Thursday, April 27, 2017

May Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar

This month we have a variety of events coming up--a group appearance, a book launch (for Sarah Darer Littman's new book), and a visit from Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine.

Thurs., May 4, Rowboat Watkins, Brendan Wenzel, Sergio Ruzzier, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5:00 PM. Registration requested.

Tues., May 9, Sarah J. Mass, First Congregational Church (sponsored by R. J. Julia), Madison 6:00 PM. Ticketed event.

Sat., May 13, Gail Carson Levine, Byrd's Books, Bethel 1:00 PM

Sat., May 13, Anna Raff, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM. Registration requested.             

Thurs., May 18, Sarah Darer Littman, Cos Cob Library, Greenwich 7:00 PM

Sat., May 20, Wendell Minor, Bank Square Books, Mystic  1:00 PM

Sun., May 21, Shoshana Banana, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM.  Registration requested.

Tues., May 23, Sarah Prager, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 7:00 PM. Registration requested.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: Wasn't I Going To Do Some Research On Slowing Down?

Last fall I did a TMT post called Could I Do More If I Slowed Down?  Evidently I had been suffering from monkey mind last summer, and I was trying to deal with that. Additionally I felt that"Feeling rushed and overwhelmed is unpleasant, and I don't know that hurrying does any good as far as getting work done is concerned." I also thought rushing and feeling overwhelmed attracted monkeys.

I wondered, though, if working slower meant doing less. At the end of the post, I said, "Working slower is going to be my new research focus for the next few months. I am going to be doing it slowly. I'll be checking back."

Then I didn't touch the subject again. Not another word.

Slowing Down? Doing Less?

I started thinking about this recently because I've given up my modest yoga practice. I was having to avoid more and more poses to avoid various aches and pains and realized that if I let it go, I could use my yoga time to practice tai chi, which I've been studying in formal classes for three years or so. For the last year or so, I've been trying to do both.

I kept hanging onto the yoga practice, though it hadn't been working for me for a while, until I realized that while struggling to keep up with both yoga and tai chi, I wasn't doing terrifically with either one. I wasn't getting much from either one, either. I started looking forward to being able to do just one thing. And giving up my subscription to Yoga Journal after more than 10 years? Boo hoo? More time to read other things, people, including the professional magazines that I subscribe to and fall behind on.

That isn't exactly slowing down. It's doing less. Though, I've got to say, the last week or so I've been spending as much time on tai chi as I did on yoga and tai chi together. So I'm not actually doing less, it just feels like it because my attention isn't being split up.

"You Work All The Time"

A family member pointed out to me recently that I work all the time. By which he means, I work all evening taking care of social media, blogging in particular, so I don't have to do it during the day, taking time from my writing. He was right.

Social media is important for a number of reasons that I won't go into here, because this is a post about time, not social media. Nonetheless, I'm working all evening nearly every evening. Okay, to be honest this is partly due to the fact that the monkey is always circling my mind, and I often skitter across the Internet while I'm supposed to be working. Nonetheless, I'm on the laptop all evening, not reading magazines, sewing, looking for new things to cook, and planning vacations, which are my downtime activities. Assuming I have downtime, of course.

Working Slower? Working Less?

Now I really am going to study this, because I need to start managing my time differently. (Yes, I know. I'm always saying that.) This spring is a perfect time for me to make a change, because someone in this house is having work done on his shoulder, which will necessitate some temporary shifting of responsibilities. I'll need to take on some new patient and eldercare work. Since the days are only so long, I'll have to juggle and drop some of my regular work to take on the new.

Or maybe I can just become more efficient and productive. By working slower? By doing less?

By the way, my poor relative's surgery is a temporal landmark. The date is set, so it's a calendar event that's creating a fresh start opportunity for me.  I may be able to disconnect myself from my past imperfections and make changes as a result.

I'm Not Making This Up

I'm not making working slower and working less up, though I would do it without a second thought, if I had to. However, it turns out that slowing down is thing. In Slowing Down Can Increase Productivity And Happiness pay particular attention to Item 4, which deals with time perception. This is new for me. Unfortunately, I have barely a clue what this guy is talking about.

 Doing less is also a thing. Notice the section on the Pareto Principle in Accomplish More by Doing Less.  We covered that here last year. There's also a section on consistency, which I don't believe I have thought about, though my guess is it probably relates to staying on goal. 

Can You Slow Down Without Doing Less?

My initial superficial hypothesis is the same as it was last fall: I don't see how you can really slow down without either becoming hyper-efficient (hahahaha) with your slower work or doing less over all. Let's see what I find out and try over the next month or so.

Monday, April 24, 2017

There Are Fevers And Then There Are Fevers

Okay, I've written here a number of times about the Megan Abbott book I started reading on the plane on my way from Seattle a couple of weeks ago. As it turns out, The Fever is an adult book with a child or YA main character (YA in this case), which is a particular interest of mine. I sometimes write about these  types of books here. In fact, I wrote about an earlier Abbott book, Dare Me.

The Fever is what I'd call a literary thriller. Maybe a mystery, but not a traditional one with a detective-type character of some sort. The mysterious carryings on are carrying on and the characters are enduring them with no one figure working to bring order to this world. By mysterious carryings on, I mean that the girls at a high school are becoming ill with something unexplained and disturbing. Their parents are terrified, as they should be. What is happening to their babies? What is snatching them away (metaphorically speaking), and how can they put a stop to this and get their darlings back?

Interesting Point One: Fever's main character seems to be teenage Deenie, but we often get point-of-view switches to her brother and father, meaning we're talking two generations of narrator. One reviewer described The Fever's story as being told by a family, which I think is a great way of describing what's happening here. They're not just three narrators. We see that kind of thing all the time. They're three narrators tightly bound to one another, without, say, the sexual tension we often see between dual narrators in YA.

And speaking of sex, that brings me to

Interesting Point Two: Sex is used in an interesting way here. (Not that sex isn't always interesting.) Teenage characters are becoming sexually active in this story. I'm reading along thinking, Ah, this is taking me away from who's going to get sick next and what's going to happen to them. Bring me more sick girls. Then I thought,  I guess the author is trying to create a realistic teen angsty world, and teenagers have sex. And angst about it. (Well, who doesn't?) Then I got to the end and realized that sex has absolutely everything to do with this story. It is essential to the plot. Readers just don't get that until the end. Which was a neat little epiphany.

Often in books, particularly YA books, I'll see romance/sex that appears to be there because, Oh, we need some of this. The Fever shows readers sex that truly supports the story it's in.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? April 16th Edition

Finally getting back to real life this week.

Goal 2. Generate New Work Through End Of April--Adult Novels. I'm doing the plotting thing with this. Seriously. I came up with something brilliant for one of my characters yesterday. And for another one, too. Finished reading some research. I've got more plotting done for this project than I've ever had for a book I've only written two chapters for.

Goal 4. Make More Than 33 (last year's number) Submissions Of  Completed Work Throughout The Year. I thought I'd come up with a new publication for an old manuscript. But, nope, it folded. Worked a bit on an agent list.

Goal 6.  Support And Promote Diverse Literature, Diverse Culture. Posted about Thunder Boy, Jr.

Material I tweeted or retweeted:

Larger Than Life: The Fierce and Fabulous Lena Horne - via
Okay, she's not a childlit person. But she's Lena Horne. Come on.

reading on Easter morning Thunder Boy Jr. as good as you've heard. .


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cover Reveal For "Pirate Island"

Fellow Connecticut author Katie L. Carroll has a new book coming out this fall, Pirate Island. She's doing a rather impressive reveal of the book's cover  over the next two weeks, which I'm taking part in.

Cover Illustration: Susan Tait Porcaro
Publication Date:  October 2017

"A thrice cursed island, a legendary pirate treasure, and one not-so-brave boy. What could possibly go wrong?

For centuries, the whereabouts of Captain William Kidd’s lost pirate treasure has remained a mystery. When Billy’s best friend, Andy, proposes they look for it on nearby Pirate Island, Billy thinks it’s just another one of their crazy adventures. It’s usually Billy who ends up in trouble as a result, but he goes along for the ride…like always. The more he delves into the life and death of Kidd, the more he thinks the treasure is real and that it might be buried on the small island in Long Island Sound. Billy—nope, call him William—becomes obsessed with the captain of the same first name. He even believes he’s possessed by Kidd’s restless soul. Now he and the spirit of a long-dead pirate are leading the crazy adventure on Pirate Island. And what they find is far bigger than the treasure they imagined."

You can also check out the neat teaser below.


Other bloggers taking part in the reveal today:

Juneta at Writer’s Gambit
Joshua David Bellin’s YA Guy
Waibel’s World
J.Q. Rose

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: While We're On The Subject Of Shame

Last week I wrote about how shame motivated me to work for about an hour while I was on a plane a week and a half ago. It didn't do anything to help me last week while I was trying to get back to normal while preparing for a major family gathering, though.

Why Shame Doesn't Help Much With Managing Time

Our old friend Kelly McGonigal says in The Willpower Instinct that self-criticism (shame, for instance) undermines motivation and self-control. Feeling bad about ourselves leads us to give in, give up. (That's in Chapter Six, according to my notes.)

Timothy Pychyl in The Procrastinator's Digest says something similar about why some of us don't "self-regulate" better than we do. We want to feel good now. We want to avoid what's making us feel bad (being ashamed of not working harder and longer, for instance), and we want to avoid it right away. Which usually means doing something easier and more fun than staying on task with our work. (Chapter Three, according to my notes.)

It's kind of amazing I did anything at all on that airplane when I could have immediately escaped to that Megan Abbott novel I've been talking about for days.

Instead Of Avoiding What's Shaming Us, How About Using Some Other Kind Of Motivator?

Or you could put it this way--avoid using shame. Develop discipline in another way. But how?

Well, Kelly McGonigal had a whole list of ideas that didn't involve shame that she talked about back when she designed a Yoga Journal willpower program a few years ago: "want power," automatic goal pursuit, implementations, commitments, and the distress tolerance we discussed recently.

Timothy Pychyl offers strategies in The Procrastinator's Digest for improving discipline that, again, don't include shame.
  • Recognize that we're putting short-term mood repair before a long-term goal.
  • Recognize that the task is making us feel bad, and what we're trying to run away from is a bad feeling. 
Shame doesn't work, at least not for long, and there are plenty of other things writers can do to at least try to keep themselves working.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Reading

No, I didn't make all these.

All that time I put in doing all kinds of things for prepping for Easter instead of working, sort of paid off, because yesterday morning I managed to find fifteen or twenty minutes for reading with a young family member. Yes, yes, that's fifteen or twenty minutes I could have been down in the office. Instead, I had a good time, and I'm not sorry.

An Alphabet/Art Book

We started out with An Artist's Alphabet by Norman Messenger, hand-picked for my reading companion who is a fan of visual puzzles. This is a traditional alphabet book with letters formed in stunning images of animals and plants. A really beautiful work. It was a hit with both of us.

A Cat/Art Book

We moved on to Papillon, The Very Fluffy Kitty by A. N. Kang.  This is a lovely story about a cat that is way too fluffy, so fluffy he can float. This is a real problem for him. His human, Miss Tilly, tries to come up with a solution for him, but this is a good book so our animal protagonist/child stand-in has a big hand in the resolution, in large part because he makes an improbable friend. Improbable for a cat.

There are some neat things reading companions can talk about with this book. For one thing, there's the issue of why this book is clever or maybe even funny. It's because cats don't float, people. It's that incongruity that grabs readers. Or grabbed us, anyway. Another thing to talk with your reading companion about is the art work. It's lovely, but each page tends to be a solid background color with black images drawn on them. Except for one small point of red. You can discuss why the artist wanted to put that red in. I just noticed that it appears far sooner than I noticed yesterday. We could have had fun looking for red.

You could also talk about how Miss Tilly never appears, just her dialogue bubbles. And papillon in French means butterfly, a creature that can, indeed float. Okay, it flies. But flying is like floating. Both words begin with "f."

A Sherman Alexie/Art Book

You may recall my recent concern about running into Sherman Alexie on my way home from Seattle, and he would be working intently on the plane while I wasn't, and I would be ashamed. Well, fortunately he does work harder than I do, and last year he published Thunder Boy, Jr., illustrated by Yuyi Morales. This book got a lot of buzz, and this is a case where it was well deserved.

Thunder Boy Smith, Jr., known as Little Thunder, is unhappy with his name. But it's not, readers come to realize, because his name is Thunder Boy. It's because he wants his own name, not his father's, as awesome as Dad is. What's interesting and unique about this story is that Thunder Boy, Jr. isn't looking for a Tom, Dick, and Harry type of name. He wants a name that sounds like him, that celebrates something he's done. He goes over a series of suggestions that are both funny and poetic. The name he and his father hit upon at the ending is both surprising (because, as I said, it's not Tom, Dick, or Harry) and perfect.

This is a unique story that's told without lots of extra text. The illustrations work fantastically, showing us Thunder Boy's life as a Native American child in a Native American family. The artwork definitely carries that part of the story.

You can see why I don't regret not working yesterday. The reading was great.

Friday, April 14, 2017

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? April 9 Edition

I have 15 people coming here for dinner on Easter Sunday, and I was out of town last week. No food here when we got back, no clean laundry, and the plans for the weekend were just coming together. I've been e-mailing relatives, chopping up Halloween candy to put in an Easter cake, making cupcakes, hunting for new vegetable recipes on-line, raking the parts of the yard people will see when they get here, and feeling anxious about not working for two weeks. Except for blogging, I've done nothing for work.

Yes, that's right. That's what I did last week, too.

The blog, though, has done very well the last few days. I've had very good stats. So that's gratifying.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Environmental Book Club

Yes, it has been a while since I've done an Environmental Book Club post. Not since last summer, in fact.

However, the Nature Generation has released its short list for the Green Earth Book Award, "the nation’s first environmental stewardship book award for children and young adult books." Included on the list is Ada's Violin by Susan Hood, which I happen to have on my TBR pile, so I may be back with a post about that. And I read another book perfect for the EBC, and as soon as I can finally get a response written up, I'll be back with that.

So, see you around.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: Shame As A Motivator

Back in 2015 I wrote here that I refused to use guilt as a motivator. However, last week I found that shame works pretty well for an hour or so.

On Friday I returned home from a week in Seattle. I don't usually work much on vacations, but I do bring my laptop with me so I can do a little journal work and catch up on professional reading. This time, though, I left the laptop home, because I didn't want to bother bringing it on a plane. All I had with me was a traditional bound journal, a Writer's Digest, a Horn Book, and some other improving reading to do on the plane. I even printed out the chapter list and notes for the book I'm working on, figuring that surely over five days I'd be able to do something with that.

I didn't even make it to the airport in Boston before I decided I needed some lighter reading. I picked up Mindy Kaling's latest book at a news stand. Temptation. I'm very fond of Mindy.

On the flight to Seattle I did nothing but shuffle back and forth between a couple of books and listen to a Backstory podcast. It had been a few decades since I'd flown, and while it appeared that I was no longer terrified of flying (who knew?), I was bored as Hell. I only said, "Are we there yet?" once, but I was thinking it, even though I was glued to the flight tracker on the monitor in front of me and kept scrolling through the same TV stations I could have watched at home.

Who can work under those conditions?

While in the Seattle area, the few hours I wasn't visiting relatives, biking sixteen miles (see how I managed to slip that in?), or doing touristic things, I spent with Mindy Kaling. Then I bought two more non-work and involving books for the flight home. Because, you know, I already had learned that it's ridiculous to think you can work on a plane.

So I was set for the trip home with The Fever by Megan Abbott and A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. All was good. Seriously, I had a feeling of well being while I was sitting at the gate waiting for my plane to Boston.

Then I noticed this guy sitting next to me with his laptop open. (He didn't have any concerns about traveling with it.) What did I see on his screen? (Because I looked.) Manuscript pages. The guy was a writer. And he was writing in an airport.

I immediately recalled Mindy Kaling's book, which I had just finished. This woman has a really disturbing work  ethic. By which I mean disturbing when compared to mine. She sounds as if she's always working. Even when she's drinking and eating and admiring guys, she's working because she writes about all that. If she's ever been in Seattle, I'm betting she was working.

So I'd been reading about that for a couple of days while, remember, I was doing nothing. Then this guy sits down next to me and rubs it in that he's not reading a Megan Abbott novel.

What if he sits next to me on the plane? I thought. What if I have him working next to me for four or five hours? I finally casually turned and took a look at the guy, himself, wondering if he was Sherman Alexie, who's supposed to live in Seattle. What if I had to sit next to Sherman Alexie for nearly six hours (what with takeoff and landing) and he worked through the whole trip, illustrating why he is Sherman Alexie and I'm Gail Gauthier?

Well, this guy wasn't Sherman Alexie. And he didn't sit next to me. He sat directly in front of me. I couldn't see his laptop, but I know he had it open, because I leaned around him so I could see it.

That's why I wrote most of this post in my bound journal on the plane, as well as notes for two book posts. The only reason this post is going up on time is because I did that writing on the plane. See? Shame is good.

Then I went back to reading Megan Abbott, and then I took a nap.

So shame is good, but only for a while.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Picture Book Giveaway: Pete Seeger And Using Music To Promote Social Justice

The Giveaway

This month I'm giving away a copy of Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice by Susanna Reich with illustrations by Adam Gustavson. You'll find instructions on how to enter to win at the end of this post. But first...

The Book

Susannah Reich has written a number of interesting nonfiction picture books that deal with individuals. They're either traditional biographies (Painting the Wild Frontier), creative nonfiction covering a little known aspect of a well-known figure's life (Minette's Feast), and even an account of a group of people in terms of the group members' relationship with one another (Fab Four Friends). This spring's Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Music, and the Path to Justice tells you exactly what the book is about in its title. It focuses specifically on folk singer Pete Seeger's use of music to bring attention to social problems during his own lifetime. The book covers Seeger's development as a singer and his interests in issues such as improved pay and conditions for workers and civil rights.

This is a picture book that will be of interest to adults as well as older children. Why?

  • Stand Up and Sing! covers some of the movement for social justice in mid-twentieth century America.
  • It also deals with music history. Hey, Seeger was a member of The Weavers. Wimoweh, folks. Who hasn't fantasized about being able to sing the Tokens' version of that song? Who hasn't humiliated themselves trying?  The Weavers' song list.
  • For young writers (or new writers of any age) the book could also serve as a model of a certain type of biography, one that follows a specific thread in the subject's life.

Check out illustrator Adam Gustavson's blog post on illustrating Stand Up and Sing!

And Stand Up and Sing! Could Be Yours

For the rest of the month of April, readers may leave a comment to this post, which will enter them into the random drawing for a copy of Stand Up and Sing! The drawing will take place on Sunday, April 30.

I will need to notify the winner of the book. If the name next to your comment doesn't link back to a blog or site so I can find an e-mail, please either leave a way for me to reach you in your comment or check back here on April 30/May 1 to see the announcement of the winner. And contact me then, of course.

Good luck to everyone.

FTC Transparency Info:  I received a copy of this book from its publisher, Bloomsbury.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

No Original Content Next Week

In case you missed me mentioning it in the last couple of posts, Original Content will be on vacation until next Friday. I might do a few posts on Facebook, but nothing here.

Have a good week.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

SLAM Poetry Competition In Eastern Connecticut

The Douglas Library in Hebron, Connecticut and Young@ArtCT in Manchester are co-sponsoring a SLAM Poetry Competition for competitors 14 and older. The event is free for performers and audience members and will be held in the Douglas Library's Community Room on Friday, April 7th from 7:00 to 10:00 PM.

Check out the competition rules.

Cookies and hot chocolate will be provided.

And The Winner Is...

Maria Gianferrari is the winner of Original Content's March Women's History Month book giveaway, Fancy Party Gowns. Thank you to all who entered. There are more giveaways coming up, so...try again.

Later this month, after a week-long elder visit in a far western state, I'll be running a giveaway for Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice by Susanna Reich.

Then in May, I'll be offering Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio.

Stay tuned, folks.

Friday, March 31, 2017

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? March 26 Edition

Made A "Do This Week" Logo
A lot of prep for a trip next week. That kind of thing always messes up my work week. And me.


Goal 2. Generate New Work Through End Of April--Adult Novels.  I'm reading a book for research for my humorous, adult women's church novel. Really. A lot of interesting content and great conversation material. Tonight at dinner my husband told me he knows how Elizabeth McCord feels while eating with her husband the theology professor.

Goal 4. Make More Than 33 (last year's number) Submissions Of  Completed Work Throughout The Year. Spent time researching some people I'll be submitting to week after next.

Goal 6.  Support And Promote Diverse Literature, Diverse Culture. Finished promoting the Fancy Party Gowns giveaway, randomly selected the winner, and contacted her. I'll be doing a post on that once I've heard back from her, which confirms her as the winner.

Material I tweeted or retweeted:

  The unintentionally revealing first Woman Suffrage Cook Book of 1886

Hidden statue of , grandmother , uncovered in temple (PHOTOS)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

April Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Scott Westerfeld and Gene Luen Yang are both going to be in Connecticut this month! On the same day! At almost the same time! In different towns! You can't get to both of them!

Sat., April 1, Stacy Barnett Mozer, Cos Cob Library, Greenwich 3:00 Book launch 

Sat., April 1, A.L. Davroe, Barnes & Noble, Waterbury 1:00 PM

Mon., April 3, Scott Westerfeld, Barnes & Noble, Canton 7:00 PM

Mon., April 3, Gene Luen Yang, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:30 PM Registration 

Wed., April 5, Deborah Diesen, Simsbury Library, Simsbury 2:00 to 3:00 PM Sign up.

Sat., April 8, Alexandra Penfold, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:30 PM Picture book master class. Ticketed event.

Sat., April 8, Ron Kramer, Barnes & Noble, Waterbury 1:00 PM

Sat., April 8, Trinene Davis, Barnes & Noble, Farmington 10:00 AM

Sat., April 8, Jeffrey Turner, The Hickory Stick, Washington Depot 1:00 PM

Tues., April 25, Carrie Firestone, Barnes & Noble, Canton 7:00 PM Discussion on publishing

Wed., April 26, Margaret Peterson Haddix, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:30 PM Registration 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Time Management Tuesday Rerun: Time Shaming

I've got a substantial start on this week's Time Management Tuesday post. Nonetheless, it's not going to happen. I'm running out of time.

Yes, I am feeling a little chagrined about that. So today, rather appropriately I think,  we're going to recall a post originally published in March, 2015...

 Time Shaming.

Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach In One by Ryan Boudinot received quite a bit of attention, of one kind or another, from two different groups on my Facebook wall this past week. I have never been part of a MFA program, so I can't even pretend to address what he has to say about them. I will, however, address what he had to say about time.

Yeah, That Was Harsh

"If you complain about not having time to write," Boudinot said in bold, "please do us both a favor and drop out." While expanding on that thought, he said, "My experience tells me this: Students who ask a lot of questions about time management, blow deadlines, and whine about how complicated their lives are should just give up and do something else. Their complaints are an insult to the writers who managed to produce great work under far more difficult conditions than the 21st-century MFA student."

Talk about insulting.

I have heard others disparage people with, shall we say, "time management issues." They seem to believe that those who can't manage their time suffer from some kind of moral failing. Certainly, they are "other," not like the people who perceive themselves as being time masters.

Why Time Shaming Is So Very Odd


What I find particularly interesting about this situation is that there are so many workable time management techniques. Psychologists have studied procrastination and impulse control problems it is related to. There is even writing process related to writing faster, which has a definite impact on how much writers can do with the time they have. Why, then, do people in positions to help writers treat those who wonder how they can find the time to write as if they just lost some kind of life lottery by merely asking the question?

I can only speculate, of course.
  1. We are a very them-or-us type of culture.  "I write at the drop of a hat, you don't. I know I'm good, so you must be bad." See also: Organic vs. plotting writers. Lots of arguments over whether or not one writing method is better than the other.
  2. The shamers simply don't know anything about time management. Not knowing something makes them uncomfortable, knocking down someone else makes them feel better.
One final speculative question:  Why not teach writers how to manage their time?

Monday, March 27, 2017

First Contact

The second book I read after finishing my judging responsibilities for the Cybils YA speculative fiction category was...YA science fiction. Can you believe it?

Dark Energy by Robison Wells is one of those terrific reads you look forward to getting back to. Then you finish and start thinking of all kinds of little problems. But none of it really bothers you, because you had a great time.

So Dark Energy begins just after an alien space ship--a big one--crash lands in  Minnesota. How big is the ship? It's so big that it hits in Iowa and skids into Minnesota. Yeah, that does some damage. And kills a few people. Our protagonist, Alice, whose Navajo mother is conveniently dead, heads right to the crash scene with her really neat NASA dad who has kind of been living his whole life waiting for a spaceship to drop out of the sky. Alice and NASA dad have a really great relationship. I mean it. They're clever and witty together. NASA dad has enrolled Alice in a nearby Minnesota smart-kid boarding school. This doesn't turn into one of those predictable and, let's be honest, boring new-kid-in-boarding-school problem books because there's a giant alien spaceship just miles away from the place. Who's in that thing? What are they doing here? What's going to happen? Teenagers are supposed to be carrying on about who's top girl in the dorm when that's going on? Even when the government sends a couple of alien kids  to the school, you don't get any "who do they think they are?" stuff. These characters recognize, as they should, that first contact with an alien race has the potential to change their world, culture, lives, everything. Assuming they still have a world, culture or life in a couple of weeks. Or tomorrow.

Alice and a couple of her genius new friends from genius school get onto the space ship because cool NASA dad asks them to come in to help survey the inside. This is borderline unbelievable, but not actually unbelievable. We're talking about something incredibly huge that the government doesn't have enough people to map out in the time it has to do it. It's probably the equivalent of asking unqualified volunteers to sandbag a river engineers expect to flood too soon to get qualified people to do it. Or the equivalent of those college kids who came out to my uncle's farm decades ago to help take apart his barn after a hurricane brought it down on top of animals who were believed to still be alive. There's precedent for this kind of thing.

Plus getting Alice into that space ship means another question arises: What the heck were those beings doing in there? And are they going to want to do it here? (Actually, that was probably just me asking that question.)

I have to admit, I thought the ending was a little bit magical old people (and a little bit magical something else, not to give anything away), though also a little bit War of the Worlds, which is always neat. Also, while the romance in this story  is nicely done, in my humble opinion it's very unnecessary. This was a great adventure story without it. I wondered if an agent or editor insisted that a YA novel had to have romance. Give us some smoochy! But, as I said earlier, these are the kinds of issues you come up with when you keep thinking about a book you like after you've finished reading it. I just finished watching the last season of Outlander yesterday. I've got an issue about the last few minutes of that, too.

And here's something I thought was done very well in this book--crying. Alice doesn't cry because of boyfriend problems, or problems with her girlfriends, or problems with dad, the way a lot of girls cry in a lot of YA books. She cries from shock. Her crying seems to be a physical response to seeing things that suggest something horrific has happened, even though at the point when she cries she doesn't know what that horrific thing is. This seems like a minor point, but I thought it carried some wow factor.

So, Dark Energy. Definitely a good read.

Friday, March 24, 2017

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? March 19th Edition

Had a fantastic workday on Monday, then had to squeeze work in around all kinds of errands. Today went quite well, too.

Goal 2. Generate New Work Through End Of April--Adult Novels. Had some happy revision time on Monday. I started doing some research with a book I ordered last week. Happy with that, too. Interesting thing happened this week. I've been corresponding with a family member who is also a writer about my goals and objectives plot generating system. I had forgotten to apply it to my latest writing project. When I did that today, I was able to come up with material for two more chapters. Since I have a chapter list for this book, going ahead and applying goals and objectives to those chapters should be hugely helpful. Feeling good about that right now, anyway.

Goal 4. Make More Than 33 (last year's number) Submissions Of  Completed Work Throughout The Year.  Took part in yesterdays #PitMad Twitter Pitch Party. Three tweets for two different books. These count as submissions as far as I'm concerned, which brings my submission total for the year up to 12.

Goal 6.  Support And Promote Diverse Literature, Diverse Culture.

 Material I tweeted or retweeted

on sale now!

Please Don't Talk About Your Book by Barbara Dee via  

Mar 22
31 years ago, Debi Thomas became the first African American woman to win the World Figure Skating Championship.

Thanks to Melissa for suggesting Selena as this week's !

Our is June TarpĂ© Mills! 1915–88|Created Miss Fury, who preceded Wonder Woman

Get kids excited about historic female heroes both past and present with these inspiring books!

These women rolled bandages for the wounded overseas:

Imagine what the universal truths would be if the entire universe had a chance to tell them. -

 Stand Up and Sing! via

The Children's War: Adrift at Sea: A Vietnam Boy's Story of Survival b...

These Vicious Masks post Promote to Google+, Facebook community, Twitter, and Goodreads
TMT Distress Tolerance post --Promoted to Facebook, Google+, Twitter
Temporal Landmarks and Story Structure post--Promoted to Google+and Twitter
Promote book giveaway
Worked on Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

One More Week To Take A Chance At Winning "Fancy Party Gowns"

Next Friday I'll be selecting the winner of the Women's History Month giveaway of Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal with illustrations by Laura Freeman. To be considered, enter a comment at this post. (By "this post," I mean the post I link to in that last sentence, not "this post" that you're reading right now.) No, you won't see your comment immediately. I will need to approve it, because the post is old. But I most definitely will approve.

If you happen to have a website or blog and want to leave me a way to reach you there, that would be appreciated. Otherwise, check back at Original Content next weekend. I'll announce the winner, and if I can't contact you, you can then contact me.

More book giveaways coming up in April and May.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Temporal Landmarks And Story Structure

I finally finished reading The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior, which I mentioned earlier. Yes, give me a medal. I'm going to write more about temporal landmarks and the Fresh Start Effect for Time Management the future. (Perhaps after a temporal landmark.)

But today, maybe while in the grocery store or driving home, I can't remember, I had this flash of insight about temporal landmarks. I've been having flashes of insights for the last twenty-four hours. I haven't been sleeping well and think the whole insight thing may be happening because of sleep deprivation. This rambling I'm doing in this paragraph may be due to that, also.

Ah, okay, temporal landmarks are calendar events that may be cultural (holidays) or may be personal (birthdays). The Fresh Start Effect paper is a report on a study that found that people are more likely to engage in improving behaviors immediately after a temporal landmark.

And Story Structure?

Here's what I flashed on today regarding story structure. Seriously, it came out of nowhere: Many stories begin with a disturbance to main characters' worlds. And, at least in children's and YA literature, a lot of these changes occur immediately after a temporal landmark.

For example, many stories begin:

  • At the beginning of a new school year (cultural landmark)
  • At the beginning of summer vacation (cultural landmark)
  • When a new teacher arrives (personal landmark)
  • When someone moves to town (personal landmark)
  • When someone moves away (personal landmark)
  • After someone dies (personal landmark)
  • When a parent loses a job (personal landmark)
  • When parents divorce (personal landmark)
  • When parents remarry (personal landmark)
  • When the planet you're living on is attacked (hmm cultural and personal landmark)

Now, researchers think temporal landmarks encourage people to attempt to make an improving change in their lives because the landmark acts as a boundary between their past and the present. It helps them to believe that whatever they were doing wrong is behind them, things will be different now. Let's improve ourselves!

But why do temporal landmarks show up at the beginning of so many books? I'm no researcher, but in my humble opinion, it involves that element of change. Stories are about something happening to somebody. The initial change--that temporal landmark--gets the story started. The main character  responds to or deals with the consequences of that change/landmark. That's what's happening to them.

Temporal landmarks matter to both real and fictional people.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: Distress Tolerance, Distress Tolerance, Distress Tolerance

Last week I decided that in order to avoid time management failures, I need to work on something called distress tolerance. Meaning, according to Kelly McGonigal in this talk Are You Sure You Want a Habit?, I need to become more comfortable with uncomfortable experiences.

Distress tolerance can refer to developing skills to deal with major and serious events. But  McGonigal says that just wanting can be a distress we need to be able to tolerate. We can want to do something so badly--eat, shop, gamble--we do it immediately to make the wanting go away. That can lead to some long-term and often serious problems.

So How Does This Relate To Time Management For Writers, Gail?

The whole distress tolerance issue relates to writers when writers want to spend their work days visiting Facebook, checking their e-mail, doing endless research, or following publishing professionals on Twitter because that's real work, right? For us, lack of distress tolerance leads to procrastination, "... 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." Timothy Pychyl in The Procrastinator's Digest.

In The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal (Yes, I do refer to her a lot. She is my personal guru, though she doesn't know it.) stress makes us want to give in to cravings and get a reward. Those wants writers experience will provide immediate rewards. Writing a book, a short story, or even a submission letters does not. Figuring out the structure of your story, planning characters and setting, making everything interact and support something can take weeks or months or years. And what's more, writing a book, short story, or submission letter is hard (Again, figuring out the structure of your story, planning characters and setting, making everything interact and support something...ouch), while getting a quick reward from connecting with someone on-line or reading about a favorite subject isn't. Then there's the whole issue of whether the project we put so much time into will ever sell. Whereas we're guaranteed we can watch that funny video over and over again.

So How Do We Improve Our Tolerance Of These Kinds Of Distress? 

McGonigal talks about three skills that could apply:

Automatic Goal Pursuit--This is different from habit. You're trying to keep goals in mind instead of relying on automatic habits. You are always focusing on the goal, instead of behavior.

Implementatons--Essentially, you're planning what you will do in certain situations. When I want to go to Facebook, I will check my timer to see how much time is left in my 45-minute work unit and work until the unit is done. If I still want to go to Facebook, I can go then.

Commitments--When faced with a challenge to our goal, have a rule we can rely on rather than habit. I have been invited to hike tomorrow. Tomorrow is a work day. Hiking won't get me closer to my goal, working will.

(Original Content: TMT: Is This Getting Closer To Discipline?)

Creating some personally designed training:

Yoga. Last week, I wrote about Fuel Your Willpower to Transform with Tapas by Kate Siber in the February, 2017 Yoga Journal. She suggests using yoga to help learn to deal with "the friction or resistance that arises when we go against the overwhelming momentum of our ingrained habits." Friction or resistance being like distress, see? "Holding a difficult-for-you pose on your yoga mat can prepare you for staying with discomfort in your daily life..."

Now because I toy with a short home yoga practice, I can see how yoga could work in this situation. You wouldn't even have to use a difficult-for-you-post. How about just holding any post longer? That would create some minor distress for you to learn to tolerate.

Meditation. I also toy with a short meditation practice. Wouldn't slowly lengthening  the practice improve my ability to tolerate distress? Yeah, I probably don't have a great attitude toward meditation.

Multipliers. If you're not already doing yoga or meditating, you're probably thinking that taking them up is going to take more time out of your life, which is counterproductive. You're trying to better manage the time you've got, not cut down on your time to manage. And you'd be correct. Using yoga and meditation to increase my distress tolerance may work for me because I'm already doing them for some other goal. Adding a goal, increasing my tolerance for distress, makes these activities multipliers. I'm not adding to my workload (much) by creating a new task. I'm using the same task to address multiple goals.

Other possible multipliers:

  • Finish one task at a time. If you're doing dishes, force yourself to stick with the job until you're done instead of giving in to the "distress" of making phone calls, watching a bit of TV, or checking your e-mail because you're laptop is right there on the kitchen counter. (Come on. I can't be the only person who does that.)
  • Add a short amount of time to any workout program you're already doing. Same task, you've added a second goal.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Distress tolerance, distress tolerance, distress tolerance.