Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Book Fair Is A FAIR

Selling apple crumble.
This morning I spent four hours at a local fair working at our church's food booth. Since today is Sunday, it was like religious observance, but different.

Evidently the church does well selling apple crumble at this event and even expected to sell out before the end of the day. Nonetheless, our shift started at nine in the morning, and there were long periods when we discussed favorite bike trails and current events. All three of us took turns going to the pig race. We saw a lot of bored looking vendors. The pierogi people across from us, for instance, didn't break a sweat all the time we were there.

People walking by.
After about three hours, I suddenly started recalling other fairs I've been to. We're not talking PTSD here. Like the pierogi people, I wasn't sweating. No heart palpitations. But I did experience a flashback to fairs and festivals where I'd been selling something, but not food. I was selling books. Mine.

Selling books.
When authors are at fairs and festivals, they've got a spot with their books, just like the vendors at traditional fairs. There can be a lot of them there. They're just sittin', by themselves, watching people walk by. Killing time. You've got your people like Tomie dePaolo who are the blooming onions of the book fair world. The rest of us are apple crumbles and pierogies.

My apple crumble buddies were great at selling the crumble, while I just handled the money. They engaged people passing by. They touted the apple crumble's good qualities. ("Home made!") We had this terrific guy with us who at one point said to someone going by, "Good stuff! I just had some!" I imagined him with me at a literary event calling out, "Good book! I just read it!"

It was around that point that I thought, Eww. This is just like selling books. I don't do this well. The realization took the joy out of the incredibly beautiful autumn fair day, let me tell you.

At least I knew my professional future wasn't dependent upon apple crumble sales. That was a relief. It was more like my immortal soul was at risk, because, as I may have mentioned earlier, I was working at a church booth.

C'etait bon.
I also knew that at the end of my shift I was going over to the French Social Club's booth for some poutine, which has never, ever been available at any book fair/festival I've worked. That would make the book selling ordeal so much more tolerable.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Two More Days To Apply To Be A Cybils Judge

The title of this post pretty much says it all. Children's lit bloggers have until Monday to apply to be a Cybils judge for this year's award. They need judges for Round 1 and Round 2.

Those of us who aren't involved in judging can nominate books when nominations open. 

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: Take Advantage Of September For New Starts

No, I'm not back to work. But I saw a tweet yesterday that reminded me of a TMT post I did last year at this time, when I wasn't working, either, though I was on vacation then. Of course, I couldn't resist bringing it up again. Republishing the whole thing, in fact.

I know, I know. I said I wasn't going to be blogging until next month. However, I actually read those newspapers hotels provide gratis, and I read something last week that will not keep. It is time sensitive.

First off, I'm sure you all recall that I've written here about the significance of beginnings and endings of units of time.  January, the beginning of a major unit of time, the year, is a big moment here at OC with the creation of goals and objectives.


Last week The Wall Street Journal carried an article about the end of one unit of time and the beginning of another and how that beginning has become very important. In Now Is the Real New Year, the WSJ reports that September is now "the start of the real new year." It lists masses of ways that September is now outpacing January for people making changes in their lives. And there's a couple of statements that suggest that September works better than January for doing this. "In January, postholiday exhaustion can make New Year's weight-loss resolutions feel even tougher, nutritionists say..." and 69% of respondents in a British survey "believe small improvements in September are easier to achieve than New Year's resolutions."

There's not a lot in this article explaining why this is happening. There's talk of shifting back to routines after the summer and the Jewish New Year coming in the fall. But what is going on that is so big that it blows January, the stereotypical time for changing our behavior and getting started on new projects, out of the water?

My own wild theory is that, at least here in the U.S., we have generations of being enslaved to the school year and its calendar. We're tied to it as students, ourselves, and then those of us who have children are tied to it again when they are students. Teachers are tied to it. Children's writers who do school presentations are tied to it. The school year, which begins in September, has become more meaningful than the calendar year because something truly happens when it begins. January, not so much.

So can we use this sense of a new beginning and a time to get started fresh in our work?

I can't, obviously. I'm on vacation. But maybe you can.

Friday, September 01, 2017

An Opportunity To Help Out In Texas Through Kidlit Cares

The children's literature community is conducting an online talent auction to benefit the Red Cross and Global Giving hurricane relief efforts in Texas. Author Kate Messner has done what looks like an enormous amount of work organizing this event, known as Kidlit Cares.

There are just over 200 items, such as author visits and agent and editor critiques, to bid on at the Kidlit Cares site. You can also make a donation of at least $10 to the Red Cross or Global Giving from the Kidlit Cares site before September 4th and be entered into a drawing to win a class set of Messer's new book and a thirty-minute Skype visit with her this fall.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

September Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

We have writer appearances this month at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire, one of the more unique venues we've seen.

Sun., Sept. 3, Suzanne Cordatos, Connecticut Renaissance Faire, Lebanon 1:00 to 3:00 PM

Mon., Sept. 4, Carrie Firestone, Barnes & Noble, Farmington 12:00 PM

Sat., Sept. 9, Lori Sanchez, Bookclub Bookstore & More, South Windsor 10:30 AM

Sun., Sept. 10, Jessica Bayliss, Connecticut Romance Writers of America Fiction Fest 2017, Norwalk Inn and Conference Center, Norwalk 11:30 AM Check to see if registration is still open.

Tues., Sept. 12, Mike Lupica, Barnes & Noble, Westport 7:00 PM

Wed., Sept. 13, Marie Lu, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:30 PM          

Thurs., Sept. 14, Samantha Guthrie and Allison Oppenheim, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5:00 PM Ticketed event.

Fri., Sept. 15, Sally Pla, Fairfield University Bookstore, Fairfield 7:00 PM

Tues., Sept. 19, E. Lockhart, Julie Buxbaum, Jennifer Smith, Kara Thomas, Ann Brashares, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 7:00 PM

 Sat., Sept. 30, Deborah Ann Davis, Connecticut Renaissance Faire, Lebanon 1:00 to 3:00 PM

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Chaos Wins, At Least For The Rest Of The Summer

My true-blue followers are aware that we have family issues this summer with elder care and a relative in the physical therapy stage of recovering from surgery. To deal with the extra work load, I pretty much dumped some of my goals for the year. Mainly generating new work, supporting and promoting diverse literature, and most of community building/general marketing/branding. The marketing effort for Saving the Planet & Stuff was already shot. I was down to just submitting work.

Well, I can't manage even that. I can't take any more of this frustration. I am not pleasant when I'm frustrated. I can't take any more being unpleasant.

So after making some submissions tomorrow morning, submissions I've been working on the three or four hours a week I've had for work the last month, I'm throwing in the towel for the rest of the summer. By "rest of the summer" I mean end of September. Additionally, except for the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar, I won't be posting here until I'm back at work.

Unless something really exciting happens that I just can't pass up.

I had to take four and a half months off from work seven years ago for another elder care issue. I came back from that, so I can come back this time, too. Yes, I can!

What I should have for you when we're together again:

  • Focus training. Seriously, I found something on this. I'll try it out for you over the next couple of months.
  • A baby shower with a picture book theme. Seriously, I'm involved with giving one. I'm bringing spaghetti sliders. I'll explain in September.
  • Nanowrimo prep. Seriously, I think I'm doing Nanowrimo this year. Hahahaha. 
  • Adventures with my iPad. Seriously, I got one. I'm going to go do something with it right now.


Friday, July 28, 2017

August Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

This summer the Avon Free Public Library is again running its author panels. Additionally, the South Windsor Farmers' Market is providing a unique venue for writers.

Sat., Aug. 5, Victoria Kann, Barnes & Noble, Westport 11:00 AM 

Thurs., Aug. 10, Sarah Prager, Book Club Bookstore and More, South Windsor 6:00 PM

 Fri., Aug. 11, Carrie Firestone, Barnes & Noble, Canton 7:00 PM

Sat., Aug. 12, Maria Carvalho, Liz Delton, Donna Marie Merritt, South Windsor Farmers' Market, South Windsor 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

Thurs., Aug. 17, Stacy Mozer, Gaetano J. Amato, Shawn Elizabeth George, Juliana Spink Mills, Liz Delton, and Steven Parlato, Children's and Teen Author Panel, Avon Free Public Library, Avon  6:30 PM

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: Working In Chaos

As a general rule, I find that material disorder--the kind where your stuff piles up around you, the kind where you lose your cell phone under some unopened mail on the kitchen counter, the kind where you find clothes you'd forgotten you had in the ironing or maybe that's the mending--saps my chi. It distracts me. As I've said before, "I do not deal well with mental and physical disruptions and confusion." I never suggest that homemaking has little value and that writers or anyone else can just laugh it off in order to make time for art. That kind of thinking is sure to come back to take a big old chunk out of your butt. Really. Somebody did a study that showed that very thing.


...I've been working in the bedroom for a month or two now, because my desk in the office is a mess, and who has time to deal with that? A couple of weeks ago, I had twenty or thirty minutes to work. That was it for the day. Probably that was it for the next couple of days. A couple of hours earlier, I had stripped my bed. Disorder! When I used to have a yoga sanctuary in that room, I couldn't roll out my mat if the bed wasn't made. Work? Ha!

But, remember, I had no more than 30 minutes to work. How much of it did I want to spend looking for sheets and making up a bed with them. Wouldn't I be better off, I thought, if I had such incredible concentration that I could work no matter what kind of surroundings I found myself in?

Well, you might describe my concentration as "incredible"depending on how you define the word. I can assure you that we're not talking the kind of incredible that allows you to get much done unless the stars are lined up just right. Nonetheless, I sat down at my desk, with my back to the bed, and worked.

Improving Concentration

I've been interested in improving my concentration for a long time. Self-discipline. Impulse control. Fortunately, I'm the kind of person who enjoys the journey, because I'm sure not getting to the destination.

But this summer is different. It's one thing to let your mind wander where it will when you have three or four hours a day to work. It's another when you have three or four hours a week, if you're lucky. I'm feeling a little more motivated to get some kind of power brain thing going.

So next week, and maybe the week after, I'll be focusing on focusing.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

So Mrs. Bennet Has Her Fans

Years ago I read an article about Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice in which the author made the point that while Mrs. B. may be foolish, she is also correct. Her daughters will be in dire straits without husbands to provide support.

I think this is why Pride and Prejudice and Zombies works as well as it does. Finding husbands is a life-and-death proposition for the Bennet daughters. Bringing in zombies is just a higher degree of risk. Little Women and Werewolves, on the other hand, wasn't as good a mash-up. The March daughters' response to the werewolves in the story doesn't make sense in the context of Little Women world.

I'm going on about this, because there was a discussion on my Facebook wall today about an article at The Literary Hub called Jane Austen's Most Widely Mocked Character Is Also Her Most Subversive by Rachel Dunphy. It's very intriguing, putting a feminist spin on Mrs. Bennet.

I like it, but I suspect Jane Austen wouldn't have a clue what Dunphy's talking about.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Thrill Me

In Boy X by Dan Smith, young Ash wakes up in a strange place with no idea how he got there. (Yes, this is middle grade fiction, not a twenty-something documentary.) By "strange place," I mean "strange medical place." He appears to be alone there. No mother! No one else, either. He stumbles outside where he finds a girl whose father works in the facility he just left. She informs him that he is on an island in Costa Rica. And he's been there for two days. The last he knew, he was in New Jersey. So, man, what's happening?)

Within minutes an alarm goes off! Men are running! Oh, gunshots! A helicopter is shot down! And Ash can feel himself changing.

The two kids end up having to save their parents (because Ash's mom is there, after all) and pretty much the world. What makes this believable is that changing Ash is doing. Sure it's far fetched in our world, but it's what makes what's happening in the world of the book work.

A real kid thriller.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Writing Who You Are

One of my French-speaking aunts.
The Therese Book
No Time Management Tuesday this week, because instead of writing a TMT post I spent a three-day weekend in Vermont for a Celebration of Life ceremony for my aunt. Aunt Tessy was one of the four Theresas/Thereses in my Gauthier family for whom Therese LeClerc in The Hero of Ticonderoga was named.

Butch and Spike's ancestors.
The Cootch Book
One of my Couture cousins came down from Ottawa for this event. Actually we're all
Coutures through my grandmother Gauthier, who was originally Beatrice Couture. And that is where Butch and Spike's last name came from in A Year With Butch and Spike.

My father referred to one of my grandmother's brothers as "Uncle Cootch," and now you know why Butch and Spike became known as the Cootches.

Still Another Couture Book
My Couture family also is responsible for the last name of the family in the Aliens books. Beatrice's youngest sister, Anna Couture, married a Denis. She died around the time I was writing My Life Among the Aliens, so the main characters became Will and Rob Denis. Which I pronounce "Deh knee" not "Dennis," since that's how my Canadian family pronounce that name.

Yes. I do obsess over names.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Norton Award

I'm very late with reading about the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. Better late than never, however. Here is the short list with the winner highlighted.
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers)
  • The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s)
  • The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK; Abrams)
  • Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
  • Railhead, Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press; Switch)
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, Lindsay Ribar (Kathy Dawson Books)
  • The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Delia Sherman (Candlewick)
You can check out all the 2016 Nebula Award winners at

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: I Have To Finish Something. Anything.

I don't know how many weeks I was into my most recent care giving experience when I began to notice heaps of things around the house. Well, I probably noticed them early on. I'm not blind. But what it took me a while to notice was that many of them involved unfinished tasks. There's laundry in the cellar that hasn't been folded. A room full of
ironing. A desk in my office heaped with papers, books, and some other things. There's mending in a couple of places up here. A counter and a table that...and shoes...and

...then there's the month's worth of Publishers Marketplace Deals I want to read, the submissions I want to make, the synopsis I need for a couple of those submissions, the books I've read and haven't done blog posts for, the...

Oh, and, yeah, I've got a bunch of books and magazines I've read just part of. I'm getting kind of worried about that. Lots of unfinished reading probably says something about a person, huh?

What's With Not Finishing Your Tasks, Gail?

I'm sure behaviorists would say letting tasks go unfinished is a sign of fear of failure or success, that there may be an attention disorder at work. But it can also happen because:

You're Fighting Fires--You have too much to do, too many tasks to complete in the time available, so you keep jumping to the one that blows up in your face and appears to need attention right this minute. Before you can finish it, another fire blows up in your face.

You're Dealing With Tasks Coming From Other People--You're attending to other peoples' needs, real needs of the sick, children, or elderly. And before you can finish attending to one of their needs, another one comes up.

Finishing Things For Writers

Fortunately, I stumbled upon a Five-Step Plan for Writers on finishing what you start.

Step 1: Stop Starting New Projects. Well, no! Who wants to do that? Though, to be honest, I did think about this in relation to the mending I mentioned in the first paragraph. No new sewing projects until I finish that mending.

Step 2: Assess Your Current Projects. But there are so many!

Step 3: Choose One Project to Focus On. Okay. I can do this. I have done this.

Step 4: Decide What "Finished" Will Look Like. Ermm.

Step 5. Set Some Milestones (And Start Hitting Them). This will work for me so long as we're not talking about timed milestones. I make milestones sooner or later.

Finishing Things For Anybody

Two things have helped me get started on finishing things again:

I finished one thing. I cleaned out a personal file. That included collecting paperwork from the office in he cellar and the dresser in my bedroom.

I started a new to-do list. I had been keeping a to-do list for a couple of years, but I lost that habit this spring. It's baaaaack, and I'll be doing a post on it soon.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Update: Jane Sutcliffe At UConn Next Week

Tuesday, July 11
7:30-8:30 pm
UCONN Barnes and Noble Bookstore at Storrs Center
1 Royce Circle, Storrs, CT 

Bringing History to Life through the Lens of Nonfiction Writer Jane Sutcliffe

Hear a presentation and conversation between local nonfiction writer Jane Sutcliffe  and Confratute presenter and children’s book advocate, Susannah Richards. The conversation will highlight how Sutcliffe identifies, researches, and writes nonfiction. Q and A and Book Signing to follow.
This event is part of Confratute @ UCONN, but is open to the public. It will be of particular interest to teachers, teacher candidates, writers, and nonfiction writers.
I've heard Jane speak and attended a panel discussion Susannah moderated.  (Probably more than one. She's very active in the Connecticut  and New England children's literature community.) This should be a well done, professional presentation.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Aren't All Science Fairs Freaky?

Eerie Elementary: The Science Fair is Freaky! by Jack Chabert with illustrations by Sam Ricks is one of the best chapter books I've read, even though it does involve a science fair, a volcano project, and three friends, which, yes, has been done before. By me, if I'm being honest.

This is part of a series in which three elementary students know that their school is controlled/inhabited by the mad scientist who designed it a century earlier. (A good reason to retire old school buildings.) The book is a coherent story about the kids finding a mysterious book that the school wants to get back with a climactic scene at the science fair.

In addition to the decent story and writing, there's something about a school being evil and some children (one being a hall monitor) protecting others from it that is kind of deep. Profound or meaningful or something.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Like You're Reading This On The 4th Of July

Wasting a perfectly good post on a holiday when readers are eating at friends' houses and visiting relatives instead of keeping up with their blogs would be very poor time management. So I'm saving my post on finishing tasks for next week.

Enjoy yourselves.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Update: Neil Gaiman Is Coming To Town

Neil Gaiman is getting attention right now because his American Gods has made it to TV. But he's also the author of the Newbery winner, The Graveyard Book, and other children's books. And he's coming to the Bushnell in Hartford on Monday, July 10. That's a week from today, folks.

If you live in central Connecticut, "coming to the Bushnell" is a very special expression.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

July Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

We have book releases this month, as well as a group appearance. Not bad for summer.

Sat., July 1, Ruth Horowitz, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Tod Olson, Bank Square Books, Mystic 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip stop

Sat, July 8, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Byrd's Books, Bethel 2:00 PM Book launch

Tues., July 11, Donna Marie Merritt, Watertown Library, Watertown 10:30 AM

Wed., July 12, Chris Colfer, Morgan School Auditorium, Clinton 3:00 PM Ticketed event  R. J. Julia program

Thurs., July 13, Sally Sanford, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:30 PM

Sat., July 15, Debbi Michiko Florence, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 PM Book release party.

Sat., July 15, Wendell Minor, Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot
2:00 PM

Wed., July 19, Donna Marie Merritt, Book Club Bookstore, South Windsor 11:00 AM Story Hour

Monday, June 26, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: Office Versus Home

So, I've written here several times about writers who work at home, and the time problems we face because we' home. At home, no one is imposing structure on us with work hours and lunch and coffee breaks. At an office, there is no laundry to do, no telephone calls coming in from relatives. There's no diverting work time into tasks like vacuuming and mopping because there's a cleaning crew to do that, right? You're not working surrounded with piles of clothes, boxes, books, toys, old magazines. The guilt you feel stopping work at the office to read on-line about what's going on with Prince Harry and Meghan What's-Her-Name is different than the guilt you feel stopping to read about them at home.

If there was some way that writers could work in an office with a supervisor who made sure they had nothing to do but lean into it, wouldn't we all crank out masses of work?

Well, today I had a chance to put in a couple of hours in a real office. As you can see from the accompanying pictures, as far as order is concerned, it wasn't much of an improvement over working at home. It's just that the stuff heaped around me wasn't my responsibility, which was nice for a change.

I did feel that I was staying on task better than I do at home. I finished preparing a submission, and if we'd stayed longer, I would have had a good shot at getting a synopsis done. Why?

   I think the difference is that there were other people working in the building. I don't mean they were working with me. One person was in the office across from me, and three were upstairs. I don't mean I was being encouraged and supported by my fellow writers, either. We're talking an office manager, an engineer, and two surveyors. I'm not even talking some kind of social interaction thing. I ate lunch at my desk. And I wasn't surfing the 'net the way I often do when I eat lunch at my desk at home.

No, I think it was just the fact that there were other people nearby working, by themselves, that did the trick for me.

This actually makes sense when you remember that Kelly McGonigal says in The Willpower Instinct that willpower successes (and failures) are contagious. We like to conform to what we feel is the norm. In an office where others are working, it's normal to work. When we're alone in our houses, we don't have a social group of worker bees to create a norm for us to conform to.

So working in a traditional office may be beneficial in terms of getting us to manage our time efficiently not because of the structure we can hope to find there, or the boss breathing down our necks but because of the other people working there. How can writers who work alone duplicate that experience?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Like "American Gods," But Lighter

Okay. Found that journal. The following reader response was written in a waiting room at one of those surgical satellite facilities where a family member was having his shoulder torn apart.

Author Matthew Laurence calls his first book, Freya (I don't recall the "and the Myth Machine" part that I'm seeing on the book I read), an urban fantasy, which, in my experience, usually means contemporary, real world. It is my favorite kind of fantasy and Freya was a treat to read.

The basic premise here is that the gods of myth and legend are real. They were created and maintained by human belief, and now that few people believe in them, they don't have much of a presence. (This sounds similar to my recollection of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, not that I mind.) Take the attractive, voluptuous (meaning "not tiny") main character in Freya. She has been living in a mental hospital in Orlando for years with no one noticing. That's because she's the Norse goddess, Freya, who still has just enough power to pull off the hide-in-plain sight trick.

Freya's settled, if not particularly dynamic, life blows up in her face when a representative of an organization "collecting" gods shows up and tries to collect her. She takes off with a new psych aid and ends up with a job at DisneyWorld before she is, indeed, caught. But the goddess of beauty and war has a plan.

Freya is a clever and witty narrator, and this was a fun read. Additionally, though, the book addresses what belief in a god does for people. It even mentions Christ, in passing, something I haven't seen in other YA and children's books about gods in contemporary times.

This is the first in a trilogy. It could very well end up as present for a Gauthier relative. Maybe two of them.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Lost Something Old, Bought Something New

Okay, folks, I was going to do a reader response today. I had at least two started in a paper and ink journal. Can you guess where I'm going with this? I don't know where the journal is right now. So I'm going to spend the evening e-mailing some relatives and playing with my new iPad.

Yes, there will almost certainly be an iPad post sometime in the future.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: But We Do Have Time

Thank goodness for Time Management Tuesday. This blog feature gives me a socially acceptable way to whine about the time crunch I've experienced this past month and a half due to family responsibilities. I've been working maybe three hours a week, not counting blogging, which I do in the evenings on a reduced schedule. I can't exercise the way I usually do, because so many days I have to be away from home for hours. I'm going to only half my tai chi classes, on the good weeks. I can't eat at my usual times for the same reason. Yes, yes, that's right. I eat at "usual" times. And often. Finally, flat surfaces in the house are covered with items I can't find the energy to deal with.

One day a week or so ago I was whimpering in my head about how I never can do anything for me, when I realized perhaps I shouldn't be dwelling on how much I'm not doing for myself now. Instead, what about how much I was doing for me, me, me before this summer's situation.

I've Done A Lot Of Stuff 

Not Writing
There have been times in the past when I've worked out an hour and a half a day. I know. That's ridiculous, especially when you consider what poor results I got for my effort. I did eleven years of taekwondo classes, sometimes twice a week. In the morning, prime work time. For three or four years now, I've been taking tai chi classes, jumping up from one class a week to two. There's
Not Writing
been a lot of binge cooking over the years. Then there's been all the biking and hiking. When my children were young, I spent years doing ten to fifteen hours of volunteer work a week. Volunteer work was a thing in my circle. Unlike in American Housewife, we were really into it.

I could go on, but I'd have to write about activities and interests I'd rather people didn't know about.

We Often Do Have Time

What I'm driving at here is that I've used a lot of time for what might be described as elective activities. So while I have written thirteen books, eight of which have been published, I have often had time I could have used to write even more, submit more, market more. I chose to use that time for something else.

Not Writing
My experience illustrates a point that some time management writers have made:  As a general rule, we do have time to do the things we say we want to do. We just choose to use it for something else.

Those choices are not necessarily bad ones. I'm not suggesting writers beat ourselves up for all the things we've done and enjoyed doing that didn't involve sitting at our computers four or five hours a day. But what we need to accept here is that we're not talking about not having time to write.

What has this acceptance done for me? Well, I'm not whining now, right? Beyond that, I'm not sure what this is going to lead to.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gauthier Reading

Here in the Gauthier family, we have a young relative who is fond of a particular kind of book, and I've got him pegged. I always have some specially selected library books here for him.

Now, he always rejects them in favor of books he brought with him, books which lean toward being about trains and trucks. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but, come on. Trains. Trucks.

Needless to say, I don't get him those things. I can't read train and truck books. Yikes. No, I get him what he really wants to read.

Hidden-Picture Picture Books

His favorite books, though he may not know it, but lucky for him, I do, are hidden picture books. The last time I had one for him, he kept insisting he didn't want to read it because he had five train books lined up for reading. Then I waved a page in front of him and finally caught his attention.

And once we were reading Where Did They Go? A Spotting Book by Emily Bornoff, he forgot about trains and trucks. For a while, anyway. Every two-page spread involves repetition of some natural element, and hidden among them is an animal described in a short text. Sooo much better than trucks, and better, even, than trains.

Where Oh Where Is My Underwear

We've all been in poor Polar Bear's position, hunting madly for underwear. In Polar Bear's Underwear by Tupera Tupera, readers get to look for his underwear, by which, of course, I mean underpants, too. This is one of those deals where you find underwear for everyone but the polar bear whose underwear you want. You go through a lot of underwear in this book.

These two books made for some great reading. Then I had to go back to trains and trucks.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Jane Yolen...Holly Black...Wonder Woman

Last night was writers' group (Yes! I did something work-like!), so no Time Management Tuesday today. Instead I'm going to direct you to Book Riot's Books to Read if You Like Wonder Woman. Not just because it's about, you know, Wonder Woman, though that is certainly reason enough. No, I'm directing you to it because this article includes:

Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen


The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

In children's lit, those authors are both considered wonder women.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Okay! Let's Read Some Mainstream YA!

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley is sophisticated, mainstream YA. Probably a problem book, but not preachy about it.

Solomon Reed is a teenage agoraphogic. Lisa Praytor is a teenager with ambition--she wants a psychology scholarship and believes that "treating" Solomon will provide her with material for a foolproof essay to go along with her scholarship essay. Solomon feels bad about what his situation does to his parents, and lets Lisa into the house to try to ease their lot.

This book has great character motivation. Readers can believe that Solomon and Lisa could connect in the way described. I often talk about how writers should give characters goals. Lisa is one of the most obviously goal-driven characters I can recall.

The author also does something very different with the romance angle in this book. The male love interest has some, what seems to me, very logical motivation for his behavior.

So while the book is called Highly Illogical Behavior, what I liked was the logic behind the writing.

A good choice for readers wanting a break from YA genre.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: When You Can't Make Much Effort

How to Structure Your Day by Mike Gardner at The Time Doctor involves some interesting ideas about:
  • Classifying your tasks on the basis of how much effort they require and how much impact they'll have
  • Determining your daily high and low energy cycles
  • Structuring your day around your best times for doing high or low effort tasks
I'm going to put aside the whole finding daily high and low energy cycles business for the foreseeable future. I'll spare you the details of what my days are like right now. Instead, I'm going to focus on effort.

Effort And Impact For Your Present Situation

Gardner writes about four kinds of effort/impact pairings: Low Effort/High Impact Tasks, High Effort/High Impact Tasks, Low Effort/Low Impact Tasks, High Effort/Low Impact Tasks. Note that this is totally different from the traditional high to low priority rankings of tasks, because the effort involved is included. It's not about deciding which tasks are most important. It's about deciding what kind of effort is required for various kinds of tasks.

Gardner writes about structuring your day around your best times for doing high or low effort tasks. But what about using your knowledge of effort and impact to help determine what tasks you'll work on during weeks or months when you find yourself in situations when you can't work normally?

At those times, you can determine how much effort you can make and which tasks you have some hope of completing.

Hmm. This might be an example of getting the best bang for your buck.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Smekday Goes To Hollywood

Thursday night we saw Home, the film version of The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. One of the cable stations was running it over and over. I liked the book a lot, and the movie was pretty decent, mainly because I liked the animation for the main human character, Gratuity Tucci. We're talking a cartoon girl with incredible facial expression and body language. Also, I'd just like to point out that both Gratuity and her mother are attractive females with hips. Cartoon women usually have lower bodies like store mannequins and busts so big they look as if they're going to fall over.

For someone who read the book, the movie is interesting because of the changes that were made. I remember the book being a little scarier than the movie, for one thing. For another, Gratuity and her Boov buddy were headed for Florida (DisneyWorld, I believe) in the book. They go to Paris in the movie. This requires the car they use to fly, something that I don't recall in the book. Why Paris? Or, to put it another way, why not Disney? Were they hoping to attract an international audience, one that they expected to prefer a European city to Orlando?

The biggest change, though, is the title. Home probably refers to the fact that Earth is home to humans and the Boov were making themselves at home there. But viewers won't know that until they've seen the movie. So how is that title preferable to The True Meaning of Smekday? This book got quite a bit of attention when it was published. By changing the name, didn't the movie makers risk losing the book's fans?

I don't know how this movie did in the theaters, but I don't recall hearing much about it in my childlit circle.