Monday, December 19, 2022

Happy Holidays, People

Clint Patterson@Unsplash
December has beaten me this year. It wins. I'll be taking a break, possibly until the middle of January.

Good luck surviving this month! 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

An Old-Fashioned Girl

Original Content's 20th anniversary year is almost over, and it's been a while since I've done an anniversary post. I stumbled upon these from 2010 related to An Old-fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. I'm doing a post about them, because I think they illustrate something that was going on in the literary blogosphere back in the earlier part of the century. They are, therefore, historical. Also, I don't think anyone says blogosphere, anymore.

Back in the day, it wasn't unheard of to see on-line book discussions. Lauren Baratz-Logsted led a great one at the late, great Readerville community, though I can't remember the name of the book. But the discussion was terrific. Someone at Readerville also led a discussion of short stories, which was good, too. That was how I came to read A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka and that led to me reading The Metamorphosis.  In 2008 I took part in a "Big Read" of a volume of Shirley Jackson short stories, that wasn't particularly successful, though I finished it.

Then in 2010, Mitali Perkins led a monthly discussion of a classic children's book "focusing on race, ethnicity, gender, and class. She and her followers will be looking for what qualifies the book as a classic, but also looking to see if the attitudes in the book are dated in terms of how we feel about race, ethnicity, gender, and class now." I don't know how many books she discussed, because I took part in only one discussion, the one on An Old-fashioned Girl.

Reading this book was the beginning of a turn-around in my feelings about Louisa May Alcott. You can check out my takes on various aspects of the book below. 

What Do We Think Of Them Now?

An Old-Fashioned Girl: What Is It?

An Old-Fashioned Girl: Poverty Is Ennobling--So Long As You're Not Irish

The Women Of An Old-Fashioned Girl

An Old-Fashioned Girl: And In Conclusion

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

This Is What They Mean When They Say "Thought Provoking"

 I attended Facebook friend Sarah Darer Littman's book launch for Some Kind of Hate, published last month. I attended by Zoom, and I meant to catch a picture, but I was distracted because I was late joining. Why? Well, I kind of forgot about it until the last minute.

I mention this, because it illustrates the beauty of Zoom. I sure wouldn't have been driving to that bookstore a minute or so after the event was scheduled to start. I also mention it, because the interview with Sarah at her book launch relating to how she came to write Some Kind of Hate and the background information she's accumulated was fascinating. She has materials at her website on the book.

Some Kind of Hate is written from two points of view, as many YA books are. One is Declan's, a young person who becomes involved with a white nationalist group, and the other is Jake's, Declan's Jewish friend, whose local community becomes a target for Declan's new friends. The points of view almost become separate stories. A book totally from Declan's point of view might have been a hard sell. He's risky, because he's not likable. He's definitely a realistic character: not very strong-willed even before a life-changing accident he brought on himself, and from what I've read, he's the perfect mark for a hate group. But he also is unwilling to accept responsibility for the boatload of grief he brought down on himself and his family. He projects responsibility for his circumstances onto others instead of shouldering it himself, which would then make it possible for him to take some kind of positive action about his life. He also illustrates very well why it is so difficult to reach someone like him. His hate group buddies support his misery and give him beliefs to make him feel better. It is difficult for his family and friends to use logic, fact, or family history to convince him to change, because he believes and belief doesn't require logic, fact, or any kind of knowledge. How deep a hole is he going to dig for himself becomes the narrative drive for Some Kind of Hate.   

I kept talking about this book as I read it, and I think the reason I found it so thought provoking is that I come out of a world similar to Declan's, though much more rural. So I kept thinking, why didn't I or anyone I know go Declan's way? There are a couple of answers: 1. It was a different time, hate groups weren't as prevalent, probably because there weren't as many opportunities for haters to find one another, because the Internet hadn't been invented. I worked for the one Jewish storeowner in our area, so I was aware of verbal unpleasantness directed toward him. But if I hadn't had a connection, I might not have known these things happened in my day and age, there was that little communication in the world. 2. For all I know, people I knew growing up are now members of some of these groups or at least sympathizers. I don't belong to the kind of on-line groups where I would run into them. 

After my sons left home for college, I would hear on the news about some good-awful thing a young man had done, and I'd wonder, Did I remember to tell my kids not to do that? One time I actually asked my younger son about one of these things I'd read about and asked him if I'd ever told him not to do it. He looked at me and said, "You shouldn't have had to."

As I was reading Some Kind of Hate, I wondered if I had forgotten to tell my sons not to be antisemites or racists, the way Declan's parents forgot to tell him. While it appears I didn't have to with my own children, it looks as if kids like Declan have to be told point blank.


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: Let's Take A Moment To Complain About December

I am taking a break from my Dan Harris arc to complain about December, an almost annual event here for at least ten years.

As I said in 2017, 

"My control of my time is so tenuous that anything new that enters the playing field, like a holiday that requires hours and days and weeks of preparation, like two of them coming a month apart, is overwhelming. December/the Christmas season packs a double whammy, because in addition to being very time consuming, it involves an emotional toll. Christmas the secular event is supposed to be magic, whatever the hell that is. We're supposed to be creating magic. Yeah, we're talking a whole other level of time with the magic thing." 

Last year things were a lot better, something I put down in a blog post to being a practicing minimalist so I didn't have as much cleaning to do and my Christmas spark book. My conclusion was:

"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."

Things were better last year for another reason, too. A couple of years ago I stopped working on big, intense projects during the month of December. Instead, I spend the month just starting a short piece each day, humor or flash. The ideas are pulled from my journal. A number of last December's starts became published pieces this year.

Success Ruined Me

I remembered last December so fondly that I looked forward to it this year. My recollection of last December clearly became glorified and inflated. For the last six months I've believed that when December came this year, I'd be able to do so many things, because last December went so well. Why, in addition to all those starts I was going to do--coming up with something to do a few sentences and jot a few thoughts on every single day, without fail, you've got to do this, Gail-- I would be able to:

  • Research all these agents I've been thinking about.
  • Plan agent submissions, actually get them written up and ready to send next year.
  • Get all these ideas I've been emailing myself into my journal. (I use my email as a to-do list.)
  • Clean up my three email in-boxes (because, as I just said, I use them as to-do lists.)
  • Do some extra blog posts.
  • Clean my desk.
  • Get some planning done in next year's bullet journal.

On a personal level, I would be able to:

  • Get ready for Christmas.
  • Sew.
  • Write some emails/letters that I've owed since summer.
  • Contact some contractors about some work we want done in the house next year.
  • Bake cookies for a church event for the first time in, maybe, ten or fifteen years.
  • Restart my daily yoga practice. 
By the 4th or 5th of the month, I realized things weren't going well.

Too Much

I planned too much for this month. I had seriously unreasonable expectations. I was living in a fantasy world, something I don't think of myself as doing.

My first thought while writing this was to say that all I can do now is slog through and keep on keeping on. But, no, the month is not even half over. Come on, Gail, pull yourself together, woman.

What I Can Still Do

I can still grab the unit system lifeline that has helped in the past

Again from 2017:

"...if you think in terms of forty-five, twenty, and even ten minute units of time, suddenly work options appear. Forty-five minutes at least a few times a week will work for editing a draft or maybe even progressing with  a new one. Twenty minute sprints each day can help keep you in a new project, even if you can't make a lot of forward movement with it. It can make a dent in blog posts or take care of some professional reading. Ten-minute sprints on a laptop set up in whatever room you're working magic in can allow you to knock off all kinds of work." 

I've used a couple of units of time this morning to jot down today's (and yesterday's) humor start, delete a couple of emails, and finish this blog post. I'll spend the rest of the day on creating magic. 

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Real Problems For Real Kids

 Copy provided by Netgalley

Publication Date: January 17, 2023

Between the time I requested this arc on Netgalley and the time I received it, I forgot why I was interested in it. It was until I got to the end and saw a picture of the author that I realized that Figure It Out, Henry Weldon was written by my old blogging buddy, Tanita S. Davis. So to be open and above board, I kind of know the author. But I didn't realize that while I was reading this book, because evidently I don't pay attention to author names on covers.

Tanita has done a very nice job of creating a kids' book developed around children's problems. Henri Weldon has a learning disability specifically related to math. The issue is recognized by her family. In fact, until recently she attended a special school to address her disability. She's now getting ready to attend a traditional school where her problem is still recognized and addressed. This is not a child surrounded by uncaring adults left to fend for herself.

That's a big part of what I liked about this book. Because while Henri is supported, she still has problems. Which, sad to say, is life. Her problems are not those we often see in children's books, the problems adults value big time: Death, divorce, death, old age, death, illness, death, war, death, tragedies, and death. They are the problems that children have and that are important to them.

Problems Like:

  • Getting lost in the new school building. Sounds minor, but isn't being unable to find a classroom a classic adult dream? What's that about, huh? Henri's struggles to get around made me anxious for young family members who will be finding themselves at new schools.
  • Making friends. Not just in the sense of making any friends but making friends who will actually be friends for you. Minor? Then why are we always reading articles about how difficult it is for adults to make friends? It's not minor when it's us, is it?
  • Sibling issues. The problem presented here is fantastic, because it's not about rivalry. It's about support. Should Henri be befriending someone who had a falling out with her sister, even bullied her?
  • Parent issues. Not parents fighting or getting a new boyfriend but parents who have their own work and time problems that they are dealing with in addition to being parents.
On top of all that, foster children are portrayed in a realistic and positive way here. My understanding is that there aren't a lot of foster children in children's literature. So this is significant.

And, finally, Tanita is writing in the third person. Again, that doesn't sound like a big deal, but not many children's books are written in the third person.

Many people are going to admire Figure It Out, Henri Weldon's portrayal of children with learning disabilities and in foster care. But it should also be admired for being a good book.

Check out Tanita's blog, fiction, instead of lies, which features poetry and, right now, Henri Weldon.

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: Time Management For Writers With No Time--Meditators Don't Have Time, Either

The third in an arc inspired by Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris and Jeff Warren with Carlyle Adler

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics includes a chapter called I Don't Have Time For This. That's what we're all about here! Harris mentions some things related to time that can apply to writers, too.

What Is The Benefit Of Writing?

Meditators are often looking for particular benefits, which motivate them to meditate. Improved
concentration, for instance, or help dealing with anxiety. What benefits can writers use to motivate them?

  • Publication, of course, but that comes way down the line and often very rarely. It's not that terrific an immediate benefit.
  • Income. Same as above. Income as a serious benefit, the kind that really is life supporting money, doesn't come for a lot of writers. If it does, it probably isn't going to come for a long time.
  • Identity/Lifestyle. This is the benefit that can come early on once you're writing regularly. Writing can establish who you are and how you feel about yourself. Yes, this is kind of woo-woo. Maybe very woo-woo.

You Don't Need A Lot Of Time To Do This

Harris talks about starting with very short meditations. We've been talking here for ten years about using short units of time, also known as segmented time, for writing. 

A completed piece of writing will almost certainly take a great deal of time. But it can be time that's accumulated over days, weeks, months, years. The fact that we don't have the overall time necessary to complete something all at once, doesn't have to stop us from getting started, because little units of time get the job done.

Think In Terms Of Daily-ish

Harris writes about how people new to meditation can feel that they've failed if they can't keep up a daily practice.  We've talked here many times about how exclusionary and judgmental the write every day instruction is. Harris suggests shooting for a daily-ish meditation practice.

Writers can also work daily-ish without writing daily-ish. There's a multitude of things writers need to do, and doing them helps maintain that woo-woo writing identity I mentioned earlier--in addition to the value completing those tasks provides, of course.  

Friday, December 02, 2022

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Another One Of Those Opinion Pieces About Children's Books

Suad Kamardeen @Unsplash
Every couple of years, some mainstream magazine publishes an article trashing children's literature and creating hysteria in the children's literature world. This has been going on a long time, and I gave up responding to them, (and sometimes even reading them) a long time ago, because I felt I was being manipulated. The publishers of these things wanted me all huffy and talking about them, to create buzz for their publications. I don't like just mindlessly giving people what they want.

But here I go, anyway.

This morning, Google News carried in a section labeled "For You" a link to Are There Any Kids Books Out There That Are...Actually Good? by Kathryn Jezer-Morton, which was published Monday at New York Magazine's The Cut.  Jezer-Morton may not have been responsible for the click-bait title. Another one might have made the whole essay hang together better. And I'm not going to argue with her content. What she thinks is bad...what she thinks is

What I'm struggling with is the essay, itself.

She may be using some kind of classic writing format that I'm just not a fan of--knocking down A to build up B. Yeah, I do think that's a thing. She spends a lot of space objecting to a number of titles she appears to be familiar with before she gets to a shorter portion where she concludes SPOILER yes, there are books out there that are actually good. But it doesn't sound as if she's read them. She knows they exist because she asked librarians, and they told her so. She doesn't even name any of the titles of the good books. She links to a list of them that she created. 

What Does It All Mean, Gail?

I'm not sure what to take away from this essay. 

  • I'm definitely not accepting that the books she doesn't care for are bad or the books the librarians recommended are good, because anyone who has read here much knows I'm never going to do that.
  • I keep wondering how could this essay have been written in a more meaningful, but still short, way? Maybe just stick to a piece about her frustration with her kids' reading, which may have been the initial inspiration? Waited until she'd read some of the so-called good books so she could form an opinion about them herself and not just tell us librarians say they're good? Do a little compare and contrast between a book from part A and a book from part B?
  • What I really want to see now is an opinion piece trashing adult books, en masse, the way we get these pieces trashing children's books, en masse. They may be out there, and I just don't hear about them, because adult books don't seem to get people fired up the way kids' books do.


A few of my Facebook friends have books on Jezer-Morton's list of good books. Hurray!


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: Time Management For Writers With No Time--You Don't Have To Do What Someone Else Is Doing

The second in an arc inspired by Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris and Jeff Warren with Carlyle Adler.

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics includes a chapter called I Can't Do This that deals to a great extent with what author Dan Harris and his colleagues say is the misunderstanding that meditation requires clearing the mind instead of beginning again. "You really can't hear this enough: Meditation does not require you to stop thinking," they say.

Many writers think they can't write because they can't do certain things, also. Specifically,

Write every day and butt-in-chair are writing cliches that have generated masses of text. They appear in articles, blog posts, books, and workshops. There may be TED Talks about them. In spite of that, I'm not sure what butt-in-chair means. Is it a "just do it" time management technique? Do people who feel they are butt-in-chair writers use some kind of time management techniques to make it possible for them to keep their butts in their chairs or do they have some kind of inner fortitude the rest of us don't that enables them to do what others can't? I'm mystified.

What I do feel write every day and butt-in-chair are, though, is exclusionary. Do this, not that. This is what you have to be able to do in order to do what I do.

You really can't hear this enough: Writing does not require you to do what other writers are doing.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Weekend Writer: The Story Behind My Latest Publication In "Literary Mama"


My short story The Mother Suite has been published in the latest issue of Literary MamaLiterary Mama is one of the first literary journals to focus specifically on the work of mother writers and is celebrating its 20th anniversary next year. It publishes a blend of poetry, book reviews, profiles, fiction, and nonfiction. 

Now The Mother Suite has a history that may be of interest to writers who haven't done a lot of submitting yet.

  • According to my records, I first submitted The Mother Suite in 2005. I submitted it 9 times over the next 17 years.
  • I continued to tinker with it during that time and didn't just keep submitting the same thing over and over again. Come on. There's always a possibility that a piece of work is rejected for a reason. My submission records indicate that around 2020 the story evolved into a flash version. That is about the time I became interested in flash fiction.
  • Sadly, I have no hard copies of the original, presumably longer, version. Nor can I find anything pre-flash on my hard drive. As a minimalist, I believe that is good. As a writer...not so much.
  • The first publication I submitted the original story to in 2005 was...Literary Mama! I thought it was worthwhile submitting it again this past March for two reasons. 1. The story had changed over the years. 2. Publications change editors over time. A new person would be seeing this. 

Working With A Developmental Editor

Literary Mama has department editors who function as real developmental editors (I published a piece of creative nonfiction with them in 2007, and the situation was the same.). This is unique in my limited experience publishing short work, but it was a big part of publishing my books with G.P. Putnam. It's hard to describe what developmental editors do to someone who hasn't worked with one and especially to people who aren't writers. But, essentially, they help develop the story. Developmental editors working for a publication or a book publisher see something in a submission that appeals to them in some way, that they think could work for their publication or company. Writers and editors agree to work together to develop the story, to help it evolve into something they all believe enhances the original submission.

In this case, the original submission, called Take It From Me, was written as an older mother's advice to new mothers. The main character had two children, and she had more experiences that she talked about. It was essentially a superficial rant. Looking back, I think there was a feeling that the children were at fault somehow. Literary Mama's fiction editor liked a particular aspect of the story. She suggested dropping one of the child characters and creating more of a relationship between the mother and remaining child. She suggested dropping some of the experiences the mother originally talked about and elaborating on the ones I did use. She also suggested dropping the advice frame I was using, which went a long way to eliminating the ranting.

Maintaining the mother's voice was important to me. Among the good things that happened as this story evolved is that the daughter developed a voice as well.

The story became much more sophisticated than it originally was. I hope that the experience of working with this editor will have a positive impact on my future short story writing.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Environmental Book Club

I've been interested in minimalism for a number of years now. My understanding of minimalism is that, as Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus say at the The Minimalists , it "is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom."  I would say freedom to do things, because it is a tool that helps me to find time. Time that I'm not spending taking care of things, looking for things, shopping for things.

So you can see why I had a reason to snatch up Living Simply: A Teen Guide to Minimalism by Sally McGraw when I saw it on display at my favorite library. However, it seems to have little to do with the minimalism I've studied. It's much more about leading an environmentally sensitive lifestyle, which is certainly a worthy and legitimate subject. But I think that referring to this as minimalism is confusing.

In its advertising copy for the book, the publisher says, "Twenty-first-century minimalism is an increasingly mainstream response to global environmental crises such as climate change, the garbage glut, fast fashion, and other manifestations of the harmful impact of consumerism." I just don't know that that's the case. Minimalism is about individuals finding ways to do what they value with their lives. Consuming fewer things should, indeed, be a more environmentally sustainable way of life. But it's a side effect of minimalism. It's not the point.

Living Simply includes what might be described as sidebar types of material that includes suggestions for how to do specific environmentally sensitive activities such as shopping for secondhand clothes or interviews. Early in the book a fourteen-year-old minimalist is interviewed. He has very little to say about the environment. What he does say, though, is "It's really rewarding to just not have a lot of stuff. When you've got a whole bunch of useless stuff that you don't ever use, and it occupies the same space as you do, you almost feel like a prisoner." He's only been a practicing minimalist for a year, but he seems to have a good grasp of what it is and what it is doing for him.

While this book has a lot to say about how to live sustainably, I don't think it has a lot to say about minimalism. Losing the minimalism hook altogether and making this a teen guide to sustainable living would have been much clearer about the good things Living Simply has to offer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: Time Management For Writers With No Time--Begin Again

 For someone who meditates as little as I do, and then primarily with guided meditations so someone is holding my hand and walking me through it, I do enjoy reading about the practice. A meditation book I recently read and liked a great deal is Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris and Jeff Warren with Carlyle Adler. How much did I like it? I read an e-book from my library system and then ordered a hard copy so I could skim it again, mark it up, and label it. Which is something Dan Harris says he does with his meditation books, too.

As I was reading this particular meditation book, I kept thinking that a lot of what Harris and his co-writers were saying could apply to writing, and specifically apply to managing writing time. And thus a new reading arc was born for Time Management Tuesday.

Begin Again.  And Keep On Beginning Again. Then Begin Again Some More.

Early in the book the authors describe a basic, three-step mediation. The third step is the most important, they say. When you're distracted, you begin again.

Now other people have written about beginning again in relation to meditation. I've written about it in relation to writing. But what Harris (I'm going to refer to the authors as Harris from now on, because I'm lazy) does is make a really good argument for it over the clear-the-mind idea many of us have about meditation.

We could make a similar argument for beginning again over ideas many of us have about managing time for writing, too.

The Worst Marketing Campaigns Ever

Harris attributes the general public's understanding of meditation as requiring clearing the mind over beginning again to a poor marketing campaign. Meditation has been "marketed" in the past as an activity that brings practitioners to some kind of otherworldly state, which, evidently, you need a clear mind to achieve. As I'm writing this, I'm wondering what a clear mind would even be. It appears I've never experienced one.

With writing we don't think about the practice of beginning again, because we've been sold the idea of writing every day and placing our butts in chairs to do it.  We like nice turns of phrase in our line of work and while "write every day" is a pretty good one, "butt in chair" is fantastic. It even has an abbreviation, "BIC."  Though I, personally, like the sound and embrace the meaning of "begin again," it may be a hard sell for writers, because it isn't writing specific the way "write every day" and "butt in chair" (because most of us sit to write) are.

Make Begin Again Writing Specific

Here's the thing--no matter what the writing how-to articles say about writing every day and placing your butt in chair, there are going to be times when we can't do it. For some of us, there are going to be many times when we can't do it. It doesn't matter what that writing site/journal or workshop leader tells us. We deal with reality here, where there are day jobs and family and illness and houses falling down around us and cars that need to be serviced.

What we can always do, though, is begin writing again. It doesn't matter whether it's been a day, a week, a month, or many weeks and months. Beginning writing again is always possible.   

That's a huge positive for us. 

Friday, November 11, 2022

So This Is Happening In The Publishing World

Union employees of HarperCollins went out on strike yesterday. This is described as an indefinite strike, unlike the one this past summer, which was only one day. 

Among the people involved are those working in design, marketing, publicity, and sales. I mention this because I think a large part of the general public isn't aware of all the work done by traditional publishing houses to prepare books. Design, in particular, isn't considered much even by readers. Yet how text looks on a page is a huge factor in the readability of a book. That became obvious to me in the early days of self-publishing when some writers cut down on the number of pages they needed to pay to print by using narrower margins. What designers do matters a lot.

I'd also like to point out that I didn't learn about this through the news listings I follow or on Facebook. I learned about it on Twitter. I'd have to say that that is where I pick up on the bulk of the publishing news I hear about, even if it's just a mention that leads me to look something up to find out what's going on. This is why I'm sticking with Twitter for the time being.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

A New Publication For Gail: Julie Powell And A Mini Blogging History

Kenny Eliason @ Unsplash
I spent a lot of time earlier this week reading articles about Julie Powell who died on October 26 at forty-nine-years-old. That's just forty-nine, folks. She was a blogger, back in the day, but her blog went seriously big time, turning into the book Julie & Julia and then the movie with the same name.

I wrote what I like to call a flash essay about how Powell is representative of the arc blogging has followed over the last twenty years since the two of us became bloggers. Julie Powell and the World of Blogging was published today at Feedium.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: Organic Writers Have To Accept That We Use Time Differently

Yesterday I finished participating in what I'm calling May Days in October. I'm part of a Facebook group that uses the month of May as a set-aside time to work on something special. And now we do it again in October.

My hope was to at least finish a couple of chapters in the project called 143 Canterbury Road and blueprint several more. Maybe even get all the way to the end. I did satisfactory revisions of two chapters, blueprinted three more, and then realized that I needed to develop four characters a lot more, which would then generate more material about them. That new material would then need to be threaded into the work I'd already done. 

So much for my May Days in October plan.

Why Having To Stop Or Even Begin Again Isn't A Bad Use Of Time

A lot of writing books advise writing to the end of a draft before revising. I don't know if I've ever done that, and I definitely don't try now. 

Being an organic (pantser) writer, I can't separate plot from the whole story and create that by itself. I have to work with the whole story organism, using character, voice, point of view, and even setting to generate ideas and plot. The best I can hope for is to stay a few chapters ahead of myself with what I'm going to be writing and have some general feel for the whole story. I can't just work to the end of a draft, because after a certain point, there's nothing for me to work with. There is no end. Or there might be an end, but a giant gap before getting to it. 

Stopping to rework characters or give someone a voice often generates all kinds of new material and plot points. I may have to do multiple do overs, but if you look at my hard drive, you'll see that each new version is usually longer than the last. That's because I got more to work with each time I stopped.

So I'm not disappointed about what I didn't do last month. I'm excited about what I'm going to be able to do because of what happened last month. 

You Have To Be Able To Remain Unattached To Work Like This

In order to work like this with any degree of equanimity, you cannot be terribly attached to finishing a certain number of chapters in a certain amount of time or to maintaining any part of a story the way you originally saw it. You have to be able to ride the wave. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Connecticut Book Award Winners Announced

The Connecticut Book Award winners were announced this past weekend. The following books/authors won in the Young Readers category.

Picture Books

Fiction: Soul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham                 

Nonfiction: Walrus Song by Janet Lawler

Middle Grade

Nonfiction: Fairy Tale Science by Sarah Albee                  

Young Adult

You can check out the lists of finalists in these categories here.        

Thursday, October 20, 2022

I Have A History With Doughnuts So I Had To Read "Doughnut Fix"

I have a childhood memory of a jelly doughnut that I got somewhere in Middlebury, Vermont with an incredibly thin crust sprinkled with regular sugar, not powdered. No doughnut in my adult experience has matched it. When my children were young, they would get me jelly doughnuts and The Sunday New York Times for Mother's Day. Ah, yes, doughnuts could bring a tear to the eye in those days.

Then my sons went to work in a bakery and started bringing home dozens of unsold doughnuts at the end of the day. They aren't good the next day. I don't find that they freeze all that well. Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. Except for stops at a few Tim Horton's when I was in Canada, doughnuts lost their attraction for me. Having to give up gluten did not improve the situation. There's a gluten free bakery near here that makes something round with a hole in that is edible but is stretching the definition of "doughnut."

You can see what drew me to The Doughnut Fix by  Jessie Janowitz.

Now The Doughnut Fix deals with the classic/cliched kid situation of a child being forced to move away from home/friends. But it's well done. It's good.

  • The move is brought about by a believable crisis. Maybe I'm reading something into this, because I'm an adult, but I thought the parents were, again believably, just barely holding on.
  • While the friends-growing-away-from-each-other thing is another classic/cliched kid situation, Tristan was believable with it and didn't carry on with it forever. I also wanted to wring the friend's mother's neck. Metaphorically speaking, of course. 
  • The siblings and their relationships were realistic and unique. 
  • Let's-start-a-doughnut-business--Also unique. And...doughnuts. 
  • Finally, at one point I was reading this book and thought "This is a good book about cooking."
This was an entertaining read with good narrative drive. It turns out there's a sequel that sounds just different enough to be interesting. 

Interesting point--The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken gets a few mentions in this book. I don't believe I've read the book and decided I should. It's not available at any of my library sources, which I found interesting, because I thought it was a child classic. It is still in print, though. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: An-Hour-And-A-Half Chaos Break, And Now I Am Calm Again. Well, As Calm As I Ever Am.

To get right to the point, which is, arguably, a time management technique, I've been feeling chaos creeping up on me lately. A couple of days ago I had to lean on my mantra "Finish something" to get through the day. What did I finish? Beats me. Things were piling up enough that I can't even recall.
Chaotic desk these days

So I took an hour and a half, or so, off today from my May Days in October writing to clean my desk. I feel much better now. Especially since cleaning my desk included making a submission. I needed to make a folder related to that project so I could file things away, and since I had all that out, anyway, it wasn't that much more work to submit it somewhere.

Yes, I am ready to go, and I know where I'm going. 

Why Is Controling The Material Chaos Around You Time Management?

"...indicate that a "disorganized environment can leave you feeling out of control, which drains your reserves for future self-control, leading to poor decisions including impulse spending." What does impulse spending have to do with time management? It's not the spending we should be concerned with, it's the draining self-control or discipline. If a disorganized environment makes people feel out of control enough to impulse shop, won't it make us feel out of control enough to shake up our work schedules? In fact, according to ScienceDaily, the researchers on one of the studies Karp refers to, Environmental Disorder Leads to Self-Regulatory Failure, were "looking for changes in behavior like impulse spending as well as poor mental performance or reduced stamina on tasks that require advanced thinking skills."

Personally, I try to control disorder and chaos all around me now, not just on my desk. No, that doesn't mean I'm always on top of folding my clean laundry. It means I keep the clean laundry down in the laundry room so I don't have to see it all over the house. Om.

Minimalism And Desks

You may have noticed that the desk in the picture above doesn't look all that bad. However, I am one of those people who uses her e-mail in-basket as a to-do list, meaning I keep all kinds of things in it until I've dealt with them. So the in-basket becomes an extension of my desk and an extension of disorder and chaos. E-mail in-baskets are not like laundry rooms. You have to look at them all the time.

Chaotic desk in the old days
Certainly, though, the situation on the desk, itself, is nothing like the ones I was dealing with on desks years ago. For that I can thank the file draw in my new desk where I can keep working files instead of letting them pile up all around me.

I can also thank minimalism.

My present work station contains nothing but work-related materials.

  • No pencil holders, that's what drawers are for, and no knickknacks.
  • No shelf of writers' journals, which you can see in the older picture. I purged them a couple of years ago, moving material I thought I might use to a digital journal and tossing the rest. I can accept that if I've done nothing with an idea I had in the 1980s and have no interest in it now, chances are I'm never going to use it.
  • The red dictionary in the old picture is gone. It was outdated, anyway, and I use on-line dictionaries now. 
  • I see some medical bills in the old photograph. I have a file in the new desk for them, too.
  • Oh, and I think my trail journal is on the desk in the old picture. It's not allowed on my desk now.
For the most part, the desk chaos stays at a lower level, because I have fewer things to end up on the desk. 

It's amazing how mindless, soulless things are able to create such chaotic feelings in people who do have minds and, presumably, souls. It's also amazing how much faster it is to deal with the chaos things create when you don't have many of them.

Thursday and Friday won't be writing days for me this week. But tomorrow is. I should be able to do a lot more with it now that I've cast off the psychic burden of that chaotic desk.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

The Prequel Is As Good As The Original. Maybe Better.

How much did I like We Were Liars by E. Lockhart when I read it back in 2019, five years after it was published? I liked it so much that when I read that a prequel, Family of Liars, came out earlier this year, I
sought it out. 

These are books that it is difficult to talk about, because what is not known about them is what makes them so pleasurable to read. I tried to find a review of the most recent book, but I think the two I looked at gave away more than I want to. I can say that both books maintain the same atmosphere, and given that they were published, if not written, eight years apart that's no small task for the author to have accomplished. I will say that you should read the original book first and the prequel second. It's a prequel. Come on.

I can also safely say that I loved the family matriarch, Tipper Taft Sinclair. I suspect I wasn't supposed to. I don't think it says something disturbing about me that I like her but is an expression of how I function in our family. Tipper ran an annual lemon hunt in Family of Liars. I thought that was a fantastic idea, so when we were having a three-generation birthday lunch on my deck a few weeks ago, I ran an apple hunt, which is like a lemon hunt, but different. It wasn't as elaborate as Tipper's lemon hunt, but I didn't think to do it until the week before. 

Next year my apple hunt will be more Tipper-like.

How much did I like Family of Liars? I own a copy of We Were Liars and reread it, something I very, very rarely do. I mean rarely. The book was still intense and atmospheric with great narrative drive. But this time through I felt a bit about it the way I feel about Romeo and Juliet now that I'm an adult. Are these kids not all that bright?

But you have to read the book twice before you feel that way. The first time through, I didn't notice that. Give these books a read.