Thursday, March 21, 2019

An Obscure Woman Writer For Women's History Month

In my last post, I commented upon writers who ramble and distract from their points with lots of extra words. So I deleted a couple of paras relating to how I came to have two grocery bags full of books from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, as well as a couple more stacks on the floor. Let's just say, I've got 'em. And in checking them out on-line to see whether or not it's necessary for us to hold on to them, I was struck with how many of them, and their authors, seem...lost. A sobering situation for a writer to learn about.

One of the first books I noticed was a 1900 edition of To Have And To Hold by Mary Johnston. This thing is set in Jamestown during, you know, Jamestown, not one of my favorite time periods. But the story line has features I would have loved as a younger, pre-feminist reader. The lover with a secret identity. How Scarlet Pimpernel! An evil lord. I would probably have eaten that stuff up, though I don't think I was a particular fan of the pirates that also appear here.

What really interests me now is not the book but its author. According to Encyclopedia Virginia, Mary Johnston was the first woman to top best-seller lists in the twentieth century. To Have And To Hold broke publishing records. It's supposed to have been the most popular book between Uncle Tom's Cabin and Gone With the Wind. (Hmm. All three of those books were written by women. What am I to make of that?) It made Johnston rich. She was profiled in the New York Times in 1900, and To Have And To Hold became a movie twice. Okay, they were both silent, but they were movies. (A third version was made in 2015 and never released. Yikes.) And though it was Johnston's most successful book, she wrote and published others. She wasn't a one-hit wonder. She had a career.

And Then...Obscurity

You can find some odd editions of Mary Johnston books here and there, but she's far from a household name. Or a name most of us have heard of. What happened to this bestselling author who wrote the most popular book between Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind? We remember Stowe and Mitchell, don't we? Why not Mary Johnston? Come on, Gone With the Wind wasn't that great.

I have a family member who studies and preserves obscure TV at Television Obscurities, so I have given some thought to obscurity. You have your material that is what you might call born obscure because it never made much of an impact when it first appeared. Then you have material that becomes obscure for some reason.

To Have And To Hold certainly wasn't born obscure. But evidently it isn't considered timeless nor some kind of outstanding representative of its era. Or whatever a book has to be to remain in the public memory. And so it became obscure.

Which raises the question, I believe, of which popular books from our period are headed for obscurity?

Feel free to post your answer in a comment.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A New Twist On "A Room Of One's Own"

One of my January accomplishments was to finish reading A Room of One's Own, a significant piece of feminist writing, by Virginia Woolf. Woolf is one of those writers like Michel de Montaigne, as far as I'm concerned. I like the idea of them much more than I like reading their work. Woolf I can make some headway with, but I feel she rambles. I'm into communication, as both a reader and a writer. I don't want a lot of extra words distracting from the point.

Woolf does make some good ones in A Room of One's Own. She's writing about what women in her era needed to write fiction. She famously says they need a room of their own and five hundred pounds a year. These things, she contends, are what male writers have had for generations and why she can't find many women writers in past historical periods. Or women writers writing about issues of interest to women.

Woolf was writing about male privilege. But she addressed it as a male/female status issue rather than as a social class issue. She didn't, for instance, get into male writers who don't have a room of their own and five hundred pounds a year. Or how the female writers she was writing about could get the room of their own and five hundred pounds a year she claimed they needed.

Just this past week, Sandra Newman picked up Woolf's material and looked at it differently by asking What If You Can't Afford "A Room of One's Own? at Electric Lit. Does that mean you can't write? Newman argues that no, it doesn't.

What would Virginia Woolf have made of someone like Sandra Newman?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Reading Sloane Crosley

Reading figures prominently in my goals and objectives this year. I got psyched for the plan even before January and read an entire book of essays last fall by Sloane Crosley,  Look Alive Out There   Overall, the book is funny, the way I like writing to be funny. The writing is dry and understated, with no signs signaling a joke. The jokes make a point.

But what are these essays? Are they personal essays, which I thought took something personal and related it to the world, which these sometimes don't seem to do? Are they memoirs, which I recall a professor  describing as events the significance of which were not understood until after they were over? Which raises the question, why read memoirs? The essay about the noisy neighbor kid. I don't know what makes that an experience others want to read.

On the other hand, the essay about altitude sickness while climbing a mountain she's totally unprepared to scale may be recalled whenever I walk up a hill. And the Meniere's essay? Oh, my gosh. I am so grateful I only have vertigo once a year or so. And the guy who snatched Crosley's domain name and made her pay through the nose to get it back?

I definitely came away from this experience with the understanding that not every essay is going to click with every reader. Both readers and writers need to expect it.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Brazen Women For Women's History Month

I received a copy of Brazen, Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu at the Gauthier Christmas gift swap, which, last year, was an Icelandic book and chocolate swap. You know,
because Icelanders give books for Christmas Eve and then spend the evening reading and eating chocolate. Beats pajamas for Christmas, doesn't it? Women's History Month seems like a good time to post about it.

Brazen is graphic nonfiction, a collection of pieces on a wide array of women, some better known than others. I definitely liked it, though it raised a few questions for me.

The Questions

  • How should graphic nonfiction work? With graphic novels, the graphics carry plot and setting. Creative nonfiction may have plot elements, but not all nonfiction does. As a reader, what should I expect from graphic nonfiction?
  • Why is Brazen considered YA? The women covered are not necessarily teenagers and the material on them sometimes goes into old age. What is it about Brazen that makes it YA instead of adult graphic nonfiction that YAs can read the way they can read so many other types of adult nonfiction.?
  • And what is YA nonfiction, anyway? Many teenagers are ready for adult nonfiction and in terms of their schooling are probably expected to read it. What should writers writing YA nonfiction being doing that that they wouldn't do if they were writing nonfiction for adults?


No Answers

My quick and superficial hunt for answers to the above questions didn't provide me with much information. What I found tended to focus on what's available in YA nonfiction rather than what YA nonfiction is.

Kelly Jensen did an interesting piece at Book Riot a couple of years ago called Where's the Love for Nonfiction for Young Readers?  She describes Quiet Power, a YA version of Susan Cain's Quiet, about introversion versus extroversion. I'd never heard of Quiet Power, though I've read Quiet. Quiet Power sounds significantly different, very directed toward YA readers. An example of YA nonfiction?

But a lot of writing on nonfiction for young readers gets murky because journalists often pool middle grade and YA readers together. So the differences in the audience and how writing for them should be done isn't considered or addressed.

It looks as if everything Brazen made me think about is just going to sort of fester in my mind. And, oddly, what it made me think about was writing, not women. A classic example of Gail totally missing the point.

Check out this Washington Post article on Brazen that describes the storytelling and graphic aspects of the book.

Friday, March 08, 2019

A Fine YA Thriller

You'll be happy to hear that reading Fake ID by Lamar Giles met one of my objectives for Goal 3. "Read YA thrillers." Good objective, right?

Fake ID deals with a teenage boy in witness protection with his family. They're on their third change of identity, because Dad is trouble and can't keep with the program. Nick...Steven...Tony...finds that his family has been dumped in a town that's nothing but trouble.

It's The YA Characters, Stupid

Fake ID isn't just a good thriller. It's good YA. I've read YA thrillers before that were essentially  adult books with fast cars and dangerous women. The main character is said to be YA, but doesn't act YA or appear to be YA. S/he isn't in YA situations. These are simply adult books that have been retrofitted for YA.

This book isn't like that. Nick is very much part of a YA world...dealing with high school, new people, bullies, a new girl, a possible murder. Well, the possible murder isn't typical of a YA world, of course, but the victim is a YA.  Nick has father issues, which is common with YA novels. In fact, there are two guys with father issues here. On top of that, you could say that this book deals with identity, a classic YA theme, since what is witness protection about but identity?

Fake ID involves a few of those classic mystery elements, red herrings. There are a number of false leads, sending readers after different possible culprits. But it's not giving anything away to say that even on this score this book is about the YA characters, stupid. The fundamental most basic rule of YA, as far as I'm concerned.

Thrillers And Diversity

In addition to being a good read for anyone, Fake ID is an opportunity for young readers of color to see a main character of color in a thriller written by an author of color. 

At about the same time I was reading Fake ID, I read Changing the Face of Crime Fiction: 6 Writers of Color on Writing Mysteries, Crime Novels and Thrillers in Writer's Digest. The article is a round table discussion that begins with the question "Is it really true that the crime/mystery/thriller genre is overwhelmingly white...?" The writers involved in the discussion believe the answer is yes. One of them, Gar Anthony Haywood,  says, "I think support for writers of color starts with promoting crime fiction to young readers of color at an early age. Minority readers of crime fiction tend to discover us almost by accident, after years of reading white authors exclusively, and this is a missed opportunity."

Young white readers are exposed to plenty of mysteries, crime novels, and thrillers with white protagonists and therefore expect to find more of the same for their adult reading. Fake ID gives young nonwhite readers a chance for the same experience.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: Carry On Carrying On

I am not back at Original Content, or work, for that matter, in any kind of organized way. I am not back to normal after fighting the most recent eldercare fire. Of course, there has not been a normal for long periods of time at Chez Gauthier for over eleven years. I know one couple who dealt with the swings of eldercare "issues," as they're often called, for well over two decades. Maybe close to three. Open a paper or look around at your friends, neighbors, and relatives. Tens of thousands of people can never be sure of how they'll be able to use their time because they are caregivers for parents, spouses, siblings, or children. For some people, that may be the reality of big chunks of their adult lives. Their time goes to care giving and the kind of work that puts bread on the table. If there's time in their lives for other kinds of work, it's hidden somewhere where they have trouble finding it.

Recently I recalled my inspiration for starting the Time Management Tuesday feature here at OC. A memoirist had written an essay responding to new writers who had asked her how they could find time to write. She advised them to take a few hours from the time they used for exercising and housework. From all of us who use up most of our exercise and cleaning time making multiple emergency room visits, lining up home companions, connecting with visiting nurses, hunting for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, visiting said nursing homes and assisted living facilities a couple of times a week, researching medications and treatments, meeting with doctors, social workers, physical and  occupational therapists, audiologists, the occasional lawyer, and even a minister when a funeral needs to be planned, let me just say that that was enormously, enormously unhelpful. Glib. Shallow. I ran out of adjectives early on and became royally pissed. Time Management Tuesday came out of rage.

I'll be up front here and admit that being judgemental is my worst fault. Dwelling on what I've passed judgement on is probably a close second. But there you go. On the plus side, rage and holding a grudge led to a multi-year study of time management that has provided some help to me this past month.

A Three-Pronged Modest Proposal For Those Writing During A Crisis. Or Two Or Three.


So you have day after day and week after week and month after month of dealing with family problems. In all likelihood, year after year. It's clear this stuff isn't coming to an end any time soon--which is just as well, given how some of these family problems end--and you'd like to keep writing. Realistically, what can you do?

Situational Time Management. Don't expect to be able to manage your creative time or any of your time the same way every moment of your life. Our life situations are always changing, so we change how and when we work in order to work around them. What's more, our work situations are always changing. Are we prepublished writers trying to generate work? Are we making a living from our writing and have to keep the income coming? Are we established writers working on projects that aren't in the publishing pipeline yet or do we have books coming out soon so we have to work on marketing? Everything we do is dependent upon our life and work situation. We only have to wrap our time around the situations we're in, and we can do it in any way. What a relief. Shifting from situation to situation is a whole lot easier than trying to work with only one schedule, and if we can't conform to it, believing we're out of luck.

The Unit System.  One very good way to wrap our time around whatever situation we're in is to stop thinking that we need a full day to work. In the fields of time management and productivity, there's a lot of support for breaking work days into units or segments of time. The theory is that the first 45-minutes of work are the most productive of the day. The longer we spend working past that point, the less productive we become. Thus working, taking a break, and working again tricks the brain into thinking that each new start is the beginning of a new day. Meaning that a short work period squeezed in before heading off for the nursing home or the couple of hours you have after you get back can be valuable. Doing something is always better than doing nothing, and it has the benefit of making you feel you're still in the game. Also, coming home to your laptop or a book you're reading for research can be hugely relaxing after having lunch with a table full of ladies all at different levels of cognitive decline but all certain that they don't like oven-roasted sweet potatoes.

Use Your Goals and Objectives. How can we make the best use of whatever units of time we have while in our particular situation? Make sure that we're always using them to work toward one of our work goals. That way, we're always making some kind of progress on the work we want to do. That's good both practically and emotionally. In addition, we're not wasting time, which we don't have very much of, trying to decide what to do. Having established goals at the beginning of the year that I could work toward was hugely helpful last month.

Does that sound more useful than "use some of your exercise and housework time for writing?"Am I still being judgemental here?

How Did You Use Your Units Of Time This Past Month, Gail?


Goal 4. Complete a second draft of Good Women by September. I've spent more time working on this goal than I expected to at this point. Why? Because so far it's been easier than I expected. This suggests to me that working on an easy goal while I have other kinds of stress going on in my life may be a very good idea.

Goal 1. Work on short-form writing, essays and short stories. I've hit a couple of objectives for this one. "Revise His Times Or Mine essay" and "Read an essay or short story every day."

Goal 2. Concentrate on submitting completed book-length projects as well as short form work. I submitted His Times Or Mine and received a very good rejection. Yes, there are good rejections.

Goal 6. Research and create notes for a happy apocalyptic story. I happened to stumble upon a book dealing with a historical event that should be helpful for this, so I've been reading that.

Carry On Carrying On

The above doesn't sound like a lot, but I've had periods when we had elder crises when I threw in the towel and didn't even try to work for months at a time. I ran into a member of my writers' group recently and she said to me, "Well, Gail, carry on." The fact that I've been able to carry on this much is probably due to my writing about situational time management, the unit system, and goals and objectives over and over again these past seven years here at Original Content and to my toughening up over these past eleven years of older relatives going up in flames over and over again.

Please excuse me now. After visiting the nursing home and dropping a hearing aid off at the audiologist (yes, I do go there a lot), I returned some books to a library where I stumbled upon still another book dealing with a historical event that relates to my happy apocalypse story. I have about an hour and a half left today, and I'm going to use it for research.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

March Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

March is bringing three new books to Connecticut, and a major YA author will be here promoting her memoir.

Sat., Mar. 2, Padma Venkatraman in conversation with Cindy Rodriguez, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 2:00 PM

Mon., Mar. 4, Leslie Bulion, Durham Library, Durham 6:30 Launch party

Sat., Mar. 9, Jamie L. B. Deenihan, That Book Store, Wethersfield 2:00 PM

Mon., Mar. 11, Laurie Halse Anderson, Fairfield University Bookstore, Fairfield  7:00 PM Ticketed event for Anderson's adult memoir; children under 13 not admitted.

Sat., Mar. 16, Sara Levine, Wesleyan R. J. Julia Bookstore, Middletown 10:30 AM

Sun., Mar. 17, Joyce Stengel, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury 10:30 AM 

Thurs., Mar. 21, Martha Seif Simpson, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 PM Book launch

Thurs., Mar. 21, Peter Brown, New Canaan Library, New Canaan, 6:30 PM

Sat., Mar. 23, Leslie Bulion, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM

Sat., Mar. 23, 4th Annual Local Authors Fest, Library of New London, New London 11 AM to 2 PM I just learned of this yesterday, and it sounds as if the line-up hasn't been finalized. I don't know if any children's or YA authors will be there.

Sat., Mar. 24, Martha Seif Simpson, Greater New Haven Jewish Community Center, Woodbridge 2:00 PM Purim Party 

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

And We're Going Down Again

You know that joke about how when God hears you have plans, He laughs? Yeah. That's not funny.

We're fighting more eldercare fires here at Chez Gauthier, this time for two 90-somethings at once. Because we are efficient. For the sake of sanity and because I can accept reality, I'm going to ease up on blogging (and my writing group, which I was just about to start attending again after last year's elder fire) for probably a couple of weeks, maybe more. Actually, I'm probably ditching most of the objectives for this year's Goal 5  for the same amount of time.

The Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar will be up at the end of the month.

I am aware that Google+ is on its way out and that we may need to remove some buttons from this blog. We'll get to it, when we get to it.

I tried to look for some arty firefighting image to use in this post, but it was taking too long. I have know...eldercare stuff to do.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

So What's Been Happening This Month, Gail?

The first month of 2019 is over. If you made goals and objectives for the year, now would be a good to check in and make sure you've been spending time working on them instead of doing something else entirely. One twelfth of the year is gone, after all. On top of that, you can make changes now if, like me, you've got something new you've started working on.

For the sake of controlling my obsessiveness, I'm only mentioning the objectives I've worked on. The others have not been dropped, they're just being saved for another month.

Goal 1. Work on short-form writing, essays and short stories. 

  • Have nearly finished revising His Times Or Mine essay.
  • Have read an essay or short story every day of the month.
  • Finish reading A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf I feel accomplished and smart.

Goal 2. Concentrate on submitting completed book-length projects as well as short form work. Made 7 submissions this month. Okay, 5 were part of a Twitter pitch day

  • Have been binge researching agents.

Goal 3. Work on the YA thriller just enough so I'll have material to take to my SCBWI writers' group.

  • Revised one scene to take to the group next month
  • Am reading a very good YA thriller

Goal 4. Complete a second draft of Good Women by September. Took the month of January off to let the the smoke settle, though I have continued to make a few notes.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding


New Goal 6. Research and create notes for a happy apocalyptic story. 

I lost a week of serious work time this past month because of retreat week. This next month is going to be shaky because we have an ill elder and a family member coming from out of state. But we're going to think in terms of working in units, not days. Yeah. That's the ticket. 


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

February Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Another slow month, but, as you can see, I did find one Valentine's Day related appearance.

Sat., Feb. 2, Mark & Sheri Dursin, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury 3:00 PM

Sat., Feb. 9, Andrew Zimmern, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 2:00 PM

Sat., Feb. 9, Janet Lawler, R.J. Julia Wesleyan, Middletown 10:30 AM

Sat., Feb. 23, Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 2:00 PM

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Hill House...Book And Series

"cup of stars"
I have just finished watching The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix...for the second time. I watched it once last fall, and then asked for the book for Christmas. I finished reading it  (rereading, actually, since I'd read it in high school) the second week of January and watched the series again, looking for connections between the book and film. I'm not big on watching "reruns," certainly not so soon after watching something the first time. But Shirley Jackson wrote The Haunting of Hill House.

You all know how I feel about Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson has a  horror writer reputation. Because of that, she doesn't get credit for things like the incredible elegance of her writing in The Haunting of Hill House. You can hear some of it in the TV series. Some of Steven's voice overs from his book are Jackson's actual words. While the series is very different from the book as far as action and characters are concerned, in terms of mood, it's very true to the original.

The series also picks up a multitude of bits and pieces from Jackson's book, working them into the weekly episodes that move back and forth through time, often from different characters points of view. Jackson fans like myself can have a glorious time looking for the connections.

Overlap Between Hill House The Book And Hill House The TV Series

  • The Dudleys are the only characters who appear, as is, in both the book and the series, though they have a very different story arc in each. Mr. Dudley, in particular, is quite different in terms of behavior.
  • The names of three of the major characters, Luke, Theo, and Eleanor/Nell come from the book. In the series, Eleanor's married name is Eleanor Vance, which is her name in the book. Though they are adults and unrelated in the book, they are described as beginning to feel like family. In the series, Luke, Theo, and Nell are siblings and appear as both children and adults.
  • Theo is sexually ambiguous in the book. She's a lesbian in the series.
  • Hugh Crain is the original builder of Hill House in the book. In the series, he is a major character, the father of Luke, Theo, and Nell. He is also some sort of contractor who has bought Hill House and is planning to flip it, giving him another connection to the builder Hugh Crain of the book.
  • In the series Luke, Theo, and Nell have a sister named Shirley, which is an obvious tribute to our Shirley Jackson. She is very much a caretaker in the book, the way an author is.
  • I have no idea where the name Steven, the last sibling in the series, comes from. 
  • Rooms are referred to by colors in both the book and the series.
  • In the book, Theo and Nell are in a bedroom at night screaming because of the pounding around them. The child Theo and Shirley in the series have a similar scene. As adults they're together in Shirley's funeral parlor when more pounding occurs.
  • In the series there is a scene where Theo wakes up having been holding someone's hand, but she doesn't know whose. A similar thing happened to either Theo or Nell in the book.
  • A cup of stars is referred to in both the series and the book.
  • In the book, Nell runs up a spiral staircase where someone in the past had killed herself. In the TV show, Nell hangs herself near a spiral staircase. That spiral staircase shows up a lot in the last episode.
  • A statue of a father and child appears in the book. There are statues turning up all the time in the series.
  • Eleanor dances in both the book and series.
  • There's a cold spot in both book and series.
  • A mystery dog runs through the house in both the book and series.
  • In the book, Nell experiences a rain of stones when she was young, which is why she is invited to Hill House. She has experienced a supernatural event. In the series, the mother Olivia experienced it when she was young. It's made clear throughout the series that she has some kind of supernatural thing going on, something the house evidently can plug into.
  • "Journeys end in lovers meeting" Liv says to Hugh in the last episode of the series. She's quoting Shakespeare. The line appears often in the book.
  • "I am home. I am home." Yup. Appears both places.
  • The series ends with Steven reading a line from his book, which also happens to be the last line from Shirley Jackson's book. But not quite. Jackson's line ends "and whatever walked there, walked alone." Steven's line ends "and whatever walked there, walked together."  Kind of significant, all things considered.
I am sure this is not an exhaustive list. I only watched the series twice, after all.

 About That Cup Of Stars

No, I am not so obsessed with Jackson and Hill House that I made star-shaped cookies so I could make a cup of stars, because a cup of stars appears in the book and the TV series. Come on! The cup of stars was a cup with stars painted in it. It wasn't a cup of cookies!

No, what happened was I made these little toddler star cookies, then thought, Hey, I could make a cup of stars! That's a totally different thing and makes all the sense in the world.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Multicultural Children's Book Day Twitter Party

Tomorrow is Multicultural Children's Book Day, co-founded by Valerie Budayr of Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom. The program's mission is "to raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity" and "to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries."

As part of the event there will be a Twitter party tomorrow night from 9 PM to 10 PM EST, which you can follow using the hashtag #ReadYourWorld. You can register to win prizes.

You can also follow Multicultural Children's Book Day all day on Twitter using the hashtag #MCBD2019. For that matter, you can start following it today. There's already some activity.

Hint: If you use Tweetdeck, you can set up columns for hashtags you want to follow just for a day or two, like #ReadYourWorld and #MCBD2019. You can always delete them later. I already have my columns set up for tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: Keeping Research...Or Not

Trust Me, There Was Craft Research Here
Last fall while working on an office purge, I cleared out a second binder full of general writing craft research I had done years ago. I did the other one last spring. These were nicely organized binders with section labels like "Character," "P.O.V.," and "Voice." I had both print-outs I'd made of Internet material I once liked and many pages of notes I'd made from books and magazines that didn't belong to me.

Why Discard Craft Research?

You've Forgotten You Had It. That was the case with me. The two binders were taking up prime shelf space, but I never opened them or thought about them. Some of this material had been printed and was time stamped. It went back to 2007. You know that advice you hear about throwing out clothes  you haven't worn in X amount of time? Yeah, well, 11 years is too long to keep craft research you haven't looked at.

It's Not From A Reliable Source. Some of these things came from blogs I know nothing about. In looking it over again, I question whether it was good information or just somebody's random thoughts on writing or literature. I can think randomly about writing and literature, myself. I don't have to have someone else do it for me.

It Looks Like Old Wine In A New Flask. Some of this stuff was just variations on standard information. Some different terminology, but nothing life changing.

It's Made Up Stuff For A Workshop Or Journal Article. Some of what I had was obviously workshop instructors' write-up of their workshop content. I've been to a few workshops. I've taught one and submitted proposals for others. What we're often talking here is the old wine in a new flask I just mentioned or something new for the sake of being a new workshop you can teach and get paid for. I would give you an example of a new-for-the-sake-of-new workshop proposal I submitted and then tried to sell as an article, but I'm not going to in case I'm able to use it some day.

You've Saved Notes From Craft Books You Remember You Didn't Like. I included the book title on some of these. Craft books written by academics, in particular, don't work for me. Why do I need to keep notes made on those?

It Relates To A Type Of Writing You No Longer Do.  You've moved on, so move on.

I Don't Mean To Go All Marie Kondo On You, But...


A disordered work environment drains your impulse control!!! No impulse control, no staying on task!

You can impose order by getting rid of some of those things of yours that are disordered. That includes craft research that doesn't help you anymore. Assuming it ever did.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Happy Birthday, Ethan Allen

Happy 271st birthday to Ethan Allen, rogue historical figure and hero of Ticonderoga. The Hero of Ticonderoga, a twentieth century Franco American girl's take on "one of the wickedest men that ever walked this guilty globe" is no longer available in print. I own the rights but haven't done anything about an e-book, so you can't read it that way, either.

However, the print book is available at many libraries.

And to celebrate E's big day, you can still see my Ethan Allen talk given at the Ethan Allen Homestead in Burlington, Vermont.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

An Author Does Story Hour At A New Bookstore

Human children and animal babies all go to sleep. That's the entry point that makes Snuggle Down Deep by Diane Ohanesian with illustrations by Emily Bornoff work. Each section involves both some light factual material with the "snuggle down deep" repetition. The book combines nature, poetry, and...sleeping. It's a lovely book with an ecological thread.

The Event

Cookies A Work Of Art
This morning Diane Ohanesian did what could be called a master class in how to do an author story hour in a bookstore. She had an audience of close to a dozen kids from around two-years-old to maybe six or seven. Yes, she brought cookies, which made a much nicer impression than I would have expected.

Making The Story Interactive
What was really impressive, though, was the way she got control of her group with the first words she spoke. In a whisper, she asked her audience to do something and they did it.  She kept control with a terrific board kids could interact with as she was reading. She finished up with a simple art project that went over extremely well, probably because of the great box of supplies she brought with her. She had brand new packages of paper!

Watching Diane illustrated why new writers should take advantage of opportunities to see writers experienced with speaking and dealing with the public.




The Venue

Diane read at the new River Bend Bookshop in Glastonbury, Connecticut. It's a nook and cranny independent bookstore, the kind where browsers can get a sense of the intellect curating the offerings. I "have a bookstore" in Stowe, Vermont I go into once a year and walk around until something jumps off the shelf and tells me to take it home. River Bend
Children's Nook
could be that kind of place.

Of course, today I bought Snuggle Down Deep.

River Bend is hosting writers and other literary events

Thursday, January 17, 2019

An Italian Thriller For Child Readers

Time to start blogging about some of the reading I've been doing. Because otherwise I'm just talking about reading, not showing that I've read.

Okay, I found Run for Your Life by Silvana Gandolfi, translated by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, in my mail sometime last year. No idea how that happened. I don't know that it ever has before.

Silvana Gandolfi is an Italian children's writer whose work has been widely translated. According to the publisher of this translation,  Run for Your Life won the Prix Sorcieres in 2012. (I say "according to the publisher," because I can't even begin to read Italian.)

Run for Your Life deals with a child whose family is involved with the Mafia in Palermo, Sicily.  The first half of the book is an interesting back and forth between chapters involving Santino, whose father crosses his Mafia bosses and is murdered along with Santino's grandfather, and Lucio who lives with his mother and younger sister in another place. I figured out what was going on just before the big reveal, which is always satisfying. The rest of the book is a more traditional thriller.

Far more interesting is the world of the book, illustrating the intense history Palermo has had with the Mafia. This will be a unique read for American child readers being exposed to different cultures with literature.

Run for Your Life was published by Restless Books' Yonder Imprint, "devoted to bringing the wealth of great stories from around the globe to English-reading children, middle graders, and young adults." These people have published a book from the Icelandic! This could be your home for foreign books in translation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: Time To Set Up Those Bullet Journals

This month my Facebook page has been humming with people talking about setting up their bullet journals for the new year, so I thought I'd rerun a post from just last October in which I discussed my attempt to keep a bullet journal. I am still keeping a bullet-like journal with major concentration on planning by week and day, a little work with planning over the course of the year, and none at all by the month.

New page layout
Last fall I found I found a new page format to use that is far more organized, though, of course, more labor intensive. But, then, that's bullet journals for you.

Do other people suffer from bullet journal anxiety? On the last day of my reading retreat, I found myself becoming anxious because I was going home to a bullet journal page for this week that hadn't been filled out. I didn't get much reading done that day.

Oct. 16, 2018 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.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Are Personal Retreats Worth The Effort?

Retreat Reading Spot
Oh, come on. That question must be clickbait. Six days of doing whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, with no phone calls or e-mails about problems and when the weather is too bad to drive to a restaurant you just walk across the road to a lodge to eat dinner next to a fire? Of course, a personal retreat is worth the the planning, the packing, and the five-hour drive.

But What About Professionally?

Retreat Reading
Well, remember, the big activity on my retreats is reading. Yes, I spent 5 hours snowshoeing one day, snowshoed to a chapel another day, and to a bierhall still another. I made my annual visit to Bear Pond Books. That still left me enough time to read:

  • 3 UVM alumni magazines
  • 3 back issues of Writer's Digest
  • 1 back issue of Carve
  • The new issue of Seven Days
  • 30 pages of A Room of One's Own (I forgot I planned to read it during Retreat Week until Thursday.)
  • Maybe a third of Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer (Hey, it's a big book.)
  • The last few chapters of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • All of In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (My purchase at Bear Pond Books where something almost always jumps off the shelf at me.)
  • 9 short stories (4 in that issue of Carve)
  • 4 essays (2 in Carve)

Again, What About Professionally?

Travel Journal

Well, I also generated 9 pages of journal notes. Unfortunately, many of them related to a new project that's not part of my goals for this year. But I also got a few ideas for agents to research as a result of reading all those Writer's Digests. I've also got some lengthy notes for an entirely new essay and came up with an approach for another subject that could result in both a short story and an essay. Maybe flash.

So I guess I could say my reading-retreat week fired up some creativity. I've had similar things happen on just a regular vacation. The extra reading and the removal from my usual environment and the next thing I know I'm writing something in a journal.

 Retreat Reading View
Creativity doesn't always get its due. It's sort of an up-and-down thing. Right now it's down while we're focused on discovering readers and making that first sale and giving our main character something to want and then keeping it from her and the Hero's #@!! Journey.  Comparatively, creativity is kind of soft and squishy and maybe even a bit woo-woo. Except it's not. Creativity is how we generate new material. Without it, we're just staring at flickering computer monitors and virgin journal pages.

So if you go on a personal reading retreat, it jump starts your creativity, and you go home all excited because you have a handful of ideas and a book buzz on, how can that be anything but worth the effort? 

Friday, January 04, 2019

"Original Content" Going On Retreat

That annual disappear-with-books retreat I mentioned yesterday starts tomorrow. Original Content will go dark while I'm gone. You know, unless something incredibly juicy comes up that I just have to tell someone about.

I've started reading a short story or essay a day (Goal 1, Objective 4). You can look for me on Twitter  to follow what I'm reading and, in many cases, find links to the material so you can read it, too. So far, I've been reading the work of Naomi Kritzer, who I hadn't even heard of a week ago. I'm totally into her right now.

Cybils Finalists

The finalists for the 2018 Cybils Awards were announced on New Year's Day. There are ten book categories with five to seven finalists in each category, so a lot of titles are getting attention.

This is an award given by book bloggers for titles with book literary merit and popular appeal.

Congratulations to all.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Retreats Are Different Things To Different People

I'm prepping for my annual retreat week, at which I'll be reading for hours next to a wood stove, doing a little frolicking in the snow, hitting a few restaurants, and then sacking out next to the wood stove some more.


Yes, this is a pretty sweet retreat. But there are others that interest me.


Writers' Retreats

Registration opened last month for a summer writing retreat. This is a weekend event similar to a couple of retreats I've attended in the past. This one offers more writing time in bits and pieces than the ones I went to, but otherwise it's like the others--heavily scheduled with mentor presentations, critiques, readings, and panel discussions. These retreats are like conferences I've attended, but with far fewer people, both in terms of participants and staff. The retreats are often in more rustic settings than the conferences, though. Perhaps that's the "retreat" aspect.

Stampers' Retreats

As luck would have it, I have a family member who's a stamper and recently returned from a stamping retreat. At these things people arrive with loads of stuff. The stampers have stacks of envelopes of pictures that they are working on putting into scrapbooks. Or orange boxes of pictures from Shutterfly. There might be a few classes over the course of the weekend and a store with scrapbooking supplies. But there's no mentoring, critiquing, readings, or panels. These people work. For hours and hours.

At the retreat my family member attended, the cropping room was open until 1 AM Saturday morning and 2 AM Sunday. It opened again at 8:30 AM each day. The participants only left for meals. There was some chit chat, I'm told, but not enough to keep people from working. Some headphones came out, which I totally understand. I like music when I'm working, too. I don't work many twelve to sixteen hour days, though. None, to be honest.

My family member came home from that retreat with more than one hundred and seventy cards made. I remember working maybe thirty or forty minutes at my last retreat. No, I did not come home with the writing equivalent of a hundred and seventy cards.

The organization that sponsors this scrapbooking retreat does it every month. So many opportunities.

Would A Stamping-type Retreat Work For Writers?

Now, I will admit that my first thought when I heard about the goings on at this place and saw the accompanying picture was, Sweatshop. My second thought was, Why can't we do this? Why can't writers go to an organized event for a couple of days and just put on a headset and work?

I know an argument could be made that writers need the networking that goes along with mentor presentations, critiques, readings, and  panels. At those kinds of events, we hope we'll meet agents and editors who will take an interest in our work or we'll hear that someone is open to admissions or the sky will open up and contracts with international publishers will drop at our feet. But, come on, haven't we all run into writers who were planning how they were going to sell or market books they hadn't written yet? You really need to get the writing done first. And wouldn't one of these scrapbooking-type retreats be a way to do some of that?

So what I'm thinking is I'd like to hit a retreat with a room filled with tables and plenty of power outlets. I'd arrive there with all my research done, as well as a lot of blueprinting and with  headset and music in hand. I'd work in forty-five minute segments, pausing for a little chit chat or some Pop Corners before going back to the ol' drawing board.

I wouldn't expect to come home with anything like one hundred and seventy cards, but to have jumpstarted or finished a draft would be fantastic.

January Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Update

Sat., Jan. 19, Diane Ohanesian, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury 11:00 AM

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: Joyful 2019 Goals

Yesterday I finished a 5-day final push to finish the draft of an adult book that I wanted to complete in 2018. I cranked out 3 times the amount of new material that I normally would in that period, though there are a lot of place holders, and I realized I needed to develop a thread more fully in draft 2 with an additional chapter at the mid-point. So while the project is nowhere near done, it's done enough so I can start this new unit of time, meaning the new year, with a change of work focus. Good Women can rest until the beginning of February.

It was a tense December working on this, and the last five days were brutal. I mention that to explain why I am ridiculously happy this is over. Giddy.

Now I can turn to my 2019 goals and objectives. Goals? What I want to do. Objectives? What I need to do to do what I want to do.

Goal 1. Work on short-form writing, essays and short stories. This will be adult work, primarily, something that I've been interested in for a long time, but couldn't get to. It's also the only work I've been able to publish for several years, so it makes some sense to put some energy into this. Also, given my family's attraction to health problems I may be able to handle shorter types of work more easily than novels. Writing a novel requires staying in the world you're working with, something that's difficult for me to do when I'm off to nursing homes, doctor's offices, independent living facilities, and new baby's homes, two or three days a week.


  • Revise His Times Or Mine essay
  • Start some eating Essays
  • Choose an essay or short story from the files or journal to do a little work on every day
  • Read an essay or short story every day. I began today with So Much Cooking by Naomi Kritzer, which I heard about while taking part in a Facebook discussion about food blogs. This is a terrific short story. 
  • Finish reading A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf during retreat week (next week!), because it will make me feel accomplished and smart.
  • Spend the last week of every month completing something. Anything.

Goal 2. Concentrate on submitting completed book-length projects as well as short form work.


  • Research agents at Publishers Marketplace
  • Research agents for adult books
  • Pay more attention to agents on Twitter. Which is not stalking them.
  • Spend more time with essay Facebook group. Those people are publishing and share their work, exposing me to new markets. Which is not stalking them.

Goal 3. Work on the YA thriller just enough so I'll have material to take to my SCBWI writers' group.


  • Start by revising the material I've shown them. No one is going to remember that.
  • Work on blueprinting.
  • Just work on scenes. Don't worry about connecting things. 
  • Read YA thrillers.
  • Keep theme in mind. 

Goal 4. Complete a second draft of Good Women by September. I would like to set an earlier deadline, but given the turmoil we've had the last two years, I've decided to give myself a long time. If I'm done earlier, how clever of me?


  • Give this a couple of afternoons a week, maybe less.
  • Concentrate on the new thread and new chapter. Presumably this will make fixing the placeholders at end of book a lot easier. That's my theory. It's happened before.


Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding


  • Get started with writers' group again.
  • Continue with Original Content.
  • Check out NESCBWI spring conference, with possibility of attending.
  • Check out NESCBWI-PAL offerings this year, with possibility of attending.
  • Be open to attending events for writers of adult literature.
  • 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.

Goal 6. Expect the end of the year to be a disaster. Don't fall behind on goals so that I have to struggle to catch up while dealing with the holidays.

Checking In With Goals

For a year or two, I was creating a done list each Friday, with which I checked to make sure I'd worked on goals that week. I found it very helpful, but also a little time consuming. It was one of the first things I gave up last summer when that family member fell ill. This year I'm going to try to do it just once a month.

I mention this because, as I just said, it was helpful, especially with the social media goals. I would hustle Thursday night to get things done, because I knew I had to report the next day. You might want to try it.