Sunday, August 28, 2022

Beginning To See Pandemic Books

 I stumbled upon Hello (From Here) by Chandler Baker and Wesley King at a library. As my legion of followers know, a romance has to have something going on besides the romance if I'm going to read it. This one does, because it's set during the early months of our pandemic. While I've read, and written, pandemic humor, I haven't read any other kind of fiction that deals with it. 

I have to say, I found a lot of Hello (From Here) stereotypical YA. You've got your dead parent and your absent parent and your financially strapped parent and your illnesses (though they were interesting ones) and your magical old person and your dog. However, the pandemic setting made everything, if not actually new again, at least more interesting. 

Now that dealing with the pandemic (and I am one of those who still deals with it) has become somewhat boring and less restricting, it's already easy to forget the stress and fear of the early days. We're talking about something that happened only two and a half years ago and is still going on to some degree. And, yet,  Baker and King's book almost seems like a historical novel. That's not a complaint. Their book, I think, reflects the incredible speed of what has been happening. 

This is a case of a unique setting and two lead characters who are realistic and intelligent about what's going on around them giving new life to an old situation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Virtual Writing Class Opportunities

My Classroom
Both Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio and the Off Campus Writers' Workshop in Chicago, Illinois have announced their 2022-2023 writing class schedules. I have a list of two workshops with Thurber and seven with OCWW I'm interested in taking. Without leaving my desk in central Connecticut. 

I've taken classes with both organizations in the past, when they were fully remote. This year it appears that most of the classes will be some kind of  hybrid, so I have no experience to offer on how well that  works. But the prices ($25 to $50) and convenience make them well worth it to me to try some.

Benefits of Zoom Workshops

  • You don't have to limit yourself to workshops in your geographic area, ones that you can actually get your body to. That opens up a great many more options.
  • You don't have to commit time to travel.  
  • You don't have to commit time to conferences, where many writers' workshops are found. I can't be the only person who doesn't want to spend an entire day at a conference in order to take the one workshop being offered that interests me.
  • The workshops at Thurber and OCWW, whether Zoom or in-person, are far cheaper than many traditional workshops. With OCWW workshops, you can bring the price down even more by becoming a member.
  • You may be able to experiment with a workshop on some type of writing you don't normally do because the time and financial commitment are so low.
  • Many of the instructors are not just experienced writers but experienced writing teachers.

The Workshop Schedules

While I won't be attending any of these workshops on-site, I have been to Thurber House

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Ironhead: When You'd Rather Go To War Than Stay In This Marriage One More Minute

I can recall reading novels, probably historical romances, about the Napoleonic Wars when I was a teenager. So you can see why I was attracted to a review of Ironhead: Or Once a Young Lady by Belgian writer Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem, with translation by Kristen Gehrman, which might be described as a historical anti-romance.

Eighteen-year-old Constance is a young woman who doesn't know her place in early nineteenth-century Belgian society, probably because there isn't one for her, since she has minimal interest in doing laundry and bearing children. Her father insists she marry a much older man who will then become his business partner and pay off his debts. Constance sticks out the marriage for four months. Then, recalling having run into what was clearly a lesbian couple in which one member was dressed as a man, she comes up with a plan to take the place of a local acquaintance who has been drafted into Napoleon's army. Living as a man among soldiers--that is most definitely Stance's place.

Constance's fourteen-year-old brother, Pier, does know his place in their society. He's a student in a boarding school, which will open possibilities for him. But his father can no longer pay his school fees. Money from Constance's husband was supposed to take care of that. So when Constance disappears, he takes off with a supposedly trustworthy guide to find her and bring her back.

The two siblings appear as point-of-view characters in different parts of the book. We're not talking alternating chapters here, but close to it. Because Pier is a more conventional character, his story thread isn't as interesting in the early part of the book, though he improves markedly. They both have journey/adventure story lines.

I think this is a unique book in today's American YA scene, where you find a lot of fantasy and contemporary romance with some contemporary mystery and thrillers thrown in. Historical fiction tends to be of a more accessible time, say late nineteenth, early twentieth century. Ironhead is a good book that requires a little of the reader to start, with a big payoff later, something I can't recall seeing much of in YA. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

September Virtual Lectures By Leonard Marcus

The Northern Illinois University Art Museum  is offering a virtual children's book lecture series in September all led by children's book historian Leonard Marcus.  

He begins on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 5:00 PM Central Time with a talk on The Story of Little Golden Books.  

On Thursday, Sept. 15 at 5:00 PM Central Time he continues with Strong Women, Great Books: The Women Who Invented American Children's Book Publishing.

And on Sunday, Sept. 18 at 2:00 PM Central Time he'll finish with Around the World in 80 Picture Books.

Leonard Marcus is a well-known writer and speaker in the childlit world. We certainly know him here in the New England childlit world. Back in 2008, I attended a lecture he gave at the Dodd Center at the University of Connecticut, where the Northeast Children's Literature Collection is located. I enjoyed his talk, though I didn't have a lot to say about it here. He's also done a lot of work on the history of Golden Books, which just happens to be the subject of one of next month's lectures, and the one I'm most interested in attending. 

Lots of good virtual stuff is coming up this fall. I'm getting excited.

Friday, August 05, 2022

Possibly My Favorite Unicorn Book

I'm always delighted when I enjoy a book written by an acquaintance or Facebook friend. That is the case with Pacey Packer Unicorn Tracker by Connecticut author and artist J.C. Phillipps. It's a terrific middle grade graphic novel about a smart, tough girl who is trying to be an awesome babysitter for her younger sister, when said younger sister disappears out the window on a unicorn. Pacey immediately heads off to save her with the assistance of her sister's plush unicorn toy, which is now alive.

This book has witty repartee, narrative drive, strong young women, and lots of purple.

I am aware that unicorns are popular, though I don't get it, myself. Here is what unicorns were in my youth:  Beasts in medieval stories who laid their heads in virgins' laps, which is how they were caught and killed. They struck me as stupid animals,. Not in the sense of them not being humans and thus must be stupid but in the sense that smarter animals know not to put themselves at risk like that. 

Unicorns appear to have come a long way.

We have a unicorn fan in the family, but she is too young for this book. I ordered a copy of it yesterday for her older brother 

Pacey Packer Unicorn Tracker is the first book in a series. The fourth one is coming out next year.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

A Time Management Tuesday Replay: Productive Procrastination

 A Facebook friend (really, it was my sister) recently posted a joke about productive procrastination. My league of followers here are aware that productive procrastination is not a joke. It is a thing! 

I know, because I have this post from the archives. I'm republishing, because, you know, 20th anniversary year and all.

I have found productive procrastination particularly helpful during stressful times.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Time Management Tuesday: Productive Procrastination

Last week I forgot to bring a book with me to the Laundromat. What to do so I wasn't wasting that precious wash time looking at old magazines? Why I whipped out my trusty iPhone and looked up one of my favorite will power people, Kelly McGonigal. iPhones are wonderful, by the way. So is the Internet. Don't let anybody make you feel guilty about loving those things.

Anyway, it turns out that McGonigal was interviewed at Life Hacker for a series called How I Work. One of the things she was asked was "What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?" Her response was, "Productive procrastination. Often when I should be writing a chapter or preparing a talk, I decide instead to do a deep dive on some random scientific topic..." And that topic may led to her writing articles or starting some sort of project.

I looked at Ira Glass's How I Work interview and saw something similar.  At one point, he says, "I procrastinate by working." By which he means he'll look over contracts or make business calls that aren't as important as the writing he needs to be doing.

If I had all the time in the world (ha-ha), I'd skim all the How I Work interviews to see how many of these people talk about productive procrastination.

Now, when you have a big job with a deadline, you have to find a way to stay on task and get through it. However, we're not always on deadline. When McGonigal and Glass are off task, they still manage to crank out a lot of work. What I find interesting is that when they procrastinate, they are not checking out Kate Middleton's maternity clothes or trying to figure out who the actress was who had a nonrecurring role in the TV show they were watching the night before. They are, in McGonigal's case, researching something like "What’s the latest animal research on the brain’s default mode network?" or, in Glass's, doing some other type of work, work that does need to be done. They are both working when they procrastinate. They do something with their procrastination.

The trick here, I think, is to train yourself to work when you just have to take a break from the main event. Writers, particularly published writers who have to market themselves, have plenty of work they can be doing. The problem is making sure that "other" work doesn't then become the main event. You don't want productive procrastination to become an excuse to avoid a major project.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Remembering Patricia Hubbell

I learned yesterday of the death last week of Connecticut children's author and poet Patricia Hubbell

Our paths crossed a few times in the early 2000s, beginning in 2004 when we were both nominated for the Connecticut Book Award. The next year she was a featured author at the Connecticut Book Fair. And two years later she was one of the writers at a Connecticut Author Reception hosted by the Connecticut Educational Media Association, which does not appear to have a web presence anymore. 

Patricia provided a quiet and calming presence. A presence that I always remembered.