Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Hmm. What Is Going On Here?

 It's The End Of The World And I'm In My Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds--I absolutely love the title. I love the cover. The book's main character, Eddie Gordon Holloway, is engaging and has a good voice. I like the basic concept--a kid who is caught in some kind of scifi situation while having nothing clean and dry to wear except the bathing suit he happens to have put on that morning. Kids left on their own to deal with with some kind of scenario like this has certainly been done before, but the bathing suit and the voice make this one attractive.

Eddie, though, tends to go on...and on...and on. About doing laundry. About his family. About doing laundry.About any number of things. And doing laundry. The laundry situation explains why Eddie is home alone during what appears to be a pivotal moment, at least locally. But I believe I was at the mid-point of the book before that pivotal moment even began to approach. This is the first volume in a serial, and it is definitely very introductory.

Could There Be A Reason For That?

Eddie has ADHD. ADHD has raised its head in my extended family and is having a look around. Thus it is a subject that interests me and that I may have to learn a great deal more about.

Not being knowledgeable about the subject at this point, I was left wondering as I read this book about the significance of ADHD in Eddie's life. Is Eddie's drifting away on tangents a representation of how the ADHD mind works? Is that what's going on here?

Or am I reading too much into this?

If the next book in the serial has as terrific a title and cover, I would be willing to give it another go, mainly because the story has barely started. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

A Series Of Virtual Events

Author Kacen Callender has a whole series of virtual events coming up this month in support of their book Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution. Callender is a National Book Award winner, so I might have been expected to hear of them, but hadn't. I have now and will remember the name, because marketing, including virtual marketing, works. At least in terms of name recognition.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

I've Been Working On This Thing For THREE Years!

I was just hunting for my blog post on E. Lockhart's book We Were Liars, and saw that in it I mention that I was "beginning a new project, a YA mystery or thriller." That post was dated Sept. 19, 2019, three years ago yesterday.

I'm still working on that so-called new project! I've been working on it three @#!! years!

I do think I'm on the last quarter of the book, though. 

In my defense, I did spend a lot of time in 2020 and 2021 on short form work that I published on Medium.  And I'm pretty sure someone in the family had a baby in 2020 and a couple of people had surgery in 2021. 

It was well worth my time to look up that blog post, because I learned there that I own the e-book edition of We Were Liars, which is good, because I want to read it again. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Here I Am Raving About Zoom Opportunities Again

I go everywhere from here.
This past week, I attended two Zoom events. Within 22 hours, in fact. The lead-up to how I attended them illustrates one of the terrific things about Zoom opportunities.

  • Wednesday was a hiking day here. I got back to the house at 5, took a shower, tossed back some dinner, and sat down at 6 to watch children's literature historian Leonard Marcus's lecture on the history of Little Golden Books hosted by the Northern Illinois University art museum. It was excellent. And free, but that's not the point.
  • On Thursday morning a family thing for that evening was cancelled. Part way through the day I realized that that freed me up to attend an agent panel on Zoom sponsored by the Society of Children's Book Writers for its members. It was also very good. And free to me, but, again, not the point.
Attending these things was effortless. I didn't even have to preregister for them. I didn't even dry my hair before the Marcus lecture. When my head popped up in a box on my screen, I just ran to the bathroom next door and made a quick braid. There was no getting ready and driving somewhere. There was no having to plan my day around going to a lecture or a panel discussion in the evening. I got the benefit of  all this content at my convenience, tucked into a spot in my day.

What's more, the speakers and panelists clearly were taking part from all over the place. They hadn't had to plan for days that they were going to have to travel somewhere to speak for an hour and then get themselves back home. A 60- or 90-minute event truly was a 60- or 90-minute event for them. 

Margaret Atwood is speaking at my alma mater in Vermont next month. I'm registered to attend it virtually. Another freebie for me. Later today I'll be registering for my first workshop of the fall. I admit I'll have to pay a modest amount for that. But I'll be signing up for the virtual option, so I won't have to leave Connecticut to go to the Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio to attend.

Digital events, often brought to us on Zoom, have the potential to bring so much into lives. I think some people may feel negatively about them, because they associate Zoom with the pandemic. But they are a positive the pandemic unintentionally brought us. It forced us to truly think outside the box and move forward technologically. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: The Struggle For Blogging Time, Or, Another Blog Bites The Dust

Last week it came to my attention that after sixteen years Julie Danielson is calling it a day with her well-known and highly-regarded childlit blog 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Who is left of the group I knew from before 2010? Ms Yingling Reads, for one. Author Tanita Davis was blogging at Finding Wonderland from 2005 and is presently posting at her own blog {fiction, instead of lies}. Anybody else? Anybody?

In her farewell post, Jules says some things that help explain why litblogging's moment has passed.

  •  "It has truly been a struggle lately to find the time." "There are other things I'd like to get back to doing, new things I want to try, and people I want to spend more time with." 
  •  "...most people stopped leaving comments at blogs and started leaving comments about blog posts at social media sites where posts are shared (this is a thing now)"


Blogging is time consuming, and 7 Imps must have been particularly time consuming, because Jules did extensive reviews (I do what I call "reader responses," which means whatever I want it to mean, and I often mean "short.") and interviews. It can be hard to justify that time, especially if you need to generate income with some kind of work, writing or not, and your blog brings nothing in. Even writers who blog rarely make money directly from the blog. Theoretically, readers will be so taken with our blog posts that they will go out and buy one of our books, and we'll get our cut of that somewhere down the road. Note that I said, "theoretically." 

If your blog leads to blog-related involvement like, in my case, covering local author appearances or, in Jules' case, attending the Bologna Book Fair and a great many other things, that's more time.

We all have to accept the 24-hour-in-a-day limitation. 


As Jules also said, people have stopped leaving comments or, probably, visiting and reading posts at all. I know I am very limited in what I read at blogs, because of time and because so many of the blogs I used to interact with are gone. Who would I read? But just as it's hard to continue blogging for free, it's hard to continue blogging without engagement. 

Money and engagement are similar things. Feedback. Feedback is what justifies use of time.

Julie Danielson used her time well with 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast, and I'm sure she'll continue to use it well with all the freelance writing work she does.

Let's Finish By Making This All About Gail

In 2008, the year my last book was published, Jules interviewed me for 7 Imps. I had not seen the post in years. She made me sound great. You can definitely get a feel for how much work and time she put into that blog. I'd like to send a link to this thing to every agent and editor I contact and have it posted in my obituary.

Friday, September 09, 2022

A Nineteenth Century Couples Mystery For YA

 I often have a reason for picking up the books I do, one that goes beyond, "Gee, that looks good." I chose Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz, because it sounds similar to the various adult mystery series I've read that are set in the nineteenth century with a male and female lead who meet somehow, get involved with solving a mystery, one thing leads to another, and romance ensues. Also, not to leave anything to the imagination here, sex.

That pretty much is what happens with Anatomy, which involves an aristocratic young woman who wants to break out of her planned life and become a surgeon. In that era, the study of anatomy was becoming significant in the training of doctors. Bodies to study were few and far between, and the medical community supported grave robbers, known as resurrectionists. Sure enough, our heroine gets tangled up with one who provides her subjects for study.

This was a good book, very readable. I'm not a fan of the direction it took at the end, but that definitely is a just-me thing. Additionally, for those of us accustomed to reading these kinds of stories for the adult market, the romance/sex is very tame. To the point that I was left wondering what happened and just what kind of relationship did these two now have. I hope that this doesn't mean that I need no-doubt-about-it sex scenes. It may be more that I struggle to read between the lines.

Whenever I've read of resurrectionists, the stories have been set in Great Britain. Anatomy takes place in Scotland and inspired me to check out if something similar went on in the United States. Oh, my goodness. Did it ever.

Yeah, the nineteenth century American medical community didn't suffer from an abundance of ethics, at least as we would recognize it today. 

And racist? Oh, yes. Though I suppose doctors back then could have argued that they only seemed like racists, because, hey, these are the bodies we could get.

I am so turned off to medicine right now.    

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Virtual Author Events For September

Central Connecticut is exploding with in-person author events over the next couple of weeks. You'd think it was 2019 or something. However, you can still find a few virtual appearances, mainly coming out of the Brookline Booksmith in Massachusetts, for those of you who like to get around without actually getting around. I will update over the course of the month, if I stumble upon anything. 

Monday, Sept. 12, Amy Sarig King, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT  5:30 PM ET 

Wednesday, Sept. 14, Courtney Summers & Sara Farizan, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA 7:00 PM ET

Friday, Sept. 16, Alison Ames and Courtney Gould, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA 7:00 PM ET  

Sunday, Sept. 25, Kacen Callender with Rebecca Kim Wells, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA 11:00 AM ET 

Wednesday, Sept. 28, Jesse Q. Sutanto with Ali Hazelwood, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA 8:00 PM ET

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: September Is A Temporal Landmark. A Big One.

Author, artist, and Facebook friend Dana Meachen Rau  has committed to creating a collage a day during the month of September. A back to collage challenge. (Get it? Back to college?) She's posting her projects on her Facebook page. 

Dana's September plan illustrates two time management techniques we've discussed here.

  • One is that she is using the month of September as what I call a set-aside time.  It's time we set aside for specific tasks. Time we're going to use in a particular way.
  • The other is that she's taking advantage of September being a temporal landmark, a calendar event that creates a fresh start opportunity.

Dana has inspired me to republish, as part of this year's observance of Original Content's twentieth anniversary, a blog post from 2016 on the value of the month of September for managing time. I was on vacation when I wrote that post, which explains the beginning and ending.

When you finish reading this, you may think, oh, I can't do anything with this, because it's already September. I needed to plan ahead. The month of September isn't even half over, people. Run with it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Now Is The Time For Change. Hurry!

I know, I know. I said I wasn't going to be blogging until next month. However, I actually read those newspapers hotels provide gratis, and I read something last week that will not keep. It is time sensitive.

First off, I'm sure you all recall that I've written here about the significance of beginnings and endings of units of time.  January, the beginning of a major unit of time, the year, is a big moment here at OC with the creation of goals and objectives.


Last week The Wall Street Journal carried an article about the end of one unit of time and the beginning of another and how that beginning has become very important. In Now Is the Real New Year, the WSJ reports that September is now "the start of the real new year." It lists masses of ways that September is now outpacing January for people making changes in their lives. And there's a couple of statements that suggest that September works better than January for doing this. "In January, postholiday exhaustion can make New Year's weight-loss resolutions feel even tougher, nutritionists say..." and 69% of respondents in a British survey "believe small improvements in September are easier to achieve than New Year's resolutions."

There's not a lot in this article explaining why this is happening. There's talk of shifting back to routines after the summer and the Jewish New Year coming in the fall. But what is going on that is so big that it blows January, the stereotypical time for changing our behavior and getting started on new projects, out of the water?

My own wild theory is that, at least here in the U.S., we have generations of being enslaved to the school year and its calendar. We're tied to it as students, ourselves, and then those of us who have children are tied to it again when they are students. Teachers are tied to it. Children's writers who do school presentations are tied to it. The school year, which begins in September, has become more meaningful than the calendar year because something truly happens when it begins. January, not so much.

So can we use this sense of a new beginning and a time to get started fresh in our work?

I can't, obviously. I'm on vacation. But maybe you can.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Connecticut Book Award Finalists Announced

The Connecticut Center for the Book has announced the finalists for the 2022 Connecticut Book Awards, which recognize the best books either about Connecticut or by authors or illustrators from Connecticut.

The Young Readers' categories include a number NESCBWI colleagues

Picture Books-Fiction

  • Soul Food Sunday, Winsome Hudson-Bing
  • Three Pockets Full, Cindy Rodriguez

Picture Books-Nonfiction

  • Bei Bei Goes Home: A Panda Story, Cheryl Bardoe
  • Walrus Song, Janet Lawler

Middle Grade-Nonfiction

  • Fairy Tale Science, Sarah Albee
  • Robo-Motion: Robts That Move Like Animals, Linda Zajac

Middle Grade-Fiction

  • View From Pagoda Hill, Michaela MacColl
  • The Flyers, Beth Turley
  • To Tell You the Truth, Beth Vrabel

Fiction-Young Adult

  • The Secret Life of Kitty Granger, G.D. Falksen
  • Mercury Boys, Chandra Prasad                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Winners will be announced at the Connecticut Book Awards event at the Hartford Public Library on Sunday, October 23.

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.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Interesting Reading From The March/April 2022 Horn Book

The March/April 2022 Horn Book carried a couple of articles that particularly interested me:

Some interesting reviews:

Thursday, July 28, 2022

A Marvelous YA Mystery

I found Cold by Mariko Tamaki through a review in The Horn Book. I was a few issues behind, so I was able to find this book at a nearby library. I'm interested in YA mysteries and thrillers right now, so there was my attraction.

It's a terrific book about a dead teenage boy and a live teenage girl. And that's as far as I'm going with the plot description. Oh, except Tamaki does something terrific with the mean girl clique cliche. I am not a fan of alternating points of view, but this worked great. The female lead is my favorite Georgia since Georgia Nicholson. It's not that outrageous a comparison because these two Georgias have voice.

This could be described as a queer mystery. What is particularly interesting is that it is slowly revealed just how much that thread has to do with what is happening. 

Mariko Tamaki is the author of the graphic novel Emiko Superstar  (art by Steve Rolston), which won a Cybil in 2009

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: Essentialism And Set-Aside Times

Here we go with the fourth and final portion of our discussion of how we writers can apply Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown to our lives. Today we’re talking about one of my favorite time management techniques, what I call set aside times. (Sometimes I've hyphenated it, sometimes I haven't. I accept that.) I'm talking a chunk of time--a weekend, a week, a month, or even more-- that we have set aside to do one thing. You can think of it as binging. Binge writing, binge editing, binge submitting.

Binging whatever you think is essential.

Life is chaos, as I've mentioned here a number of times over the last couple of years. Planning to work in blocks of time that we've committed to specific things helps to control that chaos, at least for a little while. To quote myself,  "Looking forward to our future, which we, of course, expect to go on forever, it's hard to get a handle on controlling things, because will power and self-discipline are finite." With shorter periods of time, it is possible to get some control. Additionally, if we try to manage our time around what is essential to us, that's not going to work long-term, either, because, as I said in an earlier post in this arc, that keeps changing. So we can't rely on just defining what is essential to us to help contain chaos for a lifetime.

But we should be able to use it to contain the chaos for a weekend, a week, or a month. Maybe even a semester, if we've decided a class is essential right now.


In his book, McKeown speaks briefly about extreme preparation. Preparation is going to be a big help in working with set-aside times. In the lead up to any kind of set-aside time, we'll want to plan: 

  • To get other small work jobs out of the way before we start so they won't divert us from the essential task 
  • To get as much pre-writing work done as possible
  • To decide what pre-writing work we want to do, if that's what the set-aside time is for
  • To coordinate the set-aside time with our day jobs so that we aren't trying to work intently on something essential to our writing at the same time we know we'll have extra work for the day job
  • To get as much personal life work out of the way or under control, meaning we don't plan trips or guests during the set-aside time, and to try to find a way to bring family obligations down to a minimum for that period.  

A Perfect Example

A perfect example of applying essentialism to writers lives in a set-aside time is National Novel Writers' Month. That has helped many writers jump starting new projects or completing first drafts. They had one essential thing they were doing for one month--writing 50,000 words.

You can find a multitude of information on-line about preparing for National Novel Writing Month, much of it involving plotting and working on character development or settings before November 1, NaNoWriMo's starting date. Additional planning could involve keeping your November weekends clear of commitments, finding help with the kids, getting meals made ahead of time. (That may only be important to me.)

The more plans you can get in place before NaNoWriMo or any set-aside time begins, the better your chances of being successful with it. 


Round-up Of Original Content's Essentialism Posts

Thursday, July 21, 2022

#MGReadathon Results

I finished last weekend's 48-hour #MGReadathon on Sunday afternoon having completed 4 books. Since I only read 7 back in 2006 for the original 48-Hour Book Challenge, I was pretty satisfied, because I didn't read as intently this time as I did then. While there definitely are some negatives to have taken part of this in terms of using my time (which you can be sure I'll be discussing here at some point), I interacted with some new people both here and on Twitter, got one book off my TBR shelf that had been there for years, will be updating my Goodreads blog with this post, and will be a few books ahead on my Goodreads goal for this year. So those are all pluses. Right?

Books Read

I Survived The Nazi Invasion, 1944 by Lauren Tarshis 

If you grew up on old WWII movies and have read a lot of WWII books over the years, this is a pretty traditional WWII story. It's a pretty traditional short WWII story with plenty of narrative drive and a main character who comes out of his nightmarish experience as well as anyone possibly could. This is the book from my TBR shelf and the first in the I Survived series that I've read. I'll be holding onto it for my personal library I maintain for young readers in the family. 

Nature Girl by Jane Kelley

Years ago I started reading a book that began the same way Nature Girl does--a girl in Vermont with some conflict with her family accidentally ends up on the Appalachian Trail. I stopped reading it, because I didn't like it. How likely is it that I've stumbled upon a totally different book in which the same thing happens? If the book I didn't like back in the day was Nature Girl, it has improved a lot over the years.

I am not a long-haul hiker by any means. Fourteen miles is my top hike, on a relatively flat rail trail, and we took a break in the middle to go to a local library to use the bathroom. Nonetheless, I very much liked this tale of a totally unprepared eleven-year-old girl who gets lost near her family's southern Vermont rental and stumbles onto the Appalachian Trail. She learns from a passing hiker that Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts, near where her best friend is spending time with her grandmother and sick mother, is just 30 miles that-a-way and decides, what the hell, she's having a lousy time vacationing in Vermont. She's going to get to Mt. Greylock and call her friend.

Now, if this is the book I gave up on years ago, I might have been turned off early on by the talk of the Appalachian Trail in Vermont. Because I knew that the Long Trail is Vermont's trail. However, a little research this time showed that the Appalachian Trail does, indeed, run west northeast through Vermont while the Long Trail runs north and south. And the two of them join for a while. I mention this in case among my hordes of readers there is someone else thinking, Wait. No. That's wrong. It's the Long Trail in Vermont. They're both there!

Once I knew that, I totally bought in to Megan's experience. The pieces of the Long Trail I've been on were similar to what Megan was seeing. (That shelter!) The people she ran into were similar to people I've read about in hiking articles. Yes, it does push the envelope to think this kid could make it and didn't throw in the towel and seek help. But we believe kids in books catch criminals and fight magical monsters, so why not this? 

Also, this book actually is funny. Lots of times with middle grade books we're told they are funny, and I get the feeling that at various points something is supposed to be funny, but it isn't. In this one the humor works. 

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

I've been hearing good things about this book, and they're well-deserved. If you've spent twenty years reading children's books about the evacuation of children from London during World War II, a lot of what happens here will be familiar. However, they won't be familiar to today's child readers and that material is put together very well. This is a very well-written book with a cozy vibe in spite of its war setting.

Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai by Debbi Michiko Florence

I chose this book because Debbi Michiko Florence and I are Facebook friends. It's a middle school romance with a bit of a Pride and Prejudice thing going on. Romance isn't the best genre for me to be reading and reacting to. As a general rule, I need my romance integrated with something else, mystery or scifi, for instance. Just Be Cool does have a student journalism thread that I appreciated.

The book will be sticking with me, though, because it left me with two things to ponder: 

  1. This tween age is bizarre. These kids are old enough to have boyfriends but not old enough to use the stove when they're alone in the house. They have boyfriends, but they spend their evenings hanging with their boyfriend and groups of friends at somebody's house with their parents. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with any of that, but what does having a boyfriend even mean at this point in life? Does just being able to say you have a boyfriend (or girlfriend) provide some kind of validation? (Of course, it does, Gail! What's wrong with you?)
  2. This is not the first book I've read recently in which the main character had a close friend or more than one. These protagonists had to worry about whether or not they were spending enough time with their friends and what should they be doing with their friends and is their friend upset with them? This seems like so much effort. You read a lot about how difficult it is for adults to make  friends. Maybe it's because nobody past middle school has time for all the work that's involved.  

That last thought is going into something I've been working on, in my head, anyway. So thank you, Debbi and Jenna.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Bone By Bone With Dr. Sara Levine

Last Wednesday, I attended Facebook friend and author Sara Levine's Bone By Bone presentation at my local library. Clearly I have missed my calling, or, at least, missed a good calling. If this event is any indication, bones have a powerful attraction for kids. The enthusiastic audience put Sara to work discussing the bones she had on display before she was even introduced.

Sara, who is a veterinarian, was an assistant professor of biology for 12 years and has taught children’s environmental education classes for for over 20. Experience shows, both in terms of her knowledge of her material and ability to deal with children.

I try not to share much of authors' presentation material. However, I have to say that Sara has a bone box. I will not say what she does with it. But, come on--a bone box! And I was sitting very close to it. 

This presentation included a reading of Sara's book
Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons, illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth. She has also written eight other books, and has three more coming out in 2023 and one in 2024.

Friday, July 15, 2022

I'm Doing #MGReadathon

This weekend I'm doing the #MGReadathon organized/sponsored by Karen Yingling of Ms. Yingling Reads. I am not well prepared for this, which I never advocate on Time Management Tuesdays, but I'm grabbing an opportunity for some intense reading and Twitter socialization. And I just happen to have brought some middle grade books home from the library on Monday. 

I won't be posting about the books until next week, but I'll be posting cover images on Twitter as I finish the books. You can use the #MGReadathon hashtag to follow what's being read on Twitter. Truthfully, I'm only talking maybe four books. Karen is hoping to read thirty.

My 48 hours began at 2:30 this afternoon in a pickup truck on the way home from biking. Life is chaos, and I will be reading chaotically until mid-afternoon Sunday.

I've finished Book One!

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Time Management Tuesday: Situational Essentialism

Part III in our discussion of  how we writers can apply Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown to our lives. 

While I find this book directed primarily to business executives (not that there's anything wrong with that), there are some ways that we can apply some of what McKeown writes about to the writing life.  One of them is to connect essentialism to the concept of Situational Time Management.

No one time management process is ever going to work for us throughout our lives. Life is chaos. We can't expect to come up with what is essential to our lives or work and expect it to hold true forever. What is essential to us right out of school is going to be different from what is essential to us ten or fifteen years later or essential to us another decade on. Or maybe even next year. Or  a few months from now. We have to keep evolving with the situations we find ourselves in. Accepting that and working with it is what I refer to as situational time management.

For writers, there's another whole level of situation that's going to keep changing, though in a pretty predictable way. 

Finding What Is Essential At Different Points In A Writing Life

One of the important points McKeown makes early in his book is that essentialists accept that we can't do everything. Thus, it's important that we prioritize what is essential to us so we can let other things go. Writers can do that in very situational ways.

  • The Acquiring Craft Skills Situation--Actually learning to write is a first step that many writers undervalue. If you read on Medium, check out the many--many, many--articles on writing for Medium that focus on creating lots of content to become successful. There's not a lot on holding back and studying, practicing, or working with critique groups. There aren't a lot of professions where you can hang out a shingle or throw work out before the public with no training or experience. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that early in their careers, it's essential for writers to learn to write, whether we do it in traditional college courses, or in  workshops or by reading or some other way. While in this situation, we really don't need to be spending valuable, limited time on reading about and attending workshops on how to submit to agents or promoting and marketing books, because we don't have anything to submit or promote and market. The one essential is to learn how to do what we want to do.
  • The Writing Situation--Again, until the project we're interested in is done, writing is our priority. Years ago I attended a writers group with a writer who had barely started a fantasy novel. She clearly was struggling with basics. But she was spending time and energy on promotional ideas. Much more recently I heard about a flash fiction writer who was also a college professor. She wrote in the summer. Writing was what was essential for her during that particular situation, when she had more time to give it. She made submitting essential the rest of the year, because submitting doesn't take the same level of time and involvement. It most definitely takes time, but not the kind of time that writing does. We're talking two different situations.
  • The Submission Situation--The book/short story/essay is finished. Now we're in the submission situation when the search for agents and publications that might be interested in our work takes place. This is way more time consuming than it sounds. In addition to finding people who might be interested in what we have to offer, there is the issue of how to submit--How many pages or chapters does each agent want? Who requires a synopsis? Do all the publications we think might be interested in our short form work accept submissions by email or do some of them use Submittable? Trying to prioritize both submitting and writing at the same time can drain time and energy from both.
  • The Marketing and Promotion Situation--It turns out every damn piece of published writing needs to be at least promoted (seeking attention for it, usually without money being involved) if not actually marketed (more traditional advertising that involves money). This becomes essential once something has been published. But not before. Again, prioritizing marketing and promotion at the same time that we're prioritizing submission or writing can mean that we're not doing any one of those things well.   
Overlap among these situations may occur, particularly for writers who are publishing regularly. Those of us who do that may still be in the Promoting Situation for Book B while we're in the Writing Situation for Book C. And writers who work primarily in short form writing may spend a lot of our reading time when we are in the Writing Situation with journals and other kinds of publications, which will give us a background knowledge in who is publishing the kind of work we do. That would give us a leg up when we get to the Submission Situation.

But overall determining the essential task for any particular situation can mean getting more done.