Wednesday, June 29, 2016

July Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

We have an author all over the middle part of the state this month with an Olympics-related book and some libraries stepping up to the plate to provide children's/YA author events.

Wed., July 6 Sarah Albee, Hannah Barnaby, A.C.E. Bauer, Leslie Bulion, Leslie Connor, Sarah Darer, Page McBrier, Adam Shaughnessy, Cat Urbain, and Sandra Waugh, Guilford Free Library, Guilford 3:30 to 5:30 PM Book Fest for Tweens and Teens 

Sat. July 9, Janet Lawler, Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill 1:00 to 2:00 PM

Tues., July 12, Deborah Ann Davis, Liz Delton, Stacy Mozer, Caragh M. O’Brien, Padma Venkatraman, Avon Free Public Library, Avon 7:00 PM  Local Author Festival

Tues., July 12, Janet Lawler, Farmington Library, Farmington 3:00 PM     

Wed., July 13 Janet Lawler, Craigin Memorial Library, Colchester 6:30 PM 

Fri., July 15, Christine Ieronimo, Donna LeBlanc, Mollie Wilson Ostroski, Martha Simpson, Patricia Clark Smith, Avon Free Public Library, Avon 2:00 PM Local Author Festival

Fri., July 15, Suzanne Nelson, Tommy Greenwald, Tracey West, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM

Tues., July 19, Rebecca Podos and Karen Fortunati, Thomaston Public Library, Thomaston 6:00 PM Registration

Fri., July 22, Janet Lawler, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 PM

Fri., July 22, Jeanne Rogers, Danbury Library, Danbury 1:00 PM

    Tuesday, June 28, 2016

    Time Management Tuesday: Knocked To The Mat

    I had a very short, long weekend that involved visiting a museum and then biking and letter boxing. (Pictures!) And dinner with my cousin. And then hitting an outlet where I was able to buy clothes two sizes smaller than I usually wear.
    Beautiful trail head
    My weekend left me with disorder, though. Travel debris was piled up in the house all day Monday and into this morning. I couldn't work yesterday because I spent most of the day at an appointment and dealing with elder work. Lots of family things coming up over the next month that will involve taking time off  here and there. In fact, I learned today that there will be an out-of-state guest in the area next week. I have a number of work projects I'm juggling, a couple that could be said to have something like deadlines.

    Fantastic trail--until we hit the hill.
    I do not deal well with mental and physical disruptions and confusion. Last night I spent a couple of hours of prime blogging and social media marketing time dazed and bewildered. It was sort of like being hit too hard in the chest by your sparring partner or having the air knocked out of you because you landed on the floor .

    My Options For Getting Up Off The Mat

    • Work and let the home chaos go about it's business. In my experience, as home chaos gets worse and worse, so do I.
    • Take a day off from work to get the home chaos out of the way. I can do that if there is a compelling family reason, but otherwise I feel bad because I'm not working. And the whole point here is to make me feel better.
    • Stick to the unit system, but pay careful attention to the 15-minute breaks between work sessions. By which I mean don't use them to check e-mail or to see if Elizabeth Warren has had anything new to say about Donald Trump. Use them to take care of the clean laundry from last week, put away the suitcase, get rid of the pile of newspapers. For starters.  
    I'm sure you can guess which plan I went with. I got one work job done and another where I wanted it to be. I put in some time on something else. I found the file I needed for another project after a protracted search during which I did not panic. The clothes are all put away, as is the suitcase and an array of books and magazines. Bedroom looks pretty good. I made rolls! With a bread machine, you can  do it in the 15 minute time periods I had.

    I am not actually on my feet. I am just better than I was last night. I just have to remember that this is my plan for the next few trying weeks.

    Monday, June 27, 2016

    The Penderwicks Came Back

    I was a big fan of the original Penderwicks  by Jeanne Birdsall. I still liked the second book, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, though I thought it had the potential to be "sweeter than yuck."  The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, the third book, I thought rambled, without a tight story line. That's how I felt about the most recent Penderwick offering, The Penderwicks in Spring, too.

    The story was pretty much Batty Penderwick's. She's the musical Penderwick who discovers she's even more musical than she thought. But Penderwickish distractions are going on around her. And Penderwickish distractions tend to teeter on the brink of being "sweeter than yuck," as I said above. Even a bad college boyfriend is bad in a safe way.

    This particular book did have what seemed to me to be a particularly dark episode, not sweet at all, with Batty experiencing what sounds like a depressive episode or something similar. Her family took it very seriously, and she recovered with just their assistance. Which was nice, but I don't know how often a child is able to come back from something like that without a little professional help.

    Yet with all the sweetness and improbable goodness, I still snatched time here and there from my work days to read it. What is the attraction these books have, at least for adults? I know I will probably read the next one.

    Thursday, June 23, 2016

    A Sabbatical Or A Retreat?

    Or are we just talking a three-day weekend?

    I'm off until Monday.

    The Environmental Book Club

    The Nature Generation announced the 2016 Green Earth Book Award winners nearly two months ago. The good thing about being late mentioning this means that I'm giving these books some new attention after talk of the award is in the past.

    The Stranded Whale by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Melanie Cataldo won for best picture book.

    The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin won for best children's fiction. By the way, it was also a National Book Award finalist.

    Children's nonfiction went to Mission: Sea Turtle Rescue by Karen Romano Young (Facebook friend) and Daniel Raven-Ellison.

    The Beast of Cretacea by Todd Strasser won for young adult fiction.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    Time Management Tuesday: How About A Sabbatical?

    The August issue of Yoga Journal has a section on taking sabbaticals called Ready, Set, Stop. Being Yoga Journal, the section includes articles about three yoga instructors who took sabbaticals from teaching for various reasons. There are two additional articles on preparing for a sabbatical, both financially and in terms of expectations.

    Here at Original Content I am into curating information that can be applied to writing and time management for writing and then distributing it, no matter where I find said information. Material about sabbaticals definitely falls into the category of how writers can use their time.

    Why Would Writers Want A Sabbatical?

    Of course, we could be talking a need to get away from the pressure of working and submitting and working and submitting for a while, of rethinking your material and your career strategy. Unless you're an established writer generating a good income, taking that kind of sabbatical should be relatively easy on a practical level--you're not talking about cutting a necessary income stream.

     Otherwise, I'm thinking of two situations in which writers would be interested in taking time off.
    • Writers doing work for hire and editing who want some time to work on their own writing.
    • Writers with full-time day jobs who want some time to work on a writing project.


    And How Would They Do It?

    As the Yoga Journal article points out, a sabbatical takes a lot of planning over a period of time because of the money involved. If you're talking about someone whose income supports a family, or even just contributes to supporting a family, it could mean having to save up a significant amount of money.

    Then for writers who are talking a working sabbatical, one in which they expect to write, another kind of planning needs to be done. A serious sabbatical probably calls for some intense goal and objective setting.

    You might want to adhere to the traditional S.M.A.R.T. plan for goal setting, making sure that what you plan to do during your sabbatical is:

    • Specific. You have a very specific writing goal/story/nonfiction project in mind. Don't, for instance, just plan to "write more." What does that even mean?
    • Measurable. You have a plan for how much work you hope to get done on that writing goal. You can do the NaNoWriMo thing and set a word count, or decide on a number of chapters. Again, don't just plan to "write more." Define what "more" is.
    • Achievable. You can actually reach this goal in the time you have, whether it's a first draft, a certain number of chapters, a certain number of words. If you can only take a few months off, you probably shouldn't get any ideas about learning a new language so you can write a book in Italian.
    • Relevant. Whatever you're going to do should relate to the goal. Taking on volunteer work because you have some free time? Traveling to all the far-flung family members' homes? Only if the volunteer work and the travel relates to the writing goal.
    • Time-Bound. Your sabbatical has an ending date, presumably. So the time-bound part should be easy.
    To be honest, sabbaticals are probably of interest to me, because my father-in-law was a college professor who left on a sabbatical leave a week or so after I got back from my honeymoon. So to me, this is something people really do with their time.

    Monday, June 20, 2016

    An Excellent Reading Experience

    We're having a little trouble with Interlibrary Loan here in central Connecticut, so I haven't been using it lately. Instead, I've been browsing the "new books" shelves at three area libraries. This means I'm stumbling upon things I might have overlooked, if I was just ordering books I'd seen reviewed somewhere.

    John Stone And His Many Lives

    The Many Lives of John Stone by Linda Buckley-Archer is one of those books that leaves you feeling you've read something unique. In large part, that's because it doesn't fit neatly into the YA mold. For one thing, the John Stone of the title is an adult, not a teenager. For another, though it could be argued that Spark, a teenage girl who is sought out by John Stone, is the main character, this book is really about Stone, not Spark. It's his story. She's part of his story.

    On the other hand, though this book is about an adult, there's a great deal of focus on his teenage years. So we're brought again to the YA world.

    Oh, but this is one of those situations in which you wish you had a third hand, because there is still another aspect of this story you'd like to consider. The aspect I'm talking about is Spark's age. She's just finishing up what we'd call high school (the book is set in England) and waiting to see what she'll do about college. She's old on the YA continuum. She's teetering into adulthood.

    Years ago, when I first heard about the possibility of a new category of books, something that would fall between YA and traditional adult publishing, John Stone was the kind of story I thought would fit into that category. I thought we were talking about books about a slightly different period in young people's lives. The literary equivalent of a gap year. Then New Adult came along. Usually when I read of bloggers and writers talking about New Adult, sex and romance is a factor. There's nothing wrong with sex and romance, but what about all the other experiences people have between leaving high school and becoming full acclimated adults, say mid-twenties or so?

    Well, New Adult or not, this book is a mash-up of historical fiction and scifi with a little Gothic business going on about a young woman called to an old house by a mysterious older man. A sophisticated work for an older audience by the author of Gideon the Cutpurse.

    Thanks For The Trouble. Really.

    I read Thanks For The Trouble by Tommy Wallach right after I finished The Many Lives of John Stone. Another elegant piece of writing with some strange stuff going on.

    This is one of those stories in which two characters meet cute (main character Parker robs a young woman named Zelda) and develop an intense, emotional connection that's played out over a short period of time.Think Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist without the rock and obscenities. It was a magnetic read, though I did think it romanticized death a bit.

    However, for me, the ending fixes that. I liked the ending in this case, even though I'm sure some would argue that it gave the story a frame that older readers--really older, like me--will recognize. But it also gives readers a choice, one that I appreciated.

    Is There Something You're Not Telling Us, Gail?

    Well, yes, there is. I'm not telling you the essential situation, set-up, what these books are actually about. I'm not putting that on the table to protect your reading experience.

    I picked these things up off a library shelf with only a vague idea of what they were about. They sat around my house for a while before I got around to reading them. I no longer remembered why I was interested in them. What a great time reading that first book was. Then the second book was just as good.

    And about something very similar.

    I love it when this kind of thing happens. I don't want to ruin the reading experience for anyone else.

    Thursday, June 16, 2016

    How Creativity Happens

    The Readers And Advocates Program

    Where I toyed with an idea.
    I'm sure you all recall that on Sunday I went to a Build Your Readers and Advocates program. As a result of the morning session, I began to toy with an idea relating to the picture book I've been working on for months and will, no doubt, be working on the rest of my life.



    Add Writers' Group

    Came up with an idea while with woman on right.
    Then Monday night I went to my writers' group with that picture book manuscript that I had thought, until I printed it, was in pretty good shape. But by the time I was stapling it together, I was unhappy with the lack of voice. And reading the thing aloud made clear there were some structural problems. (Little aside--Writers' groups hear your awful work.) I came up with an idea for a big revision.

    Add Tuesday Morning's Workout

    Here's where breakout happened.
    Actually, for a couple of years now some of my workout time has gone to yard work, because ours is kind of overgrown. (And that, lads and lasses, is another example of a multiplier--a task that addresses two goals.) So I was dragging a rake through the periwinkle Tuesday morning when I had a  breakout experience. Which was:

    If I was going to do the big revision I'd decided to do at writers' group on Monday, anyway, I could revise in such a way that I could use the idea I was toying with at the workshop on Sunday!

    Bringing together different parts of your life or different experiences to make something different...X + Y = Something New.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016

    The Barnes & Noble Teen Book Festival In Connecticut

    I have a few photos from YA authors taking part in the Connecticut portion of Barnes & Noble's Teen Book Festival this past weekend. I believe there were over 30 events spread over the state involving YA authors.

    Joyce Stengel appeared at the B&N in Glastonbury. Joyce sent me two photos, but I...ah...well, lost one. So she gets first mention.

    Dawn Metcalf's appearance was in Enfield. As you can see, I had a better handle on what was coming into my e-mail by the time her photos arrived.

    K. C. Tansley/Kourtney Heintz was in Waterbury.

     So were Michael Slaughter, Joseph
    Adomavicia, and Patrick Freivald.

    Here's Katie L. Carroll at the North Haven Barnes & Noble.

    Where Tara Sullivan also appeared. 

    Katie has a wrap-up describing her B&N appearances.

    Thank you to the authors who provided me with photos and identified the people in the group shots.

    Time will tell if the Barnes & Noble Teen Book Festival becomes an annual event.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2016

    Time Management Tuesday: Can We Do Something About Completion Bias?

    Last week I discussed completion bias, our tendency "to focus too much on tasks that are easy to complete -- often at the expense of the tasks that are more important." (Lindsay Kolowich) This week I'll get a little more into the subject and  whether we can try to deal with it.

    Are We Talking Procrastination?

    Procrastination, according to Timothy Pychyl "is the voluntary delay of an intended action despite the knowledge that this delay may harm the individual in terms of the task performance or even just how the individual feels about the task or him- or herself. Procrastination is a needless voluntary delay." Completion bias sounds similar to me. Even though the tasks we're choosing to do are real tasks (marketing tweets, researching agents or journals to submit to), if we're choosing to do them instead of taking on a more important, but harder, task, it seems as if we're using completion bias to procrastinate.

    We might call it productive procrastination. We're not shopping on-line or reading up on the latest elderly actor to die, we're doing real work. What we're doing just may not be important work, or the most important work we could be doing at that particular time. We're doing these tasks because they're short and easy.

    To get big, harder jobs done, we're going to have to come up with some strategies.

    The Swiss Cheese Method Of Time Management

    This seems like a good opportunity to recall Alan Lakein's The Swiss Cheese Method of Time Managment. Lakein's "theory was that many people put off complex tasks, hoping to have more time for them at some later date. Lakein claimed you could get started at jobs like that right away, chipping away at what needed to be done with small chunks of time. These small chunks of time were compared to the holes in Swiss cheese. With enough holes, the cheese either disappears altogether, because the job is done, or enough of it disappears to make the job seem manageable enough to work on in a more regular manner."

    For a writing project, this could mean breaking a story down into its elements--character, setting, plot, point of view, voice--and working on planning one at a time instead of trying to sit down and write a whole piece at once. You can add planning scenes to that strategy and then writing those scenes one scene at a time.

    All those pieces of the whole become the smaller, easier tasks we can complete and feel good about. But they are pieces of a greater whole, getting us closer to completing a bigger job.

    And Then There Is The Unit System

    The unit system, you will recall, is my term for working in short chunks of time.  Many time management people discuss some variation of this technique. It helps with maintaining self-control, procrastination, and all types of time woes.

    In the case of completion bias, units of time could become an easier task we take on. We can't get on-board for that big revision? Can we get on-board for doing one unit on it three days this week? Every day?

    If we're viewing the unit of time as a task, when we complete one, we should get the psychological buzz we'd get from completing any small task. And eventually, if we complete enough of them, the bigger task will have become smaller, just as Lakein describes with his Swiss cheese analogy.

    External Supports For Willpower

    Yes, we're talking using external supports for willpower here. And we're doing what I would describe as manipulating ourselves.

    Go for it.

    I'm going to go get my timer, so I can put in a unit on a revision.

    Monday, June 13, 2016

    More Picture Book Research

    Tonight is my writers' group meeting, and I'll be bringing my picture book manuscript. Again. Yes, you may well wonder how long it takes to write a picture book. It takes me a while.

    At any rate, today I'm offering you some more humor picture books from my research on same. I'm talking just two authors.

    Mo Willems

    I've certainly heard plenty about Mo Williams over the years, but when I read one of his books years ago, I was impressed by the illustrations but not so much the text. Now that I've read his Pigeon books, though, I totally get him.

    Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! are funny in concept and in incredibly simple execution. On top of that, I think few children will be able to resist interacting with the adult reading these to them.

    I want to read these to somebody!

    William Joyce

    William Joyce is an author I've liked for a long time.  The retro, intensely representative art work...the slightly twisted narratives... Love it all.

    Billy's Booger, A Memoir is a very clever, funny-in-a-subtle-way, picture book for older kids, older kids who have experienced writing stories for school. The story involves a fourth-grade boy writing a kids' book for a contest. His entry, Billy's Booger, The memoir of a little green nose buddy, appears in the center of the book on smaller, colored pages, with its text looking as if handwritten, its illustrations appearing as if done by a gradeschooler.  You get a real book within a book.

    Memoir seems like a neat genre to discuss with and teach young kids, since it would help them understand how their lives can become material for their writing.

    I had suggestions for humor picture books from a couple of people the last time I posted about them. I haven't forgotten. At some point, I'll be taking a look at those titles.

    Sunday, June 12, 2016

    Working On Sunday?

    The summer yoga sanctuary
    Last week I had to make a decision. Should I spend today doing a couple of hours of yard work, a little baking, some reading, spend twenty minutes in the summer yoga sanctuary, watch the season finale of The Americans? Or should I attend a NESCBWI day-program, Building Your Community of Readers and Advocates? It would be really funny, if, after all that build-up, I said, "I did some yoga and watched The Americans." But, no, of course I went to the NESCBWI program. You know I'm a sucker for the whole community building thing, and I like those day-long programs. They're deep and extended without getting ridiculous about it the way, say, an MFA would.

    Kirsten Cappy
    This was a marketing program led by Kirsten Cappy of Curious City, a children’s book consulting company that creates marketing projects that focus on engaging readers. The focus of today's event was on discovery rather than traditional selling. Hmm. I don't think I heard a word about making bookmarks and postcards. No book launch parties. I could probably live without those.

    I have to go to Twitter to look for the new people I met.

    And I still watched the season finale of The Americans.

    UPDATE: At today's program, someone brought up William Carlos Williams' The Red Wheelbarrow. Read it. Then read this about it.

    I do recall who mentioned this poem, but I don't want to get into it, because she's working on a project related to it. If it works out, I will most certainly bring it up again.

    Friday, June 10, 2016

    What Did You Do This Week, Gail? June 6 Edition

    Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. Not bad.

    Goal 2. Prepare Mummy Hunters for Submission. I'm reworking the beginning, with a new first chapter for starters. This is partly due to feedback, partly due to a book I read post-NESCBWI Conference.

    Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs.

    • I've nearly finished reworking an essay, using ideas from a podcast and that book I mentioned above. (Multiplier!)
    • I also made a submission

    Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

    • Weekend Writer Blogging For Writers post--Promoted to Google+, Google+ community, and Twitter
    • Tassy Walden Award post--Promoted to Google+, Facebook, and Twitter
    • TMT post--Promoted to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter
    • Horn Book post--Promoted to Google+, Facebook community, and Twitter
    • Added more material to CCLC and reposted it to Facebook and Twitter because of this weekend's Barnes & Noble Teen Festival.
    • Working on a Pinterest project
    • Registered for a NESCBWI program on using community for marketing. It's happening this Sunday. Yes, I cut it kind of close.

    Goal 6. Generate New Work: Reading Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town in relation to the NaNoWriMo project I'm considering. Also, been making some notes.

    Am I using anything I learned at the NESCBWI Conference? The book I read, and will blog about at some point, has had an impact on three writing projects I worked on this week.

    Thursday, June 09, 2016

    Horn Book Stuff

    I'm actually caught up on my Horn Book reading. What I am is behind in telling the world about it. So I'm just going to take a quick dip into all my Horn Book thoughts. Too much of a good thing and all that.

    March/April 2016 Issue

    The Beverly Cleary Birthday issue also had a very interesting article by Betty Carter called Escaping Series Mania. (Oh, wow. I just realized. Cleary wrote series.) Carter suggests that "An exclusive diet of early series books might limit rather than expand reading competence." Because series books are so predictable--same narrative voice, same characters, same situations--readers aren't being exposed to much that's new, to much that will push them as readers. Instead of using their reading skills to help them comprehend what they're reading, they use what they already know about the series to do that.

    Well, I thought that was fascinating.

    At the back of this issue is a two-page selection of reviews of narrative nonfiction from The Horn Book Guide. Included is Big Top Burning: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and the Greatest Show on Earth by Laura A. Woolett. Woolett is writing about what's known in these parts as the Hartford Circus Fire. It is impossible to exaggerate how large that disaster has loomed in central Connecticut history. And I'm speaking as someone who wasn't born when this happened and didn't move to the area until 35 years later. Just sayin'.

    May/June 2016

    My favorite article from the collaboration issue was Translator: Trafficking Between Cultures by Elena Abos. When you consider that it's all I can do to read the French jokes my cousin e-mails me, I seem to have a bizarre interest in translation right now.

    In the Of Professional Interest section of the magazine: Patty Campbell (with Chris Crowe) has written Spirituality in Young Adult Literature: The Last Taboo. Campbell used to write regularly for The Horn Book. I loved her columns.

    The Horn Book Podcast


    Roger Sutton and Sian Gaetano have a podcast. I listened to one during a cooking binge. I don't know which podcast, I'm sorry to say. I made a couple of notes that don't include that information.

    Here's the information I did take down: Sutton said that book reviews are news. A newly published book is news is new. The reviewer is reporting on news.

    I have never thought of reviews that way, but this makes the incredibly narrow window for getting attention for new books make sense. That is the period of time when those books are new and news.

    It still stinks for the hundreds, if not thousands, of books that won't be considered newsworthy enough (due to content, the writer's history, etc.) to be professionally reviewed. But at least now I have a better understanding of the stinkage.

    Tuesday, June 07, 2016

    Time Management Tuesday: Completion Bias

    You know how hard it is to get started on a big, new writing project? Heard those stories about writers who work at home cleaning the bathroom when they're supposed to be working? And what about the serious draw of all those little social media marketing responsibilities? Do they call to you when you're supposed to be starting an entire revision?

    It appears that there's a logical reason for all that. Not to say that the logical reason is a good thing. Just an explanation.

    Completion Bias Is Natural!

    In The One Cognitive Bias That Could Be Derailing Your Productivity at Where Marketers Go to Grow Lindsay Kolowich says, "completion bias is our natural tendency to focus too much on tasks that are easy to complete -- often at the expense of the tasks that are more important." We go for little tasks because we like the psychological reward when we complete things. Complete one big task that takes a long time and get just one reward, or complete a number of little tasks and get more rewards? We get to choose.

    Even if the little jobs are real tasks that need to be completed--promoting this blog post with tweets, for instance, or prepping for a writers' group meeting--working on them first means we're not getting to a big job. A new draft. A #!!@ synopsis. 

    How To Get Around Completion Bias

    Kolowich suggests two approaches:
    1. Choosing the most important task from your To Do list and working on that first, no matter its size.
    2. Breaking a big job into smaller jobs, so you've created small, easier to complete tasks.
    I think this subject would be worth at least one more post. So next week I'll write a bit about how completion bias connects with other time management issues I've discussed here.

    Monday, June 06, 2016

    Tassy Walden Awards Ceremony

    © Judith L. Barbosa
    Connecticut's 2016 Tassy Walden Award winners were announced last month. The awards ceremony was held last week. Thanks to writers' group colleague Holly Howley and the Shoreline Arts Alliance, which sponsors the award, I can provide you with a photograph from that event.

    Who are these people? Starting from the left:

    Lauren Miller, CT Humanities,  Doug Fisher, Executive Director CT Humanities, Holly Howley, Winner Young Adult Novel, Linda Zajac, Winner Picture Book Text, Wendell Minor, keynote speaker, Florence Minor, Melanie Meehan, Winner Middle Grade Novel, Tim Perra, Winner Illustrated Picture Book, Doe Boyle, Chair, Tassy Walden Awards Committee, Eric Dillner, CEO/Executive Director Shoreline Arts Alliance.

    Check out Linda Zajac's account of the ceremony.

    Many Connecticut authors who have won this award have gone on to publication. So, good luck to all.

    Sunday, June 05, 2016

    The Weekend Writer: Blogging For Writers

    Whether or not writers should blog is discussed and written about a lot. And, of course, almost everything you see and hear will tell you that you should, no matter what point you're at in your writing career.

    You Should

    The May/June issue of Writer's Digest includes an article called Blog Your Way to Success by Robert Lee Brewer. I think the title is a little optimistic, myself, but there's lots of good, short content in this piece. Pay particle attention to the SEO Cheat Sheet. And under Other Ways to Grow Blog Traffic I recommend Share Posts on Social Media. No one's going to come looking for you these days.

    You Should But...

    Jane Friedman had a post at her site back in March called How to Start Blogging: A Definitive Guide for Authors. That title was a little odd, too, because the first paragraph included the line "The average author does not benefit much from blogging." This isn't quite the "rah-rah, you go, this is going to be fun" piece you usually see related to writers blogging. It has a lot of great material, some of it similar to Brewer's, some of it unique. For instance, Friedman covers a few things about blogging that a lot of writers have trouble with. Frequency of posts, for example. I've seen blogs in which authors go months between posts, maybe doing even just a few posts a year. Friedman says new bloggers should commit to three to five times a week. Once they're established, they can relax a bit a cut back to a couple...a week.

    Both articles are good reads for writers either thinking about blogging or actually into it.

    Friday, June 03, 2016

    The 48-Hour Book Challenge: That's A Wrap

    At the end of May, 2006  I signed up for the first 48-Hour Book Challenge, the inspiration of Pam Coughlin at  MotherReader.  I did a magical realism tour for my first book challenge with seven stops. I took part in 2007 and 2008 and again in 2014 and 2015.

    The 48-Hour Book Challenge was a reading and blogging binge. You picked 48-hours over a 3-day weekend Pam selected, usually at the beginning of June, and during that period read as much as you could of whatever you wanted and blogged about the books you completed. Because that's what litbloggers do. There was a list of participating bloggers at Pam's site so you knew which of your friends were reading and blogging with you. There were prizes.

    No 48-Hour Book Challenge this year. Pam/MotherReader is calling it a day, figuring ten years is a good wrap-up point. There may be some interest in bringing it back next year, but for now the Challenge is a happy memory.

    Some litbloggers who were around back then refer to the mid '00s as the Golden Age of Blogging. As I'm sure I've said before, I think of that time as a wild west/frontier experience. There were no instructions on how to blog, no talk of writers building platform, no articles on why writers need blogs or how they can get by with a blog instead of a website. Internet book bullying was still in the future. No one had come up with ways to use blogs to market books. No one had started companies organizing blog tours for writers. Magazines weren't sponsoring blogs.

    Because we sponsored ourselves! Yeah! Ya just went out and blogged in those days! Sink or swim. Blog free or die hard.

    Blogging was truly social media then, at least in the childlit world, because bloggers interacted, commenting on each others' work and posting links to one another. You were part of a community. Kind of an underground community. Which was cool. The 48-Hour Book Challenge was an on-line ball for the childlit blogging world.

    Well, nostalgia isn't healthy. So let's hitch up our big blogger pants, toss back a little of whatever we like to toss back when we're paying tribute, and get back to whatever bloggy things we do these days. And Twitter. I'm going over to Twitter when I'm done here.

    We had some good times, Book Challenge. Have fun in retirement.

    Thursday, June 02, 2016

    A Last Visit To The UConn Co-op's Storrs Location

    Last week the Connecticut children's literature community learned that there will be no Connecticut Children's Book Fair this fall. This came about because UConn's bookstore will no longer be run by a co-op but by Barnes and Noble. All the UConn bookstores at all its campuses will soon be B&N stores. After June 7, I've heard.

    Why, yes, I do have a new shirt.
    Yesterday I was in beautiful downtown Storrs and paid a visit to the UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center, a satellite of the college bookstore that opened just a few years ago. Sixty-percent off select books! It, too, will be a Barnes and Noble store, soon, though a small one.

    I've heard Co-op staff have an opportunity to move to the new chain. Things could work out for them, at least.

    The offerings in an independent bookstore are often different from those you find in chains. You sometimes see things you've never even heard of. Edgy things. Lovely things.

    "I am the one. Take me home."
    When I'm in an independent bookstore, I like to walk around until a book tells me it's supposed to go home with me. Today I was waiting for a book with a sixty-percent discount to tell me that. Finally, one did, Terry Pratchett's A Slip of the Keyboard, a collection of his nonfiction, which I had never heard of. I had heard of Fay Weldon's memoir, Auto da Fay. It was on a discount shelf, and now it is on mine.

    These may be the last books I buy in that particular store building. I have no objections to Barnes & Nobles. In fact, I appreciate that, in this state, at least, the chain seems to be becoming more active with promoting childlit writers by providing them with appearance opportunities. However, as a general rule I have to say that B&N books don't call to me the way indie store books do.

    Wednesday, June 01, 2016

    More Fearless Plant Hunting!

    I picked up The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller (who is rather fascinating) because I liked Waller's earlier book, A Mad, Wicked Folly, and because The Forbidden Orchid is about the search for botanical treasures during the nineteenth century. During that period, botanists went out into lesser known parts of the world hunting for new, unknown plants just as Egyptologists hunted for tombs and paleontologists hunted for dinosaurs. I am fascinated by the incredible thirst for knowledge people experienced in those days and the total lack of respect for other cultures that often accompanied it.

    The Forbidden Orchid takes a very long time getting to the material that interested me. The first half of the book deals with our protagonist, Elodie's, narrow, Victorian life at home while her father is off hunting for plants in China. Waller does feminist history well in her books, but as good as that was I wanted to move on to the plants.

    Then there is an odd love interest section that I was impatient with, because I wanted to move on to the plants. But I have to admit, teen Gail would have stayed up late reading that part.

    And then we get to the hunt for plants! Politics! History!

    The book has what I think could be called a feminist ending. Actually, I could get into a sequel, especially if it started with plants! Politics! History!