Wednesday, March 29, 2023

If Anyone Is Interested In Michelangelo's David

I understand that there's been a brouhaha about Michelangelo's David, an old statue of a rockstar Biblical figure in all his youthful glory, so to speak. I have no dog in this race, no opinion to voice. However, I will take this opportunity to bring a really lovely book to your attention, Stone Giant, Michelangelo's David and How He Came To Be by Jane Sutcliffe with illustrations by John Shelley.  

I had the good fortune to attend a presentation Jane did on this book in 2015 at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair. (The fair hasn't been held since well before the pandemic, and I personally doubt we will ever see it again. Just had to mention that. Sorry.) 

In her presentation, Jane said she had seen David (in Florence, not Venice as I say in my blog post about her talk) and that when she looked into his face, she thought she saw a story. At the time, I thought she wasn't talking just about David, but looking at all art.

The book is lovely, and I've just added it to a wishlist so I can have it for my personal library to share with young family members.

Well, maybe I do have a dog in this race, because I knew Jane Sutcliffe, a lovely woman and very good historical nonfiction writer who died a little over a year ago. I regret not buying this back in 2015 so that I'd now have a signed copy.

This book would be a great addition to school and church libraries, as well as for homes.

Friday, March 24, 2023

A Middle Grade Book For Adult Readers

 You know how I have this interest in adult books with child protagonists? A book has to have more than a child protagonist to make it a children's books, and it can be an adult book without an adult protagonist. 

It's a little bit of a mystery.

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett is pretty mysterious and amazing, because not only is it an adult book with a child protagonist, it's an adult book that reads amazingly like a middle grade novel. In fact, it's very similar to the kind of middle grade novel that wins the Newbery Medal. 

  • You've got a ten-year-old girl protagonist. (The kind of middle grade book I'm thinking about almost always has a girl protagonist.)
  • You've got a dead mom.
  • You've got a grieving father.
  • You've got a troubled older sister.
  • You've got a dog.
  • You've got a cast of slightly off-kilter secondary characters in a small town. That guidance counselor is a gem.
  • You've got people with unique interests--the main character wants to finish writing her mother's book about animals with sleep issues, and the older sister is at work baking 1,000 rabbit cakes so she can get into the Guinness Book of Records.
  • You've got a this-is-how-we-deal-with-death theme.
I think what might make Rabbit Cake a little more adult than middle grade is the length of time covered. Elvis (a girl with a quirky name!) ages two years over the course of the story. Children's stories are usually more compressed, in my experience. While any of the issues raised here can probably be found in an upper middle grade novel (infidelity, for instance), they may be a little deeper in Rabbit Cake. Not disturbingly deep, though. A ten- or twelve-year old girl wise beyond her years could read this.

There is nothing wrong with writing a middle-grade novel for adults, and Rabbit Cake is a well done one. I think a good argument could be made that this particular kind of middle-grade book--girl protagonist, dead mom, grieving family, quirky people in a small town, dog--is of more interest to adults than to children, anyway. It's adults who award these books the Newbery Medal and Honors, after all, and it may be adults who are the primary readers. I've heard that some librarians find them a hard sell for kids.

So all you adult middle grade readers, here's a good one for you.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: Seasonal Writing

I recently wrote here about temporal landmarks and religious seasons. But I recently realized (by which I mean yesterday) that the four seasons our culture uses to break up our calendar are also temporal landmarks. Of course, the twelve months of the year are temporal landmarks, too. But the four seasons define natural change to a greater extent than the months do, and that connection with nature may be very useful for some people trying to plan some kind of writing or just writing-related project.

Spring began yesterday here in the Northern Hemisphere.  Late in the afternoon, I believe. It will run until June 21. The Southern Hemisphere is experiencing the fall season at this same time. Different season but yesterday was still a temporal landmark for the people there. So wherever you are, yesterday was a temporal landmark beginning a three-month chunk of time. 

That's perfect for goal setting and work planning, because temporal landmarks are points in time that give us the impression that we are starting something new and that the future is full of possibilities. They are opportunities to begin again, even if beginning again is beginning to finishing a project hanging over us, which is what I'm using my spring season for.

In addition to providing us with an opportunity to begin again and plan around a specific period of time, using what we call the four seasons as temporal landmarks might help tie our work to the natural world. For those who would like to do that.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Weekend Writer: A Couple Of Words About Workshops

I highly recommend that new writers take any writing workshops and classes that are available, affordable, and of interest to them. Writing is a craft, and very few people can learn it from just writing the same things over and over again without any thought of how the rest of the world reads and comprehends words on a page. 

However, not all workshops/classes are going to be terrific.

A case in point is the workshop (in reality a talk) I took this past week.  I thought the workshop leader was going to explain a method to help with drafting and revising. Instead, the workshop was about...Well, I would be hard put to say. This event makes my list of worst so-called workshops I've attended. 

Another Great Benefit Of Zoom

However, it was a Zoom workshop. Thus:

  • It was cheap.
  • I didn't have to get dressed up or made up.
  • I didn't have to drive hours to and from the workshop site.
  • I didn't have to find a place for lunch or decide to go without, which is always an option.
  • I hand-drafted part of this blog post while the workshop leader was talking about who knows what.
 A really crappy workshop is nowhere near as big a loss when you're taking it over Zoom versus having to drive somewhere.

What Is A Writing Workshop, Anyway?

The word "work" in "workshop" suggests some kind of "work" is going to happen during it. You're going to do something during the workshop. However, in my experience many writing workshops are in reality talks or lectures. That doesn't mean you can't benefit from them, especially if you're just starting out. Personally, I'm a fan of a good lecture, especially if the lecturer knows how to use PowerPoint.

If you've been around the workshop/conference/retreat track a few times, though, you may get to the point that you've heard a lot and don't want to hear anymore. A member of my writing group once said she was tired of conferences, she wanted to write.

If you're interested in workshops that will do more than just tell you information, look for the word "generative" in the description. The workshop leader expects the workshop to generate work. Even workshop descriptions that suggest participants bring a project they're working on often end up being for workshops that involve very little work. I've had better experiences with workshops that are described as "generative." 

Old Wine In A New Flask

Some writing workshops, as well as writing books, do not provide new ideas or techniques. They're the workshop leader's or book writer's personal application and name for techniques other people have used and written about and that are generally called something else. If you are a new writer and you haven't heard any of this before in any way, shape, or form, you may find this helpful. 

If you have been writing and studying a while and have heard of this before in a different way and perhaps are even using it, you may find this old-wine-in-a-new-flask content confusing. You may end up sitting there searching for something new that just isn't there.

A Final Point

Sometimes you just have to suck it up, because you're in a lousy workshop and move on. I, myself, will be spending some time today continuing to watch a recording of a SCBWI workshop that is good. Okay, it's really a lecture, not a workshop, but so far it's been a good one.

Movin' on.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: Understand What You're Getting Yourself Into Before You Get Started

Today's TMT was inspired by an article I read on the Medium platform

First, a little bit about my impression and understanding of Medium--The culture there is very into experience over acquired knowledge/study. It's not at all unusual to see self-help/how-to pieces that are totally based on the writer's personal and often somewhat limited experience. Think article titles along the lines of I Did _________ For __________ Days And Here's What Happened or I Made $100 Doing ________. You Can, Too. Personally, I think those kinds of things should be flipped into memoir rather than advice, but it appears that Medium has plenty of readers who don't agree with me.

Got Lots of Unfinished Projects? Here’s Why. | by Addie Page | A Different Page | Medium may have appealed to me because the author supported her experience with a professional study. I am a sucker for studies.

Essentially what author Addie Page is saying here is that making a decision about choosing a project on the basis of the end result without considering the work involved, may be a mistake. If you look at the study she cites, we're talking the difference between understanding the process involved to achieve a desired outcome versus the desirability of the outcome itself.

The Life o' Gail

Here is an example from Gail's life, something that would probably go over well at Medium: For many, many years I was interested in earning a master's degree in writing. After I had had a number of children's books published, I even got to the point of taking a graduate level essay writing course, as a first dip in the water, so to speak. It was a very good thing I did, because the reading and writing for that course took all my writing time that semester. I was unable to do anything professionally except work on that course. In order to get the master's degree, I would have had to give up any other kind of writing for however many semesters it would take me to earn the degree. I decided the process was not worth the outcome.

How To Use This Concept For Managing Writing Time

If you have the option of choosing your writing projects rather than having them assigned to you or being under a contractual obligation of some sort, really analyze what is required to get to your end result and whether or not you can reasonably expect to do it or even want to do it.

  • What are you talking about for project length?
  • Do you need research time as well as writing time?
  • Do you have other writing-related demands on your time in the immediate future, because, say, a newly published book needs promotion?
  • Do you have other writing-related demands such as teaching or conference work?
  • Do you have a day job and what can you expect that to require of you during the period you will be working on a new project?
  • Do you have family responsibilities and what can you expect those to require of you during the period you will be working on a new project?
Do all this before you get started

After you've analyzed the process you're going to need to write something, consider how much you will enjoy doing it. If you have a choice, go with the project you think you would enjoy working on the most. I'm not suggesting you go that way because life is short, live for today, smell the roses, or any of that stuff. I'm suggesting it, because if you enjoy the process for a project, you probably have a better chance of completing it. It's harder to keep plugging away at something that's an ordeal.

Having to abandon projects can be very discouraging, to say nothing of being a waste of the time you put into them. It's far better to use a little thought and planning and avoid that kind of situation.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

While You're Waiting For Me To Write Something Substantive

I have more Getting Serious About Humor posts to do, but they require a little more thought and effort than I have in me right now, because I am within weeks of finishing the first draft of a book I've been working on for four years. I truly know what that saying about horses picking up the pace when they're within sight of their barn means. It's all I want to put time and work into right now.

In the meantime, I can tell you that I've been reading Julia Child's memoir, My
Life in France 
. When I started it, I wondered when Julia would mention her cat, Minette, who got her own book in 2012 with Susanna Reich's Minette's Feast. (What happened to my copy? Je ne sais pas!) She mentioned her very early on, and Minette keeps coming up.

On a kind of related note, I've been becoming friendly on Facebook with one of my second cousins in Ottawa. I've known her mother, my first cousin once removed, I believe, for years. Yesterday she mentioned Frenglish, in which she says her family is fluent. As in she can toujour  tell when sa mere is speaking to sa tante sur le telephone, because she never uses a complete sentence dan either langue. My French est plus mauvais, so maintenant I'm thinking peut-etre Frenglish should be my goal.

However, there is something else called Franglais, and if you scroll down on this article, you'll see it's not the same as what is spoken in Canada, presumably the Frenglish of which ma cousine spoke.

I may be becoming more confused. I should just go back to working on that livre.

Saturday, March 04, 2023

I Loved Tipper: Another Humor Piece Published

I was a big fan of E. Lockhart's Family of Liars when I read it last year. I particularly liked one character, Tipper Taft Sinclair. 

"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. "

Ron Lach on Pexels
Now being so attracted to a secondary adult character in a YA novel is what you might call incongruous--contrary to expectations. I find incongruity funny. And, sure enough, that lead me to write a humor piece on the glorious Tipper.

Five Goodreads Stars Because Tipper Taft Sinclair Is A Freaking Goddess! was published yesterday at Greener Pastures.