Tuesday, October 20, 2020

My Postcard Obsession--I Mean Anniversary

According to my bullet journal, I began sending out a postcard a week a year ago today.

I have always been fond of postcards. Family members have even been known to bring packages of them home to me from vacations. I carry an address book with a stash of post card stamps on long trips in order to be able to send post cards to very old and very young family members while I'm gone. Yes, we do end up driving around in strange cities while we look for post offices or mail boxes. 

But what got me started sending them regularly last year was an essay by Peter Wayne Moe I stumbled upon at The Millions. It was called Why I Write Postcards, and it was about...ah...why he writes postcards. At the time he wrote the essay, he'd been sending out a postcard a week for five and a half years. Though, now that I am rereading the essay, I see this guy went way over the top and sometimes sent three, four, or five a week. Thus at the five-and-a-half year point, he had written and mailed out 880 postcards.

It sounds as if he interacts with people who write back and then he writes back to them, meaning I don't think he's sent out postcards to 880 different people. Nonetheless, I think he must know a great many more people than I do, because even though I've sent more than one postcard to cousins and friends over the year, I've had to struggle to reach 52 postcards over 52 weeks. I've only once had anyone send a postcard back to me, though I've had a number of people thank me for getting in touch, and I've received some texts and email responses that were just as lovely as a postcard would have been. They were like metaphorical postcards.

I tend to choose who I'll write to on the basis of whether or not I've thought about them recently. I write something like, "Oh, I was doing such and such the other day and thought of your mother." Or "We went to this place that made me think of you." If nothing else, the desperate hunt for something to say has made me give more thought to the people I know.

Years ago, when Moe jokingly referred to himself as a man of letters, his wife told him he'd better write some then. That's what got him started on the postcard road. I like to think I got started because it was a way of reaching out
to others, because a postcard might bring joy to someone's life. In reality, writing a postcard a week is just the kind of obsessive activity I love. If you're a Facebook friend, you know I recently started my seventh trail journal, because I manically keep track of where we've walked, biked, snowshoed, and cross-country skied. I have been writing a letter a week for the last 33 weeks to a young family member, mainly about the aforementioned walking or biking. (At 8 o'clock this past Sunday evening I was running through the house screeching, "I have to write ERJ4's letter!" And I did.) I've also made close to 95 masks and have more cut out, so I'll be going over the 100 mark soon. Most weeks I pend some time curating photos that have been texted or emailed to me into the array of albums I've stored on my iPad. And then there is this blog. Eighteen years of blogging.

Smallish things I can do over and over and over and over--Yes, that is for me.

My original postcard plan was to make it to a year. I have. I can quit now. Except I've accumulated a lot of postcards, as well as postcard stamps. And I just got a lovely e-mail from a cousin I sent a card to a couple of weeks ago about the outrageous price a local restaurant is charging for Thanksgiving meal kits. How can I stop?

I'm thinking that going forth, I'll send a postcard to my aunt one week a month. My sister writes to her monthly, and I don't want to look bad. That would take care of a quarter of 2021's postcards right there.

So, yes, of course I'm going to keep going.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Childlit Books Publishing In October

Well, isn't October an interesting month? The 6th appears to be the big early publishing date, not the 1st for this new month of children's pandemic publishing.

Oct. 1 The Exceptional Maggie Chowder, Renee Beauregard Lute, Luna Valentine illustrator, Whitman





Oct. 6  Cleo Porter and the Body Electric, Jake Burt, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan






Oct. 6 Alone in the Woods, Rebecca Behrens, Sourcebooks 






Oct. 6 The Boys in the Back Row, Mike Jung, Levine Querido 






Oct. 6 If /Then, Vicky Fang, Jade Orlando illustrator, Sourcebooks 




Oct. 6 And/Or, I Can Code, Vicky Fang, Jade Orlando illustrator, Sourcebooks






Oct. 6 Juan Has the Jitters, Aneta Cruz, Miki Yamamoto illustrator, North Atlantic Books/Penguin Random House





Oct. 6 The Elephant's New Shoe, Laurel Neme, Ariel Landy illustrator, Scholastic






Oct. 6 Perkins Perfect Purple, Tami Lewis Brown and Debbie Loren Dunn, Francesca Sanna illustrator, Little Brown






Oct. 6 Return of the Thief, Megan Whalen Turner, Greenwillow Books/Harper Collins






 Oct. 6 Twins, Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright, Graphix/Scholastic






Oct. 6 Big Move to a Tiny House, Jennifer Richard Jacobson, Paula Franco illustrator,   Pixel+Ink/Penguin Random House






Oct. 6 Toy Story Trouble, Jennifer Richard Jacobson, Paula FrancoPixel+Ink/Penguin Random House 





Oct. 6 Heroes Level Up, Tom O'Donnell, Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins






Oct. 6 A Hopeful Heart: Louisa May Alcott Before Little Women, Deborah Noyes, Schwartz&Wade Books/Penguin Random House






Oct. 6 Trapped in Hitler's Web, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, Scholastic







Oct. 6 Animorphs: The Graphic Novel, K.A. Applegate and Michael Grant, Chris Grine illustrator, Graphix/Scholastic






Oct. 6 Closer to Nowhere, Ellen Hopkins, G. P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Random House






Oct. 6 Apple Skin to the Core, Eric Gansworth, Levine Querido






Oct. 6 The WandererPeter Van den Ende, Levine Querido

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A Bully Book About A Bully...Sort Of

I am very much interested in the inner workings of people who are not very nice. Who isn't, for that matter? Over the years, I've seen/read a lot of books about kids who are being bullied. I don't recall reading much from bullies' points of view. Though I would like to.

I enjoyed Restart by Gordon Korman, which does, indeed, have a bully for its main character. Chase is the full on stereotypical athlete bully. But is he really? Because when we meet him, he's suffering from amnesia after a head injury. He's not aware he's a bully. The people around him certainly are. The story is told from different points of view, including those of people he has bullied and those of his bully friends.

The reality of his pre-injury life is only slowly revealed to Chase. He is shaken by it. He doesn't want to go back to who he was.

That's a nice redemption story. I like redemption stories. It is also hopeful for readers, because it suggests bullies can see the error of their ways, though maybe only after something dramatic like amnesia. 

As a well-known over thinker, though, I wonder about the science behind amnesia and whether or not a personality would change this way and this much. Would the bully slowly return? And would that not make an interesting story, too? A dark, disturbing one? 

Maybe that would be an adult book.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Writer Connections In The Age Of Covid

Professional Development During The 2020 Pandemic

Last summer I took part in a fantastic flash writing workshop led by author Patricia Ann McNair. This was the best workshop I've ever taken in terms of actually working and generating new writing. I've submitted two pieces I wrote during that workshop. It has spoiled me for other programs. This workshop met in two-hour sessions over 6 weeks, so there was plenty of time to read and write between meetings. A lot of writers' workshops are only an hour long, there's not much opportunity for real work in that amount of time, and they end up being classes. If they are part of a conference, you run to the next class/workshop without any opportunity to mull over or use the content of the class/workshop you just left. Right now, I don't want to take a workshop unless I'm going to be able to write the way I wrote in Patty's.

(How many times did I use "workshop" in that paragraph?)

Oh, and by the way, Patty was in Chicago for this workshop series, while I and another participant were in Connecticut. Still another was in Massachusetts, two were in Michigan, and one was in Seattle. 

Yes, this was another great digital opportunity for Gail. The salon Patty held for her students post-workshop was another. 

I've written a lot here about professional development opportunities for writers' during the pandemic and how I hope that they will lead to lasting change when we can head out in public again. But book promotion is undergoing a change, too.

Book Promotion

In the summer issue of the SCBWI Bulletin author Lisa Rogers describes some of the promotions authors are doing while they can't make public appearances because of the pandemic. She gives examples of authors who are reaching more people with virtual events then they would have with traditional ones. Valerie Bolling, for instance, did 5 back to back virtual visits in one day, hosted by places in places such as Utah and Canada, something she wouldn't have been able to do under normal circumstances.

Virtual events, though, Rogers says, don't always generate the kinds of sales traditional appearances do. The books aren't right there in front of readers to buy while they're feeling heightened interest because they've heard or met an author.

My own thought on this issue: While we can see now that immediate sales are lower, in the long run virtual events that have the potential to get author information out to larger numbers of people in broader areas may mean equal if not even larger sales. For a long time, publishing has been using the movie "big opening" model for judging books' success. Publishers want to see big sales, right away, the way movie companies want to see big sales on opening weekend. Once the potential for early sales is past, everyone moves on, hoping for some other big thing.

This year's expanded virtual world, may mean changing to a different model. Since many more readers may be exposed to many more book titles without the actual item in front of them, orders from other bookstores and  on-line sellers over time, as well as additions to wish lists and requests to libraries, may increase. 

UPDATE! I just found a new virtual promotion. Author Renee Beauregard Lute is holding a launch party for her book The Exceptional Maggie Chowder at her website





A Late Addition Related To Illustrators

Author/illustrator Lita Judge can't do her usual annual weekend studio tour this year, for obvious reasons, so she's created a virtual one. I love hitting studios and galleries, and a virtual tour of a studio that I can't get to because it's too far away? I am on that.

It would be terrific if virtual tours became a thing in years to come to accompany annual weekend tours, when they're back in the after time. Again, the net would be tossed so much further than it can be when you're only including nearby people.


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Managing Chaos With Set-Aside Time

Back in 2012 I did my first writing project with my May Days Facebook group. I started calling setting aside big blocks of time like this for particular writing activities...ah...set- aside time. I've written about it a few times here over the years. In fact, just this past August I wrote about this issue in relation to an article by Anne Marie O'Connor in which she referred to set-aside times as "concentrated blocks of time." I was hopeful organizing time in that way could help writers slow down and become more productive.

Well, my group gets together every October, too, so I have started a new set-aside period for working on one of my goals for this year, the "YA thriller that could become an adult thriller." Since I'm now thinking in terms of chaos, I'm hoping set-asides will be useful for that, too. 

Why Set-Aside Times Could Slow You Down

To quote me: "Sometimes you have to juggle multiple projects--editing one thing while submitting another or marketing still something else. But finding blocks of time you can dedicate to just one thing slows you down, because you're not racing to work on multiple tasks. And that can increase productivity, because you can see some work getting done."

Why Set-Aside Times Could Manage Chaos

Organizing time like this could also help with managing the chaos of our lives long enough to do something. Mainly because we're only trying to do the something for a specific, and relatively short, period of time. Looking forward to our future, which we, of course, expect to go on forever, it's hard to get a handle on controlling things, because will power and self-discipline are finite. And time management is situational. We can't foresee what situations are going to arise over the next year or multiple years that will have an impact on how we are able to spend our time. Did you see the 2020 Pandemic coming? I rest my case.

But shorter periods of time are much easier to deal with chaos-wise. We can make a good guess about what's going to happen in the next month and plan for it. We have a good chance of extending our will power that long. Or maybe we can do it for a week? Or a long weekend? 

Can Set-Asides Counteract Chaos?

I've actually signed up for a 5-day mindfulness event this week. Because:

  • Yeah. I am chaos. What could possibly go wrong with doing two set-aside activities at once? What? You say two simultaneous set-asides contradicts the whole issue of dedicating your time and energy to one thing? Won't that cause chaos? Those of us who are chaos just grab for the gusto.
  • The mindfulness event is short. It's 5 days. I'm not planning some big mindfulness activity for the rest of my life. Talk about looking for trouble.

So my hope is that the shortness of this new event will counteract my running toward chaos with arms wide open.

Because when struggling with chaos, my thought is less is always going to be more.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

An Inspiring Mystery

Tomorrow my May Days Facebook writing...I guess we could say binge group...begins its annual October effort. October May Days, if you will. After spending the summer on flash writing and the last four weeks or so on submissions, I plan to spend OctoMay Days on my YA mystery. Then keep going on to a NaNoWriMo-ish four weeks on the same project.

So it makes a world of sense that I would write today about One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, because when I read the first chapter this summer, I said to myself, "Self, you've got to change the first chapter of your mystery. Get right to the point, Gail, like Karen does."

My many, many blog readers know that I am not a fan of alternating points of view and romance in genre. The first slows down the narrative drive, and the second is usually a distraction. It rarely supports the main story. This book had both these things. And, yet, I liked it.

In addition to liking the basic story, I thought McManus did some interesting things with some stock YA characters. One of Us is Lying is a book that received a lot of attention and deservedly so.

Monday, September 28, 2020

My 2020 National Book Festival Experience

This year's National Book Festival was this past weekend, and it was digital, because it's 2020. It was the 20th book festival, and this was the first time I "attended" any part of it. Because it was digital.

I had some problems maneuvering through the Book Festival website and accessing the author presentation/videos and live question and answer sessions. I couldn't figure out how to access the question and answer sessions at all for the two authors I was interested in on Friday. On Sunday I got that worked out for the last two authors I was watching, but I kept losing the connection with one of them. I don't know whether that was because I wasn't set up close enough to our modem (I've had that problem before), I need a new computer (this laptop is seven years old), or there were problem with the Book Festival's website. I also had trouble getting to one of the author presentations on Sunday. I had to go directly to YouTube for one of them.

I went hiking on Saturday, so, yeah, nothing that day.

Nonetheless, I saw some great stuff on Friday and Sunday, and now you can, too, because these authors' presentations are on YouTube.

Links To Author Presentations On YouTube

Gene Luen Yang I watched Gene Luen Yang's presentation, because I just plain like him. I've liked some of his books, his articles, and reading about him. Watch through the point where he's discussing his new book Superman Smashes the Klan.

Mike Curato I chose Mike Curato, because his new book, Flamer, released this month and was part of one of my September book release posts. His cover and book title were striking, and I recalled them. I guess this is an example of marketing working.

Alaya Dawn Johnson I just discovered Johnson on the list of authors appearing at the Festival. She interested me, because she writes across age groups. She's an award winning YA author of speculative fiction whose new book, Trouble the Saints, is adult historical fiction with a fantasy element. 

Mary Robinette Kowal I have one of Kowal's Lady Astronaut books on my Kindle. She has a new book out in this series, The Relentless Moon.

Emily St. John Mandel Well, of course, I course I listened to Mandel, because of Station Eleven. She has a new book out, The Glass Hotel.

You can probably go through the list of Festival authors and find their presentations either at the Festival site or at YouTube.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

More September Books

Here is Part II of my list of children's lit books publishing in September, month seven...or six...who knows?...of the 2020 Pandemic. Part I includes another nineteen titles.

Sept. 1 Jayla Jumps In, Joy Jones, Albert Whitman





Sept. 1 The Big Sibling Getaway, Korrie Leer, Albert Whitman






 Sept. 1 Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan





Sept. 1 Fright Night, Maren Stoffels, Underlined/Penguin Random House






Sept. 1 Nubby's Story, Aubre Andrus, Scholastic





Sept. 15 Three Keys, Kelly Yang, Scholastic
Sept. 15 Feel the Fog, April Pulley Sayre, Simon & Schuster

Sept. 15 The Last Kids on Earth and the Skeleton Road, Max Brailler, Douglas Holgate illustrator, Viking/Penguin Random House 





Sept. 29 Ghosts Unveiled!, Kerrie Logan Hollihan, Abrams 






Sept. 29 1,001 Creatures, Laura Merz and Aino Jarvinen, Restless Books