Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A Round-up Of My 2021 Published Writing

Satellite office; using this year
Here is an end of the year listing of  all of my 2021 published work. It was all published on the Medium platform. Some pieces were accepted by publications there, some I directly self-published.

I'm More Altruistic Than You Are at The Haven  My most recent piece, so perhaps the jury is still out. It doesn't appear to be a big hit right now, though.

A Minimalist's Christmas at  The Bigger Picture This was chosen by somebody/something at Medium for further distribution. Presumably it got a boost in exposure. My most successful essay. I did the first draft a couple of years ago.

Slow Down, You Write Too Fast Self-published. This was an attempt to rework a blog post from here at Original Content. It was my least popular piece. Medium is full of self-help articles, particularly about writing for Medium. The bulk of them are about writing and publishing more, so you can see why an article about writing slower, which could result in writing less, wouldn't attract a lot of readers there. It flies in the face of that culture's conventional wisdom.

Still Another Story About The Medium Writers Challenge Another self-published piece. This was also chosen for further distribution, even though there was a great deal published on Medium this fall about the writers challenge. Evidently people there just couldn't get enough of that subject. It did much better than Slow Down, You Write Too Fast.

What We Did There at Tell Your Story This was one of my two submissions for the writers challenge. It is also one of a series of "black belt essays" I've written over the years about my experience as a taekwondo student. It wasn't a big hit even though I had done a draft for a workshop the year before, and used the structure I'd learned there for it, as well as the feedback I received. So much for workshopping material.

Submission Boards

at Kitchen Tales My second submission for the writers challenge. It was chosen for further distribution and did much better than What We Did There, even though the publication that accepted it didn't have as many followers as the one that accepted What We Did There. I had started it a year earlier. Since I am interested in writing about eating, I was pleased to get an opportunity to write this.

Daddy Is Watching The Olympics Again at Frazzled Chosen for further distribution. I was happy with this, because it was time sensitive, and I had to write it fast after coming up with the idea. That's most unusual for me.

Relieve Your Anxiety NOW! at The Haven This was very popular with my Facebook friends, but far less so with Medium members. It was my least popular piece until I published I'm More Altruistic Than You Are.

My Child Doesn't Watch YouTube at Frazzled Chosen for further distribution. It is my second most successful piece with Medium readers.

So, What Does This All Mean...


...other than that I wanted an excuse to promote my writing today here at Original Content?
You often see articles on Medium about how to write for Medium and how to get more attention there, more readers, and, therefore, more income. Given the amount of income I've generated from my writing at Medium (we're talking less than $20 for everything I've written combined), I clearly am not going to be writing anybody a how-to article.


In analyzing my own experience there, it is obvious that the distributed articles did better than the ones that weren't distributed. Both my parent humor articles were distributed, as were the two, let's say, meaningfulish personal essays. 

The humor piece about meditation and the personal essay about taekwondo both did poorly. Though one was humor and one wasn't, I see them as being somewhat similar in subject in that they are both a little counterculturish, not as mainstream as parents and kids or grief and eating, the subjects of essays picked up for distribution.

Presumably, I could use this experience to shape my writing for Medium, trying to attract that further distribution designation. I have to decide whether or not I want to jump through hoops to get Medium's support, support that will probably just get me a couple of extra dollars, at best. I could also try to tailor myself to Medium's interests temporarily, until I have more followers who might be interested in sampling whatever I write. Though, personally, I stop following writers whose work drifts away from what originally attracted me to them, so I don't have a lot of confidence in followers following me anywhere.

Also, keep in mind, I'm not trying to make a living off my Medium writing. I'm trying to  use publishing there as a springboard to getting essays into publications everywhere. How much do I need Medium's seal of approval (distribution) to do that?

Next year the Medium experience will continue.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: The Recapitulation Post

For the ninth year, I am doing an end-of-the-year recapitulation post in which I go over my professional goals and objectives for the  past year, determining what worked and what didn't, what I want to continue doing, what I want to change. This will set me up for planning next year's goals and objectives, which will go up next week. 

If you've formally created goals and objectives for the year (or any other period of time you choose to use), a recapitulation post should be pretty easy to do. 

Goal 1. Finish a draft of YA thriller that could become an adult thriller. It has a name this year, 143 Canterbury Road   Ah, no, but I have made serious progress and am happy with what I've done.


  • I haven't work on this for a few months, so I'll need to reread what I've done to bring myself back up to speed.  Did this
  • Go over the outline/blueprint. Did this
  • Assign writing tasks to time frames each week. I didn't do much of this. It seems to add an extra level of work. I find I prefer sticking to tinkering with an outline/blueprint.
  • Just work on scenes. Don't worry about connecting things. Yeah, no.
  • Read YA thrillers. I did do this. Most of them, not that memorable.
  • Read history, since that's a significant factor for a character and maybe in other ways. And I did do this.

Goal 2. Concentrate on submissions and concentrate on increasing the number of submissions I make. I made 70 submissions this year, up from 50 last year. That included 4 rounds of PitMad. This resulted in 7 publications in Medium publications, and a very good rejection from another publication.


  • Submit book length projects to the agents I researched last month. Did that.
  • 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. Did very little of this.
  • Use that agent Twitter list I made a while back. Must have done that.
  • Use that publications Twitter list I made a while back. Don't remember this.
  • Do a lot more reading of markets for short-form writing. I do spend time on this.
  • Not to brag, but I got my first rejection yesterday.

Goal 3. Work on short-form writing, essays and short stories. Done this.


  • Commit a month or two to flash writing. I was happy with how that worked this past year. I'm doing that right now.
  • Look for more on-line writing classes/workshops. I attended 4 workshops and 12 author presentations.
  • Commit more time to reading essays and short stories  Yes
  • Tinker with the 365 Story Project. Give it up, Gail

Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding


  • Provide social media support for writers/bloggers generating diversity material. Not sure how much of that I've done.
  • Pay more attention to community events like Multi-Cultural Children's Book Day; plan ahead for reading to support these events. I fell down on the job with this.
  • Continue the monthly childlit book release posts. I made the decision to quit this and promote virtual author appearances.
  • Attend virtual book launches and promote here. 5 or 6 of the author presentations I attended this year were book launches that I at least mentioned (adult books) here.
  • Continue with Original Content. Obviously
  • Continue with promoting Original Content at Facebook communities, Goodreads' blog, and Twitter. Yes
  • Get into the habit of checking my monthly plans in my bullet journal. I did a little better at this.
  • 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 managed this one.

Though the world appears to be going to hell in a hand basket, as my mother would say, I managed to make some small professional progress and take advantage of some opportunities that came my way.


A Typical Gauthier Christmas

Our Christmas is being put off to January, because I spent the afternoon yesterday with a child whose parents found out last night that he was exposed to Covid at preschool. So we're spending the holiday week waiting to see what's going to happen, whether or not he's going to get it, and whether or not I've been exposed. Believe it or not, this is not the worst Christmas we've had.

While I'm waiting to see what's going to happen, I'm going to try to reread a little Joan Didion, whose The White Album I read many years ago. Hmm. Maybe I'll add a reference to it in that YA book that I've been working on for years.

And in really positive news (positive good, not positive Covid test), though the world may be going to Hell in a hand basket, as my mother would say, we can all be comforted with the knowledge that I made my Goodreads reading goal. We'll always have that.

Don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out, 2021.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Cottonlandia: Southern Lit For YA?

Copy provided by NetGalley

Publication Date: January 11, 2022

A New York City rich kid ends up penniless on a cotton farm in Mississippi. That description at NetGalley, combined with the cover illustration, attracted me to Cottonlandia by Watt Key. It's a city mouse/country mouse, fish-out-of-water story, but one that's not played for laughs in the Green Acres mold. Also, there's no dealing with a traditional high school situation and friends here. No bullies, no teacher problems, no sports, no sibling rivalries. Not your same old, same old YA.

Fifteen-year-old Win Canterbury is not your same old, same old YA male, either. He is self-centered, self-involved, selfish, entitled, and immature and demanding. He most definitely is not the likable character required for readers to identify with. I loved him. He might not be someone I'd like to know personally, but I loved him in this book, because he was different. His unpleasantness, however, doesn't alter the fact that he has also been abandoned, though not your traditional abandonment on the side of the street. The reason for the abandonment is unique as well.

Just before Christmas sometime in the 1990s, Win's wealthy father informs him that he's sending him down to visit his sickly grandmother in Mississippi for a few days. Win doesn't know the woman. He's only been to Mississippi once. His father is insistent. So Win is handed off to a flight attendant in New York, takes three planes to get to his destination, where he is met at the airport by John Case, the farmer who has been renting the Canterbury family's property, Cottonlandia, for decades. The farm is a going concern as a cotton plantation/farm, but the family house is sort of rotting around its owner, who is sort of rotting away herself. Not exactly a southern mansion, though it and the grandmother have clearly seen better days. Win is dropped into this world where he can't even get food he's used to, and after a few days he learns that he has to stay there. He has nowhere else to go.

The 1990s setting makes Cottonlandia believable. The Internet was not then what it is now and teenagers were not connected with phones and social media, so Win's isolation  makes sense. An old lady with no TV and only one phone she doesn't want to use would be eccentric at that time but still possible.

In a more formulaic YA book, Win and his creepy grandmother would develop a deep, meaningful relationship. Not here, thank goodness. Or living at Cottonlandia would awaken some kind of instinctual love for the family property. Again, no. Instead, Win's boredom and dependence on John Case, as his contact with his old world, eventually leads to his involvement with the people he now finds himself stuck with. He eventually rejects those who should have cared for him and didn't and embraces those who provided him with care when he needed it. 

If I knew more about southern regional writing, I might suggest that Cottonlandia is southern lit for YA. Place and world view are hugely important in the story, and the place is in the south. There's a lot of description, which is something I usually skim. I didn't here. Seriously, I actually read about cotton farming and blowing up beaver dams. (Aside: I am not fond of beavers.) I felt I was being exposed to something new for me, read everything, and looked forward to getting back to the book between reading sessions. Some people might argue that the climax of the story wasn't climactic enough, but there's a reality to that. Plus, if you had any involvement with construction at the end of the last century, the issue Win uses to get what he wants is entirely believable. It used to be a very big deal and may still be, though maybe not so much here in New England.

The author, who has published successfully with traditional publishers, says in a note that he published Cottonlandia himself. It can be hard for self-published books to attract attention. I hope that this one gets some.

Friday, December 17, 2021

And I've Published Another Humor Piece

Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
The Haven published my latest piece of humor, I'm More Altruistic Than You Are, earlier this week. I will say nothing more, because humor should not need to be explained.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: No December Whining This Year

Over the years, I've done a lot of whining here about my difficulties dealing with the joy that is preparing for Christmas. I rather like working, at least a certain amount of it, and juggling it with gifting and decorating and extra cooking is a mini-ordeal for me, as it is for a large chunk of the Christmas-celebrating world.

Not so this year. Things are better and more restful. I think there are two reasons for that--my minimalist lifestyle and my Christmas sparkbook. 

Minimalism And Time

In 2018 I did a reading arc on New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living by Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici and how practicing minimalism can impact the time we have for work. And I began moving toward a minimalist lifestyle as far back as 2014 to try to deal with the chaos I seem to attract. This holiday season I've seen it paying off.

I hosted Thanksgiving this year, for the first time in many years. Usually hosting a holiday meal means three days of prep for me, between cleaning and cooking. But we were only expecting two adults and two children who eat very little, so how much work could that be, right? So on the Monday and Tuesday mornings of Thanksgiving week, I worked. On Tuesday evening, I panicked. Though no one was staying overnight, I needed to tidy up two bedrooms for children's play or in case someone went in them on top of the cooking that was left. How was I going to do all this?

Imagine my surprise when I saw that it took only a couple of minutes each to get those bedrooms presentable. Why? Because there wasn't much in them. We don't use spare bedrooms as junk rooms or for storage, because we don't keep junk to store. 

This was a huge eye-opener for me. That and the fact that this fall I've been able to use my laundry room for folding clothes and sewing without having to clean it first. Again, it's not filled with items we're storing. We don't have much to store. Seriously, I've never been able to use the laundry room for folding clothes. We've always had baskets of clean clothes stacked in the living room and bedroom. This is amazing.

December is going the same way. The house is decorated, but not with the extensive amount of Christmas junk I used to use, because I'm not interested in that any more. Extensive amounts of Christmas junk is depressing. The tree is up a week early. Okay, only the lights are on, but you noticed the part about a week early, right? There are small batches of cookie dough in the freezer (I do small-batch baking now, which is like minimalism but different) for baking later. I am getting into a new weekly elder visit routine. And still I'm actually working nearly ever weekday morning, or longer, and sometimes a little on the weekend. On a day I have to be away, I am sometimes able to squeeze a little work into the afternoon. I am even submitting short form work and had two pieces published this month. Also, I've had two rejections, which I mention to reinforce the point that I'm able to submit.

I will admit that some of the calm and sense of accomplishment I'm experiencing this month  is due to the pandemic. We are not having the two large family gatherings we did in the past, one or both of which I sometimes hosted. There will be two smaller gatherings, as well as a dessert meeting, on different days, so no one is racing from place to place. I'm not in charge of any of these things. I also shopped early because of the warnings about shortages. 

But, still, this is the calmest and most productive feeling December I can recall having, and a lot of it is due to the fact that the lack of  stuff in this house has cut some of the chaos. 

Sparkbooks And Time 

For those who observe Christmas, the most stressful part, after determining who is going where, is remembering what you've bought and for whom and holding on to receipts so items can be returned. This is particularly onerous if you're one of those people who shops early in the year. A lot of time is wasted looking for gifts in your home, trying to find the receipts, and, when you can't, trying to find a way to at least exchange gifts that are too large or small or just not right.

I began maintaining a Christmas sparkbook nearly ten years ago. I am now losing a lot less time to gift issues.

These days 'spark book' relates to some kind of data processing system. Or a book written by Nicholas Sparks.  But when I heard about 'sparkbooks' in an advertising supplement in a women's magazine, they were a sort of journal or scrapbook for keeping track of details relating to, well, in this specific case Christmas, though it seemed as if you could use the idea for anything. 

The Christmas sparkbook I created was in a traditional three-subject binder. One section was for decorating ideas, which I often forgot to look at. One section was for food ideas, which, again, I often forgot to look at. But the gift section? That I am glued to for the month of December. I may have a page for ideas for the next year, but I definitely have a chart keeping track of the people I'm buying for, what I'm getting, if I've purchased it, and often if it's arrived or if I've wrapped it.

And, best of all, at the beginning of this section there is the classic portfolio pocket for receipts. It took me a few years to remember to put everything in there, but I'm working it now.

Why Should We Care About Your Personal Life, Gail?


Because the line between our personal and work lives is very thin and very pliable. Most of us can't afford financially or professionally or psychologically to blow off a month of work for holidays. 

The best I can offer for writers who observe a labor-intensive holiday of any kind at any time of the year is to get your house in order. Get rid of as much as you can and write everything down.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

That Was Grim. Good, But Grim.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power is not your stereotypical girls boarding school story with cliques and mean  girls and young love and someone dying. Though there is some young love. And a lot of people dying.

Raxter School for Girls, where our story is set, is on an island off the coast of Maine, and it’s alone there. So when the girls, their teachers, and all the animals on the island become ill with an unknown and quite horrendous illness that leaves them maimed and never actually goes away, but recurs, unless it kills them, they are quarantined by the government. The book is well written and atmospheric and violent, with some surprises. I've seen it compared to Lord of the Flies. It's not a perfectly apt comparison, but if you have to compare it to something, that's not bad. 

How disturbing is this book? I was reading it this fall when I became sick for four days with a nonCovid illness that we didn't know wasn't Covid for a few days because we were having trouble finding home Covid tests or scheduling one. So I was quarantining in a bedroom with my iPad and food being brought to my door by a masked man. I decided that Wilder Girls wasn't something I should be reading right then and put it aside. No, I don't remember what I replaced it with.

An excellent book but maybe not for the faint of heart.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

A New Publication At Medium, Just In Time For Christmas

Annie Sprat on Unsplash
A Minimalist's Christmas was  published by The Bigger Picture, a Medium publication, a few days ago. This was a humorous essay but not a straight up piece of humor like some of the other things I've published on Medium.

What's Happening With Gail On Medium?

The Bigger Picture has a larger following than some of the other Medium publications that have published me, so that's good. While checking my stats for this piece, I noticed the line "Chosen for further distribution." This means that Medium will be promoting it in some way, beyond just leaving it to the publication's or my followers or whatever social media promotion I do for it. So that's good, too.

You know what else is good? I almost missed noticing that distribution notice, so I went back and looked at my other work published on Medium. I found that five of the ten pieces I've published there were chosen for further distribution. I am feeling quite special right this moment.

What Does "Chosen For Further Distribution Mean?"


Well, I'm not sure, other than the special feeling business. I haven't seen any of my selected work anywhere on my Medium reading lists or in newsletter-type e-mails coming from it. I can see on the graphs on my statistics page for these pieces that readership went up after the distribution point. But we're not talking anything going viral here, folks. Readership went up enough so that the lifetime income on some of these things is between $2 and $5 instead of much less. So the distributed pieces have made more money, but we're still not talking a lot. 
What this probably means for me, personally, is that I'm going to get all competitive with myself and feel bad when I publish something that doesn't make the "chosen for further distribution" cut.

Hey, but live in the moment, right? I got good news today.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: The "Four Thousand Weeks" Conclusion

After a month and a half, I am concluding my arc on Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman.

In an earlier post, I said that Four Thousand Weeks may not be a time management book at all, but a time philosophy book. After finishing it, I think that is the case. It really isn't for people who are looking to manage their time so that they can reach a particular goal. It's for people who are looking to change themselves and how they think about life. 

That is not a bad thing. It's not a good thing. It's just the focus of this particular book. 

As I was reading Four Thousand Weeks, I sometimes made comparisons between what Burkeman was writing about and what I've read about minimalism. (Which has been on my mind recently, anyway.)

Burkeman's Time And Minimalism

  • Burkeman says that many time management programs don't work, because they set users up to believe that using them will mean that at some point they will have time to do what they want. But that will never happen, because our personal and work obligations are infinite. There will always be more of them. A minimalist writer (I apologize for not recalling which one) claimed that organization programs for material things don't change the amount of time you have to commit to your material things. Instead of dealing with material things piled up around you, you're dealing with organizing them. Everything is still there, you've just shifted how you spend your time dealing with it.
  • Burkeman says we'll be better off if we accept that we can't do everything, or maybe we can't do everything now. With minimalism, we believe we'll be better off if we accept that we can't have every material thing.
  • At one point in Four Thousand Weeks, Burkeman writes that when we become distracted with something like social media, we pay for that time with hours of our life, the hours we could have been using to do something we value more. It was sort of a throwaway line. He didn't elaborate. I picked up on it in a big way, though, because one of the minimalist writers I've read says we pay for any material thing we purchase with hours of our lives, the hours it took to make the money to pay for the thing. That minimalist thought has kept beaucoup de crap from coming into my house. I have used Burkeman's thought about paying with hours of my life for social media to keep me off it during the workday. 

Your "Four Thousand Weeks" Roundup

Here are the links to the Original Content posts on Four Thousand Weeks

Saturday, December 04, 2021

A Terrific Interview With Jason Reynolds, National Ambassador For Young People's Literature

Our National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Jason Reynolds, was interviewed on the Late Show With Steven Colbert Thursday night. Every response he gave to every question was marvelous. Everything discussed was significant. Colbert was excellent, too, treating children's literature with respect, and he was obviously well prepared.

By the way, Reynolds released a new book last month, Stuntboy, in the Meantime.