Saturday, August 29, 2015

September Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

The school year begins, and we have a little more happening.

Sat., Sept. 12, Elizabeth Howard, Elm Street Books, New Canaan Noon to 2:30 PM

Sat., Sept. 12, Sandra Horning, Bracken Memorial Library, Woodstock Academy, Woodstock 10:00 AM

Sat., Sept. 12, Erin Bowman, Barnes & Noble, Canton 1:00 PM

Thurs., Sept. 17, Brian Selznick, First Congregational Church (sponsored by R.J. Julia), Madison 7:00 PM Ticketed event

Fri., Sept., 18, Brian Selznick, von der Mehden Recital Hall, UConn, Storrs 7:00 PM

Sat., Sept. 19, Marcia Goldman, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM

Thurs., Sept. 24, R.L. Stine and Marc Brown, First Congregational Church (sponsored by R. J. Julia), Madison 5:00 PM Ticketed event

Fri., Sept. 25  Leslie Bulion, Durham Fair Youth Exhibit,  School groups will visit with Bulion. Other fair goers can check the daily schedule for presentation times.

Sun., Sept. 27, Local Author Extravaganza including unnamed children's authors, Barnes & Noble, Glastonbury 12:00 PM 

Friday, August 28, 2015

What Did You Do Last Week, Gail? August 28th Edition

Goal 1. The Mummy Book. I'm not talking about it. Except for...the 1600 words I did today! Which is massive for me. No commenting on that fact, please.

Goal 5. Community Building. Finished the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar. The e-mail newsletter is being prepared. Submitted an application to become a Cybils' second-round judge. Made an initial contact about doing a guest post at another blog. Got into a community discussion at a Connecticut women writers' Facebook page. Took part in a blog tour.

Goal 7. General Marketing/Branding I got a blog post done for posting while I'm on vacation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Today's Stop On The "Fab Four Friends" Blog Tour: Those Boys Could Work

 I may be the only blogger taking part in the Fab Four Friends blog tour who is not a major Beatles fan. I enjoy the music, respect the musicians, but never wanted to marry Paul. I was very taken with the Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles by Susanna Reich with illustrations by Adam Gustavson, but not because I think the next generation absolutely must be exposed to these musicians. Instead, I liked Reich's portrayal of "the boys" training themselves to live a life with music.

Reich writes about John Lennon rehearsing in his mother's bathroom with some "mates." "...pounding out souped-up folk songs and some rock 'n' roll. They had no idea how to play, but they loved making noise--lots of noise!" He met Paul McCartney when Paul saw him playing at a church fair. John was impressed because Paul could tune a guitar correctly. The two of them got together "bashing away" on guitars. "Most of the time they tried to imitate the hard-driving songs on the radio." "If only they could figure out the chords!" George Harrison seems to have been better at working out those. "...he knew a lot of chords." When he came into the picture, he taught them to John and Paul.

Reich also covers the Hamburg (still pre-Ringo) period. To digress, just a little, Malcolm Gladwell writes in Outliers about the significance of Hamburg for the Beatles. The many hours of performing, he claims, contributed to the thousands of hours of practice he believes is necessary to become proficient at a skill. When they left Germany, Reich says, George was only seventeen years old. They had put in all that time and effort when they were still what most of us would consider kids.

Fab Four Friends is for young readers, and the title itself is all about youth. "Friends," is one of the biggest concerns of childhood. "Boys," is a state of childhood. What I like so much about this early Beatles' story is that it addresses how hard these guys worked while they were very young. Yes, they were still young when they became successful. But the success didn't come until after they'd worked. They didn't just toss up the 1960's version of a YouTube video and become international stars.

This picture book group bio is probably most appropriate for older gradeschoolers. However, I wonder if it wouldn't also be a good choice for reluctant readers on the middle school level.

Tomorrow's stop for the blog tour will be at Tales from the Rushmore Kid.  You can catch everything Fab Four here.

Correction: This post originally stated that both George and Paul left Germany because the authorities there found out they were under 18. Only George went back to England for that reason.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Managing The Beast That Is Twitter With Tweetdeck, Part 1

Social media is important to writers, whether it really works or not. It takes up a lot of time, whether it really works or not. Soon after getting started on Twitter, I looked into one of the programs that's supposed to allow users to schedule tweets because that's supposed to help with the time part. It looked so complicated, I thought it would just be easier to keep doing what I was doing. Whether it really worked or not.

This past Fourth of July, my nephew, who is part of a group blog and a Twitter user, told me about Tweetdeck. What interested me was that in addition to using it to schedule tweets, he said he used it to check out interests/hashtags and find new people to follow. Following others is a way to increase your own followers. I thought, Who doesn't want more followers? So I decided to look into it.

It took a while to get the hang of it, but I'm loving Tweetdeck now. It is a time saver. Additonally, I can save you some learning time by explaining what I did, so you can do it without dealing with my struggles.

Twitter page--Masses of tweets lost in one column
What Is Tweetdeck?

Tweetdeck page--Masses of tweets in multiple columns by subject
Like everything else in life, all the information the Tweetdeck people give you makes sense, once you understand it. Until then, think of Tweetdeck as a way of organizing your Twitter stream. I go further and think of it as a filing system. I understand filing. Good filing makes a difference in managing time. When you have hundreds of pieces of paper, if you can break them up into categories and organize them that way, you can find what you want. When you have thousands of tweets, if you can break them up into categories and organize them that way, you can find what you want. Or more of what you want, anyway.

Getting Started

Quite honestly, when I went to Tweetdeck the first time, my Tweetdeck page came up with columns called "Home" (which was my Twitter feed from my regular Twitter page), "Notifications," and "Messages." "Notifications" and "Messages" were the same "Notifications" and "Messages" that appear in the drop down menu on a regular Twitter page. (Twitter owns Tweetdeck now, you might have guessed.) They were just in columns so I could see them immediately without having to make any effort.

So Tweetdeck gave me my start. My starting point was what I had on my traditional Twitter page, but organized in columns.

Building On The Start

Look for the black column on your left
To build on your start, you're going to want to add more columns. To do that, all you have to do is go over to that narrow black column on the far left that I've done such a poor job of copying for you. Look for the + sign. You know, + as in add

When you hit that, you get a screen full of options  that you can, indeed, add to your Tweetdeck page. They are all different kinds of columns.

Remember, the Home column is your traditional
Screen full of options
Twitter feed. If, like me, you removed your Home and Notifications columns, you can easily put them back up. If, like me, you put everyone you followed on Twitter into lists the moment you followed them, you can make columns for any of those lists. You can make columns for any of the subjects you see here.

Hit one of these options, follow the instructions. Be sure to hit "Add Column" at the bottom of the screen. (That's right. I didn't do that at first and couldn't understand why nothing was happening.)

But What About Hashtag Columns, Gail?

Now this is where I can really save you some time. I had to do some hunting to figure this one out.

To make a hashtag column, you select "Search" from that screen full of options. Ta-da! In the little box that pops up, you type #whateveryouwant. By that I mean whatever hashtag you want to make a column for. Once you do, you'll get the box to your left. I ignore everything in it and hit "Add Column."

Now, what if you want to cut down on the number of columns by including two hashtags in one of them instead of one hashtag in two of them? Bless you, Alice Keeler at Teacher Tech for 'splaining how to do this, because I really wanted to give it a go.

This is one of those things that is mind-bogglingly simple, once you know how to do it. In that little box that pops up when you select "Search" you type both the hashtags you want to search for separated by the word "OR." As in:

#graphicnovels OR #comics

Whatever you do, don't type:

#graphicnovels AND #comics

If you use "AND," you'll only get tweets that use both hashtags. OR means you'll get tweets with either hashtag. This OR vs AND  thing is supposed to have something to do with Boolean logic, whatever the hell that is. But it's a cool term to use, and this is probably going to be my only chance, so there it is.

In case you hadn't noticed, you need to cap the OR.

So this is the how-to portion of our program. Next week I'll cover my positive experience with Tweetdeck once I figured out this stuff. I'll include scheduling tweets and attaching images.                                       


Saturday, August 22, 2015

What Did You Do Last Week, Gail? A Day Late

Goal 1. The Mummy Book. Did I make any progress on this at all? Mmm. I did come up with the big idea for the ending last weekend. But how to get there? Late Thursday afternoon I began thinking about Osiris and Isis. Yeah, maybe they will help.

Goal 5. Community Building. Worked on the Connecticut Children's Calendar.

Goal 7. General Marketing/Branding. Blogging. Tweeting. Yada yada. Also listened to a very good podcast today that I'll be writing about some Time Management Tuesday.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cybils Awards Looking For 2015 Judges

My legions of long-term fans are well aware of my love for the Cybils awards, because I've written about them a number of times. Since the award is celebrating its tenth year, yes, a "number of times" means "a lot."

On Monday, the Cybils put out the call for this year's judges. If you are an active children's/YA lit blogger, you may want to consider taking part.

I may apply to be a Round 2 Judge this year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Personal Shirley Jackson Photo Album

Okay, so get this. We were in Bennington, Vermont this past weekend. The North Bennington section of Bennington is where Shirley Jackson lived with her husband and children. Saturday night, after dinner, we did a Shirley Tour. I used information from these readings to plan it. I can't be certain of that info's accuracy, but it provided me with an incredible hour.

Where to begin?

Let's start with the house the Jackson family lived in. This turned out to be pretty easy to find because some of those other sites I mentioned gave her street name and included pictures of the house. I'm not going to name the street for the sake of the people who live there now. I am showing my gratitude, because no one called the police on me while I was there taking the pictures I'm showing you.

We hadn't been on the street long, when I started shouting, "That's it! That'sitthat'sitthat'sit!" My husband's immediate response was, "Perhaps I should drive."

I am not totally without shame. This side view of the house was the first picture I took, because I thought it was less intrusive than standing across the road and taking a picture head on. I got over that. We even have a picture of me standing in front of the house. It is not flattering of the house. Oh, who am I kidding? It's not flattering of me.

What I'm showing you now is the street leading up the hill to the Jackson house. I've read that Shirley was pushing a stroller up this street when she got the idea for The Lottery. Needless to say, I walked up it, too.

According to my reading, Shirley based the town green in The Lottery on Lincoln Square in North Bennington. Sure enough, Lincoln Square is right down the hill from the Jackson house. I don't remember a fountain in The Lottery, but the plaque I found suggests it wasn't there back in Shirley's day.

I'd read that I shouldn't expect to see any remembrance of Shirley in the Bennington area. However, Lincoln Square has an array of commemorative bricks, and there's one there for Shirley and The Lottery.

Finally, I read just last week that Shirley did her grocery shopping at Powers Market. Yowsa! It is still there! Talk about nerve! Not only did I have my picture taken in front of it (again, I did not flatter the store), I looked in the windows. (It was closed.) The interior looks remarkably like the interior of a store at a crossroads in Whiting, Vermont when I was a girl. We only went in for things like ice cream and bread, but I sort of shopped at a store like the one where Shirley shopped!

Powers Market is across from Lincoln Square, and they are both at the foot of that hill Shirley walked up with her stroller while she came up with The Lottery. It makes for a tight little loop, down to the store and back. I wonder how often she made it. A website about the town of North Bennington includes this line: "...her biographer, Judy Oppenheimer, describes a strained relationship between Shirley Jackson and the villagers of North Bennington." I've read that sort of thing frequently over the last few years. And now I can think about Shirley walking down that hill and back with a small child, probably over and over and over again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: A Beginning And Ending Rerun

I'm working on a big TMT post on the wonders of Tweetdeck. However, Blogger won't let me use my screenshots, which I really want for illustration. So I need some more time to work that out with my computer guy, who is not going to be happy about this. I also need to work on next month's Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar.

Most of all, I am rushing/struggling to finish the mummy draft before Labor Day Weekend because I'm leaving for a trip the next day. I have a specific unit of time in which to do this, this summer, which is ending soon. When I get back from vacation, a new unit of time will start, one in which I want to do some other things related to the mummy project, but not the first draft.

Since I am experiencing the end of a unit of time (something I always find exciting, even if there is pressure) and coming up on the beginning of another (exciting, exciting, exciting.), I've decided that rerunning a blog post from June 19, 2012, one on beginnings and endings, will make the best use of my time today. It also introduces the idea of situational time management. Indeed, the end of this summer unit of time I'm working with means that I am dealing with a specific situation--finishing up--totally different from the situation I'll be dealing with when I'm back at work in October. Different situations require different time management from us.

 The Significance Of Beginnings And Endings

When I say that beginnings and endings are significant, I'm talking about the beginnings and endings of units of time, not manuscripts.

The beginning of a new calendar year (I've written many times here, I'm sure, about how much I love the month of January), a new school year, and summer times, huh? We tend to get excited about our plans for "new" blocks of time. Oh, what we're going to do this Christmas season! NaNoWriMo! May Days! If we can perceive some upcoming time as something new, as something different, a change, it's far easier to believe that we can make a change in how we're going to behave in that new chunk of time than it is to believe we can just change what we're doing now in this ho-hum unit of time we've been living in.

If we think about the unit system I wrote about back in February and the research that suggests that people are productive for the first 45-minutes that they work, there may be some logic to our love of new beginnings. Experience has taught us that we're more productive when we start something new, and we like feeling productive. We like the surge of starting something new. I swear, we once got new living room furniture, and just that change led me to start a new plan to keep everyone from eating in the living room. That probably didn't even last 45-minutes, but I remember the rush I felt not because I had a new couch and two new chairs all at the same time, but because the new furniture changed something and I was going to do something different because of it.

The end of a unit of time is a different story, particularly if things haven't gone well during the time period that is drawing to a close. Take last week for me, for instance. I ended up taking one elder to a doctor's appointment on Monday, wasting a lot of time Tuesday reading a book (on my Kindle!), visiting an elder on Wednesday, visiting the first elder again on Thursday (as well as doing life maintenance work while I was out of the house). It got to be mid-day Friday, and I thought, Ah, the week was wasted, anyway, I might as well surf the 'Net. And start again next week when a new unit of time will begin.

In this situation, you can see the parallels between applying self-discipline to work and applying self-discipline to "problems" such as eating, smoking, etc. Oh, this day of dieting is ruined, anyway, because I ate a second cupcake. I might as well eat a couple more and start again tomorrow. How much time is wasted at the end of a bad work unit because we're too disappointed in what we've accomplished to continue? And how to make better use of that time?

Well, yes, we could suck it up and apply some self-discipline, but if you aren't aware that I'm low on that, you haven't been reading this blog regularly. I wanted to come up with another way to make better use of those bad ending hours. While driving home from my taekwondo class last night, I did. (This is an example of a breakout experience, by the way. I'd been thinking about this situation for three days, and an idea for a solution came to me after an hour of practicing joint locks and knife defense.)

Doing absolutely anything work-related during those lost hours at the end of a unit of time  would be better than just blowing them off because things didn't turn out the way we planned in the days leading up to them. Anything. So we can keep fallback work to do then. For writers, this will not be difficult. We have piles of promotional work, research, projects that we've started and not finished that we could shift to when we realize that we're blowing off time. Filing. Checking up on the status of submissions. A table covered with three inches of books and paper in the office. (Oh? That's just me?) Getting some of this stuff done will positive in and of itself, but getting it done will also free up time in the future for other kinds of work. Win-win, as they say.

How am I going to do those things when I've just mentioned that I'm weak on self-discipline? The plan (And I love a plan! It's as if I'm starting a new unit of time!) is to plan for those situations. The plan is to have fallback tasks ready for when the first task doesn't pan out.

I am going to call this Situational Time Management. I will write more about it next week, since I just came up with the idea as I was getting off the stationary bike less than two hours ago. Any idea benefits from thought.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Blog Tour For "Fab Four Friends" Underway Now

I am going to be taking part in the blog tour for Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles by Susanna Reich with illustrations  by Adam Gustavson. The tour starts today at Booktalking. The rest of the tour stops:

Tuesday, August 18 Shelf-Employed 

Wednesday, August 19 

Thursday, August 20 Elizabeth Dulemba

Friday, August 21 Maurice on Books

Tuesday, August 25 Kidsbiographer's Blog

Wednesday, August 26 Original Content

Thursday, August 27 Tales from the Rushmore Kid 

Friday, August 28 Alphabet Soup


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Where's Shirley?

I'm in Bennington, Vermont this weekend because we're hitting a museum in Massachusetts and going biking. Bennington was the Vermont home of Shirley Jackson, with whom I've been obsessed since high school.

I've collected some Shirley Jackson Vermont reading to do while I'm up here.

Shirley Jackson and The Lottery/North Bennington

Shirley Jackson's Outsider Perspective of Bennington, Vermont

Shirley Jackson Road Trip, the report I'm really looking forward to this one.

Shirley Jackson Day Returns to North Bennington

Shirley Jackson's 'Life Among the Savages' and 'Raising Demons' Reissued

And, to be honest, I brought my copies of Life Among the Savages and The Lottery/Adventures of the Daemon Lover with me, so they could have the experience of being in the same town where Shirley lived. I've had The Lottery so long it smells of mildew. I hate when that happens.

I hope to have at least one Jackson-related photo to share before the weekend is over.

Friday, August 14, 2015

What Did You Do Last Week, Gail? August 14 Edition

Goal 1. Mummy Book. Honest to God, I'm making progress. Finished last week's chapter, did this week's chapter, and started a third one. I think I have maybe three chapters, tops, to go on this draft and a little over three weeks to do it. Allez, allez, allez!!!!

Goal 5. Community Building. I did a little work regarding a blog tour I'm taking part in later this month. I also rated a book at Goodreads. And yakked with a friend about it at Facebook, which is like community building but different.

Goal 7. General Marketing/Branding. I'm going to be on vacation for 3 weeks next month. This week I decided to stock pile a few blog posts for that period instead of going dark for the whole time. I've been liking how my stats have been doing this summer, and I don't want to risk them by not posting for 3 weeks. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Okay. Let's Talk Some Professional Reading

Yes, as usual I am behind reading The Horn Book. The July/August issue is floating around here somewhere. I've finished the May/June special Transformations issue, though.

I'm not a big fan of theme issues of anything. However, there were some articles that grabbed my attention in this one.

  • From Series to Serious by Thom Barthelmess. This made me understand the value of series fiction, the kind I haven't paid that much attention to in the past.
  • What Makes a Good Nonfiction Adaptation? by Betty Carter. This was about creating childlit adaptations of adult nonfiction.
  • Alice, the Transformer by Monica Edinger. This is a neat account of using Alice in Wonderland in the classroom.

Among the magazine's reviews were many for books by authors whose names we see a lot in children's publishing. Among the reviews for authors I hadn't heard of, one I found particularly interesting was the review for Nimona, a graphic novel written and illustrated by Noelle Stevenson. It "tweaks both the science fiction and fantasy genres."  And look! You can read the first three chapters on-line.

Okay, people. You are ready to move on to the new issue of Horn Book.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Not Recommending Guilt And Emotional Blackmail, But...

To be honest, I fell off the time management wagon this summer. I'm trotting along beside it, at least. I wasn't left in a heap in the road. But I am not working like a well oiled machine.

Summer is a situational time management problem for many writers who are also primary caregivers for school-age children. The issue was discussed last night at writers' group. I am having a situational issue, but it's not around my personal life. I am pushing through on the rough draft of a new work.

Different Types Of Writing

Generating new work is dramatically different from revising. I find it much more difficult, for example.

I'm an organic writer, so it's hard for me to isolate a plot from the entire story and get that lined up before I start working. Or even while I'm working. I have to work on the story as an entire organism.  As a result, I find myself doing lots of revising as I go along. If I'm stuck because I don't know how to move forward, I'll go back and revise. That actually does help, but what it has meant is that over these past four or five months I've spent a lot of time revising this particular work. So when I got to the point of new work, I, shall we say, was not accustomed to it?

Situational Writing? 


What I've been doing a lot of this summer while drafting new work is looking for breakout experiences, those moments when things just come to you. I described my method at the beginning of June:

I started running with the bits and pieces plan.

The last few weeks instead of getting my usual life activities out of the way and then getting into my four or five hours of work time, I took a look at my manuscript first thing in the morning and then did something else. I went back to the manuscript, then went back to something else. Over and over again while I was at the "something else," I worked out problems with the manuscript or came up with new idea.

This is a first draft. I have trouble with first drafts. Generating new material is not my favorite thing to do. I'm wondering if maybe when I'm in a first draft situation this is how I should be managing my time. Maybe this should be first draft process for me.
As I said then, I thought of this as being one of those situational things. Perhaps when I am working in this type of situation, in first draft mode, this is how I need to work. And I believe I have only a couple of chapters to go on this first draft. So it could be said to be working.

But I am functioning in a totally random way. I'm not working in units. I'm not using transition time. I'm not staying on task. I'm not shifting between projects the way I feel I should. And I have to wonder...if I had forced myself to just look at this #!!@ monitor for 45 minutes at a time instead of cooking up breakout experiences the way I've been doing, just because it feels easier and less stressful, would this thing be done by now?

Which brings me to Can Anything "Make" You Write? by Gina Barreca. Her time management technique appears to involve guilt and emotional blackmail. "So what if it’s not healthy? You want to be emotionally balanced, swim with the dolphins. You want to write? Learn to deal with the sharks." I definitely refuse to use guilt as a motivator, because according to Kelly McGonigal (who I kind of worship), it's supposed to undermine willpower, and God knows, it's not as if I have so much of that that I can afford to risk undermining any of it. But I am leaning on emotional blackmail right now.

Right after Labor Day, I'm leaving on a lengthy vacation. I am leaving whether I have finished this draft or not. How much I enjoy it, however, will be determined by whether or not I finish.

I'm going back to work, damn it.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

The Weekend Writer: Are Writers' Groups Always A Good Thing?

Tomorrow night is my writers' group meeting. I just finished reading The 4 Hidden Dangers of Writing Groups by Jennie Nash at Jane Friedman. I've got to hustle to put some of what I've read into practice by then. This thing could make a whole new Writers' Group Gail.

I've written about writers' groups before. The 4 Hidden Dangers thing looks at them from a different angle. Yes, it covers aspects that could be problems, but it provides suggestions on how to deal with them. In fact, it's sort of like a personal mini-workshop on writers' groups.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Marc Tyler Nobleman On Biography And Historical Nonfiction

I was just writing about historical nonfiction here on Monday. Last night I spent an hour listening to Marc Tyler Nobleman's talk at the Richmond Memorial Library. He was speaking specifically about two of his books, Boys of Steel and Bill the Boy Wonder, biographies about mid-twentieth century comic book writers and illustrators. Boys of Steel is about the co-creators of Superman, and Bill the Boy Wonder is about the uncredited co-creator of Batman. So, there you go. I'm writing about historical nonfiction again.

Nobleman's description of his books and how he went about writing them illustrate a couple of points made in a Horn Book article from a few years back on contemporary children's historical nonfiction.
  1. Children's history books are no longer simplified versions of subjects that were already covered for adult readers. Instead, they often involve new research. Nobleman describes lengthy searches for the pictures of the childhood homes of some of his subjects and finding and interviewing people who had never even been contacted before. Some of these people are now dead, so no one is going to be interviewing them again.
  2. Because children's writers often seek out new topics to write about, it's not unusual to find children's books that are the first on a subject or even the only book on a subject. That's the case with the titles discussed last night. Boys of Steel was the first stand alone book on Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Bill the Boy Wonder is still the only book on Bill Finger.
Attending last night's talk so soon after reading Jane Sutcliffe's The White House Is Burning makes me wonder if children's historical nonfiction won't become another area in children's literature that attracts adult readers. Well-organized presentation and new research on little-known subjects--who wouldn't want to read that?