Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Slow Summer

Well, I'm back. In a manner of speaking.

Faithful readers may recall that I was struggling last summer because one family member was recovering from surgery and another one needed to be moved out of her house and her house emptied and sold. After getting down to working only three or four hours a week, I gave up and took two months off from writing.  In 2012 I was working two days a week dealing with two elders and being all supportive of a brand new, and very small, family member. In 2011, I took five months off from writing because a family member was ill. The same family member who is ill now, in fact. Illish.

We have been dealing with elderly relatives' health problems for a decade now. Things go up and down. We're not at the same level of intensity all the time, though for the two we have left we have  constant monitoring of living situations, health, finances, and clothing. We're interacting with medical professionals, exchanging information with other relatives, etc. That's the weekly stuff. Then there's the periodic crises, like the one we experienced here the day after Memorial Day. We'll be dealing with the fallout with that for months or even years to come. The weekly work has gone up and will stay that way for the foreseeable future.

While all the grandparent issues have been happening, we've also been dealing with more mundane life things that come with ten years of living. Then, of course, there is work. While I've been spending a decade dealing with older family members, I've also been spending a decade dealing with what the 2008 economic downturn did to publishing and mid-list writers like myself.

This lifestyle/workload/whatever you want to call it cannot be sustained. At least, not by me. Mistakes are happening. Things are being forgotten. My surroundings are often chaotic, which makes things worse.

Throw In The Towel Again Or Try Something Else

On some level I've known the struggle can't go on forever for quite some time. Back in 2016, I wondered if I could do more, if I slowed down. The subject came up again last year when I was preparing for that family member's surgery. I was really concerned about it around that time. In addition to covering a couple articles on slowing down I addressed the issue of rushing. And then I looked to Einstein for help. Then I gave up, took a couple of months off, and when I went back to work, I had a lot of other things to do and forgot I was going to slow down.

I don't want to quit working altogether this time, so I'm going to pursue this slow work business. It could work. Or, at least, it could be better than doing nothing.

What I'm Doing This Summer

Reading about and trying to use:
  • Slow work (It's a thing, I'm not making this up)
  • Minimalism
  • A little voluntary simplicity, because a family member is into it 
Writing is going to go onto a back burner, because it's intense, labor intensive, and requires concentration I don't always have. I'm trying for a sentence or two a day on the project I worked on last month. Just to keep my head in it and keep it from going too cold.

Instead I'm going to work on submissions, because I hope that can be done in little chunks of time.

I'm also going to continue with a promotion of Saving the Planet & Stuff  planned for next month because, again, I think I can manage it in small amounts of time here and there. And it will be done by the end of July.

I'm going to limit the blog to Time Management Tuesdays, the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar, and things that really grab me, like this thought I've had about Laurie and Professor Bhaer after watching the PBS version of Little Women. Except for the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar, I'll only be posting when...well, I hate to say "when I feel like it." Maybe I should say "when I can." "When I have the energy." Yeah. That's it. When I have the energy.

So, you see, I am back. But only in a manner of speaking.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Time For Another Break

Original Content is going to take a break for a few days, or maybe even a few weeks, because we have another sick family member to attend to. I hope to be back by the middle of June, maybe earlier.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

June Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

June is the beginning of summer and that means the Avon Free Public Library is starting its Local Author Festival. See this month's panel below.

Sat., June 2, Michele Cusolito, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM

Wed., June 6, Morgan Matson, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 7:00 PM

Wed., June 6, Rosemary Wells, Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown  Educators' and Parents' Night 7:00 PM

Sat., June 9, Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 3:00 PM

Sat., June 9, Leslie Bulion, Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown  10:30 AM

Sat., June 9, Michael Belanger, Barnes & Noble, Stamford 1:00 PM

Thur., June 14, Chandra Prasad, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 7:00 PM

Sat., June 23, Dave Roman, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 11:30 AM

Sat., June 23, Dave Roman, Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown 2:00 PM

Thurs., June 28 Steven Parlato, Juliana Spink Mills, Mark and Sheri Dursin, Geoffrey Craig, Natasha Friend, Teen Author Panel, Local Author Festival, Avon Free Public Library 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM

Sat., June 30, Mimi Stevens, The Storyteller's Cottage, Simsbury 2:00 PM

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Use Multipliers For Both Work And Play

On Saturday we did our first bike ride of the season, taking a spur on a rail trail that ended a half mile from the snf where one of our elders lives. So we biked up the road to see her, went out to lunch afterwards, and got back on the trail.

Remember Multipliers?

Multipliers, you may recall, are "activities that meet more than one goal." Don't confuse multipliers with multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is the attempt to do more than one thing at a time, which has fallen out of favor, since researchers say all multi-taskers are doing is switching back and forth between tasks, not doing more than one thing at a time.

With multipliers, on the other hand, you are doing only one thing. This one task, though, serves more than one goal. So while you're not trying to do more than one thing, you're trying to do one thing that will serve you in multiple ways.

It might help to think of multipliers as killing two or more birds with one stone.

My biking multiplier hit three goals:
  • The weekend elder visit
  • Increasing my walk/bike mileage for the week.
  • Training for a fall biking vacation


Why Should You Care About My Biking?


My bike riding multiplier is an example of how we need to be managing all our time, work time and free time, in order to find or make hours for things we want to do. Like writing. Addressing those three goals separately last Saturday could have taken me all day. I took care of all of them in half a day. If I hadn't stopped for lunch, I could have done it in less. That left me with another half day for other things.

As a general rule, when this happens for me it's accidental. It's rarely a result of real planning. Trying to spend some time at the beginning of each week planning for one multiplier would be an interesting exercise.  

Friday, May 25, 2018

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 21st Edition

Less than one week left of May Days. In the meantime, I'm still all about Good Women.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With "Good Women." I spent some time revising last week's chapter and then today I wrote all this material I was happy with but it just went on and on and there was so much more that had to happen and wasn't that going to be a drag? Then I came up with a way to make everything different and faster, though it means reworking today's work. So things are good, but not great.

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.
  • Started the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar
  • Spent a lot of time today corresponding with a family member with quite an elaborate website and blog about GDPR.
  • Did four blog posts and promoted them, which I'm not going into tonight because I have that CCLC to work on. Also, vacation. Also, I have to back up some work.

General Data Protection Regulation And Me

Well, I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't been paying much (or any) attention to what is going on with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation until today, the day it goes into effect. I'm going to be researching how it affects writers, this writer in particular, and will be putting up some kind of notice for the very few European Union people who come by here.

As it turns out, I haven't stored information from visitors at my website and have had a privacy statement there saying so for years. That came about when concerns arose in the children's writers' community over e-mail from child readers.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Richard Peck

Author Richard Peck's death hit Facebook early this morning, long before the obituaries started turning up on the Internet. He was an accomplished and prolific author who continued to write well into his later years, publishing the well-received The Best Man in 2016. He was also very active and well-known in the children's literature community. How active and well-known? Even I've heard him speak.

Original Content On Richard Peck

A search of Original Content indicated that I've written about Richard Peck many times here, sometimes just mentions, sometimes more. The best ones:

What I Didn't Say

I can't find a post on Peck's award winning book A Long Way To Chicago, which I read and liked.

I didn't even look for a post on his London Holiday, because it's an adult book, and, yes, I've read  it. I don't recall a lot, except it involves some American women visiting England. I can say that that's a set-up I like.

I'm going to close with a few words for some Peck books I don't hear a lot about. He wrote several books about a character named Blossom Culp. My recollection is that the one I read was historical and amusing and had some fantasy elements. I'm thinking I should make an effort to find one of those for a reread.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Pick Your Companions Carefully

Salon has a new article, Identifying With Others Who Control Themselves Could Strengthen Your Own Self-Control that revisits the famous experiment in which children were tormented to see how long they could control themselves without wolfing down some marshmallows. The kids who could do without the longest  ended up doing better later in life. Were they born with good control? Could it be taught?

The Salon article describes a new study tormenting children who had been assigned to groups. Kids who thought their group members had waited before scarfing down marshmallows were better able to wait before doing so, themselves. The research is "the first to show that group behavior motivates young children's actions that involve self-control."

Haven't We Heard Something Like This Before?

Why, yes, we have. According to Kelly McGonigal (Hmm. I have her new book on my Kindle. When am I going to read that?), self-control is contagious. We are influenced by others in the groups we are part of, just like those kids.

"What does this have to do with managing time," I asked a few years back, "particularly managing time for writers? The May Days, people! National Novel Writing Month! Your writers' groups. All these group initiatives involve setting aside time (a month, a meeting every week or two) and pulling people together with the hope that we will "catch" initiative, work ethic, etc., from each other."

Right Now

Right now I'm taking part in  May Days, binge-writing with others. Looking for some self-control from other writers.  On the other hand, I didn't go to writers' group last week. No hope of getting self-control help from them this month. Yikes.

And, finally, I don't know if I've ever mentioned this here, but I really don't care for marshmallows. They would have had to pay me to eat those things.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Worth The Wait

I liked what I heard about Nimona by Noelle Stevenson when it was published in 2015. I finally got hold of a copy a couple of weeks ago, and this National Book Award Finalist did not disappoint.

Nimona is a graphic novel about a joyful young female shape shifter who is game for, and good at, any kind of violence. She throws her lot in with a supervillain, one with a backstory that involves injury and disappointment. Morally, he's a little horrified by Nimona, though he definitely becomes attached to her.

There's what was for me a surprising and subtle love interest. I'm not going to say much about it and ruin anyone else's reading experience.

The world these people live in is an interesting one. It's your traditional high fantasy setting with knights and medieval-looking people, but one to which science and modernish weapons have been added.

Great-looking art. Also, this is my favorite kind of graphic novel, one in which the story is showed totally through the images and dialogue, no narrative boxes telling us things.

Lots to enjoy here and not much to complain about.

Friday, May 18, 2018

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 18th Edition

Weren't we just doing this? Like, a week ago?

Well, I took care of a nine-month-old for half a day, which was a better time than you might think, and a half a day of unexpected errands, which wasn't. Then I'm painting my living room tomorrow, which seemed like a good idea when I came up with it, but then I had to spend some time today putting up tape and taking drapes to the dry cleaners and...well...nothing revolutionary happened here this week.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With "Good Women." So, I finished the chapter I was working on last week, and started another. That wasn't as well planned as the two earlier chapters I've done this month. It's not done, but some more planning has been done for it. And I'm painting that living room tomorrow. Breakout experience potential!

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.

I must admit, I blew off writers' group this month. I can live with my decision.

Blog work:

Sent out the request for Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar events.

Started following National Novel Promotion Month, though I am way, way behind. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Terrific Interview With Michelle Cusolito

Michelle Cusolito's first book, Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-sea Submersible Alvin, will be published next week. Today Kathy Halsey interviews Michelle at the GROG blog.

This is a terrific post that includes great material describing how Flying Deep can be used as a mentor text. The interview itself stays focused on book launches. Both interviewer and interviewee did good work with this.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: "Minimalism Is Really About Time"

I'm a believer in our personal environment having an impact on how we use our time. Disorder, for instance, undermines impulse control. Not Into Industrial Lofts And Capsule Wardrobes? This Is Minimalism For The Rest Of Us  by Lindsey M. Roberts in The Washington Post describes a new book called New Minimalism by organizing experts Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici. In the article, Quilici is quoted as saying, "Minimalism is a tool that you use to uncover what it is you want most in life." The article concludes with a section that begins with "Minimalism Is Really About Time." "Think about what you would rather spend your time on than hunting for something in a drawer or organizing on the weekends."

We Original Content folks would rather spend our time writing.

Minimalizing The Office

Fortin and Quilici maintain a blog at their decluttering and design services website. Last year they did a post on five core principles they used in a workshop. All five are thought-provoking and should be useful. But the one I'm going to address is Focus Your Space. "If your space feel(s) chaotic, asking too much of your space is commonly the culprit... for each room in your home, designate the #1 activity that takes place there. Then assess, is that room optimized to support that designated activity? Additional activities can be added to the space as long as they do not detract from the stated #1 activity."

As it turns out, I'm planning to purge my office in the next few months. I'm not talking about just the desk, which I've worked on cleaning many times before. I'm talking about the shelves full of books I can't reach. Take a look to your right.

Quite honestly, I haven't been writing in there for months. I've either been working next to the wood stove in another room, in the living room, or, now that the weather has improved, a sun room.

Take a look at that picture to your right. Does that room look like the #1 activity that's supposed to take place in there is writing? Or any other kind of work? It looks like a storeroom. A lot of stuff is just stored in there.

As always, I'm looking for ways to impose order, order which should support self-discipline. Because there are things I'd rather do with my time than hunt through that office looking for things or organizing that mess over and over.

I may have more to say about minimalism in the months to come.

Monday, May 14, 2018

For Alcott Fans, Women's History Fans, Women's Lit Fans, Art Fans...You Name It

My faithful readers are aware that I can be a bit obsessive about Louisa May Alcott. I've gone on and on here about Little Men, which I reread last year. I went on and on about An Old Fashioned Girl back in 2010. Honest to God, I've read Little Women and Werewolves. I've been to Alcott's house. I've been to her grave. I've been to Fruitlands. In truth, all this activity was spread over many years. We're not talking an Alcott scholar here.

But I'm going on and on like this to explain why I was attracted to the adult book Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott by Jeannine Atkins.

 May Alcott was Louisa May's youngest sister, the inspiration for Amy in Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys. This novel about her adult life is impressive in the way it uses what I, at least, know of the Alcotts' lives. There are lots of small details, like the reference to Louisa's childhood birthday party at which she had to give away all the little cakes to her guests and didn't get one herself, that I'd heard of. Or recognized from Louisa's books, which, remember, had some connection to her life. There's also playing off the books. May in Little Woman in Blue is unhappy with how she is portrayed in Little Women. And, when you think about it, who wouldn't be?

This book is a marvelous mind game for readers who have knowledge of the source material.

But it's more than that. In Little Woman in Blue May Alcott is a single woman who is overwhelmed by her family. I will hazard a guess that this is a classic theme in women's literature. In this case, the needy parents and the needy married sister and her family don't seem to even realize what they're doing or that there's anything unusual in draining their family members. I say "members" because it's not just May they're doing this to. Louisa bears the financial burden for all the Alcotts, as she did in real life. Louisa and May could be described as draining each other, too.

This book also shows the life of "single working women" in the 1860s and '70s. It sounds very much like a section in Louisa Alcott's An Old Fashioned Girl. And then there's all the talk of art and specifically art in nineteenth century Paris at the beginning of the Impressionist movement. (Read Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore, covering the same period? I have.)

So there's something here for several different types of historical fiction readers. And good somethings.

UPDATE: Reading this book motivated me to record Little Women on PBS last night, which I would probably have passed on.

FTD Stuff: Jeannine Atkins is a Facebook friend, one I actually interact with. I purchased an eBook edition of this book during a sale period.

Friday, May 11, 2018

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? May 11 Edition

Did pretty well, people.

Goal 1. Submissions. I had an essay accepted for submission! Needed to do a little administrative type stuff on Monday for that. And I did some research for more submissions.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With Good Women. Knocked off one short chapter and fourteen pages of another. Little disappointed that I didn't finish that second chapter, but I didn't have as good an outline as I did for last week's work. I'll try to get a few minutes in this weekend.

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.

  • Maurice Sendak Post. Promoted to Google+, a Facebook community, and Twitter.
  • Time Management Tuesday Post. Promoted to Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Environmental Book Club Post. Promoted to Google+, a Google+ community, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
  • Worked on getting some books I've read onto Goodreads.
  • Started reading some marketing posts that I'll probably be writing about at some point. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Environmental Book Club

Sometime in the past, I wondered here if environmental books couldn't work with environmental settings instead of environmental themes. I'm not certain what environmental themes are. "We must save the planet?" "Humanity is destroying the Earth?" "We must save the planet from us?" If so, they are themes that are often used in cliched and very preachy ways.

Books with environmental settings or, maybe, situations, can have nonenvironmental themes, giving a book more complexity and getting away from heavy-handed lessons and warnings. A good example of this is Kissing Frogs by Alisha Seviny, which is a romance set on a trip to work with endangered frogs. The theme here could be described as the rogue outsider finding love with an opposite, which does not have anything to do with the environment. The setting--the work with the endangered frogs--provides the environmental aspect to the story.

Another example is Blight by Alexandra Duncan, a traditional dystopian, post-apocalyptic story set within a world in which only a few types of food plants are viable, because of a...you guessed it...blight. Agribusiness is the bad guy here, as business often is the bad guy in post-apocalyptic worlds. There's not a lot of dwelling on what happened, what brought humanity to this state, though. AgriStar is the bad guy not because it caused the blight (Though it may have. I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember.), but because of what it's done since the blight. 

We've got a plot driven adventure here, including a journey story. We've got rebels. We've got evil junkers, a group of seriously bad guys who also appear in The Girl With All the Powers and The Boy on the Bridge. There are junker-like characters in the Rot & Ruin books. They may be a staple of post-apocalyptic stories.

My point is, this is the kind of narrative that could exist in many post-apocalyptic settings...a zombie apocalypse, an alien apocalypse...or in a religious dystopia. Blight is set in an environmental situation, but because it's more interested in its plot-driven adventure, it's far less environmentally cliched and heavy-handed than many books that might be described as environmental.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: The Dark Side Of Temporal Landmarks/Units Of Time

I try to do what I call a "story/essay idea a day" thing in my journal. My theory is that creativity begets creativity, and that the more ideas I come up with, the more I will come up with.

Sometimes this works better than others. Sometimes I have long dry periods. Sometimes I have ideas, but it's just so inconvenient to open up the journal on my laptop, or I'm not home, or there's some other perfectly logical and legitimate reason why I can't get these thoughts done. And then they are lost. Perhaps they are out there in the universe, and they will go to someone else, because I did not accept them. Oookaaay.

And then there is what happened last month. I was coming up with ideas, but in a major impulse control failure I decided that I would start writing them down at the beginning of May. No idea how much I lost that way.

A Powerful Date, A Powerful Temptation

We all remember what temporal landmarks are, right? "...special occasions and calendar events (e.g., a birthday, a holiday, the beginning of a new week/month), which demarcate the passage of time and create numerous “fresh start” opportunities at the beginning of new cycles?" And we also remember the significance of beginnings? How we "get excited about our plans for "new" blocks of time?" It's going to be so terrific when the beginning of the year, Easter, summer vacation, the beginning of the school year, or the first of the month come and we get a fresh start. As our old friend Kelly McGonigal tells us, we think of the future as a wonderful place where we'll accomplish great things. You combine that with an upcoming temporal landmark that's combined with the beginning of a time unit?

Well, clearly you'd need to be tougher than I am to deal with that.

What Was The Problem Here?


Temporal landmarks and the beginning of units of time can work for us if they initiate a new surge of work, create enthusiasm. May 1st was the beginning of a May Days writing project for me. In the weeks leading up to it, I prepared.

I didn't prepare to start the story/essay a day project on May 1st. Instead, I waited for the temporal landmark/beginning of a unit of time to arrive.

Preparing is doing something. Waiting isn't. And that's where I made my mistake.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Maurice Sendak Going To UConn

This isn't hot-off-the-presses, having been announced a couple of months back. But it's newish for me.

The Maurice Sendak Foundation has chosen the University of Connecticut to maintain Maurice Sendak's papers. According to Arthur Yorinks in a Hartford Courant article, Sendak's materials, close to 10,000 items, will be kept in the Northeast Children's Literature Collection, which is at the Thomas Dodd Research Center. I've had some terrific experiences at the Northeast Children's Literature Collection. Ate dinner there once and Lois Lowry was sitting at the very next table. Yeah. And then there was the time I gave someone a Band-aid to give to Anita Lobel while I was there.

But this is about Maurice Sendak.

Sendak was a Connecticut resident with connections to UConn. He was a guest in Professor Francelia Butler's classes back in the '70s and '80s and received an honorary doctorate in 1990.

This is great news for the Northeast Collection, which also has Tomi de Paolo's, Natalie Babbitt's, Richard Scarry's, and Barbara Cooney's papers. 

Friday, May 04, 2018

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? The May 4 Edition

The first week of May Days, the group binge write I'm taking part in, didn't go badly, all things considered. I didn't get started until Wednesday, didn't work most of Thursday because it's my run-around day, and still managed the following:

Goal 1. Submissions. I made two and did some research for future submissions.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With Good Women. I wrote a new twenty-three page chapter, working from a blueprint I created earlier this year and did a lot of clean-up of earlier chapters.

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding. I got back on task with promoting blog posts. 

  • Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar Post. Promoted to Google+, Facebook, a Facebook community, 4 tweets on Twitter.
  •  Sent out the CCLC newsletter.
  • What I Found in the YA Department Post. Promoted to Google+, Twitter, and Goodreads.
  • Time Management Tuesday Post. Promoted to Google+, Facebook, and Twitter
  • Jazz Picture Books Post. Promoted to Google+, Twitter
  • Environmental Book Club Post. Promoted to Google+, Twitter, and Goodreads

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Environmental Book Club

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals with illustrations by Ashley Wolff is, as the title suggests, an alphabet book. I don't read a lot of these. I know they're often on a particular subject, but this one is really informational. All the letters connect with items that can go into compost piles.
From "Organic Life"*

Now, I didn't pick up this book just because compost is an environmentalish subject. No, I have a compost pile. I was going to take a picture of it for this post, but I forgot and now it's dark. So I'll just say it's one of these three-bin systems like the one to your right. I'm not an expert or anything. I will confess that in the winter I am often too lazy to go out to the bins with my compost. And I don't know if you're supposed to use compost bins in the winter. What I don't know about compost would fill a book.

But not Compost Stew.

Filled With Surprises

The point I'm getting around to is that though I am not a composting neophyte, there were items in this book I hadn't heard of. I had heard of putting hair clippings in a compost pile, for instance, but not oatmeal. Egg shells, but not lint. So I'm sitting there reading this with a young child going, "What?" "Whoa, there."

Note about the illustrations: They are collage-like and have a recycled look that fits the theme of the book. Very neat.

*How to Build a Three-bin Compost System Because you know you want one.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Jazz Picture Books

I have only recently become interested in jazz. My knowledge is superficial. I just listen to jazz stations on TV and Pandora while I'm eating dinner. I associate jazz with food.

So you can see why I'm interested in the 10 jazz books Pragmatic Mom covered at her blog on Monday.  Guest author Matthew Gollub does a write-up on each title. Additionally, they'll be giving away a copy of Gollub's book, The Jazz Fly. It looks as if you have until the end of May to enter to win.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Set Aside Times

My May Days group started work today. This is a Facebook group whose members encourage each other to write during the month of May. I've been looking forward to this all year. In fact, prepping for May Days was one of my objectives for this year. I only managed to get five chapters blueprinted, so my goal for this month is to write those five chapters, which, added to what I've completed, will give me twelve completed first draft chapters.

Set Aside Time

I think of units of time like May Days and National Novel Writing Month as "set aside times." It's time we set aside for specific tasks. Back in 2012 I said of set aside times:

"What we might be talking about with this kind of set aside scheduling is binge writing, a term I hadn't heard for years until someone on Facebook linked to some interviews on it just last week. Author Sally Bosco interviewed self-described binge writers Emily Asad and Leslie Davis Guccione. Note that both authors are not binge writers in the sense that they are moved by a muse to write like crazy. They prep for their intensive writing periods."

I'm definitely binge writing this month, on one specific project that I've prepared for for months. I can't take off on any spontaneous writing tangents. Maintain some impulse control, Gail.


Forget about the actual writing. Setting aside this much time for one particular project is extremely difficult. Today is the first day of this project, and except for some reading of and tinkering with early chapters I didn't do a thing, because I had family members here for lunch. I knew this was coming up and thought, Well, I'll start working on Monday, the day before. Nope. Had another family member here yesterday. Then last week an appointment came up for tomorrow. I almost had to take an elderly family member to the dentist the week after next, but, thankfully, that fell through. Now there's talk of some of us driving to another state in a couple of weeks to pick up still another family member.

Note that I don't have young children or even older ones living here. I don't have a day job. And, yet, look what happens to my time, over and over again.

Dealing with family is a whole different management issue when you're trying to set aside big chunks of time for projects.

Monday, April 30, 2018

What I Found In The YA Department

A couple of months ago I found a book called The Girl With All the Powers by M.R. Carey in my local library's YA department. It's a post-zombie apocalypse story, which in my humble opinion is the only kind of apocalyptic story worth reading. It's a particularly good one. Girl With All the Powers is a stay up late into the night book.

Saturday morning, after waking up at 4:45 from a nightmare about fire, I finished reading The Boy on the Bridge, also by M.R. Carey. This is a prequel to Girl With All the Powers, and, though it repeats a lot of the Girl plot, it was a damn good read. Love Stephen. Love Foss. But, then, who doesn't love a woman with a gun?

But Why The YA Department?

It wasn't a YA book, though. Nor was The Girl With All the Powers. What were they doing in the YA department? Do the librarians here know something that I don't? That we have a big teen zombie reading population in this town?

Both books have an important young character in a pseudo mother/child relationship, but its hard to call them main characters. Well, maybe in The Girl With All the Powers. Not so much with The Boy on the Bridge. These books switch points of view frequently, and they're often about adult experience, at least, adult experience with zombies.

So, let's see...my point... Oh, yes. These books have a very important child character, but they aren't actually adult books with a child main character like, say, the Flavia de Luce books. I really don't see something here that will draw YA readers, specifically.

Well, except for the zombies, of course. But, then, who doesn't love a zombie?

Teens Reading Adult Books

I'm not saying YA's shouldn't read these books. They're terrific. And we live in a country where we can all follow our reading tastes, so teenagers are free to dip in the adult reading pool. Kids are supposed to like to read up, right? At some point, they're going to be reading adult books. In fact, I once read that part of a YA librarian's job is to lead teen readers to adult reading. In which case, seeding the new books section with adult books makes sense.

The only concern then would be adults missing out on these particular books because they're in the YA room.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

May Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Lots to do this May.

Tues., May 1, Paul Noth, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, 6:30 PM

Fri., May 4, Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, Quick Center for the Arts, Fairfield University, Fairfield 10:00 AM and 1 PM Reserve seating   

Sat., May 5, Suzanne Nelson, Books on the Common, Ridgefield 12:00 PM

Sat., May 5, Katherine and Caroline Brickley, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM

Sun., May 6, Kim Smith, Wesleyan R. J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown 10:30 AM

Sun., May 6, Steven Parlato, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 PM

Sun., May 6, Kim Smith, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 2:00 PM

Tues., May 8, Jessie Sima, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:30 PM

Thurs., May 10, Chandra Prasad, Barnes & Noble, North Haven 7:00 PM

Sat., May 12, Jane O'Connor, Wesleyan R. J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown 10:30 AM

Sat., May 12, Karlin Gray, The Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 11:00 AM

Wed., May 16, Susan Verde, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:30 PM

Sat., May 19, Mike Greenberg and Stacy Steponate Greenburg, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 3:00 PM

Sat., May 19, Melissa Verdier, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 PM

Sat., May 19, Lisa McGloin, The Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 11:00 AM

Tues., May 22, Claire Legrand & Phoebe North, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 7:00 PM

Thurs., May 24, Alison McGhee, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:30 PM

Thurs., May 24, Cindy Rodriguez, Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 7:00 PM 

Friday, April 27, 2018

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? April 27 Edition

Only two full days of work and some here and there stuff other days, as well as social media things in the evening.

Goal 1. Submissions. I found a new market for an essay. Three submissions are planned for next week.

Goal 3. Generate New Work With Good Women. The bulk of my work time during the day went to this goal, preparing for binge writing next month. I've nearly finished skimming a research book that helped with fleshing out characters and coming up with plot ideas

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding. 

  • Have been working on the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar
  • Made three blog posts and did a better job promoting them then I have recently. This is hugely important. Blog stats are ridiculously low without promoting them. These days a blog, by itself, goes nowhere.
  • Continued posting Goodreads reviews of my ReFoReMo reading.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Environmental Book Club

And the winners of this year's Green Earth Book Awards are:

Picture Book

Creekfinding: A True Story, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Claudia McGehee

Children's Nonfiction

Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem, Patricia Newman

Children's Fiction

Forest World, Margarita Engle

Young Adult Nonfiction

Trashing the Planet: Examining Our Global Garbage Glut, Stuart A. Kallen

There are also Honor Books in all the categories

Monday, April 23, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Did We Carry Through With That Decision We Made?

Well, the decision I made, anyway. The one about staying home to work instead of going to last weekend's New England Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators regional conference. Did I actually do anything with the time I created for myself?

I won't keep you in suspense. The answer is yes.

Friday Night

First off, many of my NESCBWI colleagues who did go to Springfield posted pictures on Facebook of the fun time they had going out to eat with friends. As luck would have it, I went out with friends Friday night. We had fun. 



I worked three-plus hours mid-day Saturday and some more late in the day. I outlined/blue printed/underpainted three different chapters. For one of them, this involved a major fix. I also did some research for this project. In terms of time, this was the equivalent of attending three workshops.

Then I went outside to do some yard work.

I'm not mentioning this because I'm one of those bloggers who thinks everyone is interested in every minor moment of her life, in spite of that restaurant picture above. No, I'm mentioning this because of what happened while I spent an hour raking this bank. What happened is that I realized I needed another chapter for the book I'd worked on that morning.

  • I was rushing the ending
  • There were lots of chapters in the first half of the book, making the second half seem skimpy.
  • This new chapter would be about yard work. Seriously, it should work. 
That new chapter came about because while cleaning up the day lilies and the fern bank, I had a breakout experience, something I haven't written about here for a while. In short, what happens with a breakout experience is  you spend some time working with a problem, then do something mindless, like raking. While your brain relaxes because nothing is required of it, it continues working on some level on what it was working on before. And...BOOM...a breakout experience.


We had plans to attend an organized walk Sunday afternoon. Walking, I thought. That's like raking while covering a lot more ground. So I made a point of working Sunday morning, underpainting that new chapter I'd come up with Saturday afternoon, for one thing. Work in the morning, I'd have a breakout experience in the afternoon, right?

Well, no. Not a thing. Not a single thought came Sunday afternoon. Except for the one about doing a blog post on why this happened. Stay tuned.

Sometime over this weekend I also knocked off a 800-word satirical essay about my experience without the Internet last week. It's unlikely I'll be able to publish it, but it was a good experience getting something done that fast.

So I made good on my plan and had a successful "conference" weekend.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Environmental Book Club

I am back on-line in time to get this Environmental Book Club post on reality-based picture books up for Earth Day.

I haven't been doing many environmental book club posts this past year because I find so few "environmental" books, particularly in fiction, that I want to read. Forgive me, if I've said this here before, but too often I find novels about the environment pedantic and predictable. They tend to be about saving an animal or piece of land from an evil business (middle grade) or a post-apocalyptic world that exists because of an environmental disaster caused by humans (YA). I find myself drawn, instead, to picture book stories based on true environmental situations. Reality is actually more interesting and less predictable than fiction.

The Water Princess by Susan Verde with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds is about an African village whose women must travel for miles each day to get water. This isn't an entirely new-type of narrative. We've heard of water problems in Africa before. But the fact that this story is based on someone's experience gives it a sense of reality a totally fictional account wouldn't have. This was one of my ReFoReMo reads. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'll just repeat what I've already said about it. "...what makes this book so workable is the main character, who fantasizes about being an African princess. Also, she recognizes the struggle she and the women she knows deal with, making a lengthy round-trip each day to get water, but she doesn't lecture the readers about it. The author trusts us to recognize that this is a tough subject."

I also liked One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul with illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon, another ReFoReMo title.  This book is based on a group of Ghambian women who handled a solid waste problem caused by plastic bags piling up and up around them by crocheting them into purses. I thought the author used repetition well, giving the book a "creative nonfiction vibe."  One Plastic Bag reminded me of Ada's Violin, a book about a group in Paraguay recycling solid waste in a creative way. Ada's author, Susan Hood, also uses creative nonfiction techniques well.

Friday, April 20, 2018

And How Was Your Week?

I had only one work day this week, as I expected, but on top of that I wasn’t able to do the social media work I usually do in the evenings. We had an Internet disaster. It involved a pop of light and an enormous crack of thunder on Monday afternoon. We’ve been limping along with our limited Internet  access with our phones. We have quite a lot of limited access, because that’s how we roll, but not enough to be spending hours each evening blogging and researching  author appearances for the Connecticut Children’s Lit Calendar. Oh, and tweeting. I do enjoy a little Twitter.

I had gotten ahead on blog posts last weekend, because I knew I had a houseguest Tuesday through Thursday. I was able to use my phone to post those from home. I’m doing this post on my iPad  at the nursing home I visit one to two times a week.  I got very excited before I left my house this morning when I realized I’d be able to access the nursing home’s wifi with my iPad, which I can’t do at home. I love my iPad. It may be my favorite possession. I’ve finished my visit and have camped out in the lobby, wondering if I’ll get kicked out of here any minute. I have been coming here weekly for over six years. I think I should be able to set up somewhere with my laptop and lunch. But you can’t predict the reaction of others, can you?

Computer Guy spent two days hunting for a new modem, which we were able to get yesterday. When I left him this morning, things were not going well with the repair. I’m not looking forward to going home.

You know those things you read about how glorious life is when you disconnect from your technology? Those people are hallucinating.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Don't Do Things Automatically; Make Decisions

It is spring in New England, and in our region's childlit world, writers' minds turn to the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' annual conference. It's coming up this weekend. People have been looking for roommates on the NESCBWI listserv for the last month or so. A chunk of my writers' group will be there. There's been talk on Facebook. People will be getting really psyched there over the next week.

What's Gail Doing Conference Weekend?

Lunch With Writers' Group
Within a day or two of registration opening I decided to skip it again this year. I've written before about my mixed feelings about conferences in relation to managing time. And this is another of those situations. I saw a couple of workshops I was interested in this year, but not on the same day, so I could just go up for Saturday or Sunday. Or even Friday afternoon. But there also wasn't enough programming I thought I could use right now to justify me being there all weekend. Sure, I would have seen a number of people I know and had lunch with my writers' group at least once. But, still, to get those two workshops I could have ended up there for a lot of time. A lot of time.

I've had many weeks recently when I could only work three days. This week it's going to be only one, unless I can squeeze in a few minutes here or there. (I'm not working today, by the way.) I rarely am able to pick up any work time on weekends. I have a big project I want to finish before fall and a marketing project I want to plan and pull together for July. I need to make a synopsis for two different manuscripts before I can submit them. If I were to go to a conference on a weekend for two days, or even one, that would be like working on a weekend. Except I wouldn't be doing any of the work I need to do to produce and promote material. I wouldn't be working toward my major professional objectives for the year.

A Writer Is Supposed To Write

These last two months while I've been second guessing my decision about the conference, I've been thinking a lot about a woman in a writers' group I was in years ago. She had a marketing plan for a book she hadn't written more than a chapter or two for. She may not have written that much. She really needed to be writing, not planning how she would sell something she hadn't created yet. That's how I feel about a two- or three-day conference and me right now. Without getting some more work out, do I really need a conference?

That's the kind of time decision writers need to be making all the time. The year my computer guy and I went to the NESCBWI Conference to take a workshop on creating eBooks, I needed to be there. (Well, he needed to be there.) The year I took a storytelling workshop that revolutionized my school presentations, I needed to be there. This year, I don't.

So What's Gail Doing Conference Weekend, Again?


I'm writing.

Even before I attended last weekend's nature writing retreat, I had planned to create a pseudo-retreat for myself during NESCBWI Conference weekend. If I am able to work even two or three hours, that will be the equivalent of attending two or three one-hour workshops. Instead of making time for a conference on a weekend, I'm going to make time to write.

That's the plan, anyway. And plans are so important for managing time.

It won't be easy. Soon after deciding to do this, we had an opportunity to take part in a two-hour hike Sunday afternoon. Okay, that's like going for a walk at a retreat, which I did last weekend. So we're probably going to do that. Then a couple of weeks ago, I was asked to do some volunteer work that weekend. Being a witch, I begged off. On the positive side, it's not my weekend to do eldercare.

My NESCBWI friends and I will all be doing professional activities this weekend. We've just decided we won't all be doing the same thing.

NOTE: The weekend is three days away. That's a long time for things to go wrong Chez Gauthier. Plenty of opportunity for my weekend work plans to blow up in my face.