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.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

And The Winner Is...

Alexandra Johnston, a Connecticut library media specialist, won Original Content's May giveaway, Strange Fruit by Gary Golio.