Thursday, January 30, 2014

Retreat Reading: General

After a week off for some personal stuff, I am struggling to wrap my mind around work again. Or even recall that I work. I may address that issue here in the future, in relation to time management. Because, remember, everything relates to time management.

In the meantime, though, here is a short round-up on some reading I did during retreat week and prepared back then.

  • I totally missed the teen girl killer thing that's been going on in YA.
  • The Conversation We Never Have It's about privilege. And, yes, it makes  writing  much easier. There are many people who are only able to live some kind of writing life at all because of it.
  • History and STEM I'm guessing that in many scientific fields you build on research that was done before yours. Thus, yes, history is probably important to scientific and technological fields.  
I said it would be brief. But I'm kind of excited about it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another Break Coming Up

The new year is getting off to a rough start for Original Content. I didn't blog during my retreat week, and I have another week away coming up due to some family work. I might be back mid-week next week or later.

When I come back, I'll have posts on my retreat reading.

February Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

February is going to be one of the worst months for children's/YA appearances in Connecticut since I started keeping this calendar. Three author appearances? And they're all at the same place?

Sat. Feb. 8, Janet Lawler, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM Story Time

Wed., Feb. 12, Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Tues., Feb. 18, Susan Hood, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM Story Time

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Why Can't I Shop In Both Places?

A Facebook friend linked to an old Slate article called Don't Support Your Local Bookseller. It has the kind of title guaranteed to attract irate readers.

The good point the author makes is one that I find few people want to discuss--the cost of books. There are people who truly can't afford to buy much in the way of full-price, hard cover books or even your classier paperbacks. Your really serious readers need to get their hands on a lot of books. How many of those people can support a local bookseller for all their reading needs? Making books available at more affordable prices and whenever readers want to buy them, as Amazon and Barnes & Noble do, makes books more available. It encourages the sale of books, and it encourages reading.

Having said that, I did have a great independent bookstore experience while on retreat last week. Our cross-country ski spot was suffering from weather shock--too warm and too rainy. Trails were closed almost all week, and we never took our skis out of the car. I was worried about running out of reading material, which was ridiculous because I always overpack books and magazines. So we wandered down the mountain to Bear Pond Books, where I browsed and, yes, stumbled upon what was a perfect book match for me, Jo Walton's Farthing. I'd never heard of Walton, and I believe I'd never read an alternative history story. But what this book does is mash together the mid-twentieth century British Scotland Yard detective story, along with the British country estate story, and the British World War II story, all of which I've been known to enjoy over the years, and puts them into that alternative history world. This was kind of a custom made book for me, and it is unlikely I would have found it on Amazon.

Farthing is the first in a three-book series, and I'm interested in picking up the others. Is that great for that author? Yes. Is it great for her publisher? I hope so. And, yes, it's because of the classic independent bookstore experience.

But you know what? I may end up getting them through Amazon. And not just because I can get them cheaper there and may decide to purchase them for my Kindle. An equally important reason is that I have to go quite a way to find an independent bookstore. That one I visited during retreat week? It's five hours from here. Limiting myself to independent bookstores means limiting book purchases, both because of price and because those stores are few and far between in these parts.

Good independent bookstores provide a wonderful shopping experience for readers. But let's face reality. Amazon provides a good, though different, shopping experience, too.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


I am officially on Retreat Week starting today. This is not a writing retreat, but a kick back and unwind retreat. I may do a little writing, particularly journal work, because I've been sick for over two weeks and not functioning at peak capacity. My main interest, this week, is to do some marketing research, meaning dipping into some journal pieces. And reading them.

Retreat week is about reading, not blogging. If I find anything juicy in my reading, I will probably link to it at my professional Facebook page and tweet it. Expect to see me there more than here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

An Engineering Possibility For Young Readers

I believe I've mentioned sometime over the years that we are an engineering family. Well, the Gauthiers aren't, but the family I married into is. Three generations of engineers among those folk. That's how I come to have a copy of PE in my house each month. The most recent issue includes an article on Emily Hunt and Michelle Pantoya, engineering professors who write the Engineering Everything series for older elementary students. Designing Dandelions is their most recent publication.

I have not read this book, but the description in PE makes it sound as if it puts instruction up front rather than story. "Designing Dandelions is their most recent book and aims to teach students that engineering involves learning from failures to design something better." Usually, I'm not drawn to the overtly instructive.

Why Designing Dandelions Caught My Interest

However, I was intrigued by a couple of things in the PE article on Designing Dandelions.

  • It says that Hunt and Pantoya "learned that young children have no concept of what engineers do." Yeah, I can tell you that many, many adults have no concept of what engineers do, either.
  • The business about engineering involving learning from failure in order to design something better is fascinating, too. According to PE, Hunt and Pantoya attended Engineering is Elementary workshops and that program "emphasizes that failure is an inherent part of the engineering design process...and that there shouldn't be a stigma associated with failure."
What I find so interesting about teaching the acceptance of failure as a part of engineering process is that it makes me wonder how that compares to the way writing process is perceived and taught. Are children taught to expect rejection of their writing? To expect critiquing, to learn how to respond to that critiquing so they can make their work better? Are they taught that some of their work may not be publishable as it is and isn't ready to submit? Are they taught that making those kinds of decisions are a big, big part of being a writer the way learning from failure is part of engineering?

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Financial Truth For Writers

Author Wendy Higgins' explanation of the kind of payment traditionally published authors can expect is very accurate in my experience. I will add the following comments:

Higgins says of an advance, "it's an advance on royalties you will make from your portion of the book sales, so when the book goes on sale you have to pay all of that advance BACK before you start getting paychecks." Some books never sell enough copies to earn back the advance. Many authors will never make any more on a book than that original advance. Books go out of print because they're no longer selling enough copies to justify warehouse space with the publisher never having made enough money on them to cover the advance it paid the author.

Higgins also says, " Publishers take a big chunk because they have a lot of employees to pay, and print costs are not cheap." The employees they pay are providing a lot of service for traditionally published authors, too. Developmental and copy editing, page design, cover art, cover design, marketing and sales, access to print reviewers, and distribution to booksellers are all part of what a publisher does for writers. Even though there's no guarantee that the print reviewers will review the book (or review it favorably) or the booksellers will stock it, without a traditional publisher behind you, it's difficult for an author to even have a chance of getting either of those things. Yes, self-published writers can do these things for themselves, but someone still has to pay. I've read of self-published authors putting up $3,000 to $10,000 or more to pay for these kinds of services. And they often don't make the money back, either.

Higgins: "Publishing houses do not provide swag for authors.  Some might, but mine doesn't.  All bookmarks and buttons, even launch parties, etc, are paid for out of pocket by the author." I've heard of authors planning a $1,000 to $2,000 marketing/promotion budget for each book. Definitely cuts into authors' income from each book, particularly since it's extremely difficult to tell which marketing efforts had an impact and thus paid for themselves.

The authors who get a lot of press are the ones with big bestsellers. There have been a number of them since, maybe, the 1980's, but they're still a very small percentage of the entire writing group. The public doesn't hear about the rest of us, though. The public hears about the Stephen Kings, the Danielle Steels, the J.K. Rowlings.

All those people have earned their success. But their success doesn't mean that writing is a field that masses of people should rush to, hoping to duplicate them. Since you're not going to make much money,  you really have to like the lifestyle. Messing with manuscripts...tinkering with your computer...reading...studying up on what you've been doing wrong... I live for this stuff. If people don't, ...

Note: Between the time I wrote this piece and posted it, the blog post referred to disappeared.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Creating Goals And Objectives For 2014

What does planning goals and objectives for a year have to do with time management? Goals and objectives help us to determine what we're going to do with our time. They keep us from doing random things.We can check in on the goals and objectives now and again to determine what we should be doing. At the end of the unit of time we've planned the goals and objectives for (a year, say) we can do an assessment to determine how much the goals and objectives helped us achieve with our time. And with that knowledge, we can plan the goals and objectives for a next unit of time (a year, say), which will determine how we spend our time going forward.

The Goals and Objectives

So the following goals and objectives describe how I plan to use my time in 2014. Notice that I only have six goals. All the objectives are steps toward achieving the goals.

Goal 1. Finish the revision of The Fletcher Farm Body


  • Continue revising to enhance the brothers' relationship to support the control theme
  • Continue revising to eliminate as much material that doesn't relate to plot, character, or theme as possible

Goal 2. Write a number of short pieces

Possible Objectives:

  • Statics and Dynamics for Writers essay. This was originally a workshop proposal. The proposal wasn't accepted, but the organization running the conference required such an extensive outline that I think I can flip it into an essay.
  • Walking for Writers essay
  • The Northeast Children's Literature Collection essay
  • Promoting eBooks for Traditionally Published Writers essay
  • Relic Hoarding essay
  • Becoming Part of Blog Culture essay
  • The Value in Becoming Part of a Local Writing Community essay
  • Hannah and Brandon short story (held over from last year)
  • Your On-line Friend short story
  • How to Make Friends and Live Longer short story

Goal 3. Complete a draft of the so-called mummy book


  • By February get back up to speed with this project
  • By February start assigning a few 45-minute units a week to this project 

Goal 4. Make submissions


  • Submit The Fletcher Farm Body to a specific editor
  • New agent research
  • Research markets for short works
  • Submit short works

Goal 5. Continue to work on community building


  • Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar
  • Attend other authors' marketing events
  • Attend a few professional events
  • Prepare a new workshop to offer at libraries and bookstores
  • Try to find a writers' group

Goal 6. Continue marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook


  • Check out the blogs and sites I've been collecting for possible contacts
  • Start researching blogs to contact again
  • Continue the Environmental Book Club at Original Content whenever possible
  • Get trailer up at Twitter page
  • Consider a price reduction for a limited time and promoting same
  • Consider pulling eBook from Barnes & Noble and Kobo to take advantage of Kindle marketing for books exclusive to that company

What Goals and Objectives Should Be

Goals should be achievable, which all these goals are. Notice that Goal 4 is "Make submissions" and not "Publish essays and short stories." I cannot control what editors will do or choose to publish, so "Publish essays and short stories" is not an achievable goal. I have no real impact on what happens. But I can make submissions, so that is an achievable goal.

Goals and objectives should also be measurable. We should be able to determine whether or not we've met our goals. We can easily tell if we've completed an objective. Completing enough of the objectives should mean we've at least approached meeting our goals.

What Was the Impact of 2013's Goals and Objectives On 2014's?

If you compare my goals and objectives from last year with my goals and objectives for this year, you'll see a big switch in the placement of the Saving the Planet eBook. Last year the publication and promotion of that book were my number one and two goals. This year I have only one goal related to it, and it has dropped to number six. Publishing and marketing Saving the Planet was hugely time and energy consuming and didn't provide much return for my effort in 2013. I can clearly see from the goals and objectives I worked on last year that writing time suffered. So I'm using goals and objectives to refocus how I spend my time in 2014.

One Final Goal For This Year 


This year I'm going to make an effort to check up on myself each week to make sure that a good chunk of my time went toward objectives to meet my goals, an idea I got from Peter Bregman's 18 Minutes.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Submission Opportunity For Unpublished YA Writers

Andrew Karre at Carolrhoda books is accepting YA debut submissions this week.

That's work from unpublished writers and this week only.

The Function Of Blogging

Over the years, I've seen a lot of articles advising writers to blog, often in a very rah-rah, not very helpful way. For instance, a blog does not take the place of a website, no matter how many people manage to publish articles at writing sites and magazines saying they do.

I just stumbled upon What Do Kidlit Literary Agents Think About Blogs? at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) this morning. The general feeling seems to be that the agents don't feel that a blog is a necessity, but if they are considering signing a new writer, they will check out a blog if that writer has one.

What this suggests to me is that writer blogs are a lot less about marketing/promotion and a lot more about presenting yourself to your readers, some of whom may be publishing professionals.

Friday, January 03, 2014

A World Of Prostitutes

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys has an eye-popping first line. "My mother's a prostitute." The narrator isn't just directing an insult toward a mom who sleeps around. The mother here is your traditional, lives-in-a-cathouse, works-for-a-madam prostitute. The setting--mid-twentieth century New Orleans--and the world--of prostitutes--is the big draw for this book.

Main character Josie Moraine is an older YA character. She's finished high school and is saving to get out of the Big Easy. Her voice and those of the other characters are a little contrived, though that is understandable. This is a historical novel and the author is trying to duplicate the language and usage of another era. That's extremely difficult to do and make sound natural. As with so many YA novels, Josie is torn between two lovers. It's pretty obvious to readers (at least this adult reader) that she can forget about one of them. Josie doesn't get it. Once again, this is probably understandable given the era she lived in.

There is a mystery here, but it seems to exist in order to showcase the historical world. Everything in this book seems to exist to support the historical world. Fortunately, it's a fantastic world.

Out of the Easy reminded me of Spirit and Dust because both books involve a protagonist on the high end of YA living in a world YA readers won't be familiar with. Little sub-genre going here?

Out of the Easy was just named a finalist for the 2013 Cybil for Young Adult Fiction.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

What Happens On New Year's Day? The Cybils Finalists Are Announced.

And this New Year's Day is no different. The 2013 Cybils finalists.

I read one of the YA finalists back in December, but haven't had a chance to respond to it here. That will be coming up soon.