So maybe my sister and I could put together a bitchlog. I do have a YouTube channel now.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Bling--Generating Trash?

In last week's comments, David Elzey raised the question of self-published eBook writers using business cards at appearances, because otherwise they won't have anything material to show potential readers. My response included the news that business cards are the only real-world promotional items--the kinds that are created, touched, and thrown away--I plan to use for Saving the Planet & Stuff.

During the years that I've been publishing books, marketing materials have increased dramatically. In days of old, you were talking a bookmark, maybe a post card. Now you see pins, cups, pens, pencils, and shirts. Bumper stickers, mouse pads, and key chains. Lip balm. I heard that rolls of toilet paper were sent to bookstores to promote Walter the Farting Dog. Evidently whoopee cushions went out, too.

Some of these things are more utilitarian than others. It seems as if some of them would get a little use before making the trip to a transfer station. But we are talking material items here that are being created not for functionality but to get attention, and they will, indeed, one day end up in a transfer station. Or, in the case of the Walter the Farting Dog T.P., maybe a septic system of some kind. But given that to this day everything I read about bookselling and marketing suggests that the publishing world doesn't have a clue what sells books, it seems to me that bling is generating trash for nothing. Note that in this 2012 post at Meghan Ward's Writerland, not a soul she quoted said, "A key chain put me over the top!"

Given the futility of it all, it seems very inappropriate for me to be generating this kind of trash for a book in which a main character actually voices her frustration with people squandering resources on promotional items. It would be a hypocritical act (of some kind) for which I believe I'd have nothing to gain.

Now, this is not to say I haven't done my share of producing marketing trash in my day. I've been personally responsible for creating and distributing thousands of bookmarks to elementary school students. I always had them made on the cheap at Kinko's because, being an experienced mom, I knew what was going to happen to them. Some other experienced parent was going to find them at the bottom of a backpack weeks later, if the recipients didn't toss them themselves. I would be, stunned...if any of those bookmarks generated one sale for me. I got a kick out of signing them all in the evenings before my appearances and giving them out, but the reality is, that's the extent of what I got from them.

I've also done postcards in years past and even mailed out some of them with all kinds of info on the back to booksellers. However, even ten years ago I was hearing from more experienced writers that that was a waste of energy (not so much talk of resources) because booksellers are buried in promotional materials such as postcards. You've got to send them something really unusual--say that toilet paper for Walter the Farting Dog--before those poor people will be able to lift their heads up over the heaps of stuff in their offices and take notice.

Refusing to create bling isn't a big stand for me to take because Saving the Planet & Stuff is now an eBook. Booksellers aren't involved so there's no one to send postcards to, even if I believed that would do any good. And you don't use bookmarks with eBooks. On the other hand, I may be shooting myself in the foot by not making some of this other cr-- junk because being able to offer bloggers bling to give away through their blogs might get me more attention there. But, once again, any evidence that blog reviews really sell books? I'm not aware of any.

So, for now, I'm sticking to distributing business cards when I want to distribute something. Why use even those? Because I keep business cards on hand, anyway. I don't have many opportunities to give many away. I don't know anyone in any field who does. But they're something I keep around, with one book cover or another on them, and something I can use in a number of situations, not just for marketing one book.

I think they're a better use of resources than, say, Saving the Planet & Stuff pot holders.

Reader Options

Right now, I am very happy with Feedly as my blog reader. It's giving me an on-line magazine type layout and not just a listing, which is all I ever got from Google Reader. If things continue as they are now, in a few weeks I'll probably do a blog post counting the ways I love Feedly.

However, for those of you Google Reader people who are still wondering what to do, I found a rundown of some other reader options at Bewitched Bookworms.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Connecticut Writers: A Home Demo Opportunity For Book Marketing

Connecticut Bloggers reposts the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar each month. The people who run that blog also run some marketing blogs, and have started running product review parties. On Saturday, April 6, they'll be having a book review party from 2 to 6 p.m. at the blog owner's home.
They have books coming from over 50 authors across the country and  are interested in letting local Connecticut authors who might like to be included know about the event. And they're particularly interested in children's authors. Writers who want their books included may attend, but it's not necessary. You can have books included without being there.

They ask that authors provide physical books, up to 5 copies of each title they want featured. They will be strongly suggesting to their guests and bloggers who attend that whatever books they take they review  either on their blog or on Amazon. Each person will be able to take up to 4 books with them.
The blog company organizing this will be putting a post together with links to the authors' online book information. They will need links to Amazon or wherever the books' are sold.

I have never been  involved with anything like this. It reminds me of the old time home demonstration parties, such as Tupperware, except there will be no sales made. It also reminds me of a tea my publisher organized years ago for New York City librarians. Authors with books coming out that year did readings for the invited guests and then we all ate smoked salmon on toast. The purpose of these things is to create interest, buzz. If this one works and there are bloggers inattendance who actually do review the books later, it could be a marketing opportunity. For that matter, if anyone reviews them at Amazon or Goodreads it would be a marketing opportunity, since those reviews matter.

You can contact the organizer at  with questions or to let her know you'd like to be involved

Alien Abduction Day? Seriously?

Today really is Alien Abduction Day. It isn't a figment of Kelly at Stacked's imagination. To observe the day, Stacked offers a round-up of alien YA fiction.

Teen Nonfiction

I've just heard of what is for me a new publisher, Zest Books, which specializes in  teen nonfiction. Among other things, they publish books they classify as school life and pop culture. The pop culture stuff would have been a draw for me when I was a teenager, because they've got a couple of things that might be described as historical pop culture. I was definitely into that kind of stuff.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: Will Spending Time Being Creative Make Me More Creative? And What Is Creativity, Anyway?

 I ended last week's post with the question "Does creativity lead to creativity?"  I think it's a significant question (I would. I asked it.) because it relates to the whole writing every day issue. Writing every day does make it easier to stay in a project, as Sussman said in the article I quoted last year. It encourages break-out experiences, which are creative acts. But does doing creative work regularly actually make people more creative? Is it like working a muscle that gets stronger with use? Because if it does, then maybe those of us who aren't able to write every day really ought to be making a bigger effort to find time to do so.

Perhaps we should first consider what creativity actually is. Over the years, I've heard many people limit the term to the arts. Only writers, artists, and musicians could be creative. However, many people create things where a thing didn't exist before. And coming up with a solution to a specific problem when no solution existed before is a creative act. Evidently PBS did something on creativity and flow as part of series called This Emotional Life. That program's definition of creativity is "the ability to generate new ideas and new connections between ideas, and ways to solve problems in any field or realm of our lives."

But can we get better at generating new ideas and new connections between ideas by spending time generating new ideas and new connections between ideas? You can find lots of tip-type advice on how to become more creative--things along the lines of listen to classical music and don't watch TV. (Lots of people are down on TV as being a creative act, by the way, which is intriguing because the material on TV was created by somebody. Even programming that strikes us as uncreative, such as the multitude of real housewife programs and the twenty-somethingeth home design show, was created by somebody. We have to remember that the first creepy little girl beauty pageant show was a new idea. I'm not saying it was a good one. Also, the whole classical music  is good and TV is bad thing is not a new idea. Not a creative suggestion, I would suggest.) But the closest thing I'm finding that might be said to address my question about time spent creating influencing creativity is the 10,000 hour rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers.

Gladwell wrote that it took 10,000 hours of work to achieve mastery in a field. (Some argue that he was talking about mastery at an extreme level, so most of us wouldn't need to practice quite that much.) Lisa Cron in Wired for Story refers to the late Herbert Simon's estimate that it takes 10 years to master a subject, by which point a person would have absorbed around 50,000 pieces of information. (Kind of makes you wish you'd started keeping track of all that learning, doesn't it?) But weren't both these people talking about skill and knowledge rather than creativity? Is there an impact of all that work on a person's ability to generate new ideas?

If you've been around here much, you will realize that I'm not done with this. But I've accepted that I will need to move on to a new time management topic next week while I'm continuing to obsess on this creativity business.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Girly Boy Humor With Literary References

For the first time, I read a Louise Rennison book that I felt was pretty much like the one I read before. I suspect her Georgia Nicholson books are a lot alike, but I happened to read them far enough apart that I didn't care. With A Midsummer Tights Dream, I felt that it really was pretty much Withering Tights.

Of course, that's not going to be a bad thing for many young readers.

I still think these Tallulah Casey books have a little more depth than the Georgia Nicholson books. There's the parody of artistic types, for one thing. It's the same parody from the first book, but, still, good stuff. Plus there is the casual acceptance that young people read classics and make jokes with literary references. (Yeah. Maybe in England.) And, by the end of the book, I was feeling a little compassion for poor Lulahloo's experiences with good boys and bad. There is a sort of mystery of life that she's trying to solve, pretty much by herself.

Here's something I found to be a hoot. I've been reading How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, and while reading A Midsummer Tights Dream, I thought, Why, with all her talk of corkers and snogging (though while not necessarily using those words) Caitlin Moran sounds for all the world like a Louise Rennison protagonist. Louise Rennison may have created Caitlin Moran.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekend Links

The big news on my Facebook wall this week involved Google Reader disappearing in a few months. Melissa Wiley, of Here in the Bonny Glen, has been covering this, but I am one of those people who can't access her site or blog right now. In  Why Did Google Reader Die? at Slate, Farhad Manjoo writes about whether or not we should be concerned about other free Google products just disappearing. This is a significant question for me, because I recently started using Google+. Manjoo believes Google+ is probably safe--but that I'm probably the only person there.

I just signed up for Feedly, another reader, about forty minutes ago. Seriously, it looks a hundred percent better than Google Reader ever did for me. I never saw what was so great about Google R and was surprised when I saw all the talk about users not knowing how they were going to live without it. Will Feedly make me feel that way? I'll let you know.

My Amazon Bestseller Made Me Nothing at Salon may interest some of you, since we were just talking about writer income this past Monday.

Earlier this month, Jen Robinson did a post on parents finding books for their children. She quoted an article in which the author said "there's a reaching parents..." I would argue that there's a gap in reaching all readers, but, yes, the gap between what's being published for children and parents interested in learning about/discovering (lots of talk of "discoverability" these days) what's being published is unique because parents aren't children. They want to learn about books that they wouldn't necessarily stumble upon in the course of their everyday grown-up lives. Jen did a follow-up post with suggestions.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Weekend Writer: Droning On Some More About Story

Why am I going on and on about story when I'm supposed to be going on and on about writing and, specifically at this point, getting started on a writing project? You know, getting started on writing a story? I'm obsessing on this because story, in my meandering research on the subject, is very ill-defined. How can anyone do a job they can't define, if they don't really know what they're doing? I read once that organic writers (I'm one! I'm one!) will sometimes use an entire first draft just trying to find their story. That kind of thing makes writing hell, let me tell you. If we knew our story, if we could find the damn thing, before we started writing, wouldn't we work more efficiently and suffer less?

Well, that's my theory, and that's why I've developed a story obsession.

I've mentioned before that some people would say that story and plot are the same thing. There's a famous quote from E.M. Forster regarding the difference.

"The King died and then the Queen died is a story
The King died and then the Queen died from grief  is a plot."

I've never understood Forster's definitions. (But I never understood Forster's A Passage to India, either.) To me, "The King died and then the Queen died from grief" is the story. Something happened to someone and why it's significant. What Forster might have been trying to get at was that plot is supposed to have cause and effect--Plot Point A leads to Plot Point B, leads to C, and so one. Otherwise, you just have a list of unrelated events, as in "The King died and then the Queen died." But why is a list of unrelated events a story? 

"Story is an account of incidents or events that convey a deeper understanding of the human condition," according to Laura Cross at The Write Network. Doesn't that sound like "The King died and then the Queen died from grief?"  "Plot," Cross says, "is how those events are arranged to achieve an intended effect." 

So once we have our "account of incidents or events that convey a deeper understanding of the human condition" or our "something happened to somebody and so what?" we work those incidents to tell the story the way we want to.

Friday, March 15, 2013

How Can An eBook Author Do The Book Fair Thing?

While I have four books "in print" and available to the public, they are all eBooks. How does an author such as myself make an appearance at book fairs, festivals, or signings when she has no paper and ink book to show, sell, and inscribe? I've read it can be done, and next month I'll have a chance to try to do it.

I was invited to a school book expo at which there will be an eclectic array of authors. Some of them will be local, some of them graduates of the high school who have been recently published. And there will be me. It's the school's first attempt at doing this, and this seems like a safe place for me to experiment.

What I plan to do is show up with a laptop that will have a display of my four available books. I don't know if I can get Internet access there, so I'll have various pages from my website loaded onto the computer and available for viewing. And, of course, the Saving the Planet & Stuff trailer. This techie set-up, I've read, is how authors such as myself can make public appearances.

I don't expect to make any sales. Assuming I attract any members of the public at all, my expectation is that any of them who own Kindles or Nooks will make any purchases at their leisure. I know that's what this Kindle reader would do. So I'm wondering if this could end up being a more comfortable situation than writers usually have to deal with where their books for sale are piled up in front of them or somewhere nearby, and money is changing hands somewhere in the room.

Without that "Is he going to buy?" "Is she upset because I'm not buying?" "What if I make a mistake signing her book?" "No one is going to her table; what a loser." "No one is coming to my table; I'm such a loser" vibe, will author and readers be able to interact more naturally. Will we chat about eBooks and the state of publishing?

We shall see. Report to follow next month.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Readings On Nature And The Environment

The March/April issue of Bookmarks has an article Nature and the Environment that explores "some books on classic nature writing and seminal works in the modern environmental movement." It includes a section on books for younger readers that highlights the following titles:

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Hoot by Carl Hiaason

Whalesong by Robert Siegel

Another thirteen books are on a Further Reading list.

I'm not knowledgeable enough about nature/environmental literature to address the question of how well these books fit the topic. The only title I've read among the five main offerings is Island of the Blue Dolphins, which I would have called a survival story. Though there's no reason it couldn't hit the mark for both survival and nature.

What I like about Bookmark's themed roundups is that it digs back into time for titles. The oldest children's book mentioned is My Side of the Mountain, from 1959. The newest, on the Further Reading list, is Empty by Suzanne Weyn, which Bookmark says is from last year. They appear to be referring to the paperback edition, but still, you see what I'm talking about here. The people who compile these books have memories that go back past last season.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Are Things Different For Writer-At-Home Dads?

Yesterday I listened to a terrific podcast on Write Out Loud. It was Episode 8, in case you stumble upon this months from now, with author Michael J. Sullivan. Sullivan is an excellent speaker and can tell his own story very well.

Now, there are all kinds of interesting things from that interview I could talk about. But for the sake of staying on task with this piece of flash nonfiction, I'm going to address only one:  In the podcast interview, Sullivan talked about how at some point during his first ten years of writing when he wasn't getting published, his wife was making more money than he was. So he stayed home as the primary caregiver for their child and continued to write.

This is very intriguing to me. In the writer circle I bop around in, it's quite common to run into women writers who write around caregiving or caregive around writing, depending on how you want to look at it. The boundary between their mom lives and their writer lives is very shaky. For instance, here in the Northeast, we've had a couple of snowstorms recently, in case you haven't heard, and my Facebook wall has had plenty of posts these last few weeks from writer moms torn between the joy of snow days and angsting over deadlines they were struggling with because the kids were always home from school.

So since listening to Sullivan's interview yesterday, I've been wondering what life is like for writer dads who work at home while being responsible for the offspring. Do they get into being room parents and going on field trips? Do all the neighborhood kids end up in their yards?

Do they take swimming lessons very, very seriously?
Do they obsess to the point of sobbing (yeah, that was me) over Halloween costumes?

Do Writer-At-Home Dads have the same issues Writer-At-Home Moms have? Are things different for them somehow?

Am I projecting my personal history on every writer parent--female and male--I run across?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: Can Finding More Time To Work Spur Creativity?

Writers are often advised to write every day. In fact, we've discussed that issue here, when I brought up the points that writing every day means, presumably, generating more work, as well as encouraging flow and break-out experiences.

Personally, I have never been able to maintain a daily writing practice. On weekends, it's difficult for me to even maintain an exercise practice because of the extra people I need to and actually often even want to deal with, forget about getting away to write. And for many years now, I haven't been able to work five days a week during the workweek because of various family commitments.

Last week was not one of those weeks.

For reasons that are beside the point, I was able to work five days last week. I was here, anyway, for five days. I was home, working every day of the week. My guess is that this was the first time since 2009. Last summer I was often down to two days a week, and I'd been doing only three, at best, since the beginning of last December.

My week of work was somewhat disappointing. I didn't realize until last Thursday that last week was going to turn out the way it did, so I didn't have anything specific planned. I might have used last week as its own unit of time and planned something special to accomplish during it, if I had known it was coming up. On top of that, I had no electricity for nearly two hours on Wednesday, I wasn't feeling well late Wednesday afternoon and most of Thursday morning, and I lost another two hours on Friday to shoveling snow. By Friday evening, I was feeling I'd lost a great opportunity.

Then things started getting interesting on Saturday.

All I had time for that morning was a shortened stint on the treadmill where I tuned in to a panel discussion on MSNBC. But while walking and watching I came up with an idea I could use in the workshop presentation I'd been working on last week. On my way to visit an elder just a couple of hours later, I came up with some ideas for a response to an appearance request I'd received Friday afternoon. While talking with a family member on Sunday, I came up with still another idea I might be able to use in the workshop.

Three ideas in less than forty-eight hours when I wasn't working at all. (Well, I did run from the treadmill to the word processor to jot down that first bit for the workshop.) But I had been working previously. And I had been working what was for me a lot.

All those ideas could be described as break-out experiences, since they dealt with work I was already involved in, and break-out experiences are described in The Break-out Principle a method of  maximizing creativity. I've had other experiences when managing to do even a little work on a weekend had a positive impact on the next week's work. And I've also had vacations when I've been able to do more journal work and found myself coming up with far more material than I usually do. And that would be new material, not solutions to problems, as with the break-out experiences.

On the subject of creativity, John Cleese has talked about the need for time to ponder and believes that taking more time to ponder leads to more creative work. I wasn't clear on how much time he was talking about or what kind of pondering. So what I'm wondering is, will just putting in more time on creative work, pondering one particular issue or not, lead to more creativity?

Does creativity lead to creativity?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Making Money? Writers Make Money?

Last month author Laura Purdie Salas did a blog post called [my writing life] How Much Money Does a Writer Make? (2012 edition) in which she described her income breakdown. In the writer circles I've bumped around in, she's not doing badly. In fact, I know plenty of people who would think she did pretty well last year. What's interesting is how many different types of writing-related work she had to do in order to generate that income. Money from trade book sales, which is the way most people think writers make a living, was quite a small portion of her overall income. She has links to her income from several years back, and even in years when she's done better over all, it wasn't because of a lot of money coming in from trade. Even if you add what she made from work-for-hire books to the what she made for trade, so that we're counting all of what approaches "traditional" writer income, we're not even getting to half of her take for 2012.

She has done what seems to me to be a good job of going out and finding writing-related work. The time involved in managing all those different work tasks makes me want to curl up in a little ball.

Writers interested in the work-for-hire writing can find information on the subject at Rachelle Burke's Resources for Children's Writers (Scroll down to Item 14) and Evelyn B. Christensen's Educational Markets for Children's Writers. Both those sites were brought to my attention by Kathryn Lay in her article Writing for the Educational Market in the March/April 2011 SCBWI Bulletin.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Weekend Writer: Seriously, You Ought To Have A Story

So last weekend we started talking about how our writer lives will be much easier if we begin writing with an idea to write about, an idea that involves something happening to somebody and the  significance of that event. We need an idea for a story.

In Wired for Story, Lisa Cron talks about how humans evolved listening to stories. The telling of and listening to stories was how we passed and received information, much of it being important information we needed to stay alive. We listened to stories about things that had happened to other people so we would have information about how they survived (or didn't) in various situations that we might find ourselves in at some point. A story well told could save lives. Our interest in them was a matter of life and death. Presumably those listeners who could  best appreciate a story were most likely to survive and get their genes into the gene pool. (That's me running with Cron's info.) Appreciation of and desire for story was a life skill. It is a life skill.

And, thus, having an idea for a story is important for writers in terms of humankind, the Big Picture, and all that. Additionally, it's important because every single thing writers do while writing must support that story idea.

So, seriously, you ought to have a story.

Friday, March 08, 2013

When Can Changing Points Of View Work Really Well?

When you're not changing points of view, you're just changing bodies. That's what's happening in David Levithan's pretty fine book Every Day. A, the mysterious protagonist who doesn't know who or even what he is, wakes up every morning in a new body and has to live that person's life for him or her for the next twenty-four hours. So though every chapter is the story of A being a new person and dealing with that new life, he is always A. We're not really getting a point of view switch at all.

I'm still reading Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. One of the points that author makes is that humans are drawn to story because we evolved using it to help us survive, to help us determine and plan what we should do in various situations. Nowadays when reading fiction, the protagonists are stand ins for us, trying out different scenarios so we don't have to. If that is the case, Every Day is a treat for the brain, giving readers an opportunity to try out a large number of situations--being  diabetic, beautiful, gay, depressed, obese, nasty, and kind, just for starters.

The New York Time's review of the book made a big point about Every Day being a love story. Now that that's been pointed out to me, I guess it is. But A's basic situation and humanity are so engrossing that I didn't give that aspect of the book much thought.

A appears to be aging along with the bodies he inhabits, meaning that at some point he always woke up in a five-year-old's body and then a six-year-old's and now he's in his teens. I believe he's supposed to be in tenth or eleventh grade. I do feel he is a little too mature sometimes, a little too much like the only adult in the room.

But over all, the basic story is marvelous and the book is beautifully written. I had heard some talk of it last year, but I'm surprised I didn't hear more. I know it's been nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Gee, I Hadn't Heard That Orson Scott Card Was Going To Write For Superman--And Now He's Not

I've never read Orson Scott Card's writings about his political/personal beliefs. I've only read about them, and I've been reading about them for a few years now. Just today I read about them twice, both times in Salon. Both articles seem to have been inspired by Card losing a gig writing for Superman.

What Happened to Orson Scott Card?

Superman Biographer on the Orson Scott Card Fallout

I know that I should be focusing on Card and the whole question of whether artists can be separated from their art. But what I am left thinking about after all this reading is, Wow, Superman is really, really important.

Green Earth Book Awards

The Green Earth Book Awards singled out two of my NESCBWI colleagues this year. Loree Griffin Burns was the Children's Nonfiction winner for Citizen Scientists and Melissa Stewart's A Place for Bats was named an honor book.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

My History With Libraries And Books

My "long and varied history with libraries and the books in them" is the subject of my guest post at GreenBeanTeenQueen. GreenBeanTeenQueen is a librarian's blog, thus my focus on libraries, books, and whether or not it is at all odd that someone with a past like mine would choose to wander into the world of e-publishing. Thanks, Sarah.

Go over there to see pictures of a couple of schools I attended. I kid you not. I have at least two Facebook Friends who went to those schools, too. I am not making this up.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: Know What You're Just Not Going To Do, And Don't Do It

Once  upon a time, long, long, long ago, I worked in an office for three extension professors. I was their lackey, to be perfectly honest, and I always had way more lackey work to do than I had time.

We would have meetings in which one professor or another, or sometimes all three, would get all excited about this project or that, and one professor or another, or sometimes all three, would say things like, "Why don't you get started on that, Gail." We'd all go our separate ways, I'd "get started on that" and never hear about it again.

I've never made any claims to be brilliant, but I'm not stupid, either. Eventually, I learned to guess which projects they were asking me to work on that they would never follow through on, and I just didn't do them. Not because I was a layabout, but because I just couldn't. I had to do all the things that they were going to follow through on, and there was too much of that, as it was. I cannot recall ever running into any problems because I've my decision-making. In fact, I even told one of the professors I did it. What upset him was not that I was doing it, but that I could do it--that they were coming up with plans they weren't following through on and doing so in such a way that I could predict what they weren't going to do.

Predicting what we're not going to do is something we should be doing for ourselves.

A case in point: Last year I had this exciting plan to start an environmental blog to help market the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. It was going to be set-up as if it were the official blog of The Earth's Wife, the environmental  magazine in the book, and it was going to be written in the voice of Walt Marcello, one of the characters. He is not a stereotypical environmentalist, and he has a strong voice with a push-the-envelope sense of humor. I was going to have him comment on environmentally-related news stories and there would be a blog roll of environmental websites. It would be easy, I thought, because I wouldn't update more than once a week or so, and, because I would be using recent news stories for content, I wouldn't have to do much research. It was going to be marvelous. People would love it. I would have lots of readers, and, as a result, sell lots of eBooks.

Well, fortunately it took us longer than expected to publish STP&S, giving me time to become more rational about that plan. First off, the likelihood of any new blog getting much attention these days isn't very great, forget about it developing a big following. Just as there are more books being published than the market can bear, there are more blogs being published than blog readers can read. There's way, way too much competition now in almost every subject. So that would be a big strike against that project. In addition, I already spend a lot of time on this blog, more than most writers do. (I don't consider myself a writer who has a blog. I am a writer and a blogger.) Updating nearly every day with sometimes short essay-length material is a lot. In addition, I'm already maintaining a second blog at Goodreads. (I just discovered I can link to my individual blog posts there from outside, though you may have to belong to Goodreads to read them. Don't know about that.) That blog is only updated 2 or 3 times a month, but still, I am already maintaining two blogs.

A third blog would take up valuable time and energy without providing me with much benefit, since I couldn't seriously expect many more readers. This was definitely a case where I could predict that I either wasn't going to follow through with this project, or I was going to follow through in a poor manner. I decided not to do it.

However, some of what I wanted to do with that new blog I can do here, which is why you can now see an Environmental Sites & Author Blogs section on my blog roll. Once a week I'll be doing environmental posts that fit in in some way with writing and/or reading. We'll see if this has much impact on the marketing of Saving the Planet & Stuff.  At the very least, it will be far, far more time and energy efficient for me than starting and maintaining an entirely separate blog.

So maybe what this Time Management Tuesday post should have been called is Know What You're Just Not Going To Do, Don't Do It, And Do Something Else Instead.

"The Break-out Principle" Is Available

I've been talking about breakout experiences here for years. I thought that the book that explains it all was out of print. But, no, I discovered this morning that not only is The Break-out Principle by Herbert Benson available, Amazon is offering it at a bargain price.

My goodness. O did a big article on this book back in '03.

Monday, March 04, 2013

March Submission Madness Going Any Better, Gail?

Should I be thanking you for asking, or is that a slam because I was whining last Friday? Bah. I don't care.

Well, after running through a few other tasks, I was able to review my Facebook professional page (you know--the one that can be Liked, not Friended) because I will often post there about new lit journals I've found. Thus, the page is rather useful for me, because I can go back and find those things.

I've just been looking at something I found back in November,  The Review Review.  It's a lit review about lit reviews/magazines, with reviews and a listing of pretty much as many journals/magazines as you could never hope to get through, as well as interviews with editors and writers. Seriously, you could spend a large chunk of your life at this site. What drew me here was The Submitter's Dilemma. No, I do not recall how I found it.

New Pages does something similar, but in addition to lit mags, it covers independent publishers, bookstores, and record labels and some other stuff.

Lots and lots to wade through.

Marketing An eBook

I am a guest today on science writer Alison Pearce Stevens' blog. My post is part of her Marketing Monday series, and I write about how I'm marketing the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. Thanks to Alison.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Weekend Links

I actually have a few minutes this Sunday. This should be fun.

Melissa Wiley at Here in the Bonny Glen did an inspiring post this week How Do You Manage To Read So Many Blogs? She did a follow-up post, Sending Web Content to a Kindle (or Kindle App) for Reading Later that I haven't read yet but want to. If only I could send it to my Kindle. Actually, I think I'm going to send it to Computer Guy. Now that the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook has published, he has nothing to do.

Because of Melissa's post, I poked around at some blogs I have been visiting only off-and-on recently. As a result, I learned that Leila at Bookshelves of Doom is doing an Elizabeth Peters week.

Another Melissa, Melissa Stewart, did a post on the surge of interest in narrative nonfiction for children. Does Story Appeal to Everyone? raises the question of whether presenting fact in a narrative/story frame is something that adult children's lit gatekeepers like more than child readers do.

Narrative nonfiction is a term for creative nonfiction. I actually like narrative nonfiction better for two reasons. 1. It describes the writing. A narrative follows a storyline. You know what narrative nonfiction does because it is called narrative nonfiction. The term creative nonfiction doesn't tell me as much. 2. The creative in creative nonfiction is confusing for some people, leading them to believe it's acceptable to create material the way a fiction writer would because a fiction writer is creative and creative writing is about making things up, right? This type of nonfiction isn't about making things up; it's about how you organize the factual things you've accumulated through research.

And while we're on the subject of narrative nonfiction, Nieman Storyboard has a piece on short-form nonfiction narratives in journalism.

Finally, this week we have 31 Things We Learned From Laura Ingalls Wilder. I wish this had had a subtitle like "31 useful things for the twenty-first century."

Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Weekend Writer: First, You Really Ought To Have A Story

Okay, this week we are going to the very beginning of a piece of writing.

We can say all we want about wanting "to be" writers, but in order to write something, we need to have an idea to write about. In my experience, writing is a lot easier if that idea is an idea for a story and not for, say, a situation or a scene, a scene in the sense of a moment you see, not a literary scene.

For instance, you've been reading books with your kids about children being evacuated from London during the Blitz, and you think, Gee, what if alien children were evacuated to Earth because of a war on another world? And what if you saw the alien children playing out on the lawn at night with human children and they all look up at the sky, wondering if the war could find them?

If that's all you've got, that is not a story idea. It's just a situation and a scene. Getting a book from that will be difficult because there is no story there.

This should raise the question, What is a story? Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer. There's not a lot of agreement. Some authorities will say that a story is the things that happen in a story. Some will say that plot and story are the same thing, no difference. This is interesting because so many writers have problems with plot. So if you define story as plot, writers have problems with story.

I don't like the plot-is-story definition because plot, along with character, setting, theme, and point of view are all classic elements of fiction, or, I would say, story. How can something be both part of a thing and that thing? It's confusing and unhelpful to me as a writer.

I prefer Rust Hill's definition of a short story. "Something happens to somebody," he says over and over again, and that seems to me a good beginning definition for story, period. "Something happens to somebody." I'd add, "and so what?"

A story can be defined as something happening to somebody and its significance. Thus you know who the story is about, what happens to him or her, and why it is significant. If you know your story to begin with, you'll have a better chance at understanding your theme early on and coming up with plot, characters, setting, and voice should be dramatically easier.

So the story is the beginning.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Well, That Was A Disappointing First Day

Today was the first day of a new unit of time, one that I'm calling March Madness Submission Binge. The beginning of new unit of time is exciting. You're feeling productive. I'd been looking forward to doing some marketing research right away. In fact, I'd even started a little earlier this week. My short story files are all tidy and ready to go. Today was the beginning of hitting another one of this year's goals.

And I spent it working on promotion for Saving the Planet & Stuff.

Writers are no different than any other type of worker. We all have to market our wares/services. But, still, when I'm through with a book, I want to be through with a book. I want to be on to other things.