Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Weekend Writer: Some On-line Workshop Opportunities For Children's Authors

 The Highlights Foundation has a number of programs coming up over the next few months. Some of them, particularly the two-night minis, are on-line. 

Thanks to Erica Verrillo for this information. She also maintains the website Publishing...And Other Forms of Insanity, where she covers writers' workshops as well as calls for submissions and other such info.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Frog And Toad Coming To A TV Screen Near You

Because I started watching The Daily Show a few months ago, I learned that Frog and Toad are coming to Apple+.  Starting tomorrow.

Just yesterday I had a Frog and Toad book in the car with me in case it was too cold for the playground trip I was going on with a kindergartener. It wasn't, but I was ready for anything with Frog and Toad

I read years ago that the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel are the finest early readers ever written. I don't know that anything has been published since then that would change that assessment.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: Maybe Using Your E-Mail Inbox As A To-Do List Isn't A Great Idea

A few years ago, I read about people using their e-mail inboxes as to-do lists. (Note that the inspiration for that 2019 post came from an article by Oliver Burkeman, whose book, Four Thousand Weeks, I would read in 2021.) I liked the idea of using my inbox as a to-do list, though that may not be what I was supposed to take from Burkeman's article. I've been using my inbox--and I have two of them, one personal, one professional--as a to-do list ever since. Oh, wait. And a third one I use for my iPhone and iPad.

What Is On My Inbox To-do Lists

I used my inbox as a to-do list/memory catch-all for anything I wanted to attend to sometime in the future. So I was always e-mailing myself notes and links from my iPhone and iPad. Recently my personal mailbox had mail from my phone or iPad to my laptop on such things as:

  • Notes or links about items I want to buy for myself or anyone in the family.
  • Links to articles and books I want to read that don't necessarily relate to work.
  • Links to sewing instructions that I have actually used and don't want to lose, because I know I'll want them again.
  • Links to recipes I want to try.


  • E-mails from every place I've ordered from, planning to delete them after the order arrived.  
  • Marketing e-mails from every bookstore I ordered from during the pandemic. (I did unsubscribe from other places.)
  • E-mails from family and friends that I want to remember to respond to.
  • E-mails from medical groups asking me to rate my experience with them.
  • E-mails from my political representatives on many levels.

In my work inbox you might find e-mails mostly from me about:

  • Ideas for my writers' journal.
  • Changes I want to make on whatever I'm working on at the time.
  • Books I want to look for.
  • Articles I want to read.
  • Authors whose work I want to look for.
  • Agents I want to look for information on.
  • Publications I want to research as possible markets for my work.

When Do You Deal With These To-Do Items, Gail?

Well, ah, hard to say. These last four years, in particular, I've been packing those inboxes with to-dos while I struggled to get through the first draft of a book I've mentioned here before. Cleaning the inboxes was the plan for the first week post-draft.

I've been doing just that--for three weeks. And I'm not done.

It just goes on and on. And I'm continuing to mail myself to-dos.

One benefit of having a few years of to-do items in the inbox is that I can't remember why I put some of them there. So those can be deleted. Some of them are outdated or I'm no longer interested. So those are deleted, too. You could say, arguably, that I saved myself time by not addressing them early when I could remember what I wanted to do with them and was still interested. 

Still, this is a lot of stuff. I am sort of enjoying going through and addressing some of these things, at least. And I have no idea how to handle email to-dos differently. Maybe this is the way to go...get to them when you can and at that point toss what no longer works for you.

That sounds like a time management technique, doesn't it?

Saturday, April 22, 2023

The Weekend Writer: But Then A Workshop You Thought Was Going To Be A Bust Provides A Lot Of Value

Last month I did a Weekend Writer post on workshops, inspired by one I'd just taken that made my all-time worst list. This past Thursday I had a very different workshop experience.

 I took a workshop on humor writing, Using Humor to Deepen Emotional Impact with Kathleen Rooney through the Off Campus Writers' Workshop. No sooner had the workshop started then I realized that I had misread the workshop description. It was about humor and poetry, something I don't write, though I became interested in prose poetry a few years ago. I've dabbled in it. Barely.

Well, the mistake was totally mine. I knew I had taken an OCWW workshop with Rooney before and decided to put aside regret about my ineptitude, live in the moment, and see what happens.

What happened was a terrific workshop with excellent use of handouts. I came away with some new knowledge of humor terms (call backs! durational humor!) and the name of a George Orwell essay that I've found on-line but haven't yet read. (Funny, But Not Vulgar. And, no, I've never thought of George Orwell as being funny, either.) There were also a couple of opportunities to write, and I came away with what I think could be the beginning of one of those prose poems I've been dabbling in. Barely.

This was a really well-planned and well-executed workshop. On top of that, it was hybrid, meaning Rooney was speaking to a live group as well as a Zoom audience. Those don't always workout seamlessly. This one did.

I am particularly hopeful about the bit of writing I did in this workshop, because back in 2021 I took that other workshop with Kathleen Rooney that I mentioned earlier. It was on writing flash fiction and nonfiction. Looking back on my notes, I see that the work I did to a writing prompt in that workshop became my essay Enough, which was published four months later at Kitchen Tales

So Weekend Writers, while sometimes we have to suck it up when we stick ourselves with a disappointing workshop, sometimes we have to keep our minds open to what a workshop can offer us.


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

National Humor Month. It's A Thing.

A few days ago, I learned through a mailing from the Thurber House that April is National Humor Month. It appears that this has been a thing since the mid-seventies, but I have missed it. April is Poetry Month. It is Earth Month. Evidently April contains multitudes.

I may have missed National Humor Month because it was founded "to heighten public awareness of the therapeutic value of humor" rather than for some reason related to humor as literature. Nonetheless, the Children's Book Council created a list of humor books this year in observance of the month, while the Princeton Public Library has a list of humorous adult books.

In the week and a half that's left of this month you can also visit humor posts here at Original Content.  A lot of the more recent ones are about my humor writing the last couple of years, but if you go back you'll find posts on other authors' books and possibly even a post or two on writing humor.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Getting Serious About Humor: More Memoir

The World's Largest Man  by Harrison Scott Key is another genuinely funny memoir. In many places, we're talking about humor in nearly every paragraph. A good work that won the Thurber Prize in 2016.

Now a big reason for my Getting Serious About Humor feature here at Original Content is to provide me with opportunities to study humor writing. So here are some thoughts:

  • The World's Largest Man reminded me of Priestdaddy, another Thurber winner, by Patricia Lockwood, in that they are both about a specific growing up experience with a specific, out-sized, over-the-top father.  Lockwood's father is a Catholic priest (yeah, read the book to see how that happened) while Key's father was a rural southern salesman. We're talking about people who are writing about the uniqueness of their young life. Arguably a lot of readers won't relate to the situation...except they are talking about fathers, and a lot of us had one whether they provided us with an unusual upbringing or not. 
  • While reading The World's Largest Man, I also thought a great deal about I'm Wearing Tunics Now by Wendi Aarons, the last book I wrote about in this series. Now, Wearing Tunics, also funny, also a memoir, seems more essay-like than Largest Man.  It also seems more outer directed than Largest Man, as if the author is reaching out to the readers who will identify with her experiences. I'm thinking of Largest Man as inner directed, as if the author is pulling readers in to his experience.

Two Different Ways A Humor Writer Could Go

So these books illustrate, I think, two different ways a humor writer could go:

  1. A book-length memoir about a specific, unusual experience/relationship. The uniqueness of the experience/relationship being the reason for the writing.
  2. A memoir made up of essays that deal with how the writer's experiences represent what was going on with other people at the time they were living them. The relatability of the experiences being the reason for the writing. 
I didn't realize I'd be doing so much reading of and thinking about memoir when I started this. But that is the humor reading that's turned up for me.

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Well, That's Done

 At 5:30 PM last Sunday afternoon, I finished a draft of a book I've been working on for four years. 143 Canterbury Road. Elevator pitch: A disgraced college student moves into a rental house, unaware that a crime committed there years ago will impact all the present-day inhabitants.

I would just like to point out that it took Julia Child eight years to write Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and she had two co-authors. And one of those co-authors started the book ten years earlier. Not that I just finished writing a cookbook.

Nor can I say that I worked on 143 Canterbury Road exclusively for four years. I started writing and publishing short humor and essays on the Medium platform during that period. I spent a lot of time last summer editing The Mother Suite, which was published at Literary Mama in December. I've made some feeble attempts to be supportive of other authors here at Original Content during that time. I've taken advantage of the great opportunities to attend Zoom workshops these last three years. Someone in the family had a baby during that time. Quite a significant number of family members had Covid during that time, which didn't really require a lot from me but was distracting. 

Still, I've been working on this freaking thing for four years, and it feels it.

Another Significant Change

Earlier this year, I said that I was going to focus on adult writing in 2023, which is what 143 Canterbury Road is. So there's a change.

Another change that should be more significant: Unless something big happens careerwise, 143 Canterbury Road will be my last novel. I will tinker with and continue to submit the five unsold book-length manuscripts I've written since before 2008, but otherwise, I'll be committing to the kinds of work I've had some limited success with during that time and try to expand on that line of work. 

But Not That Significant A Change

Writing novels is grueling--staying in the world of your story and keeping track of all the different threads that hold that world together is hugely demanding. It's not worth the effort for books that don't sell. Writing short-form work--and studying it and reading it and researching markets for it and spending time marketing published work on social media--will be as time consuming, but it will be a different type of work. 

And because it's different that's exciting.

But, first, I have to finish some clean-up work on 143. Then on to new things.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

I Like "I Like This Color!"

Copy provided by NetGalley

Publication date: May 1, 2023

 I Like This Color! by Liz Goulet Dubois is described on its cover as "A Silly Story about Listening." If you read all the way through to the last image and line, you will understand why. That last page is sort of deep. There are discussion opportunities there.

However, what I immediately loved about this book was the art aspect. I have little people in my family who are very into art and craft, and this simple graphic novel will hit the spot for them. The favorite colors thing is a big deal for my people. The mixing of colors, too. Additionally, I Like This Color! has a real storyline, which books for younger readers sometimes do not. Duck and Cluck are simple characters children could draw themselves. 

I Like This Color! is the second in the Duck and Cluck series. The series has a terrific website, designed by Liz, that includes a great activities page.

Unfortunately, Liz died last summer. She was very well known in the New England SCBWI, and our paths crossed once or twice years ago. 

I assumed I Like This Color! would be the end of her series. But after seeing both the strength of this book and the beautiful website, I wonder if there couldn't be a future for it. Did Liz leave ideas for future books? Could another author/artist write new books with Liz as the creator of the series? 

These kinds of things have been done before.

At any rate, I hope this particular book does as well as it deserves to.