Thursday, December 31, 2015

January Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

After a busy autumn, it is bleak midwinter in Connecticut. When I did the calendar search before Christmas, I found no appearances next month in this state at all. Another search this past week turned up two hearty souls braving whatever January has to bring for weather in southern New England.

Thurs., Jan. 14, Shari Arnold, Wallingford Public Library, Wallingford 6:30

Sat., Jan. 16, A. L. Davroe, West Hartford Public Library, West Hartford 1:00 to 2:00 PM.

Sat.. Jan. 23, A. L. Davroe, Barnes & Noble, Stamford 2:00 to 4:00 PM

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Book About Thinking

I liked The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz a great deal. It is both a comfortable domestic story involving an early Twentieth Century upper class Jewish family, a group unfamiliar to me and thus interesting, and a novel about spirituality and art.

Fourteen-year-old Joan Scuggs is a Catholic girl with a fondness for Jane Eyre. Reviewers make a point of bringing up the fact that The Hired Girl is written in the form of a diary, a format I'm not very fond of, by the way. But I also think it has a structure similar to Jane Eyre with a frame around the main story. In the beginning, Joan suffers in her family home, just as Jane suffered in her family home and at boarding school. At the end, she is living and working outside the Rosenbachs' home, just as Jane lived and worked outside Rochester's home. (Oh! Rosenbach...Rochester.) There is a scene in which Joan is sleeping outdoors, just as there is a scene in Jane Eyre in which Jane sleeps outdoors. There's a house in both books, a housekeeper. I'm a big Jane fan. I loved looking for this stuff.

In between those two frames, Joan/Janet is exposed to Judaism, which leads her to think deeply about her own Catholicism. She is exposed to opera, art, and philosophy, all of which she writes about in her diary. Yeah, she falls in love. But that's a minor point. It's the thinking that sells this book.

As I said, I liked this book. I don't know if it's going to be to every reader's taste, though. Opera and philosophy may be a hard sell, as well as all the talk about personal spirituality. But this could be a serious read for YA serious readers

I'd like to discuss the ending, but I don't want to give anything away.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: The 2015 Recapitulation Post

Before I start planning goals and objectives for a new year, I like to assess how I did with the ones I had for the past year. I want to know what went well and what I could have done better because that information should have an impact on the goals and objectives I create for the next year.

So here's what I planned to do this year and how well I carried out those plans.

Goal 1. Generate New Work: Complete a draft of the so-called mummy book

  • Commit the bulk of each week's work to this project for the first quarter of the year.
  • Revise the first nine chapters that I completed last year in order to bring myself up to speed with this project.
  • Plan scenes and chapters ahead in order to speed up the work and make it generally easier.
  • Plan scenes around action, character, theme, revealing new information, and moving story forward.
  • Bring pages of this project to my monthly writers' group. 
ASSESSMENT: Well done, Gail. I completed a draft and am within pages, as I write this, of completing the second draft.

Goal 2. Generate New Work: Complete two to three short pieces

  • Set aside a few days a month specifically for this type of writing
  • January--Go through files and journals and pick a few pieces to work on 
ASSESSMENT: Oh, dear. I was going to set aside a few days a month to do this? Not even close. I do recall picking a few pieces to work on. I do not remember what they were. I'm also quite certain I wrote up one of those pieces I selected. That's right, I don't remember what it was. I know I did a new, quick essay this summer. That went nowhere.

Goal 3. Generate New Work: Do another revision of adult Becoming Greg and Emma

  • Shoot for starting this in June. A summer unit. 

Goal 4. Make submissions

  • Submit The Fletcher Farm Body to a specific editor by the end of January.
  • Commit a few units of time every Friday (limiting this kind of work to Fridays) to researching short story/essay markets.
  • Maintain a Friday Marketing Research file in journal to speed up work on preceding objective.
  • Submit a short work every month to avoid binge research/submissions. (Binging takes time away from writing and requires a big effort to bring myself back up to speed with the writing projects I've put aside in order to binge.)
  • Follow short story writers and essayists on Twitter to note where they are publishing.
  • Begin agent search for Becoming Greg and Emma
ASSESSMENT: Wow. Those were some really good objectives. The only ones I formally met were the first and last ones. I have a folder in my journal with agent names and attended an agent program last month. Otherwise, I made five manuscript submissions and two workshop submissions.

Goal 5. Continue to work on community building

  • Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar
  • Get Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar newsletter going by March.
  • Attend Marketing Your Brand (NESCBWI) program on March 7.
  • As part of Friday promotional work, find new ways to promote workshops I offer. (I try to limit promo work to Fridays.)
  • Continue activities with 10-Minute Novelists groups
  • Continue building Twitter presence.
  • Now that the Facebook Author page is gone, be more proactive with blog, content and promotion.
  • Improve my skills as writers' group member.
ASSESSMENT: This one I did much better with. The CCLC is a monthly feature here, and we got the newsletter going this year. I did attend that program in March. I've been busy on Twitter and even started using Tweetdeck. Since dropping the Facebook Author page, I've been far more active on Goodreads. And I like to think I'm becoming a more experienced writers' group member, if not a better one. I did let the 10-Minute Novelists group go, though. Too much activity there. I also attended a number of author presentations.

Goal 6. Continue marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook

  • Use Twitter to make a presence for myself with groups with environmental interests.
  • Continue the Environmental Book Club whenever possible.
  • Look into taking book down from Barnes & Noble and Kobo to take advantage of Kindle. marketing for books exclusive to that company.
  • Look into the expense involved with printing a paper edition. (This would involved negotiating with the cover artist, since our contract only involves a digital edition.)
  • Check out 10 Tips for Selling Your Book on Amazon 
  • Contact more bloggers/sites for promotional opportunities when appropriate. 
ASSESSMENT: Ouch. Except for maintaining a Twitter presence and keeping up (somewhat) the Environmental Book Club, I've let this one go.

Goal 7. General Marketing/Branding

Last summer I added this goal, mainly because I was spending time on things like blogging, tweeting, and Google+, which I felt was a legitimate use of time. But if it was a legitimate use of time, I ought to have a goal for it.


I was only successful with The Mummy Hunters, community building, and general marketing/branding. I was weak on writing and submitting. This is a classic writer problem these days--writers have trouble balancing marketing/keeping their names out in front of the world with actual production so that they have a reason for marketing/keeping their names out in front of the world. I should have known better. What went wrong for me?

  • I had big impulse control problems, which I described earlier this month.
  • I didn't do quarterly check-ins with my goals, check-ins that required me to really concentrate on them, because I was doing weekly check-ins. So long as I could see that I had been working on any goals, I was satisfied. I wasn't paying enough attention to realize that I wasn't working on some goals at all.
  • Personal Life: More family events. I ran two parties for big birthdays, a rehearsal dinner, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I am not a quick, calm host. A holiday meal usually means a couple of days of work for me. 
  • Personal Life: More travel. Altogether, I spent more than a month traveling this year. That did generate blog material, and I do professional reading during those periods. But I'm not generating new work. 

Yes, things will be different next year. Next week, I'll discuss how I hope to make that happen.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Christmas In Books, Part I

I'm going to have to ease myself back into blogging, so I'm going to start with a simple list of my Christmas book purchases for family members. Because that's fun, for me, anyway. I was excited about a lot of these books, but held off writing about them because I do have a couple of relatives who stop by here occasionally.

So here goes:

Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown. This was the perfect gift for our young father of a three-
year-old boy. How perfect was it? Someone got it for him for his first Father's Day. It was, however, the only case this Christmas of people receiving a book from me that they already had.

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey. I listened to the audio edition of this book. It's not just show business talk. There's some contemporary life essays here that I thought would go over with one of our young women. She seemed pleased.

Redshirts by John Scalzi. I was really excited about this one. Some low-ranking crew members on a starship realize that a large number of their colleagues are killed while on away missions. It appears to be a parody of that issue on Star Trek. I gave it to a relative who has more than 200 Star Trek novels in our basement. He didn't seem as taken with the whole concept as I was. You know, if you've read 200+ Star Trek novels, you may not be interested in funny ones. I, however, am. I may try to read this thing at some point.

A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber. This went to a fan of the Honor Harrington books who has also become interested in YA. Beautiful Friendship is the first in a series about one of Honor's ancestors, and it's YA. This was another gift that went over well.

The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff. We have a family member who is a TV archivist/historian, and The Comedians includes TV. Our archivist also received Best Television Plays, edited by Gore Vidal, which I picked up in a used bookstore in Michigan this fall. I was happy with how these were received.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, who is really J. K. Rowling. Our middle school librarian is a big Harry Potter fan. This seemed like a good match.

In the Garden with Van Gogh by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober. I went to a Van Gogh exhibit this summer and got this in the museum gift shop. I gave this to someone who is much more interested in trains than he is in art. So I also gave him a signed copy of Train by Elisha Cooper.

Christmas isn't quite done here. I'll be giving another six books to other relatives next weekend. So My Christmas In Books will continue in about a week.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Know When To Give Up

At Chez Gauthier we are accustomed to trauma at Christmas time. We've had a number of death watches over the years. A funeral on Christmas Day once. One year three of us were sick December 23rd or so with something really nasty that had gone through the Sunday school Christmas pageant the day before. Another time, we had someone find out in mid-December she needed surgery. It turned out well in the end, but the end came well after Christmas.

"Ho, ho, ho." That's irony, right?

This year, once again, we've had a death in our extended family. It's not one of our personal Christmas traumas, but it does mean spending extra time with an older relative down here in Connecticut and a day-long trip to Vermont for time with relatives up there.

Then there's possible jury duty coming up the next day that could mean that I'm taking someone's elder care duty.

And that, my lads and lasses, is why you haven't been seeing much action here at Original Content this past week. And you won't see much action until, maybe, next weekend. Any time or energy I can scrape together will go to finishing the second draft of The Mummy Hunters. Truthfully, I'm not expecting to get much done with that, either.

Look for something you can give up on and NOT DO to help you get through the holiday season, even if Christmas trauma isn't your thing. Ho, ho, ho.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: My 2015 Time Management Disaster

I made a decision in May that knocked me off the time management wagon the rest of the year.

I decided to give up the unit system to work "in bits and pieces" because that work strategy was triggering breakout experiences that were extremely helpful while working on the first draft of The Mummy Hunters. Now, some people would say that the unit system is working in bits and pieces, anyway, because you work for 45-minutes (or another segment of time) and do something else for 15. But I'm talking smaller bits and pieces. Bits and pieces that stopped leading to breakout experiences. Bits that eventually led to pieces spent on-line.

My impulse control is shot.

I did finish a first draft of The Mummy Hunters, though the last portion of that draft was pretty weak. And I've nearly finished a second draft.  But I'm not at all satisfied with how much I've done on other projects these past seven months. Plus the last portion of that second mummy draft is like doing a first draft again, because, as I said, the original first draft was pretty weak. First drafts...Yeah.

In The Throes Of The End Of One Unit Of Time And Eagerly Looking Forward To A New One

I'm hoping to have this second draft done by New Year's Eve. Even with that deadline, I'm struggling to stay on task. Why? My theory is that it's because this deadline involves the end of a year, a significant unit of time. It's an ending. At the end of a unit of time, we're kind of worn out. If nothing else, our willpower, which is finite, is wearing thin. Plus, if you're unhappy with what you've been doing during that unit of time that is almost over, as I am, it's hard to stay psyched. Or is that just me?

That new year that's coming up is an entirely different thing. It's like starting the day over, rested and with impulse control intact. There will be new goals for next year. Hey, everything is going to be different.

It's kind of a Zenny thing, isn't it? We put the old year, the old unit of time, behind us and try to live in the new one.

It's going to be a lot easier for me to do that, if I finish that draft.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Weekend Writer: Publications For Shorter Work--Is Exposure Like Money, But Different?

The Price of Writing by Jennifer Niesslein in Creative Nonfiction is an interesting piece and informative for us. Her essay deals with different types of publications for short writing. Niesslein describes them as existing in three different realms. Whether or not the publications can pay contributors, or even staff, is a factor in determining its realm.

Payment Or Exposure?

A lot has been written over the last couple of years about publications wanting writers to work for nothing. Niesslein refers to one such case involving The Atlantic. Just two months ago, Wil Wheaton wrote about being approached by The Huffington Post, which wanted to republish a piece of his work for no compensation. I've also heard stories about self-publishing writers asking illustrators to work for nothing, on the theory that publishing with them will give the illustrators exposure that will be wonderful for their careers.

The exposure is like money, but different argument, has not gone over well with that portion of the publishing world that creates work and supports itself by doing so. But Niesslein's article gives a different spin to this issue. Some journals that are very "poor" in terms of finances have given their unpaid authors their start in publishing. She gives Brevity, which publishes flash nonfiction and that I thought was quite well known, as an example of a publication in that category. It's been around for eighteen years.

So where should an author submit? In particular, where should new, Weekend Writers submit? Go right for the money and the high-end paying publications? Or hope exposure is like money, and, like Niesslein, look for publications that publish work they like?

Everything In Life Is Situational

This is another one of those things in life that is situational. As Wheaton said about his experience with HuffPost, "I’m very lucky to not need exposure or “reach” or anything like that, at least not right now and not this way...If I’d offered this to Huffington Post for nothing, because I hoped they’d publish it, that would be an entirely different thing, because it was my choice." And as Niesslein said, some people are in a life situation in which they can work for nothing, gaining some connections within the publishing world by doing so.

Do we need to write to pay the rent and feed the kids? Or can we write to support our careers with writing credits? Answering those questions will help us determine our situations and what kinds of publications we can submit our work to.

no editor is getting paid, and writers are paid nothing or almost nothing. - See more at:
When we talk about “the publishing industry,” we’re really talking about three different realms, both in terms of business and writing. - See more at:
When we talk about “the publishing industry,” we’re really talking about three different realms, both in terms of business and writing. - See more at:
When we talk about “the publishing industry,” we’re really talking about three different realms, both in terms of business and writing. - See more at:

Friday, December 11, 2015

"Company's Coming" For #Readukkah

Okay, I know I said I was going to have to pass on Readukkah this year. Then I said I was going to read The Hired Girl after all. Well, let me tell you, Hanukkah is nowhere near as long as I thought it was when I was a kid. ("They get presents for eight days! And nights!") Well, it is eight days, but I only have three of them left to finish reading The Hired Girl and get my Readukkah post posted. That's not going to happen.

However, I had what I would call an interesting Readukkah experience while I was making dinner Wednesday. I kid you not. While I was browning chicken wings, I listened to the Enough with the Holocaust Books for Children! podcast at The Book of Life. In it, panelists discussed an abundance of children's books dealing with the Holocaust while other aspects of Jewish life and history don't get as much attention in children's literature. I particularly enjoyed the bit about wanting to find trashy Jewish YA for those teenage readers who would embrace that. How to make other types of Jewish children's books successful? our panelists asked.

Well, if you listen to the entire podcast, as I did, toward the end the panelists start discussing nonHolocaust Jewish children's titles. Imagine my surprise and delight when one of them mentions Company's Coming by Arthur Yorinks with illustrations by David Small. It is a marvelous picture book that absolutely should not be out of print. (Oh, my gosh. I just discovered there's an oop sequel.)

Company's Coming had a huge impact on my life. The day after I read it to my sons, it inspired my short story, How Mom Saved the Planet, which was later published in Cricket Magazine. And another version of How Mom Saved the Planet became the first chapter of my first book, My Life Among the Aliens. I may not have had a writing career, if not for Company's Coming.

 I just reread this book for this post, because I own a copy. Now that it has been pointed out to me that there is a Jewish vibe to this story, I can see it. The characters have names like Moe and Etta. I can definitely imagine a character in Seinfeld telling this story about one of his family members going over-the-top because unfamiliar dinner guests are expected. "They brought a hostess gift, for crying out loud! When do aliens bring hostess gifts?" (Which is, of course, the punchline/climax in Company's Coming.)  Jerry Stiller could play Moe in a movie. Shirley's voice may have a tone we've come to associate with Jewish characters. "They look like nice boys." "So they look a little different, I'm sure they're friendly."

Now that it has been pointed out to me that there is a Jewish vibe to this story, I can see something deep and subtle going on here--Oh, let it go, Gail. This is a funny book about your favorite type of humor--the culture clash that occurs when two different groups come together. The aliens bumping up against middle aged Jewish characters inspired my books about aliens bumping up against suburban child characters.

Another interesting point I realized about this book this morning: This is a picture book with no child characters and no animal characters filling in for kids. Adult characters, Jewish connection...Some enterprising student in a child lit course could do a big paper on Company's Coming

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Holiday Reading

Readukkah is back on for me! I got my copy of The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz last night.

The extended Gauthier family gave up massive present exchanging a few years back in favor of one of those gift swaps. They don't take much time, so we added various Christmas Day activities to fill in the time. Last year we had a poetry slam. This year I'm conducting a literary salon.  I'll be reading a section from The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. So, yeah, I'm reading that right now.

And, finally, I am actually reading the November-December The Horn Book while it is still November-December. Doesn't the cover look Christmasy? The content hasn't been too Christmas-like yet.

Usually at this time of year I'm reading off the Cybils nomination lists. It helps me catch up with the books that were released recently and supports the Cybils. Since I'm going to be a second-round judge in January, I thought I'd stick to that for my Cybils reading this year, freeing me for seasonal reading. 

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Multipliers

Multipliers are activities that meet more than one goal. This way of using time is the first really new time management concept I've come across in a while. At least, it was new for me when I read about it a couple of weeks ago.

Jennifer Aaker is the name I see most often associated with multipliers. In Rethinking Time: The Power of Multipliers, you can see her speak, and briefly, on the subject.

Multiple Goals, Not Multiple Tasks

Note that we're not talking about multi-tasking here. You're not trying to do more than one thing at a time, something that researchers now say can't be done, anyway. Multi-tasking is simply quickly flipping back and forth between tasks, not working on them simultaneously.

Multiplying is doing just one task that addresses more than one goal. It's the goals that multiply. One activity is working toward more than one of them. That's why you're getting more done. You're not having to work on one goal at a time.

Which Goals?

When I've read about multipliers, the writers played up this strategy as a way of helping people meet personal goals. One example was a parent who has to bring work home and does it with her children while they're doing their homework. She meets a work goal and a parental goal. Another example is a woman who has goals related to fitness and maintaining social connections, so she invites a friend to run/hike/whatever with her. (I've got to pause and say how poorly that would go over in my circle. I mean it. I was part of a social walking group. As my sister would put it, it was like herding cats.)

How about using multipliers on multiple work goals? Because I've been assessing how well I stay on task with goals and objectives this past year, I'd already noticed that I sometimes do take part in activities that meet more than one of this year's work goals. I just hadn't realized it was "a thing," and that maybe I could be thinking about doing it in a more organized, pro-active way.

For instance, The Mummy Hunters draft is a goal for this year. So is community building. When I attend writers' group and we discuss Mummy Hunters, I'm hitting two goals with one activity. When I attend a book fair and use the material here in the blog, which markets me, I'm hitting the community building and marketing goals.

You Need Goals And Objectives To Make Multipliers Work For You


You recall, I'm sure because I'm always yammering about it, that goals are what you want to do and objectives are the tasks you will undertake to achieve the goal. Those objectives/tasks are the activities that you can use to meet more than one goal. To make multipliers work, you have to be aware of your goals and objectives. If you hope to find activities that can meet personal goals, too, you'll need to be thinking about objectives for them even if you don't formally create them. For me, a lot of my reading could be described as a personal goal, something I simply want to do. Yet a lot of my personal reading ends up in this blog, part of my professional marketing goal. (And community building, for that matter.) This post is an example. I read about multipliers in More Magazine, not Poets & Writers.

I've read that the multiplier concept is a new way of thinking about time. But I wonder if it isn't also a new way of thinking about goals and objectives.

Since January will be here shortly, it's time to be thinking about goals and objectives for next year. Try to think about objectives differently so you can try to get more out of them.

Yes, I hope you'll be hearing about this a lot from me next year.

Monday, December 07, 2015

I'm Missing Readukkah

Yesterday was the first day of Hanukkah and the first day of Readukkah, sponsored by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Readukkah is a challenge to read a Jewish book during Hanukkah and review it on-line using the #Readukkah hashtag.

I wanted to take part, but I didn't make a book decision in time. My final choice was The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz, but I don't think I'll be able to get hold of a copy before December 14 when Hanukkah and Readukkah end.

Hey, but other people can take part.

What held me up on book selection was that I would have liked something like The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman, which I read back in September. Except YA or middle grade. I will keep my eye open for Readukkah books for next year.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

The Weekend Writer: Working With Illustrators

10 Things to Know When Working With an Illustrator is a very fine piece by illustrator and editor Marlo Garnsworthy. She's specifically writing about picture books and aims "to include the least you need to know when working with an illustrator and navigating the pre-publishing process." If you're interested in writing picture books and are considering either submitting to a traditional publisher or engaging an illustrator yourself in order to self-publish, you'll want to read what she has to say.

A couple of other thoughts on this subject:

What Do Illustrations Do In A Picture Book?

Years ago, pre-blog, I believe, I heard a art director from a major publishing house give a talk on picture books. She said that illustrations in picture books are not just pictures of something described in the text. Pictures are supposed to carry some of the story. They don't duplicate what you're reading. Description of appearance and action don't appear in the text, they appear in the pictures. 

This information was a revelation to me.

 Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo is an excellent example of what the art director was talking about. At one point, the child narrator says that the city is noisy. The text doesn't describe what causes all the noise. The illustration shows it.

Getting word and image to work together in a picture book is not a simple task. Pay particular attention to Marlo's section "How does the illustration process work?"

Illustrators Don't Grow On Trees

My Aliens books and my Hannah and Brandon Stories had interior art. My publisher found both artists and supervised the work. When I republished Saving the Planet & Stuff as an eBook, I had to commission a new cover. And, yes, yippee, I was self-publishing and was in control of the artwork. But that meant I had to find an artist myself. And that was easier said than done.

What I learned when I went hunting around the Internet for an illustrator is that many of them specialize. Some illustrators specialize in children's art for very young readers. Some work with very realistic art, some less so. Some artists who do cover illustrations specialize in romance images, some fantasy. Finding someone to create a cover was not a quick and easy task. Now think about finding someone to illustrate an entire book.

There All Kinds Of Issues Involved With Working With An Illustrator

Go read 10 Things to Know When Working With an Illustrator.

Friday, December 04, 2015

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Dec. 4 Edition

Since I last did a self-check, which was actually three weeks ago, to make sure I am spending time on on this year's plans, I have worked on the following goals:

Goal 1. The Mummy Hunters. I'm note sure how many chapters I've revised in this period, though I know I finished Eight and am well into Nine. Revising the second half of the book has involved generating a lot of new work. I did 1800 words this past Wednesday, which is enormous for me. I also attended a NESCBWI program where I was able to present this project to two agents. I was happy with the response.

Goal 2. Short pieces. I've made a few notes on a couple of short projects.

Goal 5. Community building. I created this month's Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar, promoted it, sent out the newsletter, and was able to add a couple of new people to the newsletter mailing list. I also attended the Connecticut Children's Book Fair and did a series of blog posts about it. I also promoted those posts.

Goal 7. General marketing. Many blog posts, which were promoted at Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, when appropriate.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Now You Can Get "Original Content" In Your E-Mail

As a result of interest from a reader, we are now offering the option of following Original Content by e-mail. You can submit your address to the left and get OC delivered right to you.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Maybe We Need To Plan Our Holiday Work Ahead Of Time

Well, sprinting wasn't everything I'd hoped for last week. I did get a couple of sprints done on Tuesday, but only one on Wednesday. Over the rest of the week, I got some marketing done (the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar, for instance, posting it, promoting it, e-mailing the newsletter), but little on the revision I need to finish. And, to be honest, I did most of the marketing work in the evening, when I usually do it.

Last year at this time, I was all enthused for a structured hourly sprint system. And I raised the question of using sprinting for writing tasks that don't involve creating new material. Creating new material usually requires getting into a world and staying there a while. Maybe you can do that if you're sprinting for twenty minutes every hour or so, but it's going to be a lot harder to do in twenty minutes a day or twenty minutes over a weekend.

Working on a calendar, checking out a journal as a potential market, making a submission--those are entirely different stories. How much could we get done sprinting if we had the right work planned for the sprints? For a week or more of sprinting?

Of course, that means remembering that we have to do the planning. I think we're talking a goal for next year--planning work for the holidays.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Nana In Her Environment

I considered writing about Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo as part of the Environmental Book Club feature, because Nana lives in a specific environment. But "the city" is not what you'd call a natural environment, at least in the way we think of natural environment. I think it could be argued that cities grow up or evolve in some natural way over time. But not too many people are going to accept that the concrete, metal girders, and glass of the city are natural. So I'll discuss the charming Nana in the City here.

Okay, so this kid's nana lives in the city. The child clearly doesn't, because he finds everything about the city scary. If you know any anxious or high strung preschoolers (or maybe preschoolers, period), this rings very, very true. The book does a very quick, simple job of turning the child narrator's attitude around. The very things about the city that he is uncomfortable about, his nana likes. She's able to make them sound desirable.

Lauren Castillo, who is both author and illustrator, does a great job of using image to carry part of the story. No doubt the committee that awarded her a Caldecott Honor thought so, too.

Friday, November 27, 2015

December Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Another good month for people looking for children's writers in Connecticut. Two authors of a book released this month have a number of appearances scheduled, and Barnes & Noble is running school book fairs that include authors on-site.

Tues., Dec. 1, Martha Ritter, Barnes & Noble, Manchester 5:00 PM

Tues., Dec. 1, Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, Middlebury Public Library, Middlebury 6:30 PM

Wed., Dec. 2, Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, Byrd's Books, Bethel 6:30 PM

Fri., Dec. 4, Martha Ritter, Barnes & Noble, Farmington 6:30 PM

Fri., Dec. 4, Amanda Banikov, Barnes & Noble, Manchester 4:30 PM

Sat., Dec. 5, Suzanne Cordatos, Barnes & Noble, Famington 11:00 AM

Sat., Dec. 5, Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, Barnes & Noble, Waterbury  2:00 PM

Sat., Dec. 5, Martha Ritter, Barnes & Noble, Farmington 1:00 PM

Sat., Dec. 5, Lauren Page, Barnes & Noble, Farmington 3:00 PM

Sun., Dec. 6, Brenna Ehrlich, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 PM

Sun., Dec. 6, Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, Elm Street Books, New Canaan 12:30 PM

Tues., Dec. 8, Pamela Zagarenski, Bank Square Books, Mystic 5:00 PM

Tues., Dec. 8, Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, Southbury Public Library, Southbury 6:00 PM

Tues., Dec. 8., Martha Ritter, Barnes & Noble, Manchester 5:00 PM

Sat., Dec. 12, Lauren Page, Barnes & Noble, North Haven 1:00 PM

Sat., Dec. 12, Janet Lawler, Lord & Taylor Children's Department, West Farms Mall, West Hartford 11 AM 

Sun., Dec. 13, Martha Ritter, Bank Square Books, Mystic 11:30 AM

Sun. Dec. 13, Martha Seif Simpson, "Hands on Hanukkah," Connecticut Post Mall, Milford 2:00 PM

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Blogging Disaster

I was almost done with the December Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar, and it is gone! Nowhere to be found!

In spite of those two exclamation marks, I'm taking having to do this whole thing over again pretty calmly. Because whatever is, is, yeah?

Time Management Tuesday: Okay, We Know What To Do During The Holidays

Every year I struggle with time during the holidays. It's a situational thing. One of my very first Time Management Tuesday posts was on the December Time Suck. For the record, according to the Christmas spark book I mention in that post, we need new lights for the tree this year. That's good to know.

Holiday Time Management Strategies 

No one has time to waste reinventing the wheel between the third week in November and the first week in January, so these holiday time plans come from the Time Management Tuesday archives.

So Here's My Plan For The Rest Of This Week

I'm going to use short units of time to sprint, then use routine to get over it when I'm disappointed in what I get done.

And, yes, I did sprint this morning. A real writing sprint, not a real posting a blog post sprint.

Monday, November 23, 2015

I'm Still Reading About Those Incorrigible Children

I've been committed to the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Mary Rose Wood since book one, The Howling. Though I've been frustrated because it's a hardcore serial, I enjoy the historical and literary references and its Jane Eyrish nature. Maybe a kind of parody Jane.

There's a lot of sly humor in these books, but it does involve understanding some of the literary works and ideas being parodied. I  sometimes wonder if child readers appreciate all the little bits and pieces I like. For instance, I was taken with the flamboyant Russian family in The Unmapped Sea. Are they over-the-top enough that kids will find them funny even if they've never seen or read a heavy Russian drama?

I found this particular volume a little slower going than the others. That may not have been the case, if I'd been able to binge read these books. I'd pretty much forgotten what had happened in the last book, and this is, as I said earlier, a serial. There are story threads, as well as a mystery, that run from book to book.

The Incorrigible Children would have made such a wonderful binge. Unfortunately, I didn't realize how much I enjoyed binge reading when I was getting started reading them or that this was going to be a serial.

Nonetheless I must continue reading, because at the end of The Unmapped Sea our intrepid heroine...  Well, let's just say I think I'll remember that when the next book comes out.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Alan Katz At The Connecticut Children's Book Fair

I saved my Alan Katz post for last, even though he was the third of the presenters I saw at the book fair last Sunday, because I had a particularly interesting experience at his event.

I had never heard of Alan until last month when I was working on the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar. He made another appearance in this state early in November. So when I saw that he'd written a middle grade book called The Day the Mustache Took Over that looked like humor, I thought, Oh, I'll do a nice thing for this author and go to his presentation and maybe write about him because I'm so incredibly nice and I can feel so good about my niceness.

Well. This guy does not need niceness from me.

He's written several books of poetry for children. His work in one of them, Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking, has been compared to Jack Prelutsky's. He has a fascinating background. He describes himself as a "print and television writer," and he's written for Rosie O'Donnell's show (parody songs and humor), animated series, awards shows, game shows, The New York Times, comic books... He sounds very comfortable moving among different types of writing.

Oh, my goodness. Six Emmy award nominations. And a Poetry Foundation bio.

Like Brian Floca, Alan showed us some of his juvenilia. In his case, it was a short story he wrote in third or fourth grade. I was mortified. That thing was good.

Alan did a very engaging presentation with fun for the kids and content for the adults. There was singing. I kid you not. And I didn't mind singing.

So I didn't know anything about this author. I went to his presentation, anyway. Had a good time. Was impressed. I'm going to look for new-to-me writers again when I'm at a book fair.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Brian Floca At The Connecticut Children's Book Fair

Brian Floca is a Caldecott winning illustrator, but I'm a fan because of his nonmedal winning book, Five Trucks. Which, by the way, he mentioned in his Connecticut Book Fair talk last Sunday.

He began his presentation with a slide of his juvenelia. You know, things he'd drawn when he was a kid? I like to think that as a toddler I could have drawn ovalish figures like he did when he was that age. My guess is that our paths diverged probably around second or third grade.

Brian said that as a child, he liked to draw pictures that told stories. Just an hour or so earlier, Jane Sutcliffe talked about seeing a story in the face of Michelangelo's statue David. In both cases, we're talking about a way of looking at art. Which is pretty much all I do with art, if you didn't already pick up on that in the last paragraph.

Sandra Horning also talked about story in her presentation.  In her case, it was the inside story on her books. Brian's inside story on Five Trucks? He was early for a plane and sketched trucks while he was waiting at the airport. He quoted Jack London as saying that part of an artist's job is to go out and look for ideas. But I think some people barely have to look for them. They just see them, which I think the inspiration for Five Trucks illustrates.

Brian also talked about the importance of research for artists. Part of his research for Locomotive involved driving the route of the Transcontinental Railroad. My immediate thought was, what writing project could I get started on that would involve research like that?

Neal Shusterman Takes The Prize

This year I paid a little more attention to what was going on with the National Book Award than I usually do, posting the longlist and finalists for young people's literature.  Last night Neal Shusterman won in that category for Challenger Deep.

The news broke on Twitter as it was happening.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sandra Horning At The Connecticut Children's Book Fair

Sandra Horning, whose unique author appearances I covered last month, also presented at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair on Sunday. This was a chance to see her doing a traditional author talk, so I took it.

Sandra did what she called an "inside story" on each of her three books. Here's what was fascinating about them: The same process that goes into adult work went into her work for very young readers.

You know how the classic advice for writers is "write what you know?" Yeah, Sandra did that. With a Step Into Reading book. Not a lot of words there, folks, but knowledge of one of her interests went into it. The personal inspiration for her first picture book, The Giant Hug, is something you'd expect to hear for a novel.

I was particularly impressed with Sandra's material on her Step Into Reading book, Chicks. The page of editorial comments illustrated that these manuscripts are treated as seriously as future National Book Award contenders.

Sandra made me want to try writing one. But what about?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jane Sutcliffe At The Connecticut Children's Book Fair

Jane Sutcliffe was my original reason for attending this year's Connecticut Children's Book Fair. Jane's a member of my writing group, and I've been acquainted with her for several years through the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. As things turned out, she was a morning presenter, and hers was the first author talk I attended.

Jane talked about the original inspiration for her book Stone Giant: Michelangelo's David and How He Came to Be and how researching it led to another book, Leonardo's Monster. What was particularly interesting about Jane's presentation was her description of seeing the actual David statue in Venice and seeing in the face not just beauty, but a story.

I thought Jane was not just talking about David or her books. She was also talking about how to look at art. Her description of what was going on in David's face and how it related to David's story was amazing and will have an impact on my thinking when I'm looking at art in the future.

Speaking of David's story--I was certainly familiar with Michelangelos's statue, David. And I definitely know much of David's story...David and Goliath, King David, etc. I taught Sunday school for close to a decade and David is sort of the superhero of the Old Testament. I am embarrassed to say that I had not made the connection between the statue David and the Biblical David.

Or if I had, it never hit me the way it did when Jane showed a close up of the statue's face and described what she saw in it and how it related to the story of David and Goliath.

Jane Sutcliffe's Connecticut Children's Book Fair presentation would make a great offering at art museums with children's programs. I wonder if it couldn't be extended into an art history talk for schools, too. 

Time Management Tuesday: Got LEGOs? Seriously.

How To Use LEGOs To Manage Your Time Better describes a method for...uh...using LEGOs to manage time. Notice the author uses LEGOs with the Pomodoro Technique, meaning each of his LEGOs represents 20 minutes. But you could break your day into any units of time and assign each one a LEGO.

Will this just clutter your desk? Maybe. But maybe not. Familiar with the three learning styles, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic? Kinesthetic involves liking handling things, movement, etc., etc.? Could kinesthetic learners prefer to "handle" their time?

Many people have thousands of loose LEGOs floating around their homes. It wouldn't cost them anything to give a LEGO time management system a try.

Monday, November 16, 2015

How Great Was This Year's Connecticut Children's Book Fair?

This year's Connecticut Children's Book Fair was particularly terrific. The four author/illustrator presentations I attended yesterday were so great that I'm going to be giving them each their own blog post this week. I described the fair on Facebook as being like a writers' conference but better because it was free and the author talks only lasted thirty minutes. Also, usually at a conference there's a lot of inconsistency in the offerings. Some are much better than others. But, as I said, I saw four presenters, and they were all excellent.

A Photo Album Today

I got to the fair a little early to check out Elisha Cooper's book, Train. And, yes, that's him over to the right, signing the copy I'm giving to a family member for Christmas.

I stopped to say hello to Barbara McClintock because a couple of years ago, I heard her speak on a panel regarding women in publishing. And, of course, she's a #CTwomanwriter.

You all remember that I am an Ivy + Bean fan, right? I thought that was a good reason to say hello to that series' illustrator, Sophie Blackall.

I always see kids at this book fair, but I don't recall if they turned out for the actual author talks in the past. They certainly did this year.

More on the Connecticut Book Fair will be coming later this week.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Weekend Writer: Ellen Hopkins On Getting Started In Writing

At last week's Connecticut appearance, author Ellen Hopkins was asked for advice for people starting out in writing.

Right off the bat, she offered the same suggestion Roger Sutton did in a recent blog post--read. But she went on to say "read widely across genres." Don't stick to your favorite kind of reading material. There's something to be gained from exposure to different types of writing. On top of that, she advised writing in different genres before settling on the type of writing you're going to do.

She also said everyone should be careful to backup or maintain copies of their work. Which...yes.

Friday, November 13, 2015

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Nov. 13th Edition

Goal 1. The Mummy Hunters. I'm up to Chapter Nine in the revision! I met with my writers' group Monday to discuss the first scene.

Goal 4. Make Submissions. I haven't actually made submissions, but I'm prepping for a day-long meeting with agents and editors in a week. Yeah. Yikes.

Goal 5. Community Building. I attended Ellen Hopkins' local appearance Tuesday evening, blogged about it, and promoted that blog and her appearance. Then there was that writers' group meeting I mentioned above. That was a particularly good time, by the way.

I've also spent some time strategizing what I'm going to do on Sunday when I visit the Connecticut Children's Book Fair. Some writers and illustrators are speaking at some points and then they and others are signing at other times, and if I want to see Author A and Author B and Illustrator A and...Oh, my gosh. Countries have been invaded with less effort.

Goal 6. Marketing STP&S. I've heard again from the Norwegian publishing company interested in permission to use an STP&S excerpt in a textbook. Everything is up in the air. But it's like marketing.

Goal 7. General Marketing. Quite some time ago, I heard in a podcast about creating content strategy calendars. Essentially, for people like me, at least, it's planning how you can repurpose material over your social media platforms. I'd been doing this, anyway, but I'm trying to be a little bit more organized about it. I'm trying to get into a Monday planning habit. What have I written for the blog in the last few days or what am I planning to write this next week that I can republish at Goodreads, either as reviews or on my blog there? What can I link to at the various communities I belong to on Google+? What can I link to at my Facebook communities?  What can I use as Tweets? Using which hashtags? Then, of course, I have to try to do it over the course of the week.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Environmental Book Club

The Horn Book Blog carried a review earlier this month of Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle by Miranda Paul with illustrations by Jason Chin. The reviewer says, "...Water Is Water feels like an engaging story about children who love being out in nature." That sounds right up my alley.

Jason Chin lives in Vermont. I'm quite certain I read about him in a Burlington area publication while I was up north sometime in the last couple of years.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ellen Hopkins In Connecticut

Ellen Hopkins' pile of books.
Author Ellen Hopkins, who has written a pile of books, is touring to support her new YA book, Traffick, as well her adult book, Love Lies Beneath. Last night, she was touring here in Connecticut. She presented some intro material, did a reading, and answered questions.

I am not familiar with Ellen Hopkins' work. However, I found much of what she had to say interesting in terms of writing.

  • Hopkins writes two books a year, spending 3 to 4 months on each book.
  • She's been spending around 100 days a year on the road, but is trying to cut down. She's able to write while traveling. Yesterday she put in 4 hours of writing between a school visit and the store appearance.
  • She receives around 200 messages a day from readers spread among various social media platforms.
  • Her adult novel Triangles and her YA Tilt are companion books. They deal with the same situation from adult and YA points of view. As a writer, I think that's fascinating.
Hopkins attracted a nice crowd at our local Barnes & Noble, including a number of teenagers. Her YA book coming out next year: Chameleon.

She also had some writing advice that I'm save for a Weekend Writer post. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Prepping For Those Rough Times

J. M. Levinton has quite an interesting post, Getting Prepared: How to Write When You Can't, at her blog. She describes how she managed to get some social media work done while she was sick. She had prepared for that eventuality. She had a file of tweets ready to go and another of blog topics, complete with rough drafts. During those times when personal life overwhelms, she could at least keep on keeping on with social media.

Work can overwhelm, as well. Having social media topics and drafts filed away can help out when you're dealing with deadline pressures or rushing to get ready for an appearance.

And how about planning smaller projects for squeezing in when traveling, during holidays, or while you're getting ready for those appearances I just mentioned? And then you can always have some light professional reading ready for those hours you spend in motel rooms without On Demand or your dvr. (It's like being sent back to the Dark Ages.)

Seems a little obsessive, doesn't it? But not working makes some of us anxious. This is a way to plan to take care of our anxiety.

This post was written weeks ago. It's being posted today because I'm trying to finish a manuscript revision before the twenty-first and am going to be out several evenings this week.