Sunday, August 31, 2014

More On Susan Juby

I liked Alice, I Think by Susan Juby very much, but I'm not sure what the story is here. This may be one of those books you have to be zenny about and just experience.

Alice is the offspring of crunchy parents who homeschooled her because on her first day of traditional first grade (she didn't attend kindergarten), she showed up dressed as a character from The Hobbit. Things didn't go well for her. One could say that learning to read early leads to no good.

I was never a hundred percent sure why Alice was seeing a therapist, unless it had something to do with poor socialization because she was homeschooled. It was probably one of her parents' ideas. Alice heads out to regular school at fifteen, inspired by her younger brother who has always attended school. He may have been too bright for their parents and had some instinctual knowledge that you just don't dress up in costumes for school. Alice says outright that she has no problem with playing favorites. She definitely prefers her brother to her mother and father.

Oh, and Alice aspires to be a cultural critic.That is a fantastic aspect of the book.

Juby describes Alice, I Think as a Teen/Adult book, and I think that's very apt. There are aspects of this book that adults are going to find more entertaining than I think teens will. The section on the people holding some kind of memorial to the late, lamented Princess of Wales, for instance, is probably far more meaningful to adults than the younger than seventeen-year-olds who don't remember the world-wide mourning at her death. As much as I liked the cultural critic business, that might be for your more sophisticated teen readers, too.

Some of you may remember that my first Juby book was Home to Woefield, definitely an adult novel published in 2010. Next I read her teen book Getting the Girl, published in 2008.  I thought the main character was wonderful, "like a younger, less raunchy, undamaged Seth from Home to Woefield." Alice, I Think was published in 2003, and I think the young girl in the 2010 Woefield might be a variation on her.

Interesting to read so much of an author's work and see her world.

Alice, I Think has a sequel. In addition, a one-season TV series was made in Canada. Yes, I may try to get hold of it. If I watch it, you can be sure I'll let you know.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Waily, Waily, Laptop Wailies

Updates have been spotty at OC this past week because we're experiencing laptop woes here at Chez Gauthier. My laptop didn't actually start smoking earlier in the week, but the noise it was making and the message that appeared on the screen suggested that it could happen. It has gone off to my computer guy's computer guy. This is one of these deals where Computer Guy #2 must be contacted in some mysterious way and then have the laptop passed on to him by Computer Guy #1 with great amounts of e-mailing and computer talk following.

I've always tried to blog after my workday was over to avoid using creative day time for blogging/marketing. (This is like a Time Management Tuesday post, but different.) Since I've had my laptop, I've fallen into blogging in the evenings while sitting in front of the TV. So last night I tried to work with another family member's laptop. I spent half an hour or so just trying to get on-line and to Blogger. I wonder if Computer Guy #2 gives discounts?

While I am a TV viewer and don't care who knows it, I rarely just watch TV. What, you may wonder, is Gail going to do if she can't find a laptop to use in the living room to blog and read blogs and articles? Well, last night I hemmed pants for one of the elders.

What am I working on now? We have a number of desktops in various stages of life. I don't believe we have any dead ones, anymore.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

September Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Book festivals are continuing in September.

Sat., Sept. 13 Local Authors Expo, Mystic & Noank Library, Mystic, 1:00 to 4:00 PM. No idea if there will be any children's authors involved.

Sat., Sept. 13 Jeanne Rogers, Newtown Arts Festival, Newtown, 3:00 PM. Presentation, Festival admission

Sat., Sept. 13 and Sun., Sept. 14 Sheila Murphy Adams, Dawn Aldrich, Catherine Gibson, Jason MarchiNewtown Arts Festival, Newtown, 10:00 PM to 5:00 PM each day. Admission

Thurs., Sept. 18, Randall Enos, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Westport, 7:00 PM

Sept. 21 Jack Jones, Diane's Books/Tudor Investments Corp, Greenwich, 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM.  Book launch

Wed. Sept. 24, Phil Nel, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center, Storrs, 4:00 PM. Speaking on "The Genius of Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon."

Sept. 30, Julie Phillipps, Cheshire Public Library, Cheshire, 7:00 PM. Hour-long Picture Book 101 presentation for beginning writers

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Minimalizing Instead Of Organizing

"No matter how organized we are, we must continue to care for the stuff we organize, sorting and cleaning our meticulously structured belongings."

You'll find that line in  A New Memoir About What Happens When You Get Rid of All Your Stuff , an excerpt from Everything That Remains by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus that appears in Slate. The point Millburn and Nicodemus are making is that so long as you keep the stuff, you have to continue to take care of it.

Taking care of stuff takes time.

Dealing with life's stuff may seem beyond the focus of this blog series, which is time management for writers. But, remember, "the boundary between professional and personal time is very thin and very wobbly," particularly for writers who often work without workstations outside the home and function as their own supervisors. The less we have to deal with in our personal lives, the more we'll have to give to our professional lives.

Millburn and Nicodemus say that organizers accumulate things, they just think they have control of the situation because they're organized. But organize is a verb. It's something you have to do. Minimalizing, simplifying, not having a lot of possessions to handle may be the more time and energy efficient way to go.

You can minimalize your work world, too. I tossed some writing books a month or two ago. And then there was the file purge I did a couple of years ago.

Of course, minimalizing takes time, too. But once things are gone, they're gone. Keeping them organized, on the other hand, goes on forever.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Time For A Horn Book Post

The Horn Books are piling up around here, so it's time to review one of these review journals. In this case, the May/June 2014 issue. I didn't rush to get to May/June because it was dedicated to Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I am a member of that minority of people who are not Harriet fans. I didn't read it until I was well into adulthood, which may have been too late. I can't recall whether I read it aloud to my sons or not. What I do remember is reading the last page and thinking, What? I may have found the book overtly literary. But I'm talking a long time ago, so don't hold me to that.

You can understand why my favorite article in this issue was Becoming a Book Detective by Cathryn M. Mercier. She wasn't crazy about Harriet, either. Plus, both Mercier and I read Reader's Digest Condensed Books when we were kids. Hmm. Is this nostalgia I am suddenly feeling? I have so little experience of it, I don't know.

Horn Book Reviews That Caught My Eye

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones, completed by Ursula Jones. Because I have a thing now for Diana Wynne Jones.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  The reviewer calls this a "taut psychological mystery" and says "The ultimate reveal is shocking..." I like being shocked.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor. I've read the first two books in this trilogy. This review explains why I wasn't crazy about book two. It moved from urban fantasy to high fantasy. I was hoping the end of that volume suggested that book three would be back to urban fantasy. But, no, reviewer says we'll be going on to "epic fantasy."  I'll try it, anyway.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel. I'm reading this now.

Fighting Fire!: Ten of the Deadliest Fires in American History and How We Fought Them by Michael L. Cooper. Fire. History.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell.  Read it.

The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis. I'm a Saint-Exupery groupie, and I've liked Peter Sis's work.

Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud & Divided a Nation by Sally M. Walker.  A feud. History.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Environmental Book Club

I think I was on the page 3/4 spread of Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman with illustrations by Beth Krommes when I gasped because of the fantastic concept. I know this business about spirals in nature is something I should have known about, and I had heard of it. But I know a whole lot more now and in such an incredibly easy way.

Sidman explains in an afterward that a spiral is "a shape that curls around a center point. Spirals occur over and over in nature because they work so well in so many ways." In her marvelous picture book she organizes her information around various kinds of natural spirals. Some expand, some protect, some reach out.

What is particularly impressive is that this really is a picture book for the very young. There is only a modest amount of text. In fact, I can imagine sitting with this book and a child and not even reading the text, simply hunting for spirals on the pages.

I'm kind of excited about all my new spiral knowledge.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Aunt Cybil Wants You

The Cybils folk sent out the call for judges this past Monday. I can't find anything about a deadline.

Can't commit time to judge? If you're a blogger, you support the Cybils in other ways.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Your Mindset Can Impact Procrastination

Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson wrote a post at her website last winter on procrastination called How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don't Want To. Among her suggestions and my take on how they apply to writers:

Promotion vs. Prevention Focuses

A promotion focus encourages someone to work to better themselves. Will working today mean meeting a deadline or enable you to make a submission? Will studying today enhance the quality of your writing? Will just putting in time writing enhance the quality of your writing? That's all about promotion.

A prevention focus encourages someone to work to maintain what they have and prevent loss. Will working today help me to maintain my tenuous place on the writing career ladder? Will it help me to stay published? That's about prevention.

Halvorson argues that choosing a focus can keep you working.

Do You Have To Feel Like Working In Order To Work?

This is a question of particular interest to writers and other creatives because there is a stereotype that we have to be inspired in order to work. There are muses that are supposed to visit us. Personally, I think this is a very old-fashioned attitude, at least as far as creative people are concerned. I never hear it from published writers or anyone serious about publishing. Actually, I only hear it from people who don't do creative work, and even then rarely. I don't hear about writer's block, either. The realities of publishing have moved most of us past that.

If-Then Planning

Timothy Pychyl also talks about if-then statements, calling them implementation intentions.  You plan ahead to deal with problem situations--form an intention and plan how you'll implement it. I, for instance, plan to keep working until a timer goes off. Halvorsan says, "...if-then plans dramatically reduce the demands placed on your willpower... In fact,  if-then planning has been shown in over "200 studies to increase rates of goal attainment and productivity by 200%-300% on average."

Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Update

Author Lynda Mullaly Hunt will be making an appearance at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Glastonbury on Sunday, August 31st at 2:00 PM.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Possible New Reading Plan For Serials

Roger Sutton recently had a post at Read Roger in which he expressed frustration over reading books and finding out, without warning, that they aren't complete. They're the first in a serial. Oh, yes. I've had that happen so many times. He concludes, "Thank goodness Tolkien had already finished The Lord of the Rings before I got to the end of The Two Towers and “Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy.”

I didn't have that experience with The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood. I had that experience with The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling, which was the first book in this serial. The Interrupted Tale is the fourth. I've liked them all, but The Interrupted Tale took a long time to get into. These books have a very distinctive voice, one I enjoy, but it's not a very natural one.

I enjoy binge-reading adult mystery series. While I was reading The Interrupted Tale, I started thinking that binging might be the way to read serials, too. How great it would have been if I could have read all The Incorrigible Children books one right after another. There would have been no "getting to know you" period for each book. I could have just lived in the serial.

So what do those of us who enjoy binge-reading a serial after it's concluded or a series after there's plenty to binge on need to do? As Roger pointed out, we often don't know that a book we're reading isn't a complete story. Once we've accidentally stumbled into a serial, do we just put reading the rest on hold for years until the serial has been completed? And when we are aware of a "new trilogy," do we avoid it and make a list for sometime in the future?

Hmm. Perhaps I'll have more on this in the future. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Weekend Writer: Interested In Writing For Magazines?

Writing a novel is the gold ring of publishing. But realistically speaking, you might want to start out by writing something more manageable, something for magazines. How do you get started writing for magazines?  According to The Renegade Writer, you start writing for magazines by reading them.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Promo Friday: Photo Covers For Self-Published Books

A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk on the traditional vs. self-published experience for writers. I discussed covers, but had to stick to those with new art created by artists, since I had no experience with photo covers. If only I'd been quicker about reading the May/June 2014 SCBWI Bulletin, I would have had some good info I could have included.

In that issue, author Chris Eboch had a great article called Photo Cover Design for Self-Published Novels. She uses a case study of an author who found the main photo for her cover herself and still needed a photo artist and a designer (that's two different people, folks) to finish her cover. I mention this to make sure everyone understands how involved creating a cover is.

Finding this article will be worth the effort for anyone thinking about creating their own book cover.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Environmental Book Club

The July/August issue of The Horn Book (which I believe is somewhere in this house) includes a review of  Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard by Mary Kay Carson with photographs by Tom Uhlman. The review says the book introduces readers to scientists who conduct research projects on geology, ecology, and biology at three state parks.

You may read about this one here again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: How Much Time Do We Commit To A Project Before Accepting It's Not Working?

You may recall that I blew the better part of a month on a piece of flash fiction I still haven't finished. I have written flash fiction before, and I know it took me a while to write it. But my recollection is that I worked on it now and then over a long period of time while working on other things. It didn't keep me from other projects the way last month's short story did.

Several years ago I heard a couple of writers leading a workshop on nonfiction say that they determine how much time they'll commit to getting a new project started before they get going. I e-mailed them to ask if they'd like to elaborate on that. They didn't. This past week, I threw a question out on this subject at Facebook. Again, no one wanted to discuss how they decide to let a new project go or at least put it aside on simmer.

I would like a formula, an equation that I can plug numbers into. Something very linear. (I did a little research on linear and nonlinear systems for that 1,000 word project.) 

The amount of time I put into this story, which I can't even name because it doesn't have one yet, made me feel I needed to put more time in so I wouldn't have wasted all the time I'd already used up. Just a little bit more, then I'll get my payoff. Hmm. Does that sound like gambling? In the meantime, I was loosing a big chunk of the time I'd wanted to use on the project I'd made progress on during May. I'll be on vacation a large part of September, so that stinks. I also was drifting away from the new writing process I was working on in May. This was all for a 1,000 word story that I had no market lined up for. If I had been able to publish it, it might have ended up being with a publication that doesn't pay.

Now my work provides a very small portion of our family's support. But there are writers out there who have to generate income. They can't use their time like I used mine last month.

I had a flashfic obsession, and others could tell. My husband used the word in relation to my writing behavior and constant discussion of the story. Now that it's over, I feel confident that in some point in the future, I'll finish that piece and be able to submit it. But I also feel I should have been able to get to that point with a normal work method.

Knowing when to lay off may be a matter of knowing. Without the knowing, I'd like something else to push the Put It Away Button.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Listen To Commentary On Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones' Reflections On the Magic of Writing includes a transcript of literary critic Colin Burrow's BBC essay, Fantasies for Children, which you can listen to. Burrow just happens to be Wynne Jones' son.

Burrow says that Jones fused the ordinary and the magical, which may be why I've liked what I've seen of her work. I can only take so much magic. He also says that Fire and Hemlock is her best book. What!? Not Chrestomanci?

Burrow talks about Jones' feelings about her childhood and how they impact her writing. If you read Reflections On the Magic of Writing, you hear a lot about that from her, too.

August 16, 2014: Diana Wynne Jones should be referred to as "Jones," as corrected above, and not as "Wynne Jones."

Saturday, August 09, 2014

The Weekend Writer: Can We Learn About Writing In General From Writing Flash Fiction In Particular?

I've spent the better part of a month obsessing over a 1,000 word flash story, not one I was reading, one I was writing. I thought I was going to knock it off fast because I had a goal for my character, and I actually had an ending for the story. Or so I thought.

Flash Draft and Flash Revision

I wrote six or seven drafts before I got almost to the end of one. I'm at a point where I can put it away for a while. While I was going through this ordeal, I wondered if writing flash fiction could be a way to train to write other forms. Because flash is so short, you go through drafts faster and you can try different things faster, the way scientists use mice because their life cycles are shorter than humans so they can work faster. Over the course of my drafts, I worked on eliminating build-up and focusing specifically on the climactic moment.

Flash Addresses Writing Problems

Christopher Ramsey in Why I Teach Flash Fiction says, "In my class, flash has been a valuable teaching tool because it addresses all the issues a new writer might have in the context of their own writing." He says "the usual problems with new writers" include "too much backstory, too much filtering, authorial intrusion, and too many adverbs." Limiting yourself to 1,000 words addresses all kinds of "too much" problems.

Getting Started With Flash


Writing Flash Fiction at Fiction Factor

Stories In Your Pocket: How To Write Flash Fiction at The Guardian

Flash Fiction What's It All About? at The Review Review

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Environmental Book Club

Last year I discovered climate fiction, also known as cli-fi, a term coined by Dan Bloom. Earlier this week, Kelly Jensen at Stacked did a post called Get Genrefied: Climate Fiction (Cli-Fi) on climate fiction for YAs.

Is Cli-Fi Apocalyptic?

Notice that a lot of these books appear to be apocalyptic. Is that a requirement of this genre-like category? Why does a story about climate change always involve society falling apart? We experienced a Little Ice Age as recently as the early 1800s. Did the Earth's citizens go, "Life as we know it is over?" I think not. And if someone had told them, "Hey, it's going to get a lot hotter over the next century and a half or so," would they have gone, "Well, that sucks" or would they have said, "Thank you, God!"

Why can't we have a cli-fi book that involves a snow world and a society has evolved in which everyone skates and cross-country skis and it's Christmas all the time? No, seriously, why not a winter world where a culture has simply evolved to function there? Or a desert world that has been made livable by way of technology. ("Better living through science!")

Climate As The Story Vs. Climate As The Setting

I suspect what's happening here is that, as Kelly says, cli-fi is "fiction that features climate change at the core of the story." Making the climate change some kind of negative change provides the storyline. Whereas the kind of thing I'm talking about is a situation in which the climate is the setting of the story. The story is about something else. Would that be climate fiction?

Coming Up

Though I most definitely am not a fan of apocalyptic fiction, I'll grit my teeth and try to pick one of these books from Kelly's list for a reading effort. She also refers readers to Eco-Fiction & Cli-Fi Books, which I've just started following on Twitter.  I should have more in the future on this subject.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Speaking Of Career Models For Writers... I was in my last post, Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn has an excellent description of three business models for writers.

Notice that none of them are "Write a bestseller and become rich."

Jerry Craft And The Craft Model

I met Jerry Craft last week at Avon Free Public Library's Children's Authors Night. Very soon thereafter, Publishers Weekly included him in an article on a book he illustrated that is being published this month by Scholastic.

Here's what I find interesting about this:  Jerry self-published his first Mama's Boyz book in 1996. And now he's illustrating a book for Scholastic and getting written up in Publishers Weekly! But it's not 1996 anymore. It's 2014. Jerry didn't go directly from self-publishing to working with a traditional publisher. In between he's worked as a cartoonist on graphic novels for Marvel and Harvey Comics, his cartoons have have been syndicated through King Features, where he also worked in sales, and he was the Editorial Director for the Sports Illustrated for Kids web site. He's also done covers for other authors' self-published books. 

My point is, he did not self-publish a book and become some kind of over-night sensation. He maintained creative day jobs while working toward success. To me, this is a great and realistic career model.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Where Is It?

I try to blog in the evening, so I'm not using primo creative day time on what is essentially marketing. The last two Tuesday evenings I've been making appearances. And that's where my time went the last two weeks.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Diana Wynne Jones, My Spiritual Sister

Last week during my tai chi class, I trained with a more experienced student. At the end of the class, my instructor informed me that I should tell my classmate, "Thank you, older sister" (in Chinese), not because Susan is older than I am, but because she's more experienced. I will spare you the details of how meaningful I find this in terms of the distinction between taekwondo and tai chi culture. I'm just mentioning it to explain why I was dwelling on the sister issue while reading Reflections on the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones this past week.

Reflections is a collection of  Jones' short nonfiction pieces written for magazines, speeches, and professional groups over several decades. She collected them herself a few months before she died, meaning these articles were ones she felt had particular significance. One of the things I like about this collection is that because it isn't written and edited all in one piece, there is repetition here. The repetition creates recurring themes related to Jones' attitudes about her work.

But I really like about this collection is that so many of Jones' attitudes are ones I share. She talks about creating experiences with her writing. I've thought of writing as creating worlds. She objects to writing that is supposed to instruct. Dear heavens, how I hate that. Over and over again I'm finding things in this book that make me feel that I've found some kind of soulmate.

Oh, and though there are a couple of chapters here on heroes, if Jones even mentions The Hero's Journey, I missed it.

And, finally, the book concludes with an address one of her son's gave at her funeral in which he talks about the tweets they'd seen recently about his mother's books being comfort books for this one or that one. Jones' Chrestomanci novels are my Number One comfort books.

There's just been an amazing amount for me, personally, in this book, making me feel an incredible connection to this woman I will never know.

August 16, 2014: Diana Wynne Jones should be referred to as "Jones," as corrected above, and not as "Wynne Jones."

Saturday, August 02, 2014

How Did That Talk You Gave Go, Gail?

Quite well. Thank you very much for asking.

Tuesday night, I was one of four authors speaking at Avon Free Public Library's Children's Authors' Night. This was part of the library's summer long Local Author Festival. I've noticed a drop in children's author appearances in this state recently. Avon Free Public Library really stepped in to fill a gap.

Jerry Craft was the evening's first speaker. He's a cartoonist and graphic novelist whose work has been featured in Ebony and The Village Voice, among other publications, and distributed by King Features. He published a collection of his comics in Mama's Boyz, has illustrated other authors' books, including The Zero Degree Zombie Zone, and has written middle grade books, including The Offenders.

Marilyn Davis's Maddie and Beanie's Magical Journey was inspired by her work rescuing horses. This is a fascinating subject she's also written about for journals.

Stacy DeKeyser is the author of an intriguing YA novel called Jump the Cracks, which I read about five years ago. Very unique story. On Tuesday, she spoke about where writing ideas come from in general, and how she came up with the idea for her most recent book, The Brixen Witch.

And what did I do at Children's Authors' Night? Well, I didn't take a picture of myself, that's for sure. What I did do was discuss my experiences with both traditional and self-publishing, with particular emphasis on Saving the Planet & Stuff, since it is my self-published eBook.

Friday, August 01, 2014

A Time Management Tuesday Update: Studying While Not Publishing

Last week I did a Time Management Tuesday post on using time during dry spells when you're not making sales. One of the things I suggested doing was studying, including the possibility of working on a MFA. I wanted to include a link to Karin Gillespie's New York Times' essay, A Master's in Chick Lit, but I'm embarrassed to say I couldn't remember Karin's name, so couldn't find the essay.

Seriously, I should be embarrassed not to have remembered her name, because we were both members of an on-line writers' community years ago. Karin had a blog at that time, which was what got me interested in starting Original Content.

Check out her experience with an MFA program in creative writing.