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.