Thursday, December 29, 2016

January Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Ah, bleak mid-winter. I love it because there's so little going on. Other years I've complained about the lack of childlit activity in Connecticut in January. And over the last year or two it's seemed to me that we're seeing a decline in childlit activity in independent bookstores all year round. But recently local libraries and even Barnes & Nobles have been doing such a good job of providing children's and YA authors and illustrators with opportunities to meet with the public that if they want to put their collective feet up during these dark, short days, it's fine with me.

Thursday, Jan. 5, Betsy Devany, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM

Wednesday, Jan. 25, Jerry Spinelli, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Saturday, Jan. 28, Clare Pernice, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Time To Recapitulate

Yes, people, it's time for my annual ritual of recapitulation, which I learned about, as I do so many things, in an issue of Yoga Journal. I've modified YJ's plan, so I won't be feeling remorse and letting it go or creating a list of negative thoughts that I'll then tear up. What I will be doing is assessing how well I did at meeting my goals this past year before creating more for next year.

So let's see how I did.

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives

Objectives:
  • Plan goal work for each month, making sure that each goal gets some attention each quarter.
  • Continue weekly checks of goals
ASSESSMENT: The planning goal work thing I don't believe I did even once. I'm going to try something similar but different next year. The weekly check of goals I did keep up with, and it's been fantastic. That will be another post sometime.

Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission

Objectives:
  • Complete revision of paper draft
  • Prepare synopsis
  • Prepare cover letter
  • Submit to first four agents
  • Prepare for next round of submissions
ASSESSMENT: Happy with this one. I submitted to two agents, did another revision, and have submitted to at least one editor.

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs

Objectives

  • Prepare Writing Strategies workshops for school appearance at beginning of March. Set aside time each week in January and February for this.
  • Prepare articles using material from last year's workshop submissions. Set aside time each week after Writing Strategies is completed.
  • Complete at least one short story, using the weekly time set aside for new work/programs.
  • Essay possibilities: The workshop slide change; my love for my iphone
ASSESSMENT: Well, I did the workshop. I wrote one flash essay. And I submitted it. So that's all I have on these objectives. I did a number of other submissions of short work, though. There's that, though I didn't have an objective for it. I will have a submission goal with objectives next year.

Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook

Objectives
  • Look into taking book down from Barnes & Noble and Kobo to take advantage of Kindle. marketing for books exclusive to that company.
  • Look into the expense involved with printing a paper edition. (This would involved negotiating with the cover artist, since our contract only involves a digital edition.)
  • If I move to Amazon KDP Select, plan some Twitter promotion, maybe in relation to Earth Day month
  • Collect names of some authors who might be interested in doing a Christmas eBook promotion this year. 
ASSESSMENT: Ah...er...I did take the book down from B&N and Kobo and did one Kindle marketing thing. I promoted it on Twitter. I have a goal with objectives in mind for next year.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding 

Objectives

Janet Lawler Colchester library appearance
  • Continue with writers' group
  • Continue with Original Content
  • January--Cybils judging
  • Check out NESCBWI spring conference, with possibility of attending
  • Check out NESCBWI-PAL offerings this year, with possibility of attending
  • Look into starting Instagram account (I have a plan.)
  • Attend other authors' appearances, as I did last year
  • Continue with (and keep better track of time used on) promoting Original Content at Google+, Facebook communities, Goodreads' blog, and Twitter
  • Continue reviewing environmental books at Amazon
  • Research markets for short work.
  • Do at least two updates for my website, one this month relating to my work for the Cybils and the new workshop I'm developing and another after the school appearance date, when I will post a workshop description.
ASSESSMENT: Did well on this one, though I haven't been doing much with environmental books. Instead of Instragram I did Pinterest. Which is not very useful for writers, though it's fun.

Goal 6. Generate New Work: Revise Adult Version of Becoming Greg and Emma

Objective:
  • Summer or fall
ASSESSMENT: Did well on this one. I finished the revision and got feed back from beta readers. I also finished a picture book and began submitting it.  In November I restarted a project I began during National Novel Writing Month in 2004. So I'm working on another adult manuscript. Both these manuscripts will figure prominently in next year's goals, as will the picture book.


Overall Assessment Of My Year


I was a little chagrined when I went over these goals last week. I had been feeling pretty good about this year, and then I saw how little I did for Goals 3 and 4. However:
  • Marketing the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook shouldn't be as high a priority as generating new work at this point. It's been out in the world for a few years. My marketing efforts now are experiments and training for marketing future work.
  • Generating new book-length children's fiction like The Mummy Hunters and Trouble at Wee Play World is higher priority than generating new short adult pieces, because, remember, I'm a children's writer.
  • In addition, I did some significant work on adult full-length manuscripts, which will mean a whole new world of submitting.
Next year's goals and objectives will definitely build on what I did and didn't do last year. Stay tuned.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Jumping Into Cybils

Just before Christmas I accepted a spot as a Cybils judge for the young adult speculative fiction category. I'll be reading seven books between January 1st and February 12th. A reading intensive. I'm stoked.

I'm also flattered that when the Cybils folks found themselves with an opening, they offered the spot to me.

Second Round judges can't blog about their reading as they're reading. It's too close to announcement time, and we don't want to give anything away. So you won't be hearing much from me about Cybils until after Valentine's Day. Be patient.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: "Done" Lists

Sometime this past year I read a suggestion that workers forget about "to-do" lists for managing time and focus their attention on "done" lists.  Since I spend time each December doing something similar for my whole year, this seems like a good opportunity to consider this time management option.

If I've written about "done" lists before, I can't find it now. Nor can I find the original article that included this material. Getting a handle on that sort of thing seems as if it would be good for time management, doesn't it? Another post.

Why Keeping Track Of What You've Done Could Work

The theory behind preferring "done lists" to "to-do" lists is that much that goes onto "to-do" lists is never done and will often just be dropped. In fact, I can also recall reading decades ago about prioritizing "to-do" lists into A, B, and C categories, planning to eventually drop the Cs altogether at some point, if they lingered on the list too long. Which kind of raises the question, What's the point?

"Done" lists, on the other hand, can become motivators, particularly if you create real lists and you're the kind of person who gets a kick out of some kind of visual reward.

A Couple Of Examples From The Life Of Gail


Exercise "Done" List
First off, let's look at an easy application from my personal life. I have no trouble exercising each day. I'm a bit of a plodder, but I'm happy to walk, sit on a stationary bike with a book, use an aerobics DVD, do some resistance training while watching TV, some yoga, go biking. What is more difficult for me is to organize exercise around specific goals--maintaining strength, improving flexibility, or any of the other functional fitness things we're supposed to be doing. I'm a bit of a binge exerciser. I've tried planning to do X number of minutes of some activity Y times a week, but I doubt I've ever made it through seven days with that kind of thinking. I always went back to running with whatever felt good at the moment. Except not running, of course. I've never been a runner.

Soon after I read about "done" lists, though, I came up with the idea of keeping track of what I've done for types of exercise instead of planning what I had to do. Yes, there are four types of exercise I should be doing each week, and I should be doing each one of them a certain number of times. But instead of assigning days, I jot down what I did with a number, the number designating that it is the 1st, 2nd, or whatever time I've done something in a week-long period. I'm getting a lot more success with this system, in large part because I see that I've done something once, and I'm motivated to do it again so I can see that I've done it twice.

Having done something, motivates me to do more. I've been doing this with exercise for two or three months now. That's far longer than I've ever made it with planning out what and when I'm going to do ahead of time.

Submission Boards "Done" List
A second, more professional example involves what I'm calling my Submission Boards, which you'll see to your right.Technically, this is a very poor way of keeping track of manuscript submissions. What you should do...well, I won't go into that, because, though I've kept track of submissions a variety of ways over the years, in all likelihood none of them were "what you should do."

But the Submissions Boards...the Submissions Boards are another example of how having done something provides motivation to do more. When I could see on the first board that I'd only made a few submissions this year, I definitely wanted to submit more. And when I got close to thirty submissions, I wanted to hit the big 3 0. Yesterday I hit the big 3 3 for the year. That's what bicyclists call a third of a century. (Really, they call 33 and a third miles a third of a century, but I haven't figured out how to do a third of a submission.)

National Novel Writing Month might also be described as a "done" list. If you're doing well, having written for fourteen days in a row is a big motivator to write for the fifteenth day. And if you've been not only writing every day but meeting your word goal, you're going to feel good about continuing to work. 

The Opposite Of The What-the-Hell Effect


Remember the What the Hell Effect? It describes how we often give up on a goal when our self-esteem is low because we feel we've failed at doing something we wanted to do, so what the hell? We might as well drop the whole thing. "Done" lists are the opposite of that. We see we've done something, and we're so encouraged that we keep working.

"Done" lists are also a pretty powerful example (at least in my experience) of an external support for willpower. Workers are ""offloading" some of their mental work/working memory to their environment."



Friday, December 16, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Dec. 12 Edition

Began the week with personal work and ended it with family and holiday work.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding


Goal 6. Generate New Work. Worked on Chapter Two of my NaNoWriMo project. That didn't go well, but I believe I came up with a solution while riding in the car yesterday or this morning. Next week is the week before Christmas. I will be very happy if I can get a chunk of that chapter done.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge For 2017

Katie Fitzgerald at Read-at-Home Mom plans to run an Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge next year. For her purposes, "old school" will be defined as books "published in the decade of your birth or before." The challenge will have a different focus each month.

What's my interest here? Do I have a nostalgic thing for nineteenth century improving juvenile fiction? Ah, noooo. But I do feel everyone should know about the history of their field. Writers are no different. 

I don't plan to take part every month, but by following #oldschoolkidlit2017 on Twitter, I'll be able to benefit from the reading and reviewing of  other participants. So that's happening next year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Happy Birthday, Shirley

I like to take Wednesdays off from blogging. But while on Twitter I learned that today is Shirley Jackson's birthday. My obsession with Shirl is well documented. I had to observe this day.

Hmm. Sounds to me like an opportunity to send readers to my Shirley Jackson in Bennington Pinterest Board.

Jackson Articles You Could Find on Twitter Today


Happy 100th Birthday, Shirley Jackson! at Literary Hub.

Hearts of Darkness: The Short Fiction of Shirley Jackson at Tor.Com

Shirley Jackson's Haunted Houses and Haunted Psyches also at Tor.Com

Shirley Jackson and the Female Gothic at JStor Daily


How many people will be tweeting about us on our hundredth birthdays?

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Thinking About Failures In A Time Efficient Way

The end of the year is here, meaning I'm thinking about recapitulating. Yeah, I'll be explaining what that is later this month. What I will say now is that when people look back at what they've been doing with their time, they're not always going to be pleased. Is being miserable about what happened in the past the best use of time in the present?

You don't have to be very Zenny to know the answer to that is "no."

While on vacation in September, I came upon How to Fail Up (called 5 Steps to Cope with Failure on-line) in a back issue of Yoga Journal. (I mention the date because I want credit for having held on to this thing for three months.) It describes steps to take to make the best use of failure. Remember, failure can bring you closer to success because it narrows the number of things to try. What you don't want to do is just take the attitude that you failed, and it's over.

If you were unsuccessful with a goal, the Yoga Journal suggestions you might want to consider:

  • "Sit with the misery." Or, to put it another way, wait. “We don’t make our best decisions when we are reactive,” says Ashley Good, founder and CEO of Fail Forward, a Canadian company that helps people and organizations learn to “fail up.” You want to start getting over your disappointment before you decide what to do next. Personally, I like to get past it and pumped up (delusional?) again before I do anything.
  • "Decouple your ego from your action." It's not you, it's what you did. Or didn't do. Focus on action and not what's wrong with you. 
  • "...crystalize what you've learned and...formulate your next plan of action."  Focusing on the failure, itself, and not the failer means you really ought to do something about that failed action. The YJ article has a couple of steps at this point involving talking to others about your failure that I was going to blow-off because they were a little touchy feely for my taste, dealing with making people feel better about themselves instead of what they could be doing for that failed project.  However, for writers whose failed goals involve rejected submissions, talking with others about the failure can have a big part in formulating that next plan of action.
    • Did the agents/editors provide any feedback for their decision to pass on your submission? Beyond, you know, this isn't right for me? If so, consider how many of their comments could be valid and what changes you can make to address their issues. Consider this even if the agent didn't show any interest in seeing your project again. The next agent you submit to can have the benefit of the first agent's assessment.
    • If you're in a writers' group, address the issue at a meeting. What could you do differently? If you have feedback from agents/editors, discuss with your group colleagues what these people could possibly be talking about and whether or not it's worth taking their comments seriously. 
  • "Take risks." I would put this another way. "Try again." But try again after you've done some assessment and, possibly, correction.
Taking some time now to assess this year's goal failures will help you plan goals for next year.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Same Situation, Different Genders

Recently I stumbled upon an interesting combination of books at one of my local libraries. The Only Girl in School by Natalie Standiford is about, you guessed it, the only girl in a school. The Last Boy at St. Edith's by Lee Gjertsen Malone is about the same thing, but with a boy. Both books were published this year. Hey, I know an opportunity when I see one.

Both books were classified as juvenile fiction at the library where I found them, though Girl in School involves a younger protagonist and reads younger. Claire finds herself the only girl in her school at the beginning of fifth grade. Evidently no one in her town had daughters for years or else they moved out of town. That seemed improbable. The opening scenes in which boys are giving Claire a difficult time and adults are ignoring it were a little disturbing, too.

Last Boy was more believable. Jeremy is the last boy at a private girls' school, one of a small group who had enrolled during the short period when the place was coed. He's at the beginning of seventh grade and wants out. But his mother refuses to consider him leaving, because she can't afford to send him to another private school. He's at St. Edith's because she works there. His only other option is the local public school, which has a bad reputation.

Both Claire and Jeremy are experiencing some aging issues apart from their situations. The tight friendships they'd had with members of the opposite sex when they were younger are becoming awkward now that they're older.

Here's the big difference between the books: The Only Girl in School is pretty much an account of things that happen to Claire. In The Last Boy at St. Edith's Jeremy tries to do something about his situation. Okay, trying to get kicked out of school isn't a very logical or practical plan, but he is doing something while Claire is mainly receiving whatever action Fate sends her way.

So...that's interesting in a traditional sort of way.

Friday, December 09, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Dec. 5 Edition

December is a rough month. Christmas is trouble, trouble...Oh, stop your whining, Gail, about the epitome of First World problems.

Okay. So what did I do this week that didn't involve whining?

Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters For Submission. I stumbled upon an opportunity to submit this manuscript somewhere and took it. Submissions are good.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.


Goal 6. Generate New Work. I was going to do blueprinting of chapters of my NaNoWriMo project. But instead I got excited about the voice I'm using, and I wrote the first chapter. In three days, which is stellar for me. Been feeling very satisfied for the last 24-hours over this.






Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Adventures In Meditating

Okay, you all recall, I'm sure, that meditation relates to time management because it is supposed to improve concentration. You make better use of your time, if you can stay focused on a task. That's why I keep coming back to meditation. I'm not a born focuser.

The Workshop


In October I attended another workshop (my first was in 2014) run by Dharma Drum Mountain USA,
Not that much soy sauce in real Chinese food.
Hartford, CT Branch
. Forgive the lousy pictures, but I don't have the nerve to go up to a Buddhist monk and ask if I can take a selfie with him. As it is, I shocked one this time when he overheard me asking the woman running lunch if there was chicken in one of the dishes. His eyes kind of popped, and he shook his head. He couldn't bring himself to speak.
Getting ready to sit.


Both this workshop and the one in 2014 began with a lengthy discussion of options for sitting. I was more tolerant of this the second time around, because between workshops I read an article indicating that posture while meditating is important because it will impact breathing. Nonetheless, I have yet to find a posture that works well.

Both this workshop and the one in 2014 covered a formal walking meditation that involved a particular foot placement at a very slow pace, moving in a circle. I'm not a fan. It requires so much effort that I can't not think. Instead, I do the meditative walk described in Chi Walking by Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer, though probably in a loosey-goosey sort of way.

New for this workshop was the section on counting breaths. This I can actually get into. You just have to count to ten without thinking about anything else. If you think of something else, you have to start over. You're just focusing on numbers. If you can't focus on the numbers, you have to focus on the numbers, anyway. (No, that sentence isn't a mistake.)

I had already heard of this.

The App


In September I started using Stop, Breathe & Think a guided meditation app. Here's the thing with guided meditation...someone is actually telling you what to do. One of the things this app told me to do is the counting breath thing I just mentioned above.

You may recall I was on vacation in September. I got this app so I could use it in the car, while someone else was driving. I swear. I got my traveling companion into it because...you earn "stickers" for achieving certain things. He'll do anything for a sticker or a patch.

Evidently so will I, since I've racked up 28 stickers and have meditated with the app 68 days in a row. I went even longer, but missed a day and had to start over. I should be trying other kinds of meditation, but I can't face breaking my 60+ day run. I'm hoping that when I hit 70, I'll get a sticker.

So You Must Be Getting Good At This Meditation Stuff, Huh, Gail?

 

Au contraire, mes amis. I'm remarkably unbothered by my lack of progress, too. Why? Because Kelly McGonigal writes in The Willpower Extinct that the effort those of us who suffer from a wandering mind have to make to get back to the breath actually develops our brains and builds the discipline/willpower we're looking for. I'm working on the theory that being bad at meditation will eventually get me the result I'm looking for.

Fortunately, I'm a journey person, not a destination person. So far, I'm not minding how long it's taking to get me that result.




Monday, December 05, 2016

In Case You Need Some Encouragement To Read The Latest "Horn Book"

I have Facebook/NESCBWI friends all over the November/December issue of the Horn Book.

Articles


Saving Sisters: Little Women, The Hunger Games, and Frozen by Jeannine Atkins.

Reviews

Truth or Dare by Barbara Dee 

Shy by Deborah Feedman

Wish by Barbara O'Connor

Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young  

A Kids' Guide to America's Bill of Rights: Revised and Updated Edition by Kathleen Krull


Interesting Bits By People I Don't Know


Decolonizing Nostalgia: When Historical Fiction Betrays Readers of Color by Sarah Hannah Gomez

Mommy, Do I Have White Skin?: Skin Color, Family, and Picture Books by Julie Hakim Azzam 

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell Review. An interesting twist on Red Riding Hood.

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter by Eugenie Doyle with illustrations by Becca Stadtlander. This sounds like Ox-Cart Man to me. I love Ox-Cart Man.

Nanette's Baguette by Mo Willems. Willems does another book set in France

To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown.Donner Party! I'm sorry. That was in bad taste. Donner Party! 

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet. No one really knows their parents, but when they drag you off to East Germany before the Iron Curtain falls, you may not want to know them. This definitely doesn't sound like formulaic YA. By the way, the review was written by another Facebook friend.





 


Friday, December 02, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Nov. 28 Edition


Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. Planning an essay submission. At breakfast yesterday came up with a revision for it.
 
Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.


Goal 6. Generate New Work. This is where my big work went this week, thank goodness. I now have ideas for fifteen chapters, some more developed than others. Had a couple of brilliant ideas this morning while on a walk and even got them written up. Had another idea while I was sewing. Seriously, if you can get deeply enough into a project, the ideas keep coming.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Everyman...Or Boy...Comes Through Again

Max, our main character in Don't Get Caught by Kurt Dinan, perceives himself as extremely unexceptional. Yet when he becomes the victim of a group prank pulled by the secret Chaos Club, he calls on his extensive knowledge of  caper movies and uses it to pull together a team to uncover the identities of those who victimized him.

Don't Get Caught reminded me of The Lottery by Beth Goobie, another book with a secret high school group holding characters hostage. But while The Lottery is dark and grim, Don't Get Caught is a clever, witty, caper story. Reading the two of them one after the other would be a good exercise in how the same material can be handled in different ways.

Interesting bit of contrast between Don't Get Caught and a number of other YA books that involve some kind of adversity teens are dealing with, bullying, say, a librarian from hell, or being victimized by pranksters. The adults in many of these books are invisible. All of them. Teachers, parents, everybody. They are either conveniently out of the way, uncaring, or clueless. This is done, no doubt, to get rid of grown-ups, so the teenagers can become the actors in the story. However, it doesn't seem realistic.

In Don't Get Caught, we have a different situation. The adults show up. They're caring. They are just unable to do anything to help their kids with bullies, librarians from hell, and pranksters. I think that's probably very realistic. The truth is adults are powerless to help their kids in many situations. That's actually a much harsher reality than taking Mom and Dad out of the picture because of marital problems or work.

Don't Get Caught's ending hints at the possibility of a sequel. I would read that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Will Extensive Planning Speed Up Writing?

First off, I'd like to report that I have a family member who made the 50,000 word point with his NaNoWriMo project this past weekend. He figures he needs to write 30 percent more to finish the story, because, guess what? Fifty-thousand words isn't necessarily a complete story. But he hit his word goal with days to spare.

Now, I didn't have a word goal, you will recall. I was working with material from my 2004 NaNoWri Mo attempt. What I was "hoping to have by the end of November is not a completed draft, but the prep work so that I can write a draft in the future." And, no, I'm not quite there. But I do have a lot more on this project than I had on November 1.

No Excuses. Instead Here's How I Used My Time.

Some time management writers claim that a "Done List" is as important, or more so, than a "To Do List." So what did I actually get done this month?

Before Wading
  • Waded through twelve years of notes I'd made and clippings I'd been saving relating to this story. I thought I had them organized and would be able to discard most, but something happened last week that leaves me uncertain and now I'm clinging to them a little longer.
  • Finished rereading Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock, which I'd been thinking of in relation to a writing project for years, years I tell you, and in relation to this project for a while. I was disappointed, decided I couldn't use it after all, and then swung back and thought maybe I could.
  • Came up with a specific setting for the story. The 2004 manuscript had nothing at all in terms
    After Wading
    of setting.
  • Came up with stronger characterizations for Lori and Margo, my two main characters, and a reason for their relationship.
  • As a result of all the wading through that paperwork, I stumbled upon something that led to a crisis to drop in Lori and Margo's laps.
  • Came up with a narrative voice related to Sunshine Sketches (see above).
  • Began arranging eight chapters, with material from 2004 redistributed and notes for things that could still happen at each spot 
  • I have an ending for this story, something I don't think I've ever had for a writing project at this point. 
  • I have a theme for this story, something I know I've never had for a writing project at this point.

 

No Excuses. Here's How I'm Going To Use My Time


December is a ridiculous time to get much done, particularly for people who don't have a job that involves a structured schedule with a supervisor to report to. Personal lives gush right into professional lives. So I'm going to use whatever writing time I have over the next month to continue tinkering with this project, with a goal of finishing some kind of an outline by New Year's Eve. Like an ending, an outline is something I've never had before starting writing. And that, lads and lasses, I'm hoping will make a difference in the time it takes me to write my first draft.

A "To Do" List is still useful for some people, particularly when you expect you won't have as much time as you'd like. Mine looks like this:

  • Finish the initial planning of chapters. I'm thinking there could be as many as twenty-one. Or, you know, not.
  • Use the blueprinting plan to develop those chapters.
  • Plan the changes that need to occur for each chapter.
  • Plan scenes within chapters, particularly their relation to action, character, or theme.

If this goes on until the end of December, I'll have worked a couple of months on the planning for this project. (Though, not really, since holidays, family issues, and a new obsession with following pre- and post-election coverage have been very distracting so far. Oops. Those are excuses.) Will this have an impact on my time when I'm actually ready to write?

Dun, dun, duuuuuuh.                                                                                                                

Monday, November 28, 2016

December Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

We have a big event halfway through next month that has nothing to do with Christmas. In case you're sick of the holiday by the 16th.

Thurs., Dec. 1, Rob Wilder, Westport Public Library, Westport 7:00 PM

Wed., Dec. 7, Nancy Tafuri, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 to 6:00 PM 

Thurs., Dec. 8, Martha Seif Simpson, Barnes & Noble, Milford 6:00 PM Literacy Volunteers of Southern Connecticut event.

Fri., Dec. 9, Janet Tashjian, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:30 PM

Sun., Dec. 11, Anika Denise, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Sun., Dec. 11, Clare Pernice, Fairfield University Bookstore, Fairfield 1:00 PM

Tues., Dec. 13, Neal Shusterman, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:30 PM

Wed., Dec. 14, Neal Shusterman, Barnes & Noble, West Hartford 7:00 PM

Fri., Dec. 16, Susan Hood, Patricia Reilly Giff, Lizzy Rockwell and Anne Rockwell, Deborah Freedman, Karlin Gray, Rosemary Wells, Tracy Porosoff Newman, Jennifer Thermes, Ann Haywood Leal, Michaela Maccoll, Elise Broach, Susan Ross, Tony Abbott, Christina Pakkala, and Nora Baskin with editor Christy Ottaviano and Connie Rochman, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield So You Want to Write a Children's Book 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Registration required. Free


Friday, November 25, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail. Nov. 21 Edition.

I baked a cookie pie, a rosemary pear crumble pie, a gluton free pear crisp, up-and-down biscuits, Reese Cup sandwich cookies, and around three dozen wholewheat rolls.

Oh, wait. What did I do related to my goals and objectives...

Two blog posts and some plotting on the NaNoWriMo project. Also, I had two spectacular ideas for that story. Both of them while I was riding in the car, as it turns out. And today I got some character work done, including beginning voice work. 

Things could have been a whole lot worse.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

#NativeReads For Native American Heritage Month

The First Nations Development Institute partnered with Debbie Reese, Ph.D. (NambĂ© Pueblo), who researches  the ways in which Native Americans are represented in children's books, to create the Native American Children’s Literature Recommended Reading List – with the goal of encouraging a “national read” of five books under the #NativeReads hashtag. This is a part of observing Native American Heritage Month 2016, which is November.

Yes, we're more than halfway through November. I apologize for being late with this.

If it's too late for you to take part, you can still take a look at the reading list for titles you could read at any time.  I've just created a #NativeReads Tweetdeck column, so I can see what people are reading for this initiative.

Time Management Tuesday: A Different Writing Prep Method That Could Help Manage Writing Time

Last spring while at the NESCBWI Conference I attended a workshop called Blueprinting Your Novel or Short Story with keynote Wendy Mass. This workshop described a way of coming up with chapter ideas and then developing them. It involved generating material with who, what, when, where, why questions in a very structured way and getting this material together before you start writing.

Once again, know as much about your story as possible before you start writing, because that's how you write fast. Writing fast is a great way of getting the most out of your time during National Novel Writing Month.

What's Significant About This?

 

There are two well-known story generation plans that I've seen discussed on-line and in books. I saw the second one used in a workshop:
  1. The Hero's Story, which, personally, I find mind-numbingly elaborate. Seriously, my eyes are glazing over as I type this. Plus I wonder if it is more of a way of creating a formula than creating a story.
  2. "Give your character something to want, then don't let him/her have it." Or "Give your character a problem, then put up obstacles to him/her solving it." This definitely seems more of a formula to me than a way of generating a story. Also, whenever I hear this advice, I think, Ah...want what? And what problem? Where is that supposed to come from?
The "blueprinting" Wendy described last spring sounds as if it involves using ideas you already have to create a plot and then a whole story. You have the opportunity to create something unique that doesn't follow a pattern. And after I've tried it with the project I'm developing this month, I'll let you know if it does what I think it will.


The Twilight Zone Connection


The blueprint Wendy describes in her workshop, which is very well done, was developed from a book called  How to Write a Book on Anything in Two Weeks or Less! by Allen Deever and Ellie Deever. The book appears to have been published originally in 1993, and is now only available in an e-book edition. A search for the authors turns up more how-to writing manuals and some freelance-type articles, also from around 1993. It's not much of an exaggeration to describe How to Write a Book and its authors as obscure. 

I read the e-book edition, which probably wasn't the best format. The book has a lot of directions to move ahead to this chapter or that, which I find awkward with an e-book. Additionally, stylistically the writing has what I'm going to call a Trumpian tone. "Prolific author-in-the-making, be advised that you are about to break new ground in the field of writing." "What's contained in this book is completely new technology and new philosophies concerning the production of great stories in the shortest time possible, which is a technology that has never been been available to potential writers." "Consider this book to be your own personal story consultant. It does everything you would ever want a consultant to do and at a fraction of the cost."  There's pages and pages of this stuff. The authors go on at some length about the positive things their book, the one you are reading, will do for you. They don't actually say, "It's going to be great," but there's definitely that kind of vibe. Additionally, there are some elaborate and nitpicky sections I skipped.

But then there's this material that I haven't seen before, that no one, except for Wendy Mass, is talking about. It's as if these people may have been on to something somewhere in that book, and then it got lost. What if they had created a fantastic writing program but couldn't convey it to others? And their book went out of print? And everybody embraced the Hero's Journey?

We're talking Twilight Zone territory here.

In a few months (Not two weeks as the book's title promises, because I don't do anything in two weeks), I'll come back to this subject, once I've tried using the system myself. No matter how it turns out for me, if you see that Wendy is running this workshop at a writers' conference, attending would be a good use of time. 


  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

#Readukkah Is Coming

The Association of Jewish Libraries and the Jewish Book Council are sponsoring the second annual reading challenge for readers of all ages, #Readukkah, from Dec. 1 through Dec. 8. There are a number of ways to share your reading. "By sharing your #Readukkah reviews, your participation in this reading challenge helps spread the word about worthwhile titles, bringing them to the attention of more readers and supporting the publication of Jewish books!"

In May the Cybils site ran List Fun: Cybils Books of Jewish Interest. YA books featuring Jewish characters is an older piecefrom another site.

I'm going to read an adult book, The Muralist, by B.A. Shapiro and following #Readukkah next month.

Friday, November 18, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Nov. 14 Edition

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. Election carrying on is carrying on. Seriously, I am wasting time every morning checking news sites before I get out of bed to see what's been happening. I've been e-mailing family members and on the phone related to a crisis in another state. And next week we have an out-of-state guest in the area and a major holiday. But I did adhere to a couple of goals these last few days.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Denim post, even though it was Nov. 13. Because I particularly liked it.
  • Promoted Denim to Google+ and Facebook
  • Picture Book post
  • Promoted picture book post to Google+, Google+ community, Facebook community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Time Management Post
  • Promoted TMT post to Facebook, Google+, Google+ community, and Twitter
  • Call for CCLC
  • Began work on CCLC
  • Goodreads blog post on denim. Because I like it that much.
  • Rated a few books at Goodreads that I haven't covered here yet.

Goal 6. Generate New Work. NaNoWriMo. Still going through those clippings and notes I've collected over 12 years. Have some plot ideas as well as an ending, which is totally different for me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Avoid My NaNoWriMo Mistake

Last week I described the major mistake I made before beginning National Novel Writing Month in 2004. "I did not know what I was going to write before I got started." More specifically, I did not know my story.

Pause here for a definition of story. I use Rust Hill's definition of a short story in Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular as my understanding of story, itself. "Something happens to somebody." In 2004, I didn't know what was going to happen or even to whom it was going to happen. ( I was dealing with two characters.) Thus I didn't know what I was going to write about on November 1.

This, by the way, is why I'm not making a traditional NaNoWriMo effort this month. I didn't have time leading in to do the prep work that would have led me to coming up with something happening to somebody and knowing what I was going to write about.

Using The Elements Of Fiction To Create Your Story


Back in 2013, I did a series of posts for The Weekend Writer feature of this blog on finding your story, so I'm going to direct you to many of those. But, in brief, spending time developing the elements of your story can help you create the whole thing. Know your story, know what you're going to write.

This is particularly helpful for organic writers (pantsers) who have trouble isolating plot and working on it by itself. We need to work with the story as a whole organism.
Slide from school presentation

Setting. Consider your setting, which involves both place and time. Why is this helpful? Because certain things can happen in some places and times and not in others. That NaNoWriMo work of mine from 2004 has no setting whatsoever. I didn't use it at all.

Voice. How your character(s) sound can help define their attitudes and personalities, and that will help determine how they will respond to what happens to them and what they may do.
Yeah, another school slide

Character. Focusing on a character can be helpful in coming up with a story for obvious reasons. Something happens to somebody, right? Who this person is will help determine what s/he can/will do. I am not a big fan of giving a main character something to want. I prefer giving them a goal, something to do. Then you can create objectives for that goal, the things the character must do to reach it. Those objectives can become plot points and scenes.

Theme. Many writers say they aren't aware of their themes until they've finished a work. However, if you know it, it can be helpful in creating the story itself. Not sure what to do with a particular scene? Think about how you can make it support your theme. 

Yes, I talk about all this at schools.
Disturbance to Your Character's World. Remember, a story is about something that happens to somebody. We're not just talking a climactic moment here, the last battle scene, the declaration of love, the capture of the bad guy. Something happens to get the character involved in your story, to get him/her started down the road. The aliens land. Mr. Darcy moves to town. A body is found. In children's books, it's often the beginning of the school year, the end of the school year, the start of a trip, a new kid on the street, a parental death or remarriage. It's a jolt to the character's world at the beginning of the story and every thing is pretty much a response to that.

Now You Can Start Thinking Plot. I always say work on an actual plot last, after you've thought about all these other things. All the other things can be very helpful in creating the plot, the series of events that make up the story.

Doing all the above work before starting to write, will mean you know a lot about your story. That's going to make writing easier and faster, whether you're doing National Novel Writing Month or just writing any time of the year.

Faster. That's about time.

But There's More We Can Try


Earlier this year I took a workshop that suggested some new-to-me pre-writing work. Next week I'll touch on that. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Little Time Spent With Picture Books

A Poet Kids May Want To Know About

 

I can't claim to be at all knowledgeable about poet e.e. cummings, though I've certainly heard of him. I didn't have to know much about him to find Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess fascinating.

The book spends a lot of time on Cummings' youth (He sounds like the rare artist/bio subject who had a happy childhood.), a great idea for a children's book. Then it makes a smooth transition to his adult life.

The book makes an interesting connection between Cummings and artists working in other artistic fields, such as Gertrude Stein, Paul Cezanne, and Igor Stravinsky. They "were challenging the way we think and see. In all of the arts, people were in pursuit of the new and Estlin wanted to make his mark, too."  Last month, The Millions carried an essay related to Impressionism's influence on Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse. The idea that all sorts of artists in a particular period are connected is new to me.

This is a beautiful looking book, too.

The MacDonalds And Their Farm 

 

It's a rare child who hasn't heard of Old MacDonald Had a Farm, and that's what makes Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz with illustrations by Eda Kabanwork work. Old MacDonald
isn't supposed to have trucks...front loaders...bulldozers...on his farm. He's supposed to have animals. Incongruity. That's funny. In fact, yesterday I read this book to a four-year-old who said, "That's crazy" when he heard the title.

One of the many neat things about this book is all the face time Ms. MacDonald the farm wife gets.

Personally, I don't get children's fascination with heavy equipment. However, I heard someone on NPR suggest a few weeks ago that it has something to do with powerless children associating themselves with the powerful equipment. No idea how accurate that is.

I think this book is a example of what Pegi Deitz Shea was talking about at the Publishing Children's Books panel discussion earlier this month. Old MacDonald stories are concept books in that they teach children about farm animal sounds. Pegi said that if writers can "provide a twist to a concept," they have a totally new book. Old MacDonald Had a Truck is a definite twist.