Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: 2013 Recapitulation Post

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

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

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

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

Goal 2. Publicize Saving the Planet throughout the year


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

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

Alison Pearce Stevens Marketing Monday

Dude, Sustainable! 

Green Bean Teen Queen

Finding Wonderland: Review

Finding Wonderland: Interview

Little Hyuts

The Bibliophilic Book Blog

Word Spelunking

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 30, 2013

January Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 27, 2013

New UConn Bookstore

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

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

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Let's Be Realistic

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

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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fellowship News For Published Writers

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Another Opportunity For Connecticut Writers

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

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

An Opportunity For Unpublished Connecticut Writers

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 14, 2013

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

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

The Plot Whisperer

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

Some Disappointing Reading

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

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

What Does This Mean For My Project?

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

Right now I'm not missing it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Cupcake Project: The Value Of Writing Every Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: What We Need To Do In December

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 09, 2013

CCLC Update For This Weekend

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

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Great Discussion Whether You Liked This Book Or Not

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

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

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

Friday, December 06, 2013

How Tough Do You Want To Be?

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Now That Was A Good Zombie Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

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

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

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

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

I think sprinting worked for a number of reasons:

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

What A Twenty-Minute Sprint Does For An Organic Writer

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

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

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