Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Be More Discriminating About Reading

What I Learned On My September Vacation

When I got my own personal laptop and was no longer sharing computers with family members, I became very excited over bookmarking sites. I bookmarked a lot of them. I classified them. I stockpiled the things and fantasized about reading them. I looked forward to reading them on this vacation I just took.

I did read a great many of them. And what I found was that in many cases I didn't need to have bothered. A lot of these things were repeats of information I'd already seen elsewhere. There is only so much information out there on writing and marketing, but there are a lot of blogs and websites with writers who have just discovered this stuff and think it is newsworthy.

How much time could I save myself by being a lot more discriminating about my reading material? Well, I decided, let's see.

Personal Precedent For Creating More Time By Cutting Reading

Quite honestly, I've been cutting reading for years.
  • Giving up. Yes, yes, I used to be one of those readers who had to finish any book she started. It was an obsession or some kind of moral code. When did things change? I don't know. Maybe around the time I started hearing stories about a million books being published every year. (I don't know if that's actually true, by the way.) Which may have coincided with me reading one too many bad books. Which may have been around the time I realized life is short. I should be fussier about how I spend my time.
  • Skimming. I also skim books, particularly those that have some significance in my field but I just don't like. Skimming definitely lets you hit the high points in a work, get a feeling for its world, and just find out what happens. "That's a skimmer," is a phrase I often use, but only to myself. (Did I just write that out loud?)
  • I gave up reading listicles a year or two ago. There's something I've never missed. Seriously, ever seen a listicle called "The Top 10 Cures For Cancer" or "5 Ways To Find God?" Okay, you probably have. In which case, you know what I mean.

How Can I Cut More?

  • Impose Limitations. Some time management specialists suggest making to-do lists on post-it notes in order to force yourself to be reasonable about what you can do in a day. I'm going to try limiting myself to just three to five bookmarks in any category. I want to add a new one? I have to take one off, either by reading the thing or just dropping it.
  • Give Them A Chance To Make Their Case. To make the bookmark list, a post will have to meet a two-paragraph test. It has to prove to me in that time that it has material new to me or compelling in some new way.
  • Size Matters. Personally, I believe the Internet is different. Material written for it should be concise. Otherwise, it should be in The New Yorker. Over the years, I've moved away from blogs that regularly ran long. I'm not saying I'll never read a magazine article on-line, but if I do, it won't be a random act.
  • If You Haven't Read It In A Year... Ever hear that advice about getting rid of clothes you haven't worn in a year? Yeah, I could do that with bookmarks.

Seriously, How Much Time Do You Expect To Gain With This, Gail?

Hmm. Maybe not that much. But I won't have a long list of bookmarked sites hanging over my head, which can only be a good thing.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

October Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Wouldn't you know it. I go on vacation, and we have a big month of children's lit events in Connecticut. Highlights are a roundtable discussion in Westport and a book tour for Sandra Horning's new release.

Thurs., Oct. 2, Tommy Greenwald, Nora Baskin, Elise Broach, Ramin Ganeshram, Victoria Kann, Alan Katz, Lauren Tarshis, and Hans Wilhelm, Barnes & Noble, Westport 7:00 PM  Roundtable discussion

Sat., Oct. 4, Leslie Woods, Bank Square Books, Mystic 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM

Mon., Oct. 6, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Bank Square Books, Mystic 4:00 to 6:00 PM

Tues.,  Oct. 7, Tony Abbott, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 PM

Tues., Oct. 7, Janet Tashjian, Barnes & Noble, Milford 6:30 PM

Sat., Oct. 11, Martha Seif Simpson, Norwich Free Academy Book Expo, NFA Atrium, next to Slater Auditorium 3:30 to 5:30 

Sat., Oct. 11, Brian Lies, Bank Square Books, Mystic 10:30 AM

Sat., Oct. 11, Wendell Minor, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 3:00 PM

Sun., Oct. 12, Sandra Horning, Bank Square Books, Mystic 11:00 AM

Wed., Oct. 15, Sandra Horning, Chaplin Public Library, Chaplin 10:00 AM Storytime

Thurs., Oct. 16, Sandra Horning, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM Storytime

Thurs., Oct. 16, Neal Shusterman, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Sat., Oct. 18, Cammie McGovern, Amy Zhang, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Sat., Oct. 18, Talia Aikens-Nunez, Mitchell Library, New Haven 3:00 PM 

Fri., Oct. 24, Sandra HorningBarnes & Noble, Manchester – 6:30 pm Storytime with Spot

Thurs., Oct. 30, Sandra Horning, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center, Storrs,  6:30 pm Book launch

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Blogging The Overwhelm, Conclusion

I am beginning this blog post in the solarium of a lovely lodge that would make a great place for a writers' retreat. Unfortunately, last night I was so into this place and its wonderful writer retreat possibilities,  that I totally forgot about writing this Time Management Tuesday post. And, thus, I am a day late.

Okay, reading Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time by Brigid Schulte was a fascinating experience because of the very different ways she and I look at the time issue. She is interested in support. I am interested in skills. At the end of her book, Schulte briefly covers some of the things she's doing differently now to help her manage time. She talks about "pulses," for instance, which are similar to the units that many time management people recommend. She describes the Pomodoro Technique in a footnote.

What About John Robinson And Leisure Time?

Another fascinating part of reading this book is that it didn't cover what I was looking for. What grabbed my interest in the articles I read about this book was Schulte's coverage of John Robinson's contention that we have far more leisure time than we think we do. Schulte's response to that was that the time he claimed was her leisure time didn't feel like leisure time. 

Here is a Gail life experience that I think illustrates her point:

When my children were young, I, like so many other mothers in my town, took them to the local beach in the summer for a couple of weeks of swimming lessons. For at least one year when they were in grade school, we'd hang out at the beach for hours, eating lunch, reading magazines (in my case), catching minnows with nets, digging in the sand, and planting all kinds of plastic tubing brought from home.

I saw the swimming lesson hangout as being the closest I'd ever come to owning a lake house. It was like going away. After reading Schulte's book, I realize that many woman would have perceived those days as childcare, since, technically, I was supposed to be taking care of my kids. For those women, it would have just been more work.

Why does how that time was perceived matter? Because the parent who sees hauling two boys, lunch, towels, sunscreen, magazines, shovels, buckets, and leftover construction pipes to the lake as a glorious summer getaway is going to go home feeling as if she's been on vacation for the afternoon. That will have an impact on how she's able to use the rest of her day. The parent who sees hauling two boys, lunch, towels, sunscreen, magazines, shovels, buckets, and leftover construction pipes to the lake as childcare/work is going to go home feeling overwhelmed. And that will have an impact on how she's able to use the rest of her day.

And The Writing Connection, Gail?

I'm not sure. But if I've got 30+ hours of leisure time that I don't realize is leisure time, I'd sure like to be able to repurpose some of it for work. I suspect many other writers would, too.

I'm thinking that I want to try to find more on John Robinson, who has been taking a bashing over his spin on women and time. And when I get back from vacation, I may try to keep a time journal. If I have the time.

Speaking of vacation, I am finishing this blog post while looking out at the mighty Monongahela River outside of Pittsburgh. Yes. That's leisure time. I own it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Blogging The Overwhelm, Part Three

What's With The Danes And Time?

I think Brigid Schulte's big interest in Overwhelmed: Work, Love, And Play When o One Has The Time is seeking support for her struggles with time, which means support for others like her. She contacts a number of groups of women who are doing things like trying to simplify their lives or managing to function comfortably as high achievers.

I'm more interested in going right for the skills. When Schulte wrote about Denmark, seeking out a culture where time studies show that women workers have more leisure time than in other countries, I wanted to hear more about how they did it.

The Minimalist Thing

Schulte says, "I am struck for the first but certainly not the last time as I began to visit more Danes' homes that there is no junk...I was assured again and again that Danes simply do not buy, produce, or save as much stuff." She only gave one paragraph to the issue of material possessions' impact on our use of time, which just happens to be one that I'm interested in. Does lack of stuff really have an impact on the Danes' overall use of time? If they really aren't into acquiring and keeping, why not?

How Do They Stay On Task At Work?

Schulte is assured by the couple that is the main focus of her Denmark chapter that Danes "work in a very focused way. Lunch is usually no more than half an hour...In Denmark, there isn't a whole lot of joking around the watercooler or Facebook checking in the office, they explain. You do your work and you go home." That's how Danes are able to stick to a 9 to 4:24 schedule and get home without bringing work with them.

How, how, how? How are they able to deal with interruptions from clients and supervisors with surprise assignments? What about chatty co-workers? Do Danes not get chatty at the office?

Gail's Needs

I'm not questioning whether or not these people are doing these things. I just want to know how so I can do it, too.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Little Activity Here For The Next Few Weeks

I'm on vacation most of the rest of the month. I'm hoping to do a couple of Time Management Tuesday posts so I can finishing blogging the overwhelm. Otherwise, OC is resting.

I'm hoping to read a lot of the on-line material I've bookmarked these last few months or more. I'll be tweeting about that and posting responses to my reading at my professional Facebook page. Every few days, I'll be posting about our stops for biking at my personal Facebook page. You're welcome to follow me at any of those places.

That is, of course, assuming I can get on-line wherever we are. In my experience, that doesn't always happen the way it's supposed to.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Now That Is Handselling

Yesterday I was in the Market Street Bookshop at Mashpee Commons in Mashpee, Massachusetts. My traveling companion and I were discussing the book about trucks or trains that we wanted to find for a very young family member. We did see a truck book on a shelf, but we both agreed that there was too much text for our young one.

I saw a bookseller come out from behind the counter, and the next thing I know she's bringing us a copy of Trucks, a "slide and find" book from Priddy Books. It's a board book, which works very well for our guy, and there's no lengthy text for him to sit through. It's mainly "What is this?" type stuff with some color matching thrown in. It also has a little something for little fingers to do. Instead of the small lifting sections you usually see in kids' books, which often end up torn by those little fingers I was just talking about, this book has sliders. We'll see how those hold up.

I was incredibly impressed with the way that bookseller hit the nail on the head for us. I've never experienced real bookseller handselling like that. I also know a lot of people have never heard the term "handselling."

Well, if you haven't, that's what it is--matching customers/readers with books. I thought it was exciting.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Blogging The Overwhelm, Part Two

I've been reading Overwhelmed: Work, Love, And Play When No One Has The Time by Brigid Schulte and began blogging about it last week. This week I bring you up to speed with my reading.

What is Overwhelmed Actually About?

Overwhelmed is not a time management book. The "overwhelm" is Schulte's term for that feeling of being buried with things to do. Her book, so far at least, is not about how to deal with the overwhelm but how it comes about, particularly for women. How does the workplace contribute to this? How do perceptions of what mothers should be contribute to it? Are there workplaces/countries where things are different?

Writers Have Some Experience With Working At Home

Schulte writes of companies that put performance and production before "face time," having to be in the office where managers and co-workers can see you. These particular employers allow their employees to work from home, where parents can

Many writers work in that way. What many of them find, though, is that without the external structure of an office and "traditional" hierarchy, "the boundary between professional and personal time is very thin and very wobbly. It is all too easy for personal time to bleed into work time." What I'm talking about ends up being a lot like the overwhelm, it's just that now you're working at home.

That's not to say there isn't a way of dealing with this situation--bringing some kind of childcare into the home where parents are working might be a huge help, for instance. But if writers' experience is any indicator, just shifting work from an office building to a home isn't necessarily going to solve the overwhelm problem.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Because I Loved Historical Fiction

I picked up A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller as a sort of return to my teen reading when I was into historical fiction. Mad, Wicked Folly was a bit of a roller coaster experience in which I went "I'm loving this," "No, it's a torn-between lovers scenario," "Wait, something different is going on here," "Yes, I love the art stuff."

Vicky is the child of upper middle class parents in 19 ought England. These are rigid folks who have specific expectations of their daughters. Vicky, however, has a talent for art and a willingness to study it. I loved the art aspect of this book. I don't have any desire to create art, myself, my interest is in its historical and cultural aspects. I loved all that in this book. I knew nothing about the pre-Raphaelites. Now I'm beginning to know something about them.

Vicky also becomes involved with the suffragist movement in England. Loved that, too. Waller uses the term "suffragette" instead of "suffragist," which always annoys me because I learned that the "ette"ending is derogatory. However, in her end notes she explains the suffragist/suffragette issue, definitely to my satisfaction.

The torn-between-two-lovers thing, which was a little predictable to this experienced reader, was far more palatable to me because of the great art and feminist world that it existed in.The teenage Gail who read historical romances would have been far more appreciative.

Reading this book made me realize that there is a way to get me to read romance. Have some really good content of another nature in the book.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Scenes May Make Everything Different

I'm working on the eleventh draft of a middle grade mystery because you just can't write something over too many times.

I'm paying attention to scenes this time around, inspired by Rachel Aaron's 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. I never gave any thought to scenes in the past. I just wrote. Was writing like that a good thing? A bad thing? Something you can only do for a while?

Let's put that aside for a few minutes, or months, or years.

Anyway, what I've been seeing is that in some chapters I have material that doesn't appear to be part of a scene at all. It's what I'm thinking of as narrative connector. And I'm finding that I'm not that crazy about a lot of it. Look at this stuff, I keep thinking. It's just hanging here.

I'm cutting some of it down and moving some into existing scenes. It's kind of fascinating.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Environmental Book Club

I'm a season late with the post Nine Environmental Summer Reading Books for Kids. However,  I don't care a lot about reading according to a schedule. So go ahead and check out those books from SCGH, which used to be known as Sierra Club Green Home.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Blogging The Overwhelm

Several months ago, I stumbled upon an article about Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time by Brigid Schulte. Then I stumbled upon another. Of course, I was attracted by those words "No One Has The Time." But I also was interested because both the articles included information about John Robinson, a sociologist who has studied how people use time through "time diaries." Robinson told Schulte that people have an average of 30 hours a week of leisure time, far more than most of us believe we do. This made me wonder if how we perceive what we're doing comes into play here, and, if so, can we writers use that somehow.

So I'm reading Overwhelmed.

So far, the book reminds me of Welcome to the Lizard Motel and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. All three books take a memoirish angle to nonfiction. And all three authors have a personal issue that they're trying to support with their books. (I am not the only reader to get the introverts/good, extroverts/not so good feeling from Quiet.) In my early reading of Overwhelmed, for instance, Schulte really isn't having any of Robinson's contention that she has so much leisure time. She seems determined to prove him wrong.

The portion of the book I've completed has a lot of information about the traditional work world. A lot of it will sound familiar to anyone who has been reading about women and work for the last few decades in terms of women's treatment in the workplace. The new information is that this is still going on and that men, too, are now negatively impacted by what Schulte calls our culture's commitment to a retro "Ideal Worker," one who can live at the office.

Her point is that work life has an impact on how we spend our personal time, which I certainly agree with. I still have to see if Schulte will give some advice on what to do about it.

Check out blogger Becky Levine's response to Overwhelmed.

Yes, I'm a day late with Time Management Tuesday. I was having problems last night

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Technical Difficulties

Blogger is not recognizing paragraphs for me this evening, and I refuse to publish without them. Blogger is behaving in other objectionable ways as well. So Time Management Tuesday will be coming tomorrow. Yes. On Wednesday. See? This was three paragraphs. As of 10:19 Tuesday evening, it's only one.

Monday, September 01, 2014

That Beta Reader Business

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was getting started writing, I never heard anything about beta readers. I barely heard about critique groups. But everyone seems to have BRs these days, and, since I like to maintain the mind of a beginner, I decided I wanted some, too. So when I finally finished a draft of a piece of scifi flash fiction that I'd worked on for the better part of a month, maybe more, I contacted a couple of family members who are science fiction readers and asked them to act as my beta readers. I even used the term, thinking it would make what I was asking them to do sound very professional and technical. Here's what happened:

Beta Reader 1 told me that no one would know what two words in the first sentence meant. I was able to fix that. Evidently the other 898 words were golden.

Beta Reader 2 didn't have time to read the story. I think he might have been afraid to.

I find the whole beta reading thing awkward. Remember all those times people asked you to read something they wrote and it was dreadful and then what were you supposed to do? Yeah, now you're the one asking someone to do the reading, and the people you're asking want to run for their lives. Maybe your writing is as wonderful as you think it is, but your potential beta vict--readers don't know that. Because I like to maintain the mind of a beginner, I'm open to the possibility that maybe I'm wrong.

Additionally, critiquing writing is an acquired skill. The ground isn't thick with trained beta readers.

So this wasn't a particularly successful experience. However, I met with a critique group in August, and I'll be going back in October. Things are looking positive with that, and after a couple more meetings, I'll report on my progress.