Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Weekend Writer: What Am I Going To Write This Weekend?

For me, the main reason to create an outline is so that I can figure out what the heck I'm going to write today. If you are an organic writer, as I am, outlining is particularly hard, because we have difficulty breaking our story idea into its basic elements, especially plot, and try to think of the whole organism of the story. Which doesn't actually exist yet.

So here is an article I found recently on creating flexible outlines at Writer's Digest. Doesn't sound quite so much like the research outline you might have had to make in school.

In fact, it sounds a bit like the blueprinting method I learned about in a workshop taught by author Wendy Maas. What I like about this method is that it's good for generating ideas and material, while traditional outlines are more about organizing material you already have.

If you don't know what you're going to write this weekend, you might want to spend some time outlining or blueprinting, so you'll be ready for next weekend.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

February Childlit Book Releases

As usual, these are just books publishing in February that I've stumbled across while wandering around on social media. So many more were published this month.

Feb. 2 A Place to Hang the Moon, Kate Albus, Holiday House/Margaret Ferguson Books 





Feb. 2 Sydney & Taylor Explore the Whole Wide World, Jacqueline Davies, Deborah Hocking illustrations, HMH 






 Feb. 2 Happy Girl Lucky, Holly Smale, HarperCollins 






Feb. 2, The Boy Who Failed Show And Tell, Jordan Sonnenblick, Scholastic






Feb 2 Cougar Crossing, Meeg Pincus, Alexander Vidal illustrations, Beech Lane Books/Simon and Schuster







Feb 2 Red, White, and Whole, Rajani LaRocca, Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins






Feb 2 Girl Stuff, Lisi Harrison, G. P. Putnam's Sons 







 Feb. 2 Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, Carole Boston Weatherford, Floyd Cooper illustrations, Lerner






Feb. 9 The Leaf Detective, Heather Lang, Jana Christy illustrations, PenguinRandomHouse/Calkins Creek





Feb. 9 Of a Feather, Dayna Lorentz, HMH





Feb. 9 Beast in Show Anna Staniszewski, Joanie Stone illustrations, Henry Holt/Macmillan






Feb. 9 Rebel Daughter, Lori Banov Kaufman, Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House






Feb. 9 Reckless, Glorious Girl, Ellen Hagan, Bloomsbury






Feb. 9 One Jar of Magic, Corey Ann Haydu, Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins 






Feb. 16 13 Ways To Eat A Fly, Sue Heavenrich, David Clark illustrations, Charlesbridge/Penguin Random House




Feb. 16 Nathan's Song, Leda Schubert, Maya Ish-Shalom illustrations, Dial Books/Penguin Random House






Feb. 16 Kid Innovators, Robin Stevenson, Allison Steinfeld illustrations, Quirk Books  






Feb. 16 The Last Straw: Kids vs Plastics, Susan Hood, Christianne Engel illustrations, HarperCollins






Feb. 16 Albert Hopper, Science Hero: Blasting Through the Solar System, John Himmelman, Henry Holt/Macmillan






Feb. 16 Life in the Balance, Jen Petro-Roy, Feiwell & Friends/Macmillan






Feb. 23 Home Is In Between, Mitali Perkins, Lavanya Naidu illustrations Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan 




Feb. 24 Strong as Fire, Fierce as Flame, Supriya Kelkar, Lee & Low 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Albert Hopper's Virtual Launch

Where was I Saturday afternoon? Attending a virtual book launch for Albert Hopper, Science Hero: Blasting Through The Solar System!, the second in the Albert Hopper series by author/illustrator John Himmelman. The event was sponsored by Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, a lovely store I've visited a view times over the years. I was a fan of Himmelman's Tales of Bunjitsou Bunny, so I was highly motivated to attend.

The Albert Hopper books are kids' humor on the subject of science. While Himmelman was reading from them, I wondered if they might be considered a next generation Magic School Bus with a much different structure and less chaotic looking on the page. Albert Hopper, like Ms. Frizzle in the School Bus books, is an over-the-top adult main character. Okay, Hopper's a frog, but he's an adult frog. Adult main characters in children's books aren't common. But Albert Hopper has two junior scientists traveling with him. Ms. Frizzle, too, is surrounded with child characters. The first two Hopper books focus on one particular science topic, as the School Bus books do. 

I was particularly taken with the excerpt from this newest book in which Pluto insists that it should, indeed, be considered a planet, while one of the child characters argues it needs to meet three requirements to do so. Good luck, Pluto.

I will be watching to see what happens with this series.

On Saturday, I ordered a copy of the first book in the series, Albert Hopper, Science Hero, Worming to the Center of the Earth, for a young family member who is homeschooling this year. Perhaps I will get a review.

Here are more virtual book launches coming up.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Starting The Year Off With A New Publication #Humor

Last week my piece, My Child Doesn't Watch YouTube, And Yours Shouldn't, Either, was published at Frazzled, a humor site on the Medium platform. This is the third time I've published on Medium this past year. It took me a long time understand the whole Medium world, and, assuming I do understand it, it's in large part because I dived and learned about it as I went along.

Of course, sometime soon I'll be doing a post on my experience there. 

In the meantime, you can check out my published humor, as well as my short stories and essays, at my website.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

I Read Canadian Day

Today is I Read Canadian Day, a day when Canadians celebrate Canadian children's books. This year I realized it was coming early enough to do some reading for it. I say "some" reading, because I haven't yet finished We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen, an entertaining take on two classic middle grade character types. I will save a response to the book until I'm done.

My interest in Canadian literature goes back to my undergraduate years. I took two semesters of Canadian lit, hoping for some connection with my ethnic background. Unfortunately, neither of the courses The University of Vermont offered at that time included any French Canadian literature, either in French (which I wouldn't have been able to read) or in translation. But that was where I first read Margaret Atwood (her poetry, I believe) and Mordecai Richler who would both later write children's books, and many other writers who didn't.

If you happen to be Facebook friends, as I am, with Canadian authors Cheryl Rainfield or Debbie Ridpath Ohi, they have been posting about I Read Canadian Day with author suggestions. Check them out. You can find them tweeting about it, too.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: The Sledding Method Of Time Management (With My First Video!)

Last week I wrote about what is said to be Ursula LeGuin's work schedule. What I liked about it wasn't so much that it appeared to provide lots of good quality work time, but that it provided nonwork time. Her schedule provided two hours of time for reading and listening to music! Three hours for cooking and eating dinner! And, yet, she was Ursula LeGuin!

My WIP Schedule

I am not able to get started working as early as LeGuin did. In fact, I don't get out of bed until fifteen minutes after her workday started. For that reason, my own workday stretches out longer than her ideal workday did. I've thought of shooting for 1:00, more or less, but yesterday, for instance, I finished around 2:30. 

And then I did something with my after work time. I worked on maintaining a little sledding hill in our front yard. We're expecting rain and then more snow this week, so my thought was that I'd work on making a good track, it might ice over once the rain was done, then with more snow over that--Yikes! 


The sledding was much better yesterday than I expected. If you are familiar with My Life Among the Aliens, I was headed right for No Mom's Land in that video. I ended up just nudging it. To be honest, our sled course is probably better than it ever was when the kids who inspired Aliens were living here. Sorry about that, guys.

Well, improving your sled run isn't reading and listening to music, but it ain't cleaning toilets or changing beds, either. 

The Sledding Method Of Time Management Is Born

I'm thinking that this schedule involves some mind games--an after work carrot. And maybe some planning for each day, so that it's not how long you sit in front of your computer but what you get done. You can't leave until you've done X. The sooner you get it done, the sooner you can go sledding. Metaphorically speaking.

Yes. I'm going to call this the Sledding Method of Time Management. I may write an article. A flipping book. How do I trademark this?

Video Warning 


I never gave posting videos here a thought. Now that I've successfully done one, I'm going to be looking for more video subjects. That may not be good news.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Yesterday Was Valentine's Day, So Here Are The Cybils Winners

Every Valentine's Day the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Award winners are announced, and yesterday was no exception.

Here's the list with descriptions of each winner.

Now I have to go eat some of the chocolate in the closet next to me. I wouldn't have thought of it, if I hadn't just mentioned Valentine's Day.

Attending My First Virtual Book Launch Of 2021

On Saturday afternoon I attended a book launch sponsored by The Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton, Massachusetts for The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest by Heather Lang with illustrations by Jana Christy. The event was an example of the things virtual author events can do that in-person ones can't.

  1. The author, the illustrator, and the subject of the book were all in attendance from different locations. Even during normal times, I don't think that kind of thing happens very often at a bookstore. Bookstores provide space and time for author events and take care of ordering and selling books. But they can't pay authors for their time or travel expenses. Unless the people involved all live near one another and have a local bookstore to host them, I think this kind of gathering is rare in the real world.
  2. The Leaf Detective is a picture book and Lang read it, something that often happens at an event for a picture book. But instead of us watching her read and having her hold the book up periodically so an audience can try to see some illustrations, each page was on the screen so we could see the whole thing as she was reading it. This is a huge improvement over a traditional reading.
  3. One hundred people had registered to attend this virtual gathering. Seventy-one had shown up when it began. This is a much larger crowd than I've seen at most of the traditional book launches I've attended. In fact, I think a lot of bookstores wouldn't be able to provide space for this many people. Not every virtual book launch attracts this many people. But the potential is there, because people can watch from everywhere, and not just show up because they're nearby. I, for instance, was almost two hours away.

About The Leaf Detective And The Launch

Margaret Lowman, the subject of The Leaf Detective, is one of the first scientists to study the canopy in the rainforest. Her personal story involves both her work in the rainforest and her life as a woman in a field where there weren't many of them. She also spoke about being shy as a young person, something she has overcome. She's a very engaging speaker. 

Author Heather Lang is a nonfiction writer for children. She talked about how she decided to write The Leaf Detective, which sounds like a method for picking subjects for any nonfiction writer.

Jana Christy did a very good presentation on how she illustrated the book, showing the different types of work she did on one two-page spread.

Remember, I saw all this from my office, after a tiring Saturday of cooking and cleaning. I could not have spent the afternoon driving back and forth to a Massachusetts bookstore. If you have an opportunity to attend a virtual book event, I suggest you grab it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Virtual Book Events You Can Attend

Four virtual book events are coming up this month and next. Virtual. That means you can attend from wherever you are, so long as you can work out the time zone issues. Hint--Working out time differences is why God gave us Google. 

I'm registered for this Saturday's Leaf Detective event and will probably be attending some of the others. I may see some of you there. 



Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: The LeGuin Method

Last year I saw something on Twitter about Ursula LeGuin's work schedule. This article on the subject refers to it and LeGuin's discipline. But when I saw it, I didn't think discipline. I thought, What?! She didn't write after noon and spent an hour on lunch and two hours reading and listening to music? I want that life!

 Ursula LeGuin's Daily Schedule (From A 1988 Interview)

  • 5:30 AM--Wake up and lie there and think
  • 6:15 AM--Get up and eat breakfast (lots)
  • 7:15 AM--Get to work writing, writing, writing
  • Noon--Lunch
  • 1:00-3:00 PM--Reading and listening to music
  • 3:00-5:00 PM--Correspondence, maybe house cleaning
  • 5:00-8:00 PM--Make dinner and eat it
  • After 8:00 PM--I tend to be very stupid and we won't talk about this

I've seen this schedule referred to as LeGuin's "ideal" writing schedule. However, I haven't been able to find the interview in which LeGuin discussed it. I don't know if she used the term "ideal," which might mean something like, "This is my preferred schedule, but you do what you can do" or if others are applying the term to it, which might mean, "Wow. This is the perfect work schedule, isn't it?"

Because it does sound pretty great. 

Gail's Daily Schedule

  • 5:00 to 7:00 AM--Wake up at some point, lie there and think, read news sites and Facebook.
  • 7:20 to 8:00 AM to 10:00 or so--Get up, dress, exercise, eat something, mess in kitchen
  • 10:00 to 11:00--Start work
  • 11:00 to whenever--Work on a 45-minute work/15-minute do something else schedule. (Unit System)
  • 3:30 or 4:00 PM to 7:00 or 7:30 PM--Madly try to get all kinds of things done.
  • 8:00 to 10:20 or 11:00 PM--Write cards, mend, read on-line, watch TV, do other small tasks I can do while sitting down

The point of the Unit System, which I mention in my schedule,  is to restore your feeling of self-control and discipline, which decrease after 45-minutes of work. The longer you work during the day, research indicates, the less productive you become, because self-control and discipline are finite. The 15-minute breaks trick our minds into thinking it's the beginning of the day, and we're starting work again. Additionally, they provide opportunities for breakout experiences, creative ideas that come about when you have switched off intense work. And, finally, the unit system is great for encouraging people to take advantage of small units of time, instead of taking the attitude that 45 minutes or less just isn't enough time to do anything.

Scheduling Realities

The LeGuin Schedule that's been bouncing about on social media the last couple of years appears a little tongue-in-cheek to me. Is there a joke in there somewhere when she gives eating lots of breakfast an hour and places correspondence and house cleaning in the same time slot? What was she thinking about for 45 minutes every morning while she was still in bed? 

Or maybe it just seems funny, in a satirical sort of way, to me, because it sounds like a fantasy schedule for a writer, and I know she probably didn't get to adhere to it regularly. In a 1976 interview, she referred to herself as a "middle-aged Portland housewife." That meant that she had demands for her time 7 days a week and way more than 8 hours a day. She probably wasn't joking about house cleaning and the hours making dinner. And no doubt even in middle age there were adult children and extended family to provide for in some way, community demands, errands to run, a house to maintain. Her correspondence was competing with her cleaning between 3:00 and 5:00.  

Nonetheless, it does sound great to think that work could be wrapped up for the day by noon.

The Gauthier Schedule began to crumble these last couple of years, even before the pandemic. What was happening was that the 15-minute rests from work periods were becoming longer and the 45-minute writing periods shorter. Ideally you're supposed to use those 15-minute breaks from work for something relaxing like a walk or some meditation. But, I am a middle-aged housewife. I've always used them for things like bringing in firewood and feeding the stove, or putting in a load of wash, or calling the pharmacy, or making a bed. Toward the end, I was starting meals or putting some baking in the oven, running errands, talking on the phone with family members. And those were days when I wasn't going to someone's home or prepping something to take to someone's home.

Work often dragged out until nearly 4, for what good that did me.

Gail And Ursula Come Together

So late last year, I decided to try the LeGuin Method. I lie around in bed longer than she did, but I'm trying to use that time for professional reading. It could be 9:30 to 10:00 before I'm actually working, and I usually stop sometime after 1. Little tasks, like tweeting monthly book posts, might be squeezed in now and then in the afternoon. Reading some history or journal articles might happen while exercising. I try to do a little professional reading in the evening. 

This is a work-in-progress. 

So far, I can't say I'm doing more work with this schedule. But I can't say I'm doing less, either. And I'm more hopeful that I'll get ahead on either the housewife or writing work.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

The Weekend Writer: Using Theme To Help With Writing

Wow, folks, once again it's been a year since I've done a Weekend Writer post.  However, I've been inspired on this subject recently and have a few planned.

This week's inspiration came from a virtual talk author Sharon Dukett gave last month about her memoir No Rules. Oh, you missed it? Lucky you. The Blackstone Library in Branford, Connecticut, which sponsored the event, has made it available on YouTube.

I was really struck by something Dukett said about theme. Now I have written before about how I think many people--writers, reviewers, people who write book marketing copy--don't have a good grasp of what theme is. They use it to mean subject, while some of us think theme has more to do with a world view that adds another level of meaning to a story. Dukett said something that I think supports my argument.

At one point, she explained, she was working with a 170,000 word draft, which she needed to cut down to no more than 100,000 words. How did she do it? She used theme. She realized that the theme she was working with was her own awakening to feminism. She eliminated anything that didn't relate to that.

Notice that she did not say that the theme of her book was feminism. That is a subject so vast it would not have helped her do what she needed to do. She said the theme of the book was her own awakening to feminism, a much narrower concept and one that has a specific meaning in the context of her life. Presumably, it helped her give her memoir a shape that it wouldn't have had if she had just been writing about what happened to her, one event after another.

Theme can help you, Weekend Writers, if you understand what it is.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

How Does A Zombie Story Fit In With Black History Month?

Deathless Divide, the sequel to Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, is a work of alternative history dealing with the rise of the undead after the American Civil War. That's right. It's a zombie story. Why would I consider that an appropriate book to discuss in relation to Black History Month? Because in an Author's Note, Justina Ireland writes that she feels the one goal she is sure she accomplished with this book is putting "Black people back into history."

Ireland loves the western genre but says she felt that while Black people "lived throughout the West, they are rarely the heroes of any popular narratives." Given the author's goal, and the sense that Deathless Divide appears to have been as meticulously researched as a traditional historical novel, and the fact that, as with Dread Nation, Deathless Divide is about race and gender more than it's about zombies, I think it's a good title to bring to readers' attention this month.

The family member who recommended these books to me felt that the sequel wasn't as good as the original. I think Deathless Divide is as good as Dread Nation, but it is different structurally, which some fans of the first book may find disappointing. 

Dread Nation was told from the point of view of Jane McKeene, an outsider antihero type who is engaging the way outsider antiheroes often are. Deathless Divide is told from alternating points of view, moving between Jane and Katherine Deveraux, another excellent character from the first book. Like Jane, Katherine is a powerful young woman, but she manages her power behind a facade of traditional womanhood, while Jane is right out there. For me, alternating points of view often slow down narrative drive, and that may be an issue in the second book for some readers.

People who have read the first book are also probably going to want Jane and Katherine to get back together, which  takes a while. This is more of a journey book, with both Jane and Katherine on separate journeys to arrive at the same place.

I think you could argue that the author took an admirable risk structuring the second book so differently. I think it worked. I definitely felt I was reading a different book, while sequels and, particularly series, are often so similar to the original and each other that it's hard to pinpoint what happened in which book.

Not the case here. I think these will be memorable books.