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.

Monday, January 29, 2024

2023 Alex Awards

It came to my attention very recently that the ALA Awards have been announced. You know, Newbery, Caldecott, yada yada. The award I'm always most interested in is the Alex Awards, which is a list of adult books that are considered to be of special interest to teen readers.  I often find some decent reading there, and lo' and behold, this year I have already read two of the Alex winners.

True Biz by Sara Novic I actually mentioned here in an annotated reading post. I liked it, and so did my sister, who read it with her book club.

The other book I read was The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi. I reviewed it on Goodreads. I cannot figure out how to link to my review, so I'll just reprint it here:

"I like scifi that overlaps with another genre. The Kaiju Preservation Society is both scifi and thriller. It's also very witty without undermining other elements. On top of all that, there's pop culture references, including a big one, and an everyman protagonist. Lots to like here."  I hate the star system, but I gave it 5, so I'll pass that info on.

I don't know what the criteria are for the Alex Awards. True Biz has some significant YA characters. Kaiju Preservation Society doesn't (or I don't recall any). It may just be an entertaining book that transcends age groups. 

I'll try to go through the rest of the list when I have time and see if there's anything else I want to read.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Friday Done List January 26

Not as happy with myself this week. But...hey...life progress was made. Accept what you get and don't object.

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, and Humor

  • I did not finish a rough draft this week, though I have been working on a short story regularly. Since it is a short story and not flash fiction, I am accepting that it is taking more than a week to finish it. This story involves a little historical research. In addition to reading about men's drawers in the nineteenth century, I found a battle during the First Boer War that I can use. 
  • Received a publication date for the humor piece that was accepted last week--next Tuesday.
  • Will sign up for another workshop later today after I've done a few other things. 
Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to Agents
  • Finished the submission letter.
  • Refined my list of agents. Have more to do on that. This is a rough part of submitting--finding agents who represent what you wrote, sell a few books (and that's all some agents do), and are open to submissions. 
  • Made one submission. Huzzah!
  • Was making another submission when the Query Manager form announces it wants a synopsis. An honest-to-God synopsis, not the mini-synopsis in my cover letter. Being a relatively normal human being, I hate making synopses. It was 2:30 when I saw this. So, yes, that will be in my bullet journal for next week.
Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Did 3 blog posts this week (counting this one), started another, got an idea for another.
  • Provided some social media support for other writers by promoting yesterday's blog post regarding my reading. 
  • The action above was a multiplier, because it also met the objective to promote my own blog posts. Which makes me feel better about how much time it took.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Some Annotated Reading January 25

I don't usually care for one sentence pieces, even flash, but No Dead Bodies in the Dining Room by Kathryn LeMon at Flash Frog is pretty amazing.

The Wedding Photo by Megan Catana at Midway is kind of chilling.

With Whisk in Hand, I Celebrate New Love by Elinor Lipman at The Ethel. Still feeding my Elinor Lipman interest

Believe it or not, this past week I read a couple of pieces on men's underwear in the nineteenth century. This wasn't just lurid interest. I have a couple of things I'm working on set in that period.

Among the humor pieces I read this week:

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Some Hybrid Workshops From Thurber House

Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio is offering a number of hybrid-workshops this spring with reasonable prices. I've taken a hybrid-workshop with Jen Knox in the past and believe I was happy with it.

What I am not happy about is that when I looked to see if I had, indeed, taken a workshop with Jen Knox, I realized that I had foolishly tried to maintain two systems for keeping track of workshop notes and materials, for very logical reasons, and, yes, I had gotten them confused. I now have some chronological order issues. I love chronological order. I hate chronolo

But working that out will be good in the long run, won't it? Because it will give me an opportunity to go over materials again. That will enhance my work, I'm sure. So I am GRATEFUL for this foul up. And I know gratitude is good, because I just heard that on a mediation talk yesterday.

I'm going to be grateful, if it kills me.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Done List For January 19

Not a bad week, especially considering I was getting back into work after retreat week.

Goal 1: Adult Short Stories, Essays, and Humor

  • Completed a rough draft of a humor piece.
  • Submitted a different humor piece that was accepted for publication.
  • Changed my Medium membership. We'll see what that does for me, if anything.
  • Took a fantastic memoir-writing workshop.
  • Submitted a piece of flash fiction to a contest. Very pleased that I remembered to do this, since I thought of it a couple of weeks ago. (To be honest, I found the info on my iPad reading list where I'd put it so I'd remember. The reading list works!) Very pleased that I had a completed piece appropriate, IMHO, for the contest theme. 
  • Spent an unfortunate amount of time updating my PayPal info so I could deal with the contest submission fee. Yes, damn it, that counts as work. And now I have PayPal again! 
Goal 2: Submit 143 Canterbury Road to Agents
  • Have started a submission letter!
  • Decided to stop looking for more agents and deal with the list I've made of people to at least consider, if not actually submit to.
Goal 3: Community Building/General Marketing/Branding
  • Did 3 OC posts, counting this one.
  • Shared another writers' marketing info on Facebook for a local bookstore appearance. Yeah, pat me on the back for that!
  • Promoted one of my blog posts on X.
  • Did a little bit on Goodreads.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Some Annotated Reading January 18

In addition to Ms. Demeanor, I also read Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March during my retreat week. This is not the first historical mystery set in India that I've read. Apparently, I'm drawn to them. I also read some short stories by Kelly Link in her book, Get in Trouble. I have enjoyed Kelly Link's short stories in the past, but after reading three or four of these I felt they might be enjoyed better one at a time, now and then.

While I'm on retreat, I often research and read about people I hear about in newspapers or magazines there. Last year, for instance, I read some rather grim, but fascinating, things about mid-century Stowe. This year I read about the Lepine Sisters, who developed some national fame in their day. Also, I saw something about pirates on Lake Champlain, so I had to read about that.

More recently I read A Wicked Stepmother With Empty Nest Syndrome Is Left Wondering, Now What? | by Danielle Martinetti | Slackjaw | Medium

The Birth of My Daughter, The Death of My Marriage by Leslie Jamison in The New Yorker was an odd thing for me to read, because I don't lean toward what you might call depressing memoir. But, man, the title was such a hook. I couldn't look away.

Julia Child Was a Champion for Reproductive Rights, Carrie Mullins interviewing Helen Rosner at Electric Lit was one of three articles I read about Julia Child this past week. It appears that I have developed a mild obsession with her. Yes, I recently finished the second and final season of Julia on Max.

Redefining What Makes a 'Relationship' in Our 70s by Elinor Lipman at AARP. Yes, I am someone who goes 'eh, AARP.' But this is an absolutely charming piece, and it appears that I'm also developing an obsession with Elinor Lipman.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Getting Serious About Humor: A Thurber Nominated Romcom

I read Ms. Demeanor by Elinor Lipman while on retreat. I'd picked it up, because it's a semi-finalist for the Thurber Prize and I'm an Elinor Lipman fan. Though I've only read three of her books. Perhaps I should make reading Elinor Lipman a thing for this year. Not a goal, because I've already set my goals. Too late for that. I know! I have a Goodreads reading goal. (I surpassed last year's by the way. I didn't mention it here out of modesty and general lack of staying on blog-writing task.) 

What I've liked about the three Lipman books I've read is that she's both light and sophisticated and her basic storylines are unique. And often speak to me, since I was sure that The Inn at Lake Devine was set on a lake near where I grew up. Ms. Demeanor involves food. I like food.

The unique storyline for Ms. Demeanor? The main character is caught having sex in a semi-public place, probably more public than semi, and the legal consequences involve house arrest for multiple months. Things go on from there.

I enjoyed reading the book, but at various points I thought, aren't a number of different things going on here? What's the focus? Then I got to the end and went, Oh! This is a romantic comedy! Now I get it!

I'm not big on reading contemporary romance. Historical is another thing. Historical with mystery even better. Just last month I had to stop reading a perfectly fine contemporary romance, because people finding love all by itself isn't enough for me. Nonetheless, I would definitely recommend Ms. Demeanor to all kinds of readers. 

What About The Comedy Aspect, Gail?

I'm finding humorous fiction (remember this is a semi-finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor) different from humorous nonfiction. Humorous essays or memoirs will sometimes have humor on every page or sometimes most paragraphs. The humorous fiction I've read so far hasn't. That doesn't make humorous fiction worse or better than humorous nonfiction, particularly since trying for humor in nonfiction can sometimes be jokie or contrived. It just makes it different. 

That being said, the Polish siblings in Ms. Demeanor? Absolutely funny. The interaction between the main couple, lovely and light-hearted. The main character's sister's realtor boyfriend? Funny. The dentist has her moments, as does the nanny who started this whole mess. Hmm. There is quite a bit of humor here. 

Though I have written humorous middle grade novels and a YA, I need to read a great deal more adult humorous fiction to get a feel for how that works differently or if it does.

As a nod to the cooking in Ms. Demeanor, I am going to mention here that I plan to make two pots of soup this afternoon. 

Friday, January 05, 2024

Done List For January 5

I leave tomorrow for my annual retreat week and had hoped to have all kinds of work things cleaned up, so I'd be ready to hit the ground running when I get back. All kinds of e-mail taken care of. My desk cleared. My website updated. That didn't happen, and it doesn't matter why, now, does it? But just yesterday I was pointing out to someone that he suffers from his desire for things to be a certain way instead of just rolling with it, man. (Have I ever hit the ground running in my entire life? Maybe not.)

So I am going to roll with it and be happy...eh, satisfied...with what I did. (Really, should we be expecting anything more from life than satisfaction?)

Goal 1: Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor

My desire for retreat week is that I will read and get all kinds of ideas and write down some thoughts and continue with the new meditation practice and enjoy some food and do some walking and/or snowshoeing, all of which is a big burden to put on a retreat. I will work on just rolling with whatever happens. (But planning to roll with it is also a burden, isn't it?) 

(That new meditation practice--is it really new, since I've been beginning again with meditation for many years? Or is it all just one long practice?)

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Nothing Like Rejection To Get Your Blood Pumping!

I just got my first rejection of the year. You know you're alive and working when the rejections roll in.

I should get myself a rejection logo.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Time Management Tuesday: Goals And Objectives For 2024

 I am such a fan of goals and objectives, that I'm putting off taking down my Christmas tree to create this year's. As always, remember that goals are what we want to do. Objectives are the individual steps we take to complete our goals. The words are not synonymous, though I know at least one person who believes they are. I'm not mentioning any names, but he knows who he is.

Goal 1. Adult Essays, Short Stories, and Humor


  • Complete a rough draft of something every week.
  • Submit something somewhere every month.
  • Increase my reading of short form work and journals that publish them.
  • Spend more time with essay writing Facebook group.
  • Research changing membership at Medium and perhaps change it.
  • Take short-form writing workshops

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to agents


  • Continue researching agents.
  • Write a submission letter.
  • Make submissions.

Goal 3. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding


  • Update the short-form writing links on website.
  • Provide social media support for other writers.
  • Attend virtual events for other writers.
  • Be more organized about marketing own short-form work.
  • Continue Original Content and promote posts.

Goal 4. 19th Century Novel, which is totally just for fun


  • Research the fun stuff
  • Organize research of fun stuff
  • Blueprint some fun parts
  • Write bits and pieces, if they're fun
  • Read more historical fiction and nonfiction

Note that I only have three real goals this year. That doesn't mean I plan to do less writing. It means that I plan to do more of certain types of writing by not spreading myself as thin.