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.


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: Using Blueprinting To Get Ready For National Novel Writing Month

Right now I am in the midst of May Days in October, one of the two times a year I get together with some other writers on Facebook and set aside some time to work on something specific. You might call it binge writing. 

One of the things I'm doing this time around is using the blueprinting method I learned about from Wendy Maas at a NESCBWI conference workshop in 2016. What it does is help generate material. I don't use this anywhere near enough. If I did, this particular never-ending project I've been working on for three years might be in my rearview mirror. I'm finding it very helpful right now. In addition to revising two chapters during the last ten days, I've blueprinted two new ones. I might stick to the blueprinting and get the rest of this book worked out this month.

If You're Doing NaNoWriMo You Might Want To Try Blueprinting

National Novel Writing Month is just a couple of weeks away. Writing a 50,000 word manuscript in one month is a lot easier if you know what you're going to write. Blueprinting can help you with that. 

As part of my Original Content 20th anniversary observance and to offer a helping hand for anyone prepping for NaNoWriMo I am republishing a blog post on blueprinting, which includes a link to an article Wendy Maas wrote on the subject.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: There's Always Time For Blueprinting

Or almost. It's definitely something you can do when you don't have time to do much.

I sometimes lump blueprinting in with outlining. It's different, though, in that it's a method of generating material for new writing, while outlining is more about organizing material you already have.

The Basic Blueprinting Method

As described by Wendy Maas in a workshop I attended in 2016, blueprinting involves coming up with eighteen events that could happen in your book, which become your chapters. Then for each chapter, come up with ten things that could happen in it. For each of those ten things, use who, what, when, where, why questions to elaborate upon them.

There's more to it than that. Take her workshop. Or read her article on the subject.

How It's Been Working For Me

I've used this quite a bit for an adult book I'm working on. I don't worry a lot (or at all) about getting the numbers right. But the system is very helpful. When it's working particularly well, I can practically drop my blueprint notes right into paragraphs.

Why Can Blueprinting Help During A Time Crunch...Like December?

Blueprinting can help when you don't have a lot of time because you can do it in bits and pieces. You can work on coming up with a few things that could happen in a chapter at any time, wherever you are. In the car during a twelve hour road trip, for instance.  You can answer who, what, when, where, why questions about the items you came up with in odd moments. Make some notes on your phone, tablet, or any scrap of paper nearby. If you can grab ten or fifteen minutes, pull the notes together.

When you can get back to regular work time, you'll have at least a part of a blueprint to use. You can get back to producing content a lot faster.

Also, just tinkering with your blueprint whenever you can will help keep your head in the game, because you won't have gone days or weeks without even thinking about it.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Environmental Book Club

What I usually see in middle grade environmental books are stories about kids fighting a big bad company that's doing nasty environmental things to endanger something like an animal or a wetland. Very formulaic and predictable. With The First Rule of Climate Club by Carrie Firestone we're talking more of an us-against-the-world thing. Some may find it a bit pedantic, but it's far more sophisticated than other books of this type that I've read.

First off, I feel I should point out that while the book's publisher is marketing it as middle grade, the library I borrowed it from classified it as "Teen." The kids are 8th graders and have access to more social media than I would expect from true middle graders and more freedom to get around. None of this means middle grade students shouldn't read it or like it, just that the more mature characters help explain their access to more mature situations. By mature I don't mean engaging in sex, but understanding racism and that they have the ability to become involved with environmentalism in realistic ways.

Mary Kate is a student in a pilot science class involving climate science in a town near Hartford, Connecticut. She has students from Hartford attending school with her. Living in this area, I can tell you that this is realistic. The kids seem gung-ho for environmentalism, but this makes sense, because they had to apply to attend the class. Only kids who can prove they have an interest and reason to be there are there. 

The kids have various interests, meaning environmentalism is covered in a more whole life type of way then in the "let's save the little wild rodent from the big bad oil company" kind of books. Food waste, composting, fast fashion, electric vehicles are among the topics pulled into the story. One of the things I particularly like about this book is that many of the things covered, such as composting and fast fashion, middle grade and above students could make part of their lives now.

Another topic Firestone covers--the connection between climate/environmentalism and race. Embarrassed to say that I was not aware of that. And my trash was going to the Hartford incinerator she writes about. (Interesting sidenote--before the incinerator came to Hartford, there was an enormous landfill there, known as Mt. Trashmore. It was right along a major highway north of the city. Landfills are not supposed to smell, but this one most definitely did.)

Another important aspect Firestone touches on--the potential for knowledge of climate change to cause anxiety in children. This isn't a book that just takes the attitude that children can and will fix everything for us.

The chapters in this story are very short and often in different formats--sometimes a traditional narrative, sometimes a podcast, sometimes a letter. I do like to move along when I'm reading.

This really is a book that should be valuable for a number of reasons. I hope it makes the short-list for the Connecticut Book Award next year, being both by a Connecticut author and set in Connecticut.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

A New Connecticut Appearance For Sara Levine With A Book Giveaway!

You will, of course, remember that New England children's writer Sara Levine made an appearance at my local library this summer. Well, she's going to be in Connecticut again this next week, Thursday, October 6 at the Guilford Public Library in Guilford. Time--4:15. 

For those of you in the area who can get there, this appearance is around her picture book The Animals Would Not Sleep, which is part of the Storytelling Math series from Charlesbridge Publishing

Also note that free signed copies of the book will be given to each child who registers. But, remember, separate preregistration is required for each child coming in order for each of them to get a book. You can find the registration form at the Guilford Public Library link above, but, heck, to make this easy, I'm going to link it again. Here

A great opportunity.