Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: Second Quarter Check-in For Goals And Objectives.

Once again, creating goals and objectives for the year won't do you any good, if you forget about them. One of my objectives this year for my Community Building/General Marketing/Branding Goal is to check in with my goals and objectives quarterly to make sure I'm spending my time the way I'd planned to. 

Below I go over the objectives I'm still working on. In the first quarter post, I discussed the ones I'd completed.

Goal 1. Finish a draft of a YA, possibly adult, thriller, now called  143 Canterbury Road   

 Objectives worked on this quarter:

  • Assign writing tasks to time frames each week. By the second quarter I'd pretty much abandoned this. I do have little pieces of paper all over my desk that I was going to use for that that I now use for other things.
  • Just work on scenes. Don't worry about connecting things. I may go back to this at some point.
  • Read YA thrillers. I'm always looking for, and reading these.
  • Read history, since that's a significant factor for a character and maybe in other ways. As planned, I've started Jill Lepore's These Truths and Susan Strasser's Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash.
  • As planned last quarter, I did commit my May Days project to this goal. I nearly reached the point I wanted to reach when I realized I needed to start a new draft. I seem to have slowed down again this month.

 Plan for next quarter:

I really want to get this draft done, so I can spend the rest of the year on short-form work. That probably won't happen next quarter.

Goal 2. Concentrate on submissions and increasing the number of submissions I make.  I've made 35 submissions so far this year, up from 17 at the end of March. The second quarter submissions did result in a publication, Relieve Your Anxiety NOW! at The Haven, which I will be discussing here at some point. I also submitted the first chapter and a half or so of an adult book-length manuscript to a contest. That is totally new for me. Though I know that there are writers who submit to contests regularly, I usually stay away from them. They almost always have submission fees, which makes them a lot like gambling to me. I have no moral objection to gambling, but I tend to do it with my life rather than with money. However, last summer I spent a few hundred dollars on a terrific on-line writers' workshop, and since I haven't been able to find one for this year, I feel I can use a little of the cash I would have spent on that on a contest or two.

Objectives worked on this quarter:

  • Spend more time with essay Facebook group and flash Facebook group. Those people are publishing and share their work, exposing me to new markets. Which is not stalking them. I have not done enough stalki--spending time with this group. I hope to do more after I finish the 143 Canterbury Road draft.
  • Use that agent Twitter list I made a while back. I have made an attempt at this.
  • Use that publications Twitter list I made a while back. I run my eyes over this occasionally.
  • Do a lot more reading of markets for short-form writing. I do this, but in a chaotic way.

Plan for next quarter:

Focus more on submitting short-form work.

Goal 3. Work on short-form writing, essays and short stories. I haven't done a lot with this, though I am becoming more and more eager to.


  • Commit a month or two to flash writing. I was happy with how that worked this past year. That hasn't happened...yet.
  • Look for more on-line writing classes/workshops. I haven't found anything, but I'm hoping an organization that was running virtual workshops this spring will be back at it this fall.
  • Commit more time to reading essays and short stories. Have not done much of this. But I'm reading more poetry than I have in the past, for what that's worth.
  • Tinker with the 365 Story Project. Yeah, that's probably over for this year, if not forever.

Plan for next quarter:

Get 143 Canterbury Road done so I can move on to other things!!! Also, I want to do some reading about women's humor.

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding


  • Provide social media support for writers/bloggers generating diversity material. They are part of the monthly new book posts I do.
  • Pay more attention to community events like Multi-Cultural Children's Book Day; plan ahead for reading to support these events. In April I took part in a month-long #AuthorLifeMonth event on Twitter. It gave me an opportunity to tweet about Saving the Planet & Stuff in a socially acceptable way.
  • Continue the monthly childlit book release posts Doing that.
  • Attend virtual book launches and promote here. I have done that.
  • Continue with Original Content. You're seeing that.
  • Continue with promoting Original Content at Facebook communities, Goodreads' blog, and Twitter. Doing that, but not as much as I should.
  • Get into the habit of checking my monthly plans in my bullet journal. I am still continuing to do that, and it is helping a bit.
  • Check-in with goals and objectives quarterly. I'd say "monthly" but that was an objective for last year that I didn't touch. I've done it twice!

Plans for next quarter:

Keep struggling along.

I must admit that I'm experiencing some difficulty transitioning back to a nonpandemic world of visiting family members and catching up on doctors' appointments. I keep thinking, Why didn't I do more in 2020 while I was home a lot and had a chance? In reality, I wasn't home all the time, and I did do a lot with short-form classes and starting short-form writing. That short form work just hasn't been completed yet, but it's available to me, so I should be happy about that. 

And if I should be happy about something, I will be happy about it.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

June Childlit Book Releases

So many books released this month that I didn't have to look for anything. I just stumbled upon them. As usual, these are just the books I heard about on Twitter and Facebook. Many more published in June. I collect titles until I'm exhausted.

June 1, Sisters of the Neversea, Cynthia Leitich-Smith






June 1 Shirley Chisholm Dared, Alicia D. Williams, April Harrison illustrations







June 1 One Small Hop, Madelyn Rosenberg






June 1 The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round, Wendy Wan-Long Shang, Lorian Tu illustrations 






June 1 Simone Breaks All the Rules, Debbie Rigaud






June 1 Layla and the Bots: Cupcake Fix, Vicky Fang, Christine Nishiyama illustrations 







June 1 Twins vs. Triplets: Back-to-School Blitz, Jennifer Torres, Vanessa Flores illustrations






June 8 Rez Dogs, Joseph Bruchac  






June 8 How to Talk Monster, Lynn Plourde, Mike Lowery illustrations 






June 8 The Rescuer of Tiny Creatures, Curtis Manley, Lucy Ruth Cummins illustrations






June 8 Crossing the Stream, Elizabeth-Irene Baitie






June 15 Much Ado About Baseball, Rajani Larocca






June 15 Evan and Odd, Sarah Beth Durst






June 15 The New Kid Has Fleas, Ame Dyckman, Eda Kaban illustrations 





June 15 Theo TheSaurus, Shelli R. Johannes, Mike Moran illustrations






June 15 The Islanders, Mary Alice Monroe






June 22 Just Be Jelly, Maddie Frost






June 22 Darling, Kayla Ancrum 






June 29  Turtle In Paradise: The Graphic NovelJennifer L. Holm, Savanna Ganucheau illustrations






June 29  Grumpy Monkey, Freshly Squeezed, Suzanne Lang, Max Lang illustrations

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: Don't Write Just Anything Every Day

As my two or three rabid followers are aware, I'm not a major fan of the write-every-day rule. I find it unrealistic and, worse, exclusionary. "Only those of you who can write every day, as I do, can be writers." Writing every day is very helpful in terms of keeping you in a mindset for a big writing project, but there are other ways you can do that. I'm a goal person. Focusing on the goal of completing a writing project is a more important use of time to me than being able to say I write every day.

So you can see why I was interested when I stumbled upon, The Most Underrated Writing Tip That Beats "Write Every Day" and Improves Your Writing: Learn How to Write, Every Day by Boateng Sekyere when I was randomly reading on Medium recently. According to one of Sekyere's other articles, he joined Medium the middle of last year. He's published a lot of articles there since then, with various Medium publications. Meaning his work is being accepted by someone, he's not just self-publishing on the platform. His work is meeting some standard, and, if you look down at the claps and comments icons at the bottom of his articles, he's getting responses from readers. So while we're not talking a sage on a stage here, he does have a specific kind of writing experience.

And he makes, I believe, a very valid point.

Just What Are You Writing Every Day?


When he began writing, Sekyere cranked out a 1,000 word article every day for 18 days.  He actually had a very good experience when he submitted one of them, because an editor got back to him with feedback. When Sekyere spent some time researching the editor's comments, he discovered that many of them related to basic writing rules. But he hadn't learned them before he started writing. "All I cared about was writing every day, as I had learned from some experts."
Doing the same thing every day doesn't do you much good, if you don't know what you're doing or how to do it. If you're writing every day, but you're writing wrong, the act is going to have limited value for you. Yeah, maybe you'll create some kind of habit--the habit of writing wrong every day. Yeah, you might complete a variety of writing projects--projects you'll have trouble finding publishers for, because, well, you've been doing it wrong.

So What Should You Be Doing Instead Of Writing Every Day?

  • Read, particularly in the genre you want to write.
  • Study, through whatever classes and workshops you can find and afford. We're not talking an MFA here.
  • Attend author talks, either in person or on-line.
  • Find and join a writer's group. Read up on how to give and take feedback at writer's group. Then go to the meetings
  • Try to work out your writing weaknesses and find books or articles that address them.

As Sekyere says, "Editors don't care that you write every day..." They want to see a good product. Learning how to create that is a better use of time than writing every day.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Weekend Writer: New Writers/New Parents

My husband and I recently shared a laugh over the common belief among prepublished expectant mothers and fathers that they'll be able to write a book while on parental leave with a newborn. It was a cruel, insensitive laugh, since we still talk about 'the nightmare of infant care' and can't recall a lot of our sons' early years.

Gail with new baby--not writing
Author Maria Kuznetsova has a moving piece at Catapault about something slightly different. She promoted her debut novel soon after the birth of her first child. Remind me not to plan to do that in my next life.

What makes Kuznetsova's essay so good isn't that it is an account of what happened and what she went through. She also describes how the experience changed her. It changed how she perceives others, how she reads, and how she teaches. Her essay is about change and coming out the other side with something, making it far more meaningful than just "this happened and then this happened and then this happened." 

We often hear that fiction should involve a change. Maybe essays should also.

Oh, also, Weekend Writers, if you're planning to do some major writing or promoting while recovering from the arrival of a new child--give it a second thought.


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Gail's Sense Of Snow

I grew up in central Vermont, as my loyal readers probably know. I headed a little further north in the state for college. I've lived all my adult life in central Connecticut, which is southern New England, which often is no stranger to rough winter weather. That backstory explains, I hope, why I have a love/hate relationship with snow. I love snow if I can be inside watching it or outside frolicking in it for a bit. I hate it if I have to travel through it, either as a driver or a passenger. I hate it if any family members are out driving in it.

By which I mean driving through a snowstorm.

I found  Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards intense and disturbing, which is what any writer wants from a reader, totally because it involved five people driving through a snowstorm. The main character is a teenage girl on her way home for Christmas who accepts a ride from a slightly older young woman she'd met on a plane that had just landed. Their airport is now shutting down because of an expected snowstorm, and older woman has rented a car and offered rides to four people, including our narrator. None of them know one another.

I stayed up too late reading it one night. All because of the snow.

There is a secondary story line related to a stalker. I don't think that was necessary. This could have totally worked as a snowpocalypse survival story.

Oh, on top of the snow issue, these strangers were driving through Pennsylvania. I've driven in Pennsylvania in the fall, not the winter. I don't know if I have been on one of the highways named in the book, but I find whatever Pennsylvania route we always end up taking when we're going to the Midwest an ordeal, because the exits are few and far, far between. All I can think of when I'm on that highway is how long it would take emergency vehicles to arrive in any kind of weather--on a beautiful summer day--because it's been so long since we passed the last on-ramp and there's no sign of another one.

I'm getting stressed just writing this. I believe anyone who's lived in a northern state would. I don't know of anyone old enough to have a driver's license who doesn't start hunting for help from a higher driving power when a snowstorm is predicted.

Well, except for my late Uncle Gerry who worked for a public works department. I once heard him refer to snow as white oil, because of all the over time he collected--driving a snowplow.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: Let Me Refresh You About Tweetdeck

This past Saturday afternoon I sat out on my deck with my laptop and watched Greg Pincus's Maximizing Your Social Media Presence and Effectiveness, which he conducted at the end of May for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. You have to be a member to watch the archived workshop, and it will only be available for a limited time. So I will tell you it was a very decent intro/overview to the major social media networks and how writers can use them. If you are a writer (or anyone else) new to social media and have a chance to hear him speak on the subject, it would definitely be worth your time to do so.

While discussing Twitter, Pincus mentioned Tweetdeck, which I am very fond of. I was reminded of my two-part Tweetdeck Time Management Tuesday arc from 2015 and decided I'd reconnect readers with it. Tweetdeck is a huge help with managing the time involved with using Twitter.

Managing The  Beast That Is Twitter With Tweetdeck, Part 1

I really get into detail here on how to use Tweetdeck, because I had to work out all these things when I was learning it. 

A couple of possibly random thoughts:

  1. In his talk, Greg Pincus compared Tweetdeck to newspaper columns. In my post, I compared it to a filing system. Use whatever metaphor works for you.
  2. In my post I describe how my nephew introduced me to Tweetdeck. He's still active on Twitter, but the last I heard, he wasn't using Tweetdeck anymore. Aunt Gail isn't giving it up until someone finds her something better.

Managing The Beast That Is Twitter With Tweetdeck, Part 2

In this post I described what I was actually using Tweetdeck for and how I was doing it. I'm still doing pretty much all those things. Additionally, I will set up temporary columns for topics that will be of interest to me for a short time. Black History Month and Women's History Month are examples. They both can generate a lot of Twitter information about books during the months when they occur. Whenever I take part in Pidmad, I set up a pitmad column so I can see what other writers are pitching and lend my support to those I find interesting by retweeting them. When these short-term events are over, I delete the column so I'm not overwhelmed with column after column after column.

Realizing you can add and delete special interest columns on Tweetdeck makes it incredibly flexible.

In rereading this I see that six years ago I was repeating tweets a few times a day to increase the chances of them being seen. I haven't done that recently, but now that I've been reminded that I used to do it, I'll start again with some of my tweets.

In conclusion, Tweetdeck is a huge help in managing Twitter both in terms of accessing the content there and posting your own. You can definitely do more with your time using it.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Action And Adventure Or Post-Apocalyptic Or Zombie Lit?

Turns out The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier is the first in an entire series that I've missed somehow. It's also a Netflix series. Where have I been?

PenguinRandomHouse classifies these books as Children's Middle Grade Action & Adventure, and I think that's accurate. This is a fun spin on a post-apocalyptic zombie and monster world with an anti-hero middle grade protagonist. It's probably for the older side of middle grade, kids who won't feel a lot of anxiety about seeing children fending for themselves in that kind of universe. 

The author does something interesting to help make that happen. The main character is a foster child who has gone from family to family. His most recent unpalatable foster parents raced out of town without him when zombies and monsters started appearing. Another significant character saw her parents being ferried out of town by authorities, knows they survived the initial attack, knows they didn't want to leave her and may be looking for her. My point being, these kids, at least in this first book, aren't dealing with the pain of finding loved ones among the walking dead. We're not talking a Rot & Ruin-type universe.

Another interesting point about this book--for a middle-grade book it has quite a few of what appear to be illustrations. Except these aren't illustrations. They are graphic elements that are actually carrying part of the story. You treat these things as illustrations and just shoot past them, and you're going to miss some material.

All-in-all, an interesting, entertaining read.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: Living Chaotically

I just finished up another May Days, that month of the year when I get together with some Facebook friends to set aside a time, in this case the month of May, to work on something special. For some people it's finishing a draft, for others it's editing, or getting started on something new. Our leader checks in once a week with encouragement. There's a lot less enthusiasm at the end of the month than there is at the beginning, but, nonetheless, a good-ish time is had by all.

I Love Set-Aside Times

I use the term set-aside time for blocks of time set aside for a special project. You see them a lot in writing. National Novel Writing Month is a famous one. Last November I wrote flash for a month. Last summer I wrote it for six weeks while taking a flash writing workshop. I've been doing May Days for years, and my May group gets together in October to do it again.

Set-Aside Times have a couple of benefits.

  • Concentrating on one thing helps you to slow down. You're not frantically juggling multiple tasks and can thus be more productive with one of them. Working harder on just one thing is a relief.
  • Working on one thing for a relatively short time helps us to manage chaos. At least that's what I speculated last year, and last month it actually worked for me.


My Plan For May Days

For this year's May Days my goal was to get through first drafts of 3 chapters, which I thought might get me to an important turning point in the story. Recently I had only been doing 2 chapters a month, so this would be a push. I wasn't thinking in terms of writing every day or of writing a certain number of words. I was thinking in terms getting to a certain point.

Living Chaotically

As so often happens for me, I started May Days unable to work for the first four or five days of the month to tend to family. I can't even remember how long I had to put off starting, but it was a significant chunk of time. 
I was experiencing my old friend, chaos. I took a breath, didn't give in to the what-the-hell effect, began again, and leaned on whatever other tricks I'd learned for dealing with chaos.

Then I learned another one, which I'm calling Living Chaotically. 

Remember, I was only thinking about getting to a certain point in my manuscript. The only way to get there, I decided, was to give in to the chaos and give up my weekends. If I couldn't get to the end of a chapter or some other good stopping place by Friday, then I would have to give up the order I've established in my life--no working on weekends--and get to those points by working then. Essentially, I was adding more chaos.

But only for the month of May. I thought I could live with this kind of chaos for one month. And I could.

What Did I Get For Living Chaotically?

I didn't actually get to the point I wanted to get to, because I added at least one more chapter. And then I was noticing that the point I wanted to get to was coming too late in the story. And then I realized I needed to start another draft. 

Since I am a big believer in not pushing through to the end of a first draft when you know something's wrong, that was exciting rather than despair-making. Beginning again, in my experience, always leads to moving forward. 

So I was very happy with my May Days. I got some significant work done, but more importantly, I found a method I plan to use again to deal with and become comfortable with chaos.