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.

Friday, October 26, 2018

November Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

November is Connecticut Children's Book Fair month. And we have a day-long NESCBWI event in Hartford.

Fri., Nov. 2, Jeff Kinney, Morgan High School Auditorium, Clinton 7:00 PM 1-hour show, ticketed event sponsored by R.J. Julia Booksellers.

Sat., Nov. 3, Brian Lies, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM          

Sat., Nov. 3, Jen Calonita, Susan Hood, Sandra Horning, Jennifer Richard Jacobson, Kara LaReau, Janet Lawler, Steve Light, Barbara McClintock, Matthew Swanson/Robbi Behr, Brenna Burns Yu, Connecticut Children's Book Fair, Storrs

Sun., Nov. 4, Jake Burt, Tomie dePaola, Alan Katz, Kevin McCloskey, Tochi Onyebuchi, Chandra Prasad, Doug Salati, Stephen Savage, Grant Maloy Smith, Connecticut Children's Book Fair, Storrs

Sun., Nov. 4, Josh Funk, Bank Square Books, Mystic 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Sat., Nov. 17, Amanda Bannikov, The Storyteller's Cottage, Simsbury 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Sat., Nov. 17, Janet Lawler, Yvonne Ventresca, Kristin Russo, Katie Carroll, Kristine Asselin, A Day of Craft, The Mark Twain House, Hartford 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM Registration and fee NESCBWI event.

Sat., Nov. 24, Jean Dapra, Breakwater Books, Guilford 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Sat., Nov. 24, Jan Brett, First Congregational Church, Madison 5:00 PM Ticketed event sponsored by R. J. Julia Booksellers

Wed. Nov. 28, Shannon Messenger, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Thursday, October 25, 2018

I Missed The "Every Day" Movie

I was just browsing Netflix when I discovered a movie that sounded familiar. Sure enough, Every Day the movie is an adaptation of David Leviathan's Every Day the book.

How did this happen? It appears to have come out the beginning of this year. Didn't hear a sound about it. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Halloween Reading

The History of Halloween: The Haunting of New England, by Christopher Kelly at Synaptic Space, includes a section on Shirley Jackson, The Lottery, and North Bennington, Vermont. The article includes a picture of mine (with permission) that first appeared here in 2015 in My Personal Shirley Jackson Photo Album.

By the way, I am aware that Netflix is running a production of The Haunting of Hill House. I'm going to start that for my weekend afternoon TV zone out when I finish my present weekend afternoon TV zone out.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Beat This

I've been reading about beats and writing for a few years now. Well, I haven't been reading much about it, because I can't make heads nor tails of it.

But a guest post at Cynsations by Deborah Halverson (who, it turns out, is a Facebook friend) on narrative beats makes some sense. "Narrative beats are those little breathers in dialogue, sometimes filled simply with speaking tags like he said, she said. They’re rhythmic beats in conversations."

Okay. I'm with her so far.

Halverson says those breathers in dialogue should reveal something about character. Again, I get that. Because every word in a story should support your story, and this is a way to do that. However, Halverson...wait...I should say Deborah, because we're Facebook friends...says that many writers waste the opportunity to reveal character by using this breather with filler, such as having a character smile, frown, laugh or synonyms for same. To be clear, she uses the following example:

                                            Beth looked at him. “No. I want to go, too.”

The word "looked" doesn't reveal anything about character. It's just filler.

I get this, too, because I do it! I'm always having characters turn to someone, smile, etc., in order to avoid using dialogue tags like "she said." I thought I was onto something. But I've got to rethink this now.

I'm still lost on some of this other beat stuff. But I'm definitely going to work on replacing filler with revelation.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Only Picture Books, All The Time

A few days ago, I learned of the Debbie Bibo Agency, a literary agency in Milan that handles only picture books, many from countries that are not the United States.

What really grabbed me about this agency's site is that I was able to read a number of the French covers. "Why, Gail," you may say. "These are children's picture books. Shouldn't you be able to work out the titles for that reason alone?" Pas moi.

About an hour and a half after writing the paragraphs above, I found a journal (I am fond of all kinds of journals) I'd kept in French in an attempt to remember new French vocabulary. I also found a twenty-five-year-old letter in French from my great-aunt Anna. (Ma Tante Anna, as my Canadian cousins would say.) I'm afraid I'll have to struggle through those, so let me have the French picture books, d'accord?

Quote from moi journal francais: Demain je voudrais fair cuire les gateau sec. "Tomorrow I would like to make cookies." To paraphrase Ethan Allen, I am the same woman still... and in any language.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: I Break Down And Try A Bullet Journal

I finally tried a bullet journal more than a year ago, but I've never had time to write up how things went with it.

That's not true. Of course, I had time. I chose to use my Time Management Tuesday writing time writing about other things. A family member asked about bullet journals a couple of weeks ago, which motivated me to use some time to write about the bullet journal experience now.

The first thing you have to understand about bullet journals is that they are to-do lists kept in a formal journal with items preceded by coded symbols like bullets. Thus the name. (I wanted to get that out of the way.) The to-do lists are pretty elaborate, so much so that some people supposedly keep keys of their coding system. But they're to-do lists, nonetheless. That is not to denigrate them. I am a big fan of to-do lists. But when I first heard about bullet journals, I got the impression they were some kind of magical cure-all. I found them more hard work than magical. (Remember that key for the code.) Some of the work I found hard I never did. (The table of contents and the codes, to name two.) Others I've continued to use after the trial ended.

How Bullet Journals Work

It seems to me that the most basic thing about bullet journals is that they allow you to break down your time so you can identify what you have to do and when you can find time to do it.
The Year--I still do this.

The Year. You'll start by breaking down the year. You divide a few pages in to 12 blocks, one for each month. Ten you enter what you have to do each month. You'll be updating this as time passes. I do, anyway. I don't know everything that's going to happen in September and October a the beginning of the year.

This aspect of bullet journals seems like a good idea. If you have a day job and/or family responsibilities that are going to be heavier some months than others, it's helpful to know that ahead of time. This will give you an idea of when during the year you've got your best shot at writing time. If you're a full-time writer and do things like teach at certain points of the year, you want to know that's coming up. You can block out time for revision, for working with an editor on books that are coming out, on marketing. You can commit time to new projects. You want to do NaNoWriMo? Put it in the bullet journal, and keep in mind that you'd better not plan for a lot of other things in November.

I've continued to do this kind of year-ahead planning.

The Month--I don't do this.
The Month. The next division of time is one month. You'll write out a number for each day of the upcoming month and then briefly note what you expect to be going on in your life that day.

This aspect of bullet journals also seems like a good idea, especially for part-time writers who have to contend with other kinds of work. You'll see when you have free days or at least free-ish days to work.  However, I found it to be a lot of work and gave it up after a couple of months.

Other Things You Can Do. According to this BuzzFeed article on bullet journals (language warning, in case you care about that), you can dedicate pages to things you want to keep track of. In which case, you probably would want that table of contents that I didn't bother with. I often keep track of when I exercise or how long, for instance, and I could have made a couple of pages for that. I didn't because that would be making things more complicated, and I am a simple sort.

The Day--Meh.
The Day. My understanding is that the next unit of time you'll work with in bullet journals is the day. If you're into coding, this would be a time to use that. There are codes you can use to indicate you've finished something or want to shift it to another day.

I wasn't crazy about this breakdown. The coding for one thing. All I need to know is that I have something to do, not whether the thing I have to do is an "event" or is some kind of "note" or is "scheduled." If it's on my list, I expect to have to do it, whatever it is. And once I do it, I'd rather just cross it out than have a code for "completed."

More importantly, though, I was used to breaking my day down still more. I separate my professional work that I do in forty-five minute segments, from home/life maintenance work that I try to knock off in the fifteen minute breaks between those forty-five minute segments. (You know...the unit system.)  And I don't like to pin myself down to doing a lot of things on a specific day, because if I don't get to many of them, well, how much does that stink? I think in terms of a week. Then if I don't get Monday's work done until Wednesday or Thursday, I'm still good.

I have found sites on-line that offer weekly plans for bullet journals. But they still seem to deal with a week of days.

My Weekly Yellow Pad System
The Week. I've been working with a week for years, as you can see to your right. All on one page. My work life. My personal life. Yoga. Walking and biking. After two months of trying a formal bullet journal with a monthly list and day notes, I went back to my weekly planning, but just put it in that nice black book I'd bought instead of using yellow legal pads. That's mainly because I'm cheap and had paid for thing and was out of legal pads.

So Am I Keeping A Bullet Journal Now?  


My first thought is no, I'm not. I can't bring myself to stick to the bullet journal format, so I'm not keeping a bullet journal.

However, in snooping around the Internet, I found some interesting sites relating to bullet journals.

My point is, there are people out there messing with the bullet journal system, making it work for them. Maybe this thing has escaped out into the wild and is mutating, mutating in any number of ways to meet any number of needs.

So maybe I am keeping a bullet journal. And maybe if you try one, you'll end up keeping one, too.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

So What Do YOU Do With Found Time?

This is what happened, folks. Friday night my plans for today, Sunday, changed. A family event was moved to the end of the month. In the meantime, today was free. That changed what happened yesterday afternoon, too. Because the cooking I was planning to squeeze in to yesterday afternoon after a morning elder care visit could be moved to today. You know, today, when I had nothing. Do the math. I suddenly had a day and a half to do what I had originally planned to squeeze into a half a day.

That's like...that's like having forever.

So when I stopped at the library after leaving the nursing home yesterday, instead of just dropping off some books, I stayed. For over an hour. I kept thinking, I can do this. I can stay as long as I want. Because I've got tomorrow.

The Cragin Library, where I was yesterday, has been one of my library haunts for years. I thought it was okay, but I was so wrong. You know how journalists keep saying that Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton stun because of something they're wearing that half the time is just so-so? Yeah, yesterday, the Cragin Library stunned.

Look to your right and check out these New Fiction shelves in their Adult Department. That's a bench in front of it. Like the benches you see in museums in front of a work of art. Except the works of art here are books. You can make yourself comfortable while you're going over a couple of hundred new books. I love that. I have sat on that bench. Not yesterday, though. Yesterday, I had a different kind of experience there.

Yesterday, it was as if that library knew my interests.

First off, I picked up three books from the Young Adult department, one of them being My Life in Pink & Green by Lisa Greenwald. I had heard of that and brought it home because it appears to have an environmental thread.

Then I went wandering around the New Adult Nonfiction (where there isn't a bench) and came upon a book on minimalism that, again,  I had heard about a few months back. Next I saw a book of essays by someone I'd never heard of, but they were supposed to by amusing. And I write essays! What showed up next but a book on writing flash fiction that looked pretty good. Guess what...I write flash fiction, too.

Then I go down to the Children's Department and pick up a couple of things including Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say. Now that I'm going to try to use for a speech therapy project I'm working on with an elder.

I finished up at Cragin's used book sale, where I got three books, one of them being Brave Companion's: Portraits in History by David McCullough, because I'd really like to read more history. Some history.

It was an amazing library visit, just amazing. I came home  drunk on books, unable to decide what to start with. I'm still overwhelmed and after cooking for a few hours today, I spent a couple of hours this afternoon reading old newspapers rather than decide where to begin with my library treasure. I have an embarrassment of riches here.

This weekend was a big one in Connecticut for children's lit activities. I could have used some of my found time to head out to an event. I feel a tiny bit guilty about that. But, in reality, I suspect nothing I could have done would have been as terrific as that library trip.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

National Book Award Finalist Will Be In Connecticut This Week

The finalists for the 2018 National Book Awards have been announced. The awards will be announced on November 14. 

The Finalists For Young People's Literature:

  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin
  • The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
  • The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka 
Remember, Jarrett J. Krosoczka will appear at the  Mark Twain House in Hartford this Friday from 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM. He'll be discussing Hey, Kiddo, a graphic memoir, with Lisa Yee, winner of the Sid Fleishman Award for Humor.

Friday, October 05, 2018


Where I Went
You are all anxiously waiting, I'm sure, to see how things went with my trip to Ernest Hemingway's birthplace, which I told you about a month ago before I left for the great mid-west. Well, here's the thing. I ended up passing on Ernie H.

Hemingway Or Trolls?


What happened was that the only day the Hemingway Birthplace was open while we were in the areawe were also going biking in an arboretum. Which we had never done before. And that place has 1,700 acres, people. Still, our original plan was to finish up our 7.5 mile bike ride and 4.3 mile walk and head out to wherever Hemingway's birthplace is.


But, you see, there were trolls at the arboretum. And after we finished the biking and walking, we had the chance to take part in a troll hunt. A freaking troll hunt!

Remember, I'm not that crazy about Hemingway. Also, it just seemed to me that troll hunting outside was much more a Hemingway-like thing to do than going to a house. Hemingway was an outdoor guy, right? He ran with the bulls, I hunted trolls.

But all was not lost as far as visiting an author home on this mid-west vacation was concerned.

Carl Sandburg Will Do

Mississippi in Davensport, Iowa

So we were driving from Davensport, Iowa to Springfield, Illinois (Oh, Lincoln. Wow.) and we get off the highway in Galesburg, Illinois for lunch. We pass a visitors' center, except we don't pass it, because my traveling companion can't pass a visitors' center. Now I don't even go inside, because I can control myself. But while he's in there, he finds a brochure for Carl Sandburg's birthplace and it's right there in Galesburg. And what's more, he recognizes that Carl Sandburg is a writer! Seriously, how brilliant is he? So he talks to the woman working there, and she says, "It's open today."

This was meant to be, folks.

Now, I know less about Sandburg than I know about Hemingway. I read two of Hemingway's books. I know about the bull thing and his granddaughter who does yoga. All I knew about Sandburg a couple of weeks ago was something about fog coming in on little cat feet. But he was a writer. I was on vacation. The game was on.

Little House
The thing that is really remarkable about Carl Sandburg's birthplace is how small it is. I know that's superficial, but this place is small. Sandburg only lived here a year, and the museum docent said his only memory of the place was delivering milk to it when he was older. Sandburg's parents were Swedish immigrants, and his father worked for the railroad. The family moved on to three progressively larger houses. But all I could think about this house was that it makes a statement about what life was like at the end of the nineteenth century.

Little Parlor
The house doesn't look that small, you think. Get a load of  this front entry. And front parlor. And sleeping area for Sandburg's older sister. Who, sure, was a small child, herself, but still.

Little Bedroom

The parents had a room, which baby Carl shared.

Little Kitchen

There was a kitchen.

Little Dining Room
And even a mini-dining room.

We're not talking a family of four living in a one-room tenement. I'm just saying I was struck by how small this place was.


What About A Word Or Two On Sandburg's Writing?

Carl Sandburg is known primarily as a poet.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

But he also wrote some children's books, one of which I bought at the gift shop next to his home. Rootabaga Stories is not my favorite kind of book. An article in Poetry Foundation described the book as nonsense, but in the best sense of the word. "Nonsense is for everyone," the article begins. But not for me. I look forward to a younger family member finding it among my book stash some day and finding pleasure in it.

Get this: I don't think I'd ever heard of Rootabaga Stories a couple of weeks ago. But what do I see when I'm reading the September/October issue of The Horn Book? A review of Presto and Zesto in Limboland by Arthur Yorinks and Maurice Sendak in which reviewer Roger Sutton begins, "Yorinks and Sendak take a wander through something like Sandburger's Rootabaga country via their alter egos Presto and Zesto, who find themselves in Liboland just in time for the wedding of the sugar beets."

It freaks me out when something like that happens. But in the best sense of the word.

You can check out more pictures from my trip to the Sandburg Birthplace at my Pinterest stash

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Some New Love For "Saving The Planet & Stuff"

Last weekend a new review of Saving the Planet & Stuff ran in The News-Gazette in Urbana, Illinois. Reviewer Deb Aronson starts out by saying, "It's not often these days that you read a middle-grade novel where there are intergenerational friendships. Gauthier does a great job both poking fun at and showing the marvels of friendships like this." She ends with "This outburst is especially striking since Michael could just as easily be describing himself." As a family member who read the review said, "She gets it."

Yes, I was delighted.

Interesting point: I was in Illinois the weekend before the review ran. In fact, my traveling companion assures me we were very near Urbana.

I need to travel more.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Update To October Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Yup. It's only been a day, and I already have an addition to the October Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar.

Fri., Oct. 12 Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Mark Twain House, Hartford 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM Jarrett Krosoczka will discuss his graphic memoir, Hey, Kiddo, on the long list for the 2018 National Book Award in Young People's Literature, with Lisa Yee, winner of the Sid Fleishman Award for Humor.