Wednesday, July 30, 2014

August Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Two big events this month, thanks to libraries.

Fri., Aug. 1, Sarah Albee, Elise Broach, Jeff Cohen, Jennifer Donnelly, Valerie Fisher, Wendell Minor, Burleigh Muten, Marc Rosenthal, Eighteenth Annual Sharon Summer Book Signing and Dinner With Authors, Hotchkiss Library, Sharon 6-8 PM

Mon., Aug. 4,  Chris Weitz, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Tues., Aug. 5, Marilyn Davis, Stacy DeKeyser, Gail Gauthier, , Local Author Book Fair (30 authors), Avon Free Public Library 7:00 to 8:00 PM

Tues., Aug. 12, Josh Chalmers, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM

Sat., Aug. 16, Jane Sutcliffe, Tolland Public Library, Tolland 10:30 AM Book launch 

Thurs., Aug. 21, Bob Shea, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM 

Tues., Aug. 26, Dav Pilkey, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 PM 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Firefly July" Wins NEIBA Award

Firefly July, A Year of Very Short Poems, which was our Environmental Book Club selection earlier this month, has won the 2014 New England Independent Booksellers Association New England Book Award in the children's category. These awards are given for books either about New England, set in New England, or by an author living in New England.

Firefly July is an anthology compiled by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Maybe Too Much Going On?

I like books that stay on task, as I always put it. It may be that as a reader I get distracted if there are too many different things going on. I found the cookery part of Getting the Girl, A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and Cookery by Susan Juby distracting.

Sherman Mack is a wonderful character, like a younger, less raunchy, undamaged Seth from Home to Woefield. The mystery he's investigating, who singles out girls to be turned on by the general population, is a serious one, if maybe a little over the top. Sherm's interest in cooking ties in to the mystery by the end, but it seems unconnected until then. Same with his out-there Mom and the neighbor guy who serves as a father figure for Sherm.

Juby does a couple of interesting things here. First, she does a neat twist on the cliched mean girls stereotype. She also has created a world in which every popular kid in school, whether they earned their popularity with their looks, their athletic prowess, or something else, isn't hateful. They certainly aren't heroic or particularly positive in their behavior, but, again, they aren't the evil stereotype we're used to seeing.

I have another one of Juby's books here that I hope to get to in the next few weeks. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Everyone Agrees That Book Promotion Is Necessary, But...

The two writers taking on the question of the necessity of book promotion in The Demands of Book Promotion: Frivolous or Necessary? are pretty much in agreement that it definitely isn't frivolous. They just don't/can't get into the subject much beyond that. The comments are a little more nitty gritty.

But, you know, it's rare to find a promotional essay that offers a whole lot of help and hope to writers.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Environmental Book Club

The Plant Hunters by Anita Silvey turned out to be as marvelous as I thought when I started it last week.

The Plant Hunters deals with the naturalists who went all over the world hunting for new plants. While Silvey brings her book up to the present day, for the most part, she's dealing with seekers from the past, particularly the nineteenth century, a period when the search for new knowledge sent lots of people out into the unknown.

What Silvey does here that's so terrific is that she doesn't just write bio per chapter after bio per chapter. I thought that might be the case, after reading Chapter One, which is about Alexander von Humboldt. Instead, she organizes her chapters around topics. Say, Chapter 2 Why Did They Do It? While explaining why these people faced danger and made tremendous efforts to bring huge numbers of plants over long distances, she uses real people to illustrate her points. Every chapter is like that. They each are on a subject and the people involved get pulled in that way.

And the nineteenth century illustrations and the black and white photographs are so perfect.

The Author's Note has a great bit on how Silvey got the idea for this book while reading The Orchard Thief by Susan Orlean.

There's also a chapter on thieving westerners robbing other cultures of the crops they depended on. Well, no, that's not how Silvey put it. That's me. Those nineteenth century scholar/adventurers had a dark side, in my humble opinion.

This is a terrific book for older grade school students. It could even function as a quick introduction to this subject for much older readers. It might encourage a few plant hunters

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Like Pinterest On My Refrigerator

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook Friend Jeannine Atkins posted that she was getting ready to tack items on a character's refrigerator in a work-in-progress. I thought, Wow! Why don't I post items from one of my works-in-progress on my refrigerator? It would help keep me in the WIP's world

I suggested in Jeannine's comments that we do that. Someone pointed out that first we'd have to clean off our refrigerators, which is definitely the case.

As you can see in the above picture, I've overdone it a bit with the art magnets. They're now crammed onto the side of the fridge.

Look to the left, and you'll see what I replaced those magnets with--material related to my mummyish book.  I have a timeline for my somewhat real historical figure, Nebetah, daughter of Amenhotep III, leading to my made up nineteenth century Egyptologist family leading to the museum they funded in the 1920s leading to my present day story. I have family trees for the pharaoh's family and for the Egyptologist's. I have a picture of the statue of Amenhotep, Queen Tiye, and their daughters, the only one in which Nebetah appears. I have pictures of the university museum that I'm using as a model for the Elliot Randall Gardner museum.

You might recognize a picture of Nefrititi. She appears to have been Amenhotep's daughter-in-law, which would have made her the sister-in-law of my sort-of mummy, Nebetah.

I haven't worked on this project in weeks while I've been taking care of smaller works. We'll see if having these details in my face every day helps me get back to it faster.

I suggested to a family member that my fridge story panel was similar to a Pinterest board, except that being on my fridge, I would actually look at it. He thought it was more like one of those Major Crimes case boards.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Some Ways To Use Your Time When You're Not Publishing

As usual, the weekend was brutal, which is why you haven't heard from me. I will admit I had some time for blogging Sunday afternoon, but I used it for recovery.

So, let's see, I believe that last Tuesday we began talking about the time problems involved when writers are working but not making sales. We said they came in two flavors: problems related to how others perceive us and problems related to how we perceive ourselves. Today we'll cover some ways to try to deal with them.

Problems related to how others perceive us. When we aren't generating income because we're not making sales, others perceive us as not working, and thus available for everything.We can't control what they believe or how they behave toward us. We can only control ourselves. So what we can do to better manage our time:
  1. Set blocks of time when we aren't available to others, even if it's just a couple of days a week. They can call us, but we don't have to answer the phone. This will work better if you have Caller ID. All I have is a Caller ID Box, no answering machine. The calls I need to take for work or to make sure there are no family emergencies, I can take. Without an answering machine, the callers I don't respond to can't leave messages for me to hear coming in. That can be just as disruptive as calls. If you feel uncomfortable about this, you can spread the word about what you're doing so family and friends understand. My experience, though, is that the people who believe I'm on call for them don't believe me. This really is a case where controlling ourselves is probably our only option.
  2. Be quick to adapt to each week's situation. If, say, you're loosing an extra day of work time to elder care, you just can't accept that invitation for lunch. I speak from experience. This happened just a couple of weeks ago. I didn't think ahead and adapt quickly enough. I accepted the lunch invitation on top of that extra day of elder care and lost a lot of work time that week. 
Problems related to how we perceive us. We give up a lot of personal life to find time to work. Time with friends, time for book clubs,  time for volunteer work, time for other creative activity. Going without the reward of publication for too long can eventually lead to big time discouragement, making it hard to stay on task. What can we do to get the energy up we need to keep making good use of time? And make good use of time while we're doing it? If you follow me.
  1. Consider yourself a novelist? Use some of your writing time to try generating shorter material so you can submit more widely. The more you submit, the better your chances of publication. Even if you get published in nonpaying journals, the publication fills gaps in your publishing history and gives you something to show editors and agents.
  2. Try finding a writers' group. If the writers' group advocates are correct, this will provide work feedback as well as networking. You have to be careful, though. Writers' groups can be very time consuming, if they meet often and require a lot of work from individual members. You have to balance benefit and costs here.
  3. Try doing some studying. There's always a possibility that there's a reason for the publishing problem, one that you could address through education. There's no one way to do this. You can do a do-it-yourself MFA type thing with self-study. You can take workshops and go to conferences and retreats. I know of published writers who experienced a publishing drought post 2008 who used the opportunity to go to graduate school. Again, you have to be careful to make sure you're balancing study with writing. Also, keep in mind that some critics believe that MFA programs turn out uniform, cookie cutter writers.
To some extent, you can consider a period of not publishing an opportunity to do some different things like those I suggest above. Because once you've made a sale, particularly of a book, you're going to lose a lot of your writing time to the publishing process and marketing.

Yeah, writing's a trial.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Checking On Objectives

It's been a rough couple of weeks at Chez Gauthier as far as work goes. Lots of family stuff eating away at my work time. I have, however, been able to focus what time I have on specific goals:

Goal 2: Writing short pieces. I've been working on a new piece of flash fiction.
Goal 3: The mummy book. A little rereading of chapter one.
Goal 4: Submissions. I made one this past week. (It was rejected within a few hours. Now that's time management.)
Goal 6: Marketing the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. I've been preparing the slides and presentation for the Avon Free Public Library event.

Staying on task with goals helped me make a little progress these past few weeks. I expect my situation should improve by Monday.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Environmental Book Club

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I've only read the intro and first chapter of The Plant Hunters by Anita Silvey, but I have great hopes for it. I found myself getting excited while still on the first paragraph:

"One got eaten by tigers in the Philippines; one died of fever in Ecuador; one drowned in the Orinoco River; one fell to his death in Sierra Leone. Another survived rheumatism, pleurisy, and dysentery while sailing the Yangtze River in China, only to be murdered later. A few ended their days in lunatic asylums; many simply vanished into thin air."

Silvey isn't talking about the work of some kind of curse. She's talking about the consequences of  amateur scholars following their passion for...plants. The nineteenth century appears to have been full of these kinds of people. Paleontologists. Egyptologists. And now botanists. I love them all. Well, not those guys who took boat loads of men to their deaths hunting for a pole. Trying to get some place doesn't grab me. Trying to acquire knowledge about the world most definitely does.

I'll keep you informed on this selection as I make my way through it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Writing When You Aren't Making Sales. A Time Problem?

 7/16/14 Found it! The post I refer to in para 1 below is How Do You Keep Writing When You're Not Being Published? at Deescribewriting Blog.
Sometime in the last few months, I saw a blog post/article asking a variation of How do writers keep working when they aren't making sales? I thought it was an excellent question. Though I'm sorry to say that I can't find the piece of writing I'm referring to, my recollection is that the answer was a little on the warm and fuzzy side, something like "we all deserve to write, whatever the outcome." (7/16/14. She actually said, "You don’t have to justify being a writer.  You don’t have to justify being you.") Though that's certainly true, I'm not very warm and fuzzy. Plus, I think trying to continue writing without the traditional reward of publication and payment has an impact on time, which is our business here.

The Time Problem

  • How Others Perceive Us. In our culture, we perceive people who aren't getting paid for their labor as not working. Ask any homemaker or stay-at-home parent. When we are perceived as not working, we are perceived as being available during our work time. We are available for lengthy personal calls. We are available for lunch. We are available for shopping, for get-togethers, for athletic events. The belief that we don't work can drain away our work time.
  • How We Perceive Us. Going long periods of time without the feedback of a sale is discouraging, just as it is discouraging to be applying for jobs and not getting them. For writers who are part of a family and not generating any other income, it's easy to start feeling that life would be better for those around us, and maybe for us, too, if we got a job that made some real money. For writers who have day jobs, maintaining a writing practice that is "just" a practice can be exhausting. What are we giving up to do it? Friends? Creative and engaging volunteer work? Yoga class? Book Club? Studying that foreign language/philosophy? Cooking decent meals? Keeping on, keeping on can drain away our personal time.
All this draining--I need more than some warmth and fuzziness to help me deal with it. Next week I'll cover that.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Environmental Book Club

Today, my little lads and lasses, I have something different for you. An adult book for our club.

Home to Woefield by Susan Juby takes a cliched memoir subject, the city person getting back to the earth by moving on to a farm, and makes it funny. And she makes it funny without making any of her characters into ridiculous jokes.

Prudence Burns is seriously into sustainability but not having good luck with it in New York. She thinks a great opportunity opens up for her when she inherits a pretty much good-for-nothing farm in Canada. Prudence isn't totally ignorant of how to make a go of it in an organic kind of way, and she's a hard worker. She also earns the good will of all around her. Her problem is that she's overly optimistic.

With the farm she also inherits an elderly hired hand, who's not a great deal of help. She soon takes in a young alcoholic recluse whose main connection with the world is through the celebrity and metal blogs he runs. The three of them also end up with a preteen and her chickens.

These characters could have ended up as cliches, especially the preteen. She could have easily fallen into the wise-beyond-her-years stereotype. Instead, she is a damaged innocent. The elderly, foul-mouthed Earl and the equally foul-mouthed young Seth are also damaged. All these characters benefit from Prudence's can do sustainability.

This is the first book I can recall coming across that I think is comparable to Saving the Planet & Stuff  in that it finds humor in the struggle to live environmentally/sustainably without degrading those who are making the effort to do it. Prudence is not the butt of any jokes here. She recognizes them.

Juby is the author of a number of books for teens or that are marketed to both teens and adults. I'm reading Getting the Girl, whose main character seems like a younger Seth (my favorite from Home to Woefield), Seth before he suffered what he believed to be a humiliation he could never recover from and hit the sauce. I expect to be trying Alice, I Think soon, too.

Home to Woefield was recommended by a friend, by the way. Word of mouth.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A Chance For A Copy Of "The Waffler" By Gail Donovan

The Waffler by Gail Donovan has been named to the Maine Student Book Award List. To celebrate, Gail (That's Maine Gail I'm talking about. I'm not referring to myself in the third person.) is offering a book giveaway. The first ten people to contact her are the winners. I heard a couple of hours ago that she still had some copies left. But you better move on this.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: The Yardwork Model

A few years ago, a friend told me how much she loved working outdoors. I said, "Yeah, I like it, but only for a half hour or so. It's not so much that I don't have the physical endurance. I get bored."

"But there's so much to do," she replied. "When I get tired of doing one thing, there's always something else I can work on."

She was right. I've gotten a lot more yardwork done since I've followed her work plan. Just this past Sunday, I put in ninety minutes outside, starting with weeding and thinning one of the perennial beds to the right, moving to the back of the house to supervise pruning some shrubs, and heading out front to do some more perennial work.

Very nice, Gail. But this is a blog about writing and children's literature, not gardening. Make a connection. Soon.

I realized Sunday morning that I'd been using the yardwork model for writing last week. And I got a lot done. I started a new piece of flash fiction, which I wasn't expecting to do. I began revising a very old piece of fiction, which I wasn't expecting to do. I read an old article on revising short stories that was absolutely fantastic and did some more work on both those manuscripts. I did some more work on revising my website, which I was expecting to do, and started roughing out a new workshop. I'm not sure whether or not I expected to do that. I made a submission, which I was expecting to do. I began working on the book length manuscript I made so much progress on during May. I've continued this work method this week.

This Yardwork Model, as I'm calling it, is one of those situational time management things. It's only going to work in certain situations:
  1. You have no deadlines, contractual or otherwise, that you should be focusing on full-time until they're met
  2. You are careful to make sure you're putting more of your attention into creative rather than reactive work
I think that if the Yardwork Model works for someone, it's because it's another variation of the unit system. Every time you change tasks, it's like starting a new forty-five minute unit of work. Your mind reboots, thinking it's starting over at the beginning of the day when your impulse control is at its strongest. And thus you're able to make progress on each new task.

Concerned about not finishing anything? Tomorrow you do this all over again, and the next day, too. You make progress on every task you take on.

And what if you get to the point on one of them that you want to stick with it? That's a new situation. So adapt and keep working.

Monday, July 07, 2014

I Shouldn't Have Tried To Guess What This Girl Is About

Early on in Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty with illustrations by David Roberts, young Rosie creates something that fails. And she feels bad about it. And I thought, Oh, this is going to be a girl self-esteem book. While this late twentieth century feminist is all for young girls having good self-esteem, I've read about it before.

But I was  wrong. This isn't a girl self-esteem book. This is an importance of failure book. There's something I haven't seen a lot of. The main character is a female because the main character had to be something. She could have been a genderless anthropomorphic bear, that's how little sex roles have to do with this story.

Rosie Revere deals specifically with the value of failure in engineering. In many such tech fields, failure brings practitioners closer to reaching their goals because it narrows the field of things to try. I think you could argue that failure is an important part of many fields. I could also do an old coot rant about how our educational system values artificial success (A's! Check pluses!) over the reality of work. Hey, but I'm not going to get all wound up.

How important is the basic premise of Rosie Revere, Engineer? According to the engineer I eat with most nights and twice on Sundays, failure was how those people worked a century or two ago. Those were the days before engineers had adequate knowledge of properties of materials, and may not have had much in the way of materials, for that matter. So if they built a bridge and it failed, they built another, differently. No, it doesn't sound very efficient or economical and wouldn't have made a great movie. Progress is a very fine thing, isn't it? No one would want a bridge to go down during rush hour just because failure is how you move forward toward success.

Nonetheless, failure before you get to the bridge point, in the early invention period that Rosie Revere, Engineer deals with, is another thing. Accepting failure and understanding its uses is an old idea that's due for a comeback.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Did You Use Your Time This Week Working On Objectives Toward Goals?

I did.

Goal 2. Write short pieces. I started a new story, worked on revising an old one, and came up with ideas for some essays.

Goal 3. Finish a draft of the mummy book. I need to go over the nine chapters I've written to bring myself up to speed and start planning out more of the book. I worked on this Wednesday, but ended up going over the beginning of Chapter One over and over again. This kind of thing happens to me all the time. I need Chapter One to be just so. The voice, in particular. I need to feel everything is right.

Goal 4. Make submissions. I did, indeed, make one. Additionally, I checked out a few other places to make submissions.

Goal 5. Work on community building. I posted the July Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar, and contacted a few groups about it. I did social media postings of various kinds most evenings.

Additionally I worked on updating the content of my website, including write-ups of some additional workshops I'll be offering. I'm not sure that that fits any particular goal. I should have made one for general promotion/marketing.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Environmental Book Club

You've probably noticed that I'm interested in seasonal books that embrace living with nature as it changes over the course of a year. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, called to me.

The poems here definitely are short.  While they are lovely and spot on with their imagery, I think they're a little uneven in their seasonal connection. Though if used as a read aloud, that would be a good discussion point with young listeners. What, exactly, does a poem called Window about looking out at the night from a railroad car have to do with spring?

Whether or not you agree with dividing these poems up as representing the seasons of the year, this is a good collection, and a lovely looking one, for all who appreciate their poetry on the short side, whatever your age.

By the way, Connecticut author Patricia Hubbell has a poem in Firefly July.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Walter Dean Myers

My Facebook wall lit up today with the news that Walter Dean Myers died yesterday.  He certainly deserves to have his passing, and everything else about him, noted. I was surprised to hear the news. Though I was aware he had adult children, I always thought of him as a youngish man, probably because he turned out highly regarded work on a regular basis. He was at the top of his game.

I've only read one of his books, Monster. It was an incredible piece of work. The subtlety of what was going on with that young man was amazing. And I was very taken with the book's format.  It was a definite influence on Saving the Planet & Stuff's structure, though I didn't get anywhere near as into it as Myers did.

Certainly I wish he could have stayed at the top of his game for a while longer. But since that couldn't be, how wonderful that he could leave such a large body of work. His next book, On a Clear Day, will be published this fall. Then he has Juba! coming out next spring.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Maintaining Order In Your Filing Cabinets Saves Time

I was going to write this week about the value of making a planning list and checking it twice. However, something happened last night that changed my mind. I found two items in one of my filing cabinets. Immediately.

A couple of years ago, I did a massive reordering of my filing system, and I've been able to maintain it. Yesterday, I needed a couple of journals that had published my nonfiction so I could make clippings to submit to still another publication with new work. I found what I wanted immediately, but not because I remembered exactly where they were. I found them immediately because because I went to the drawer marked essays and pulled it open. Then I saw that I had a section for completed, published work. Files for both essays were there, and each file included a few copies of the journals in which the essays were published.


Finding a magazine sounds like a small thing. But those publications mean the difference between being able to make a submission or not make it. If I hadn't had them carefully filed away, I would have had to look for them. Hunting for things takes time, time I could spend writing.

As it turns out, I did a lot of writing and research today because I didn't have to hunt through the entire office looking for those back copies of The Horn Book and English Journal.

Maintain order + filing = time for work.