Friday, April 12, 2024

Friday Done List April 12

Well, this was an interesting week, what with a solar eclipse and some interesting responses to my most recent publication. 

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor

  • I had a new humor piece published at Frazzled
  • I did some marketing of said piece.
  • I wrote some careful responses to readers who left ugly, even vulgar comments about said piece. Though I did kind of like being called an anti-male feminist. 
  • I wrote more than a page on the short story! 

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road To Agents

  • Made another submission!

Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Three blog posts counting this one.
  • Promoting two of those blog posts.
  • Promoting the new humor piece
  • Reading an arc of another author's book.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Some Annotated Reading April 11

A book finished--Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes. I read this because it was described as science fiction with humor, and, of course, I have an unsold science fiction with humor manuscript, because I have all kinds of unsold manuscripts. Chilling Effect is another good example of humor supporting story. I had a little trouble getting into it, because it seemed a little formulaic light scifi/adventure/romance, except with a female Cuban main character. Well, it turns out I like formulaic light scifi/adventure/romance, and I liked this female Cuban main character. This is the first of a trilogy, and I'll read at least the next one, if I don't get distracted by other things. I read an ebook edition of Chilling Effect on my iPad, and at about the halfway point, I started looking up the main character's Spanish asides, which were almost always cursing. If I read the other books as ebooks, I'll start looking up the Spanish from the beginning. I have books on cursing in French, which I would now like to look at again. So much to read, so little time.

To Keep My Brother Alive, I Will Fly 7,500 Miles by Dipika Mikherjee at The Los Angeles Review of Books. I read this moving piece, because the author was the leader at a workshop I took last week and liked.

I had a good solar eclipse experience on Monday (who didn't?) even though we only got 90 something percent sun coverage and the six-year-old and I were both disappointed that it didn't get darker in the yard where we were grazing on a table full of snacks. The temp dropped, though, which was interesting. Anyway, that was part of what led me to read Watching the Eclipse From the Highest Mountain in Vermont by Nick Paumgarten at The New Yorker. The other part of the reason I read it is that while I don't ski and haven't been on Mt. Mansfield, I do go to Stowe every year for our personal retreat week. I found this piece so lovely with just the kind of tone I like that I'll probably not read any more eclipse memoirs. I will probably continue to look at pictures, though. 


Things That Shook Me More Than That Earthquake by Aarushi at The Belladonna Comedy I liked this. Plus I admire anyone who can write this quickly about a current event. I think I've heard of a workshop coming up somewhere on doing that. Hmm.

Please Remember You Can Talk to Me, Your Mom, About Anything, Anytime, in These Specific Ways by Lily Hirsch at Frazzled.  Evidently, I just really like this writer, because I keep linking to her work. Also, we have a four-year-old family member who tried to get her brother away from me on Easter Sunday so she could tell him about some trouble she got into without me hearing her, because she already knows I'm a hardass. She's not telling me about anything, anytime, in any specific way. And, you know, I can live with that.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Another Story Behind The Story

I had a new humor piece published yesterday at Frazzled. As with many of my humor pieces, What We All Want To Say to the Grandfathers at the Playground has a backstory.

Tom Barrett on Unsplash

Last year I spent a couple of afternoons alone at a popular town playground with a kindergartener who had a half day of school. Great times, great times. On one of those visits I witnessed an older man yelling at a child who did not appear to be his family member. The old guy moved off, and I saw a woman holding a little boy in a Spiderman costume who was sobbing. Okay, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the kid just happened to have a sad thought at the same moment a stranger was shouting. Nonetheless, I stuck to my kid like a leech the rest of the time we were there, prepared to take care of that guy if he came near my boy. 

Then the guy actually spoke to me! As we were discussing leaving, I told my little guy that I had cupcakes in the car. (Because I did! Honest to God, I had cupcakes in the car!)  Lo and behold, the guy and his child companion were walking along beside us, he heard me, and said, "Yeah, good luck with that." I am ashamed to say that I just laughed and hauled our butts out of there. I should have said something like, "I don't need luck, sir. I have cupcakes. You should try it. Also, I don't yell at other people's kids unless they're about to run into the street, but that's just me." 

Yes, cupcakes do appear in this humor piece.

This whole thing happened close to a year ago. I have been enraged ever since. I like to think of myself as being too zenny to hold a grudge, but...maybe.

I finally started putting together things to say to guys like him as a humor piece, because I wanted to have something I could submit while I was feeling down about the short story I've been working on for months and not finishing. So that worked, anyway.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Friday Done List April 5

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor

  • Received a rejection on a humor piece. I kid you not, I've submitted so many times to that place that the editor and I are on a first-name basis. I may have mentioned that before. 
  • Resubmitted the humor piece. It was accepted and will be published next week.
  • Attended a workshop/presentation on travel writing, because I'm traveling this fall. The workshop was quite decent, but now I have so much travel reading I should be doing.
  • Worked on that short story. It seems as if I'm so close to being done.

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road To Agents

  • Made one submission.
  • Made a note to myself to check out a literary agency that I thought only represented children's work, but I was wrong.
Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Four blog posts counting this one.
  • Marketed one of those posts on Facebook. Will also market it on Twitter and Goodreads.
  • Reading two arcs in hopes of being able to support the writers. These are digital arcs, and they aren't great for reading on a treadmill or stationary bike. I can't increase the size of the text.
  • One of those arcs could end up being a reading arc for Time Management Tuesday here at the blog.
Goal 4. 19th century novel, which is totally just for fun.
  • Did a little bit on a third draft of a first chapter.

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Some Annotated Reading April 4

This is two weeks worth of reading, because I was a lazy blogger last week.

The Poet Laureate Project 

I read some Robert Penn Warren, who was both our third poetry consultant (the precursor to the poet laureate position) and, a couple of decades later, our first poet laureate. I read his novel, All the King's Men, when I was a teenager and felt I'd done some grown-up reading. I wasn't even aware he was a poet until a couple of weeks ago. And he is a poet I find accessible. I particularly like Tell Me a Story and True Love.  

The Francophonie Project

I managed to finish reading Menuet by Guy de Maupassant. It is about a man who meets an elderly dance instructor and his elderly wife, a dancer. Or it may be about something deeper regarding the narrator. Reading this raised a lot of questions for me about how we judge short stories now and how short stories from the past relate to that. Which is interesting, because what reading this in French and English was supposed to do was improve my French. Francophonie Month is over now, so I can put this book back on my To Be Read Shelf, where it has been for years.

Some Serious Cultural Reading

The Rise and Fall of the Trad Wife by Sophie Elmhirst at The New Yorker. This was enlightening. The woman who was the main focus of this article was interested in the trad wife lifestyle, because she was into nostalgia. If that's the attraction for others, too, then that makes some sense. I, personally, think nostalgia of most--nah, of all--kinds is dangerous, but, again, nostalgia would provide an explanation for what's going on here. What I still don't understand is why women who choose to live this way want to tell the world about it. My guess is that they are hoping to monetize a blog or attract a big following so they can sell them a book. But that isn't exactly what we think of as trad wife behavior, is it? And why did they choose the trad wife lifestyle to try to make money off from? Why did they think people would "buy" that? Yes, I know some of them were right. But, still, where did this come from?


We Are Unable To Offer You A Place At Yale Because Your Essay Read Like The Closing Narration Of A Teen Rom-Com by Amelia Tait at McSweeney's. I still feel a need to read things with childlit/YA connections.

When a Recipe Says It's "Quick and Easy" by Jiji Lee and Patrick Clair at McSweeney's. I wish I'd thought of this.

Listen, Cat: I'm Not the Out-of-Control Infant You Once Knew by Nick Gregory at Points in Case. We have a cat. We have a preschooler in the family. 

Suggestions For Rebooting The Marvel Cinematic Universe From Farmer, Essayist, And Poet Wendell Berry by Jeff King at McSweeney's. Here's what you have to understand about Wendell Berry and me--Years ago, I was a member of a reading group in which there was another member who was humorless, narrow-minded, judgmental, and unpleasant. (No, I am not talking about myself.) She was a huge Wendell Berry fan and suggested we read one of his books. As a result, I know Wendell Berry's name.  But reading him? I just can't.

American Expat in France: Probably Don't Do This by Kat Garcia in The Belladonna Comedy. What I particularly liked about this is that while it appears to be a list, it is really a story.

Ten Reasons to Run That You, a Parent Who Hates Running, Can Give Your Kid Who Also Hates Running by Lily Hirsch at Frazzled. The title is a little long and awkward, but that's part of the joke, and it really does tell you exactly what this funny piece is about. 

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Gaaaaiiiiil. You've Got Some Reeeeading To Do.

Net Galley just approved me to read two arcs I requested. And I'm reading a book from Hoopla that I'll lose after 21 days, so I need to finish it up. Because it's worth finishing. I should just drop everything and read for a while, don't you think?

One Net Galley arc is for A Beginner's Guide to Starting Over. I'm going to read this in support of the author, Gabi Coatsworth, who is a Facebook friend and fellow Connecticut writer. Also, this is described as a woman's book, and I have a manuscript that I haven't found a home for and that I sometimes describe as a woman's book. I'm thinking this is a little research.

The other Net Galley arc is for Lit by Jeff Karp. I heard about this book through the author's publicist, who sent me an e-mail. I thought the book sounded like something that could become a read for Time Management Tuesday. The website talks about tapping into high energy brain states. I could use some tapping into high energy brain states here. There may also be an ADHD connection, and we have an ADHD connection in our family. ADHD is a draw for me now. Thus, I've got a couple of reasons to be interested in this.

I now have to do some reading for a workshop I'm registered for. So, you know, #amreading, as they say on X. And maybe elsewhere.

Monday, April 01, 2024

This Week Might Be Different

We have people here painting. This morning I was up, showered, and dressed by 7:20 in order to be ready before they got here. This will go on for at least two more days, maybe three.

With these kinds of hours, I may write another book this week.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Friday Done List March 29

I didn't blog this week, so I feel as if I didn't do anything at all. Give that some thought.

I could have done a reading post yesterday, because I've done a bit of reading. But I had 30 minutes to spare last night, couldn't do it in that time, and threw in the towel.

Okay. What I did do:

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor

  • Still working on that short story I keep talking about. Liking it, for what that's worth.
  • Received a rejection, the second one I've received on that particular piece of flash fiction this month. But that means nothing, right?
  • I finished a humor piece.
  • I submitted the humor piece.
  • So far this year I've been meeting my objective of submitting something every month.

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road To Agents

  • Yeah, I did nothing on that this week. Though I might have received a rejection. It's a blur.
  • Relating to book-length work: I stumbled upon an X pitch event one day this week and took part. I pitched two other manuscripts.
  • I took a workshop on creating endings for books. Not the greatest event I've been part of.
Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Well, in terms of community building, I did share a friend's Facebook post relating to an event she's taking part in next week, and I requested a book from Net Galley that the author's publicist contacted me about. So I can pat myself on the back for that, now, can't I?  I could just get a review copy of the book from the publicist, but then I would feel so much pressure to like the book and say so. However, if NetGalley turns me down, and it did at least once in the past, I may.
  • No blog posts, so, yikes.
Goal 4. 19th Century Novel, which is totally just for fun
  • I got an idea for a change in structure while at that workshop I wasn't that fond of. During the question-and-answer period, I worked on that. This may become a blog post next week.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Friday Done List March 22

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor
  • Received two rejections.
  • Resubmitted one of the rejected stories.
  • Started a humor piece.
  • Made some definite progress on the short story I've been working on for months. 
  • Signed up for OCWW workshop.
Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road To Agents
  • Received an agent rejection.
  • Did some minimal research on agents.
  • Have at least one more agent lined up to submit to.
Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Three blog posts, including this one.
  • Marketing blog posts.
  • Some promotion on Facebook of a nearby author event.
  • Considered joining a state organization, but, no. Didn't do that.
Goal 4. 19th Century Novel, which is totally just for fun
  • Read some short pieces for research.
  • Organized some of my research for this.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Some Annotated Reading March 21

Two weeks-worth of reading here.

I finished reading American Pop by Snowden Wright. As usual, I don't know what made me put this on my reading list. I suspect it was due to a blurb describing it as an "imagined history." (I paid attention to a blurb!) In places, particularly at the beginning, American Pop reads like creative nonfiction, as if the author is writing about a real family who ran a real soda empire and using fictional tools to do it. He refers to other works that are supposed to be about the family and their company. I found this incredibly intriguing. The book is not at all linear (or is it?) with sections about various family members moving back and forth in time and giving away characters' future well in advance of them reaching it, while, I just realized, not treating that future moment itself when it happens. I am an incredibly linear person, and I shouldn't have liked this. But I did. And the real ending of the book has a satisfying surprise.   

Allen Tate is the next of the poets I read in my quest to read all the American poet laureates, though he is from the day when they were called consultants in poetry. I couldn't grasp his work, I'm ashamed to say. He had a lovely voice, though, and you can hear him reciting his poem, Ode to the Confederate Dead

I am making an attempt to read a Guy de Maupassant short story, in French and English, in order to observe Francophonie month. It's not going well. I've started reading the English portion first, then the French, and I am recognizing the French better that way. Still can't tell you what the story is about. I also read a de Maupassant story in English, The Necklace. I think I read this in my youth but got it confused with The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. The Necklace is grimmer than I remember The Gift of the Magi being, though.

Substack is Both Great and Terrible for Authors by Jane Friedman at Jane Friedman led me to seek out Substack vs. Medium: A Comparison of Two Popular Publishing Platforms by Si Willmore at Memberful. These articles may become part of a blog post at some point.

I read What Everyone Gets Wrong About Picky Eaters by Betsy Andrews at Saveur, because I write about eating from time to time, so I like to read something about food from time to time. We have a number of family members with the kinds of eating issues Andrews writes about, which is what drew me to her article.


Alternative Forms Of Meditation For Parents Of Young Children by Bev Potter at Frazzled.  

Quiz: James Joyce's Editor Or Me Commenting On My Child's Homework by Amy Greenlee at Frazzled.  As if I know anything about James Joyce.

Am I Grocery Shopping or Enrolling My Kid In College? by Kate Brennan at Frazzled.

Something I Read That You Can't Without A Subscription

The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth Goes On by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker. I started this because John Wilkes Booth! You know I have no interest in Lee Harvey Oswald but something about John Wilkes Booth. I kept reading this piece because it was so good. When I finished it, I realized it was written by Jill Lepore! My favorite historian! I'm reading her history of the U.S., These Truths. I've been reading it for a while, and I'll be reading it for a while, which is fine, because it's so good.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Time Management Tuesday: Beginning Again Again

I haven't been writing about time management much here for a couple of reasons, one being that I'm not doing a good enough job managing time that I should be writing about it. But something happened Sunday that impacted how I spent my time Monday.

I got three rejections Sunday and found a fourth one in my e-mail that I'd either missed or forgotten about, because when the rejections fly fast and furious that can happen. Rejection doesn't bother me the way it does a lot of writers I see on X, who are really broken up about it. Rejection is a big part of a writer's job. If you're being rejected, you're working. Nonetheless, I wasn't ecstatic about the whole thing.

But I leaned on one of my favorite time management techniques, which is arguably not time management at all, probably an indication that I shouldn't be writing about the subject. I'm talking about beginning again. 

Which is what I did yesterday. I began again. I finished revising the portion of the short story I've been working on for months, so I'm now finally ready to continue with it. I started a new humor piece. I registered for a workshop. I checked out a publication to submit one of Sunday's rejections to. I had the best day I've had for a while. And I may have also finished a rough draft of a plan for a September car trip. That was taking forever.

Beginning again. One of my most useful tools for managing life, if not time.

Here is a repub of what may be my first begin again post. I've returned to begin again several times since then. 

November 24, 2020 Managing Chaos By Beginning Again

I was sure I'd written about "begin again" here in the Time Management Tuesday feature. It seemed like just the thing for managing chaos. But search as I would, I couldn't find anything here. So I guess I'm going to have to come up with some new original content.

Okay, if you spend any time reading about meditation, you will see the phrase "begin again." If your mind wanders while you're trying to meditate, no problem. Begin again. If you find that you're no longer in the present moment, that your mind has tiptoed off to your miserable past or your worries of the future, so what? You can begin again.

You're not a bad person because you didn't stay in meditation. You haven't failed. You're just going to begin again. Here is Joseph Goldstein explaining a very positive aspect of beginning again. In less than four minutes, people! How much do I love that? I love it a lot.

Overwhelmed By Chaos? Begin Again

Writers who've become overwhelmed by the chaos of living or at least their own kind of living and find that they are no longer on task with their work can use the same begin again thinking. Beginning to work again is important. But I think the really beneficial aspect of begin again is the lack of judgement. Judging and beating up yourself for work failures:

  • Is time consuming. Now you have to spend time ripping into yourself, time you could have spent writing.
  • Leads to the What-the-Hell Effect. When individuals become distressed about not maintaining goals, they can respond by giving up. We're lousy at what we do, anyway, so what-the-hell?  What's the point of going on with this?

Developing a begin again mindset won't keep us from finding ourselves neck deep in chaos. But it could help us get out of it.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Friday Done List March 15

Today I made three lasagnas and three batches of cookie dough, one of which I baked and...Wait. We're supposed to talk about work here.

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, and Humor

  • Finished a draft of an essay!
  • Submitted the essay.
  • The essay was accepted and published
  • Very small amount of work on a short story.
  • Considered joining a Medium Zoom event. Need to sign up for a OCWW workshop next week.

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road To Agents 

  • Did minimal research on agents for this.

Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Four blog posts
  • Marketing of blog posts 
  • Marketing of essay

Thursday, March 14, 2024

I've Written A Doughnut Essay

My second publication of the year, Confessions Of A Doughnut Eater, is what I call an eating essay. My eating essays tend to be memoirish. We could call it a doughnut memoir, inspired by my children who were both burning up our family text one weekend with news about their doughnut excursions. They inspired some of my earliest work and continue to do so. 

Interested in literature? This piece has a couple of references for you. There's one to Jane Eyre, and the title is a shoutout to Thomas de Quincey's 1821 classic Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. Everyone loves Thomas de Quincey, right?

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

March Is Francophonie Month

I first heard of Francophonie Month four years ago, when I celebrated it here at OC for a week. Oh, look! I did a round-up of my 2020 Francophonie posts

After 2020 I missed Francophonie Month for the next three years. Obviously, I need to put this in my bullet journal. That thing's getting kind of full.

Photo by Andrea Piarquadio on Pexels
Francophonie Month gives me a good opportunity/excuse to mention Useful French Phrases For Madame Keith's World Languages Class. There. I mentioned it.

I only realized today that we're in the midst of Francophonie Month, and I am grasping for how I can observe it personally. I have a couple of episodes of Monsieur Spade left to watch. I love that show, because it stars a British actor playing an American who speaks French with an American accent. I am an American who barely speaks French with an American accent! You can see the attraction. I still haven't seen the new season of Lupin, because I decided to rewatch the first seasons. I could spend the rest of the month catching up on all that, which should do something for my French, non?

But some French reading? I have French books around here I've never finished.

Lectures Pour La Jeunesse by W.F.H. Whitmarsh. It was published in 1946. I'm guessing I found it in my in-laws' house. It's a tough read for me, and it's hard to get excited about going back to it. I just found two twenty dollar bills in it. They're not old, so I must have put them there. No idea what I was thinking about with that.

French Stories, A Dual-Language Book. Edited by Wallace Fowlie. I have some hope of getting through a couple of these stories. Well, one, anyway. They include English translations.

Lire 12 Extraits de Romans de la Rentree. No idea where this came from or even what it is.

At any rate, I have the means to observe Francophonie Month. I just have to do it.

Friday, March 08, 2024

Friday Done List March 8

I missed nearly two days of work this week in order to go to a museum and hiking. On the other hand, I saw some great stuff

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor

  • Started a new eating essay. Did I finish it? No, I did not.
  • Worked on the longer and longer short story. Did I finish it? No, I did not.
  • Did listen to an hour program about short stories.

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road To Agents.

  • Watched a workshop presentation on agents that indicates that I'm doing everything right with submissions.
  • And, yet, I received three rejections this week. What does it all mean?
Goal 3. Community building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Four blog posts counting this one. 

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Some Annotated Reading March 8

I probably found Julija Sukys' (I apologize for my inability to deal with accent marks here) site through a Facebook essay group. I'd saved a link to her on my iPad, so I really don't know for sure. She says on the page I linked to that one of the writing forms that interests her is "life-writing (letters, diaries, and all kinds of archival materials)." I had never seen or heard the expression "life-writing" before, but I love it now. There is so much I could be exploring at her website. 

Someone on X was talking about My Last Duchess by Robert Browning this week, which led me to reread it. There's a little more subtle part I'd had trouble with years ago that worked for me this time. I thought this might be a narrative poem, but I've seen it called a dramatic monologue on-line.

Reading My Last Duchess reminded me that I meant to read writing by all the United States' poet laureates this year and never got past the first one. I can still do it! But not this week.

What I did read this week was some flash fiction. Candied Lemon by Grace Kennedy at Fractured Lit grabbed me with all the food mentioned in the beginning. I am not quite sure about the ending. 

New Yorker humor you probably can't read without a subscription:

  • Scenes From My Open-ish Marriage by John Kenney. It's probably just as well if you can't read this, because while I thought it was very funny this used to be a blog for childlit people and Scenes From My Open-ish Marriage is not childlit-ish.
  • I liked that John Kenney New Yorker piece so much that I found this article about him and read it. This is why it took me four years to write my last book and not eighteen months like it took him to write his first one. You can bet any amount of money that John Kenney's not spending any time looking up and reading articles about me.
  • What Blurbs Really Mean by Dana Maier and Gila Pfeffer. I've said many times here at OC that as a reader I distrust and dislike book blurbs. So, yeah, I ate this thing up. They did not go anywhere near far enough.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

There's Still Good Stuff On The Radio

Keeping it Brief: A Celebration of Short Stories on Connecticut Public Radio's Colin McEnroe Show aired yesterday afternoon but is available on-line now. I loved that it was broken into individual interviews instead of an hour-long panel or free-for-all discussion. I'm not ashamed to admit that I don't have a 60-minute attention span.

Some high points for Gail:

With Rebecca Makkai, Colin (here in Connecticut he's known as Colin) talked about why people may choose not to read short stories and why they should. Here are a couple of my own thoughts on why short stories may not go over with some readers.

  • It takes as much energy for readers to invest in characters and acclimate to a world for a short story as it does for a book. And then the short story is over. You get more for your effort if you're reading a book. To be truthful, I got this theory from my cousin.
  • Epiphanies--characters experiencing some kind of realization that changes them somehow--are a big deal in short stories. This particular reader finds that epiphanies are often so interior to the character that I don't understand them, which undermines my enjoyment of the story. 

With Amy Bloom the talk veered more to technique. She said how a short story begins is important. You only have about two paragraphs to hook the reader. 1. This seems hugely helpful. 2. I should have kown this.

The last section of the program was a discussion of a New Yorker short story, How I Became A Vet by Rivka Galchen. This was fascinating for me, because, though I have had a digital subscription to The New Yorker since last year, I never read the short stories. I don't even read that much of the humor. I like wading through years of articles. To get the whole Keeping it Brief experience, I dropped everything this afternoon and read How I Became A Vet. It's an absolutely lovely story, though I found the ending a bit epiphany-ish and didn't understand it. I think it has broken me into reading New Yorker short stories, though.

So I had an excellent radio experience that was work-related enough that I don't feel very guilty about not really working.

Monday, March 04, 2024

I Don't Mind Rejection. It's Submitting That's The Problem.

So I've been spending the first two months of the year submitting an adult manuscript to literary agents. This gives me an excellent excuse (or at least an excuse) to mention The Trick To Writing Stellar Book Submission Letters published less than a year ago at Greener Pastures Magazine

Today's agent research experience also sent me off a few minutes ago to start another humor piece about literary agents. That sounds terrific, except what I meant to write about today was doughnuts.

Friday, March 01, 2024

Friday Done List March 1


Well, I'm feeling some improvement this week.

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor

  • Far away from finishing a draft of a short piece this week. But I have started work on the short story! I had some serious thoughts about it recently that made it possible to get started again.
  • I'll be "watching" the workshop I signed up for tomorrow, because I couldn't take it live yesterday. That's the beauty of the Off Campus Writers Workshop. They send you a recording of the workshop that you can use for one week. So you can sign up for workshops you know you can't attend. Which is what I did.

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to Agents

  • Two submissions.
Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Finally finished updating the short-form writing links on my website. That took a long time to get to.
  • Three Original Content posts, including this one. 
  • Do some blog promoting this weekend. I'm doing so much this weekend.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Some Annotated Reading February 29

I managed to finish another book this week, On Earth as It is On Television by Emily Jane. Terrific book, and I now have a thought about humor in fiction. Which I may have had before, but, if so, this book really illustrates it. Humor must support story. Perhaps it is another element of fiction.

Flora Mancuniensis: The study of botany in 19th-century Manchester by Julie Ramwell is a terrific piece of historical writing. It appears at a publication on the Medium platform called Special Collections from The University of Manchester in England. This is an example of the neat things that can be done at Medium

I did some reading of time travel short stories:

  • The Men Who Murdered Mohammed by Alfred Bester in Fantasy & Science Fiction, October, 1958 pg. 118. I heard this would be funny, and it probably would have been much funnier if I had more of a science background. This was clever, though, with good narrative drive and some clever time travel stuff.
  • The Clock That Went Backwards by Edward Page Mitchell.  Scroll down. Yeah, not an exciting read. This is believed to be the first instance of a device being used for time travel. So now I can say I've read that.
  • The Man Who Walked Home by James Tiptree Jr. in Clarkesworld. This is both a time travel and post-apocalypse story, two sub-genres that I'm not fond of. But for some reason I found this pretty riveting, and it leads me to want to learn more about the author, a woman writing under a man's name.
  • And I did! The Most Prescient Science Fiction Author You Aren't Reading by Kay Steiger in Vox.

New Yorker humor you won't be able to read: Why People Who E-mailed You Aren't E-mailing You Back, By Week  by Hallie Cantor

Monday, February 26, 2024

A Childlit Connection To Oppenheimer?

I saw Oppenheimer Saturday night. Perhaps if I'd been in a theater and couldn't keep going onto my iPad to check out the historical figures in the movie and dwell on the unhappy women in Oppenheimer's life, I would have been able to follow it. 

Once the movie got to Los Alamos, I was reminded of The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. It's a very well-regarded middle grade novel from 2006 about a girl going to Los Alamos to live with her father who is working there on the Manhattan Project. 

Were librarians all over the country doing Oppenheimer themed displays last year? I know it's probably not appropriate to do a library display linking books for middle grade students to an R-rated movie, but I can't be the only person who thought of it. Or maybe I can. 

Friday, February 23, 2024

Friday Done List February 23

A week of just treading water. In fact, I wanted to go to a museum today to see an exhibit that's ending soon and gave it up out of guilt. I found out I have a free day tomorrow, though. Of course, I'm going walking.

Goal 1. Adult short stories, essays, and humor

  • Can't give up on that short story, can't move forward. Didn't write a word. Have been doing research, though. Research for a short story
  • I'm really getting into reading related to that short story, though. 

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to agents

  • Got two rejections last weekend.
  • Made two submissions.
  • Spent a lot of time reading about agents.
  • Registered for an agent workshop.

Goal 3. Community Building/Branding/General Marketing

  • Wrote 4 blog posts.
  • Promoted some of them on X.
  • Reposted one of the blog posts at Goodreads, where I also rated a book.
  • Did some more updating on the website. Could have done more on that.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Some Annotated Reading Feb. 22

Another week, another book finished. Reading, not writing or selling. How To Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann was an intriguing read for me, because it followed last week's book, The Manor House Governess, which was a modern spin on Jane Eyre. How To Be Eaten isn't a modern spin on our Jane, but on fairy tales. How bizarre is it that connection? The connection being "modern spins," in case I didn't make myself clear. (Which happens.) These fairy tales all have women main characters who feel guilty for what happened to them or are made to feel guilty. Included in the book is a section treating a Bachelor-type program as an unhappy fairy tale. I have never seen a minute of one of those shows, but I was kind of riveted to that portion of the book. And, wow, the Rumpelstiltskin section was pretty impressive.

Speaking of books I've read recently, I read The Jane Austen Society a couple of weeks ago. And guess what I stumbled upon this week?  A Jane Austen Lent.

Time Travel Science Fiction Stories Recommendations at Fit 2B Read is not reading but a terrific video about reading. Yes, I am researching time travel fiction and would really like to do it with short stories. Though I'm thinking of rereading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which is taking a risk because I liked it when I was a teenager, and sometimes rereads don't go that well for me.

The Chronic Argonauts by H.G. Wells, recommended in the video above. Mehhh. It seemed more of a Lottery by Shirley Jackson type story. And masses and masses of description. It's been a long time since I've read H.G. Wells, and I can't say I have much desire to read more now. 

A humor piece you probably can't read at The New Yorker--A Timeline of Articles About Amelia Earhart Throughout History by Sarah Hutto. The vaccination headline was my favorite.

Also humor-related--I've been watching The Daily Show for the past year. (No, never before then. Yes, it's a mystery.) Dulce Sloan is a correspondent, and I am a fan. So, of course, I read We're Not Stupid or Racist, an interview with Sloan at Salon. This woman has thoughts! And a book coming out.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Why I Didn't Work Monday, And Why Snow Tubing Isn't To Blame For My Lame Work Week

We had snow a week ago yesterday, and it's still here. Now, I'm in the south of New England, not Florida. Snow is not incapacitating here. But it isn't as common as it used to be, what with climate change and all. Last year, I didn't use my snow tube at all. And when snow does come, it usually doesn't last long. For example, hours after we left for our retreat week on a Saturday in January, our town was hit with a big snowfall. By the time we got home the next Saturday, our yard looked like spring.

Not so with this last storm, which came, as I said, a week ago yesterday. I spent a big chunk of time shoveling the day it arrived and rushed out to go snowshoeing the next morning, because you have to strike while the snow is here. This past Monday, it was still here, and I had guests over for snow tubing. 

Seriously, kids have so little experience with snow that they think you're supposed to play in it with balls.

I've been thinking that my feeling this week of not making progress with work is due to the fact that I took what was essentially a snow day Monday and now think the week is nearly over. All is lost. But in reality, it's because I have spent weeks working on a short story in a genre I know nothing about. That's a beginner's mistake.


Knowing This Makes My Life Better

In December, just before Christmas, in fact, Publishers Marketplace published in one of its Publishers Lunch mailings a guide to their deal categories. For those who don't know, Publishers Marketplace publishes brief announcements of book sales to publishing houses and describes the kind of deal the authors received, which the publishers may provide using this handy guide:

  • Nice deal $1-$49,000
  • Very nice deal $50,000-$99,000
  • Good deal $100,000-$250,000  
  • Significant deal $251,000-$499,000
  • Major deal $500,000 and up
My first thought was that back in the day when my books were selling to a publisher I got blah-blah deals! Hurray! Wish I'd known!

My second thought was Eh, I got blah-blah deals.

And my third thought was, Oh, this knowledge is going to totally change how I read Publishers Marketplace deals.

Yes, I am, as always, behind in reading the mailings I get from Publishers Marketplace

Friday, February 16, 2024

Friday Done List February 16

A distracting week: A. A snowstorm that involved a lot of snow shoveling; B. An hour and a half of snowshoeing the next day, because if there is snow in the south of New England, you have to drop everything and take advantage of it before it's gone; C. Two trips out to shop for a washer and dryer. D. Prepping for a family dinner. 


Goal 1. Adult short stories, essays, and humor.

  • Still working on that short story. It's getting long. What if I have trouble finding someone to publish it? Which, you know, could happen. Hmm. Can you self-publish e-short stories? I could look into that.
  • Submitted two pieces of flash fiction, just this morning. 
  • Did some reading in preparation for starting an essay.
Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to agents.
  • Submitted to two agents.
Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Three blog posts, counting this one. Did some promotion of one of them.
  • Will be reposting one of them at my Goodreads blog.
  • Began some updating of the website.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Some Annotated Reading February 15

This week I finished reading The Manor House Governess by C.A. Castle. It was terrific to stumble upon this after just having finished reading The Jane Austen Society, because while The Jane Austen Society was about people obsessed with Jane Austen, The Manor House Governess is about a character obsessed with Jane Eyre. In addition, Bron, the main character, is living a twenty-first century, gender-fluid Jane Eyre life. I enjoy reading "versions" of Jane Eyre, and this one is well worth the read for people like me. Though I couldn't connect all the characters and situations in Manor House to characters and situations to Jane Eyre. Which means either that I wasn't being just to Manor House and reading it for itself or I need to read Jane Eyre again. I've only read it twice, and it's been a while. Both The Jane Austen Society and The Manor House Governess made me feel I should be reading the related classics over and over again the way the characters in these books do. But how when there are so many Austen- and Eyre-related work to read?

Remember The Madwoman in the Attic Answers Letters Pleading for Her Advice that I read this week? That's what I mean by needing time for Jane Eyre-related work. 

Jon Stewart Knows "The Daily Show" Won't Save Democracy by Inkoo Kang in The New Yorker includes something interesting I'd never heard of before--claptor comedy. It's comedy that isn't used to make people laugh but to make them applaud, because you've appealed to their beliefs. So now I know that. 

A humor piece for you: Ways I Imagined I Might Die When I Was A Kid by Anthony DeThomas in Points in Case.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Getting Serious About Humor: The Value of Repetition

The Madwoman in the Attic Answers Letters Pleading for Her Advice by S. M. Strand at Jane Austen's Wastebasket is a neat piece that I think illustrates how repetition can be used with humor. Do you have to be familiar with Jane Eyre to get the joke here? Because this is Jane Eyre humor we're talking about here, in case you don't know. Take my word for it. It is.

However, I don't think you need to know that because the joke is that the Madwoman in the Attic gives the same, very inappropriate, advice to everyone who writes to her. Additionally, the author doesn't just peter off at the end like a great many Saturday Night Live sketches. She ends her piece with a variation on the, very inappropriate, advice she's been repeating over and over.

Ah, there may be a lesson for me here. Repetition may be just what a humor piece I started earlier this year needs. 

I am so glad I wrote this blog post instead of going out to shovel my driveway for the third time in six hours.

Friday, February 09, 2024

Friday Done List February 9

The really good news this week? I am well ahead of my Goodreads reading goal for this year. Also, I have this feeling that I really need to clean my desk and office again, which become chaotic so fast. If I can get that done before Monday, next week should be calming, at the very least.

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, and Humor

  • I am still working on that short story I started two weeks ago, meaning my objective for doing a rough draft a week is way, way out the door. I considered putting this short story aside, thinking I needed more information of some kind to do the mid-section. Then I came up with another idea. So I'll keep plugging on it.
  • Reread the rough draft of the humor piece I did in well under a week back in January.

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to Agents

  • I made four submissions this week.
  • I have some more agents lined up to submit to. 
  • I should probably be making these submissions in some kind of logical way, whereby I send out 7 submissions, then wait for the rejections, then make 7 more submissions. But I find it slow work researching agents, and I started this before Christmas. And it's also slow work to customize submissions for each agent. Plus my experience with agent submissions is that it really doesn't matter.
Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Did four blog posts this week, including this one.
  • Did one blog post in support of another writer, then promoted it on X. That went well. Seriously.
  • Updated my Goodreads blog for the first time in a year.
  • Came up with an idea for reposting one of my weekly OC posts on the Goodreads blog, for what that will be worth.
  • Interacted with some readers on Medium.

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Some Annotated Reading February 8

What Is The Difference Between Mystery, Suspense, and Thriller Novels?  by Tika Viteri at Book Riot. I read this, because I'm submitting a mystery novel to agents who often say they are interested in mysteries and thrillers or mysteries and suspense or mysteries, thrillers, and suspense. I found another article on the subject that went on and on--and on. Here's what I'm claiming I've learned: In a thriller, the main character is in danger. In suspense, readers know things the main character does not. Neither of these apply to the book I'm subbing. I'm going to wing it, and say it's a mystery.

I finished The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner earlier this week. It's set in a small English village after World War II with a group of people who are huge Jane Austen fans. They read her work over and over again. The book turns into a bit of a Jane Austen novel. Probably more than a bit, but it's been a while since I've read P&P, and I'm not sure which of the other books I've read and which I've seen BBC productions of. Reading The Jane Austen Society made me feel that if I had all the time in the world and wasn't always overwhelmed with so many books to read, I'd reread Jane Austen like these people did. I think of books like The Jane Austen Society as being grown-up books, which I like to read every now and then, and I do enjoy a story set in an English village.

Some Short Things I Also Enjoyed

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Getting Serious About Humor: Humor With Mystery

I must have placed Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson on my library list, because I saw it described as "witty." Being a mystery, it is fiction. My legion of readers all know that I like to analyze witty fiction.

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is similar to other humorous fiction I've read in that it is wry and clever but not what you'd call a knee-slapper. But I could see what contributed to the humor, which makes it a first with the humorous fiction I've, shall we say, studied.

Voice, tone, understatement, and structure all contribute to the humor of this book. You could say the narrator's inner life contributes to the humor. You could say there's some incongruity here, too, because how could someone like Ernest (the narrator) exist in that family? The structure, as I've already said, supports/contributes to the humor, and maybe you could argue there's something incongruitous going on with the structure. Ernest tells us he's a reliable narrator, that he will tell the truth. And he does, but in his time and not at the times the readers' expect him to. So we assume we know things, find out later we didn't, and are amused and amazed.

I did figure out some of the ending material with this book, but in a satisfying way. Which I will not get into, since I don't want to ruin anyone's reading pleasure.

This is a book that both people who like mysteries and people who don't care one way or the other should be able to enjoy.

Monday, February 05, 2024

Once Again, Sometimes Social Media Works

 I don't actually know Jolene Gutierrez, but she is a Facebook friend. Recently she posted that her book, Too Much! An Overwhelming Day (illustrated by Angel Chang) had reached a couple of milestones...200 reviews at Goodreads and100 at Amazon. Well, we have a little person in our family who can suffer from overwhelm, and probably a couple of big people, too. So I immediately got a copy on one of the ebook apps I use and gave it a look. 

It's a lovely book, without an overwhelming amount of text. Illustrations work fantastically. Speaking as someone who has a family member with some sensory issues and not others, I can easily imagine reading this with him and picking and choosing things. I may have a chance to do so next weekend.

Social Media Keeps Working

Now I've given Too Much! some attention here. I'll review it at Goodreads, and I'll do an X...whatever we call what we do at promote this blog post, which will then promote this book. And that will provide some opportunities for more people to discover Too Much!

Friday, February 02, 2024

Friday Done List February 2

Yeah, the week got away from me.

 Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor

  • Still haven't finished the rough draft of the short story I was working on last week, though I continued to work on it. This is a short story rather than a humor piece or flash fiction. I may have been unrealistic about finishing something every week, since short stories require more of me than I remembered. It was one of my December starts, so I can feel good about that at least. 
  • Had a humor piece, Useful French Phrases For Madame Keith's World Languages Class, published at Slackjaw
  • Did some reading of short-form work, mainly humor.
  • Took a workshop on the MICE Quotient, which was for novels rather than short stories, but maybe it could work. The workshop got a little murky. I'll go over this shorter explanation when I have the time. 
  • Received news that a piece of flash fiction I'd submitted to a contest didn't make it to the list of finalists.
Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to Agents
  • Made two more submissions for a total of three. Received two rejections the same morning. They are coming in fast and furious folks..
  • Found more agents to submit to. Eliminated some agents as inappropriate.
Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Spent some time promoting the humor piece at Slackjaw. Emailing friends and family, posting at Facebook, posting at X, writing a blog post. And how beneficial was that? Hmm.
  • Made four blog posts this week.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Some Annotated Reading February 1

I have a new reading project! I saw something on X relating to poet laureates, and one thought led to another, and I began a Poet Laureate reading project. Because who remembers poet laureates from the past? I don't. Or has even heard of them? I haven't. But they were somebody once and deserve to be read. So I'm going to.

First off, the exact title since 1986 has been Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. From 1937 to 1985 the title was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. But I'm going to lump them altogether as poet laureates

And the first one was Joseph Auslander

Is This The Lark! is my favorite of the Auslander poems I've read. The others, I must say, were lost on me. But this one! It ends with "To think that I should hear and know/The song that Shelley heard, and Shakespeare, long ago!"

Other reading: 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

My First Publication Of 2024.

Andrea Piarquadio on Pexels
My first publication of the year is a humor piece, Useful French Phrases For Madame Keith's World Languages Class at Slackjaw. And, of course, there is a story behind this piece, because there is always a story behind everything I write. For books there are usually multiple stories, and, sadly, I often can't remember them all because it takes me so flipping long to write books.

But I've got this one.

The Story Behind Useful French Phrases For Madame Keith's World Languages Class

I have been studying French moi-meme for years. By moi-meme I mean, really, myself, because I haven't taken a real French class or even an adult ed class in decades. J'etude de temps en temps, sometimes going years without making an effort. In fact, for the last few years studying French for me has involved watching French TV shows with English subtitles. Je me dit, "You're studying, you!" Mon objectif, because of course I have a goal, is to speak pig French, a term used by Marcel, a man I knew briefly years ago, or even rise up to franglais, which I understand is common with some of my family members in Ottawa. But let's be honest. I'll be satistifed to parle comme un couchon.

That's background. Psychological background, you might say.

Okay, last September I was on the Cape (That's Cape Cod, if you're in New England. There are other Capes, I'm sure.) and playing Monopoly with an eleven-year-old family member. The Monopoly part is important. We're chatting away (I don't care much for Monopoly so don't feel any need to concentrate while playing it), and it comes out that said eleven-year-old family member is taking a world languages class. And what is the first unit? You guessed it! French!

I'm sitting there thinking, I have someone to practice French with? Comment je dit "your turn?"  "How do I say" should probably have another verb in there, but, remember, I'm only shooting for pig French and "How I say?" is all I can manage.

So that got me thinking about kids and French and French classes. And the Monopoly game is important, because there is a section in Useful French Phrases on playing games. Our eleven-year-old is in sixth grade, but I kicked the speaker in Useful French Phrases up to seventh, thinking that would be more believable for the amount of French being used.

While I checked all the French phrases on Google (I didn't replace my last French-English dictionary when it fell apart, because I like Google so much) most of the French I used is at least familiar to me.