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.