Monday, January 31, 2022

Some Virtual Opportunities For February

Okay, now we're seeing events again.  Books of Wonder in New York City, for instance, has so many events planned just through February 15 that I didn't  try to list them. Scroll down for its array of children's book launches, panels, and group events. 

As always, I will update this list throughout the month as I stumble upon new virtual childlit author appearances. To catch anything new you can follow me on Twitter, where I tweet links to this post for each appearance as its date approaches.

Feb. 1 Greg Howard and Alan Gratz, Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe, Asheville, North Carolina 6:00 PM ET

Feb. 2 Greg Howard, Second Star to the Right Bookstore, Denver, Colorado 5:00 PM MST

Feb. 2 Haley Neil and Jean Meltzer, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Massachusetts 8:00 PM ET

Feb. 5 Greg Howard and Renee Ahdieh, Park Road Books, Charlotte, North Carolina 2:00 PM ET

Feb. 8 Nancy Tandon and Debbi Michiko Florence, Bank Square Books, Mystic, Connecticut 6:00 PM ET

Feb 8 Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Massachusetts 6:00 PM ET 

Feb. 8 Lisa Stringfellow and Tui T. Sutherland, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Massachusetts 6:00 PM ET

Feb. 9 Dori Hillestad Butler, Kevan Atteberry, and Nancy Meyers, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Connecticut 6:30 PM ET

Feb. 9 E.B. Goodale, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Massachusetts 4:00 PM ET 

Feb. 10 Paddy Donnelly, Second Star to the Right Bookstore, Denver, Colorado 10:00 AM MST

Feb. 12 Racquel Marie, Chloe Gong, Tashie Bhuiyan, and Christina Li, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Massachusetts 6:00 PM ET 

Feb. 15 Tommy Greenwald, Harvard Club of Fairfield County, Westport, Connecticut 7:00 PM ET Fee for nonmembers. 

Feb. 22 Lisa Stringfellow, Silver Unicorn Bookstore, Acton, Massachusetts 7:00 PM ET

Feb. 22 Michael D. Beil and Brittany Geragotelis, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Connecticut 7:00 PM ET 

Feb. 24  Lesley Connor, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Connecticut  6:30 PM ET

Feb. 24  John Patrick Green, Bank Square Books, Mystic, Connecticut 6:00 PM ET

Feb. 27 Mariko Tamaki and Michael V. Smith, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Massachusetts 2:00 PM ET

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Weekend Wr--Snow Weekend

I was going to do a Weekend Writer post this weekend, but we're experiencing that Northeaster you may have been hearing about. Though it's cold here (12 degrees right now) and windy, so far for us it has been a lovely snowstorm. Snow all day with no loss of utilities. So I've been...

...working on my snow tube run...


and making a damn fine loaf of gluten free oatmeal bread.

The rest of the day is for reading and maybe some yoga, and tomorrow is going to go the same way as today.

Enjoy your weather, wherever you are.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Today Is Multicultural Children's Book Day

The last Friday in January is Multicultural Children's Book Day. Yes, that's today. 

In  2020 I did an actual post on what I thought of as a multicultural book for Multicultural Children's Book Day, and last year I did diversity reading throughout January. I am way off my game this year. We did have three people in the extended family have brushes with Covid through Christmas and into mid-January, which was distracting, though all turned out well. And if I had done better planning in December for this month--or any planning at all-- instead of doing what I did do (there's still a blog post coming on that) I would have managed a better multi-cultural observance with no problem. I just made a note in the December, 2022 section of my bullet journal to plan for January, 2023.

In the meantime, however, I do have a link to 8 New Children's Books That Celebrate Food Diversity by Justine Lee at Food 52. This is one of those things that I stumbled upon. Children's books and eating--I was meant to find this.

I'm going to dip into the archive now and republish a post from 2018 on Multicultural Children's Book Day that includes links to posts on a number of multicultural children's books. 

One of them is by Andrea Wang, who also has a book listed in 8 New Children's Books That Celebrate Food Diversity. And, you know, her book Watercress was just
named a Newbery honor book and won the Caldecott Medal for Jason Chin's illustrations. 

And, finally, today you can follow Multicultural Children's Book Day on Twitter with the hashtag #ReadYourWorld. They'll be having a Twitter party tonight from 9 to 10 PM ET.

January 27, 2018 Multicultural Children's Book Day

Today is/was Multicultural Children's Book Day, which totally escaped me until yesterday. It didn't escape Mia Wenjen (Pragmatic Mom blog), who is one of the co-founders of the event. You can see and hear her talk about Multicultural Children's Book Day on the Miss Panda Chinese YouTube Channel.

While I don't have anything new relating to multicultural children's books, I can refer you to some I've enjoyed in the past.

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns by Hena Kahn with illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini.

The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang with illustrations by Alina Chau.

Listen Slowly by Thanhha Lai

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Mare's War by Tanita Davis

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Life is Fine by Allison Whittenberg

Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell with illustrations by Christian Robinson

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword Back by Barry Deutsch

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Maybe Don't Use The Word "Die" In A Book Review Title

I am sure you're all wondering how things are going with my writing on the Medium platform. Last month, I wrote that Slow Down, You Write Too Fast was my least successful piece there. That still seems to be the case, though I thought my most recent publication there, Book Review: We Are All Going To Die, In Case You Weren't Feeling Enough Time Pressure at Feedium was going to beat it. And maybe it has.

How Do You Define Success At Medium?

When you're a small player at Medium, it's hard to define success. Anyone reading a Medium article can see how immediately popular it was with Medium's subscribed readers, because there's a little icon down at the bottom of the screen with clapping hands indicating applause and a number. (Only Medium subscribers can applaud.) We Are All Going To Die has received 2 claps, and those came 10 days after publication. So my first thought is that that review tanked.

However, if I look at my statistics, I see that Slow Down has a 25% read ratio while We Are All Going To Die has 35%. Thirty-five is more than 25. Does that mean that We Are All Going To Die is doing better? (Though probably still tanking.) Not necessarily, because We Are All Going To Die has made 9 cents while Slow Down has made 12. Twelve cents is more than 9 cents, if you follow me.

I have only the vaguest idea how payment is determined at Medium. It may have something to do with the amount of time people stay at the article, suggesting they're reading it, and not just the number of views. Slow Down, which has made more money (12 cents!!!), has had 16 views while We Are All Going To Die, which has made less money (9 cents!!!), has had 20 views. It's a mystery.

What Have You Learned From This Experience, Gail?

I've come away with two things from these latest experiences.

  1. Don't bother repurposing material from Original Content into articles for Medium. Both these articles did just that. Reworking material or research in different ways is supposed to be a classic way for freelance writers to generate income and broaden their reach. It didn't work for me in these cases. (Though, of course, I have made 21 cents between the two of them.) I know I'll be tempted to do this again, but I'm going to try to stick to using my time to create new work.
  2. Be more upbeat. Self-help is supposed to be the most popular writing on Medium. While I thought both these articles were self-help-ish, with one being about writing and one about a time management book, self-help may require a rah-rah attitude that my titles weren't conveying. As I've said before, a lot of Medium writers are interested in writing and publishing more, and suggesting in the writing article that they slow down may have seemed as if they were going to be told to write less. And telling everyone they are going to die in that book review title probably could be perceived as not being upbeat. Though when I came up with that title, I thought it was gold. If I break down and write an article for Medium using material I first worked with here, I must be cheery about it. 😀 

I made a submission to another Medium publication today, so I should soon have more to report, one way or another.


Monday, January 24, 2022

Recognizing The Alex Awards With Murderbot

During retreat-in-place week, I read Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells, the most recent in the Murderbot Diaries. I love these books, and Fugitive Telemetry is a particularly good one. It's sort of a police procedural set in Murderbot's scifi world with Murderbot being the lead detective. 

But, you may be thinking, the Murderbot Diaries are adult books, Gail. Do you have a reason for discussing them here in a blog focusing on children's books?

Indeed I do. 

The first Murderbot book, All Systems Red, was an Alex Award winner in 2018. The Alex Awards are for adult titles with special interest for teenagers, and they are announced in January along with the Newbery and Caldecott and a whole slate of other winners. And today is award day for 2022! My Facebook page is covered with ALA award news right now. People were watching the awards live at 9:00 this morning.

As part of my 20th blog anniversary, I was planning to republish my All Systems Red post, anyway, since I've read another book in the series. Today seems to be the perfect day to do it. 

I have purchased All Systems Red for four family members. That's how much I like it. To my knowledge, not one of them has read it. In addition to being clever and witty, these books are almost all novellas. They aren't even that long! What is wrong with people?

Monday, April 16, 2018 A Terrific Alex Award Winner

Somehow I got onto a newsletter a year or two ago, which provides me with some interesting info on books. Earlier this year, I learned on the newsletter about All Systems Red by Martha Wells, one of this year's Alex Award winners. I thought it sounded intriguing, and I was able to get the eBook for a very reasonable price. Cheap, really. You know me. Intriguing. Cheap. I bought that thing.

It is fantastic.

All Systems Red is the first in the Murderbot Diaries, Murderbot being the name an android gives itself, because...Well, isn't it obvious? Murderbot is a security android assigned to a group of scientists doing research on another planet. Its main interest is watching what we'd call soap operas it's downloaded. But when its people are endangered, it focuses on saving them.

I loved this book. As I was reading it, though, I wondered what made this one of the ten Alex winners, "book written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18." But by the time I finished, I got it. Murderbot is trying to understand why it is the way it is. And the humans in the story tend to treat it as a youth.

All Systems Red is a novella, one I purchased in print form for my niece to read during exams. I'm planning to get another copy for a family member short on time. There are three more novellas coming out this year.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Yes, Ethan Allen Cursed Something Fierce. Happy Birthday, Anyway, Ethan.

Today is Ethan Allen's 274 birthday. Someone from his own period once referred to him as "one of the wickedest men that ever walked this guilty globe." He's one of my favorite historical figures and plays a big part in my book The Hero of Ticonderoga. I own the rights to this now out-of-print book but have done nothing with them, so check your local library system, if you're interested in finding a copy. 

As part of my year-long observance of Original Content's twentieth anniversary, I am marking Allen's birthday by going into the OC archive and republishing a post from 2008. It's on using profanity in children's literature, especially when profanity involves a historical figure like Allen who is known to have used it. A lot.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 Curses!

Sam Riddleburger has a new book coming out next spring. At his blog he wrote about the decision he and his co-author made to eliminate the swearing that appears in the ARC. I don't yet know what language was cut because I haven't yet read my copy. I'm putting it off so I can enjoy the suspense as long as possible.

Those words we lump into the category "swearing" (or what the Gauthier boys used to call "swears") are of of great interest to me. Professionally, of course. Like Sam, I had to deal with the issue of language in a book. In my case, we're talking blasphemy.

Back before I began writing what would become The Hero of Ticonderoga, I wrote my editor to ask how many times a person could use "God damn" in a children's book. I wasn't seriously looking for a specific number, but I was concerned because Ethan Allen was going to figure prominently in the book, and Ethan Allen's use of blasphemy was legendary, in his own lifetime and beyond. It was an expression of his conflict with the late Puritan culture into which he was born. His use of profanity is very well documented. To not include it when writing about him would be so dishonest as to almost mean I wasn't writing about Ethan Allen at all. (I do love that man, in all his unsavory glory.)

Yes, I could have told my readers something like "Ethan Allen took the Lord's name in vain." But I believe I've mentioned my issue with telling instead of showing when writing. So Tess LeClerc, the main character in Hero, uses "God damn" three times. Each time she is paraphrasing Ethan Allen, and each time she is corrected by someone for her language. That was my way of trying to deal with the use of blasphemy in a children's book.

Hero was an ALA Notable Book, and the paperback is still in print. However, I don't know how often it's used in classrooms, and I've always wondered if the language was a stumbling block for schools. I did receive one complaint about the blasphemy. So when Sam says that they made the decision to change their language on the advice of a teacher who felt their book would be more "classroom friendly" without it, I certainly understand what he's talking about.

Language came up with the never-ending book I'm working on now, too, as I explained a year ago. In this case, I decided to go with that old Vermont favorite, Jeezum Crow.

Oddly enough, I've been wondering lately if my characters need expletives, after all. Sam says that in their case, "Using the swear words helped us write the book." But they didn't actually need them once they were done. I may find that to be the case, too.

Especially since I'm imagining a New York City editor going, "Jeezum what?"

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: A Goal And Objectives Case Study

Author Nancy Tandon has been visiting some blogs recently in support of the publication of her new book, The Way I Say It, coming out, coincidentally, today. (Seriously, I was on retreat last week or I would have published this post then. This just happens to be happening today.) (Yeah, yeah, the stars must have lined up just right or something.) (*) On January 10, she visited Literary Rambles with her agent, Charlotte Wenger, where Nancy wrote about planning and goal setting.

As I'm sure you all recall, my last Time Management Tuesday post was about that very subject. If you scroll down toward the end of Nancy's post,  you'll see her objectives for her goal "To Get An Agent." Nancy did an interesting thing with her objectives. She assigned time frames for them. As in:

 "1.     Research conference with opportunities for feedback from agents (monthly)

   2.     Read at least two blog posts with agent interviews (weekly)."

Each of her six objectives included how often she was going to work on it. The value of something like that, in addition to whether or not it produces the desired goal, is that it makes objectives easily measurable. You can determine whether or not you're staying on task and how to get back on task. By going back to reading two agent interview blog posts a week, for example.

Feel as if assigning times to every objective for every goal would be overwhelming? Save those kinds of objectives for the major goals you're working on. For instance, unpublished writers who are finishing manuscripts would make that a major goal, while looking for an agent might not be on a goal list at all at that point. 

Creating goals, like everything else in managing time, is situational.


*Yes, I did read the most recent Murderbot novella last week. Murderbot loves parentheses. (In a way that seems annoying.) (And then grows on you.)

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Remembering Jane Sutcliffe

The Connecticut, and beyond, children's literature community was saddened last week to hear of the death of Jane Sutcliffe, an excellent writer of historical nonfiction. I first knew her through the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Eventually she joined my writers' group. 

I am rerunning below a post about Jane's presentation at the 2015 Connecticut Children's Book Fair. You can also check out another 2015 post about Jane's book The White House Is Burning: August 24, 1814.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 Jane Sutcliffe At The Connecticut Children's Book Fair

Jane Sutcliffe was my original reason for attending this year's Connecticut Children's Book Fair. Jane's a member of my writing group, and I've been acquainted with her for several years through the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. As things turned out, she was a morning presenter, and hers was the first author talk I attended.

Jane talked about the original inspiration for her book Stone Giant: Michelangelo's David and How He Came to Be and how researching it led to another book, Leonardo's Monster. What was particularly interesting about Jane's presentation was her description of seeing the actual David statue in Venice and seeing in the face not just beauty, but a story.

I thought Jane was not just talking about David or her books. She was also talking about how to look at art. Her description of what was going on in David's face and how it related to David's story was amazing and will have an impact on my thinking when I'm looking at art in the future.

Speaking of David's story--I was certainly familiar with Michelangelos's statue, David. And I definitely know much of David's story...David and Goliath, King David, etc. I taught Sunday school for close to a decade and David is sort of the superhero of the Old Testament. I am embarrassed to say that I had not made the connection between the statue David and the Biblical David.

Or if I had, it never hit me the way it did when Jane showed a close up of the statue's face and described what she saw in it and how it related to the story of David and Goliath.

Jane Sutcliffe's Connecticut Children's Book Fair presentation would make a great offering at art museums with children's programs. I wonder if it couldn't be extended into an art history talk for schools, too.  

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Retreat Week Starts Tomorrow

One of last year's hikes. Not my house
Our annual retreat week starts tomorrow. Instead of going north and hanging out in a guesthouse in the mountains, snowshoeing and hiking, reading, and eating  in restaurants, we will be retreating in place again. We actually had a good time retreating at home when we did this last year.

I plan to do lots of reading, whatever hiking the weather allows, and eating takeout or food I cooked this week. No writing or house-related work, no interaction with others, no checking e-mail. In the past, I've posted hiking and snowshoeing pictures on Facebook while on retreat, but Facebook has been testy about letting me post pictures, so I may not even try to do that. 

I got into sledding in my front yard last year, and I got a nice little run going yesterday afternoon, because we had 9 inches of snow yesterday morning. I'd be out there a lot this week, but we're expecting rain tomorrow. But that could be good reading weather. I've got some back issues of magazines I'm hoping to hit hard.

See you maybe the 17th or 18th.

Some Virtual Opportunities For January

I didn't do a virtual opportunities post in December, because news of appearances were not cropping up in my social media. Author appearances pretty much disappeared in December back when I did the Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar pre-pandemic. While I'm seeing a little more action now on Facebook, events on bookstore calendars are sparse, and some bookstores that had been active last year have nothing at all scheduled right now. I don't know what's going on.

I hope to be adding to this calendar later in the month.  

Jan. 11 Nancy Springer, McGill University, Montreal, Canada Noon GMT (I believe that is ET in the U.S.)

Jan 12 Michelle Coles, An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Massachusetts 10:30 AM ET

Jan. 12 Emilie Boon and Jamie A. Swenson, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Massachusetts 4:00 PM ET

Jan. 12 J. Elle and Brigid Kemmerer, Blue Willow Bookshop, West Houston, Texas 7:00 PM Central Time

Jan. 18 Dayna Lorentz and Chris Tebbetts, Flying Pig Bookstore, Shelburne, Vermont 7:00 PM ET

Jan 22 Nancy Tandon, River Bend Book Bookshop, Glastonbury, Connecticut 3:15 PM ET (The sign-up is for an in-store event. Scroll down to get the virtual option. I did it. It works.)

Jan. 25 Jake Burt and James Ponti, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Connecticut   7:00 PM ET

Jan. 30 Alice Faye Duncan, Yolanda Gladden, Jamie Michalak, Debbi Michiko Florence, Karyn Parsons, Books of Wonder, New York, New York 1:00 PM ET

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: Time To Make Next Year's Goals And Objectves, Whether 2022 Is Better Or Not. Especially If It's Not

At the end of 2020, I was relieved that I'd made it to the end of the plague year. Damned if at the end of 2021 I'm not relieved about the same thing. That doesn't seem like a lot of movement, but it's an example of having to take whatever win you're offered.

Without a doubt, having goals and objectives--something to focus upon and do--has been hugely beneficial these last two years. Work can be an opportunity to get away from it all.

Okay, time to make the goals and objectives for 2022. In these annual goals and objectives posts I usually remind everyone that a goal is what you plan to do, an objective is an act you are going to take to do what you plan to do. And, look! I've just done it again.

But this year I want to also suggest that goals should be directed toward something you can control. Any time you want to do something that involves someone else, you lose at least some control of it, if not all.

For example, I will sometimes read about unpublished writers who have "signing with an agent this year" as a goal. But writers can't control what agents do. Yes, I know some will argue that "writing a fine book" gives you control with agents, but, no, it doesn't. You cannot control how someone else will perceive or respond to your work, no matter how fine you or your writers' group colleagues think it is. Better goals related to the agent search would be 1."I will submit work to agents this year" or 2. "I will submit to X number of agents this year." All the work and action in those goals is on the people making them. They have control.

This came to mind, because this year I would like to break into one of the two big humor sites on Medium and get at least one thing accepted at a nonMedium publication. But I'm not making those publication desires goals, because I can't control what editors do. Instead, I am making submitting to those publications objectives for a more general submission goal.


Gail's Goals And Objectives For 2022


Goal 1. Work on short-form writing, essays, and short stories.  


  • Work on the humor and flash pieces I began or revised/organized in December. I have 31 of them. I need to do a post about that another time.
  • Spend a lot more time with Facebook flash and essay-writing groups, checking out what people are publishing and where
  • Look for more on-line writing classes/workshops. I signed up for one today.
  • Commit more time to reading essays and short stories  


Goal 2. Finish a draft of YA thriller that could become an adult thriller.  


  • I took a break from this project after November, so I'll need to reread what I've done to bring myself back up to speed. 
  • I have some outlining/blueprinting done for the next work. Go over this and extend it.
  • Read YA thrillers.
  • Read history, since that's a significant factor for a character and maybe in other ways. 
  • Make a big push on this during May.


Goal 3. Concentrate on submissions and maintaining the number of submissions I made last year.


  • Try to submit once a month to a Medium publication. I have something ready to go right now.
  • Submit to the two major humor sites at Medium.
  • Submit to the journal that was encouraging last year. I haven't done this yet, because I want to revise something for them.
  • Search for agents to submit to, particularly for the adult manuscripts that haven't been submitted to as many people as the middle grade stories have
  • Take advantage of Twitter pitch opportunities


 Goal 4. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding


  • Mark Original Content's 20th anniversary with reprinting material from the archives that connect with present events.
  • Provide social media support for writers/bloggers generating diversity material. If nothing else, I can combine some archival material to do this and mark OC's anniversary at the same time. A multiplier!
  • Continue with the virtual author opportunities posts, if I continue to find them.
  • Attend virtual book launches and promote here.
  • Use NetGalley to support authors with new books publishing this year.
  • Continue with promoting Original Content at Facebook communities, Goodreads' blog, and Twitter.
  • Check-in with goals and objectives quarterly. 

You may notice a difference in priorities this year, with my short-form work going to Goal 1 and my YA/children's work going to Goal 2. This is not because I think any less of YA/children's literature. It's because over the last few years I've been able to make some progress with short-form work. After a relatively successful mid-list career some time ago, I'm now up against a brick wall with the YA/children's work.

But, remember, Original Content has been here for 20 years. If there's one thing I can do, it's stick with things. I am sticky. I am chaos and sticky.


Saturday, January 01, 2022

Twenty Years Of "Original Content"

Archival Material
March 6, 2022 marks the twentieth anniversary of Original Content. I am going to try to observe this milestone all year by regularly (periodically?) dipping into the archives. Below you will find my very first post. Notice the quaint term "weblog" in the title. Notice that one of the blogs I mention is definitely gone now, and the other was rolled over into the NESCBWI. I wish I remembered who Jan is. I'll try to find out.


Wednesday, March 6, 2002 Not Another Self-involved Weblog?!

That's not the plan. After all, I have an entire Web site all about me, so I don't need a blog in order to talk about myself. What I do need is a way to bring original content to this site. Let's face it, author Web sites are all about self-promotion so they end up including a lot of book reviews, interviews, and other warmed over material. I want to do something more. In the past I've posted selections of works in progress, and I considered posting some "out-takes" from A Year with Butch and Spike. But who has time to read all that? So I'm trying a blog devoted to children's books, writing, maybe some stuff about writers in schools, and attending writer events. Whatever your age group, I'm directing this to you. 

I promise not to write about my weight problems or hair issues because Bridget has already done that, and, of course, I don't have weight problems or hair issues. None worth mentioning anyway. Nor will I write odes to my dead pets, though those are the only kinds of pets I have. And I'll keep things short and to the point.

Blogging links:
A List Apart
A Favorite Blog:
Jan's Weblog :This is short and to the point and the point is something I'm interested in.

I learned how to make block quotes for this project. Myself. Without ComputerGuy's assistance or even knowing about it. 

It was embarrassingly easy. I'll probably be doing it all the time now.