Saturday, March 28, 2020

Social Isolation Is Improving My Technology Skills

Thursday night I attended a Greater Hartford SCBWI Meet and Greet. By way of Zoom. Someone in my family decided to memorialize the moment with a picture, which post!

This was a come-as-you-are event. I want credit for having replaced the flannel shirt I'd been wearing for days (and have on as I type this) with a cleanish cardigan. For some reason, I also felt compelled to brush my teeth. However, if you look very closely, you can see I wasn't wearing socks.

In order to take part in this event, I had to learn how to use Zoom. By which I mean another family member got me set up. Remotely. Because he ran through a practice with me, I got to see him, which was an additional benefit. It appears I can take part in Zoom meetings, if someone else is hosting and sends me an invitation. I don't know how to initiate anything myself. (Like I'm ever going to want to initiate a gathering, even on-line.) That's what I mean by having learned "how to use Zoom."

On Monday I'm signing up to try to get into a SCBWI workshop conducted through Zoom. There are a number of those kinds of workshops coming up in the next few weeks I may be able to be part of.

This is a big tech step forward.

But We're Not Just Talking Zoom!

In the last two weeks I've also learned how to insert photos and images into word documents so I can write illustrated letters to family members. This is a ridiculously easy thing to do. I should have tried it long ago.

I also learned how to "show this thread" on Twitter, for a long-involved reason that is also connected to what I've been doing recently. Another ridiculously easy thing to do. Embarrassed I never tried it before.

There Must Be Historical Precedent For This

I am sure there are all kinds of examples of cultures making technological advances, because they needed to respond to illness or war or natural disaster. I'm guessing someone has also written on  individuals who have done the same thing. It's definitely happening for me.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Malka Penn Award Goes To "The White Rose"

The White Rose by Kip Wilson has won the 2019 Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children's Literature.  This is the third year for the award, which was  established in part by writer Michele Palmer who has written children's books under the name Malka Penn. The award also is connected with the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut.

The White Rose is a novel-in-verse dealing with the White Rose resistance movement in Germany during World War II. Kip Wilson has published an extensive amount of short fiction and nonfiction. The White Rose is her first book.

Honor Books 


Four Malka Penn honor books were named this year:

The awards ceremony is scheduled for April 23 at the Thomas Dodd Research Center on the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut.

On April 11, 2018: Author of "My Beautiful Birds" Wins First Malka Penn Award

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

March Book Release: When the Babies Came to Stay

When the Babies Came to Stay by Christine McDonnell with illustrations by Jeanette Bradley was published yesterday by Viking.

According to the book description, four unrelated babies arrive by different means on an island. A librarian ends up raising them in the library. Which is, of course, where many of us wish we'd grown up.

McDonnell is the author of ten children's book, across all age groups. Bradley's debut book was published in 2018, and she is co-editor and illustrator of an anthology being published in September.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Good News! I Got A Rejection This Weekend!

I received a rejection late Saturday for an adult novel that I started thinking about, sort of, back in college. And then thought about some more in the '90s. And started working on many years ago and finished last year. I made this submission less than two weeks ago, on the Tuesday of the week everything went to hell.

I assumed that would be my last book submission for years, maybe ever, because I never recovered professionally after the economy sunk into the toilet in 2008. Publishing was hard hit then, I just accepted that the same thing is going to happen as a result of this month's/year's pandemic turmoil. I thought I would shift to short-form work and try to publish with journals, on-line and off, paid or not.

That was my plan to maintain a writing life.

But I've seen a few things on Twitter and Facebook that suggest that there's a little activity going on with editors and agents. And then I got this rejection.

Why Is The Rejection A Good Thing? 


Because that rejection means that agent is working. She hasn't thrown in the towel. And she could. She's in Seattle. But she's still working, and working on a Saturday.

So I will continue to work, too. I just generated half a page of new work!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Coronavirus Cancellations In Childlit

Over the coming weeks I will be covering book launches within the children's literature world and other childlit-related events that are cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in this country. You can help out these authors by spreading the word about their new books, following them on social media, recommending their books to your libraries, and, of course, purchasing them when you can. I'm collecting this information on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Many more authors and illustrators will be affected who you won't see here.

Today's author info relates to events that appeared on the March Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar and includes nonbook launch appearances. These are followed by some Massachusetts news.

Amphibian Acrobats

R. J. Julia Bookseller's (Madison, Ct.) Event Calendar has been cleared until the end of the month. Leslie Bulion was to have appeared there on Saturday, March 21. Her March 22 Byrd's Books (Bethel, Ct.) appearance has been rescheduled to June 5, 5:30 to 7:30
Both dates supported her book, Amphibian Acrobats.

Amphibian Acrobats, published by Peachtree Publishing Company and illustrated by Robert Meganck, is a nonfiction book dealing with amphibians around the world.

Leslie Bulion is the author of six other books for children, which have been named to lists sponsored by such organizations as the NCTE, Bank Street College, and Book Sense.

A Galaxy of Sea Stars 


The Barnes and Noble in West Hartford, Ct. has no events listed for the rest of the month. Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo was to have appeared there on Saturday, March 21 in support of her latest book, A Galaxy of Sea Stars.

A Galaxy of Sea Stars, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux,  involves an eleven-year-old American girl whose family sponsors a family from Afghanistan that includes a girl her own age.

Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo is also the author of Ruby in the Sky, which won a number of awards before publication.

Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale With A Tail

Leslea Newman's March 29 appearance at the River Bend Bookshop in Glastonbury has been cancelled. She was to have read her new book, Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale With A Tail.

Welcoming Elijah, published in January by Charlesbridge and illustrated by Susan Gal, is the story of a young boy celebrating Passover with his family while a kitten observes from outside the house.

Newman is the author of numerous books that have won multiple awards. More importantly, she was at the University of Vermont around the same time I was. Seriously, we overlapped on campus two years. Additionally, she was at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference as a participant the year after I finished my three summers there as the pastry assistant in the kitchen! This is amazing! (I feel that I may have noted this info sometime over the years in a post about Newman, though I can't find it. Well, if I have told people about this before, all I can say is that it is well worth repeating.)

Other Cancellations

The Public Library of New London, Ct. is closed as of last Friday, March 13. Katie L. Carroll and Patrick Scalisi were to have appeared at the library's Local Author Fest on Sat., March 28.

The Storytellers' Cottage in Simsbury, Ct.  is closed for the rest of the month. Joyce Lapin was to have appeared there on March 21st.

The New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators spring conference on May 1   through May 3 has been cancelled.

The New England SCBWI art show, Art From the Heart, at the Wedeman Gallery, Lasell College, from May 8-30, has been cancelled.

La Francophonie Day: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

Well, mes amis, we have reached the official La Francophonie Day, and my final La Francophonie Day post. Today I am discussing an American book written in English but set in a Francophone country, Haiti. French is an official language there, but, significantly, so is Haitian Creole.

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite starts out with a lot of humor about a Haitian American girl, Alaine Beauparlant, working on a Latin American history project on Haiti's history. Two of my favorite things--history and humor. I was psyched. The story veers off to dealing with Alaine's mother's health, her aunt's high-level work in Haitian government, a family curse, and a college boy. It was a little trop pour moi. But on the other hand, that's how a lot of YA books are. They're piled with many elements.

As exposure to another culture, though, Dear Haiti works very well. There's some French, there's more Creole, there's food, there's a lot of beautiful scenery. There's good presentation on the wealth versus poverty aspect of the country. The book definitely left this reader interested in Haiti.

Since my focus this week has been on language and culture, I'm going to bring up a point about the main character's last name, Beauparlant. I read that as meaning something like beautiful talk. And, sure enough, it's a surname meaning "fine speaking." Alaine is the daughter of a well-known on-air journalist with plans to become a journalist, herself. An excellent name for her. I spend a lot of time sweating over the names for my characters. I found this one very apt.

A La Francophonie Day Roundup

Links to this week's La Francophonie Day posts here at Original Content:

A Break From Angst To Celebrate La Francophonie Day

La Francophonie Day: Manon Gauthier

La Francophonie Day: Who Left The Lights On?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

La Francophonie Day: Who Left The Light On?

Today's La Francophonie Day post features a book from Restless Press, a company that publishes English editions of books from around the world. Who Left the Light On? is a picture book written by Richard Marnier and illustrated by Aude Maurel. It was translated by Emma Ramadan.

Who Left the Light On? is described by its publisher as being "about a uniform, monotonous village where all the neighbors follow the same rules of how their homes should look and when it’s okay to turn on the lights—until one day someone decides to turn on the lights at the “wrong” time."

Emma Ramadan wrote Five Translators on the Joys and Challenges of Translating Children's Books for Words Without Borders. She begins the piece discussing her own work translating Who Left the Light On?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

La Francophonie Day: Manon Gauthier

 Today in honor of La Francophonie Day, this Friday the 20th, I am featuring Quebec children's illustrator Manon Gauthier.  She is described by Canadian publisher Pajama Press as working in "many media, including gouache, pencils, and paper collage."  
She is a self-taught illustrator who has been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for illustration four times and has had work  selected for the illustrators' exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

I like Gauthier's style, though I'm not knowledgeable enough about art to describe it, and, of course, she has a very cool name.

We have no connection. There are many Gauthiers in the French-speaking and Franco-American worlds.

Eighteen Years And What Do You Get?

I thought Original Content celebrated its eighteenth anniversary today, but in reality it was March 6th. How did I bungle that? I didn't even do a post on March 6th of this year.*

Fortunately, I hadn't planned to do anything beyond starting to tweet links to posts from the archive again, something I was doing last year and then sort of forgot about. As you can see, I'm not good at pulling off special events, which explains why I'm always complaining here about what an ordeal Christmas is.

What's Happened Over The Course Of Eighteen Years?

Because I started dipping into my past last year, I am aware of some changes that have occurred over the eighteen years I've been blogging:

  • One is the decline in engagement, both between bloggers, which used to happen a lot, and between myself and regular readers. I was posting links to posts from 2010 and often came upon real give and take in the comments. Well, maybe not often, but it did happen. It's been years now since I've seen that here. I put this change down to people taking their interaction with others to Facebook and Twitter, where they can just engage with a "like," and the overwhelming number of blogs, leading them to give up on following them altogether. Seriously. The number of blogs is overwhelming, I tell you. I don't read hardly any, anymore, myself. Unless something good is pointed out to me through Facebook or Twitter, of course.
  • Another is dead links. I have many, many blog posts that include links that now go nowhere, because whatever I linked to is gone. The blog or site not only is inactive, it isn't being maintained. Keeping up an on-line presence takes endurance. Perseverance. Obsession. Compulsion. Some of those things are marks of my personality. 
Here's a link to my very first blog post, entitled Not Another Self-involved Weblog? (That's another change. Nobody says "weblog," anymore.) If you'd like to follow me on Twitter, (@gail_gauthier), I'll be posting links to the past there regularly. Or maybe not regularly, but sometimes. And I think I might start adding an anniversary link to the bottom of my 2020 posts. A "What was I blogging about on this day in ______?" thing. Yeah, that would be interesting. For me.

And this is why I'm so bad at planning special events. Ideas come to me way too late.

On This Day In 2002: The Answer to a Question You Didn't Ask.

*Update: I know how this happened! I have a work planning calendar (Ha! For what good that does me!), and I wrote "Blog turns 18 years old" on the March 18 date. 18 and 18. A logical mistake, though still inept. And may have been due to rushing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Staying On Task When You're So Busy Social Distancing

I'm hearing two responses from my writer friends to the social distancing we're going to be doing over the next few weeks. One is that they're going to look at this time at home as an opportunity to get some writing done. Maybe a lot. The other is that recent events have left them unable to concentrate enough to take advantage of this, shall we say, found time.

Here are three things we can do to help us soldier on.

Go Retro And Check In With The News Just Once Or Twice A Day. A Few Times, Tops

We'll begin with a little history lesson: When we had only newspapers, TV, radio, and magazines for the distribution of news, people took this information in at specific times. They might read the paper in the morning or the evening. TV news came in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. Radio news came at the top of the hour. News magazines came out weekly. It wasn't possible to spend hour after hour reading and watching news. News sites weren't struggling to fill 24 hours of air time with content back then and thus searching for opinions and analysis from every person who ever worked in any field even remotely connected with, say, infectious disease, or who had been somewhere near a grocery store in the last twenty-four hours. They weren't printing tweets...any tweets, from anybody.

Yes, arguably we knew less, but, arguably, how much do we need to know? In the case of the present pandemic, we've been hearing about it for weeks, if not a couple of months. We've had a lot of time to prepare. Some of us have been social isolating since last week. We've been advised to continue doing so for another fifteen days. Can we expect something to change so dramatically so fast that we need to be checking in with the news all day long?

Choose some times during the day that will be your news times. Check in then. Use the rest of your time for something else.

Get Some Distance From Social Media And Its Misinformation

People are scared now and often angry. They can't get together with their friends to discuss what's happening...except they can. On Facebook. They can get together with their followers on Twitter and I'm sure on other platforms, as well. They can get emotional support for problems in their lives caused by the coronavirus. They can feel better when people they know share their experiences. Cousins can share a laugh over how hard an eighty-something aunt is taking having to stay home. (Yeah, that was Annette, Mary, and me.)

But for many writers, the bulk of our Facebook friends are just that...Facebook friends. They are people we have connected with in order to create a professional network. They are not people we have ever met in person or are geographically near so we ever will. Spending hour after hour picking up and absorbing their fear may not be the healthiest thing we can be doing now, and it certainly isn't the most time and energy efficient.

On top of that, according to Peter Adams of the News Literacy Project
in an interview on NPR last Saturday, some of those stories our Facebook friends and Twitter followers are sharing are what he calls "misinformation." He even talks about a "misinformation ecosystem." "This pandemic has brought out a really clear picture of the kinds of things that tend to circulate in the misinformation ecosystem, generally...," he says. He goes on to add:

"A lot of what we're seeing is actually, you know, what you would call a kind of cheap fake or a low-tech fake, just copied and pasted claims online going viral across platforms...we're seeing just a lot of text-based claims with - this person is in a position of authority, you know? My sister-in-law works with a man who's married to someone at the CDC who says, right? So this sort of second and thirdhand totally anonymous information just gets copied and pasted over and over and over again across these platforms."  

Yes. I have definitely been seeing a lot of that, and it's often alarmist. I wonder if some of this stuff isn't entering the area of urban legend.

So when you're choosing a time to catch up on the news, choose a time to catch up on social media, too. And start skimming your Facebook wall and Twitter stream instead of reading every word, assuming you ever did. Avoid any messages that say things like "You have to read this!" with a link to a story on the coronavirus or the economy or the new world order or anything else that will start you down some kind of reading binge that will suck up your whole morning. Maybe your whole day. Your week. The next month.

Use Done Lists To Get Back On Task Or Help You Stay There

A lot of writers aren't working full-tilt right now, and that's okay. But if you want to ease into work, a done list may be more helpful than a to do list. To do lists often just don't get done at all, but a done list is, well, done. It's a big support psychologically and can be a motivator because it can direct you with what you might want to do next.

My done list for yesterday included yesterday's blog post, some work on the first paragraph of a humor piece, collecting humor pieces from humor blog sites, and reading half of them. Since we had had some sickness in our extended family before everything went south last week with the coronavirus, I felt pretty good about work yesterday. And my direction today, and the next few days, is to stick with small tasks until one becomes interesting enough to keep me working on it.

More interesting than those stories about the nurse from Seattle who said XYZ or another Costco with empty shelves.

A Break From Regularly Scheduled Time Management Tuesdays

I am going to take a break from doing weekly Time Management Tuesdays for a while, because many writers don't need it at the moment. As I said above, they're not working at capacity, anyway, so how they manage their writing time isn't an issue. If there's one thing I don't believe in with time management, it's harassing ourselves and others about it. Making ourselves or others feel bad is guaranteed to cause failures of impulse control.

Additionally, many people are offering all kinds of advice on how to get along during the pandemic. The world doesn't need any more advice. I am striking a blow for no advice.

I have many little irons in the fire I can write about that might actually be entertaining or useful. I'll focus on those for a while.

I'll probably be back with time management at some point, because you all know how obsessive I am. "She's never going to let that go," you're thinking, and I'm sure you're right.

Monday, March 16, 2020

A Break From Angst To Celebrate La Francophonie Day

Friday, March 20 is International Francophonie Day, a celebration of French language and culture. I've also seen references to Francophonie Week and Francophonie Month. While the United States is not a Francophone country, Francophonie Week/Day is celebrated here by some French organizations.

While many Francophonie Day events have been postponed or cancelled, pas ici! Over the course of the week, I'll be featuring children's writing in French from French speaking countries or children's books set in French speaking countries.

Les Livres Canadian

I'm beginning with Great French Books for Kids, a review by Kelly Di Domenico of six books, which appeared in a Montreal paper, so I'm going to make the assumption that the books are from Quebec publishers. The article is from 2008 and publishing being what it is, I don't know how many of the books are are still available.

A book from the list that particularly struck me and that does appear to be available only used is La Classe de Neige by Alain M. Bergeron. The story is about a boy who has broken his leg skiing, and he describes how he ended up in a cast. This caught my attention, because I don't see a lot of skiing books in American childlit. And, yes, readers, you are welcome to hit me with ski stories in the comments.

Here you can see Bergeron doing a talk in French about La Classe de Neige. He starts out saying, "Hello, everyone" and that he's going to give a talk on La Classe de Neige. Then it sounds as if he's saying hello to a long list of kids. Then I was lost. I missed my Netflix sous-titres.

Les Autres

A more recent book list from Canada is 8 Books Your French Immersion Student Won't Be Able To Put Down by Laura Mullin.  She has collected child recommendations of French books, including some French translations of American titles, which I won't mention because that's not what I'm here to do this week.

In this group, the book I particularly like is Les P'tits Diablos by Olivier Dutto. This appears to be a lengthy series from France, though I can't find a nice, tidy website describing everything. I liked the ten-year-old girl's take on the book in the article. "It's about a brother and sister who don't get along, but when they put their minds together, they can sneak up on anybody."

The series is also animated. Again, ou est mes sous-titres? J'ai besoin mes sous-titres! This episode starts out with "It's not fair! It's not fair!" The sister greets the boy. The boy says he's sick today. And then they start talking over my head.

I can tell you, however, that the cover of the book to your left says, "Sister for sale. Cheap."

More French-related books or writers/illustrators coming this week.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus Cancellations In Childlit

Over the coming month (or more) I will be covering book launches within the children's literature world and other childlit-related events that are cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in this country. You can help out these authors by spreading the word about their new books, following them on social media, recommending their books to your libraries, and, of course, purchasing them when you can.

I'm collecting this information on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Many more authors and illustrators will be affected who you won't see here.

A Whale Of A Mistake

A few days ago, Ioana Hobai announced on Twitter that all her events for A Whale of a Mistake have been cancelled.

A Whale of a Mistake, illustrated by the author and published by Page Street Kids, is about a girl dealing with a big mistake.

Ioanna Hobai has published two other picture books since 2018, one as an illustrator and one as an author and illustrator. She studied art in her native Bucharest.

The Fabled Life Of Aesop


Ian Lendler also announced on Twitter last week that he's had to cancel events for the launch of The Fabled Life of Aesop: The Extraordinary Journey and Collected Tales of the World's Greatest Storyteller.

The Fabled Life of Aesop, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (two-time Caldecott Honor winner, by the way) and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is both a picture book biography of Aesop and an anthology of his work.

Lendler is the author of a number of children's books, as well as adult nonfiction. Interesting mini-fact: He grew up in Wallingford, Connecticut, which isn't that far from me. Not that close, either. Close enough that I may have driven through. Never knew him, though. Not that interesting a mini-fact.

The  Derby Daredevils Book 1

On Wednesday, Kit Rosewater announced that the launch for The Derby Daredevils Book 1 at Book People in Austin, Texas has been cancelled.

The Derby Daredevils, illustrated by Sophie Escabasse and published by Amulet/Abrams, is about two girls trying to pull together a 5-girl roller derby team in one week.

Daredevils is Rosewater's debut book.

Hudson Children's Book Festival

The Hudson Children's Book Festival, scheduled for May 2 in Hudson, New York, has been cancelled. This year's Newbery winner, Jerry Craft, was to have been the featured author. The author/illustrator list included many NESCBWI colleagues. The Book Festival's 2021 date has already been set--May 1.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Hey, It's Still Women's History Month

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore is a fantastic Women's History Month read, even if, like myself, you were not a Wonder Woman fan until Gal Gadot started carrying her shield. (I read most of my DC comics at a friend's house whose older brother purchased them. He must not have been a WW fan.) Wonder Woman is the most popular female superhero character and the third most popular superhero character overall, coming in only behind Superman and Batman.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman isn't really about Wonder Woman, though. It appears to be about William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman's creator. He's one fascinating guy, even though, according to Lepore, he was not nearly as successful as he appears on paper. Instead, he went from one academic job to another, usually in a downward spiral. He went from one project to another, Wonder Woman being one of them. Then there was his unconventional lifestyle. He lived with his wife,  Elizabeth Holloway Marston, a highly-educated woman who wanted both a career and a family. Even in the early part of the twentieth century, how women could do this was an issue under discussion. Elizabeth Holloway Marston managed this by accepting her husband's lover, Olive Byrne, into their home to raise her children with well as Byrne and Marston's children...while she worked.

Yeah, that is fascinating.

But what is also fascinating is the way Lepore pulls together the little aspects of Marston's life that turn up in the Wonder Woman story. He was in on the creation of the lie detector, for instance. Wonder Woman carries a lariat that forces people to tell the truth. There are photos of his companion, Olive Byrne, wearing bracelets similar to the ones Wonder Woman wears.

But what is the most fascinating is the way Marston was a sort of magnet for all sorts of pre-WWII feminism. His wife was an early working woman, for instance. His girlfriend was Margaret Sanger's niece.

All these Marton factors, both from his personal life and the feminism he supported, turn up in Wonder Woman in the mid-twentieth century.

Lepore says, "The suffrage campaign, from 1848 to 1920, is often thought of as the "first wave" of the women's movement, and women's liberation, in the 1960s and 1970s, as the "second wave." In between, this thinking goes, the waters were still. But there was plenty of feminist agitation in the 1940s in the pages of Wonder Woman."

I don't know what I was expecting when I bought this book. But I was delighted to be exposed to so much early- to mid-twentieth century women's history.


Thursday, March 12, 2020

Coronavirus Cancellations In Childlit

Over the coming month (or more) I will be covering book launches within the children's literature world and other childlit-related events that are cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in this country. You can help out these authors by spreading the word about their new books, following them on social media, recommending their books to your libraries, and, of course, purchasing them when you can.


The thirteenth annual KidLitCon, which was to have been held on March 26 and 27 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced on Twitter yesterday that it has been cancelled. The Ann Arbor District Library, where it was to have been held, has cancelled all its programs and events indefinitely.

KidLitCon is described as a Cybils Award Event, and is connected to the same childlit blogging community. My recollection is that it was originally specifically about blogging and bloggers, though now it is an "...annual gathering of people who care about, and/or blog (or Tweet or Instagram or Facebook or make Videos) about children’s and young adult books..." It involves a wider group these days.

Check out the bloggers and authors who were scheduled to attend.

You're Invited To A Moth Ball

You're Invited to a Moth Ball by Loree Griffin Burns was supposed to launch at the National Science Teaching Association conference in Boston in April. The conference has been cancelled.
Burns said yesterday on Facebook that other spring launch events are up in the air.

You're Invited to a Moth Ball, illustrated by Ellen Harasimowicz and published by Charlesbridge, describes how child readers can observe night time insects at their own homes.

Loree Griffin Burns is the author of numerous nonfiction books for children, some of which have been named ALA Notable Books, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Books, and have won IRA Children's Book and Green Earth Book awards.

Numbers in Motion

The book launch for Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Mathematician by Laurie Wallmark, at The Book Garden in Frenchtown, New Jersey on March 15 (this Sunday), has been cancelled.

Numbers in Motion, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg and published by Creston Books, deals with Sophie Kowalevski, a nineteenth century Russian mathematician, who was the first woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics that required original research and to hold a university chair in mathematics. (Hmm. A women's history month title, perhaps?)

Laurie Wallmark is the author of three other picture book biographies on women in technology, one of which was named Outstanding Science Trade Book and Cook Prize Honor Book.

Laurie was also scheduled to appear at the National Science Teaching Association conference next month. 

I have at least two more cancellations to cover, and I suspect I'll be hearing about more.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Those Sad To-Do Lists

Recently I article on the misery of reaching the end of the day and realizing you've done little on your to-do list. The article didn't have a lot of new assistance to offer, so I didn't keep the link. But I've been thinking about it a lot the last couple of days, after having a lot of family things going on last week and then spending most of this morning shopping on-line for a 93-year-old relative.

A to-do list should be a tool that helps, it shouldn't set us up to be discouraged and unhappy. Feeling bad about ourselves is when we're most likely to experience failures of impulse control and willpower. A bad to-do list is almost guaranteed to lead to that kind of failure.

Steps To Making A Useful To-Do List, One That Isn't Bad

1. Shorten the daily to-do list. A lot of time management folks agree that a daily to-do list shouldn't be lengthy. You have to be realistic about what you can accomplish. If you've had some bad experiences with not finishing a long daily to-do list, try to recall how many things you did manage to get done those days. Make your next to-do list only that long. Or be realistic about the types of things on your to-do list. If you have a big project on your list for tomorrow, try not to put many other things on it. If tomorrow looks like a day when you're only doing short, easy tasks, you can beef it up a bit.

If you make a short to-do list and finish everything on it early, you can always start another task. There are no laws governing these things. Writers, at least, don't have anyone monitoring what we do.

2. Make the to-do list for a week, not a day. If you've worked on a task from your weekly to-do list but haven't finished it, make a hash mark next to it. Visually, you can see that you've done something toward that task, even if you haven't been able to cross it out. This avoids the daily crash and burn scenario, because you feel you haven't done enough. And you're almost certain to make some kind of progress and finish a few things over the week.

3. Build your to-do list around goals. If you have created goals with objectives for a particular period--the year, the summer, Lent, the month--you have things to work toward that are particularly important to you. Make your to-do lists around some of those. Even if you do only a few things from your to-do list, they are important things. An example: Besides this blog post, I've done only one work-related task today. It was a submission that I started working on yesterday, and submitting is a goal for me this year. I'm not suffering too much about how this day went.

Check out more thoughts on to-do lists here at Original Content.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Stay Calm And Carry On With Those Goals And Objectives

Yesterday is probably going to be the only full day of work I'm going to have until next Tuesday. A full week. We have no crisis here, no high temps, body aches, or runny noses, just the usual whack-a-mole family this-and-that. How did I manage that day, and how do I plan to manage whatever bits of time I'll find coming up over the next seven days?

I'm a broken record on this, folks.

Situational Time Management

This an acceptance thing. It's alright that we can't write every day because of family, income-producing work, tending to the apocalypse, and other types of obligations. Writing this week is different than writing last week or the week before, and it's going to be different than writing next week or next month. Don't panic!

The Unit System

Recognizing that it's not necessary to work in eight-hour shifts is a huge help. The knowledge that creative work, and, for that matter, many other kinds of work, can be done in small units or segments of time, when you're not washing your hands or wiping down the kitchen counters with disinfecting wipes, is encouraging. You can do something with 45 minutes or even 20 minutes. Again, do not panic, people!

Goals And Objectives

Knowing what you want to work on ahead of time may be the best technique for using time when you don't have a lot of it because you're going out to the store every other day to buy toilet paper, soap, and every kind of over-the-counter viral treatment you can think of. Determine your goals for a period--a year or the summer or a two-week quarantine period--and then decide what objectives/tasks you need to do to meet those goals. Then when you only have a day or a couple of hours or thirty minutes, you can work on a task you really want done.

Personally, yesterday I worked on Goal 4 of my 2020 goals, a YA thriller, because I want to bring some material from that project to my writers' group next Monday night, assuming we are still gathering in public places here. And, if we're not, I've revised part of a scene. How great is that? Hey, nothing to panic about here!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Am I Still Sticking To Goals, February Editon?

My major accomplishment this month was avoiding getting one family member's never ending cold and a couple of other family members' norovirus. This involved moving to the other end of the house to save myself--twice--where I still am because while my husband did not become a norozombie,  he's now on antibiotics for something else. I have spent a big chunk of this past month moving my things around the house, taking the elder visits, cleaning, and then, this past week, washing my hands,  doing laundry, washing my hands, going to the grocery store, and washing my hands. I now have the skin of an old crone. A still healthy old crone.

When I had time to huddle on the bed with my laptop in what I fear is going to become my permanent room, I focused on the following 2020 Goals:

Goal 1: Submitting Work. I made four submissions, two as part of PBPitch, and two to literary journals. I have a couple of agents lined up to submit one project to, and other agents in mind for two others. I registered for the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Spring Conference, which will entitle me to submit to agents connected with that. (There's at least a 50/50 chance I won't be going because of a family event coming up around that time this spring.)

Goal 2: Work on Short-form Writing. I've begun roughing out one new piece. If the last weekend of the month had gone differently, I would have tried to finish it. I made a big effort to focus on reading short stories this month.

Goal 3. Work on the 365 Story Project. The best I can say I've done for this is starting a blog post on children's lit and flash fiction and finding a flash fiction workshop at the NESCBWI Conference that I hope to get into. (Sign up for workshops is tomorrow. Two o'clock.)

Goal 4. Work on YA Thriller. I finished up most of what I had planned for my ultralearning project on historical methodology which was specifically for this book. I have been working on an outline, something I don't think I've ever done this extensively, and brought a few pages of the actual manuscript to my writers' group. And I've just started reading another YA mystery. Oh, and I just finished reading a popular history, which is part of my get my head into history thing for the historical methodology project.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding. I provided support to Connecticut writers with the CCLC and did two #BlackHistoryMonth blog posts. Went to writers' group this month. Registered for the NESCBWI Conference. Promoted The Bending Genres Anthology in which my creative nonfiction appears on both Facebook and Twitter. 

Goal 6. Stay On Top of Upcoming Known Events. I'm clearly not doing a great job on this, since I signed up for that conference when I know something in the family might be happening then. But I am keeping track of my work time with these monthly goal assessment posts. And I'm about to go look at my bullet journal to see what I've got in it for the month of March. And to set it up for next week, which I never got to for last week.

Last month I was a little discouraged at the goal check-in, because I hadn't done anything big. "Are these little things I'm doing the ground work for something big later in the year?" I wondered. "Or am I just messing around?" This month I am ecstatic that I've done as many little things as I have.

You have to look at the big picture, what else is going on. Given what has been going on, I'm feeling good right now. So I'm going to go put away the groceries I've been buying over the last three days and the laundry I've been washing and try to get some cooking done and maybe get started on a couple more blog posts.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Coming Back To Life

I'm sure you all recall that last fall Gyldendal Undervisning renewed our agreement to use some material from Saving the Planet & Stuff in one of its textbooks for teaching English. Last week they notified me that they've decided to increase the first-print run of the edition. More books!

And then just a couple of days ago I learned that my flash creative nonfiction, Heroes, has been included in The Bending Genres Anthology 2018-2019. The piece was published at Bending Genres in 2018.

Writing can be a discouraging slog. But one of the neat things that can happen in publishing is that sometimes something you've published in the past suddenly gets a little new life, as was the case for me this past week.

I can remember back in the day suddenly hearing from my editor that foreign publishers wanted to do editions of my booksMy Life Among the Aliens was published in Japan. Japan! (And Italy and Germany, which also did editions of two of my other books.) And then there was that time I was notified four times that states had included A Year With Butch And Spike on their student readers' choice award lists. When Happy Kid! went on to one of its two award lists, it resulted in a second printing for the book, because those lists generate sales and the book was right at the point where it needed a new printing to meet demand. Another year I got an e-mail from my editor to let me know that The Hero of Ticonderoga was being talked about at that year's ALA conference. And the next thing I knew (seriously, it was within a day or two) I found out that the ALA was naming it a Notable Book for that year.

Now, yes, I am using my recent news as an opportunity to relive past glories. But I have a point apart from that. The point is: I was through with those books. I may have still been promoting them at school visits or where and when I could, but the writing, the editing, the publishing was all done. I wasn't working on those books any more. And, yet, things continued to happen for them. 

That these kinds of things happen is one of the many things I didn't know about writing and publishing when I was getting started. Yes, it was one of the better things.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

March Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Clearly the independent booksellers in this state think we're having an early spring with clear roads ahead. They've booked plenty of author visits for readers. Note two books are launching (one started last month) and a writing class is starting. And there is an author fest.

Sun., Mar. 1, Janet Lawler, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury 10:30 AM

Tues. Mar. 3, Leslie Connor, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Wed, Mar. 4 thru April 1, Dawn Metcalf, How To Get Traditionally Published, The Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM Fee; Can register for individual sessions or the entire set.

Sat., Mar. 7, Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo, Barnes & Noble UConn, Storrs 1:00 PM

Sat., Mar. 7, Briana Webber, Fairfield University Bookstore, Fairfield 10:30 AM

Sun., Mar. 8, Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 2:00 PM

Tues., Mar. 10, Chris Babu, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:30 PM

Wed., Mar. 11, Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo, Wesleyan R.J. Julia Booksellers, Middleton 6:30 PM

Thurs., Mar. 12, Leslie Bulion, Durham Public Library, Durham 6:30 PM

Sat., Mar. 21, Leslie Bulion, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM

Sat., Mar. 21, Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo, Barnes & Noble, West Hartford Noon

Sat., Mar. 21, Joyce Lapin, The Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 1:00 PM

Sun., Mar. 22, Leslie Bulion, Byrd's Books, Bethel 2:00 PM

Sat., Mar. 28, Katie L. Carroll, Patrick Scalisi, and possibly others,  The Public Library of New London's Local Authors' Fest, New London 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Sun., Mar. 29, Leslea Newman, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury 10:30 AM

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Using Productive Procrastination During Stressful Times

We have had norovirus in our extended family since early last Wednesday morning. It's been making it's way around someone's home, and we thought it had arrived here Sunday night, since we'd been exposed 48 hours earlier. I spent the weekend calling and texting with sick loved ones, and shopping and prepping food in case we got sick here. Then there was a death in our family Monday morning. Not a close family member, but it meant some time on the phone and e-mailing today.

How I Live Now
The last two days have been workdays and, when I wasn't obsessively cleaning door knobs and counters, I spent a lot of my time huddled down in a spare bedroom in case my husband, who has been kind of sick, but, so far, not as sick as the rest of the family, turned into a norozombie out in the living room. I didn't have any deadlines, I didn't have a boss, I didn't have a time card to punch. I didn't have anything to make me work instead of dwelling on what was going on elsewhere.

And, yet, I couldn't let myself curl up with my iPad watching Netflix. I had enough work guilt to keep me from that. Plus I was saving the iPad and Netflix in case I got sick.

Write Every Day?...Not When You Can Procrastinate Productively

You may recall that last week I discussed the unrealistic and exclusionary insistence that writers write every day. I listed some work-every-day possibilities for writers that weren't writing. This week I've been reminded, as well, of productive procrastination. Productive procrastination is working on tasks that may not be the task you should be working on but will produce something for you.

So for the last two days instead of writing fiction, I've been working on
  • blog posts
  • transferring notes for a blueprint/outline to a computer file
  • researching a new market for a submission
  • working on a submission (which I haven't completed because the publication requires so much you'd think I was applying for some kind of government grant)
  • renewing my SCBWI membership 
These are all things I would have done at some point, and, really, needed to do. Especially taking care of that SCBWI membership. Productive procrastination can really work for you during distracted, low-energy periods.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Black History Month: "March"

I finally read March Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Ayden, and Nate Powell. I've been hearing about it for years. This is definitely a case of a book being worth the buzz.

March is a graphic memoir of John Lewis, the long-time U.S. Representative from Georgia's fifth congressional district who has also been part of the civil rights movement for decades. Lewis has a compelling story, but it's a story that is also extremely well told in this book. The frame used--Lewis is telling his story to children on Barack Obama's Inauguration Day--is marvelous. And Lewis's influences are carefully established, all the way back into childhood. The illustrations tell a lot of the story, as they should in a graphic work. And when there is narrative in the boxes, it's in Lewis's voice. He's the narrator telling the story.

The book is well done and informative. It's a book for young readers, but also a quick read for adults, including not-very-well-informed ones like myself, about the mid-twentieth century civil rights movement. Hmm. An adult I know may get this for his birthday.

March is the first of three volumes about John Lewis. Oh, this won the Coretta Scott King Book Award, which I mentioned here a few weeks ago.  The third book in the series was the first graphic work to win the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Just sayin'.

Be sure to read about Andrew Ayden, who wrote March with Lewis. How the two of them came up with the idea for a graphic memoir is interesting, too.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Weekend Writer: An Agent Virtual Appearance And A Podcast

Are any of you Weekend Writers thinking about submitting to agents? Here are a couple of resources.

I used to be quite the fan of podcasts, listening to them while I binge cooked on weekends. After a while, I found it harder and harder to find podcasts that interested me, and I have the binge cooking thing under control now. Also, I found it difficult to get everything I should out of the podcasts while I was moving from baking center to stove to sink. And just sitting and listening to one? I need a compelling reason.

Well, while doing agent research last week, I discovered that this weekend is WriteonCon, an on-line childlit conference that offers, among other things, speakers doing video presentations. I "attended" WriteonCon in 2012 a few weeks after it was over. This year, by the way, there is a modest fee for attendance, which will allow you access to content either until the beginning of March or March 22, depending on what you pay.

There is also a little free content in the form of showcase events, which were available early. I sat and watched Working With Your Agent with Natascha Morris, who has been with the Bookends Agency nearly three years. There is a little sound problem with the first few minutes of this video, but stick with it. She has a number of interesting things to say, particularly if you are at the working with agent stage. Early on she talks about receiving editing letters from agents and how writers can deal with them. What she describes is exactly how I dealt with editing letters from editors.

Then I stumbled upon a Write the Book: Conversations on Craft podcast with Emily Forland of the Brandt &  Hochman Agency. This is an interview marked by the quality of the interviewer's questions. I realized when I'd nearly finished listening to this thing that I recognized Write the Book. It's a podcast out of Vermont (the Burlington area, I think) that I've listened to a few times back when I listened to podcasts. During this podcast an author was mentioned who I looked up and whose work I want to read, but now I can't remember his name! I don't have time to listen to this again.

Which is one of my problems with podcasts.

However, if you have time to listen to one, Write the Book is very good. And if you have time for an agent video, Natascha Morris's is very worthwhile.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

I Read Canadian Day

Today is I Read Canadian Day. I know because I saw it on Twitter this morning, and a Facebook friend posted about it. So, as so often happens, I am way behind the curve on this. But over the years I have paid a little attention to what's going on, childlit-wise, in Grandpa and Grandma Gauthier's home country. So here are some links from the Original Content archive on Canadian authors.

Susan Juby Susan Juby and more Susan Juby 

Kenneth Opel                             

Ben Philippe

Cheryl Rainfield

Mordecai Richler

Tim Wynne-Jones 

I am not a big Anne of Green Gables fan, yet I have three posts on that book:
It appears that except for Ben Philippe's book, The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, I've done little Canadian reading recently. What's that about?


Gordon Korman is Canadian! Or started out that way.  And more Gordon Korman.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Some Alternatives To Writing Every Day

This past week someone on Twitter brought up the question of whether or not it is really necessary to write every day. His point was that not everyone has the time to do that.

Well, since he mentioned time...

How Writing Every Day Can Help 

Writing every day is extremely helpful if you are working on one particular project, because it helps you to stay in the world of your book. You can keep a little flow thing going.  It's even good in terms of time management, because you don't have to keep bringing yourself back up to speed with characters, setting, and whatever it is you're trying to do.

Writing every day can also help you avoid letting yourself--or those around you--develop a mindset that you only write when every other thing in your life has been done. It also helps you avoid accepting a lot of discretionary, volunteer tasks. You have to limit those because you write every day.

But Let's Get Real

A great many new writers, and even published writers who don't make a living writing:

  •  Have day jobs that put food on the table, a roof over their heads, keep them alive.
  • Are the main caregivers for children.
  • Have day jobs and care for children.
  • Are caring for family members in the extended family, often while holding down a day job. And dealing with children of one age or another
  • Have chronic health problems of their own and also working day jobs and/or caring for others
Writing every day just isn't a possibility for many people. Suggesting they should be doing that not only does them no good, but can seem exclusionary. "Writers need to write every day. You can't write every day. Therefore...draw your own conclusion."

Can Writers Do Something Every Day?

You probably read. Read something every day that pertains to your writing.
  • Read in your genre. Pay attention to what is being done by other writers. Pay attention to what you like and, more importantly, what you dislike.
  • Read articles on craft. Pick up a copy of Writers' Digest, The Horn Book, or other publications that relate to the type of writing you do. Read what you can, when you can.
  • If you write short form work, read publications that publish it. Learn who is publishing what.
  • If you're working on a project that requires research, or even just thinking about starting one, do some reading for that.  
Maintain an "idea journal" in which you only have to jot down an idea or a situation, if that's all you have time to do. If you can find some kind of journal software, even better. You can search those and find similar ideas you've entered so you can pull them together when you want to do something with them.

Try to maintain a writing area, even it it's not an office or even a desk. When you have opportunities to write, write in the same place-- a particular chair in the living room where you work with a laptop or a notebook will do. Set aside a shelf for your writing books and magazines, any books you've been using for research.

Check out your schedule for the upcoming week (or weekend), looking for time when you can write. It's not necessary to have an eight-hour shift for writing. Small units or segments of time will due very nicely. 

What About Writing Every Day To Create A Writing Habit?

How many people have really done that?

My more rabid followers know that I'm a fan of psychologist Kelly McGonigal, who wrote The Willpower Instinct. She isn't a big supporter of promoting habits for changing behavior. Habit works best, she says, for small tasks that don't require a lot of people in the first place. Which is why so many of us have no problem brushing our teeth. Writing demands a lot more of us than keeping our teeth clean, though.

In my own experience, whenever I've felt I had a traditional write-every-day habit going, something jumped the border between my personal and professional lives and writing went out the window for a while. Habit just hasn't been that helpful for me when life problems strike.

Pursuing That There Goal--An Alternative To Writing Every Day

Kelly McGonigal talks about what she calls "automatic goal pursuit." For writers this would mean that instead of focusing on a behavior--I must write every day, because real writers write every day--you focus on an ultimate goal, say a particular writing project you want to complete. You chip away at that, however you can, instead of worrying about whether or not you're writing every day.

Producing something is the goal, not the process we use to produce it. Though there are plenty of articles, books, and workshops out there claiming to provide the secret to the perfect writing process, the real secret is that the perfect writing process doesn't exist.

I Have Some Experience With This, People

For instance, this week I have a seven-year-old house guest* arriving today and staying into Friday. I lost part of yesterday to guest prep. But I hate to lose a whole week, so I'm trying to plan some small tasks that will support some of this year's work goals.

  • I got this blog post ready to post yesterday and scheduled a couple of tweet pitches on Tweetdeck for a Twitter pitch even on Thursday when I expect to be away from home most of the day. Submitting work is a goal.
  • I've loaded my iPad with some essay and short story reading that will expose me to some new markets or some craft writing. Writing short form work is a goal.
  • I'm slowly plugging away on a YA mystery this year, and I'm using a blueprinting system I learned at a workshop taught four years ago by Wendy Maas. I've printed out the blueprinting I've done so far so I can add to it at odd moments during the week.
Hmm. I'm definitely not trying to write every day. What I do appear to be doing, though, is pushing myself toward those goals.

Oh, my gosh, I love goals so.

*My house guest was struck down by a stomach bug last night, so we'll never know how well I would have done with the plan I'd made for his stay. However, I now have some found writing time. Instead of reinventing the wheel (something I always find time consuming), I'm going to stick with working toward goals, as I'd planned, maybe leaning a little more heavily on the blueprinting then I would have if he'd been here.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Observing Valentine's Day In Book World

It's February 14. That Means The Cybil Winners Are Announced.

Yes, indeed, every February 14th excitement reigns because the latest crop of Cybils Award winners are announced. There are fifteen winners. Check them out.

Bette Bono, an author in one of my Facebook groups, suggested that for Valentine's Day we send valentines to writers, by way of reviews, purchases, or contacts showing appreciation. So I'm following Cybils writers and illustrators on Twitter. Yeah, that's including Cybils winner Trevor Noah, who's very funny but already has more than 10,000 Twitter followers and hardly needs a little valentine from me.

Hey, but he just won a Cybil! He should have way more than 10,000 followers! Now he has more than 10,001.

Another Observance

Also, I just bought a Kindle edition of The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty, as part of my Valentine's Day observance. I first heard about this book yesterday, but passed on it because I have at least two food books to read this year. But there was the Bette thing about sending authors "valentines," and Twitty's book is about history, as well as food, and I'm trying to do more reading about that this year, too. So purchasing it was a multiplier. I love those.

Editing Note: I have edited this post twice today, as I think of more Valentine's Day activities. The day isn't over. I may edit again.