Friday, January 19, 2018

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Jan. 19th Edition.

This week I worked on:

Goal 2. Begin YA Thriller. I continued to work on character development and creating voices for my three main characters as well as some character work on an important character from the past.

Goal 3. The first draft of Good Women. Brought myself back up to speed by rereading the first six chapters and worked on blueprinting the next chapter per Wendy Mass's book development plan.

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.  Got started making...and using...a social media marketing calendar again.

  • Halo Effect blog post--Promoted to Facebook, Google+, Google+ community, Twitter

  • TMT blog post--Promoted to Twitter, Google+, and Twitter. Note I didn't promote it to Facebook this week. I'd just promoted the Halo Effect post there. You don't want to give people too much of a good thing.

  • Women and Nature Writing post--Promoted to Google+ and Twitter.  

  • Hornbook Reading List post--Promoted to Google+, Google+ community, Facebook community, Goodreads blog, Twitter 

I also started working on next month's Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

My Horn Book TBR List

I caught up on my Horn Book reading on retreat week, though I appear to have lost one issue.  At any rate, here are the books I read about that I’m particularly interested in:

July/August 2017

The Special Ones by Em Bailey. When my kids were young, I read a lot of edgy, interesting childlit  and YA novels from Australia. This sounds as if it could be another. It also sounds as if it could have a bit of a Never Let Me Go thing going on. YA

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce. I like the alien-human save the world premise here, though I do think it’s one I’ve seen before. Additionally, I liked one of Boyce’s earlier books. Not crazy about the grandfather situation described here, which I think has become a cliche in children’s lit. Middle grade

The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby. I loved one of Juby’s adult books. This is described as a comedy with things to say. YA

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwann. Follow-up to This Savage Song, which I read last year and liked. YA

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin. I’ve read some of Werlin’s thrillers. This is described as a “psychological page-turner" and involves high school kids being killed off by an interesting group. I want to read more YA thrillers this year, anyway. It’s an objective for one of my goals.

A lot of the books that interested me from this issue were by authors I already know. Let’s see what happens with the next issues.

September/ October 2017

Jasmine Toguchi Mocha Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence This book has shown up on the CCLC a couple of times and is written by a NESCBWI colleague. I’m interested because it’s a book for younger readers that’s about something different. And at the same time, it’s not. You have the eight-year-old child who feels a need to compete with family members, which is the not different part, but she lives within a culture I’m not familiar with, which is different. Shallow me. That’s why I’m interested in diverse books. I want to read something different. Younger readers.

The Night Garden by Polly Horvath. This is described as a madcap comedy set during WWII, so it has both humor and history for me. Also, I’ve never read anything by Horvath, who has been around for a while. Middle grade

When I Am Through With You by Stephanie Kushner. Another YA thriller for my YA thriller reading objective.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart YA thriller. See above.

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins. First, I will be upfront and say I am acquainted with the author, to the point that we’ve actually met in the carbon-based world a few times. Additionally, this sounds as if it might be a multi-generation book, something I was fond of as an adolescent. Also, there’s a character who sounds as if she becomes a Bollywood star, something I don’t see every day in my childlit/YA reading. YA

November/December 2017

I have no idea what became of this issue. It sure didn't make it to my retreat site.

January/February, 2018

Nothing by Annie Barrows. The premise for this book is fantastic. Two teenagers realize that they’d make poor YA novel characters because they don’t live the eventful lives they see in books. So one of them decides to write a book about them. YA written by the author of the Ivy + Bean books for younger readers, which I’ve liked.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani. A graphic novel featuring a trip to India. Middle grade

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. A mystery with a setting in my home state. I liked Johnson’s Suite Scarlett. YA

The Inevitable Victorian Thing by E K Johnston. Alternative history, which I don’t think I’ve seen much of for young readers. Brings the Victorian era into the present. YA

Escape From Syria by Samya Kullab with illustrations by Jackie Roche and color by Mike Freiheit. A graphic novel about a family dealing with what’s happening in Syria. Material I haven’t seen before and wish I knew more about. Middle grade

The Big Lie by Julie Mathew. More alternative history, this time dealing with the Nazis conquering Britain in 1940. I think this may be a common setting in adult alternative history (the Farthing books by Jo Walton, for instance), but I haven’t see it before for kids. YA

Who Killed Darius Drake? by Rodman Philbrick. A mystery with a tough kid (maybe bully?) providing protection for a social outcast who is being threatened. Middle grade

The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange. A historical novel set post-WWI, one of my favorite periods. Though I seem to have a lot of those. Middle grade

I haven’t listed any nonfiction, but there is fascinating looking stuff featured in all these issues. A wealth of interesting subjects.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Women And Nature Writing

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan
I haven't been home from my personal reading-about-writing retreat for even a week, and I've already signed up for a more traditional one. A mini-retreat, only five hours, on the subject of nature writing, something I've been mulling over for years.  And even tinkered with.

So this seems like a good opportunity to post a link to Outside's Women Writing About the Wild: 25 Essential Authors.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Can Living Like A Zen Monk Help With Time Management?

Zen monk in here. Somewhere.
My reading last week wasn't just about writing. I also did some personal reading of a zenny nature. But everything, I find, is about time or writing or both. The Zen Habits blog post 12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk is a case in point.

The Live Like a Zen Monk post had been bookmarked for me for some time. When I finally read it, what do I find? It happens to fit in with my attempt to do more this year by doing less. In fact, item 4 on this guy’s list is actually “do less.”

So what does the blogger Leo Babauta suggest that can work for us writers? 

The Zenny Writer

  • Do one thing at a time. I’ve already given up listening to podcasts while cooking. I couldn’t find podcasts anymore that interested me enough to keep my attention while I was working, and I couldn’t focus and absorb much from the ones I was listening to. Do one thing and do it well.
  • Do it completely. That isn’t going to work often for a writer. But we can certainly break a writing task into what we’re going to do today and get that done. And we can certainly “put away” a project when we have to put it aside for a while, as Babauta describes. Less material chaos around us and in our minds. And if we put it away with a plan for how we’re going to start again? Even better.
  • Do less. Don't overload that to-do list. Having to rush to get everything done doesn't necessarily produce our best quality. And leaving tasks undone can make us feel overwhelmed.
  • Develop rituals. I’m thinking a start work ritual might be a great idea. (How many writers start work with a cup of coffee?) and a stop work ritual could be good, too, one that involves putting work away, perhaps. (See above.)
  •  Determine what's necessary and ditch what isn't. This isn't just about material things. What are we doing that isn't necessary? Getting rid of those activities will leave more time for more important things we want to do.
How zenny can we be?

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Halo Effect And My Retreat Week

Retreat reading, not including iPad
In spite of starting our 2018 retreat week in sub-zero weather and ending it a day early in a downpour in order to avoid a deep freeze and four to eight inches of snow, I had an incredible experience. Both stimulating and creative.

I brought professional reading with me that had looked pretty pointless at home. Up in the mountains it became significant. I mean really, really significant. I came up with all kinds of ideas for essays and blog posts and ways to manage my writing time. I even wrote those ideas down, so I'd  find them and use them later. I thought of a way to do that (find them again) on retreat week. We’re talking about ideas that are going to change my writing life. Heck, my whole life.

I have never attended any professional writers' event that was as marvelous intellectually as my personal retreat last week.

That’s Probably The Halo Effect Talking

New snowshoe trail
As I’ve mentioned here before, long, long ago in a galaxy far away, I worked for management development consultants who ran “short, intensive learning experiences,”such as workshops, conferences, and retreats. In asking for participant assessments of these programs, they worried about the halo effect, "a well documented social-psychology phenomenon that causes people to be biased in their judgments by transferring their feelings about one attribute of something to other, unrelated, attributes." (The Nielsen Norman Group) For instance, the feeling that a program was terrific because the respondent liked the instructor, met some cool new people, and enjoyed lunch.
Beautiful. And all mine twice.

Or in my case, feeling creatively stimulated because I read whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted, snowshoed on new trails, and used an empty and beautiful yoga room for two lengthy tai chi practices. (Tai chi doesn't provide much of an endorphin surge, in my experience, but even that will leave you pumped up a bit if you do it for 45 to 60 minutes.) Also, in this retreaty place I did writing sketches (which will be discussed in an upcoming blog post) without worrying about finishing anything.

Who wouldn't feel out of their freaking minds with creativity?

But Is The Halo Effect The Mark Of A Successful Retreat?


A retreat, conference, workshop or other "short, intensive learning experience," as my former bosses called them, is not successful just because you have a really terrific time while you're there. I was also eating out in restaurants regularly last week and reading in front of a wood fire. Who isn't going to have a terrific time under those circumstances? A learning experience is only successful, if  you are able to bring a new skill set back to your workplace and use it. The experience has to change your behavior. For the better, I guess we should add.

Now, I had a lot of great new ideas and thoughts that are unformed ideas last week. I've been around the writers' conference/workshop/retreat track a few times, and I think it's unlikely that everything that went on in my mind is going to make it into my work week. I'm hopeful that some of it will, especially since I was able to start using a couple of things last week. But only time will tell if Retreat Week 2018 was as great as I felt it was while I was living it.

Stay tuned to hear more, because I have lots of retreat blog posts started.

Friday, January 05, 2018

It's That Time Of Year Again.

No, it's not Christmas again already. You can tell, because I'm not complaining.

What it is, lads and lasses, is Retreat Week. Six days of snow, reading, and eating in restaurants. So no Original Content posts until the week of January 15th. I don't expect to spend much time at Facebook, though I may tweet links to some of my on-line reading.

So, see you later.

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Jan. 5th Edition.

I'm bringing back the What Did You Do This Week, Gail? feature, even though one of my more faithful readers has said it doesn't make for compelling reading. I'm keeping it because it works big time for me. It gives me an opportunity to look back over the week and make sure I'm working toward at least some of my goals for the year. And when it comes to social media marketing, it gives me a deadline. I hustle to get things done so I can report that I did them here.

So, this week:

Goal 1. Make Submissions Of  Completed Work Throughout The Year. I knocked off Objective 1, Submissions to editors and agents from November NESCBWI program.

Goal 3. Generate New Work I revised the early part of two manuscripts this past month and spent the last two days integrating it into the rest of the manuscript. Which is like generating new work.

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding I did three blog posts 

I also sent out the newsletter edition of the January Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

My First Read Of 2018

I've finished reading my first book of the year.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is a fine addition to the pool of juvenile books about the evacuation of children from London during World War II. My sons and I read a number of these when they were young, and the subject has become of such interest to me that it was the inspiration for an adult scifi book I've completed. I found the beginning and ending that framed the Saved My Life story a little melodramatic, myself. It could have come down a couple of notches. But that doesn't wreck the reading experience by a long shot. I'm interested in this subject, anyway, and like twentieth century small-town British stories on top of that. I knocked off the first half of this book while I was up in the night with an attack of insomnia.

Some of the things I particularly liked about The War That Saved My Life:

  • Susan, the woman who takes Ada and her brother in after they leave London, appears to suffer from depression. But the author doesn't use it as some kind of teachable moment. It's merely a way of defining Susan.
  • Perhaps I'm ready too much into this, but I also suspect Susan is a lesbian mourning the loss of her companion. Again, there is no big neon sign or any kind of lesson on acceptance here. This is just Susan.
  • There's an interesting spin on the "miracle of Dunkirk," which usually, in my experience, focuses on the boats. In The War that Saved My Life, the focus shifts to what happens to the men after the boat lift.
A follow-up book was published last year, The War I Finally Won.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: 2018 Goals and Objectives

Getting work done is much easier if you know what the work is you're going to do and how you're going to do it. Well, maybe it's not actually easier. But there's a better chance the job will get done if you know what the thing is in the first place and how you're going to do it.

I am talking about goals and objectives. A goal is what we want to do and objectives are how we're going to reach the goal.

So what am I going to do this year? Hmm.

Goal 1. Make Submissions Of  Completed Work Throughout The Year

  • Submissions to editors and agents from November NESCBWI program
  • Research agents at Publishers Marketplace
  • Research agents for adult books for Becoming Greg and Emma.
  • Spend time at Essay Facebook group while on retreat in January

Goal 2. Begin YA Thriller

  • 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


Goal 3. Generate New Work

  •  Finish a first draft of Good Women.
    • Do some work--any work--on this in January through March
    • In April prep for a May Days Good Women sprint (NoNoWriMo model)
  • Food essays
  • External support for willpower essay
  • Essays developed from workshop proposals
  • Article on the recycling crafts in Saving the Planet & Stuff
  • Research markets all year
  • Make essay and short story reading a priority
    • For instance, on Retreat Week next week.


Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Continue with writers' group
  • Continue with Original Content 
  • Start using a weekly social media calendar again.
  • Check out NESCBWI spring conference, with possibility of attending
  • Check out NESCBWI-PAL offerings this year, with possibility of attending
  • Attend other authors' appearances
  • Continue with promoting Original Content at Google+, Facebook communities, Goodreads' blog, and Twitter
  • Provide social media support for writers/bloggers generating diversity material
  • Improve my use of Pinterest. It's not that great for marketing, but it's fun. 


Less May Be More

Last year I had 7 goals. Ambitious, but when family issues came up, there was way too much professional stuff to even try to keep up with. I have reason to expect some family need early in the year. I'm gambling that fewer goals will be easier to stick with while bouncing among a couple of different family members.

Seriously, I'm planning for trouble. Speaking of which:

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.

Monday, January 01, 2018

My Year In Books

I am active on Goodreads for one reason--it keeps track of my reading and gives me an account at the end of the year. This year I read 45 books, nothing to write home to Mom about. This is down from 83 books last year. Well, that's 2017 for you.

I'm not sure if I read more adult books this year than last, but some of my 2017 adult reading wasn't very gripping. In fact, there was one particularly lengthy one that was quite a chore to get through. I kept at it believing that I was improving my self-discipline.

I don't feel all that improved.

I considered setting some kind of reading goal for this next year, but I'm not comfortable with that. Reading is sort of spiritual. (Though maybe not when you read the kind of books I was reading last year.) Should you set goals for something spiritual? Will having a goal make me feel pressured and wreck my reading mojo?

I do hope I break 50 books this year, though.

New Year's Day Means Cybils' Finalists Announcement

I love New Year's Day and think it was a terrific idea to make it the date for announcing the Cybils' finalists. Almost 1,500 books were nominated this year. Check out the finalists in a dozen categories.