Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Hot, And Evil, Librarian

I bought Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen through one of those Kindle deals, and it sat on my e-reader for a while. I love weeding through my Kindle holdings and finding treasures like this one.

There's a lot about Evil Librarian that deals with teenage crushes. This is normally a subject that I couldn't tolerate for more than a few paragraphs. Who am I kidding? I couldn't tolerate it for more than a few sentences. But it works here.

Mr. Gabriel, the new, incredibly hot librarian at Cynthia Rothchild's high school, is a demon from a place very much like hell, though not. He's at the high school to steal juiciness from the young, use people mojo as part of a plot to take over demonville, and hook himself a human, teenage bride. Being young and hot and a demon, Mr. Gabriel is able to overcome all around him, particularly the students. Except for Cyn who is the rare human who is not susceptible to demons.

Cyn's best friend, though, is very susceptible. She goes for this guy hook, line, and sinker. Cyn, on the other hand, is lusting after Ryan, the lead in the high school production of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, for which she is set designer. Sweeney Todd is a favorite with demons, it turns out. (I've seen a regional production. Don't remember a lot of hummable tunes.)

So you've got your demon fighting thing going on at the same time your teenage "does he love me, because I love him!" thing is happening. What makes this work is that while the fight against evil is happening, teen life goes on. The love angle isn't so much love, as it is uncontrollable drive. It cannot be stopped.

Some little quibbles with logic: The body count keeps going up and no one notices? I can see the demon being able to control what's perceived within the school, but what about those outside the school? Surely they would be aware that someone didn't come home from work. Also, parents are conveniently uninterested and unavailable here. They would have been all over opening night of that play.

But, hey, this is a witty and clever book about demons. You have to let some things go.

It sounds as if a sequel is planned, though I haven't seen anything about it on-line. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Making Reading Time During Lent

Over the last year or so, I've read about people finding time for serious reading. Serious reading is definitely an issue for me. I am attracted to fiction. It's like bright and shining things distracting me from information. How to get myself to suck in the factual material that I want to know about without having to sacrifice time I could use for more fun reading?

Then I thought of Lent.

Lent is a season in the Christian calendar, a unit of time. Traditionally, Catholics, such as my French-Canadian ancestors, gave something up during Lent. My understanding is that you were giving up something for the sake of God, which is why you hear so much about people giving up things like drink or chocolate. You were giving up something you really liked, making the sacrifice more important. Christ sacrificed his life for us. We gave up pastry for Him.

What I found when I was young was that I was always giving up something to help me lose weight, which I found distasteful as far as Lenten morality is concerned. So I gave up giving things up.

Doing Something For Lent

But, as I said, Lent is a unit of time, a relatively short one. Units of time are great for applying a specific goal to. So as Lent approached this year, I thought, Instead of giving something up for Lent, what if I did something? 

What if I found some time for serious reading?

So what I did was start reading the serious stuff for fifteen minutes while I ate lunch each day. I tried to cut out some Internet scrolling time to make this happen. You know, those sites about how dreadful celebrities look when they go to the grocery store, pictures of naughty royals.

And The Result? 

I finished reading How To Live: A Live Of Montaigne by Sara Bakewell, which I began reading during the summer of 2015. The length of time I took to read the book is not a reflection on its quality by any means. It's my nonfiction struggle. I read one of Montaigne's essays well over ten years ago. Not that taken with the writing. I'm much more interested in him, particularly as Bakewell writes about him.

I had been trying to read bits and pieces of the book at night, then rewarding myself by switching to fiction. What I found happening with the fifteen-minute mid-day read was that not only was I reading more, I was retaining what I read better far better than I did when I was rushing to get through Montaigne's connection to philosophy so I could switch to reading something in the Cinder or Dublin Murder Squad series before I fell asleep.

When I finished How To Live, I read an essay about Montaigne in Great Books by David Denby. I'm guessing that book had been sitting on one of my To Read shelves for going on twenty years. Then I read Denby's essays on Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf. I've read more Woolf than I have Montaigne, but I tend to feel about her the way I feel about him. I'm more interested in her than in her writing.

Now I'm reading The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone.

This has been one of the more meaningful Lents I can remember. No, it doesn't sound very spiritual. But it beats giving up chocolate hoping to lose weight.

Monday, March 28, 2016

April Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

We have a number of group events this month.

Sat., April 2, Jerry Craft, Tommy Greenwald, Caroline Magerl, Farhana Zia, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10 AM to 1 PM A Festival of Children's Books

Sat., April 2, Jane Sutcliffe, Heather Lang, Nancy Tupper Ling, Jack & Allie's Children's Bookstore, Vernon 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Sun, April 3, Stacy DeKeyser, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Canton 11:30 AM Local Authors Day

Sat., April 9, Sarita Rich, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Milford 11:00 AM

Tues., April 12, Laura Ballentine Ferris, Patrick Jones, Kristie McCann, Lauren Knowlton, Michelle Polizzi, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM  Local Author Story Time

Thurs., April 14, Jane Sutcliffe, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 PM

Fri., April 15, Carol Weston, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 PM

Sat., April 16, Kristen Kittscher, Corey Ann Haydu, Ammi-Joan Paquette, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:30 PM

Sun., April 17, Lisa Saunders, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 to 3:00 PM

Fri., April 22, Jane Sutcliffe, Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot 4:00 PM Shakespearean open mic.

Sat., April 23, Martha Seif Simpson, Books and Company, Hamden 1:00 PM

Sat., April 23, Sara Levine, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 3:00 PM

Sat., April 23, R. W. Alley and Zoe B. Alley, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 to 3:00 PM

Friday, March 25, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? March 25 Edition

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. Eww. Medical appointment. Holiday prep. Did I get anything done at all?

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. Again, continued with market research.

Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. The negotiations for a STP&S excerpt in a Scandinavian textbook are looking very good. My Norwegian contact is out of the office right now. I also did a little more prepping of blog posts for next month's STP&S promotion.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.

    Goal 6. Generate New Work. Did a very small amount of work on the adult draft of Becoming Greg and Emma.

    Thursday, March 24, 2016

    Yes, I Would Like To Have The Habits Of A Successful Short Story Writer

    I recently subscribed to Writer's Digest, and if my first copy is any indication, I will have soooo much to write about here over the next year.

    I'll begin with Literary Journal Submissions: Habits of Highly Successful Short Story Writers by Erika Dreifus for two reasons.
    1. I've been following Erika's Practicing Writing blog off and on for years. I don't get there as often as I'd like. On Mondays she posts market info for writers.
    2. I'm getting ready to submit short stories to journals. How perfect is it that the first issue of Writer's Digest arrived with this article at this time?
    Among the things Erika writes about:

    "Read Magazines and Journals" 


    "...and understand each one's mission." She's correct. This is hugely important. You don't want to spin your wheels sending manuscripts to publications that clearly don't deal in your kind of work. It's also very difficult because it's so time consuming. Many literary journals are the size of books. Lots to read. Eleven years ago, I subscribed to Hunger Mountain. I still have two issues on one of my To Read shelves. And there are so many journals to check out. I just ordered the most recent issue of Carve.

    "Submit Widely and Often"

    Also hard. Again, it's a time thing. You have to do the reading to find your markets, decide which of your stories should be submitted where, deal with cover letters or the equivalent for those on-line submissions managers, and then keep track of what you've done in order to avoid being rejected by the same place two times. Or more.

    Why is it so hard to find time to do these things? Because of the writing writers are supposed to be doing. If you write book-length work in addition to short stories, you can find yourself deep into a long writing project that has to be marketed in a totally different way from the short stories. Pulling your head out of that to read magazines and journals and submit widely and often...Woe.

    "Believe In--And Act On--'Encouraging' Rejections

    I have a story that fits here.

    Years ago, I submitted a story to a tiny journal in Maine. It was, of course, rejected. But the editor sent a short note. It was a typed note. It clearly came from a little portable typewriter. I could tell because I had one when I was in college. The note said something like "There really are too many characters here for a short story."

    Okay, that's not exactly encouraging. But I believed what that editor said and acted upon it. His response changed how I write short stories.

    Also, Carve sent me a nice rejection once, though I can't remember for what. I was working on something else by the time I got it, something I couldn't pull my head out of.

    That rejection, and the magazine's terrific website, encouraged me to buy its most recent issue, at least. 

    Check out Literary Journal Submissions: Habits of Highly Successful Short Story Writers by Erika Dreifus in the new issue of Writer's Digest

    Tuesday, March 22, 2016

    Time Management Tuesday: More On Content Marketing For Writers

    Last month I did a Time Management Tuesday post on content marketing calendars and how I use one to organize the marketing of my blog. (That reminds me, I haven't made this week's yet.) I referred to an Author Marketing Experts, Inc. blog post by Frances Caballo called Social Media in 15 Minutes a Day. She provides a four-step process to help writers keep their social media marketing time down to 15 minutes a day, instead of, maybe, all day. I really only addressed Step 2, scheduling. So I thought I'd say a few words about the others.


    This is essentially collecting material to write about and writing about it, so you can share it. As a general rule, I don't have to spend a lot of time looking for material to write about. I feel a little kinship with Michel de Montaigne on this point. You just can't shut us up. I'll be writing about Montaigne here next week. I rest my case. It does take me more than 15 minutes to do a blog post, but I try to do them in the evening, so I'm not cutting into my work time.

    Caballo writes within curation about the importance of images. What images? I can offer some ideas:
    The possibilities are endless. I have to wonder what Michel de Montaigne would have done with a camera.

    Sample image of book cover
    If you've been using images in your blog posts, you can attach them to your tweets. Images make tweets pop. Which is what they do to blog posts, too. In The Influencing Machine, Brooke Gladstone says that media has a visual bias, because "News that has a visual hook is more likely to be noticed." With our social media, we want to take advantage of that visual bias.

    Find Time To Socialize

    I think this is where many writers slip up with social media. They post and run. They treat their blog like an announcement page. They don't check to see if they've had any commenters or respond to them. They don't develop community.

    If you're part of a Facebook community, like or comment on other people's posts now and then. If you're active on Google+, make a point of scrolling down the page to check out a few things of interest. Comment or +1 something that interests you.

    By the way, doing things like that provides you with material for blogging and tweeting.

    And it builds community. That is the point of social media, not to just have some little thing you wrote out on the Internet so that maybe somebody will find it someday.

    Review Your Analytics

    Keeping track of what posts bring in the most readers will help writers make decisions about what subjects to blog about. I don't focus a lot on this, because of that business about not being able to shut up I mentioned under Curation. But I can see the logic of doing this. I do check my blog stats regularly, though in my particular case it's hard to tell what drives a spike in visitors.

    It's easier to see what attracts attention on Twitter or Google+, since retweets and +1s are easy to find. I've noticed, however, that tweets and +1s don't necessarily correspond to higher blog stats. What's interesting about that is that I've read you should never share something you haven't read. I'm actually afraid to do that. If I haven't read it, I don't know if I want to share it.

    It's nice if tweets and +1s bring extra readers to the blog. My theory, though, is that they are good in and of themselves. Someone is spreading my name around.

    While I am putting a lot of focus on the content marketing calendar Caballo described in Step 2, I do do the other three steps in her program to some degree. Which suggests other writers could choose to put their primary focus on just one or two steps as well.

    Monday, March 21, 2016

    Get Mindy Kaling To Blurb Your Book

    Last night, for what I think was the first time ever, I purchased a book because of a blurb. Okay, it was an eBook on sale for $1.99. And I have a gift card on file with Amazon, so it didn't cost me anything. But still.

    The book was After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman, someone I hadn't heard of. But it was a mystery, which is sort of my reading genre, and, as I said earlier, it was only $1.99, and I wasn't even going to have to pay that because of that gift card that I also mentioned before. Plus the author has a lot of published work, so if I liked this book, I would have her backlist to draw on. All compelling reasons for a purchase.

    But not enough.

    I went to Lippman's Facebook page (evidently some people do go to author Facebook pages), and I see this: "Laura Lippman is one of my favorite writers. I cannot focus on anything else when I am reading one of her books. Her writing makes me wish I lived a sexier and more violent life." Mindy Kaling.

    It was the "wish I lived a sexier and more violent life" part that sold me.

    Saturday, March 19, 2016

    Susan P. Bloom Children's Book Discovery Award

    The 2016 Susan P. Bloom Children's Book Discovery Awards, sponsored by Pen New England, were announced last week. I've barely noticed these things in the past. However, this year I almost know one of the winners, Michelle Cusolito. So, okay, I'm paying a little more attention.

    A number of prior winners have gone on to publication. Some have done quite well.

    Therefore, congratulations, all, and good luck in the future.

    Friday, March 18, 2016

    What Did You Do This Week, Gail? March 18th Edition

    Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. My days were very chopped up this week. We're not talking glorious accomplishments.

    Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. Continued with market research, though not much. And I found an essay on my lap top that I'd forgotten about and am very taken with. It will have to be cut down, of course, because I go on a bit in it. I have a number of publications in mind for submissions of completed work. At some point, I have to stop looking for more, do some final revising, and submit.

    Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. I arranged for STP&S to be offered free on Kindle for three days next month. The negotiations for a STP&S excerpt in a Scandinavian textbook are on again.

    Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.
    Goal 6. Generate New Work. Discussed the picture book at my writers' group. Also began reading over my adult draft of Becoming Greg and Emma.


    In nonprofessional, but photo worthy, news, I passed my tai chi kung fu fan test. This means that I've moved on to training with a tai chi straight sword now. In case you're not anxious enough about the state of the world.

    Thursday, March 17, 2016

    I Guess I'd Better Figure Out This Biopunk Thing

    Today is Beloved Niece's birthday. I may have mentioned her here from time to time because I've been buying books for her since 2010. I know the date because I kept a list. Wait. I know I've mentioned her here. This is the niece I read Skulduggery Pleasant with. It wasn't that long ago. I finished in January, 2015. I keep a list.

    Okay. Well, I learned last week that Beloved Niece is taking beacoup de science- and math-related AP classes next year. She may be taking some this year. Some of these things I had never heard of when I was her age. Seriously. I don't think they had calculus and physics in Vermont back then. She's also, I was told, interested in studying bioengineering.

    I have to up my game. I have to figure out what the game is.

    So for this birthday I got Becki the first Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud, because these are our kind of books. I mean, just because you're all AP doesn't mean you can't have fun.

    But, then, because I am a truly superior aunt, I googled bioengineering and YA fiction. Yes, I know not many aunts would have thought of that. That's why I am a superior one. Thus, I learned about biopunk.

    According to What Is Biopunk?, a nice short piece at, "...the essence of biopunk: subversives using futuristic biotech." I so love a short explanation. The article's author, Josh Evans, also says, "It is not logical to append the “punk” word to a genre name unless at least some of the characters are rebels working against what is considered the “norm” of society. Typically, a punk has some anarchist views and is less likely to obey society’s laws." I did not know that. See all I'm learning because my niece has gone STEM?

    To try to support this new information I received about my young family member, I also got her The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. I saw it mentioned in biopunk articles and, if my recollection of reading it is at all accurate, it certainly seems to fit the bill.

    Sidebar: According to that What Is Biopunk? article, Dark Angel and Aeon Flux are both examples of biopunk TV. Both shows I liked. Though, honestly, don't ask me what Aeon Flux is about. Even this doesn't make it clear to me.

    At any rate, this is a genre I'm going to need to pay a little attention to.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2016

    Time Management Tuesday: Uh-oh

    I usually do my blog posts in the evening, working around the occasional evening commitment. However, I forgot until mid-day yesterday that last night was my writers' group meeting. Then today there was an appointment and some family stuff and a tai chi class that I have to do a little training for. I decided that any time I have today needs to go toward production-type work rather than blog/marketing work. So I'm skipping Time Management Tuesday today.

    Though that is sort of a Time Management Tuesday post, isn't it?

    Monday, March 14, 2016

    All About Sound

    Recently while talking with students, I said that one of the benefits writers gain from reading widely is learning how different types of writing sound. I wish I'd remembered Phoebe Stone's The Romeo and Juliet Code so I could have used it as an example. I remembered it later while reading her follow-up, Romeo Blue.

    In this second book about new teenager Felicity Bathburn, the young Brit  is still living with her Maine relatives who are deeply involved in the U.S. war effort during the 1940s. Her mother is missing in France. People are being drafted. And Felicity is in love with Derek who has been raised by her grandmother, aunt, and father.

    Felicity and Derek have a lot of spy business going on around them. It's both interesting and sometimes a bit far-fetched at the same time. What's really striking about this book is, as you might have guessed, the way it sounds. I'm talking about more than just a first-person narrator's voice.

    What Stone is doing here is creating a world in which people sound as they did seventy years ago. My recollection of No Ordinary Time Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin involves a gee-whiz, retro language from the people she writes about. You get a lot of that in Romeo Blue. In addition, Stone has to make Felicity sound like a 1940's British girl, one who is a bit on the immature side. And, yeah, that part is voice.

    But because so many people speak so distinctively in Romeo Blue, I think we're talking about sound, the sound of a whole book world. World building is important in all fiction but in historical fiction it carries as much weight as it does in science fiction and fantasy. Sound is a big part of a world.

    The Romeo and Juliet Code and Romeo Blue would make a good binge read. Once you are into the world and its sound, you can stay there a while.

    Sunday, March 13, 2016

    This Weekend's Unnecessary Creativity And Necessary Podcasts

    This stuff doesn't make itself, you know.
    Yup, I was back in the kitchen for a couple of hours today. I worked long enough to listen to two podcasts. And, yet, we had leftovers for dinner.

    What Did Sherman And Jess Have To Say?

    I listened to Episode 5 of A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment with Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter (which appears to have stopped production last October). I chose it because it was called Why Do You Always Write About White People? something that I do, indeed, do. The hosts were going to discuss "how and even if writers should write about other races, genders and cultures." This is an interesting issue, I think, in children's literature because of the very legitimate push to include more diverse stories in children's publishing. I don't see a lot about whether just any of us can write them, though, and whether we should be trying to write outside our ethnic identity.

    There were no hard and fast solutions here. But it got me thinking about the Writing Strategies for Fiction program I presented a couple of weeks ago. The first strategy I discussed was Write What You Know, which means different things to different people and a great deal to me. How does writing about other races and cultures fit in with that?

    And Who Is She?

    I listened to the Longform Podcast's interview with Brooke Gladstone, because I'd heard of her but that was it. So, who is she? She's a host of On the Media, a radio program covering media analysis.

    My big takeaway from this podcast is that Gladstone is interested in On the Media pieces/interviews that relate to a bigger concept, to the greater world. This interests me because, years ago, it was how I saw personal essays defined, and it was what interested me about them.

    This afternoon I ordered Gladstone's book The Influencing Machine. I'll let you know how reading that goes.

    Friday, March 11, 2016

    What Did You Do This Week, Gail? March 11 Edition

    Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. Did remarkably well on this, mainly because the out-of-state guest we were expecting didn't show. Now next week, I have appointments that will cut into my work time. Maybe that will work out well for me, too.

    Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission. Made another submission.

    Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. I didn't generate any, but I did market research for submitting some of the ones I already have.

    Goal 4. Marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. Began putting together materials for next month's Earth Day marketing plan. That isn't actually an objective for this goal, mainly because I either forgot about it or didn't think of it while making the goals and objectives in January.

    Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding. 

    Goal 6. Generate New Work. Finished a draft of the picture book I've been working on.

    Thursday, March 10, 2016

    "Geek Girl" Is Fun

    I picked up Geek Girl by Holly Smale because I was looking for something that wasn't fantasy. An awful lot of that stuff in the libraries around here in the YA department. Geek Girl was a great break from that. It's a YA book with a little romance (lot of that in the YA departments around here, too) and a real story.

    The real story is that the narrator, Harriet, is a very bright, achieving student, and, as the title suggests, a geek. She suffers from one of those over-the-top bullies. She also has a best friend who has always wanted to be a model. Friend gets Harriet to go with her to an event where modeling agents will be looking for talent and...guess who gets spotted! Harriet accepts this situation in the hope that it will change her life.

    What makes this book so good is that it is funny. Not funny in the I'm-trying-to-be-funny-and-failing sense or in that this-is-supposed-to-be-funny-so-laugh way you sometimes see in books. The humor is organic to the story and the character and works.

    Harriet seems to follow along in the tradition of Adrian Mole and Georgia Nicholson. She doesn't tell her story in the form of a diary, as those characters do, though she does use lists. But the family and friends around her and how she responds to them made me think of a smarter, deeper, and more realistic Georgia. And I read this just before Louise Rennison's death, so I didn't have her on my mind. Adrian is already deep.

    When I was speaking in a school last week, I used Geek Girl as an example to support my points about writing what you know (author Holly Smale was a model for two years as a teenager) and the function of friends in fiction (Harriet's friend gets the plot going).

    Wednesday, March 09, 2016

    My Publishers Marketplace Experience

    Publishers Marketplace is a site filled with all kinds of publishing information, including listings on agents and new sales. The "Today's Deals" offering is useful for writers researching who is interested in what. I started subscribing to the Marketplace (which actually costs money) and getting the "Today's Deals" delivered to me back in December, 2014 and then didn't read any of them. For a year. I just stockpiled the things, thinking I'd get to looking at them someday.

    Well, I was right. I did get to looking at them. I went through them in January, often reading up to a month's worth a day. It was a fascinating experience, sucking up information in chunks like that.

    What I Noticed Going Through More Than A Year's Worth Of Deals:

    Publishing relies on cliche for description. Many new books were described as being about a situation more deadly/dire/romantic than "s/he/they could ever have imagined."  There were also a lot of people with family or personal mysteries. In my experience, that's not all that common. Family mysteries are usually common knowledge.

    Many debut books or general books were sold last year that appeared to be adult had teen characters. That's common, a book situation I'm interested in.

    In children's lit, there was a resurgence of the problem book last year. Diversity was all over the place, sometimes treated as a problem.

    A lot of ghost stories were sold last year, for adults as well as children. Maybe more for adults.

    Many deals begin with something like "Best-selling blah blah blah and blah blah author's new book..." and I'd never heard of the best-selling book or its author. This happened so much that I should feel really bad about it.

    Even well-known agents often are selling only ten or fewer books a year. (This is something subscribers can check on through Marketplace. Bang for my buck!)  That may be a lot. On the other hand, maybe there's no reason for writers to get all excited because they've landed an agent. What are the chances that your book will be one of the ten or fewer books s/he sells next year?

    When I got back far enough, say, to early 2015, I was reading about books that, by now, are in print. Which was kind of neat. The League of Unexceptional Children, for instance. Revenge of the AngelsShe Came From BeyondThe Taming of the Drew

    I'm also seeing a lot of books coming up that I hope I'll eventually stumble across, because they look good. A sci-fi Pride and Prejudice, for instance. (Adult) I hate dragon stories, but that could work. Then Nicole Conway has sold a children's book that's supposed to involve "gun-slinging fairies." I hate fairies, too, but as a reader, I could probably get behind that. Also the picture book that sold last summer called Even Fairies Fart. I'm looking forward to that. There's a book about an order of fighting nuns. (Appears to be adult.)  Donna Hosie's Devil's Intern has two follow-up books. Looking forward to Master Diplexito and Mr. Scant. There's a book coming out about Strongheart, who, believe it or not, I have actually heard of. An adult book coming out, Mr. Rochester, all about Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre.

    I'm keeping up with the Daily Deals now. Reading them a day or two at a time just isn't as big an experience as reading twenty or thirty all at once.

    Tuesday, March 08, 2016

    Time Management Tuesday: A Month Really Makes A Difference

    I'm sure you're all wondering how I did with Teaching Authors' 30-Day Boost Your Productivity Challenge, which I told you about back at the beginning of February. I will keep you in suspense no longer.

    The Plan

    What I planned to do was work on my first objective for my fourth 2016 goal. My fourth goal being marketing my Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook, my first objective being looking into taking the book down from Barnes & Noble and Kobo to take advantage of Kindle Direct Publishing Select. I particularly wanted to have that done for April when I plan to do a marketing push for Planet. For the Productivity Challenge I was going to work a couple of hours a week on this.

    The Result

    I got a great result for this. Granted, this was a remarkably easy objective, but I didn't know that when I chose it. I wanted to make these switches last year and never got around to it, because I was sure finding out how to do it would be daunting. This objective involved just "looking into" how to do these things. I actually did them last month, too. I even got started on my third STP&S marketing objective, planning some Earth Day promotion.

    And What Did We Learn From This, Lads and Lasses?

    Precision people--Assigning a specific task to a specific unit of time.

    Then, of course, you have to do it.

    Monday, March 07, 2016

    Let Mindy Explain It All To You

    Why am I writing about Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, a book of essays for adult readers, here at a children's lit blog? Is it just because she is fantastic, cleverly superficial and sophisticated at the same time? Well, that would be reason enough. But as it turns out, I've got more than that in mind.

    Something For Young Readers

    Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a series of personal essays, a form I'm interested in. So there's that. Additionally, though, this is a series of personal essays I think would be a good cross-over for YA readers.

    I didn't like essays as a teenager. I probably wasn't exposed to personal essays at that time, but informational ones. Maybe informational essays from boring white guys, dead or alive. It wasn't until I got to college that I became interested. I think reading Nora Ephron's essays in Esquire was my breakthrough. That was by way of my rogue reading, by the way, not college assignments.

    I think Kaling's memoirish essays in Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? could do the same thing for teen readers, in large part because the book begins with a section on her childhood/adolescence. In spite of accepting early on that she wouldn't be dating until college, maybe graduate school, she seems to have been a remarkably happy teenager. How novel is that? She writes about body image issues at the beginning of the book, too, without a lot of angst. There's a little of that later, but she fixes that problem. Superb dress, by the way, Mindy. You rock it.

    And Kaling is funny.

    Something For People Who Should Be Talking About Humor

    In children's literature, and maybe in education, and certainly among parents, I have heard talk about why so many children's books that are read as part of elementary school classes are, well, ah, how to put this? Okay. Not funny. Kids like to read humor. Schools like to teach serious, even sad, even depressing books. I once read that this is because teachers need to be able to discuss a book in class, and you can't talk about humor. Something is funny or it isn't. What's to talk about?

    But there are people who do talk about humor. Comedy writers do it all the time. They talk about how they put together sets. They talk about what works with humor. They have to know this stuff. Kaling is a comedy writer and comic actress. In her book, she writes about things she'd like to write and her favorite moments in comedy, among other things.

    This is the kind of information people who want to talk about humorous books can use.

    And, of course, with Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? you can get this information in a very entertaining way.

    Sunday, March 06, 2016

    The Weekend Writer: Theme. What Is It?

    Theme isn't particularly well understood. In fiction, it is not a lesson for readers to learn. That's a sermon or the way teaching material is organized. Nor is it a topic. I've often thought of theme as a world view the writer is dealing with.

    The Difference Between Subject and Theme by Steven Pressfield does a very good job of describing the difference between, ah, well, subject and theme, just as the title says. Pressfield does a whole series on theme at his blog.

    Also check out Grace Joliffe's post Theme at Practical Creative Writing. Theme, she says, is about meaning.

    Many times writers will say they aren't aware of theme until after they've completed a work. These two articles help explain why that's not a good idea.

    Saturday, March 05, 2016

    Another Weekend Of Unnecessary Creativity And Podcasts

    This past week, I discovered the In The Telling podcast from Slice Magazine. Since I'm interested in spending time on short stories and essays over the next couple of months and these podcasts focus on writers reading those very things, that's what I listened to this afternoon while creating away in the kitchen. What did I hear?

    The Wedding Stairs by Helen Phillips. I can't say I got the ending, but this story is definitely atmospheric. It made me feel that I should avoid weddings.

    More Encounters in Publishing by Liz Mathews. This piece wasn't hysterically funny, as was promised, but it was real. This stuff happens!

    The Mechanicals by C.J. Hauser  This is the kind of story that makes every woman (and probably man) who didn't have a teenage romance really grateful. Because who needs this?

    To be honest, I chose all the above podcasts because they were short.

    I also listened to part of a talk by Jennifer Weiner on the necessity of social media for writers. I got knocked off the Internet on this one, but I'd heard it before. It's good on several levels, one of them being that few writers can afford the luxury of saying no to social media.

    Tomorrow I plan to go hiking.

    Friday, March 04, 2016

    What Did You Do This Week, Gail? March 4 Edition

    Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. Oooohhhhaaaaooohhh. But the author presentation is over and off my mind now. I can become a hardcore thinker/worker/whatever. Though next week we do have out-of-state company coming. Oooohhhhaaaaooohhh.

    Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission Sent out another submission, but not until after I found a typo in the first chapter, which has gone out in other submissions. So that's a good thing. Not for those other submissions, of course, but for all the others that are coming up.

    Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs.  Conducted the new author program. Hurray! While there, got an idea for an essay/article. Spent some time on the NESCBWI listserv (MULTIPLIER!) discussing a market I'd been considering for a short story I haven't written yet. And that market's not going to work for me, so unless I can find some others, that short story can go on a back burner. Checked out some other markets for other work.

    Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.
    • Podcast post. Promoted at Facebook, Google+, and Twitter
    • Louise Rennison post. Reposted at a Facebook community, Google+, and Twitter 
    • Environmental Book Club post. Promoted at Google+, Google+ community, and Facebook. Book reviewed at Goodreads and Amazon.
    • Goodreads blog post.
    • Began a Mindy Kaling post!
    • Yakked on NESCBWI listserv (MULTIPLIER!)
    • Offered CCLC to some new librarians.
    Goal 6. Generate New Work. Worked on the picture book. 

    Thursday, March 03, 2016

    Environmental Book Club

    Glamorous Garbage by Barbara Johansen Newman is a picture book for early readers with fun illustrations about a girl who can't part with any of the things that have come into her possession. And she can't organize them, either. After getting an ultimatum from her mother, she has to give some thought to doing something about the mess. Instead of getting to work, she starts collecting "glamorous garbage," items other people are getting rid of. She insists she has a plan for them.

    The book begins to introduce the idea of a reduce and reuse lifestyle. That aspect of Glamorous Garbage is subtle, coming across primarily in the illustrations. The child dealing with a messy room, and why she should, is a much stronger part of the story. Most of the environmental picture books I find deal with children observing the natural world outdoors or living within it in some way. This book is different in that it deals with how people live in their homes. It would be a unique addition to an environmental reading list.

    Catch an interview with Barbara Johansen Newman on writing Glamorous Garbage, other Glamorous books, and her work in general at Lupine Seeds.

    Tuesday, March 01, 2016

    No TMT Today, I Had To Go Away

    An introvert takes a group photo.
    Yeah, I didn't have time to do a Time Management Tuesday post this week, because I made the school appearance I've been talking about here for weeks. It was a new program called Writing Strategies for Fiction, with two different versions, one for elementary level and one for middle school. I spoke to third through eighth graders.

    Sixth graders are chatty, chatty, chatty, but that means they'll ask questions and chat with me. Seventh and eighth graders sure look like adults as far as I'm concerned. Third through fifth graders? You are my people.