Thursday, December 07, 2023

Some Annotated Reading December 7

This week's annotated reading is all short form.

Pool of Souls by Madeline Graham at Redivider   One of my favorite things about flash fiction is that it can pack an intense emotional wallop that longer works can't. Pool of Souls definitely packs a wallop.

Flash fiction sometimes gets a little mystical, which I'm not as fond of as I am intensity. We Don't Want Kids by Catherine Roberts at Flash Frog has enough intensity to offset whatever mystical thing might be going on, so I found it satisfying.

Facebook friend Sherrida Woodley just published Me and Amelia Earhart at Halfway Down the Stairs. This is not flash, but a memoirish piece and some very elegant writing. Check out the first paragraph, if nothing else. 

What Happened When the U.S. Failed to Prosecute an Insurrentionist Ex-President by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker. (I have a digital subscription this year.) I read this because I love Jill Lepore. I own two of her books, one being a big history of the United States that I carry in the car to take into any place where I might have to wait. I read it when it's someone else's turn to drive. Lepore is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, so I have a lot of reading to do. I have to admit that I got lost in all the people involved in whether or not Jefferson Davis would be prosecuted, but there was still a lot of terrific material here. I'm the kind of nonfiction reader who takes what she can take and doesn't grieve the rest.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Child Readers...Maybe Any Readers?...Of Science Fiction

This past September I came upon and flagged a 2015 Horn Book article, The Campaign for Shiny Futures by Farah Mendelsohn. I probably read it at the time it was published, because I was subscribing to Horn Book then, and I've been familiar with Mendelsohn's work for a long time. I believe we were once members of the same listserv, I may have heard her speak at a scifi/fantasy conference years ago, and I find her to be an incredibly logical and coherent thinker and writer.

In The Campaign for Shiny Futures she has fascinating things to say about child readers of science fiction, how science fiction for children has changed over the last half century, who is writing science fiction for children...I could go on.

One of the things she writes about is child readers' interest in ideas and information in science fiction, versus relationships. I am only a dabbler in reading and writing science fiction, but I wonder if this may be true of adult readers of science fiction, as well.

I was reminded of a science fiction discussion I attended at my local library years ago, back in the day when it actually sponsored literary events vs. gatherings regarding crafts and cooking. (Why, yes, I do have an ax to grind.) I don't recall what book we'd read, but I had not liked it at all. However, I was sitting in a circle with people who were leaning forward, on the edge of their seats, consumed with interest. What is going on here? I wondered.

What I realized was that those people were reading for content while I was reading for style. Did that make me just a little superficial? Or a lot?

For example, I like the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. In fact, I believe there's a new book out I'll be buying myself for Christmas. However, I can't tell you a whole lot about what's going on in those things, the technical information, or ideas. I am totally taken with Murderbot, itself. The same is probably true for any science fiction I read.  

This means, I think, that I should not be shopping for or advising any true science fiction reader of any age.

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: If The Metaphor Works...

Sometime in the last month or two, I stumbled upon Eat the Frog: Brian Tracy Explains the Truth About Frogs. Tracy is a "success expert" and has a book called...Eat that Frog, about dealing with procrastination.  The Eat the Frog concept is inspired by a Mark Twain quote. "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." To make a quite long story short, Eat the Frog involves doing your biggest and most important task first thing. And if you have two big and important tasks, you hit the biggest and most important task before the less big and important one.

Now, this seems like old wine in a new flask to me. This is not the first time I've seen advice regarding doing the biggest or the most important or the least desirable job first thing in the morning while you've got energy and impulse control, both of which peter out over the course of the day. Though I've also on at least one occasion read a suggestion to do two or three small things so the adrenaline rush of completing them encourages you to take on more.

But Eat the Frog is a metaphor. You're comparing a job you're not enthused about doing to eating a frog, another thing most of wouldn't look forward to. I believe metaphors help us. They can be like mantras. I, for instance, use "staying on task" or "on task" for actual work and for craft. I need to stay on task with a humor piece, with an essay, even a piece of fiction, to keep myself from drifting off topic or theme or losing a character's voice. "Staying on task" comes from back in the day when I was harassing young kids to do any number of things. It is a metaphor I lean on.

One could argue that everyone needs a metaphor. If eating a frog helps you with your workload, embrace it.

Monday, December 04, 2023

2023 Thurber Prize Semi-Finalists

The semi-finalists for the Turber Prize for American Humor were announced last month. I usually don't hear about these until the winner and finalists are announced, but I got an email this time! I've been trying to do some Thurber Prize reading the last couple of years, so I'll get to a few of these at some point.

Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou                   

Hysterical by Elissa Bassist

Ms. Demeanor by Elinor Lipman


The Lemon by S. E. Boyd   


Working Girls by Trixie Mattel and Katya

Friday, December 01, 2023

Friday Done List For December 1

Goal 1. Finish 143 Canterbury Road

  • Finished doing a new draft of this manuscript for National Novel Writing Month last Sunday. (Will Gail ever stop talking about that?)

Goal 2. Work on Adult Essays, Short Storis, and Humor

  • Made two submissions of a humor piece.
  • Received one rejection.
  • Began working on what I'm calling the Daily December Project, which involves just starting a new short-form piece each day. Did the first one today, December 1.
  • Filed some materials related to short work that had been floating around.

Goal 4. Submit Adult Work To Agents

  • Have been working on collecting agent names to whom I'll submit 143 Canterbury Road.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Did three blog posts (counting this one).
  • Started a fourth blog post.
  • Promoted the blog at a couple of places, which I haven't done in a long time.
  • Made a list of OCWW workshops I'm interested in taking in the next few months. Hmm. I think there's one next week.
I also cleaned my desk as a sort of between temporal landmarks purge/preparation. When you're a minimalist, it takes far less time to do that.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Some Annotated Reading November 30

True Biz by Sara Novic is one of those books that has such a long waiting list on Libby that by the time it turns up for me, I've forgotten why I placed the hold. It takes place in a boarding school for the deaf and deals with a multitude of teenage things, but, additionally, two methods of communication for the deaf, sign language or ocular implants. Interesting point: I often complain about books for the young that appear to be written to teach them something, claiming that I don't see that in adult books. This book does seem to be written to teach adult readers something, it just seemed to do it really well. Or perhaps it's just that the deaf community is something I know very little about, so being exposed to it was fascinating.

I was looking for mystery/thrillers to read and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn had been on my Kindle for some time. I bought it on sale, but because I'd seen, and liked, the movie years ago, I didn't bother to read it. I bothered this month, and it is a very good read. I rewatched the movie this past weekend. The ending of the book is much grimmer than the ending of the movie. Interesting point: Writers often read that they must have likable characters, certainly a likable main character. One of Gone Girl's main characters is unlikable and the other is a psychopath. Yet Flynn pulls it off.

So then I decided to read one of Gillian Flynn's earlier books, Dark Places. Holy Moses, it makes Gone Girl look light and fluffy. Interesting point: Talk about unlikable characters! This one has some unlikable child victims. Again, Flynn pulls it off.

Another interesting point: All three of these books use multiple points of view, something I didn't realize was used that much in adult work. With Flynn's books, in particular, you really get different voices with the different point of view characters, something I think doesn't happen a lot with YA and middle grade, in which the characters often sound alike.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: December! Still Another Temporal Landmark

You haven't been seeing much of me here, because I've been intently working on my National Novel Writing Month project, which I did, indeed, finish his past Sunday, five days early. As I've tried to make clear, I wasn't doing a traditional NaNoWriMo 50,000-word first draft. I was doing a revision of a completed manuscript that I think comes in around 80,000 words. Nonetheless, it is probably my most successful National Novel Writing Month effort.

Now, this fall I went on, and not for the first time, about the splendors of NaNoWriMo as a temporal landmark, a special occasion/calendar date(s) that mark out a period of time that's different from what came before, an event or period that creates an opportunity for a fresh start. (Paraphrasing myself there.) Damn if we don't finish the NaNoWriMo temporal landmark season then we head right into another. 

Advent/Holiday Season/End of Year

Whether you want to go all Christian and think of December as Advent or you'd prefer to think of it as the holiday season, because there is a boatload of them (the article linked to is from last year, so many of the dates aren't accurate for 2023), or just preparation for the end of the year, December makes many of us feel that it's different from what came before and most definitely different from what will come later.

Often that difference involves being overwhelmed, because even if we're not big holiday people, ourselves, our culture (capitalist culture?) loves them. Town events, school events, family events, musical events--the demands and distractions go on and on. Additionally, many day jobs may require end-of-the-year rushes, because even if the year's end isn't the end of the fiscal year, it's the end of the year. Come on, people, everyone knows that means something.

Writers In December

Writers, especially writers with day jobs or families or day jobs and families, who also have a contractual end-of-the-year writing deadline--congratulations! Though it's been a long time since I've been in this situation, I know it's going to be rough for you. I'm going to be honest and say that I don't have much advice to offer other than:

  • The only way out is through.
  • Nothing lasts forever.
  • When this is over, think about some end-of-the-year life prep you can do in the future well before December to help if this happens to you again. 
For the rest of us, December may not be a good time to start working on a new novel or that history of women who received master's degrees in the nineteenth century. It may not be a good time to decide you must get up at five every morning to write or even to write two hours a day. Taking on big things when you're strapped for time is a good way to wreck your self-esteem and wrecking your self-esteem leads to failures of impulse control and once you're impulse control is shot, well, it's going to be difficult coming back in January.

That doesn't mean you should take the month of December off, either. December is a great time to work on small things that will help us next year and additionally support our identities as writers. Such as, Gail?
  • Got a manuscript ready to submit? Researching agents takes time, but can be done in short bursts here and then. Prepare a list of agents you can submit that project to in January. 
  • Do you write short pieces? In 2021 I spent the month of December just starting 31 short story or essay a day. That was one a day. Of those 32 starts, 6 have been completed and published. I started to do the same thing last year, but only made it to 15. Hey, but 15 starts. 
  • Research for a novel or nonfiction! I love research! It's great for December, because, like researching agents, it can be done in bits and pieces whenever you can make time. 
  • Reading markets, which is another way of saying researching markets, can also be done in odds and ends of time. I'm talking about reading print and on-line journals to see if they publish the kinds of things you write and would thus be a good choice for a submission next year.
  • Cleaning your office wouldn't require a lot of mental energy from you at a time when you may not have much. At least get the filing done? Make sure you're up-to-date with keeping track of your submissions? Yes, I have some things sitting on the desk that surrounds me that I could try doing something with. 
  • Have you got craft books (by which I mean writing craft) and articles stowed away somewhere? Another task that can be worked around the end of the year chaos.
Doing one or more things like these during December would mean truly accomplishing something, not just making you feel you have. 

Additionally, these are also all examples of how writers can work every day, or nearly so, without having to enslave themselves to the write-every-day order. Because being a writer involves more than writing. Working through December can help us learn that.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Friday Done List For November 24

I have started revising the last chapter of the manuscript I'm revising for NaNoWriMo. I am so close to being able to submit some short pieces next month. And clean up my email inboxes again. (Not that I'd finished them.) And start making a list of agents to submit this to. Oh, and looking for OCWW workshops to take! Maybe I can take one next month. And get some Christmas shopping done. Oh, and blogging, of course.

There is a lot of joy to be had with being almost finished with a project.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Friday Done List For November 10

National Novel Writing Month has been going well, even though I've missed one day for family and will be missing a lot of the coming weekend. Of course, I'm not writing an entire first draft this month, I'm doing a revision, so the demands aren't as great.

Goal 1. Finish 143 Canterbury Road As An Adult Book

  • My NaNoWriMo project is a revision of this book. I am down to the last two chapters, but they may be rough. Much of the earlier part of the book had gone through four drafts. These last two chapters had gone through only one. The last chapter, in particular, needs a lot of work. I'm waiting until next week.

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

  • Got a rejection this week!

Friday, November 03, 2023

Friday Done List For November 3

National Novel Writing Month started three days ago. Since then I've been staying focused/on task with one project. 

Goal 1. Finish 143 Canterbury Road As An Adult Book

  • This was finished earlier in the year. I'm doing what I call a "tonal" revision for National Novel Writing Month. In three days, I've completed maybe a third of the job. This makes me hopeful that I'll finish by the end of the month. However, I have a number of family things coming up this month. Also, it has been my experience that everything takes more time than I think it will.

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

  • I made a submission to Smokelong Quarterly at the beginning of the week before starting NaNoWriMo. I don't expect to do any more on this goal this month.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding. 

  • Four blog posts, counting this one.
  • Attended Musings & Movement yesterday, a monthly Zoom program. This is the second time I've attended. I can't say I have done any community building there, but attending makes me feel one with other writers. Both times I've also come away with some creative ideas.
  • Did a couple of Goodreads reviews. My main interest with Goodreads is keeping track of my reading. If any community building or marketing happens, that's fine.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Getting Serious About Writing Humor: Maybe Writers Of Adult Work Just Shouldn't Write For Children

Today I'm writing about another humor fail that shall remain nameless, because I just can't come up with anything good to say about it. It was written by someone who writes adult humor, and it's supposed to be a humorous middle grade novel.

  • First and foremost: Humor in children's fiction is just like humor in adult fiction--it should come out of the situations you're dealing with. It should be wholistic and natural and never heavy-handed and obvious like a lesson. And don't think you don't have to really be funny, because you're writing for kids. Don't think kids love jokes and one-liners and you can just salt a novel with them. That comes off awkwardly. It stops narrative flow. Narrative flow always matters.
  • Please don't try to use humor to teach kids something. Using children's fiction to teach is very common in books written by people who have been writing for adults and have little knowledge of children's books. I am repeating myself here, but teaching is a teacher's job, not a writer's. A writer's job is to create a world child readers will want to be part of for the time it takes them to read it, with a coherent story that is supported by every word they write. It's not to change these readers lives with a lesson so heavy-handed a minister wouldn't touch it. A good story may open up readers' minds to something new, but it rarely happens because a writer set out to use fiction to teach kids about climate change or not to be bullies or how to be good friends.  

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: NaNoWriMo Material You Can Use Any Time Of The Year

Last week I discussed National Novel Writing Month as a temporal landmark. This temporal landmark is starting tomorrow, so I'm talking about it again today.

I stumbled upon editor Payton Hayes's free printable materials for NaNoWriMo. I have used forms similar to some of hers while starting my last few books. I think some type of formal
format like these is hugely helpful for those of us who are organic writers (I spit on the term "pantser") rather than plotters. Organic writers have difficulty separating plot from the whole of their story and therefore have to think about the entire story/organism at once. Formally working on characters, theme, and point-of-view before starting can help generate plot. It's a way of backing into plot.  

Admit it, some of you are thinking, Oh, NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and you're telling me about this now? Thanks a lot, Gail.

Use these things any time you're starting a book, no matter what time of year!

You're welcome.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Weekend Writer: Some Great Writing Ideas Even If You Haven't Been Rejected Yet

Karen Jones, a flash writer and editor at New Flash Fiction Review has a terrific craft piece in its State of the Art Column called  Why You Might Not Have Placed That Brilliant Story (aka READ THE GUIDELINES). By terrific, I mean it's full of good stuff about writing even if you haven't been trying to get something published and not getting there with it. 

It's short and to the point and filled with things writers should be considering well before they start to submit.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Friday Done List For October 27


I didn't do a great deal this work, but what I did was significant.

Goal 2. Work on Adult Short Stories, Essays, and Humor

  • Submitted Some Thoughts on Your 800-Page Manuscript About a Couple of Bad Marriages to Jane Austen's Wastebasket.
  • Had the above accepted for publication.
  • Spent a couple of hours working on an improved illustration for the piece. The editor planned to submit Some Thoughts for Medium's boost program, and the quality of illustrations is a big factor in whether or not articles are accepted. It was two hours very well spent, because the humor piece was accepted, and I've been seeing a good respone as a result. Thank you JAW.
Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

Goal 6. A New Project

  • Collected at least one new article for researching this.
  • Received a book this past week for researching this project.
  • Note, I haven't read this stuff, just collected or received it.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

A Thought On My Most Recent Humor Publication: Be Specific

It would be tough to be George Eliot today.
Today Jane Austen's Wastebasket, a humor site on the Medium platform that features literary humor,  published my piece Some Thoughts Regarding Your 800-page Submission About a Couple of Bad Marriages: An internet editor's notes to George Eliot on Middlemarch. I like to think that over the last few years, while I've been writing what I call short-form humor, I've learned a little bit about how to do it. I can tell you exactly what I learned while writing Some Thoughts Regarding Your 800-page Submission

Though George Eliot and Middlemarch feature prominently in the subtitle to this bit of writing, they were not part of the original idea. What I was first interested in writing about was readers (primarily this reader?) becoming very taken with shorter types of writing. This is probably a result of many of us doing a lot of our reading on-line. Medium and other sites categorize the articles they publish by the number of minutes it takes to read them. And I do find myself using that information to make decisions about how much time and energy I want to commit to reading about various topics or titles. 

Thus, I thought it would be funny to write about readers' willingness to read 10 minutes about X or 6 minutes about Y, but no way would they read more than 4 minutes about Z. And will anyone be willing to spend more than 20 minutes reading about anything?

Be Specific

Humor, I find, is a lot easier to write once you're found an angle. This might be the equivalent of voice, in fiction. Point-of-view characters are far easier to write once you have a voice for them. 

Early on, I was having trouble coming up with an angle for what I was calling my timed reading piece. Because that's what it was about, remember. Timed reading. There was no George Eliot.

Then I read somewhere to make humor specific. Stay away from generalizations. If you watch standup acts, comics don't talk about "boyfriends" as a generalized subject. They talk about their boyfriends. They don't talk about "travel." They talk about their awful trip to Niagara Falls. And to be more specific, they may add who they were traveling with. And when.

I needed to come up with something specific to use in my timed writing piece. Since I am a big fan of the incongruity theory of humor, I began thinking about the incongruity involved with short internet writing and nineteenth-century novels, which are notorious for being long. Since I'd just read about being specific with humor writing, I needed a specific, long nineteenth-century novel. I went with George Eliot's Middlemarch, because I've read it. 

Yes, I've read Middlemarch. Years ago. For a book club I belonged to. I was recovering from surgery, so I couldn't go anywhere. I have a vague recollection of unhappily married people. Don't anyone ask me any questions about it.

My favorite nineteenth century book is Jane Eyre, not Middlemarch. I went specifically with Middlemarch instead of Jane Eyre, because Middlemarch is longer. It would make the incongruity humor I was going for work better.

Middlemarch, specifically, would make the incongruity humor I was going for work better.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: The Ultimate Temporal Landmark For Writers...NaNoWriMo!

The Off Campus Writers' Workshop in Chicago publishes an on-line column, About Write, on writing-related material. The most recent offering, by Susan Bearman, is  National Novel Writing Month: you should give NaNoWriMo a go   Sadly, I didn't give National Novel Writing Month a thought until I saw this article. Once I did give it a thought, I realized that I could use this temporal landmark this year.

Remember, temporal landmarks are special occasions and calendar dates that mark out a period of time that's different from what came before and creates an opportunity for a fresh start. For hundreds of thousands of writers over a number of years now, National Novel Writing Month has become that special occasion and calendar date that creates opportunities for starting to write a new book.

Or, you can become a rogue writer, as Susan describes herself, and use the NaNoWriMo period to write something other than a novel. She'll be working on short stories. I'm going to be going rogue, too, and working on what I'm calling a "tonal revision" of a book-length work I finished earlier this year. My plan at that time was to put the manuscript away for a while and then work on heightening intensity all the way through the book and revise the last chapter. But when? Time was passing. Then Susan Bearman reminded me that NaNoWriMo is coming up. And I immediately assigned that job to that month.   

While I'm a little late with this, I'm going to share that I have a number of blog posts on preparing for National Novel Writing Month. The more work you have done on the various elements of your story--characters, plot, setting, theme, voice--the easier it will be to get down to real work. I actually had the good luck last week to take a workshop that relates to next month's work. I'm also doing practical life prep--getting ahead on cooking. I do quite a bit of cooking but will be doing less next month.

Susan Bearman's article is not about prepping for NaNoWriMo but on encouraging people to try it at all. One of her reasons involves building writing community. I'm interested in paying attention to that next month. I'm shifting my writing interests from children's lit to short-form writing for adults. Dipping my foot into other communities would be a good idea for me.

 I'm also being careful about how I frame NaNoWriMo preparation. It was probably October 16th or 17th when I realized I could be doing NaNoWriMo this year. Instead of allowing myself to think that this was out of the question for me because an important planning month was half over, I thought that I had half a month to plan.

Today we have seven days left to plan. I'm going to submit two short-form manuscripts to editors and maybe rough out a few blog posts before the 31st. And then, of course, I'm going to do more cooking. 

Friday, October 20, 2023

Friday Done List For October 20

First off, I just want to say that I've worked maybe three or four hours this week on cleaning up my   email in-box for just one of my three inboxes. No, I am not done. Not sure what goal that addresses. 

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

  • I finished revising the short story I mentioned the last time I did one of these posts, back on September 8.
  • Did some research on places to submit the aforementioned short story.
  • Received a rejection. I also received a rejection last week. Yes, I am bragging.

Goal 4. Submit Adult Books To Agents

  • Have a list started on new agents to research for a round of submissions on a new book.
  • Received a rejection a few weeks ago from an agent on another book. Yes, I am bragging
Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Did two blog posts. Three counting this one.
  • Marketed those blog posts on social media.
  • Have some blog posts planned/started for next week.
  • Attended a Zoom workshop.
New Goal 6. A New Book Project
  • I don't want to say much about this, because I planned to give up novel writing and concentrate on shortform writing this year. It's historical. I'm enjoying spending a lot of time on shallow research. I don't have a blueprint. I have two chapters that I still keep tinkering with. 
  • I'm hoping to get deeply involved with other things so I leave this project alone. 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

How Can I Keep From Singing Zoom's Praises?

Let's all pause so I can rave once again about how much I love Zoom workshops. At around 9:40 this morning, we decided we weren't going to do a hiking day. I raced down the hall to my laptop and registered for this morning's workshop with the Off Campus Writers' Workshop in Chicago. It was being held at 9:30 their time, 10:30 mine. It ended up being an excellent workshop led by Suzanna Calkins on a subject I can use next month.

You cannot turn on a dime like that and get to a workshop half a country away that's starting in 50 minutes without Zoom. Also, because I joined the OCWW this year, this morning's workshop only cost me $10.

I don't know if I'll ever get over being amazed by things like this.

But that's not all!

After attending a two-and-a-half hour workshop--from Chicago, remember--we made another last-minute decision to do a one-hour walk this afternoon around a reservoir in eastern Connecticut. Not just any walk, a beautiful walk.

Look at these phragmites! We've never happened to see them at this time of year. Yes, they are an invasive species here that is destroying the native cat tails. But, man, I can't deny these were pretty spectacular looking.

As great as this walk was, it was better because I'd been to a workshop--and a good one--just a few hours before. How can I not love the technology that made this possible?

Then I got a rejection late in the afternoon. But that's how you know you're working, right?

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: Manage Energy Instead Of Time

What I thought was going to be a one- or two-week break ended up lasting a month. This could have gone better. Or maybe it couldn't have.

At any rate, I am back at what passes for work for me. Sunday I went back to  attempting to rise for the day on a middle-school student schedule. I am feeling great joy at beginning the purge of my email inboxes each day at seven. Those boxes are a mess, because this past month I just didn't have the energy to do the skimming I needed to do each day or make the decisions I needed to make in order to deal with them.

It wasn't just a matter of not having the time. My energy was going elsewhere. 

The Difference Between Managing Energy And Managing Time

Last month I stumbled upon a Medium article by Kim Witten called Stop Trying To Manage Your Time: Do This Instead. Sadly, you won't be able to read her entire article, because Medium is no longer allowing three free reads per month. In the interests of staying on task, I'll spare you my thoughts on that subject. Nonetheless, Witten's article was very thought-provoking for me, and if you're part of Medium, anyway, give it a look.

By the way, you can also google "manage energy instead of time" and find other articles about the concept. Many of them advise doing things we've heard before--working in forty-five minute unit/segments of time, deep work, etc. 

Witten, though, very simply describes managing energy instead of time as responding more to the internal "I'm tired" signals over the external clock and calendar signals.

Personally, I think we often end up responding to internal signals over external clock and calendar signals whether we want to or not. There often comes a point where we don't have any choice. The energy is just not there. It's gone.

Small Energy Adjustments

Witten suggests a number of small things to do to help with energy, but something significant they all involve is being aware of your energy in the first place. Being aware that energy matters, not just time, creates a whole new mindset about work. As soon as you recognize and accept that, you can probably start picking up on small energy savers on your own--when to do high energy tasks versus low energy tasks, for instance. This past summer, I began starting to make dinner early in the day, leaving the end of the day for reading, something that required less physical energy but is necessary for me professionally. I thought I was managing my time, but I was managing my energy.

Larger Energy Adjustments

Treating to-do lists as menus: My second big takeaway from Witten's article, after the whole concept of managing energy, was using to-do lists as menus. She suggests looking at your list and being realistic about what you can actually do in a day.

Having just come off an energy-draining month, I'd even go further and suggest choosing tasks on the basis of the energy you have. If you want to plan ahead a little more, you could try predicting which tasks will require the most energy and when you think you're likely to have the energy required for them. Recognize your low energy times and save lower energy tasks for then. Witten has a chart to help you do this, assuming you can access enough of her article to find it.

As an example of working a low-energy time for all it's worth, I don't have that much energy when I get up on that middle school student schedule I mentioned earlier. Which is why I've been cleaning email boxes first thing in the morning. I rather enjoy doing that then and knowing that I'm freeing up better time later in the day for doing harder work. If I ever get my email in order, I could use that time for short-form professional reading, something I have trouble getting to.

I am probably attracted to this menu analogy because the main organizing element for my bullet journal is the week, not days and months, which is what are traditionally used. The only things I assign to days are appointments, workshops I'm attending, and things I'm doing away from home. Otherwise, I just keep slogging away at the week's tasks, noting with a slash that I've worked on something even if I haven't finished it until I get to the point when I can cross it off my week's list. In the future, I'm going to be thinking about whether or not I can stop the "slogging away" business and try using energy levels to determine what I work on. Could that eventually mean getting more done?

Situational energy management: For eleven years, I've been writing here about situational time management, how we can't expect to manage our time the same way throughout our lives. The situations we're living through--pressure from day jobs, no day job, children, no children, children out of the house, ill family members--have a huge impact on how we manage our time.

Our situations also have a huge impact on our energy. We have to think about our energy situationally, too. During X part of the year, I have to manage my energy this way. During Y part of the year, I have to manage it another.

I'm going to be thinking about managing energy a lot in the future, which means you may be seeing more about it here.

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.