Wednesday, September 30, 2015

October Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Holy Smoke! I had to work on this thing in motel rooms, so, of course, there were all kinds of appearances this month to keep me busy. The CASL/CECA conference at the end of the month is for two professional groups, but is included in the calendar because of the large number of New England authors who will be featured there. Most of us won't be able to go see them, but it's cool to know they're there.

Thursday, Oct. 1, Holly Goldberg Sloan, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5 PM

Friday, Oct. 2, Alan Katz, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:30 PM

Saturday, Oct. 3,Karin LeFranc, Barnes & Noble, Manchester 11 AM

Saturday, Oct. 3, Jane O'Connor, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 3 PM

Saturday, Oct. 3, Linda Laudone, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1 to 3 PM

Sunday, Oct. 4, Cece Bell, New Canaan Library, New Canaan, 3 PM 

Monday, Oct. 5, Karma Wilson, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:30 PM 

Wednesday, Oct. 7, Christine Pakkala, Barnes & Noble, Westport 7 PM

Thursday, Oct. 8, Kenneth Oppel, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5:30 PM

Thursday, Oct. 8, Matt Davies, Wilton Library (sponsored by Elm Street Books), Wilton 4 PM

Friday, Oct. 9, Gail Carson Levine, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5 PM

Monday, Oct. 12, 19, 26, Pegi Deitz Shea, Mark Twain House, Hartford 6 to 8 PM  Six-week class with registration fee.

Monday, Oct. 12, Sandra Horning, Paul's & Sandy's Too, East Hampton 11 to 1 PM

Saturday, Oct. 17, Karin LeFranc Barnes & Noble, Milford 11 AM 

Saturday, Oct. 17, Karin LeFranc, Barnes & Noble, Enfield 1 PM

Sunday, Oct. 18, Karin LeFranc, Simsbury Public Library, Simsbury 2 to 4 PM
Sunday, Oct. 18, Sandra Horning, Rose's Berry Farm, South Glastonbury 10 AM to 12 PM
Sunday, Oct. 18, Sandra Horning, Lapsley Orchard, Pomfret Center 2 to 4 PM
Saturday, Oct. 24, Karin LeFranc, Barnes & Noble, Canton 2 PM

Monday, Oct. 26, Laura WoollettConnecticut Association of School Librarians/Connecticut Educators Computer Association Joint Conference, Mohegan Sun, Uncasville  Other authors appearing: Elise Broach, Leslie Bulion, Katie L. Carroll, Deborah Ann Davis, Mark Edlitz, Sarah Darer Littman, Michaela MacColl, Page McBrier, Hannah McKinnon, Jennifer Moncuse, Christine Pakkala, Dana Meachen Rau, Susan Ross, Pegi Deitz Shea, and Gail Whitmore.
Thursday, October 29, Karin LeFranc,  R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM
Saturday, October 31, Karin LeFranc, Barnes & Noble, Stamford 1 PM

UPDATED October 1, 2015 with new appearances.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: New Energy

"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..." "If we think about the unit system...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."

Who said that? Yeah. That was me.

Ready To Work


"Excited" is too strong a word for how I'm feeling about getting back to work after vacation. However, because I pretty much finished a draft before heading out of Dodge earlier this month, I feel as if I'm starting something new now that I'm back. Because I am. I'm starting a revision. The fact that a new month starts on Thursday adds to that notion that I'm starting a new unit of time. Because a month is, indeed, a unit of time. In addition, my May Days group is getting ready to do an October project, which I'm going to use for that revision. Another new beginning.  Then here at Chez Gauthier we're planning to do another October purge, getting rid of unnecessary material things so we don't have to spend time taking care of them.
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan

What I'm feeling is...maybe...confidence. As I said before, experience has taught me that I'm more productive when I'm getting started on something new.

How Do You Keep That New Smell?

Newness doesn't last. But can we keep getting that renewed feeling somehow?

Maybe we can by using big units of time, just as some of us use short ones in our work day. Breaking our day into short work increments helps to make us believe we're starting our day over and over again, tricking the old mind into thinking it has as much willpower at two in the afternoon as it did when we got out of bed. Breaking our months and years into short-term work units could help us feel we're starting something over and over again, too. It could be why National Novel Writing Month works for many people. It's only thirty days, not the months and months I worked on that first draft earlier this year. I was dragging at the end of that.

As it turns out, I have those two October projects I'm starting this week--revising with the May Days group and trashing whatever I can in my house--to use to give this a shot. I'm tinkering with a plan for December, too. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blogging The Limberlost Finale: Speculating About What Gene Stratton-Porter Was Doing

The Splendid Gene Stratton-Porter


In front of Gene's great house
Last weekend I visited Gene Stratton-Porter's Cabin at Wildflower Woods in Rome City, Indiana. Prior to moving to Rome City, she lived in the Limberlost Swamp for eighteen years before it was drained. But because of some confusion over where Geneva, Indiana is, I wasn't able to coordinate hitting that site, too.

Reading "Limberlost" on Gene's great porch
While at the Cabin at Wildflower Woods, though, I learned that Stratton-Porter was a multi-talented and remarkably successful woman. She was a published nature photographer and taught herself to develop her own pictures. She was a nature writer on top of her fiction writing. Her writing was so popular and sold so well that, while her well-to-do husband paid for their home in the Limberlost, Stratton-Porter paid for the one at Wildflower Woods. Oh, and she designed it herself with an open floor plan that would go over very well on HGTV.
Great library where Gene dictated to secretary

She had problems with fans showing up at her home. Her books were being made into movies, but, according to our museum guide, she was dissatisfied with what Hollywood was doing with them. She became ill during the flu  pandemic after WWI. While she survived it, it impaired her health. So because California is legendary for two things--the movies and the weather--she headed out there to start her own film company and maintain her health. If she hadn't been killed when a streetcar hit her car, she might have established herself in still another field.

Why Was Her Writing So Loved, Making Her So Successful?

Notice I said "loved." It wasn't necessarily well-regarded. Our guide at Wildflower Woods pointed out that critics didn't embrace Stratton-Porter's work. They found it "too sugary" and "overly sentimental and romantic."

Now I've only read one of her books. But by the writing standards of our day, A Girl of the Limberlost has a number of problems. The main character is "sugary" and perfect. She is successful at all she does. She doesn't do a lot in terms of resolving her own issues, either. As I said before, "saviors" keep stepping forward to do that. Other characters are far more interesting than she is. Today we would consider the book to have structural problems. A thread is introduced early on regarding a human threat to Elnora that is just dropped. So is a male character. And what's with the Billy the Orphan Boy thread? What does he have to do with Elnora? The book becomes a romance, but that element isn't introduced until well after the mid-point. Important characters are introduced very late. At the end of the book, there is a scene involving children playing Indian. Yes, nowadays most people would find it cringe-worthy. But, additionally, it has no purpose. It doesn't support any element of the book. Back then it was probably considered a cute, sentimental episode, but it's hard to see how it was necessary.

So why did readers love it so?

Poor Country Girl Takes On Society City Folk And Wins, Wins, Wins

I think what A Girl of the Limberlost is really about is the romanticizing of rural people. Elnora is introduced to us as a poor, ill-dressed girl attending the town school as a miserable outsider. With the help of the neighbor folks who provide her with the right clothes, she is well on her way to being loved by all. She beats everyone academically. She takes up the violin, and within in three years is so good that she's performing in public. She is too good to try to steal the well-to-do city boy who shows up in the swamp away from his socialite girlfriend. But her incredible superiority attracts him, anyway. He advises her to "give up the college idea. Your mind does not need that sort of development. Stick close to your work in the woods. You are becoming so infinitely greater on it, than the best college girl I ever knew." He also tells her that "The world never so wanted your message as it does now. It is hungry for the things you know."

Another character announces that the town where he is living with his family is "secure while the children are so small, but when they grow larger, we are going farther north, into real forest, where they can learn self-reliance and develop backbone." Even the society girlfriend who has lost her fiance to Elnora says to her new man, "If you could have your choice you wouldn't have a society wife, either. In your heart you'd like the smaller home of comfort, the furtherance of your ambitions, the palatable meals regularly served, and little children around you...I'll be the other kind of a girl, as fast as I can learn. I can't correct all my faults in one day, but I'll change as rapidly as I can."

The "other kind of a girl" she's talking about, of course, is the kind Elnora is. Elnora's knowledge of rural ways, of the natural world, makes her superior.

This was a message that, I'm speculating, readers of Stratton-Porter's time wanted to hear.

And Why Did They Want To Hear It?

Remember, this book was published in 1909. At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, America was undergoing a demographic shift. It was going from being an agrarian, rural country to an industrialized, urban one. In A Girl of the Limberlost, Stratton-Porter was romanticizing the recent past and creating a sentimental portrayal of the life people were leaving behind.

In the September/October issue of Poets & Writers, Jeremiah Chamberlin argues in Know Thyself: The Linguistics of Place that many of his students "just don't interact with or have a connection to the rural any longer." This is due to the population shift Stratton-Porter's readers were living through. Chamberlin's students, he believes, see rural characters in fiction as unbelievable if they are eloquent about their emotional life or have any knowledge or understanding of themselves.

I'm thinking that a hundred years ago, Gene Stratton-Porter's readers definitely had a connection with the rural. Not only did they find rural characters who were eloquent about their their emotional lives believable, they wanted to read about them.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Blogging The Limberlost: The Limberlost Provides. But That's All That's Happening Environmentally Here.

A Girl of the Limberlost is the first book I can recall reading that involves characters who appreciate the natural world they're part of but exploit it without seeming to have any thought that
they should or could do anything to preserve it.

Things Are Changing In That Old Swamp Of Mine

As I said last time, Elnora recognizes that the Limberlost is becoming depleted. "The swamp is almost ruined now," she says. "The maples, walnuts, and cherries are all gone." She just doesn't recognize that she and her family have a part in that. When her mother (in another adult savior move) moves the two of them to town to support Elnora in her new job(s), she says that if she needs more money to pay for their new lifestyle, "I'll sell some timber and put a few oil wells where they don't show much. I can have land enough cleared for a few fields and put a tenant on our farm." They are part of ruining the swamp, but they don't recognize it.

And how about the business of killing the creatures of the Limberlost? Okay. They are small creatures, moths and butterflies. I am not an anti-hunter, by any means, but I will admit that I am totally freaked out by the way characters in this book catch things they think are beautiful and kill them. Elnora gets a lot of credit for her knowledge of nature, especially her knowledge of the moths and butterflies of the Limberlost. Which, you know, she captures, kills, and sells. How good for the swamp is that?

When witnessing a moth leave its case and begin opening its wings, Elnora, her mother, and Elnora's young man agree that it took "the wisdom of the Almighty God to devise the wing of a moth. If there ever was a miracle, this whole process is one." They go on for quite some time on the spiritual aspects of the moths. But that doesn't save moths from the cyanide jar. Which, I guess, the Almighty God also devised.

There's lots of talk of cyanide jars.

"We must get the cyanide jar quickly," said Philip. "I wouldn't lose her for anything. Such a chase as she has led me!"

"This cyanide has lost its strength, and it's not working well. We need some fresh in the jar."

At one point, Philip happens to find the perfect butterfly for Elnora during a ball. He drops everything to get it packaged up to mail to her. He didn't have any cyanide, but gasoline was handy. Yikes.

A Time Before Environmentalism? Maybe, Maybe Not

I definitely recognize that I'm talking about a one-hundred-year-old book, a product of another time. Readers shouldn't project the values of their time onto another. If the naturalists of this earlier time had not yet become activists, that's just the way it is. Accept it Gail.

But Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. President from 1901 to 1909, was creating national parks, bird reservations, and the national forest service in the years leading up to Limberlost's publication. And just yesterday I learned that the Cincinnati Zoo was trying to save the passenger pigeon from extinction around the same time. It failed. The last passenger pigeon died there in 1914.

So activism had begun at the time Limberlost was written. That's no reason why an author writing then needed to include it in her book, of course. Especially if her book wasn't about nature at all, but something else altogether.

I will speculate about that another time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Blogging The Limberlost: Perhaps All They Knew Was Loving Nature

"...they are clearing the swamp so fast. Every year it grows more difficult to find things, and Indian stuff becomes scarcer."

For a while in my reading of A Girl of the Limberlost it's been clear that Elnora is aware that the Limberlost is changing. But her concern is for what that means to her ability to generate income. I haven't read anything that indicates that she or anyone else has any interest in preserving the swamp at all. 

When Elnora approaches the local school superintendent about getting a job, she's offered a position teaching natural history at each of the schools in the city. The value of what she knows about nature is respected. But there's no talk about preserving nature.

Elnora mounts the moths and butterflies she collects, creating collections she can sell. I can remember reading about people doing this in various books when I was young, but I can't recall anything recently. I'm assuming this is due to the fact that mounting them with pins on boards involves killing them, meaning they're being killed as trophies. This actually is addressed in a conversation between Elnora and young Billy, an orphan taken in by her neighbors. It turns out that Elnora's method for collecting her specimens meant they died of natural causes. She  didn't actually have to kill them. "Between us, Billy, I think I like my old way best. If I can find a hidden moth, slip up and catch it unawares, or take it in full flight, it's my captive, and I can keep it until it dies naturally." Billy thinks it doesn't matter how she takes her moths because they die in order to educate humans. "It's not like killing things to see if you can, or because you want to eat them, the way most men kill birds. I think it is right for you to take enough for collections, to show city people, and to illustrate the Bird Woman's books. You go on and take them! The moths don't care. They're glad to have you. They like it!"

Elnora is delighted with his argument. But do the moths also like the cyanide jar that's mentioned soon thereafter? Do they like being pinned, their legs drawn into position "in perfectly lifelike manner?"

At this point Elnora is revered for her knowledge of nature. In the eyes of the young man who has joined her in her pursuit of moths, she is clearly superior to the young women he knows back in the in the city, including his fiance. But knowledge of and appreciation for nature seems to be enough. Supporting nature just isn't isn't in the cards in this 1909.

But I will keep reading.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Blogging The Limberlost: Oops. That Explains A Lot

I've been treating A Girl of the Limberlost as a children's book, one for much older children, but a children's book nonetheless. Today I learned that it is considered, at least by the people who manage one of author Gene Stratton-Porter's historic sites (she has two in Indiana), as one of her novels.

This puts a totally different spin on the switches to adult point-of-view I was writing about a while back. If Limberlost isn't a children's book, why shouldn't we be hearing from the adult characters?

Today it's not uncommon to find adult books with child main characters. The Flavia de Luce books are a well-known recent example. I'm reading The Inn at Lake Devine right now, which is an adult book with a child main character.* While I'm sure that teenage Elnora Comstock is considered the main character in A Girl of the Limberlost, the point of view switches mean other, adult characters get as much time on stage as she does. At least they have so far.  Last year's 2 AM at The Cat's Pajamas does something similar. In that book, there is a child who is one of three characters. Four, if you count the dog.

Limberlost was published in 1909, as I've mentioned before. My reading on the history of children's literature is spotty. But there may not have been as big a divide between what adults and children read in days of old.** I've heard that everyone read Alice in Wonderland, for instance. I don't know what was going on with the "girl" classics of the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries, such as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Pollyanna, a book I've read was so popular that there were Pollyanna clubs. Who was it popular with? Children or children and adults?

My point being that everyone may have been reading A Girl of the Limberlost. I'm guessing they would have had to for Gene Stratton-Porter to have become as popular and successful as I learned today that she was.

*Oops again. Natalie is a child in only the first quarter of the book.
**According to the New York Public Library piece How did YA Become YA? by Anne Rouyer, "Back in 1919, there wasn’t any literature being specifically written for teens." So, presumably, there wasn't any in 1909, either.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Blogging The Limberlost: A Naturalist Is Not Necessarily An Environmentalist, And Everybody Loves Elnora

I'm only a fifth of the way through A Girl of the Limberlost. To be truthful, I'm also reading the second book in the Rot & Ruin series, and I'm finding that tale of dealing with zombies more of a draw than this one of dealing with swamps.

Naturalists Vs. Environmentalists

A naturalist has knowledge of the natural world. An environmentalist wants to protect the environment. See the difference? Naturalists have knowledge of the natural world but aren't necessarily interested in protecting it. Environmentalists don't have to have any great knowledge of the  natural world to want to protect it.

That's what I'm seeing in Girl of the Limberlost. So far, Elnora has voiced a lot of knowledge of caterpillars and different types of moths. But she hasn't even indicated any realization that maintaining the Limberlost (which was drained in 1913, by the way). Her concern to this point is all about getting what she needs from the Limberlost so she can sell it and continue her schooling.

I'm not pointing this out to be judgmental, by the way. I'm just saying that we're talking a very different thing here than I would expect to see in a book written and published now.

Is Lovable...Boring?

Elnora's neighbors can't do enough for her. Her hard-hearted mother is possessive. Poor children are taken with her. A week after starting high school as a poor, rural, outsider, she has won everyone over. She meets a guy in the swamp who was a few years ahead of her in elementary school and immediately has him collecting nuts and berries with her. Everybody loves her, and as I find with most characters of that kind, I have no idea why.

Her problems are similar to the problems of many other YA characters, making her not particularly unique. The people I'm finding more interesting are her neighbors, who she refers to as Uncle Wesley and Aunt Margaret, and her mother. What makes them interesting is that they're competing for children.

Wesley desperately wants to love and nurture a child. His wife is fussier. She wants to love and nurture a nice one. One like Elnora. Mrs. Comstock, Elnora's mother, has a child to love and nurture but doesn't find it to be that big a deal. But her knickers are in a twist because Wesley and Margaret have spent years providing Elnora with care and support. So when Wesley and Margaret are trying to bring an orphaned boy into their home, she makes clear to the young'un that if he ever has any problems with his new home, he can have one with her.

That's pretty damn diabolical. And a lot more interesting than being loved by all. 


Friday, September 11, 2015

Blogging The Limberlost: Things Were Different Back Then

Been waiting for my thoughts on A Girl of the Limberlost, haven't you? Right off the bat, I've been noticing differences between this novel from 1909 and what I see in YA books today.

Environmental Issue

Today books for young readers that have any kind of environmental thread or theme usually involve conservation. The child characters become involved in saving some natural area from evil, or at least uncaring, developers. The characters in Carl Hiaasen's Scat are younger than Elnora Comstock, the protagonist in A Girl of the Limberlost, but they are dealing with a swamp and an oil company trying to steal oil found there. In A Girl of the Limberlost, characters live in the swamp and harvest its plants. Elnora raises money to go to high school by selling plants and moths and caterpillars she's collected. Her mother is berated by a neighbor for not selling trees from her land to get the money to provide for her daughter's education. The mother isn't holding out because she's an early environmentalist. She's obsessed with her long-dead husband, and the land she lives on was his.

I'm only a few chapters in, but we may be talking about humans managing an environment, the way farmers traditionally did. In early twentieth century America, people may not have had any thought that land and what grows on it should be protected. Protected from whom? From what?

Adult Point Of View

In these early chapters, we have some point of view switches, which are certainly common in contemporary YA and children's books. However, in A Girl of the Limberlost, we see a switch from a third-person teen point-of-view character to a third-person adult point-of-view character, that of Elnora's neighbors/protector. We hear from this couple, one or the other of them, about the loss of their own children, explaining their embrace of Elnora. They provide backstory about Elnora's mother. In fact, the switch may occur so the author can get that information out.

The child/YA point of view is basic to contemporary children's and YA fiction. I can't think of any switches similar to the one in Limberlost in any recent book I've read.

Adult Savior

Elnora is surrounded by adults who in this early stage of the book appear to be helping her solve her problems. The kindly neighbors provide school clothes. A teacher who has only just met her provides affordable used books and arranges for her to pay her tuition in installments. An artist miraculously appears to buy things from Elnora, making it possible for Elnora to pay her school costs. Elnora making her own money in this way may be meant to make her appear independent. But it's an adult who makes this action possible.

Adult saviors do appear in contemporary children's/YA fiction, often in the form of a mentor, a teacher, a coach. There are rather a lot of them here.

Trouble With Mom

So far, Elnora's mother is hell on wheels. I don't read a lot of the YA problem novels in which parental issues are a major factor. What little I know of them, parents fail in their duties because of various weaknesses on their part. Though we hear from those neighbors in one of their point of view switches (see above) that Mrs. Comstock is still grieving for her late husband (gone for well over a decade, I believe), the real explanation for her behavior toward her daughter seems to me that she just can't tolerate her child being different from herself.

I think this is very realistic, myself. I don't know why I don't see more of it in contemporary YA.

And Then Some Things Don't Seem To Change

Elnora arrives at school and has your classic school outsider humiliations. She's told by one of her adult saviors that the same thing happened to her when she was at school.

Come on. This has been going on for over a hundred years, and we haven't figured out a way to do something about it? We put a man on the moon a while back, you know.  

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

A Reduced Blogging Schedule

I'm going to be blogging less frequently until around the 29th. I hope to stop by here a couple of times a week with Limberlost posts. Not today though.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Didactic Fiction--Who Decided It's Bad?

I am not a fan of didactic novels, books with an agenda to teach vs. books that require readers to, oh, I don't know. Become one with the story, or something. Experience the story. I've probably mentioned this bias of mine here before.

But I've had to rethink the whole "didactic is bad" thing because of an essay I read at The Horn Book site. In The Campaign for Shiny FuturesFarah Mendlesohn has all kinds of fascinating things to say about YA science fiction. She describes Ender's Game as "the model of what child and teen SF readers want, yet it is not what they were getting (or still get) within the pages of YA science fiction." She also says that Ender's Game is a didactic book that prizes information over emotion. Kids, she believes, want didactic books. But there is a lot of opposition to didactic books from people like me. By the time I finished reading Mendlesohn's points about didactism, I had to ask myself, "What is so bad about didactic books?"

A case in point: The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson. It's one of those odd, English children's books filled with stock English characters, lots of them not very nice in an over-the-top way. A hundred years ago, a spunky, upper class girl is kidnapped by a widowed yeti who needs help raising his children in their isolated home. The yeti are intelligent, speak, and have very long lifespans, and even young Lady Agatha lives long enough to see their mountain home become developed. Development, of course, is bad for mystical creatures. To save them from hunters, she enlists the aid of a young boy who she charges with transporting her yeti family to her ancestral home in England, where she believes they will be safe.

The yeti are innocent and good, large numbers of the humans they run into are not. The book is filled with humans who treat animals badly or hunt them down and kill them for sport. Children have to take things into their own hands. Though Prince Charles helps. I suspect this is one of the few works of fiction he's appeared in in anything approaching a positive way. There's some sly humor in this book, which explains Charles' very brief appearance.

As Mendlesohn writes, The Abominables probably wasn't called didactic in reviews because it's didactic in a way most of us like. Trophy hunters aren't popular in our culture, and they weren't long before poor Cecil the Lion caught one's eye. But even if people like me do insist on calling The Abominables didactic, why is didactic a bad thing? If child readers like didactic books (I was fond of Louis May Alcott when I was a girl. I've got my doubts about her now.), what's wrong with letting them have them?

On the other hand, do we let children have everything they want? I'm at a loss on this one, folks. When I was a teenager, I read that "Propaganda doesn't serve literature." What is didactic literature but propaganda, even if it's propaganda we believe to be valuable, such as "Don't kill animals you can't eat."

Hmm. But I got to read and enjoy didactic books before that point.

Friday, September 04, 2015

What Did You Do Last Week, Gail? And Will You Stop Whining Now?

Goal 1. The Mummy Book. Okay. A lame-ass first draft is done with three days to spare before my self-imposed deadline. When I say, "Done," I mean "sort of done." There's just a sketch of the climactic paragraphs, the ending is weak, and I have a couple of pages of instructions on various threads I need to create. Usually I drop everything and start over again when I come up with a new thread I want. (That's why it takes me so long to finish a draft.) But when I'm close enough to the end, I can manage it. I'm not feeling as relieved and delighted about this as I thought I would. But, hell, Zen tells us to not want things to be other than they are, right? Desire is the source of all unhappiness? Desiring that first draft to something other than lame-ass will only lead to unhappiness.

And, of course, a first draft is all about the second one. So, huzzah.

Goal 5. Community Building. Posted the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar. Sent out the newsletters.

Goal 6. General Marketing/Branding. Responded to an inquiry regarding an appearance this fall.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Environmental Book Club?

Literary Tourism With A Possible Environmental Connection

Next week I leave on an extended vacation to Michigan and Indiana (by way of Canada and coming back through Ohio and Pennsylvania). This is the third road trip with bicycles that we've taken, and each time I've worked in an author stop. When we did the Maritime Provinces, we visited Green Gables in Cavendish PEI, and I read Anne of Green Gables. Last year while in Ohio, we hit James Thurber's home in Columbus. I reread My Life and Hard Times.

This year we're going to Gene Stratton-Porter's cabin at Wildflower Woods. I've invested in a 99 cent eBook collection of her work, including A Girl of the Limberlost, the title that sounds most familiar to me. That's the one I'm planning to take a shot at reading.

While I'm looking forward to the home visit, I have a feeling of resistance about Limberlost. The book is over a hundred years old, and while I used to read children's books from that era and recall liking things like The Five Little Peppers and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, I was a lot younger then. My tolerance for...mmm...improving literature, which is what I'm afraid Limberlost is, was a lot greater then. I may be beyond improvement now.

Then I realized that Limberlost might have an environmental angle, since Stratton-Porter is sometimes described as a nature writer. That could be interesting, especially given the book's age. That would make it Environmental Book Club material.

Blogging The Limberlost

Not the Limberlost, Just One of Many Swamps I've Visited

I also decided that reading the book might be more interesting, or at least less tedious, if I could respond to it while I'm slogging through it. Hey, that's what blogs are for, right? And I've got one!

So over the next month, I may be back here posting my thoughts on a 116-year-old book about a girl and a swamp.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

An Internet Idea That Hopped Out Into The Non-Internet World

Internet activities are often modeled on what you might call real-world events. Traditional book tours became blog tours. Traditional book launches became virtual book launches. Moving away from book-related issues, dating became on-line dating. On-line versions of magazines and newspapers were created. But they were still magazines and newspapers, which have existed for centuries.

You see where I'm going with this.

This summer I heard about something that originated on the Internet being copied out here in what the Trek folk used to call the carbon-based world. Here in Connecticut this month we're going to have a Quilt Shop Hop.

Blog hops involve bloggers linking together, usually connecting posts on a similar subject. But I don't recall hearing about anything on that model outside the Internet until I stumbled upon a flyer promoting the Connecticut Quilt Shop Hop at my local sewing store.

This particular hop involves a $7 registration fee, which I believes gets you a mug as well as a "passport." You can take that passport into participating stores for special items. It looks as if there will be a pattern given away. Some stores will be featuring special material or kits. They have a Connecticut Quilt Shop Hop Facebook page. The salesclerk at my local store said a good time is had by all.

Now, yes, I'm interested in this because I made a quilt top this year. And if I was going to be around this month, I'd probably take part in this hop because I need more material for the backing, and two of the participating stores are convenient for me to get to. But why am I writing about it at a writer's blog?

Because in addition to being intrigued by the movement from Internet to brick and mortar store, I see this quilt shop hop as an example of using community for marketing. I've been interested in that for a few years now. I don't know how well this community marketing effort works for these sewing stores, though they've done it five times now, so I'm guessing they must think it's worth it. Presumably they are sharing the expense of promotion. Presumably every store has promotional materials available for this event, meaning they are promoting other stores, even by just mentioning their names.

What if a group of bookstores did something similar? What if every participating bookstore offered a free book to registered hoppers instead of a free pattern? What if every bookstore offered a special event to hoppers? What if every bookstore featured a different local author with a signing, meaning the authors would get  involved with promotion? What if they started promoting the hop months ahead of time, the way the Quilt Shop Hop people did?

How much would promoting the group benefit the individual?

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Managing The Beast That Is Twitter With Tweetdeck, Part 2

Last week I covered how-to related to Tweetdeck. This week I'll describe some of what I've been doing with Tweetdeck to make better use of time, to give you an idea of what you can try.

Increasing The Chances Of Your Tweets Being Seen By Scheduling Multiple Tweets

What You Can Do: There are thousands of tweets out there in the twitterverse, more than anyone can absorb. Any individual tweet we send out there has to compete with all those others. Most people using Twitter look at the tweets on the screen in front of them, maybe scroll down a bit. If you post each tweet only once, the odds of it being seen by many people are not great. Tweeting the same material a few times over the course of the day or even several days means you can reach more people. But who has time for that?

What you can do with Tweetdeck is schedule tweets so they are automatically tweeted while you're doing other things. Yeah, writing, of course. On your Tweetdeck page you'll see a blue column to your left. The white box in it is for typing your tweet in. You can immediately tweet it by pushing the "Tweet" box below it. Or you can look down at the next three buttons. One of them says "Schedule Tweets." Yes. That's the one you want.

The blue column has its own narrow scroll bar. I mention that because, yes, I struggled with scrolling there for a bit. So once you've chosen the "Schedule Tweet" box, use the scroll bar to move down a bit to a calendar and squares with the time. You can hit the day and fill in the time you want your tweet to show up. Look above the calendar, and you'll see a box that says "Tweet at...whatever you told it to do." Hit that box. You'll find the tweet you just scheduled has moved to a column called--surprise!--"Scheduled."

Then you can do that again. And again.

What I've Been Doing: I usually do my first tweet in real time shortly before noon. Then I schedule at least two more that day, around two and four. I've read that noon and late afternoon are best tweeting times. People go onto Twitter at lunch time and after work. I'll change the write-up I use with each tweet so I'm not tweeting exactly the same thing, even though I'm tweeting exactly the same link. I may use different #hashtags to get the attention of different groups.

That strategy definitely increases traffic to my blog. I get a lot more views days I do that type of tweeting.

If you blog in the evening to save your daytime for other kinds of work, you can schedule your tweets for the next day.

Increasing The Odds Of Your Tweets Being Seen By Using Images


What You Can Do: Images attract attention on every platform. They're mind-bogglingly simple to do with Tweetdeck. The button for adding images is below your white text box, just as the scheduling tweet box is. You can use it to add any images you have on your hard drive, the ones you've used in your blog. Basically, if you can add images to your blog, you can add them to your tweets with Tweetdeck.


What I've Been Doing: When I tweet a reader response post, I add the cover image to my tweet. I'm going to experiment with other images from the blog as well


What I've Been Doing With My Columns


#hashtags: I got started with Tweetdeck because my nephew told me following hashtags had helped him build his Twitter following. I haven't had much luck with that. I may not be spending enough time going through the columns to look for people. I'm mostly scanning for interesting content at this point. The first two hashtags I followed, #kidlit and #YA, turned up a lot of tweets from authors promoting their own work. That's not particularly interesting content. Fortunately, it's very easy to get rid of columns. At the top of each one, there's a strange little two-line icon. Hit it, and you'll find "Remove" down at the bottom. I got rid of my #kidlit and #YA columns.


Now I have columns for #timemanagement, #Egyptology, and #MSWL, among other things. I think it's obvious why I'm interested in seeing time management tweets. (This is a Time Management Tuesday post, recall.) I'm following Egyptology because of that mummy book I'm working on. When I see something interesting there, I retweet it. My goal with that is to let my followers know that Egyptology is something I'm interested in. If that book ever gets published, I will have a little history with ancient Egypt. In fact, a couple of times my #egyptology retweets have been picked up in an Egyptology on-line publication that collects tweets on that subject.  The MSWL column is for "Manuscript Wish List," something agents and editors tweet periodically on twitter. I was not able to spend any time following that the day they did it this summer, so I created a column to collect those tweets, so I can look at them another time.


What I'm doing so far is using hashtags to pull subjects I'm interested in out of the flood of tweets. I've been able to do a lot more with this information than if I'd been hoping to see it racing by my screen all in one stream.


Lists. Whenever I follow new people/organizations on Twitter, I immediately add them to a list. We're talking agents, publications, writers, things like that. If you go back to the screen of options, you'll see that you can make a column with your lists. It's incredibly easy to do. List columns are another way to pull information out of your Twitter stream and put it somewhere you might actually see it. 


The lists have been great. I have a list of publications I'm interested in. Earlier this month, one of them tweeted that it was opening for submissions for a couple of weeks. So I submitted. I have a list column of Connecticut writers. One of them tweeted that she's interested in hosting guest bloggers this fall. I've made a first contact regarding that.


Flexibility. Because columns are so easy to make and delete I can change them depending on my needs and interests. Oh, wow. That makes them situational, doesn't it? You can adapt them to whatever your situation is at any particular moment.


My Tweetdeck experience began because I was talking shop at a family gathering on the Fourth of July. At a family member's rehearsal dinner, I was talking shop with the best man who got me interested in Instagram. I'll look into that this fall.