Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Weekend Writer: An Editor On Editing

In December  I posted about working with illustrators, referring you to Marlo Garnsworthy, an editor and illustrator. More recently, she has done a two-part piece on working with freelance editors.

In Part One she discusses pre-editing issues, among them, what to look for in an editor and the difference between developmental and copy editing. In Part Two she writes about what happens while an editor is at work.

I can't say enough about the importance of developmental editing. Many people outside writing don't know what it is. (Read Marlo.) Many very new writers don't know what it is or understand why they need it.

Quality illustration and editing are the hallmarks of professional publishing. When self-publishing began, it took a big hit as a whole because of lack of attention to these two things. The self-publishing community recognizes that. Editing is something all writers, self-published and traditional, need to understand.

Friday, January 29, 2016

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

January is still going very well, even though most of yesterday and all last night I had kitchen appliances in my dining room.

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. Yes, indeed.

Goal 2. Prepping Mummy Hunters for Submission. I'm researching more submission possibilities. I'm thinking of narrowing it down to agents who have Twitter feeds I like.

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. Nearly finished a draft of one of the writing strategies programs I'm doing the beginning of March and turned the slide material over to Computer Guy who has already worked up a set of slides.

Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff.  A liiiittle bit of reading on Kindle Direct Publishing Select.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.
  • The NESCBWI workshop descriptions were announced this week, and I went over them.
  • I also posted the CCLC and distributed the newsletter. I marketed the calendar at CT Bloggers, the NESCBWI listserv, my Facebook page, two Facebook communities, and Twitter. 
  • I did the TMT post and marketed it at Facebook, a Google+ community, and Twitter.
  • I also did two blog posts on picture books and marketed them to a Google+ community and Twitter.
  • I reposted an Original Content post at my Goodreads blog and reposted excerpts from those two recent picture book posts (covering four books) in reviews there.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Some Picture Books I Picked Up

I can't remember why I was in the library when I found these two titles and took them home with me.

Little Red Writing by Joan Holub with illustrations by Melissa Sweet. This is a clever, attractive book that deals with a red pencil that is writing a story while living the story she's trying to write. I found it a little complex, myself. Kids who are already good writers or have a big interest in it will probably enjoy this the most.

Eats by Marthe Jocelyn and Tom Slaughter. This has no narrative at all, just two words on each simply illustrated page. One word is an animal name, the other is the name of something it eats. The reader (or reader and a child listener) adds the rest. When I had young children, I was not a fan of these kinds of books. I need story! However, Eats was a huge hit with a three-year-old family member.  I believe a couple of us read it with him three times over a long weekend. I think the last page was the grabber for him.

A reminder that children's books are for children, not adults.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: The WRQS

Is everyone having a great beginning of the year-long unit of time? Planning like mad? Knocking off tasks one right after another? Yeah! Me, too! Since we're still at the beginning of this year-long unit of time, here's a little plan for managing your month-long units from Kelly Carey of 24 Carrot Writing so you can do even more.


The WRQS, as Carey calls it, stands for write, revise, query, and submit, and the idea is that you do all of those things each month. Speaking as someone who tends to submit in binges after long periods of leaving everything on my hard drive, I like the idea of forcing myself to spread that work around.

The WRQS requires that you spend the first week of each month writing (anything), the second week revising (anything), the third week querying or looking for a place to query (anything), and the fourth week submitting (anything). Looking for agents, editors, and publications to query/submit to is hugely time consuming. I have complained about it here many times, I am sure. A structure to help make that work happen is a good thing. Essentially what you're doing with this is scheduling work instead of just doing whatever is in front of you, which leads to some things being missed.  


If you're working on a major project, by which I mean a book, you're not going to want to write just one week a month. You can still make WRQS work by simply taking a few units of time away from your writing during Weeks Two, Three, and Four for revision, querying-, and submission-related tasks.

Another thing you could do with this is not do it every month. You could have WRQS months when you want to make sure you're doing more querying and submitting.

Monday, January 25, 2016

February Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

A little more is happening this month.

Tues., Feb. 2, Kiera Cass, Barnes & Noble, Westport 5:30 PM

Sat., Feb. 6, Lauryn Alyssa Wendus, Barnes & Noble, Canton 11:30 AM

Sun., Feb. 7, A. L. Davroe, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 to 3:00 PM

Tues., Feb. 9, Chris Grabenstein, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5:30 PM

Wed., Feb. 24, Robert Sabuda, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5:30 PM

Sun., Feb. 28, Pegi Deitz Shea, Barnes & Noble, West Hartford 2:00 PM

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Some Storm Reading

I took these two books north with me on retreat week, where I saw nowhere near as much snow as I'm seeing now. And nothing like my readers in the mid-atlantic states are seeing. But those of us in New England know that there are many up sides to snow. One of them involves sleds.

Sledding by Elizabeth Winthrop with illustrations by Sarah Wilson is a story in verse about the incredible effort it takes to get ready to go sledding. And then once you get out there...

The only words in Red Sled by Lita Judge are the sounds various creatures make while enjoying a red sled whose young owner left it leaning against the house. A great narrative told only in pictures with a neat surprise ending.

Read about sledding this weekend and then, when you're not shoveling snow, go out and do some. Though, quite honestly, when I was a kid, we called it sliding.

Friday, January 22, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Jan 22 Edition

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals & Objectives. Yes, indeed, I've been keeping track of what I need to do for the month and was very good this week about planning what I need to do.

Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission. The draft is done, the synopsis is done (prior to this week to be honest), 4 cover letters were done, and 4 submissions were made. Did some more submission research.

Goal 3. Short Works/Programs. Put in some work on the writing strategies workshop. Accepted an invitation to speak at my town's school.

Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet. Received a request for a book donation from a service organization in this state and will send them STP&S. This is a multiplier, because it also meets my Community Building/General Marketing/Branding goal. 

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding. Made blog posts and promoted them. Reposted a blog post to Goodreads. Two Goodreads reviews. Two quickie Amazon reviews. Updated the website. Cybils reading and corresponded with my fearless Cybils leader regarding Cybils stuff. Began work on February CCLC.

A good week, especially when you consider I had two days of eldercare this week. But January is usually good for me. It's that new energy at the beginning of a new unit of time.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Environmental Book Club

Anyone else notice I tend to cover a lot of picture books in this feature? I think what's happening is that most of the YA environmental books I've come upon are dystopian, a genre I'm not fond of. Middle grade environmental books  often fall into a save-an-endangered-species-from-an-evil-company category. Yeah, I've read enough of those.

Picture books cover a little more ground--biography, seasonal talk, and gardening, for instance. I appreciate the variety.

Today's books both deal with fall. Fall lasted forever in New England this year. It only ended after Christmas.

Winter Is Coming deals with a child observing a forest and the creatures in it late in autumn, when "winter is coming." The writing by Tony Johnston  is elegant, but maybe a little too much so in places. I don't know what the line "A lynx with Egypt eyes" describes. The same with "My mother says wild things are full of lights." But overall the text works well with the illustrations by Jim LaMarche, which feature the animals the child narrator is watching.

Fall Leaves by Loretta Holland is far more technical, covering things like the Earth's rotation around the sun and how trees make their own food. I particularly liked the page describing why smoke from chimneys stays low on snowy days. Did not know that. At the same time that readers are getting all these facts, they are also seeing word play with "fall" and "leaves."  Elly MacKay's artwork focuses on children and uses autumn colors.

Same subject but handled differently in written and visual style.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Yes Or No?

Last fall, Nancy Tandon, a writers' group buddy, did a post at her blog called The Power of "Yes." Interesting things happen to Nancy on a regular basis. We're talking TV and teaching, people. Why? She makes a good case that it's due to her willingness to say "yes" to new experiences.

Now, I'm a big believer in attitude impacting our lives. But what really interested me regarding what's been happening with Nancy is that in time management we're advised to say "no."

Like That Woman Said Years Ago, Just Say "No"

What the time management people mean is say "no" in order to protect your time, so it's available for working toward goals. For writers, we'd be protecting our time for writing. Time is like your core in a fight and overextending yourself with nonwork-related activities you've said "yes" to are attacks on it. (You know I love martial arts analogies.) Therefore, say "no" to volunteer work. "No" to craft classes. "No" to book discussions. "No" to walking groups. "No" to a second tai chi class each week. "No" to graduate school. Those are examples from my life, by the way.

But if you're saying "no" to so many new experiences, are you missing the kinds of opportunities Nancy writes about? Are you maybe even missing opportunities that could help with your writing?

What to do, what to do?

It Depends On Your Situation, Of Course

You know how we can't create one time management plan and expect it to always work for us because our life situations keep changing? Yeah, well, those changing life situations mean we can sometimes say "yes" to opportunities. Then, when our situation changes, we've got to live like monks and say, "no, no, no."
  • Early in our careers when we aren't publishing and don't have marketing and promotion eating up our time, we can say "yes" to more things.
  • When we're working on deadlines, we have to say "no."
  • If an activity is a multiplier, one that hits more than one of our work/personal goals, we may want to say "yes."
  • If we're working a day job as well as writing, we're probably going to hear the word "no" a lot. Coming from us. 
  • Volunteer work for a writers' organization might be a very good thing to say "yes" to because of the opportunities to meet people in our field. Then again, some of those volunteer positions are so demanding that the people holding them can't write for long periods of time. So..."no?"
A number of years ago, I had to say "no" to a writers' group, and four or five years ago, I would never have been able to say "yes" to all the professional events I've attended recently. But my situation has changed. You hear "yes" at my house more often these days.

If, like Nancy and me, you find yourself in a situation in which you can say "yes," you might want to take advantage of it. Change is constant. Your situation is bound to be different somewhere down the road.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Best Writers' Retreat Ever

This Year I Needed A Work Station
For eleven years, my husband and I have taken off for a week in January to hunker down at a resort timeshare unit that's been in his family since the 1980s. We think of it as a retreat week, when we get away from problems of all sorts. I read, he does mind-boggling jigsaw puzzles in disturbingly short periods of time, we frolic in the snow for a few hours here and there, go out to eat because I don't go near a stove unless it burns wood for looks, not heat. We can't do those things at home because of one thing and another. 

This year, I had to work while retreating because I need to make some submissions this week. Last week I:
Retreat Week's Completed Reading
  • Created a fifth draft of The Mummy Hunters with the edits I did on the fourth draft before I left home.
  • Wrote a #@!! synopsis for The Mummy Hunters.
  • Spellchecked and did a word count for The Mummy Hunters.
  • Finished reading the second book for Cybils judging, read all of the third one, and started the fourth.
  • Read a load of bookmarked articles. I still have a load of them. I've got to stop bookmarking all this stuff from the Internet. Really. I do.


What A Bummer, Huh?


I worked every day, maybe an hour, an hour and a half. It was probably closer to two hours on Friday. This should have really, given that my retreat week is supposed to be all about doing whatever I want and not very much of that. But it didn't stink. It was great.

Rosemary Ice Cream--Amazing
I came away with a feeling of accomplishment, a load off my mind. I was also able to get in some practice for the new tai chi routine we're working on in class, watched three episodes of The Incredible Kimmy Schmidt, may have found a computer program I need for a personal project, hit a new snowshoe trail, and ate some quite decent poutine, as well as some rosemary ice cream, which was just as marvelous as it sounds.

Not All Writers' Retreats Go Like This


Needless to say, this was the best writers' retreat I've ever been on. Why?
  • The other (real) retreats I've attended were more like mini-conferences than retreats. There were presentations or some sort of activity scheduled for most of the time. I didn't come home with any work done, because there was no time to do any.
  • I'd been working on this project for a couple of years and was at the tale end tidy up point. If I'd been trying to generate new material, there's a real chance I'd be whining now about my ruined retreat.
  • I had plenty of space and quiet, which can be hard to find on official retreats.
  • I really could do whatever I wanted, because of the lack of presentations, panels, one-on-one critiques, etc.
I came away wondering if there is a way I can replicate this experience. But, you know, wanting to do this again sounds a lot like desire. And what does desire lead to? Unhappiness.

I will satisfy myself with being happy with last week's experience.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Retreat Week Starts Tomorrow

You won't be seeing me here next week, because I am heading off to my retreat spot. Yes, that's my spot within the spot that you see to your right.

It will be less retreaty than usual, because I have to make a submission the next week. I still have some work to do on the manuscript. I also have to have another three and a half books read by the end of the first week of February for the Cybils.

To keep up some retreat feeling, I'll stay off the blog and Facebook. Also, I'll eat out every day, do a 3- to 4-hour snowshoe trip, hit Bear Pond Books, and read magazines.

A la prochane.

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Jan. 8th Edition

Okay, it's my first week with the 2016 goals and objectives. Hup, hup, hup.

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives: I did lay out 3 things I need to focus on this month. And here I am, continuing with the weekly check of goals. Well, done, Gail!

Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission: Oh, man, did I ever hammer away on this one. Last Saturday, New Year's Day, in case anyone has forgotten, I finished the second draft, which was very gratifying because the last few chapters of the first draft were dreadful. Barely there, to be honest. I also completed revising what I call the paper draft, meaning I printed out the entire manuscript and revised that. I've started work on the synopsis. And, yes, every awful thing you've heard about synopses is true. And you've heard nothing good about them.

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs: I got a start on the Writing Strategies program for the beginning of March. The confirmation letter and invoice are sitting on a counter, ready to be mailed.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding: Four blog posts since Sunday, two of them promoted in a number of places. I've also finished one and three-quarters of the five books I need to read for the Cybils.

This week I hit four of the six goals I have for this year. January is always a good month.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

David The Statue's Story

I was certain I wrote this post weeks ago. I'm sure I didn't lose it. Someone must have taken it. Yeah. That's what happened.

Okay, I became interested in Stone Giant: Michelangelo's David And How He Came To Be by Jane Sutcliffe when I heard the author speak about it at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair. (I know this isn't the first time I wrote that sentence.) She described how she saw the Biblical David's story in the face of  David, the statue.

But Stone Giant is the story of David, the statue, not Biblical David. There are several great elements here. The historical context. The great illustrations by John Shelley. And the basic narrative about a big stone waiting for someone to find David in it.

I like children's books about art. But Stone Giant is about something more specific. It's a book about a specific piece of art. It's also an example of a nonfiction author finding and writing about a little known historical event. 

Jane, and I say Jane because (FTC transparency moment) she's in my writers' group,  has a new book coming out in March, Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed The Way You Talk. She'll be signing copies this very weekend at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Boston.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Goals And Objectives For 2016

Last week in my 2015 Recapitulation Post you learned that I did not make good use of my 2015 goals and objectives. So one of my goals this year will be to do better. Otherwise, my goals are pretty much the same as last year, though objectives are often different. I'm also doing more with giving myself time frames for some of the objectives.

For anyone new just dropping by: I just want to point out that goals are what one hopes to achieve, objectives are the tasks necessary to achieve them. What you're going to do, how you're going to do it. A goal without objectives is a lot like a New Year's resolution. It leaves you with no idea how you're going to do what you want to do.

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives 


  • Plan goal work for each month, making sure that each goal gets some attention each quarter.
  • Continue weekly checks of goals

Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission


  • Complete revision of paper draft
  • Prepare synopsis
  • Prepare cover letter
  • Submit to first four agents
  • Prepare for next round of submissions

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs



  • 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

Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook


  • 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. 

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

These were separate goals last year. I'm lumping them together, because community building is marketing. It's warm and fuzzy and makes marketing/branding connections at the same time.


  • 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.

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


  • Summer or fall


Sunday, January 03, 2016

My Christmas In Books, Part 2

Christmas is finally over for the Gauthiers, and I can report on the last of the books I gave to family members.

Impressionist Painting for the Landscape by George Gallo & Cindy Salaski and The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision by Linda S. Ferber We have a couple of family members who paint, paint well, and study their art. One of them asked for these books. If I had all the time in the world, I'd do some reading on the Hudson River School. Maybe I can find an exhibit somewhere.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge and The New Artisan Bread in Fives Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I've bought my niece nearly 40 books over the years (I kept a list--you have to with that many books or you'll buy duplicates.) Earlier this year, I learned that in addition to reading fantasy, she likes to bake. But she wasn't into baking bread, because it took too long. Well, as my Facebook friends will tell you, I am notori--legendary for baking, including bread. So I fixed Becki up with a bread baking book I've used myself.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. We have a family member who reads historical nonfiction. When we saw him in October, I learned that he wasn't familiar with graphic nonfiction, believing that all graphic work was fiction for kids. Well, we fixed that!

And what did I get in the way of books, you may ask? Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson, which my loyal followers know I appreciate very much. I also received a hefty Amazon gift card that will cover my eBook purchases for months to come.

Friday, January 01, 2016

What Does New Year's Day Mean In The Kidlitosphere?

Why, it means the announcement of the Cybils finalists, of course.

Here we are particularly interested in the Middle Grade Fiction Finalists. This year, I am a judge for this round in this category. You will be hearing more from me on the subject next month.