Friday, July 31, 2015

What Did You Do Last Week, Gail? July 31st Edition

Goal 1. Mummy Book. After maybe a month and a half of revising Chapters One through Eight, I was finally able to finish Chapter Nine. I will be starting new work on Monday. I used to be able to do a first draft of a chapter in a week. I'm hoping to see something like that happen this next month, because I'd really like to have a draft done of this whole thing by Labor Day Weekend. A lot of family and personal stuff coming up next week, though. Allez, allez, allez.

Goal 5. Community Building. Posted the August Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar and mailed out the newsletter.

Goal 7. General Marketing/Branding. Did my usual Twitter thing, additionally checking out #MSWL, which took place on Twitter...ah...sometime this week.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

August Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Thank you, Marc Tyler Nobleman. Connecticut would have had an extremely slow month for children's author/illustrator appearances without you. Many libraries in Connecticut used the theme "Every Hero Has a Story" for their summer reading programs. Nobleman's biographies of the creators of Superman and Batman fit that theme well, so I'm guessing he's doing an end of summer reading tour.

Sunday, August 2, Suzanne CordatosBank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 to 3:00 PM

Monday, August 3, Marc Tyler Nobleman, Easton Public Library, Easton 3:00 PM

Monday, August 3, Marc Tyler Nobleman, Brookfield Library, Brookfield 7:00 PM

Tuesday, August 4, Marc Tyler Nobleman, New Canaan Library, New Canaan 3:00 PM

Tuesday, August 4, Marc Tyler Nobleman, Richmond Memorial Library, Marlborough 6:30 PM

Wednesday, August 5, Marc Tyler Nobleman, Norfolk Library, Norfolk 3:00 PM

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: What's My Priority Today?

The June issue of More Magazine carried an interview with Laura Vanderkam who writes about time and productivity, particularly in relation to professional people. Vanderkam had a number of interesting things to say.

  • She provides still more support for the unit system, saying, for instance, "Not taking breaks during the workday is a big mistake, because if you don't take intentional breaks, you'll take unintentional ones." Remember, will power is finite, strongest in the morning and wears out during the day. The breaks you take every 45 minutes, or after whatever unit of time you want to work, help to replenish will power so you're able to work at a higher level.
  • She suggests that people decide what they're going to do for downtime on weekends early in the week before they're too worn out from work to do any planning. Writers with day jobs could do something similar, plan what writing tasks they're going to do with their free time at a point when they're rested and feeling positive about getting some writing done.

Priorities Vs. Not Having Time


Here is the thing I liked best in this interview: Rather than say, "I don't have time," say, "This isn't a priority."  Vanderkam goes on to say, "That language is more accurate." She means that we have time to do a great many things but choose not to. It's not that we really don't have time. We're choosing not to do the things we say we don't have time for.

Some people might find that judgmental. But to me, choosing to think in terms of priorities instead of "not having time" is situational. Priorities change. Your situation one week can mean you can make writing a priority. A couple of weeks later, marketing knocks writing from the top of the work list. A few months after that, your personal life shoves things around for a while.

I like thinking in terms of "This isn't a priority" instead of "I don't have time" because what that really says to me is "This isn't a priority now." I can make it a priority another time.

Monday, July 27, 2015

I Found "Meet the Dullards" Really Stimulating

I'm trying to decide what makes Meet the Dullards by Sara Pennypacker with illustrations by Daniel Salmieri clever and entertaining. The Dullard parents admire all that is dull and boring and are doing their best to pass their values on to their children. Older children (the four- to eight-year-olds the book is recommended for by the publisher) will get that that's funny because it's not supposed to happen. By the time kids reach that age, they're aware that our culture doesn't embrace the bland.

But jokes about a desire for a lifestyle of nothingness aren't enough to hold attention for very long. Because, you know, that gets boring. What really makes Meet the Dullards interesting is that it has a storyline that has run in many an adult novel. Let's say it's about generational loss, not conflict. The Dullard children don't fight Dullard Mom and Dad. They don't actively reject their parents' lives. It just happens, the way this sort of thing has happened since the beginning of time. The Dullard young'uns just can't help running into books, puppies, and the circus. And the young do what the young have always done. They move on to new things.

Yeah, I'm reading way too much into this.

I'll just say that text and illustration work well to provide humor that really does come out of a situation and support a story and leave it at that.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Weekend Writer: Writing Picture Books. Or Not.

Yes, as author/editor Ellie Sipila, who maintains the website Move To The Write, says in her fantastic piece, The Fickleness of Picture Book Publishing, many new children's authors are interested in writing picture books. She writes about why it's so difficult to break into that field, mentioning a couple of things I've never heard before or thought about. Among them:

There's a nice big backlist of picture book classics, so publishers don't need to purchase a lot of new ones.

Many new writers think they should be instructing the young in picture books and often stick to a handful of themes that have been done to death.

The rhyming thing. For years I've heard that editors and publishers aren't falling all over themselves to buy rhyming books. Why? Have you ever thought about what editing does to a manuscript in rhyme? Because until I read Fickleness of Picture Book Publishing, I hadn't.

If you're interested in picture book writing, you may find Fickleness very helpful.

Friday, July 24, 2015

So What Have You Been Doing Since June 26th, Gail?

I haven't done a post checking on goals since June 26th. Though I committed more time than usual since then to the personal side of my life, I did chip away at work.

Goal 1. Mummy Book. I had to go back and revise again before I could move on. This was pretty significant, actually, and it is allowing me to get the end of the book lined up. Until I revise that, too, of course.

Goal 7. General Marketing/Branding. I spent quite a lot of time learning to use Tweetdeck, which I'll be writing about here at some time. Lovin' the Tweetdeck. I also had an opportunity to submit workshop proposals to a Connecticut library.

Goal 2. Short Pieces. Because of Tweetdeck, I saw that a publication had opened for submissions for two weeks, and I submitted.

Goal 5. Community Building. I started work on next month's Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar and reposted an OC post to my Goodreads blog.

Goal 6. Marketing STP&S. Yesterday's Environmental Book Club included a little marketing for Saving the Planet & Stuff.

On the personal side, I finished that quilt top, broke in these Bryce Dallas Howard dinosaur hunting shoes (Yeah, I saw Jurassic Park), went to one of the two best weddings I've attended in my entire life, and started binge reading The Dublin Murder Squad.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Environmental Book Club

A list of environmental books for juveniles and young adult readers from the University of Urbana-Champaign includes authors and/or titles we've heard about: Carl Hiaasen, The Carbon Diaries, and Life As We Knew It, which probably made the list as a climate change disaster story. Oh, and look! The hardcover edition of Saving the Planet & Stuff is there, too. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Getting Started On A New Week

I would have sworn that sometime during this project I did a post on spending some time at the beginning of each week planning what you're going to do over the next seven days. The planning should relate to your goals and objectives? I think I used a picture of a notepad I was using for my planning at the time? Yeah, I can't find it.

My point in bringing all that up is that I do believe in weekly planning. So I was taken when I happened to see 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting Your Week at Time Management Ninja while I was scanning tweets.

If you haven't been able to work over the weekend, Mondays can be rough. They can be particularly rough if you've had more than a weekend off. If you've been messing around with a wedding for a couple of weeks...on an extended vacation...recovering from illness...getting yourself on task, even working for a unit of time or in sprints can be difficult. Planning that you will do certain things can help a lot.

What I like about the 7 Questions article is that it can direct you in your planning, if you're struggling with it. I would apply Question 7, What am I doing to reach my goals?,  to all the other questions, though. What do I need to do for a goal? Where do I need to be to work toward a goal? What do I need to catch up on to make progress on a goal? The questions give direction to your planning, and the goals give direction to the questions.

If you plan what you're going to do at the beginning of the week and go over what you actually did at the end, you can tighten up your work habits a lot.


Monday, July 20, 2015

What? You Don't Talk About Books At Wedding Receptions?

The family wedding I attended this weekend had a library theme. There were references to the bride and groom's bookish ways in a reading done by a librarian (or an archivist--there were a number of library and library-like people there) during the ceremony. The seating chart  and table numbers at the reception were organized around the Dewey Decimal System. Guests filled out traditional library book cards and placed them into a guest book filled with pockets to hold them.

So it was totally appropriate that in between all the merrymaking my niece, Becki, and I went over our reading. I will admit I started the whole thing when I nagged her about the Jane Eyre/Rebecca-related books I got her for Christmas and how knowledge of all things Jane Eyre will enhance her reading life. (I recently read The Likeness by Tana French and am sure I saw a Rebecca thing going on there. My life was enhanced.)

Yeah, Becki directed the conversation elsewhere. To Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, to be exact. She has a friend who's a big fan of the series, and Becki and I have read all the books as well. We both agreed that by the third one we were totally into Liraz and Ziri. Personally, I no longer remember the main characters' names.

Becki liked  The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, which I haven't read. (My niece is reading beyond me. My job as an aunt is done.) We both liked Shiver and, again, were in agreement that Stiefvater has created some fantastic book trailers. Fantastic.

Then we went on to The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, a series I got Becki started on when I gave her Cinder. I'm afraid I got her excited when I told her the last book was out. When I checked yesterday, I found I was wrong. It doesn't come out until November. I was able to direct her to Fairest, in the meantime.

I suspect Becki and I were the only ones who carried the theme as far as we did. But I don't think we went over-the-top. Though, to be quite honest, I don't know what over-the-top would be.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A la Prochaine

I have been taking it easy this afternoon, fighting off a mysterious sore throat that I want to conquer before this weekend's  wedding festivities. (No, I'm not the one getting married.) So this is as much as you'll be hearing from me until Monday at the earliest.

Have a good weekend. I'm going to.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Atticus Finch Story

I am not a To Kill a Mockingbird groupy. I wasn't delighted when I heard there was a prequel/sequel coming out, and I'm not shocked and disappointed over what I've been hearing and reading about Atticus Finch's racism in Go Set a Watchman, that prequel/sequel. I actually find it interesting. Not interesting enough to read what sounds like a rough draft, but interesting.

This is not to say I didn't like To Kill a Mockingbird a great deal when I read it in my early teens. I read it the way a lot of young people read it back then--on my own. It hadn't become part of the American high school curriculum. It was probably among the first adult books I read, and I read it without anyone interpreting it for me in a classroom. Years later, I would speculate with a friend about how soon my kids could read it, because I couldn't wait. She said something like, "Ah...and the rape?" And I said something like, "Ah...rape?" I had no memory of that at all, just that I'd loved the book.

Now I reread Mockingbird as an adult. It was one of the rare situations of a book I'd liked when I was young holding up. At that point, though, I saw it as a father worship book. Atticus was a fantasy dad.

Years later, when I wrote The Hero of Ticonderoga, I would model Andrew Churchill, the out-of-state lawyer father of one of Therese LeClerc's classmates, on the Gregory Peck version of Atticus Finch. Andrew Churchill is educated, which Therese's own father is not. He wears a suit, which her father does not. His hands are clean, he doesn't work in a barn, he doesn't speak with an accent. He is Therese's fantasy dad.

He ends up being a disappointment, though, like the Atticus in Go Set a Watchman.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Replay On Unnecessary Creation

This past week, three family members finished creative work unrelated to our day jobs. This inspired me to reach into the archives, while I'm busy working on a wedding rehearsal dinner talk/toast, and repost Summer Reading--Spending Time On Any Kind of Creativity from August 13, 2013.
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I  know that many people probably perceive focusing on managing time as very noncreative. What about art? What about literature and music and those fields that are, I think, rather stereotypically considered creative? Shouldn't we be focusing on something like that?

I have a very practical attitude toward creativity. Creativity is simply the act of making something that did not exist before. Whether we're talking painting a landscape or baking a cake or writing a novel or building a house, we are talking creativity. Making something that did not exist before takes time. Big, big connection between time and creativity, in my humble opinion.

Manage Your Day-to-Day 's section on creativity includes an essay by Todd Henry called Creating for You, and You Alone. Now, remember, Manage Your Day-to-Day doesn't deal specifically with writers or artists but with all types of "creatives," people who need to come up with something that didn't exist before as part of their work. This particular essay deals with people who work creatively in their jobs, but need to stay on a particular creative task. Exercising other aspects of their creativity is difficult for them, though doing so might be good for their day job, in addition to anything else they want to do with their lives.                                             

Why am I interested in this essay when I write here for writers who presumably create for themselves all the time? Well, actually, we don't. Many writers have traditional day jobs that require creativity of
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them quite apart from the creative work they want to do for publication. Creating for themselves has to happen in addition to that. I also know writers who do work-for-hire, writing specific nonfiction books, for instance, for a particular publisher or writing volumes for series fiction. Earlier this year I met an illustrator who had "auditioned" for and won a rather nice assignment illustrating some children's books for a known cable chef. She expects to be tied up with that job for two years. For  many working writers and illustrators, this really is an issue.
Todd writes about what he calls "Unnecessary Creation," which he believes "is essential for anyone who works with his or her mind." He's talking about creative acts--making something, anything, that didn't exist  before--that are unrelated to an individual's work. "...something about engaging in the creative act on our own terms seems to unleash latent passions and insights." In other words, creativity spurs creativity.

He suggests creating a list of creative projects to work on in spare time, (I know. What's that?) then setting aside a specific time each week or day (Hell, I'd be happy with time each month) to make progress on it. The point of Unnecessary Creation is that any kind of creativity has value. For those writers I know who are trying to get to other types of creative work, that might be what goes into their spare time set asides. Or maybe not. Maybe simply engaging in any creative act will unleash the insights they need to get to the Unnecessary Creation they really want to move on. Creativity encourages creativity.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Funny Bunny Book

I suspect there are all kinds of meaningful child development type things that someone could say about Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Zachariah OHora. Stuff about understanding family, stereotypes, yada yada. I liked it because it's funny.

This book does require a little life knowledge on the reader's part. For instance, wolves usually eat bunnies. Parents usually love babies. Older kids usually watch out for younger kids. So it's probably a book for parents and older preschooler/kindergarteners to enjoy together.

I loved the page layout, with text all over the place and in different sizes. Sometimes that kind of thing becomes pretentiously arty. Not here. And this book has some terrific illustrator and author notes at the back, in which OHora and Dyckman write about their inspirations for the illustrations and text. There's also a quite fascinating paragraph on all the other people who worked on this book, editing, design, and production.                                         

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Creativity Or Creativity

I began this quilt top (for real, marking, cutting, sewing, not just thinking about it, which began last year) at the end of January. I finished it today, four days before my self-imposed deadline. There's still more to do to finish the whole quilt, but I got as far as I planned to get when I planned to get there.

Why am I mentioning this here? It relates to a post I'm doing on Tuesday, and a post (or something) I hope to do at some point comparing quilting to writing. Because, seriously, an empty work counter is a lot like an empty word processing file. And reaching a point like the one I hit today feels a lot like finishing a draft.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Environmental Book Club

I collected a few interesting environmental links this week.

75 Great Science and Nature Books for Kids Under 6 from Melissa Stewart's Celebrate Science blog.

Readers' Corner: Eco-Fiction from a Sno-Isle Library blog deals with older readers. It also seems to suggest that eco-fiction is about climate change.  

What is Eco-fiction? at North Castle Children's Corner is also a list of books for older readers. This library describes eco-fiction as "a work of fiction that reflects the relationship between humans and their natural environment."  Instead of isolating eco-fiction as a genre, itself, they say it is "present" in various other genres.  

In order to include all age groups, check out Love the Earth, Love Some Eco-Fiction, a list of adult eco-fiction.

Three of these lists came from Eco-Fiction's tweets.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

I Bow To You, Bunjitsu Bunny

My reading of Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny is an example of marketing working. Author John Himmelman made a couple of appearances in Connecticut, which ended up on the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar. I think I saw The Horn Book review, as well. So when I happened upon the book at the library, I snatched it up.

And I loved it.

Isabel trains in Bunjitsu. She is well trained. Each chapter is like a little zenny tale relating to how she integrates Bunjitsu into her life. I wonder if the chapters aren't actual adaptations of some kind of zenny stories. Well, not the takeoff on the tortoise and the hare. Unless, of course, the tortoise and the hare has some zennyness in its background, and I never knew.
Isabel's spin on martial arts reflects my experience of it. "Bunjitsu is not just about kicking, hitting, and throwing...It is about finding ways NOT to kick, hit, and throw," she says. This master who used to come to my taekwondo school spoke to us a couple of times about how his proudest moment was when he and some of his master buddies talked some street toughs in, I believe, Scotland out of attacking them. He wouldn't say how they did that, which would have been helpful, but you see my point. I am not at all surprised to see that Himmelman teaches a martial art, hapkido, which I know little about. Of course, I've been doing tai chi for two years now, and let me tell you, that's a mystery.

Someone in my family is going to get a copy of Bunjitsu Bunny when he's a little older. Oh, and look! There's going to be another Bunjitsu Bunny book out this fall.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Making Situational Decisions

I am dealing with one of those situational time management issues, this one relating to that thin and wobbly boundary between personal and professional time. We have a major family wedding coming up in less than two weeks, which means extra events, prep, and visitors. I have to make some decisions about how I'm going to use my professional hours during this extended unit of time.

To make a long story short and more time efficient, I'm not going to be doing very sophisticated blogging these next two weeks. Maybe I'll post links and other quick things that intrigue me. I'll probably be blogging less. Instead, I want to focus what little writing time I have on my main work-in-progress. I'm also going to be doing some research on Tweetdeck, which I learned about on the 4th of July, thinking it could have an impact on managing time. I need some moments to do something calming, too.

Recognizing that you can't do it all makes it possible for you to work more intently on what you can do. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Weekend Writer: More Genre

Last weekend, I wrote about writing genre for children. This weekend, I'm sending you to "Let's Talk About Genre": Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro in Conversaton (Neil Gaiman--The Graveyard Book and Kazuo Ishiguro--Never Let Me Go.) This is what might be called a wide-ranging discussion. I don't think there's anything definitive about genre here, but lots of interesting stuff. For instance:
  • Gaiman talks about the difference between novels with spies or cowboys in them and spy or cowboy novels. The second kind would be genre. I was thinking about this today. Is there such a thing as a novel with an alien in it that isn't an alien genre book? Just wondering.
  • Ishiguro tells of moving to Britain as a child and his surprise when viewing flashy fight scenes in Zorro or Robin Hood complete with banter. Very different from the samurai tradition he was familiar with. He likes westerns, though, and neatly draws The Illiad into his discussion of them.
  • Then Neil Gaiman talks about improving literature! And he tells a great story about why China began approving of science fiction and fantasy a few years back.
Lots of good reading.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

How Do We Feel About Another Author's Photo Showing Up On Our Work?

 An Author Photo Mix-up

Several years ago (just a little over four, to be exact), I read Why Is Someone Else In My Book's Author Photo? by Caroline Leavitt at Salon. In it, Leavitt writes about finding out that the Chinese edition of her book, Girls in Trouble, carried another author's photograph. She found it "discomfiting" and said of herself, "I mourn."

Now, I have learned only a handful of things in my lifetime, but one of them is that I just can't predict how I will respond to any experience. Would I feel that "an author’s photo is the reader-writer connection...It’s a public acknowledgment that a real person — me! — spent four years agonizing and obsessing over the story"? Would I mourn?

My Own Author Photo Issue

Rosemary and Olive Oil, my short story that was published at Alimentum, does, indeed, include someone else's photograph with the author info. Oddly enough, she looks a little bit like Caroline Leavitt.

How upset am I about this?  I probably noticed it three or four months or so ago. I just got around last night to writing an e-mail to the Alimentum editor to see if the picture can be replaced with one of mine. I'm not going to send it for a few days so my OC readers can enjoy checking out the story and the mystery photo. So, no, it doesn't seem to be bothering me that much, and I'm happy to get a blog post out of the situation.

Why Am I Not In Despair Over This Misplaced Author Photo?

Rosemary and Olive Oil was my first published short story for adults, so it was a very big deal for me. To date, it is still my only published short story for adults, so it is still a very big deal for me.  I had to rework it a number of times. I've submitted many short stories over and over again, but Rosemary and Olive Oil went to the third publication I submitted it to. I put this down not to the splendor of the story but to having stumbled upon the perfect place for it. Alimentum is a journal of the literature of food, and Rosemary and Olive Oil is, indeed, a short story about food. Finding the perfect home for a piece of writing is difficult and, sometimes, as in this case, kind of magical.

I think this is running off my back for two reasons:
  1. It didn't happen at the time of publication. My recollection is that Alimentum had just shifted from a print to on-line format when Rosemary and Olive was published. I don't believe it was using author photos with the bios at that point. I most certainly would have felt differently if this had happened with my shiny new story.
  2. I'm a bit of an in-this-moment kind of writer. I tend to be involved with what I'm working on now and not that intent on what I did in the past. When speaking with reporters while promoting new books, I can recall them asking if I was excited about the publication we were discussing. I'd have to say, "Ah, I've pretty much moved on to the next book." Rosemary and Olive Oil was published more than two years ago. Yeah, this author photo thing is interesting and I'm going to address it, but I'm far more concerned with the nine chapters I'm revising of my work-in-progress so I can go on to Chapter Ten and, some day, an ending.
I'll be sending that e-mail to Alimentum's editor in a few days, and I'll let you know what happens. If I think of it. If I'm not tied up with something else.