Saturday, December 29, 2018

Time Management Tuesday (Sort Of): Welcome To The 2018 Recapitulation Post

Recapitulation! That time when we assess what we've done over the last twelve months in preparation for getting ready for the next twelve. I look forward to doing this, even if it leads to the knowledge that I've done less than I'd planned, because it gets me pumped for the new year. I love being pumped for the new year.

Recapitulation is easy, if you have specific and measurable (either you've done it, or you haven't) goals. And look! I had some for 2018.

Submission Boards (2017's, But Still)
Goal 1. Make Submissions Of  Completed Work Throughout The Year: I made 37 submissions this year, maybe 18 of them Twitter pitches, that resulted in one publication, one agent request, and a
few encouraging responses.

  • Submissions to editors and agents from November NESCBWI program: Done. Reasonable responses.
  • Research agents at Publishers Marketplace: Not as much as I'd have liked
  • Research agents for adult books for Becoming Greg and Emma: Nowhere near as much as I'd have liked.
  • Spend time at Essay Facebook group while on retreat in January: Done. Visited it during the year and learned of an on-line publication that I submitted to, which led to Heroes being published at Bending Genres. 

Goal 2. Begin YA Thriller: This ground to a halt half way through the year when a family member had a stroke the day after  Memorial Day. She survived, but the extra workload and, let's be honest, stress led me to dropping this goal, as well as going to writers' group.

  • Finish character sketches
  • Generate material for plot, setting, theme using Scott Turow Method, meaning working in very short sprints
  • Read YA thrillers
  • Bring material to writers' group each month: Dropped writers' group to conserve energy and then focus what was left on Good Women. See below. 

Goal 3: Generate New Work: Nothing to brag about here.

  •  Finish a first draft of Good Women: I have reason to hope that I'll have this done before going out New Year's Eve. It won't be pretty. The last chapter and a half will be a lot of choppy blueprinting, and I realized yesterday or the day before that I need a new thread and maybe a new chapter early on. But I've been making notes within this draft for that, and it will be done after I've put the so-called First Draft away for a while.
    • Do some work--any work--on this in January through March: Yes.
    • In April prep for a May Days Good Women sprint (NaNoWriMo model): Yes.
  • Food essays: No
  • External support for willpower essay: No
  • Essays developed from workshop proposals: No
  • Article on the recycling crafts in Saving the Planet & Stuff: No
  • Research markets all year: Sort of
  • Make essay and short story reading a priority: In fits and spurts
    • For instance, on Retreat Week next week.


Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Continue with writers' group: I let this go halfway through the year. See above.
  • Continue with Original Content: Yes, though sometimes at a reduced pace
  • Start using a weekly social media calendar again: If I did this at the beginning of the year, I gave it up after May.
  • Check out NESCBWI spring conference, with possibility of attending: Check out, yes; attendance at conference, no.
  • Check out NESCBWI-PAL offerings this year, with possibility of attending: Did nothing.
  • Attend other authors' appearances: I spent a few hours at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair
  • Continue with promoting Original Content at Google+, Facebook communities, Goodreads' blog, and Twitter: The Goodreads blog hasn't had much attention, but I've managed to keep up with a lot of the rest of this.
  • Provide social media support for writers/bloggers generating diversity material: Did nowhere near as much of this as I had hoped.
  • Improve my use of Pinterest. It's not that great for marketing, but it's fun: The big thing I did with this was create boards for characters in Good Women and the YA thriller, providing them with clothing that fit their personalities.

Goal 5. Expect the end of the year to be a disaster. Get as much done professionally and personally before mid-November. Quite honestly, I felt pretty good about this one until I went over the above goals and saw how little I got done professionally before mid-November.

Not That Great A Year, Gail

Yes, I should feel pretty bad about how things went this past year. I don't because:
  1. I can accept the realities of needs involving elders, an actual elder crisis, a new baby in the family, two babies in the family now, and a six-year-old. 
  2. I managed a small publication this year, which doesn't happen regularly these days, as well as some interesting responses from editors and an agent.
  3. I'm nearly done with a first draft of a book I've been struggling with for a few years, been thinking about for many years.
  4. It's the end of the year, and I'm psyched for some things I have in mind for 2019. That's only a couple of days away. 


Next Week

A new year, a new set of goals and objectives.

Friday, December 28, 2018

January Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Connecticut has a big YA event at R.J. Julia's this month. Otherwise, The Storytellers' Cottage is where everything's happening.

Sat, Jan. 12, Lana VanValkenburgh-Bennett, The Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 11:00 AM

Thurs., Jan. 17, Julia Tannenbaum, Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM

Fri., Jan. 25, Maureen Johnson, Ben Philippe, Sara Holland, and Evelyn Skye, R. J. Julia Booksellers,
Madison 7:00 PM  

Sat., Jan. 26, Janet Lawler, Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 11:00 AM Storytime

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Terrific Granny Book

I picked up Hubble Bubble Granny Trouble by Tracey Corderoy with illustrations by Joe Berger because the grandmother on the cover looked like fun. It turns out, she is.

Hubble Bubble is a good example of a picture book in which the text works very well with the illustrations. The word witch is never used. We get that totally from the illustrations, where it is obvious that Granny is a witch.

More importantly, though, she is a vigorous, healthy, even kind of hip grandmother witch. No sign of creaking joints. No hints of cognitive loss. No aging jokes. No aging sadness.

She's pretty unique, and not just because she's a witch.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: There's Always Time For Blueprinting

Or almost. It's definitely something you can do when you don't have time to do much.

I sometimes lump blueprinting in with outlining. It's different, though, in that it's a method of generating material for new writing, while outlining is more about organizing material you already have.

The Basic Blueprinting Method

As described by Wendy Maas in a workshop I attended in 2016, blueprinting involves coming up with eighteen events that could happen in your book, which become your chapters. Then for each chapter, come up with ten things that could happen in it. For each of those ten things, use who, what, when, where, why questions to elaborate upon them.

There's more to it than that. Take her workshop. Or read her article on the subject.

How It's Been Working For Me

I've used this quite a bit for an adult book I'm working on. I don't worry a lot (or at all) about getting the numbers right. But the system is very helpful. When it's working particularly well, I can practically drop my blueprint notes right into paragraphs.

Why Can Blueprinting Help During A Time Crunch...Like December?

Blueprinting can help when you don't have a lot of time because you can do it in bits and pieces. You can work on coming up with a few things that could happen in a chapter at any time, wherever you are. In the car during a twelve hour road trip, for instance.  You can answer who, what, when, where, why questions about the items you came up with in odd moments. Make some notes on your phone, tablet, or any scrap of paper nearby. If you can grab ten or fifteen minutes, pull the notes together.

When you can get back to regular work time, you'll have at least a part of a blueprint to use. You can get back to producing content a lot faster.

Also, just tinkering with your blueprint whenever you can will help keep your head in the game, because you won't have gone days or weeks without even thinking about it.

Next Week: Time Management Tuesday will publish on Thursday to avoid the actual Christmas holiday. It will be my annual recapitulation post. What has Gail done this year?  

Friday, December 14, 2018

Environmental Book Club

Sierra, the national magazine of the Sierra Club, has a nice round-up of environmental book gifts for readers. The list includes a wide variety of titles.

And if you're looking for an eco-comedy for a humor-loving Kindle reader, there's always Saving the Planet & Stuff.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Why Going Over My Whining Is Helpful

Last week my TMT post was a round-up of December Whine Posts. ("Whine Posts." I'm going to make that a thing.) I found them oddly helpful.

You Don't Need To Do Much To Keep Your Head In The Game

The day I did that blog post I worked maybe twenty minutes sometime in the afternoon. Yeah, that's pathetic. Except with those twenty minutes I managed to figure out a transition, either getting from one time period to another or moving someone from place to place. I can't remember now. I can tell you, though, that I often have trouble making those kinds of transitions. That little bit of work meant that the next time I worked, I was able to move forward far more easily than I would have been without those twenty minutes.

Dec. 12, 2017
This experience made going over my whine posts more useful than it might have been. One of them involved using the unit system, short segments of time, which was what I had done that day. It served me very well and that success, such as it was, encouraged me to keep sneaking in little segments of work whenever I could. I'm staying on tasks better this year than I did last.

Remembering What We're Supposed To Do

Dec. 10, 2018
Writing last week's whine post about my old whine posts reminded me that it's all well and good to be constantly studying time management and coming up with schemes for how I'm going to work more efficiently and get more done. But I've also got to remember
  • all I've planned to do
  • what I've planned, tried, and liked
  • what I've planned, tried, and decided to discard
In all the chaos of juggling work and life, we may have to make an effort to recall that we have ways of dealing with all that stuff.  But it's definitely worth doing.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: A Collection Of December Whine Posts

December is upon us. I dislike December. I dislike it so much that last January I created a goal to deal with it.

Goal 5. Expect the end of the year to be a disaster. Get as much done professionally and personally before mid-November. Putting it in writing so I won't forget. 

I have been getting ahead professionally, not so much before mid-November, but ahead. Sort of. Nonetheless, yesterday I only managed to write about twenty minutes. And it was only December 3rd.

So last night, because I was teetering on the brink of what we call here the Overwhelm, I decided to do a round-up of my December misery posts, primarily because I was too overwrought to come up with any new material.

The Whining I've Done About December Over The Years

Dec. 12, 2017 December Continues To Suck Up Time I was sick last year at this time. Well, at least I'm healthy this time around. So far.

Dec. 21, 2015 Know When To Give Up This post actually has a positive suggestion for dealing with Overwhelm. Pick something to not do. Seriously. It's a good idea.

Dec. 16, 2014 The Unit System Lifeline During That Time Of The Year The title of this one says it all.

Dec. 3, 2013 Will Sprinting--And A New Laptop--Get Me Through The Holidays. Another one with a title that pretty much tells you what's going on. Sprinting really is helpful, like not doing something.

Helpful Much?

Oddly enough, I found these posts helpful. I'll go into why next week, because I'm choosing not to do any more this evening.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

December Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Merry Christmas month, folks. Make like those Icelandic folk and give a book for Christmas.

Sun., Dec. 1, Michael Belanger, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 to 3:00 PM

Sat., Dec. 1, Lane Smith and Randall de Seve, The Hickory Stick Book Shop, Washington Depot 2:00 PM

Fri., Dec. 7, Mark Dursin, Book Club, Bookstore & More, South Windsor 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Sat., Dec. 8, Greg Wolfe, The Storytellers Cottage, Simsbury 11:00 AM

Sat., Dec. 8, Ron Kramer, Barnes & Noble, Waterbury 5:00 PM

Sun., Dec. 9, Jessica Bayliss, Barnes & Noble, Milford 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Sun., Dec. 9, Chase Taylor, Barnes & Noble, West Hartford 12:00 PM

Thurs., Dec. 13, Jessica Bayliss, Beacon Falls Library, Beacon Falls 6:30 PM

Fri., Dec. 14, Octavia Ashburn, Bank Square Books, Mystic 5:00 to 7:00 PM

Sat., Dec. 15, Julia Garstecki, Barnes & Noble, West Hartford 1:00 PM

Tues., Dec. 18, Brian Lies, Bank Square Books, Mystic 5:00 to 7:00 PM

Monday, November 26, 2018

Now THIS Is A Babysitters' Club

I came to A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini after reading two and a half books I call "crush and make-up" stories, because they're about girls with crushes who are into make-up. I am not the woman to read crush and make-up stories, though I respect that there are people who are.

I am the woman to read clever, witty stories about young people taking on the supernatural and grinding it into dust. It was a great relief to realize that was what I had when I started reading Babysitter's Guide.

The basic premise here is that the monsters under kids' beds are real and the only protection from them is a group of highly trained babysitters. Unfortunately, main character Kelly doesn't know this until her charge on her first babysitting job is stolen by monsters. She ends up spending the evening with the babysitters' group hunting for her kid. As luck would have it, she has a gift for this kind of thing.

A Babysitters Guide to Monster Hunting could be described as a lighter, less end-of-the-world-is-coming Skullduggery Pleasant. In both books there is a group no one knows about that is taking care of things that no one knows about, as well as wise-cracking characters who are able to crack wise and make it stick.

A second Babysitter's Guide book came out this past year.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Weekend Writer

That office purge I've been talking about includes wading through dozens of writers' journals, which will be the subject of a blog post somewhere down the line. What I'm writing about today is something I found in one of those journals.

I had copied a quote from a review by Tim Sandlin (who might be this Tim Sandlin; it's been a long time, so who knows?) of Let the Dog Drive by David Bowman.

"Plot, character and voice are the holy trinity of fiction, and each has its own area of dominance. Theoretically, plot controls genre novels, character drives literary works, and voice powers humor."

Now the business about plot and genre and character and literary writing I've heard before. A number of times. But the bit about voice powering humor is new. Or not exactly new since I read it in a book review years ago. But this time around it it was like a light going off.

Voice Powers Humor

Think of all the times you've read a book that was supposed to be funny but wasn't. More likely than not, it was because the character speaking was just speaking. Just saying words. A narrator, whether first-person or third, was just telling things. The no voice.

Voice or no voice in a humor book is the literary equivalent of stand-up comics performing a set. They can recite a joke or they can sell it. Voice is how writers sell it.

You often hear of writers "searching for their voice" on a project. You can tell when you're writing humor whether or not you're selling it. And when you're not, it's probably because you haven't found a voice for a particular character or characters or narrator or narrative style. Once you do find it, the humor comes easier. It comes out of the character, because voice has a lot to do with attitude.

More on voice at Original Content.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Can A Minimalist Office Help Us To Manage Time?

This is my last post on New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living by Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici. The point of this blog arc has been exploring how a minimalist lifestyle can help us manage time.

Two of the most telling things I think Fortin and Quilici do in this book is suggest that

  1. people ask what is the number-one activity they expect to take place in a particular room and 
  2. make sure whatever they have in that room supports the activity they plan to use it for.  
One of the most obvious examples of an activity-based room is probably a kitchen. It's for cooking, right? So should a third of my counter space be turned over to holding junk that's collected there because no one has the energy to decide what to do with it? How does that support the room's function? Huh?
 Thinking like this could be a game changer for me.

Consider Offices

What is the number one activity we expect to take place in our offices? Archiving books? Storing old computer parts? Stacking up boxes of stuff we brought from the grandparents' houses?

Oh, wait. No. Offices are for working. So how do decades old history text books support that? Or photos of the kids, nieces, and nephews? Or the Lord Peter Wimsey books we read in college? Or our husbands' grandfathers' collections of classics that they got for subscribing to newspapers in the 1930s? Yes, I have mentioned that before. It bears repeating. It does.

Do We Need A Nice Office?

You hear stories (or I used to) of writers working on ironing boards and working on their lunch hours. Books have been written under all kinds of less than ideal circumstances. No, no one needs a nice office. Or an office at all. When I'm feeling particularly tough and gnarly, I think that in spite of what Virginia Woolf said, writers don't need a room of their own. (Note...Woolf wasn't talking about rooms.) With enough will power and impulse control, we should be able to work in any place and under any conditions. Right?

But then there are those four-year-old studies I keep dwelling on, the ones that showed that disorder in our environment lowers the impulse control I was just talking about. No impulse control and there goes your ability to stay on task, to finish a project, a chapter, a short story, an essay, a letter to an editor. There goes your ability to manage time.

In which case, the shelves and shelves of old books, the old computer parts, and the heaps of stuff from Grandma's house piled up around us are significant in a bad way.

Can Minimalist Offices Help Writers With Time Management?

It's worth a shot, isn't it? And creating a minimalist office doesn't mean going out and buying some special minimalist furniture or minimalist organizational boxes and files. Go back to  Fortin and Quilici's instructions.
  1. Decide that writing is the number-one activity you want to do in your office.
  2. Make sure everything in your office supports writing. 
In my case, this has meant getting Gramps' multi-volume set of classics that no one has opened in three generations out of my office, as well as the outdated history books. I'm working on moving out maybe thirty mystery novels, too.

Impulse control may be coming.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Wish This Library Was In My Town

I'm sure I have many, many followers who are fans of Civil Engineering: The Magazine of the Society of American Civil Engineers. This month's issue has a cover story on a pretty amazing library in Binhai, China. Actually, it sounds as if its atrium is what's pretty amazing.

Now, I didn't read the whole article, because I saw the word "truss" several times, as well as phrases like "dynamic elasto-plastic time-history analysis." But what's going on, basically, is that this central atrium has shelves that are
also steps and walkways and seating.The upper walls with their shelves bend inward, as you can see in the picture to your left. It's pretty spectacular looking.

Now, I'm no engineer. But I looked at those upper walls and couldn't see any way to get to the shelves on them. I thought, well, the shelves must be accessed from behind. Good idea, Gail. According to the CE article, that was the original plan. But they only had three years to build this thing, so the rooms on the other side of the atrium walls were ditched. The upper shelves hold fake books. There are more traditional library rooms in the building with more books.

The builders and planners were interested in creating a site for gathering, as well as for archiving books, and they've certainly done that. It's hard for a book person not to be excited about the way the Binhai Library turned out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Connecticut Children's Book Fair 2018--Janet Lawler

I concluded my trip to this year's Connecticut Children's Book Fair, just over a week ago, with author Janet Lawler's discussion of finding ideas for writing. Janet was the only writer writer whose presentation I saw. By which I mean she was the only one who doesn't do her own illustrating.

Janet gave a list of ways writers get ideas and showed how some of them led to her books. What interested me here was how does a writer, who is an adult after all, decide whether an idea can be used for a children's book rather than an adult book?

  • For instance, Janet talked about emotions being a source of ideas and made the point that children's writers have to keep kids' emotions in mind. (This sounds obvious, but new writers struggle with leaning too much on adult characters' minds.) She's written mothers' love poetry that became children's picture books like If Kisses Were Colors instead of poetry collections for adults.
  • Janet gave a terrific example of getting a book idea from the news. She saw an article about a man who got into trouble for building an outsize snowman that caused problems when it melted. From that she wrote Snowzilla. Now, yes, I spend a lot of time watching things like Stranger Things and The Haunting of Hill House. But I think a story about a giant snowman did not have to become a picture book. It could have gone a much different way. 
I've been obsessing about this situation for the last week. I'm thinking Janet's presentation could become a writers' conference workshop. No, not on how to come up with ideas, but on deciding who they're for once you've got them.

Janet's most recent book is Fright School

Friday, November 09, 2018

Connecticut Children's Book Fair 2018--Robbi Behr & Matthew Swanson

I wasn't planning to go to Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson's presentation. They write for a few different age groups, and once again, I didn't know which one they'd be talking about. But I found myself with a hole in my schedule, they were talking, and there was a free chair. This is what is known as one thing leading to another.

They turned out to be right on the button for me. Or, I should say, right on a button. Robbi is an illustrator and Matthew a writer. They are a little (or maybe a lot) intimidating in that they run a couple of presses and also publish with traditional publishers. They also have a great patter. Also intimidating.

Editing Hybrid Books

What was meaningful for me, though, is that their new series, The Real McCoys, is what Robbi and Matthew call a hybrid book. It's not actually a graphic novel, but is traditional text with a lot of graphics. I have toyed with the idea of doing a graphic novel version of one of my earlier books. But this hybrid business sounds interesting, too.

The two particularly interesting points they made about their work on this kind of book:

  • While Matthew, the author, has an editor for the text, Robbi, the illustrator, works with the publisher's art director who acts as an editor for the graphics. She showed a couple of examples of what she means by editing. And, yes, it did, indeed, look like editing.
  • The text has to be edited and complete before the graphics are done. You don't want to spend time and energy creating graphics for a scene that will be changed or even dropped altogether. So authors and illustrators of this kind of book are working on different aspects of the book at any particular time. And if it's a series book, which The Real McCoys is, they may not even be working on the same book.

So stopping by that presentation was certainly worth while.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Connecticut Children's Book Fair 2018--Steve Light

This year I was looking for something specific at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair. I wanted to hear from authors who write for younger readers, maybe chapter books. I have a picture book manuscript out and about and after corresponding with one editor about it, I began to think about turning it into something chapter-bookish. A lot of the writers covered two age groups, and there was no way of predicting which one they'd be speaking about. Many of the speakers were both authors and illustrators, and there was no way of predicting which their talk would be about. On top of those considerations, I had to pick out people who were speaking around the same time, because I didn't want to stay there all day or end up going twice.
Steve With One Of His Journals

So you know the careful thought that went into planning my trip.

The first speaker I saw was Steve Light, an author/illustrator I hadn't heard of before, though I suspect I'll be hearing a lot about him in the future.

Writing Talk

  • Steve finds plotting the most challenging part of his work. I am guessing a huge majority of writers would agree with him there.
  • While working with plot, he creates backstory that may never appear in his books. He has created sculptures and maps of worlds. I found this intriguing. Imagine backstory for a picture book that ends up being more extensive than the picture book. Imagine a novel that is the backstory for a picture book. Excuse me. I've got to go write this down in my journal. 
  • He may use a recurring element in his work, like acorns or oak trees. He could have been talking about illustration, but this is something I do, too. I'll use a recurring joke or something that turns up a few times to define character or support a later event in the book. 

Art Talk

Steve With A Fountain Pen

  • Steve sometimes draws with fountain pens. I have a bit of a history with fountain pens, not drawing, of course, and have a lovely Waterman pen I like to use when writing letters. 
  • He also creates little inspiration books when he's working on a project. These are small books that he fills with small down-loaded images of art work that he turns to for ideas. Kind of like Pinterest boards? But classier? 

Builders And Breakers

I was particularly taken with Steve's book Builders and Breakers. It's one of the most attractive construction books I've seen. The blueprint endpapers...the finely drawn (with fountain pens?) double spread...the story that begins on the title page, making use of every part of the book. Builders and Breakers has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators and a two-page spread of Steve's original art for the book will be included in its 2018 Featured Artists Exhibit.

So I bought two copies for young family members.

Some Pretty Impressive Swag

I am not a fan of book bling and marketing swag. Melissa Stewart was quoted in a SCBWI article last year saying that creating swag is a waste of natural resources. My issue is the other end of the bling life cycle. Creating swag is just generating trash. I've signed hundreds of bookmarks that I knew were going to be balled up at the bottom of backpacks and tossed out by parents at the end of the week. (Whoops. Did I just let slip that I only cleaned my kids' backpacks on Fridays?)

Nonetheless, I have to say, Steve Light had some incredible book swag for Builders and Makers last weekend. In addition to a lovely poster version of the book jacket, he was giving out cloth bags with rulers and pencils all stamped with the book's, author's, and publisher's names. And a little notebook, maybe a lot like the one he uses for his inspiration books. This is useful stuff! Great stuff!

I took a set for a Christmas present for another child. It will be a little while before this treasure stash ends up in a landfill.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Why Do You Hold On To Material Things You Have To Spend Time Caring For?

Okay, we're going to switch gears from the Connecticut Book Fair to time management, because at some point the library is going to be on me about returning New Minimalism. Last week we discussed clutter and how getting rid of it could improve impulse control and increase free time, both of which can impact our writing.

So, what's happening this week, Gail?

Well, this week we're going to talk about three of the four archetypes authors Fortion and Quilici use to describe the reasons people have for holding on to material things. Why only three, Gail? Because I see myself in those three.

Why People Hold On To Material Things

#1. They Feel Connections. Connected people have "emotional, relational, and impassioned" ways of looking at the world, and they treasure family and friends. There's all kinds of great things about them. They tend to cling to things, though, because they feel that connection business. Sentimentality is an issue.

#2. They Are Practical. Lots of good things about practical people, too. Good at tasks, working toward objectives, or finding the answers to questions. They tend to not notice the material things piling up around them, presumably because they're working toward objectives. They can be blinded by the usefulness of items.

#4. They Are Frugal. What's not good about being frugal? They're very self-aware, eliminate expenses that don't support their lives, and are careful about how they expend their energy. They can become concerned about scarcity, though. They hold on to the knowledge that they've paid money for things.

Now, how does this work in terms of things piling up in your house and wrecking your work life?

Consider This Cast Iron Pot 

Take a look at the cast iron Dutch oven to your right that I've had for more than...well, for a long, long time. I bought it at a flea market with my Aunt Tessy. I wanted it because I wanted to take up fireplace/woodstove and open fire cooking. I kid you not.

My pot and the New Minimalism archetypes:

#1. My feelings of connection. Aunt Tessy was big into shopping for and buying used stuff. When I was in college, I spent a day with her, going from one seedy place to another. Honest to God, we stopped at one place where there was a guy outside tending an open fire. Rolled right off Aunt T's back. Thought nothing of it, while I'm going, "Wh--wh--What?" That day I bought a rocking chair for either six or nine dollars that ten or twelve years later became our baby rocker.  And then she helped me find this pot. It's just bubbling with meaning.

#2. I am so incredibly practical. Okay, it's true that the fireplace and open fire cooking came to naught. I think I tried to use this pot as an oven once or twice. And I definitely tried to make bean hole beans with it. Not a success. Mainly what I've used this pot for is holding candy at Halloween, because it looks like a witch's cauldron, get it? But, you know, I have cooked on a wood stove a few times when we've had a power outage. If that were to happen again, for a long enough time, I could use this pot. I would definitely learn how to bake in it. Maybe learn how to make bean hole beans. Sure, it's never happened yet. But it could.

#4. I am seriously frugal. I paid $19 for that pot! Aunt Tessy said it was a good price, but I think she was just being nice. I think I paid too much. I have to get my money's worth with this thing.

The New Minimalism authors provide strategies for dealing with these behaviors so you can shed yourself of things, things, things. I don't think I need them. Just recognizing why I've been holding on to that pot seems to be enough to get it out of my kitchen. Right now it's out in the garage, and it goes to the transfer station on Saturday.

How's The Office Cleaning Going, Gail?

I finally took another swing at cleaning the office this afternoon. There's a couple of dozen books in there that have been sitting on a top shelf for years. My husband's grandfather received them as rewards for subscribing to a newspaper back in the thirties or forties. As soon as I have time to climb up on my desk, those things are heading out of here. Connection is the only element that applies here. Clearly, we've decided we're not that connected.

So perhaps once you know why you hold onto things, you can start letting all kinds of possessions go.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Connecticut Book Fair 2018--Some Of Those Who Were There

I was off to the Connecticut Children's Book Fair yesterday afternoon for the first time in three years. In the past, the Book Fair raised funds for the Northeast Children's Literature Collection at UConn's Dodd Research Center, though I'm not sure if that's the case, anymore.

My excursion will, of course, initiate a series of blog posts. Today we'll begin with the Connecticut children's writers I talked to who were doing signings yesterday afternoon (There were others, like Barbara McClintock, I didn't get a chance to speak with.) and a couple of random thoughts.

Connecticut Authors Signing

The first person I met was Susan Hood. And I mean I literally met her. We had only corresponded by e-mail. Susan won the Connecticut Book Award this year in the Young Readers Juvenile division for Double Take! She's also the author of Ada's Violin, which I liked a great deal.

I just missed Sandra Horning's presentation this year, though I caught her back in 2015. I did catch up with her during her signing today. Her most recent book is Baby Code. I apologize for forgetting to have her hold it up.

I also met Brenna Burns Yu for the first time. I wanted to connect with her because she's the debut author and illustrator of Hazel and Twig The Birthday Fortune, which won the Tassy Walden Award for New Voices in Children's Literature while still in manuscript form.  (I don't know which year.) The Tassy Walden is a Connecticut award and a number of winners and finalists have gone on to publication. So Brenna is part of a Connecticut literary circle.

Random Thoughts

Arthur Yorinks was originally scheduled to attend this year's fair. He couldn't make it, but some of his books were offered, including  a beautiful stack of Company's Coming, which my beloved followers know, I'm sure, is a very important book to me. It even became part of a baby shower in our family. What's more there was another stack of Company's Going, Yorinks' follow-up book. I got pretty excited about this, because I thought both books were out-of- print. Which they may have been, and now they're back.

David Small illustrated both these books.
Yorinks wasn't the only person missing from the Book Fair yesterday. I used to know one or two booksellers involved with the Fair, but a new store is running it, so my contacts are gone. I used to sometimes see an archivist from the Northeast Children's Literature Collection there, but she's retired and moved away.

I was very happy to see Billie Levy there, though, who is a major presence in Connecticut children's literature. How big a presence is she? My husband, a civil engineer, asked me last night if Miss Billie had been at the Fair. She is a children's book collector whose 8,000 piece donation got the Northeast Children's Literature Collection off and running. And then she continued to collect more. I've been seeing Billie at UConn children's lit events for years. Billie was there, so all was right with the Connecticut childlit world yesterday.

Over the next few days I'll be covering the three discussions I attended.


Thursday, November 01, 2018

A Kids' Kids' Book

Finchosaurus by Gail Donovan is what's known as a quiet book, in this case, a quiet book about a very realistic child in a realistic child situation. Finch is obsessed with dinosaurs. His knowledge of those creatures defines him. He develops a new obsession when he discovers a tiny note in his fifth-grade classroom's garden.

"Help," it says.

Finch sets to work to find out who wrote it. Who needs help, and how can Finch help him or her? This is his goal, and he takes steps to reach it. He tries to keep what he's doing to himself so that no one can take this new project from him, but slowly more and more people find out and become drawn into his plan. I must say, I didn't see the ending of this carefully plotted mini-mystery coming. But it definitely works.

One of the things Donovan does very well here is stick to her basic premise. Finch's inability to sit still and his grandparents who are downsizing because one of them is ill, are not pile-on problems that draw readers away from the initial story issues. Finch's fidgets and concerns about where he and his family will stay when they go to visit Guppy and Gammy in the future are not obstacles to be solved or random tangents but a way of creating a world for him.

I can imagine Finchosaurus being used as a classroom read-aloud and initiating "what-would-you-do?" discussions.

A field trip to something called Dinosaur State Park figures in this story. Though it sounds like a made-up name, Dinosaur State Park is a real place in Connecticut. This book so rooted in reality uses a real park. I happened to be there a couple of years ago. I do not know why I didn't take any pictures of the good stuff. I was taking part in a Connecticut DEEP Challenge,
which is why I had my picture taken in front of the sign. I had to prove I'd been there.

FTC Disclosure: Gail Donovan is a NESCBWI colleague. I won my Finchosaurus uncorrected galley in a blog contest.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: An Autumn Read That Might Slow Down Some Of Our Work

I've begun reading New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living by Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici. I read about the book last spring and was interested in trying to use the information during an office purge.  Honest to God, within two weeks of writing that minimalism purge post a family member had a health crisis, and I never finished the office. With this autumn read we'll see if I move any further with that project. And whether or not some new minimalism can help create that slow work thing I've been toying with.

Why Am I Spending Time On Clutter When This Blog Feature Is About Managing Time For Writers?


New Minimalism deals with clutter. It's right there in the book's title. What does that have to do with time management?
  1. In order to make time for work, we have to control all our time. There's a fine line between personal time and work time, and if our personal time gets out of control, it's going to spill into our work time. Check that last paragraph I wrote above about the sick family member. Dealing with a lot of material things can impact our personal time. Fortin and Quilici claim that among the benefits of a less cluttered, New Minimalist lifestyle are more free time and less "to-dos" hanging over our heads. That's time writers can use for work. And  shouldn't more free time and fewer "to-dos" mean I can slow down the work in at least my personal life?
  2. Disorder in our surroundings undermines impulse control, which can impact our ability to stay on task. Disorder can be a lot of things, but clutter is one of them.
  3. I'm thinking of clutter as metaphor, too. I'll get to that very soon and probably often.

Can We Agree On Clutter?

It's no longer this bad. Still...
Fortin and Quilici define clutter situationally. (I love the situational.) "...people get to determine how they want to feel in a space...and their own lifestyle needs and desires. The material items that don't support this vision are clutter."

Think about that office I was supposed to clean last summer. If I determine that I want to write in that office, all the things stored in there that aren't related to writing would be defined as clutter.

And here's an opportunity to get all metaphorical. Let's argue that anything that doesn't support a goal is clutter. Now let's argue that if we're writing and we have our main character's goal well thought out and we know our story, anything that doesn't address the goal and support the story is clutter. Maybe we can practice minimalism in writing process.

I hope I'll have more next week.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Weekend Writer

Wow. It's been almost a year since I've done a Weekend Writer post. Well, I think I have some helpful material here for you on getting started on writing picture books, though I think you could apply some of this work to any kind of writing.

A Training Model

Michelle Cusolito
I often use the word training in relation to writing, because I spent around 14 years training in a couple of different martial arts and, obviously, liked that world. Training is more than just writing something and expecting people to read it. Training involves an organized plan. Repetition. Learning new skills, then building on them to learn more skills.

I think two newly published writers recently interviewed at Cynsations can definitely be described as having trained before getting their first books published.

Yes, Michelle Cusolito (a NESCBWI member who I've met) and Casey W. Robinson followed the traditional writer advice to write and read a great deal. But notice how directed they were about it.
Casey W. Robinson
  • They took classes
  • They read thousands of picture books, because that was the genre they were interested in writing
  • They joined SCBWI
  • They both took part in an on-line picture book writing program.
  • Michelle assessed the publishers of the picture books she read to determine which types of books various companies were publishing
  • Casey analyzed texts to determine how a writer "creates room" for illustrators to pick up the story
  • Michelle joined a critique group.
  • Casey found a critique partner 
This is kind of intense. But that's probably why they're now published writers.