Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Weekend Writer: A Writers' Dojang

Tandon, Howley, Sherlock DiLorenzo
On Wednesday I wrote about this year's Tassy Walden Award winners. What I didn't mention is that three of this year's honorees, Nancy Tandon, Holly Howley, and Heather Sherlock DiLorenzo, come from the same writers' group. These three writers made up thirteen percent of the Tassy winners over all. However, some of those winners were illustrators. These three women made up twenty percent of the winning writers.

In past years, the group had three other members who placed well. And I believe there are two members who were Tassy winners prior to joining the group. One of them went on to be successfully published. Oh, and another member competed against published writers for a spot with The Great CT Caper and won one.

2015 Tassy Honorees
I've written about writers' groups for The Weekend Writer Project before. As I said then, "there are writers' groups, and there are writers' groups." How to explain so much achievement from this one group? Well, I happened to join it last October and have a little knowledge of what goes down there. You know how I love martial arts analogies? Yeah. I feel one coming on.

Training


These people train. They attend NESCBWI workshops and retreats. They read in their genre. They keep up on what is being published in their field. Referring back to Marlo Garnsworthy's recent blog post, they don't assume that they should "automatically know how to write a publishable story." 

Maintaining the Mind of a Beginner


In a martial arts training hall, people of all ranks train together. If the instructor is introducing a yellow belt-level skill, the black belts in the room work on it, too, because there's always the possibility that they missed something when they learned it, there's always the possibility they can improve that skill. They cannot allow themselves to be blinded by the belief that they already know this stuff. They have to maintain the mind of a beginner. (Humility is also a good thing on a very practical level.)

That's how the people in this writing group conduct themselves, also. If they attend a program, they consider how the content can improve their work. If they get feedback on a submission, they don't walk away believing the agent/editor just doesn't get it. Within workshop meetings, they try not to respond to critiques from other members. The point is to listen to what others have to say and assess it.   

Collaboration


In the taekwondo school I attended, people of equal rank usually trained together, trying to share knowledge, the idea being that what one student missed last week, another will have picked up on. They were trying to learn from one another. Even in the tai chi school I attend now, where there is no belt system, students who are just learning a form are positioned within the group of more experienced students during practice, so the newbies can model their movements on the people who already know the form.

The people in this writing group do something similar. "How about this for the first chapter title?" "You might be able to eliminate that first page." One writer might be able to pick up on something another writer has missed.

Getting Up Off the Mat 


Getting knocked down isn't that big an issue in martial arts training. Getting up again is.

The people in this workshop submit their work. If the work comes back, they train some more and submit again. You cannot stay down and move forward, too.

Don't Care For Martial Arts Metaphors?


In the event that you don't love martial arts metaphors the way I do, you can phrase the reasons for this writers' group's success another way: These people study. They keep an open mind about their work. They work together. They persevere.

If you're at the point of looking for a writers' group, this is the kind of group you hope to find.


Friday, May 29, 2015

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 29th Edition

Goal 1 Mummy Book. I didn't get as far on this as I would have liked, but I am past revising early chapters and moving on to new material. I'm at what I consider to be the mid-point of the book. I expect to be able to get a little work done this weekend.

Goal 5 Community Building/Goal 6 Marketing STP&S/Gail. I did a lot of community building this week, which I'm also going to call marketing, since community building keeps a person's name in circulation. Plus, I really hate to think I spent so much time on one goal.
  • I completed  the CCLC
  • I promoted CCLC and mailed out the newsletter edition
  • I did a post on the Tassy Walden Award that involved some actual contact with other people in the writing community
  • I pretty much completed the two workshop proposals I'm planning to submit next week
With June's CCLC behind me, as well as the Tassy Walden and the workshop proposals, I hope next week will see a shift to more production.

June Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

This month's big news is Judy Blume's two appearances in the state to publicize her new adult book. We have three interesting group events as well.

Friday, June 5, David Levithan, Adam Silvera, and Bill Konigsberg, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 7:00 PM Openly YA Tour
,
Saturday, June 6, Janice Petrie, Barnes & Noble, North Haven 11:30 AM 

Sunday, June 7, Great Connecticut Caper conclusion with author meet & greets, Gillette Castle, Haddam 2 to 4 PM  Note at the link that this is a free event.

June 23 Judy Blume, Greenwich Library, Greenwich 7:00 to 9:00 PM  This event supports Blume's most recent book, which is for adults. Advance registration is required, and there is a specific seating time.

Friday, June 26, Judy Blume, First Congregational Church (R.J. Julia event), Madison 7:00 PM. This event supports Blume's most recent book, which is for adults. It is a ticketed event.

Tuesday, June 30 Katie Carroll, Steven Parlato, Cindy Rodriguez, Anissa Zucker, Avon Free Public Library Avon 7:00 PM Local Author Festival, YA/Teen Night Avon



Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Environmental Book Club

I felt that at some point I needed to try a Carl Hiaasen novel for this book club, because he has a green rep. So I snatched up Scat when I saw it at a library.

Scat is about two students who become involved in the give and take between an oil company trying to steal oil in a Florida swamp and what might be described as an eco-terrorist trying to save endangered panthers living there. The book follows the big, bad company vs. small-time good guys formula that we've seen in another environmental book for young readers, Operation Redwood. This formula turns up in a lot of movies and TV shows relating to the environment, too. We could call them David and Goliath stories.

My question: Will I ever be able to find an environmental story for kids that doesn't follow either this pattern or the dystopian future brought about by human-made environmental disaster convention?  Stay tuned.

Scat's structure is significant because it involves point of view switches, a lot of them. The most interesting character, for me, was not either of the two kids who are the leads. I wish the book had been about Duane Scrod, Jr., who has been held back in biology for two years. He is not your traditional children's book/YA protagonist, and, as I said, he's not the protagonist here. Duane, known as Smoke, becomes interested in environmental science, because he recognizes that if the Black Vine Swamp changes, there won't be a place for people like him, people who are part of that environment.

Most of the characters in Scat experience the Black Vine Swamp from a distance. For the main characters, it appears to be just a school field trip destination. Smoke is what I'm looking for in eco-fiction, someone who is immersed in an environment. Could someone like him be the jumping off point for an environmental book?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Connecticut's 2015 Tassy Walden Award For Children's Writers

The Award


Connecticut's Shoreline Arts Alliance in Guilford sponsors the Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature. This is a program for unpublished Connecticut writers and illustrators, and awards are given in five categories. Entries are judged on the basis of literary or artistic quality, and the organizers are quite clear at the website that didactic and popular content are not considered. (Didactic material frequently raises its preachy head in children's literature.) The Tassy Walden people even run informational workshops for writers interested in submitting.
Leslie Bulion and Lorraine Jay

The Tassy, as you sometimes hear it called hereabouts, began fifteen years ago. Two of the founders were Leslie Bulion and Lorraine Jay.  There are cash prizes for the top winners, but what really makes this a significant award in this state is that a number of winners have gone on to be traditionally published. Among them are A.C.E. BauerLeslie Bulion, Stacy DeKeyser, Frank Dormer, Deborah Freedman, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Martha Seif Simpson, and Jane Sutcliffe.

And The Winners Are 

 

 The 2015 Tassy Walden Awards winners, finalists, and honor mention designees were announced a few weeks ago. Last night a reception was held for them at the James Blackstone Memorial Library (pictured above) in Branford. Attendee and finalist Nancy Tandon provided Original Content with photographs of the event.

Winners
To the left are the winners:
Edward Tucchio - Illustrated Picture Book
Janet Croog - Illustrated Portfolio
Kelly Hill - Young Adult Novel
Jeanne Zulick - Middle Grade Novel

There was no winner in the Picture Book Text category this year, but there were four finalists: Erika Bajrami, Charlene Haukom, Cherish Ann Lisee,Wi and Linda Zajac.

Other finalists and honorable mention authors:

All honorees
Illustrated Picture Book: Carolyn Bull and Gabriella Svenningsen

Illustrator's Portfolio: Diane Holtzworth, Dominique Monroe, and Virginia Zimmerman

Young Adult Novel: Holly Howley, Karen Lindeborg, Christine Dokko, and Karen Fortunati

Middle Grade Novel: Jacquelin Devlin, Heather Sherlock DiLorenzo, Meira Rosenberg, Nancy Tandon, and Rudy Vene

New Voices


Remember, this is an award for unpublished authors. Good luck to everyone going forth with your careers.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Shadow Work

According to Daniel J. Levitin in The Organized Mind, shadow work "represents a kind of parallel, shadow economy in which a lot of the service we expect from companies has been transferred to the customer. Each of us is doing the work of others and not getting paid for it." He gives as examples scanning and bagging our own groceries, keeping track of our banking on-line, and pumping our own gas.

Shadow Work Is Technology Driven


Technology makes a lot of shadow work possible. We're making our own hotel reservations on-line instead of calling the site and asking an employee to do it for us because on-line exists. We're researching and making purchases at home instead of getting assistance from store employees, because so many stores have a web presence. A great deal has been made of the fact that many of us don't browse for books in bookstores because we're ordering books from Amazon. Amazon is an example of a completely technology driven company. There would be no Amazon without the Internet.

Shadow Work's Big Impact On Writers


Book marketing is writers' shadow work. In decades past book marketing was definitely part of publishers' jobs. Publication parties and book signings were connected with big-name writers and publishers were usually involved. While publishers are still printing and distributing galleys to reviewers, including new publications in their catalogs, and sending out sales people to promote books, writers of all different levels are running and funding their own real-world marketing events. They are also often publicizing them through Internet connections, the technology-driven aspect of this situation.

Social media marketing is a big part of the book marketing writers do, and it exists because of technology. All the social media platforms writers use are on-line: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram, and something that was probably created while we were sleeping last night. Formal social marketing did not exist before the Internet. It's an example of technology driven shadow work.

Where Does The Time Come From?


Book marketing shadow work is an example of computers making more work for people, simply because they create possibilities that didn't exist before. Writers have more work because of the marketing that has been transferred to them, but nothing has changed in terms of the number of hours in a day or days in a week. For most of us, the time for shadow work comes out of writing time. We cut down on production to market.

If I find anything in The Organized Mind on changing the number of hours in the day/days in a week. I'll let you know.
 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Weekend Writer: Publishers

 The Top 20 Publishers for New Authors at Authors Publish is a list of publishers that authors are supposed to be able to submit to directly. Many of these I haven't heard of, so I can't comment on the quality of the list overall.

However, I have heard of Chronicle Books and Alloy Entertainment, which I understand to be a book packager rather than a traditional publisher. Bloomsbury Spark is connected to Bloomsbury, which is certainly well known. DAW is an imprint of Penguin Books, and Penguin Books is huge.

When you're ready to start submitting, checking these publishers out could be worth your time, especially if you don't have an agent.

Friday, May 22, 2015

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 22nd Edition

Last week when I did my weekly assessment, I realized I'd only worked on one goal, and it didn't seem as if I'd put that much time in on it. So when I did my planning for this week, I planned more.

Goal 1. Mummy Book Finally made some nonrevision progress on this puppy. Then went back and merged the first two chapters, cutting ten pages. So now I'm revising again.

Goal 5. Community Building 1. Started work on next month's Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar. 2. Began putting together workshop proposals to submit to a conference.

This proposal thing was interesting because the conference involved prefers that people submit proposals for two workshops. And wouldn't you know it, I had ideas for two workshops. However, the conference administrators require a detailed outline. While getting started on one of the workshops proposals, I realized it would take days of research to do the outline. It would be way too costly in terms of time, and I decided to drop it. Then yesterday morning, I was hit with a breakout experience in the shower. One outline idea after another came to me. It went on for most of the day. So I'll be submitting two proposals after all.

Goal 6. Marketing STP&S. Or marketing in general. I watched Planning Successful Social Media Campaigns and was overwhelmed.  





Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sam Vimes Finds A Picture Book Flaw And Fixes It

I had a chance to read Where's My Cow? by the late, great Terry Pratchett this past weekend. I ordered this book, and it arrived encased in plastic. Since I purchased it as a gift, I didn't open it. So my first reading was a bit of a surprise.

I thought it was the book Sam Vimes, head of the nightwatch of Ankh-Morpork, runs home from work each evening to read to his son. What Where's My Cow? is really about is Sam Vimes reading Where's My Cow? to his son. It is more than I expected.

Sam Vimes may be my favorite Discworld character. He's essentially a cop, and I understand cop stories pretty much wherever they're set. Because he is a superior character, he recognizes an interesting point about animal picture books. And he fixes it.

A review by Steven H. Silver does a great job of describing Where's My Cow's artwork. I agree with Silver's conclusion that the book is probably best appreciated by Discworld followers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Satisficing

When I was in college, back before every mother's child was supposed to be gifted across the board, I knew at least two people who let some of their course work go in order to focus the bulk of their time and energy on their major areas. They didn't fail anything, they just didn't worry about taking a B or B- for a class so long as it wasn't in engineering or nursing. They were not being shiftless and lazy, they were strategizing. They went on to successful careers, by the way.

According to Daniel J. Levitin in The Organized Mind, they were satisficing. Levitin says Herbert Simon came up with the term "to describe not getting the very best option but one that was good enough. For things that don't matter critically, we make a choice that satisfies us and is deemed sufficient."

How does that apply to writers? We have to manage our entire lives in order to make time to write. But we can't just blow off things, leave them totally undone. Remember the environmental disorder study last year that found that a disordered environment leads to self-regulatory failure? We definitely can't just ignore taking care of our homes, for instance, to make more time for writing because the environment we make for ourselves could lead to problems with staying on task. Instead, we have to find a level for what doesn't matter critically that is satisficing, good enough.

It's even true for professional work. Our work situation is always changing. When we have a contractual deadline, we have to focus on writing, but we can't just forget about marketing and other types of writing. They aren't critically important at that point, though. We satisfice. When a new book comes out, marketing does become critically important. We satisfice with the writing then.

We move among all the things we have to do, focusing our effort on some things and  spending only as much time as we have to on others.


Monday, May 18, 2015

"Fairest: Levana's Story" Now This Was Interesting



Fairest: Levana’s Story by Marissa Meyer is part of her Lunar Chronicles series, a complicated multi-volume story involving a Cinderella cyborg hot for a prince, a Red Riding Hood character who gets way too involved with the big bad wolf, and a Rapunzel computer wiz hoping for a prince. Levana is the evil queen who is the fly in the ointment of their romances. Fairest is her backstory. With it we also get the backstory of many of the other characters. Way back backstory. 

I like the Lunar Chronicles. It’s an extended romance made interesting by its setting and the problems of this world, problems that extend far beyond who is going to end up with whom.  Levana’s back story is interesting for those reasons and because it’s romance gone bad.

Reading it was an interesting experience because at the beginning, I’m thinking, Come on. Levana goes nasty because she’s not pretty enough? What? She’s nasty because she isn’t loved? Isn’t that kind of clich├ęd and shallow?

But if you’re into this whole series, it works. All the other women in this world have been loved in their pasts, even if they weren’t aware of it because most of them have had pretty awful lives. Plus, in addition to this absence in Levana’s life, her family is pretty close to being bat shit crazy. Levana being ignored, being tormented by her sister, being unloved only goes so far in explaining her behavior. This princess was never going to be anybody’s Queen of Hearts.

One really interesting aspect of this book is Levana’s obsession for Sir Evret Hayle. It’s similar to a relationship in another recent book, Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. Two young women with obsessions for a male, two very different results.

One more interesting point: Levana ages out of YA by the end of the book. She must be in her mid-twenties by that point. Again, in terms of the whole series, this works because we only know her as her evil adult self in the other books.
The Lunar Chronicles is another series I wish I’d waited to read until it was completed. What a binge this would have made! The last volume, Winter, comes out this fall.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Weekend Writer: What Aspiring Children's Writers Need To Know

Marlo Garnsworthy, an illustrator, editor, and teacher who has been working with writers for over fifteen years, has a very good post at her blog, Wordy Birdie, called So You Want to Write for Kids: The Least You Need to Know. Read every word.

The parts I found particularly interesting:

Know Your Audience--Know the Genre. It's not unusual to hear of writers with a new children's book who know little about children's literature, itself. I've read recently about people wanting to write children's books because they enjoyed it as a child, but they don't read it now so they just don't know what's happening in the field. I really love hearing about authors of YA books who say in interviews that they just wrote what they wrote and their editors/publishers decided it was YA. You really can't depend on something like that happening. On top of that, my gut feeling is that people should know what they're doing, no matter what they do for a living. That includes knowing that you're writing YA.

Think Story, Not Message. How many adult readers tolerate reading message books? Why do so many people think it's a necessity for children's books? Teachers teach. Preachers preach. Writers should stick to stories.

Learn. Marlo says, "One of the things that always surprises me is that newer writers think they should automatically know how to write a publishable story." I'm extremely embarrassed to admit that that was probably the case with me when I was getting started. But I was wrong. Even before I finally got my first book published, I realized I needed to learn more. I needed to learn more after the first book was published and after the second book was published, too. My seventh and eighth books have some structural problems I regret. I should have known more. I have spent the last ten years studying and changing how I write.

I am quite taken aback when I am in elementary schools and teachers ask where their students can submit work for publication. A few years ago I was in a school and students were telling me their parents thought they should publish. To tell children they they know how to write a publishable story, to let them believe that, is such a disservice. Show them how they can learn how to write.

Get to Know People. This is more necessary now than it was when I was getting started, in large part because so many more people are trying to get into writing. Especially in children's writing there is all kinds of networking going on, and gatekeepers will remember names of people they've met or heard about through others they know. It won't get a bad manuscript published, but all things being equal, it could get that last bit of attention that makes a difference in who gets published or who moves up the ladder because s/he is known. On top of that, nowadays if you have a network of literary friends/contacts, those people will help promote your newly published book in many ways.

Marlo covers a lot of material in her post, and there's a reason for that. You really need to know a great deal in order to have a chance of getting into the publishing world.


Friday, May 15, 2015

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 15th Edition

I finished a chapter on my May Days project and started a new one. I also did some planning for the next two chapters. That's new work instead of revision. Hurray. And it's new work on my major goal for the year. Hurray, hurray.

However, I'm not working very much. Definitely wasting time. I got off to a bad start this month because I was traveling the first three days, and then had days during the next week when I needed to deal with family. So while I have worked all but two days this month on the May Days project, I often was working short amount of times because I only had short amount of times. Staying on that task under those circumstances seems like a very positive thing. I may, though, have gotten used to working like that. Except for two small administrative things, I only planned to work on the mummy book this week. But instead of committing big chunks of time to it, I figured, "Hey, I can finish this chapter easy," and dragged the work out.


Next week, I'll try to step up the pace. I do planning for the week on Monday. I'll plan to do more than just working on May Days this week and see if that will help keep me moving.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A "Horn Book"...Postview?

The May/June Horn Book has arrived in my home. Yes, I am still reading the March/April issue. You know me so well. So this is hardly a preview.

Some Favorite Horn Book Articles


Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson This was Nelson's keynote address at a Horn Book at Simmons colloquium last fall. It deals with the issue of diversity in children's literature. Why is it needed? "Children believe in story only if they've experienced the magic of living in one. This may never happen to young readers with few opportunities to see themselves in the books they read." Nelson raises a wonderful point. It's not enough to publish diverse books. Those books need to get to child readers. Do they? (I'm asking that last question.)

Designing Woman: The Achievement of Atha Tehon by Leonad S. Marcus This is another one of those "women in children's publishing" articles that The Horn Book does from time to time. I sometimes find them a little, well, Cult of the Childlit Woman Warror for my taste. But this one was written by Leonard Marcus, who should be the center of a cult himself. He does more than just place Tehon on a pedestal. While writing about her, he writes about why book design matters.

Some Favorite Horn Book Reviews

 

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman

I Don't Like Koala by Sean Ferrell with illustrations by Charles Santoso

Grandma in Blue with Red Hat by Scott Menchin with illustrations by Harry Bliss 

The Tight Rope Walkers by David Almond

 

And that is as far as I've gone with my reading.

 






Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: "The Organized Mind" Reading Project

I haven't done a time management reading project in a while, so I'm psyched for this one.

I stumbled upon The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin at the library and picked it up because it has a chapter called Organizing Our Time. I was reading that when I decided I'd better go back and look at some of the earlier chapters. So I'll be seeing what I can pick up from this book that could relate to writers managing their time.

Cognitive Psychology? What's That?


Levitin is a cognitive psychologist. He describes cognitive psychology as "the scientific study of how humans (and animals and, in some cases, computers) process information." Among the areas of study cognitive psychology covers are memory and attention. Attention relates to staying on task, an issue for managing time. I'm wondering if memory won't be a factor for organic writers, which, I know, veers off from the time management topic. I may be addressing that more later as I'm reading and thinking about this book.

In his introduction Levitin says that "successful members of society" have "learned to maximize their creativity, and efficiency, by organizing their lives so that they spend less time on the mundane, and more time on the inspiring, comforting, and rewarding things in life." Yes! Get me some of that!

An Evolutionary Theory For Writing Process


He has another interesting line in the intro: "Evolution doesn't design things and it doesn't build systems--it settles on systems that, historically, conveyed a survival benefit (and if a better way comes along, it will adopt that.)" This sounds to me like a way to think of writing process and managing time.

There is no grand design or system we can learn in graduate school or at conference workshops. Instead, individuals have to settle on a system that has, within their personal history, worked for them. And if they're smart, they'll maintain that zenny mind of a beginner I'm so fond of and adopt any new, better systems they happen upon, too.

Writing process and managing time evolve over the course of our work lives.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Here's Something I Don't See In Many Children's Books

I picked up the adult novel 2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino because the flap copy begins "Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, rebellious nine-year-old who also happens to be an aspiring jazz singer."

As my faithful readers are well aware, I enjoy reading adult fiction with child main characters. I liked The Cat's Pajamas a great deal. However, because Madeline is one of three main characters (it's an episodic book that you may have to be kind of zenny to get into--and I am) and the other two are adults, I can't say this is really an adult book with a child main character. (Wait. Pedro gets a lot of time, so maybe there are four main characters. Pedro is a dog.) 

Why am I mentioning this book at all, then? Because of this wonderful passage:

"Madeline has no friends: Not because she contains a tender grace that fifth graders detect and loath. Not because she has a natural ability that points her starward, though she does. Madeline has no friends because she is a jerk."

I finished that last line and thought, Why don't I see things like this in kids' books? Wouldn't child readers appreciate this kind of observation?

Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Weekend Writer: New Writers, Please Look Before You Publish

I began the Weekend Writer project a little over two years ago, because I was upset when a friend from high school was being pressured by a salesperson from some kind of pay-to-publish company. Last month in my local newspaper, I read about someone who had just published her first book. She had considered self-publishing, she said, but thought it was too expensive. Then she found a traditional publisher interested in her subject.

I had never heard of this publisher, but I'm not queen of the publishing world. I haven't heard of everybody. So I googled the name. Guess what? It was a pay-to-publish company. There's nothing wrong with that. Some self-published writers do use them. The issue here is that according to the interview this woman gave to the paper, she didn't know. She thought this company was a traditional publisher. A librarian friend who had seen the article said, "Isn't she going to get a bill at some point?"

What makes this story more disturbing is that when I googled the company name, the fourth site that came up was one at which writers who had paid the company to publish for them were reporting problems they'd had. We're talking a pay-to publish company with unhappy customers.

Don't Rush To Publish


You hear the expression "rush to publish" now in relation to self-publishing authors who want to get their book out right away. Speaking from experience, I can say that preparing a manuscript for publication can be nearly as much work as creating it in the first place. Writers need to learn nearly as much about publishing these days as they need to learn about writing. The difference between traditional vs. self-publishing seems as if it should be the very minimum writers should know. However, I've heard of other authors being asked questions by self-publishing authors that indicated that those particular self-publishers didn't have even a basic understanding of what traditional publishers do.

Wouldn't you know it, I have covered this issue here before: The Difference Between Traditional Publishing And Self-Publishing. If you are a new writer beginning to think about publishing, please read it.

But Let's Add To The Confusion


The line between traditional and self-publishing has become wobbly because some major traditional publishers have added self-publishing services, and many of them are all using the same company to provide those services. Check out Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story by David Gaughran at Let's Get Digital.

The bottom line here, folks, is that writers who plan/hope to publish need to educate themselves about publishing.

Friday, May 08, 2015

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 8 Edition

  • It's been all Mummy May Days all the time this week. Getting any work done on Wednesday and Thursday was a major achievement because of family stuff. Today I finished up what I wanted to do this week and have a plan lined up for the next chapter. This addresses my first goal for the year. I've written about the value of regular work over and over again here, though I'm a big believer in doing what you can do and not beating yourself up over perceived failings. Nonetheless, I'm thinking writing every day would be a terrific habit to have. I've heard it takes six weeks to form a habit. May Days only lasts four.
  • I also watched this terrific presentation on content marketing by Jane Friedman.  There are a lot of on-line conferences out there, with a lot of presenters. As with all kinds of conferences, quality varies. This was pretty amazing in terms of the quality of the information, the slides, and the presentation. Turns out that what I was doing last month for Saving the Planet & Stuff was content marketing. And I didn't know. This would have related to my sixth objective for the year, marketing STP&S, if I'd seen it before last month. Though I'm thinking this is news I can use in some way, at some point.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Environmental Book Club

Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet by Harriet Rohmer with illustrations by Julie McLaughlin is a terrific collection of  minibios. No big names here, at least, none I'd heard of. These are stories of people who became immersed in an environmental situation. One of the things that's so good about this book is that in writing about the people, Rohmer writes about the issues they deal with.

I was grabbed right away by the first story about Will Allen who works with city farms. There are also stories here about people who are making use of salvaged materials (I learned about deconstructing buildings instead of demolishing them), bringing solar power to a Hopi reservation, and treating sewage with plants. This is an ethnically diverse group of people, giving readers the feeling that environmental concerns are shared by everyone. As, of course, they are and should be.

I also picked up a number of little scientific/technical details from this book in a painless way, which is how I like to pick them up.

The publisher suggests this book for older elementary school students.


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Keeping Your Head In The Game

I am using my May Days to put a lot of time into one project, something I've done the last two May Days. The same project, I'm sorry to say. But, once again during this May Days I am experiencing the value of trying to write every day on the same project. It's incredibly helpful for organic writers like myself. We have trouble isolating plot and planning out what we're going to do for an entire story. We deal with stories as a whole organism. If we have to stay away from that organism too long, it takes us a while to come back up to speed, because while we have a feel for our whole story, we aren't good on the details that are coming up. It's hard for us to pick up where we left off.

The May Days project forces us to write every day. For me, this meant spending some time at my laptop in a motel room between biking excursions this past weekend. Writing every day increases chances of having a breakout experience (at least it increases my chances), and I had one on a bike the next day. This led to taking notes on it while having lunch in a sandwich shop (my work for the day) and that led to a much easier transition back to work on Monday.


Whenever I find myself in a situation where I'm writing every day, even a tiny amount, I think, I've got to keep this up! Not because I accomplish so much (I did mention that I've been working on the same May Days project three years in a row, right?) but because it keeps my head in the game.

That is a huge plus for time management.



Monday, May 04, 2015

You Know I Love "Jane Bear?" I Mean, "Jane Eyre."

I was intrigued when I read a review of The Cottage in the Woods by Katherine Coville and snatched the book off the shelf when I saw it at my local library. I mention this to make the point that sometimes reviews actually do get readers. Or, in this case, a reader.

The Cottage in the Woods has been described as Jane Eyre meets Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It certainly is. Jane Eyre fans can have a fantastic time picking out the connections. A young, powerless, single female enters a large house as the employee of a wealthy man. This is a wealthy, married man with a family, which is one of the ways this book is different from Jane Eyre. But he's also a bear, as is the young female, Ursula. (Relating to ursine, I'm guessing.) Ursula is there to act as a governess to the bear's son, Teddy. (Oh, my gosh. Teddy Bear!!! No, actually his last name is Vaughn.) Ursula has a love interest, and, shades of Mr. Rochester, he's not free to love her. There is a mystery in this house, as there is in Jane Eyre. And it's related to a female, as is the mystery in Jane Eyre. This female, though, is young, with golden hair.

However, there is a whole nonJane plot involving human bigotry toward enchanted animals like Ursula and the Vaughns. I've read that some reviewers found that aspect of the book didactic. To me it was distracting, because it wasn't part of the Jane Eyre/Three Bears premise. It seemed unnecessary. What was going on with Goldilocks was so clever and unique that I would have liked a plot sticking much closer to that, which could have been closer to the Jane Eyre source material.

But, then, I know Jane Eyre. Readers who don't could feel differently. Since this is a middle grade novel, there will be many readers who don't know Jane.

While reading this, I wondered what Ms. Yingling would think of it. Sure enough, she read The Cottage in the Woods and weighs in on the subject. I agree that while I enjoyed it, it may have trouble finding an audience.