Thursday, September 14, 2023

Yikes! OC Is Going Dark For A Week, Maybe Two

Well, isn't that calming?
Once again, we have a family member with health problems. They are manageable problems, but problems that will require time and energy. What I've learned about time management is that there is only so much time. You can pretend all you want, but it won't change  facts. If my personal life requires some extra time and energy, I have to take it from my work life. The blog is the first place I go to now to seek needed time. 

Now that I have less work time, I'll use what I do have for real work.

And now that I've shut down the blog for a while, I feel that I have so much time for other things. Which is almost certainly a delusion, but I'm enjoying it now.

See you on the other side.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: Don't Be Fussy About Where You Find Your Writing Time

Over the weekend, I saw a post on X in which someone said she'd just read, again, about a writer who gets up at 5 AM each day to write and she knew she would never be able to do that and she just felt so despondent about writing. I felt terrible for her. I still do.

Pressures and emotional angst of all sorts come with writing. Time pressure and angst are particularly grim, because it occurs at every stage of writers' careers. Many people think they've got the time issue under control, so much so that they can throw together some ideas and get it published. This stuff is all over the Internet, magazines, and bookstores. 

You're reading some right now.

Look, You Can Find Time To Write Anywhere. Just Not A Lot Of It.

Five o'clock in the morning is not the only time to write.

How much time do people gain getting up at 5 in the morning, anyway? An hour or two before they need to shift to their nonwriting life. We're not talking Michel de Montaigne, here, who back in the sixteenth century took to the tower at his chateau and spent a couple of decades writing and rewriting some essays. We're talking a pretty small piece of time, and those of us who can't deal with the whole 5 AM thing can look for small pieces of time elsewhere in our day. 

Remember, many time management authorities suggest working in short units or segments of time, anyway, because our efficiency starts to dwindle after that. They suggest taking a break after forty-five minutes--or even twenty--and then going back to do another twenty or forty-five minutes of work. Eventually, the work done in these short spans of time adds up.

Mother-writers could serve as time models. In The Heartbreaking Ingenuity of the Mother-Writer at Literary Hub Olivia Campbell quotes author Alison Stine

"You can't be precious about writing if you have kids. You can't be fastidious or fussy. You can't always write at the cool coffee shop. I applied for a NEA grant at Burger King: They had free wifi and an indoor children's playground...I wrote my most recent novel draft during my son's remote school Zoom meetings. My first novel, Road Out Of Water, I wrote at the local skatepark, where my son belonged to the skate club."

Note that she doesn't say anything about getting up at 5 A.M. to write.

In case you don't know, by "precious" Stine means being concerned about things like the correct time to be writing. I'm going to argue that mother-writers aren't the only writers who can't be precious, fastidious, or fussy about writing at the correct time of day or in the correct place. Or anything at all.

Finding Those Short Periods Of Time

Unless we are very successful writers with plenty of income so we don't have to hold day jobs and can pay for childcare, we're going to have to squeeze writing moments out of our personal time

  • It may seem petty to plan meals in such a way that we can go grocery shopping only once a week and maybe not cook dinner every night, but, remember, all we're looking for is the one- or two-hours (or less) a day we might have gained getting up at 5 in the morning. The time lost on errands like grocery shopping, isn't just the time at the store and in the car. We lose time as we transition from whatever we were doing before we left to go grocery shopping and the transition back into work after you get back can be lengthy. For that reason, bundling errands so that you do several at a time can save you some transition time. You don't think you need to worry about transition time around errands, because you do them on your way home from a day job? Every time you avoid an afterwork errand, you're home sooner, and that increases the odds of you being able to write for a brief time later that day.
  • Do you do laundry every day so that you have to fold and take care of laundry over and over again or have to nag someone else to do it? There was a reason nineteenth century housewives had laundry and baking days. It was more time and energy efficient not to heat water and ovens over and over again. Even without boiling water and heating irons on a stove, it's always less time consuming to be doing things over and over again.
  • Practicing minimalism is a huge timesaver because we are not surrounded with masses of stuff to spend time taking care of, looking for, and sorting. 
  •  And then there is the whole mother-writer thing (see Campbell's article above or any article about mothers who write) of taking work with you. Anywhere.
  • The Campbell article, and other mother-writer articles, also refer to taking advantage of technology, writing bits and pieces on iPhones or iPads. Whatever time of day you're doing that becomes writing time.

There's Nothing Wrong With Getting Up At Five To Write...

...but if your body and mind just can't do it, it doesn't mean you can't write. You can just look for the time you need elsewhere in your day.

No, I do not know why this post has some spotty white background. It's been happening lately. You know what? I'm not going to take time to look into fixing it.

Friday, September 08, 2023

Friday Done List For September 8

Goal 2. Work On Adult Essays, Short Stories, And Humor

  • This week I had planned to look at a short story that needs to be revised. Yup, I wrote that in my bullet journal. Well, not only did I look at it, I came up with a revision plan (or a start of a revision plan) based on some feedback I got on it back in, ah, 2020. And then I started working on it this morning, which is far more than I expected to do this week! Someone is pleased with herself.
  • Did some short-form reading, as well as read an entire humorish book that I'll be writing about here, some day.
Goal 4. Submit Adult Books To Agents
  • Did a little bit of research on agents, coming up with another name to consider when I'm ready to submit 143 Canterbury Road.
  • I wrote at least 2,600 words on the book I'm not supposed to be working on because I'm not writing book-length work for a while. In my defense, I do this whenever I feel like wasting time on-line. I waste time on this, instead, which may result in something whereas wasting time reading about some freakish thing definitely will not.
  • I also collected a lot of articles, some of which I read, on historical aspects of the book I'm not supposed to be working on.
Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  •  A good week for Original Content, since I did three posts here. 
  • I promoted some of those posts at both X and Facebook.
  • Civilguy and I updated part of my website.
  • I spent a couple of minutes reading about Bluesky, since I have Facebook friends who sometimes have invitations to offer. My eyes glazethed over. The business about it involving multiple social networks sounds too complicated. That's like line 2 of any description of it and as far as I can get with reading about it.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Some Annotated Reading September 7

Finished The Guncle by Steven Rowley More to come on this.

Read all of The New One by Mike Birbiglia Also watched one of his Netflix stand-up specials. More to come on this.

The Mustache by Robert Cormier. This was part of a group of short stories listed as epiphanies, and the only one of them I've read so far. Turns out, I recognized it. I'd read it before. Here is my personal Robert Cormier story. Many years ago, I stumbled upon a website list of well-known Franco-Americans. Cormier was listed as something like "Our leading Franco-American writer." Shortly thereafter he died, and I thought, "The position of leading Franco-American writer is open!" I don't know who got it, but it wasn't me.

Hana Sushi by Anita Lo I liked this a lot. I just realized that it's about eating, something I like to write about. I read this as part of researching Smokelong Quarterly.

Kaleidescope by Lizzie Lawson  This is a supernatural story that feels normal. I think its flash format serves it well. It's complete. I don't want more.

Pin Me Pink by Lizzie Lawson  I cannot recall how I found Lizzie Lawson or thought I should read her work, but this is another piece I think works well as flash. Also, there's an incongruity here that I like that has nothing to do with it being flash.

Likely Ways I Might Appear In A True-Crime Documentary by Sara K. Runnels  Part of my New Yorker humor reading. I liked this even though I don't watch true-crime documentaries. That is an issue when you're writing humor. Will everyone get the humor or just the circle of people who know what I'm writing about? Oh, no! Sara K. Runnels has published a lot of humor and essays that I now feel compelled to read! I have to add her page to my reading list. Soon I will have so many reading links on my iPad, to say nothing of my ebooks, that I won't be able to lift it!

Yesterday afternoon I read a number of articles on Tay-Sachs Disease among French Canadians for the writing project I'm not supposed to be working on. I was falling asleep and this reading revived me, which is very odd because my understanding of the workings of DNA is extremely shallow and limited. 

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: It's Temporal Landmark Time Again

As my loyal followers know, I am very fond of temporal landmarks, distinct calendar events that stand out for us in some way and give us a feeling that we can begin something new. Holidays are temporal landmarks. Birthdays, seasons, months. We often will begin new diets or exercise programs after New Year's Day or after a holiday. November has become a temporal landmark for many writers, who use National Novel Writing Month, which occurs then, to jumpstart new books. Many writer/teachers use vacations as temporal landmarks, a time when they write. 

Last spring I wrote about trying to use a Swedish event, Gokotta, that occurs between what are two temporal landmarks, at least for them, Ascension Day and midsommer. Gokotta involves getting up early with the birds to experience nature. My plan was to get up early for that period and instead of experiencing nature, work. 

No, that didn't work for me at all. It lasted two or three days. I can't even recall what time I was getting up then or a single thing I did.

But that was then and this is now, right? I think that's a Zen saying.

Maybe Our Biggest Temporal Landmark

Waiting at bus stop, first day of school
Back in 2016, I wrote about an article in which an author argued that September had become the new New Year. Most people, it claimed, saw September, the end of the summer vacation period, as a better time for beginning new endeavors. I suggested that that might be because, at least in the U.S., we are very connected to the school year, after spending 12-to-16 years in schools, ourselves, and possibly raising another generation who will spend another 12-to-16 years doing the same thing.

Quite honestly, I hated it when my kids got to the morning torture period of their education, when they had to be up at the buttcrack of dawn to catch a bus that drove up the street before many adults living here left for work. Getting up with them was a horror show for me, and I continued to do it, right up until they graduated, even though they were old enough and capable enough to get themselves up and out of the house themselves. I felt they shouldn't have to do something I wouldn't do.

Parents dread having their kids leave for college, but they get over it in about 48 hours because once the kids are out of the house, the parents can almost certainly sleep later. Even if they have jobs, they probably don't have to get up as early for those as high school kids do for school.

Unless they're teachers, of course. Then they're slaves to the academic schedule and calendar for their entire working lives. As a graduate of a school of education, I know for a fact that no one warns you about that. 

Working With A New September Landmark

Over the years since my emancipation from the academic calendar I have loved sleeping in. Which often involved, for me, reading in bed, dozing, waking up again, looking out the window or at the ceiling, and wondering when I was going to get up. And over the years, this sleeping in lasted longer and longer.

I was losing one-and-a-half-to-two hours a day compared to when I had teenagers in the house. I definitely could feel the loss in terms of getting things done, either things related to work or to life. On days when eight o'clock came and even went and I was just dragging myself out of bed, I often felt that that day was pretty much over. I should just think about what I was going to do the next day.

Why, yes, that is what's known as the what-the-hell effect

Then this year's September temporal landmark came and had a big impact on one of our young family members who had moved up to an older kid school and now had to get up at six to catch a six-forty-five bus. And I thought, I should get up with him. Yes. Yes, yes, I can do that.

So I got up with him Thursday and Friday last week. Then the three-day weekend came, so I took that off from getting up early, because he was. And I got up with him this morning.

Three mornings! Supposedly you only have to do something for six weeks before it becomes a habit. I only have five+ weeks to go.

When I say I'm getting up with this kid, I'm speaking metaphorically. He lives in another house in another state with parents who get up with him.

What Am I Doing With This Time?

Right now my plan is to do random crap in my early morning hours. I have a lot of random crap to do in my life. So far, I've worked a lot on weeding e-mail in-baskets. Went over a credit card statement. Printed out some things that needed (and still need) to be filed. The first day I did some yoga. This morning I replied to two personal e-mails, which is a big deal because I went so long without replying to a friend's email this summer (two months) that she e-mailed me again to see if I was okay. I wrote a big chunk of this blog post. I stumbled upon an old blog post that I'm going to repost this week.

I think the random crap plan may help me stick with this new schedule, because I like doing those kinds of things, if they aren't keeping me from doing more significant work. All the random crap I do first thing in the morning is random crap I won't be doing during prime working time, whenever that is. I also think wanting to support a young family member will help the new schedule stick. Even though I'm not actually doing a single thing for him. 

Also, I'm taking weekends and school holidays off, so that should help. Can't wait for Columbus Day weekend!

Monday, September 04, 2023

Bringing Connecticut Writers To The Public

Two local not necessarily literary events included/will include local authors in examples of thinking outside the box for book promotion. They are also examples of reaching readers who don't necessarily find their books through the traditional bookstore and library route.

Book At A Porchfest

One group of porchfest musicians

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a porchfest in Wethersfield, Connecticut. What is a porchfest, you may ask? I certainly did.  A porchfest is an annual event involving musicians performing on porches. They began in Ithaca, New York in 2007 and are now held across the U.S. and Canada. I've heard of a couple more in the last couple of weeks, before which time, I'd never heard of one at all.

The porchfest we attended was along a main street and the musicians were set up in front of stores and restaurants, creating a porchlike atmosphere, and performing at different times. Big variety of types of music. This porchfest also had businesses and artisans set up in the street, which had been closed to foot traffic. 

P. Jo Anne Burgh
Among the people with booths was author P. Jo Anne Burgh, author of State v. Claus and the upcoming Becoming Mrs. Claus. She had a great set-up and exhibited calm in a situation in which I rarely am. 

An interesting part of the Jo Anne/Porchfest/Gail story: She posted at a Connecticut Authors Facebook group we both belong to that she would be at Porchfest Wethersfield. I didn't know her, and I hadn't heard of this porchfest thing, though I live maybe 20 to 30 minutes away from where it was being held. I googled Porchfest Wethersfield and decided I wanted to go. I met Jo Anne, bought her book, had a great morning, have been talking about porchfests with family members ever since.

My point being, this is an example of social media marketing working. I don't know that it works as well or as often as the publishing world hoped when it latched onto it. I don't know that it works in big ways very often. Book titles going viral are probably pretty rare, and I don't know that viral Internet attention for a book necessarily leads to big sales. But I do believe it works in small ways like this.

An Author Stage At An Arts & Crafts Show

Next weekend, the River Bend Bookshop in Glastonbury, Connecticut is holding its Author Stage, which it has been doing for at least a couple of years, at the Glastonbury Arts' On The Green Arts & Crafts Show, which has been happening for a while, too. This features both adult and children's authors over multiple genres. 

A lot of authors over 2 days
Once again, I found out about this in interesting ways. Facebook friend (one I've actually met in the flesh) Stacy DeKeyser will be appearing and has posted about it on Facebook. I'm also on the River Bend Bookshop email list and have been notified that way. To be honest, I'm usually 6 to 8 weeks late reading the local weekly paper that would probably carry information on this. 

Give some thought to how information is spread these days and how you can hook yourself up with groups to make sure you get the kind of information you want. Being members of the "right groups" doesn't mean what it used to mean. Now it means getting access to their information.


Saturday, September 02, 2023

Friday Done List For September 1


Goal 2. Work On Adult Essays, Short Stories, And Humor.

  • I submitted the humor piece that was rejected last Friday to a publication that is a definite reach for me. They have a long turnaround time for getting back with acceptances/rejection. So I won't have to do anything with that piece for a while!
  • Then I found a new for me publication at Medium that had the potential to get more attention for things published there. I had to request permission to be added as a writer, then I submitted the second piece that was rejected last week. They accepted it and...nobody is reading it!
  • Did some essay and humor reading
  • Watched a couple of videos on publishing at Medium and got the names of some more publications I'm interested in looking into.

Goal 4. Submit Adult Books To Agents

  • Received a rejection from an agent on Good Women. She said she hoped I'd submit something else to her soon. I am that as a win, even though she rejected something from me back in 2017 and said something similar. But that was a win then, too, right? Because obviously she's not saying that to everybody.
  • Found a few agent names to look into when I'm ready to submit 143 Canterbury Road.
Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Attended a Porchfest, because a writer on Facebook said she'd be there. Met her, bought her book, did a couple of Facebook posts supporting her. Hmm. Maybe a blog post about that next week?
  • Promoted the new publication at Facebook.
  • Did a couple of blog posts, one supporting the publication at Medium, one on my reading, the goal of that being to push me to read more.
The goal of this weekly Done List is to both enhance my self-esteem, as if it needed any more enhancement, and push me to do more. The big thing I need to do more on is work on short fiction and market research for publishing that. I've done nothing with that this year.

Friday, September 01, 2023

Some Annotated Reading

This week I have been reading:

The Guncle by Steven Rowley. More to come on that when I finish.

A Peach by Any Other Name Is Just as Gross: My Terrible Fear of Fruit by Sheila Jackson at Serious Eats I'm continuing to check out Serious Eats as a potential market for my eating essays, and I was delighted to see that this one was written by someone who is not an award-winning food writer. I was also interested in this particular essay because I have a number of family members with fear of food, including fruit.

The Incredible Super Power of Flash by Dinty W. Moore at the Brevity blog. Moore, who is a big name in flash nonfiction writing, covers compression in this post, which I had heard of but forgotten about, and layering, which I hadn't heard of. I am reminded of how much work I need to do.

How-to at Medium: I read a couple of pieces by a guy giving advice on how to do well writing on the Medium platform. They were not very good. Medium is a very different writing world. Years ago, I read that there are two kinds of writers--writers who write to support themselves and publish through the New York City publishing world and writers who write to support their academic careers and publish outside the New York City publishing world. I think an argument can be made now that there is a third kind of writer, who writes and publishes on-line, where content about personal experience is king and craft takes second place. IMHO. I've also been reading up on Medium's boost program. You don't want to know.

Reading for a new project: Though I said earlier this year that I'm through with book-length projects, I'm toying with taking a shot at a mystery set in the late nineteenth century. I've read a bunch over the years. So now I'm reading up on things like attitudes toward French Canadians in the U.S. in the late nineteenth century, the craze for bicycling in the 1890s, and women's corsets. There were cycling corsets back then. Like sports bras but bigger.