Saturday, October 31, 2020

"Dragons Love Tacos" Is Talk Of The Town

A couple of days ago, someone on my town's Facebook page was looking for a copy of Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin with illustrations by Daniel Salmieri. Her daughter had made a costume based on one of the characters and the mother just realized the girl needed to bring a copy of the book to school as well as the costume. 

Well, I had never heard of Dragons Love Tacos, though it appears to be kind of a big deal, but other people on that Facebook page had. Not only are there several copies in town for the original poster to borrow, someone has two.

I don't think I've ever seen any book talk at all on our town page, so congrats for attracting such attention, Dragons Love Tacos, an eight-year-old picture book that is still generating buzz in central Connecticut.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Time Management Tuesday: Using Even Shorter Periods Of Time To Deal With Chaos

When we last spoke of time management, I was trying to manage chaos by setting aside the month of October to work on one project. My theory was that a month is a relatively short period of time. "...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?"

By the end of this week (and this month that I had set aside for this manuscript), I will have finished one chapter that I'd already started and completed two more. I've also reorganized the first part of the story structurally, including a new first chapter. More importantly, I think, I am into the world of the book again, a world I hadn't entered since, maybe, last spring.

Still Shorter Periods Of Time

In Boundless Creativity: A Spiritual Workbook for Overcoming Self-doubt, Emotional Traps, and Other Creative Blocks by Martha Alderson writes about assigning writing objectives to a time frame. She also suggests actually creating something tangible for each objective that you can manipulate as you work or complete your tasks.  

What you do, she says, is determine how many days you have available to work on a project, then make an objective for each of those days. In her plan, you write these objectives on a note and pin them to a chart on the wall. This month is the second time I've tried this, and I just create a stack of notes for each day. 

What I'm liking about this right now is that if things are going particularly well, I can do the next day or two's objectives and feel that I'm getting ahead.  If I'm not doing particularly well, I can revise the next few days' objectives to give myself more time. Or, perhaps, you could say I'm revising to be more realistic about what I can do.


Being realistic, in my case, means:

  • Not planning an enormous amount of work for each day. That's setting myself up for failure
  • Not planning to work on weekends. I rarely do any real, manuscript type work on weekends, anyway, and by leaving them free, I can have some time to revise these daily objectives, if and when I have to. To be really real, I haven't been able to spend the time I wanted to on weekends formally revising those objectives. I've sort of winged it whenever I could. But I've been okay with that, because, hey, I can live with chaos


Speaking Of Small Amounts Of Work

My May Days group, which organized this October set-aside time, shoots for writing two pages a day. I don't care about that much, so long as I'm working. But I have found this past month that I'll be working and think, Getting to the two page point won't be that much work, Gail. Keep going.

No, two pages isn't very much. But that's my point. Small, realistic objectives can keep you (or, at least, me) working toward a goal. They make chaos manageable for a little while.

Monday, October 26, 2020

More October Childlit Book Releases

Well, plenty of stuff is continuing to be published during the pandemic. Of course, these were already in the "pipeline," as they say. It will be interesting to see what's happening next year.

Check out my first October pandemic post

Oct. 13 Who Gives a Poop? Heather L. Montgomery, Iris Gottlieb illustrator, Bloomsbury






Oct. 13 The Animals Would Not Sleep, Sara Levine, Marta Alvarez Miguens illustrator, Charlesbridge/Penguin Random House






Oct. 13 Sky Gazing, Meg Thacher, Storey






 Oct. 13 All Thirteen, Christina Soontornvat, Candlewick/Penguin Random House





Oct. 13 Chowder Rules, Anna Crowley Redding, Vita Lane illustrator, Islandport Press  






 Oct. 13 The Popper Penguin Rescue, Eliot Schrefer, Little, Brown  






Oct. 13 Yara's Spring, Jamal Saeed and Sharon E. McKay, Annick Press






Oct. 13, The Fallen Hero, Katie Zhao, Bloomsbury






Oct. 13, Blood and Germs, Gail Jarrow, Calkins Creek/Penguin Random House






Oct. 13 Latkes for Santa Claus, Janie Emaus, Bryan Langdo illustrator, Simon & Shuster 






Oct. 20 Out of Hiding, Ruth Gruener, Scholastic





Oct. 20 The Last Mirror on the Left, Lamar Giles, Dapo Adeola illustrator, Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt






Oct. 20 Flying Over Water, Shannon Hitchcock and N.H. Senzai, Scholastic


Oct. 27 It's Not Little Red Riding Hood, Josh Funk, Edwardian Taylor illustrator, Two Lions






Oct. 27 Seven Golden Rings, Rajani LaRocca, Archana Sreenivasan illustrator , Lee & Low





Oct. 27 One Real American, Joseph Bruchac, Abrams

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Now A Netflix Motion Picture

I am rerunning my 2018 post on Joe Ballarini's A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting, because Netflix has released a movie adaptation. Just last week, I believe. I liked the book quite a bit and am saving the movie for Halloween night.

By the way, I was a very lame babysitter, back in the day, which might explain why I'm attracted to heroic babysitter tales. This past summer I read The Babysitters Coven by Kate M. Williams, which became quite an action story toward the end. While I compared Babysitter's Guide to Skullduggery Pleasant, The Babysitters Coven's publisher compares it to Buffy. I agree with that. And that's a good thing.

Original Content November 26, 2018

Now THIS Is A Babysitters' Club

I came to A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini after reading two and a half books I call "crush and make-up" stories, because they're about girls with crushes who are into make-up. I am not the woman to read crush and make-up stories, though I respect that there are people who are.

I am the woman to read clever, witty stories about young people taking on the supernatural and grinding it into dust. It was a great relief to realize that was what I had when I started reading Babysitter's Guide.

The basic premise here is that the monsters under kids' beds are real and the only protection from them is a group of highly trained babysitters. Unfortunately, main character Kelly doesn't know this until her charge on her first babysitting job is stolen by monsters. She ends up spending the evening with the babysitters' group hunting for her kid. As luck would have it, she has a gift for this kind of thing.

A Babysitters Guide to Monster Hunting could be described as a lighter, less end-of-the-world-is-coming Skullduggery Pleasant. In both books there is a group no one knows about that is taking care of things that no one knows about, as well as wise-cracking characters who are able to crack wise and make it stick.

A second Babysitter's Guide book came out this past year.

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.